Quick Recommendations III

A bunch of unrelated good stuff I wanted to discuss but didn’t have much to say about.

CORDYCEPS: Too clever for their own good

An original web novel published on AOOOOOOOO. An ontological mystery wherein an amnesiac protagonist wakes up in a strange building and tries to find answers. The novel was written for NaNoWriMo, and as a result it’s pretty rough in places. In particular, it tips its hand way too early, so by halfway point you’d probably figure out the important mysteries already, which is rather detrimental for horror and rather disappointing for a mystery. There is also some transgender stuff near the end that sadly wasn’t incorporated properly into the narrative and felt very rushed.

Still, it’s a good example of horror where knowledge of the threat doesn’t help you and may make everything worse. AKA the best kind of horror. With some polishing it would be great, and even what we have now is pretty decent and deserves a read.

People engaging with the fandom would also get a kick out of the novel being labeled “irrational fic”. For those who don’t know, “rational fic” is a relatively new trend started by Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. The gist of it is giving the protagonist (and usually the main antagonist to preserve the conflict) an intellect and competency lift, aim them with the knowledge of rationality as understood by MOR author and see how they deal with the setting from there. Unfortunately, the results tend to be… mixed at best, with such protagonists often becoming arrogant manipulative jerks who know way less about everything than they think they do. CORDYCEPS has one of these as well, and, well, suffice it to say the setting is basically designed to work against them on every level, so there is a cathartic factor if you’re into it.

Kino’s Journey

A road story anime. Kino and her friend the talking motorcycle travel across various small kingdoms staying in each for three days. Each kingdom is unique, of course, and often surreal. In the very first one everyone builds a tower to the heavens until it collapses under its own weight. It’s a cause for celebration because now their generation gets to lay down the foundation for the next tower. Another kingdom is populated by people who have connected their thoughts together, thinking that knowing each other as they know themselves would prevent all conflicts. It didn’t work out. And so on.

Nothing particularly stood out for me (except for the episode about books which gets irritatingly meta. Look, authors, don’t go meta unless you’re prepared to go all the way, it’s just distracting), but overall it was a pleasant ride worth watching. The art is pleasant, the situations presented are interesting to ponder in a philosophical way, the slow reveal of Kino’s story gives the show a sense of direction and goal to reach without distracting from aforementioned pondering. Overall, it’s a good anime if you want to relax without shutting your brain entirely.

minus

A web comic about a little girl with the power of God. She can do anything from making her drawings come to live to shrinking herself and her friend to become warrior queens of ants to sending people back in time to rewriting history to creating an afterlife. Adorably terrifying. The author manages to capture the essence of childish games and fantasies, and how they would clash with the rational world.

41 Comments

  1. Roarke says:
    You couldn’t even finish Torment: Tides of Numenera beta I lent you. You are nothing (dude it’s super good are you sure you can’t???)
    1. illhousen says:
      Alas, yes. I play on laptop< and it's not exactly a new model (though it is capable of playing DAI well enough on minimal graphics). The lag in Torment made it near-unplayable for me. For example, most of my attacks in the tutorial fight didn't register by the system.
      1. Roarke says:
        Hm. Might be because it’s still in Beta, to be honest.
        1. illhousen says:
          That could be. I’ll steal it from you again once it’s closer to completion to see how it works.

          To be honest, I’m kinda surprised that it lags so much. The graphics look simple enough. Could be a more localized problem like the game not liking my videocard or something.

          1. Roarke says:
            Did you try minimal graphics? Is that even an option? I’ve had a beast of a computer for so long I forget it’s a thing, haha.
            1. illhousen says:
              I didn’t see the graphics option, actually, despite looking for it. Could be something for later builds, I guess.
              Reply
              1. Roarke says:
                There is a graphics tab in the general options, but the number of things you can do to lower the burden are honestly pretty low. There’s no “ultra->high->medium->low”, just a few specific things you can turn on/off.

                That said, the game is amazing. So much to interact with! And I’m calling it now: the villain is straight-up The Practical Incarnation.

              2. illhousen says:
                The Practical Incarnation is the best Incarnation.

                Hm, if there is a graphic option that I’ve missed, I may try again and see how it goes. Not today though.

  2. Socordya says:
    Didn’t know HPMOR had spawned a whole subgenre… makes me miss su3su2u1.
    minus looks nice so far.
    1
    1. illhousen says:
      Well, it’s a pretty small subgenre by fandom standards, but there are fics for HP, Twilight, Superman and Steven Universe that I know of.

      If you miss su3su2u1, you may enjoy this readthrough of MOR: https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/the-wizard-of-woah-and-irrational-methods-of-irrationality.337233/

      It’s nowhere near as good as su3su2u1’s, sadly, but it has Professor Burning Pain Skeleton omakes in the comments parodying how obviously evil Quirrell was in MOR despite supposedly being a subtle cunning manipulator.

