Rational critiques of fantasy world
February 21, 2020 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for essays that apply analytical thought to the in-world logic of fictional worlds. For example, this essay criticizing Gringotts for failing to offer interest-bearing accounts, or Larry Niven's Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.

A few clarifications:
• I am not looking for literary analysis. I'm looking for something that treats the book as a window into an alternate universe, and tries to extrapolate other details of that universe.
• I'm award of Harry Potter And The Methods of Rationality but I'm more looking for things in essay form than full-on fanfic.
posted by yankeefog to Writing & Language (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Diana Wynne Jones' The Tough Guide to Fantasyland does a lot of this, more by looking closely at clichés than reasoning through counterfactuals. Definitely takes the Fantasyland as a universe, not a metaphor.
posted by clew at 10:22 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]

/r/rational is a subreddit dedicated to the discussion of works of rational and rationalist fiction, and may be an alternate place to ask this question.
posted by WCityMike at 10:36 AM on February 21

There are some really enjoyable discussions of what the actual hell is going on with the cars from Cars, e.g. This Disturbing Theory Explains Pixar's Cars.
posted by mskyle at 10:43 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]

Bret Deveraux's blog does what I think you're going for, generally from the lens of military history (but not the weird kind). I've been following it since it was shared here.
posted by Think_Long at 10:44 AM on February 21 [2 favorites]

Oh also Tolkien’s Map and the Perplexing River Systems of Middle-earth and Tolkien’s Map and The Messed Up Mountains of Middle-earth and probably all of Alex Acks' SFF Geology articles on Tor.com. They might be too much about trying to apply the actual physics/geology of our world onto fictional worlds, though.
posted by mskyle at 10:49 AM on February 21 [4 favorites]

Here is the text of the original and Here are a series of rebuttals to the notion of Santa delivering all the presents on earth in a single day
posted by Dmenet at 11:14 AM on February 21

I'm not sure if this is exactly the kind of thing you're looking for (it's satire) but here is fictional Howard Zinn and fictional Noam Chomsky talking about the sociopolitical conflicts of Middle Earth.
posted by missrachael at 11:29 AM on February 21 [3 favorites]

I still think about this one: Little Einsteins: Innocent Kids' Show or Post-Apocalyptic Earth.

Much like the author, I watched a lot of that show.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 12:18 PM on February 21

Would Charles Adler's _Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction_ fit the bill here?
posted by hanov3r at 1:12 PM on February 21

It's not in essay format, but there's a whole subreddit where people do more or less exactly this.
posted by sportbucket at 1:57 PM on February 21 [1 favorite]

I may be off base here, but this is one of my favorite things, Rex Stout's infamous "Watson Was a Woman" essay delivered to the Baker Street Irregulars. The John H. Watson Society says that legend has it that the assembled membership carried Stout out of the building after his speech and dumped him in the snow.
posted by ceejaytee at 2:56 PM on February 21 [2 favorites]

Not about a book, but the Endor Holocaust fits the bill.
posted by mwhybark at 12:18 PM on February 22

My son is currently enjoying The Science of Discworld.
posted by Enid Lareg at 6:30 AM on February 23

Thank you, everybody! That's a fantastic bunch of suggestions and I'm looking forward to nerding out over all of them.
posted by yankeefog at 2:54 AM on February 24

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