Shikamaru vs. the Logical Fallacies

post by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-04T00:35:07.199Z · score: 10 (13 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 29 comments

Presenting: Shikamaru vs. the Logical Fallacies, a rationalist fanfic set in the Naruto universe and starring a realistically rational Shikamaru. The writer is a friend of mine going under the alias FanFicBias, and I am an editor along with the author.

We welcome reviews on FanFiction.Net and both reviews and discussion (naturally) are welcome here. We are looking to improve our work, so please be as honest and as harsh in constructive criticism as you like. Praise, however, is also always welcome!

This story does contain SPOILERS for the Naruto series. Readers who are unfamiliar with Naruto may have a hard time understanding what's going on, but it would still be interesting to hear from non-Naruto fans, since perhaps we can ameliorate this issue with the aid of constructive criticism.

We do strive to follow the First Law of Fanfiction and the Rule of Rationalist Fanfiction, so please call us on it if we fail to do so.

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6781426/1/Shikamaru_versus_the_Rational_Fallacies

Note: Thanks to all reviewers and participants in this discussion! We're trying hard to make Part 2 even better.

 

 

29 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by gwern · 2011-03-04T20:10:26.254Z · score: 14 (16 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let's see what occurs to me on the first read...

Shikamaru and Asuma looked at the wise-cracking Hidan, or rather his HEAD, in disbelief. Impossible.

Don't like the caps style. If it's really funny, it doesn't need to be capitalized. (Notice how Eliezer uses italics in MoR - they're there to guide your mental pronunciation of lines so you can give proper stress to what words the character is mildly freaking out about. They're not there to tell you what is funny and you should be laughing at.)

Analyze the data you have, hypothesize from there.

This is just totally out of character for Shikamaru to say. It's fine for Harry in MoR. Harry is a scientist; scientists use the words 'analyze', 'data', and 'hypothesize' all the time. But while we do see TVs in Naruto, we don't see any kind of science.

Shikamaru is a game-player. He should be thinking in game terms, vocabulary, rules, stratagems, etc.

I'm not much of a Go player, and that's the closest I get to strategy games usually. However, I know there are collections of Go proverbs and sayings; there are standard move sequences and terms; and so on. You need to be using them, or going into equivalent depth for another game.

Or you need to be going even deeper into general game playing. Sirlin's Playing to Win is one of the only books I've read on that topic, but it seemed pretty good.

To again compare to MoR, Eliezer didn't wake up one day a normal guy who decided to write MoR. It has a sense of depth and insight because he spent years learning the insights which power chapters. If you can't generate that sort of thing yourself, then you must steal shamelessly from other people and sources.

How was his brain still getting oxygen?...The world was violating nearly every law of biology Shikamaru knew about.

Ditto. Who taught Shikamaru about oxygen? Did he leave the hidden village and pick up a college degree during a filler episode or something? Much more sensible would be something like 'air' (how is it still making noise) or 'chakra'.

And he's a ninja! In Naruto, they do 15 impossible things before breakfast! This sort of line would make sense if Shikamaru didn't personally have the ability to move and kill with his own shadow.

He had his usual compliment of gear, none of which was very useful right now.

'complement', by the way. (And no compliments to your beta reader.)

Then change the rules! Said RB, giving his chainsaw a healthy tug for good measure.

'revving his chainsaw' would be funnier.

"YOU BASTARD!" Shikamaru screamed at Hidan. "You're a real big man aren't you! Offing the weak! Going for easy targets! Your cheap-ass God must be so proud. What, is Lord Jashin God of the Cheap Easy Kill now? Or-"

FWIW, I'm not fond of piling on the adjectives like that. To my ears, either 'God of the Cheap Kill' or 'God of the Easy Kill' would have been preferable to both (and of those two, I prefer the former).

Shikamaru still couldn't believe Konoha was still using pigeons for communications when there were long-range communication systems available all around them in the form of television towers. Even if pigeon travel was more secure, which he doubted, sometimes what you needed was speed.

Well, ok, I see we're pulling the same Muggle tech/magic as MoR.

Gallows Humor Shikamaru laughed darkly. He was wearing a hood, of course.

Mental figments or voices is fine, but you should try for some new twist on this.