      And minus is just neat, nothing more to say.

      1
      1. Socordya says:
        but there are fics for Superman.

        Lol, because the whole concept of superman wasn’t sueish enough.

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        1. illhousen says:
          The character who gets rational treatment is Lex, actually.
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      2. Gust says:
        Someone got lucky enough to have the tab of his reviews open when he deleted and saved the review. There are multiples. http://reddragdiva.tumblr.com/post/140107022158/the-su3su2u1-hpmor-reviews-largely-preserved
        http://danluu.com/su3su2u1/hpmor/

        How does a rational Steven Universe work? Steven said, rationally, “We should lock Peridot in the basement. It’s only the rational thing to do”

        1
        1. illhousen says:
          I didn’t actually read it, just know it exists. Supposedly, it’s not that bad according to people who loathed MOR, but I can’t really comment. I can probably dig up the link if you’re interested.
          1
          1. Hyatt says:
            Different person, but… yeah, morbid interest. I want my warm fuzzy feelings to die horribly.
            1
            1. illhousen says:
              Here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/3808279/chapters/8485900

              Oh, hey, now that I’ve looked at it I remember why I didn’t bother to read it.

              1
              Reply
              1. Farla says:
                Oh hey I read that one! Sorta. It’s not HMOR level batshit, just kinda boring. I stopped reading around the party.

                …Aw fuck I just kudosed it now I look like an idiot.

                1
              2. illhousen says:
                Yeah, it was recced to me as not horrible compared to MOR. I didn’t read it because of weird formatting and because while I kinda can see the appeal of examining HP from rational position (which is why I was tricked into reading MOR before realizing it doesn’t deliver anything but weird rants and general batshittery), I can’t say the same for SU.

                And don’t worry about kudos. Should anyone ask, it’s an irony thing. Kudoing something you don’t actually like is irrational, which means you’re defying the philosophy of the fic even as you appear to praise it.

                1
              3. Farla says:
                I was tricked into reading it by the summary itself – I thought it’d actually be about why the gems have isolated themselves followed by tough questions about if it’s right to stay isolated with their technology and if not, what technology could be shared?

                Instead it’s…I’m honestly not sure. It seems like it’s mostly Steven peptalking the humans into being little magic rationalists themselves and also Lars is an SJ angel.

                1
              4. illhousen says:
                Well, a thing to remember about rational!fics is that they are generally not that interested in exploring the settings they use, they’re interested in promoting the philosophy of their authors.

                It was actually explicitly stated in MOR and is the reason why suddenly HP world has no afterlife. The rest followed the trend of changing the settings to suit their needs rather than, you know, actually thinking about the text itself.

                So I’m not surprised the fic focused on tangents above what summary promised.

                Also, SJ angel?

                1
              5. Farla says:
                The beach party when LARS for some reason is Gender Identity Guru.

                “Like, first of all — this might be rude and I apologize, but we’re all pretty confused as to what your gender is,”

                “I theorized that since you are a hermaphroditic alien shapeshifter you might also be inclined towards form-stealing cannibalism,” Ronaldo says straight-faced.

                “Hey, that’s really insensitive towards intersex people, Ronaldo,” Lars hisses.

                “What’re your pronouns?” Lars asks.

                LARS. I really like the idea that SU takes place in a friendly nongendered utopia, such that people would ask how somebody identified and what pronouns they prefer! This would be totally reasonable dialogue coming out of the mouths of ANYONE BUT LARS.

                1
              6. illhousen says:
                …Alright, is there any explanation in the fic about why Lars of all people is the one to deliver the message.

                I mean, butchering characterization was a staple in MOR, too, but there I at least could follow the thought process behind author’s decisions.

                Here, though…

                I don’t know, maybe the author was really in love with the idea of blindsiding the readers. Like, “Ha! You thought Lars was going to be a strawman jerk who needs these concepts explained to him, but nope! Fooled you!”

                1
              7. Farla says:
                There’s a big chunk of fandom in love with Lars himself and headcanoning that he’s trans + pile of other trendy stuff that makes him most oppressed and excuses every bit of his bullshit. I think it’s that he was the only other male character for a while.
                1
        2. Socordya says:
          How does a rational Steven Universe work? Steven said, rationally, “We should lock Peridot in the basement. It’s only the rational thing to do”

          My conjecture would be:
          -Rose & Amethyst bashing
          -Waifu-ification of Pearl
          -Narrative and main character would be super sympathetic to Homeworld culture & caste system.

