Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Methods Two: Electric Bugaloo

Aand, we're back.

Chapter 2: Everything I Believe Is False

Friday, June 4, 2010

One More Brick in the Wall

I briefly considered doing a 'Who is Eliezer Yudkowsky?' feature prior to starting the actual reviews, but I decided against it. I fear that might degenerate into personal viciousness, and I am trying to avoid that. I'm trying to do a critique on the merits here, not on the personal virtues or lack thereof of the author.

All this having been said, we can begin.

Chapter 1: A Day of Very Low Probability

The Sucks Project

I think I should start this blog with an intro post.

If you have reached this site, it's extremely likely you know what the title refers to. But assuming you came here through coincidence, I shall try to quickly sum up what this blog is about.

In the vast world of Harry Potter fanfiction, you can find the fic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality (henceforth, 'Methods'). This is written by author 'Less Wrong', aka Eliezer S. Yudkowsky.

This fic is, pretty much Yudkowsky's way of "fixing" what he considers to be the Potter-verse's original sins while at the same time providing him with a soapbox to detail his warped take on the world.

Ordinarily, this would have gone unnoticed, but apparently Mr. Yudkowsy had a sizable online following prior to writing this tour de force, and I guess some of it must have overlapped with the Potter fandom, because this fic quickly skyrocketed in popularity and number of reviews. As of now, it even possess its own TV Tropes page.

Basically, Mr. Yudkowsky's ubiquitous yes-men like to claim (quietly encouraged by the man himself) that this fic somehow transcends its medium to become some sort of higher work through which we should absorb a superior worldview and, like Plato's cave-dwellers, break free of our chains to finally see reality for what it is. Eventually, this fic found its way into DLP, a Harry Potter fanfiction forum I inhabit.

The reaction to this work on DLP was initially good, and even I got carried away at first. However, it soon became apparent that whatever good features Methods possessed, they were fast being eclipsed by Mr. Yudkowsky's apparent irresistible urge to use it as a vehicle to spread his worldview, story be damned. The mood of the forum turned fast.

However, DLP was soon invaded by Mr. Yudkowsky's yes-men, who were personally outraged that someone on the internet might disagree with the glowing reviews and point out this work's unrealistic characterization, bipolar writing and stilted dialogue. We were but philistines on which Mr. Yudkowsky's brilliance was wasted.

Does any of this sound familiar? It may remind you of another product of the same technonerd milieu, the popular webcomic xkcd. Unlike Mr. Yudkowsky, xkcd manages to occasionally be funny, and it actually started off kind of good; with popularity, however, Randall Munroe, its author, has sort of let it degenerate to the kind of stagnation where it manages to produce a funny comic about once every two weeks, while the others are usually just sludge that should've never left his hard drive. To fight Munroe's hordes, who insist on proving to us the brilliance of his work, a heroic effort was founded: xkcdsucks.

That blog attempts to deconstruct every xkcd comic, while attempting to show that makes it so appealing to Munroe's cuttlefish. It is in that blog that this one is based. You may have noticed a similarity in layout. This is conscious emulation; I'm but doing the same work on another field. I'll attempt to go through Mr. Yudkowsky's fanfiction, chapter by chapter, and try to find out just where the appeal comes from.

So tune in, we're in for a ride.