Since it's Shikamaru, I suggest you make his shadows somewhat sentient. They already are extensions of his will, to a great degree, can act somewhat independently, there are multiple shadows, etc. This gives you a path to power up Shikamaru (the shadows become ever more intelligent and independent until, I guess, they're like shadow clones?), and also a nifty weakness (where do the shadows go if Shikamaru is tossed into a sealed room?).

The final section about death... as the other comment said, a bit didactic, a bit clunky, still kind of out of character, and cribbing too heavily from MoR for my liking.

EDIT: even if Konoha goes whole-hog on the scientific method, I wouldn't expect Shikamaru to suddenly switch over and not think a single game or strategy-like thought. I'd expect to see an off-kilter take on philosophy/technology - as filtered through the mind of a lazy strategy genius. None of that is there.

comment by Pavitra · 2011-03-06T20:52:48.081Z · score: 5 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

And he's a ninja! In Naruto, they do 15 impossible things before breakfast! This sort of line would make sense if Shikamaru didn't personally have the ability to move and kill with his own shadow.

Oh yes, and this.

Shikamaru's initial reaction should probably be something along these lines:

Obviously a jutsu. There were three basic types: taijutsu, genjutsu, and ninjutsu. Taijutsu was obviously out for the same reason it had to be jutsu in the first place. That left genjutsu or ninjutsu.

Consider genjutsu: illusion. Hidan might really be dead, but then he couldn't maintain the illusion; perhaps the illusion was Kakuzu's. Alternatively, the wound could be illusory, or the body itself. Hidan might be uninjured, or somewhere else.

If it was ninjutsu... they were basically screwed. Any technique that could actually prevent death would have to be kinjutsu, a forbidden technique. He'd have to run. Actually, he should probably kill Asuma himself, just in case the kinjutsu prevented his soul from reaching the pure world...

Shikamaru could feel himself flinching away from the thought. No, he told himself. If that was really what was at stake, he had to know. He would not sacrifice Asuma's soul because he was too cowardly to admit that he could lose.

Kinjutsu or genjutsu. Everything depended on this. How could he find out?

comment by gwern · 2011-03-06T21:43:03.419Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yes, that's definitely a fragment from a better Shikamaru vs...; on the other hand, I don't remember that battle too well, wasn't the immortality thing an actual immortality? So by your reasoning above Shikamaru couldn't've won (since it was a ninjutsu/kinjutsu).

comment by Pavitra · 2011-03-06T23:03:54.240Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

It might have been possible to nonfatally restrain him, such as by cutting him into small pieces and tying the pieces up, and then calling for backup from someone who knows sealing jutsu.

comment by Pavitra · 2011-03-04T23:32:36.132Z · score: 3 (5 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This.

I feel like it should be possible to write Shikamaru closer to canon than this and still make the thing work.

Also, "knows about sciency-sounding things" is not at all the same as "rational", and it annoys me when people conflate them.

Edit: oh, and you really need to take some more time to introduce the characters for readers who don't know them.

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-05T08:35:13.759Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks, Pavitra.

Could we be doing a better job of emphasizing Shikamaru's rationality?

I agree with you on clearer introductions to characters. I'll talk to the author about how best to accomplish this. Do you have any suggestions, yourself?

comment by Pavitra · 2011-03-06T01:28:44.574Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Could we be doing a better job of emphasizing Shikamaru's rationality?

If by this you mean "should we be emphasizing it more", then no, I'd tone it down.

If you mean "is there room for improvement in the way in which we emphasize", then I'd suggest trying to use phrasings either idiomatic to a baseline audience, or developing naturally from the context you present. Avoid using the kind of technical jargon you're used to using when you think about these things.

For example, consider the following:

"ASUMA!" he screamed. He hesitated, his body wanted to run toward Asuma, to get there.

To get there right now.

No! It's an emotional bias! A voice in his head said. What just happened matters, but reacting to it, as if it's impact were bigger than anything else happening right now, would that be logical? Do you want to cause Asuma's death by reacting to how you feel in the moment? You can still save him! But only if you survive- only if you incapacitate your enemies first! You don't even have to kill them, just render them momentarily immobile!

He took a deep breath, his lungs shuddering as his body continued weeping, though the part of Shikamaru that mattered had stopped.

He tried to ignore all the voices inside that were calling him a coward, a loser, a traitor for not going to help Asuma right now, before he was already dead.

