Less Wrong is a community blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality. Please visit our About page for more information.

gwern comments on Luminosity (Twilight Fanfic) Discussion Thread 3 - Less Wrong

10 Post author: Alicorn 30 December 2010 02:37PM

You are viewing a comment permalink. View the original post to see all comments and the full post content.

Comments (353)

You are viewing a single comment's thread.

Comment author: gwern 13 January 2011 09:21:04PM 2 points [-]

I will say one thing, while it's not as good as MoR, its plot moves much faster, which helps compensate. I think Alicorn also handles the emotional stuff better than Eliezer (unsurprisingly); I felt far less cynical and contemptuous than I might've.

On the other hand, Eliezer is much better at lacing in the didacticism since it feels like the lessons has for the reader are abandoned toward the end of book 1; and there isn't much one could learn from book 2 with Elspeth.

I particularly loved the writing for Allirea; not so much an interesting character but reflected very nicely.

In some respects I am disappointed by characters' thinking & planning. They seem very... humdrum, straightforward, and locked into magical thinking. This could be explained in some cases, but not all. Very rarely did I find myself thinking, 'ah, clever!' or 'oh, they're right, that wouldn't work'.

I came into Luminosity expecting Bella to sort of be like Harry in MoR; but she's not very much like him. Harry with Bella's advantages and obstacles would have taken over the world in the first few years. Bella is running and hiding as a data entry clerk? I mean, I may be echoing some comments I saw go by in the comments feed, but I feel the Volturi are just not much of an obstacle.

Vampires die easily of fire? Splendid, Bella spends a few months reading and developing a fuel-air bomb and there they go. (Easily justifiable, too, consequentially.) Or steals a nuke. Or maybe she has the Cullens buy up some hospices and builds a newborn army while they develop a more-fun turning process which could be mass deployed. Or something! (Creating some werewolf packs was a remarkably stupid thing to do, even if we largely go along with Bella's analysis. And if we judge by the consequences, even more stupid.)

Comment author: [deleted] 14 January 2011 04:36:31PM 6 points [-]

Personally I like it at least as well as MoR. Harry is perilously close to a Gary Stu; he dominates each of the canon characters in turn, forcing them to explicitly acknowledge Harry's moral and mental superiority. It's kind of tiresome and it's surprisingly naive fanfic writing. At this point I'm a lot more interested in Draco, who is a genuinely nuanced character and whose point of view is often very funny.

By contrast none of the characters in Radiance feel like Mary Sues (even though Elspeth has exceedingly Sueish hair). But she's got depth to her personality, and flaws that are realistic given her background--I'm specifically thinking of her tendency to passivity. She has an interesting and flexible power, and a couple of lucky "gimmes" (like being Jake's imprint), but she's not set up as someone who's going to easily and utterly dominate everything around her. To me, that makes her story a lot more interesting.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 14 January 2011 05:01:48PM 1 point [-]

Agreed.

Though that's been the price of admission for HP:MoR from almost the very beginning... it isn't about the characters, still less about their relationships, and it becomes less and less so over time.

Quite the contrary: a lot of what is being explicitly discarded from canon has to do with relationships (though at least Harry is starting to look to actual peers to have imaginary relationships with, rather than entirely hypothetical ones, which I guess is progress of a sort).

Agreed about Draco. Then again, he always intrigued me in the originals as well, and we never got to see his narrative there.

Luminosity was far more about characters from the outset. Radiance started out that way, though it is becoming problematically (for my taste, I mean; I accept that tastes vary) distracted by tactics.

Comment author: [deleted] 14 January 2011 09:00:38PM 1 point [-]

Though that's been the price of admission for HP:MoR from almost the very beginning...

I know, but at this point we've got a Harry who beats Hermione at wandwork, out-threatens Snape, humbles Dumbledore using his own phoenix, snaps orders (which are meekly accepted) at Minerva McGonagall... I find this kind of thing pretty grating, and I'm really glad that Luminosity and Radiance never went in that direction.

I don't mean to bag on MoR, because there are certainly things about the story that I really enjoy--for instance, I love the little throwaway lines explaining things like why Quidditch points count for the House Cup. I've always really enjoyed that kind of thing, fanwanking in its best and highest form--I encountered it first in the Baker Street Irregular group of Sherlockian fans, where it's done as almost an art form.

Anyway, I do like MoR, but I really don't want to see Bella or Elspeth become more like Harry.

Comment author: [deleted] 15 January 2011 02:38:09PM 1 point [-]

I know, but at this point we've got a Harry who beats Hermione at wandwork, out-threatens Snape, humbles Dumbledore using his own phoenix, snaps orders (which are meekly accepted) at Minerva McGonagall... I find this kind of thing pretty grating, and I'm really glad that Luminosity and Radiance never went in that direction.

Sure, all this is annoying, and not a good way to build sympathy, but since we've been shown that Harry is extraordinarily clever, confident and astute, I think it's marginally allowable. Eliezer lost me when Harry made it out of Azkaban without being killed or exposed. That would not and should not have happened, and IMO the fic went irretrievably to Hell at the exact moment the characters went there retrievably.