          1
          1. illhousen says:
            “Waifu-ification of Pearl”

            …Wait, it’s a thing? I mean, I don’t underestimate the fandom’s ability to waifu any and every female character, Pearl feels like she would be a prime target of bashing rather than fetish.

            1
            1. Farla says:
              Ahahaha oh no. Pearl is the one it’s easiest to discomfort, so she is the best target for creepers.
              1
              Reply
              1. illhousen says:
                That makes a disturbing amount of sense.
                1
              2. Hyatt says:
                And she has her own canon Nice Guy admirer in Mayor Dewey!
                1
              3. Farla says:
                I’m actually down with shipping Pearl/Dewey where Dewey is getting off on being ignored while Pearl doesn’t even realize he’s the same human each time she sees him.

                Unfortunately nobody else sees this so it’s just “Pearl needs to atone for not loving humans enough by being Dewey’s sexbot PS he should also be super great and into the same animes as me.”

                1
              4. illhousen says:
                Alright, I can see the fandom running with waifu!Pearl, but I really have trouble imagining anyone projecting themselves into Dewey of all people.
                1
              5. Farla says:
                Dewey got friendzoned JUST LIKE THEM.

                Honestly the Dewey projection crowd are the better ones, the other ones are just doing it because they hate Pearl.

                1
      3. SangTheSun says:
        I think the whole premise is actually really interesting. It’s just that it usually goes: I’m rational –> I know everything and make no mistakes –> I am all powerful.

        But if that didn’t happen, it could be a wonderful idea. I’d love to see a fic about Hermoine trying to figure out how magic really worked.

        1. illhousen says:
          Well, that and numerous other flaws like an impressive feat of managing to be more sexist than Rowling while trying to be more feminist.

          But yes, the premise is potentially interesting, especially since HP magic is very much on whimsy side of things, so trying to explore it via scientific method may produce some amusing results. Like, there is a phenomenon where people see patterns in the chaos even when there aren’t any. With magic, doing so may very well make it behave according to the pattern that exists only in your head until you manage to invalidate its existence.

          Things like that. Whimsical adventures that illustrate scientific concepts.

  3. Nerem says:
    The telepathy kingdom chapter of Kino’s Travels was always what made me certain that the finale of Gundam 00 (and its movie sequel) wouldn’t work out, as it literally involves connecting everyone’s minds and revealing their deepest selves to each other for perfect Understanding.

    Also, Persona 4.

    1
  4. Hyatt says:
    I finally read the CORDYCEPS story, and in addition to getting a kick out of the insufferable rationalist character, the comments section has someone calling themselves “Eliezer Yudkowsky” leaving comments for the first few chapters. If it really was him, then I like to imagine that he dropped the fic when he realized that the rationalist wasn’t going to be the hero.
    1. illhousen says:

      Oh, hey, and his comments stopped right when the Alphabet kid got a POV chapter.

      1. Hyatt says:
        Funny thing is, I actually started feeling bad for Arc after the second readthrough. Don’t feel sorry for any rationalists disappointed that they weren’t right, though.

        (BTW I accidentally reported your comment; hit the link without looking too closely because I thought it was the reply button.)

        1. illhousen says:

          Well, the situation in the novel is genuinely terrifying and not something you’d wish on anyone, no matter how insufferable. The desire to understand what’s going and the frustration caused by people keeping secrets from you about stuff that may very well be crucial to your well-being is only natural, which is why this type of horror is effective: when simply learning about the threat is what enables it to take hold on you, you’re effectively rendered powerless, helpless, and have to rely on good will of other people. And in this case, you don’t even know any of them, so your life is effectively in the hands of strangers.

          So, yeah, it’s relatable on an emotional level.

           That this is also a pretty big fuck-you to rationalist!style characters is just a bonus, really.

          1. Hyatt says:
            Another point of tragedy with Arc was when I realized that their friend’s attempts to help them contributed to their doom. So did Arc’s personality, as they didn’t let the doctors know how an important fact and only realized too late why it was important. But their downfall wasn’t all on them, it was a lot of bad luck and good intentions gone wrong.
            1. illhousen says:

              True enough. Ultimately, the universe is set up in a way that any proactive action is punished.

              While Arc was pretty insufferable and did a lot of stupid stuff, I can easily see less rationalist-type characters following their footsteps just as well, they’d probably just be stopped before the ending.

              Reply
        2. Farla says:

          As infuriating as Arc’s reasoning was, I felt sympathy just because it ultimately seemed to stem from fear and an inability to think anyone would be nice to them unless trying to get something out of it. Sometimes somebody like that is just that sort of asshole they expect it back from everyone, but they didn’t seem malicious or into manipulating others, which points to someone who locked up and relies only on themself because they got burned once too often by others.

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