Instead of fighting the feelings, use them, said Rational Bloodlust. How you feel can serve rationality too!

"YOU BASTARD!" Shikamaru screamed at Hidan.

The prose would be better served by something like this:

"Asuma!" he screamed. He hesitated, his body wanted to run toward Asuma, to get there.

To get there right now.

No, came the voice in his head. That is not the way to save him. Rushing in blindly is not strategy. The rules don't change just because the stakes are real. Do you want to save him? Then think.

If he ran to Asuma, Kakuzu would kill him, and then Asuma would die. If he attacked Kakuzu or Hidan, Kakuzu would kill him, and then Asuma would die. If he ran away, he might escape, but Asuma would die. He couldn't think straight, because Asuma was going to die. He was a coward, a loser, a traitor, Asuma wasn't dead yet, he should be going to help him, right now, he --

Shikamaru took a deep breath, his lungs shuddering. He couldn't stop himself weeping.

But...

Full inventory. He could use anything.

"You bastard!" Shikamaru screamed at Hidan.

(My tactical analysis might not be accurate, but I think you get the general idea.)

I agree with you on clearer introductions to characters. I'll talk to the author about how best to accomplish this. Do you have any suggestions, yourself?

Don't start in medias res when the scene has more than about two or three major characters, it's the first chapter so everybody's new, and all the characters have foreign names that are hard for non-natives to keep straight. Start about five minutes earlier, establish the setting (and tactical terrain), give us some banter so we get an idea of what kind of people all of them are, and so forth. Four paragraphs or so should do it.

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-07T05:16:28.827Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Okay. We've taken your advice to be less technical to heart, Pavitra, and we've decided to move forward with a reboot starting at the beginning of the Naruto series as the solution to clearer introductions to characters (and clearer introductions to the world of Naruto in general).

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-05T08:32:29.234Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks very much for your constructive criticisms, gwern.

We use italics and caps interchangeably to stress words, not specifically for humor. The example you give stresses what Shikamaru is freaking out about, and is not intended to point out humor.

If there are TVs in Naruto, there is probably science. We don't see the science specifically getting done, but we see the results of it often in the form of TVs and many other advanced technologies.

I'm intrigued by your point on Shikamaru as a game player. I'll talk to the author about how we can explore that aspect in future. Shikamaru can be a game player and a scientist. And a ninja.

Concerning your point on "oxygen": you may have missed the story background in the bio.

Thanks for pointing out the spelling error.

And yes, we are heavily influenced by MoR, and we are trying to develop our own voice over time. Thanks for pointing out this influence, though.

Thanks again, gwern.

comment by gwern · 2011-03-05T16:25:27.865Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

If there are TVs in Naruto, there is probably science. We don't see the science specifically getting done, but we see the results of it often in the form of TVs and many other advanced technologies.

That always bugged me about Naruto - it seemed inconsistent, like many of the things in Harry Potter that MoR points out.

Although while we're discussing the topic, I'm not sure a TV necessarily indicates/requires science. China and Japan both reached quite high levels of technology without any formal science tradition. (I read through 1 volume of Science and Civilisation in China and came out impressed how much lone inventors and craftsmen could do.) Maybe given another few millennia they could have TVs without science. It's not like the Naruto world maps straight onto ours or anything.

Shikamaru can be a game player and a scientist. And a ninja.

FWIW, right now, I don't think I would read the fic. I mean, it's not terrible, it's fairly decent, but it's just too much like MoR for me now. I couldn't enjoy reading it. I'd rather keep reading The Last Ringbearer and wait for MoR or Radiance updates.

But, a Shikamaru who is a gameplayer... I might find that worth reading. That's different. That might let you escape MoR's shadow.

And yes, we are heavily influenced by MoR, and we are trying to develop our own voice over time. Thanks for pointing out this influence, though.

Well, good luck!

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-07T05:12:31.330Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This is excellent criticism, gwern. We'll strive for independence from MoR as one of our primary concerns in future. Let me know if you have any further advice on this point.

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2011-03-04T02:44:45.017Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I like the premise, it's always good to have more of these stories. I can't really say much about the writing or characterization, because I'm not into Naruto. I do have two pieces of constructive criticism.

So he had the argument, the chain of events that led to Asuma's death. Now he just had to find a way to break up the argument.

How would he do that?