Comment author: Alicorn 13 January 2011 10:00:53PM 1 point [-]

On the other hand, Eliezer is much better at lacing in the didacticism since it feels like the lessons has for the reader are abandoned toward the end of book 1; and there isn't much one could learn from book 2 with Elspeth.

Where story and didacticism are in tension, I chuck didacticism in favor of story.

I came into Luminosity expecting Bella to sort of be like Harry in MoR; but she's not very much like him.

Well, good, I wouldn't want to be doing the exact same thing. How redundant. (Also, have to admit that while Eliezer's writing has many strong points, writing characters I'm interested in welcoming into my brain ain't among them.)

Harry with Bella's advantages and obstacles would have taken over the world in the first few years.

I think Harry would probably have gotten himself killed the minute he wandered near Volterra and was too obtrusively dangerous. Pretty much everybody who spends any amount of time with Harry in his story figures he's probably kind of hazardous to have around, even as an ally, and he doesn't curb this tendency very quickly. This is the sort of character trait that makes the Volturi kill you. (And had they earnestly tried to kill Bella in Volterra, even her juiced-up shield wouldn't have saved her. The fact that they were willing to risk waiting a while to see how she turned out allowed her to survive.)

Vampires die easily of fire? Splendid, Bella spends a few months reading and developing a fuel-air bomb and there they go.

That would be boring and tweaks personal buttons of mine. Sorry.

(Easily justifiable, too, consequentially.)

There is a sharp limit to how much this can really surprise you if you have been paying any attention. If you want to read stories where the Good Guys reason consequentialistically, find another author.

Comment author: gwern 15 January 2011 09:19:50PM *  1 point [-]

Where story and didacticism are in tension, I chuck didacticism in favor of story.

It's too bad you can't do both; I liked Luminosity-the-articles.

Well, good, I wouldn't want to be doing the exact same thing. How redundant.

I don't think it's any more redundant than any 2 LW articles on applying probability theory or akrasia are. The universe of plots featuring sane characters ought to be as large as the usual universe of plots featuring less-than-rational characters.

Pretty much everybody who spends any amount of time with Harry in his story figures he's probably kind of hazardous to have around, even as an ally, and he doesn't curb this tendency very quickly.

Yes, and he gets away with his lack of secrecy because he knows of no live enemies. He's told pretty shortly after being introduced to the wizarding world 'oh and by the way your only real enemy or competitor is apparently dead and all his followers are keeping their heads low', and shortly thereafter he's busily recruiting the most dangerous & active of his enemies - Quirrel and the Malfoys - into being his mentor and student.

Any reasonable extrapolation of MoR Harry involves him being frightened out of his wits by depraved enemies with millions of years of experience the moment he's told of them, and if we somehow postulate that he decides to go around being scary, his visit to Volterra would cure that.

That would be boring and tweaks personal buttons of mine. Sorry.

Also unfortunate. I winced at the Demetri bit in the chapter today. Of course it matters how good Demetri is at hand-to-hand combat compared to other handy vampires, because we all know there's no other way to fight. A pity their kung fu is not best!

There is a sharp limit to how much this can really surprise you if you have been paying any attention.

A deontologist who can't justify war or bombings is in a sorry state indeed. I tend to assume you aren't writing stupid deontologists and so they ought to be considering more effective methods.

Comment author: FAWS 15 January 2011 04:58:02PM 0 points [-]

Harry with Bella's advantages and obstacles would have taken over the world in the first few years.

You mean weeks, right?

I think Harry would probably have gotten himself killed the minute he wandered near Volterra and was too obtrusively dangerous.

He wouldn't have gone there until prepared to deal with them. The very first thing Harry would have done (or possibly second after being turned) would have been experimenting with Alice's precognition. It's at least three orders of magnitudes more powerful than all other abilities combined, can be experimented on safely and instantly and allows you to do most other experiments safely and instantly as well. Given a fully cooperative Alice and his creativity the only credible opponent at that point is the author (there are no wolves around at that point, the Volturi not aware of Half Vampires [right? I have no knowledge of canon], and the "free will" limitation doesn't make sense and either can be eliminated, mitigated, or has implications that completely change the picture, like that they are in a simulation that might be hackable, or characters in a story).

Comment author: CronoDAS 15 January 2011 09:58:06PM 0 points [-]

(Creating some werewolf packs was a remarkably stupid thing to do, even if we largely go along with Bella's analysis. And if we judge by the consequences, even more stupid.)

The purpose of creating the werewolf packs was to protect the not-yet-activated werewolves. And, as far as I can tell, the werewolves are, indeed, still alive. It didn't work out very well for Bella, though.

Comment author: Alicorn 15 January 2011 10:46:56PM 1 point [-]

the werewolves are, indeed, still alive.

Eve and Brady are both dead.

Comment author: gwern 15 January 2011 10:00:59PM *  0 points [-]

Not all of them are alive (late Radiance mentions at least one dead, IIRC), and the kill rate can be expected to go up with the coming war.