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So, what's your ultimate fantasy? [May. 9th, 2014|09:37 pm]
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So I've recently fallen into the timesink that is Effulgence. The premise more-or-less being: take ultra-rational Bella from Alicorn's Luminosity/Radiance universe, and put versions of her in various fanfiction universes. Oh and it's a co-writing thing between two authors. It's well-written (otherwise I wouldn't be reading it, obviously), but after reading too much of it at a time some of Bella's personality quirks start to bother me.* . But worse than those are the parts where it just gets *boring* for me, which are the chapters that I like to refer to as "world domination porn", which are just page after page of the protagonists designing and implementing their utopian visions using whatever tools are available in that particular universe, and their utopias actually are utopian or at least are clearly presented as such by the author - none of that Brave New World business where the characters are happy but the reader is supposed to be horrified**. And around the part where I was wading through the 5th world domination chapter it occurred to me that this seems to be a thing in the core LessWrong crowd: Alicorn writes world-domination fiction Eliezer Yudkowsky recently wrote what amounts to utopian fiction in a society called dath ilan, and Scott Alexander over at Slate Star Codex has been working on his fantasy utopia Raikoth for years now. In each case, their fiction seems to spring from a deep sense of 'the world is seriously messed up, I could do so much better if I had the means to make drastic changes and/or build my own society from scratch". It's a combination of escapism and power fantasies. Whereas while many of the rest of us have no trouble seeing that the world is messed up in many ways, but our response seems to be more about pure escapism and/or making a deliberate choice to stop caring about the big problems in order to maintain our sanity.

If someone handed me ultimate power, I wouldn't use it to become Ruler of the Universe. It sounds stressful and tedious and liable to crush me under the weight of feeling responsible for everything and become burnt out in short order. I would probably try to find someone else to be Ruler of the Universe though. I know some people who I consider to be smart and insightful and compassionate and so forth who would probably be better at it than me and also much less prone to burnout. But my own power fantasies mostly center around being able to help on a more local scale and having various cool superpowers. 

* Like: Bella's obsession with privacy, her my-way-or-the-highway approach to everything, or the way so many of the interpersonal relationships end up all cuddly and snuggly, like there isn't any way to be friendly that doesn't translate into hugs.

** Although I wasn't at all horrified by Brave New World, for much the same reason that I don't particularly care what happens to my body after I die - the point being that I take into account the fact that after I'm dead I won't be around to have opinions. Similarly in BNW I don't find it horrific because I'm taking into account that if I lived there I would have been conditioned to be happy with it. Apparently this puts me in the minority.

[User Picture]From: lotusvine
2014-05-12 07:14 am (UTC)
My problem is that with these world domination porn fics - well, they don't really have any good antagonists to challenge them and shake up their world views. (Well, Voldemort was a good antagonist in HP:MoR) What you're describing sounds like didacticism, which Ayn Rand got rather fond of, with uber-protagonists gleaming with moral purity amid a crumbling cardboard world with straw-men eneies that failed to challenge them. Sounds like some of the LW crowd set out to challenge stuff like Objectivism and end up falling into the same didactic trap.
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[User Picture]From: erratio
2014-05-12 09:20 am (UTC)
Nah, in this case it's not didactism. I know for a fact that the authors didn't originally intend Effulgence for an audience, and Raikoth likewise started out almost entirely as self-indulgence. Alicorn just really likes writing world-domination porn. I'll agree about the Randian superbeings vs cardboard enemies though.
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