Of course. The Logical Fallacies. They were great at breaking up arguments.

So- assume for the sake of argument that there is an inherent flaw in the reasoning, due to a Fallacy lurking under the surface. What could it be? What likely fallacies would there be?

The way it's written, this looks like a major case of writing the bottom line first. With some changes to the wording, the actual message (something along the lines of "you haven't exhausted the solution space", maybe) would be more clear.

Also, there's a lot of really overt discussion of logical fallacies and emotional biases. If there was a way to make this more implied, for instance showing the principles in action more and describing them less, it would be more instructive and look less didactic.

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-05T08:06:29.688Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good points. I'll talk to the author about both of these issues.

comment by jsalvatier · 2011-03-04T02:35:57.762Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

This post on editing needs editing! Less whitespace please!

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-05T07:52:10.557Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks. Done.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-03-04T23:16:39.171Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have very little familiarity with the Naruto franchise. Where is a good place to start?

comment by gwern · 2011-03-04T23:43:15.955Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Naruto is a very long manga. There is no good place to start - it's pretty much one long linear story. (You can't jump in at the time-skip either, because you'll have no idea who anyone is or what is going on.) I can say you will probably save a lot of time by reading the manga rather than watching the anime, though.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-03-05T01:56:17.923Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let me ask a slightly different question. How much research will I have to do before I can understand this fanfic?

comment by gwern · 2011-03-05T02:01:13.289Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The fanfic is based on an incident somewhere around chapter 330-340. Shikamaru gets little screentime, though, so you could probably just google through http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Naruto_chapters_%28Part_II%29 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Naruto_chapters_%28Part_I%29 for 'Shikamaru' and read just those chapters, maybe.

(Not that I'd recommend such a procedure. The worse part of Naruto is the fandom and anime. The manga itself is a pretty decent shonen manga.)

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-05T07:55:41.345Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Let me know if gwern's advice works, CronoDAS, if you don't mind trying it.

comment by CronoDAS · 2011-03-06T20:11:17.927Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I just went ahead and read the fic. I didn't know who anyone was or why they were fighting each other, but the fact that there is a fight going on is fairly easy to understand - and I have picked up enough background that I know that characters use "jutsu" powered by "chakras" to do their ninja magic. So it kind of made sense, even though I know I didn't know the context of what was going on.

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-07T04:55:20.909Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's good to hear. Thank you, CronoDAS. I should mention: I've talked to the author, and, since our first attempt at Shikamaru vs. the Logical Fallacies has indeed contained sufficient awesome, we will reboot from the beginning of the Naruto series once we finish and post Part 2 of the current section. In addition, we'll be attempting to explain things as we go along to the degree that no reader will have to read the Naruto manga or see the anime as a prerequisite to reading LF.

comment by Alicorn · 2011-03-04T23:26:22.331Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Good luck. The thing is huge.

comment by sketerpot · 2011-03-04T02:38:07.934Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My first thought, upon seeing this page, was: "Shikamaru versus... the... hell yes!" click

You might say I went in wanting to enjoy it, and I did. It's hard to say just yet if this fic will be as good as all that, but chapter 1 is a very auspicious start. It's well written, has good pacing, and Shikamaru's internal dialogue is both funny and makes him easier to identify with than in canon.

My main criticism is what Normal Anomaly said, so I won't restate it.

I look forward to seeing the rest of what you guys write. Kudos on a great start!

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-05T08:08:16.055Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thank you very much. Part 2 is well under way.

comment by Pavitra · 2011-03-04T23:49:43.533Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Be careful of automatically approving of things that approve of ideas that you approve of.

comment by sketerpot · 2011-03-05T00:48:50.961Z · score: 2 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I approve of this fic because I have a big soft spot for Naruto fanfic that doesn't make me shut off my brain, and I enjoyed the first chapter.

If the fic were well-intentioned but dreadful to read, I would say so; it wouldn't even occur to me to lie about that, to myself or others. I thought that would be obvious, but the ghastly examples in the article you linked make it clear that this kind of honesty is far less ubiquitous than I'd assumed.

comment by Nick_Roy · 2011-03-05T08:10:04.508Z · score: 1 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

The author and I appreciate your honesty, sketerpot, and Pavitra: thanks for bringing that up.

comment by Pavitra · 2011-03-05T02:38:11.586Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well said.