Once upon a time, a man lay with woman.
Nine and a half months later on a bright, sunny day, a child was born lifeless. It took two doctors and three minutes to revive it, and all seemed well.
***25 - I will overcome***
"I will overcome", thought Harry, but didn't.
It were his lungs that failed him first, followed by his heart and finally the brain. He was dead in under 7 minutes, dead in a puddle 3 centimeters deep and a meter across [wide?], with nobody around for miles.
He awoke three minutes later, corrected his tie, and carried on.
In half an hour he arrived at the edge of a small town, drenched in sweat but determent [with an air of det. No meager death was going to make him late. He brushed aside the familiar sensation of vertigo that crept over him as he strode on, forcing himself to focus on his destination. It was all within his grasp, now.
He reached a small house on the corner of Lincoln street, knocked twice on the door and waited. A more perceptive observant would have noticed the broken window to his left, but Harry never paid much attention to his surroundings, not even on the best of days. When his patience ran out he knocked again, then tried the door. To his surprise it was open. Adjusting his tie once more, he stepped inside.
At first he mistook the blood for wine, the hand for a broken bottle. He let out a silent scream and fell down to all fours, retching. A hard blow to his right temple flattened him on his stomach. From his position on the floor, he was vaguely aware of two slender legs advancing towards him, then a second blow made the world go dark.
"Oh, hi." said the angel to the baby lying before it. "Would you like anything while you wait? There's candy." it added absentmindedly.
The baby wasn't paying much attention to the angel. It was too busy crying and... Being.
"You can call me Jack. Well, I guess you can't, in your present state, but you will once you're a bit older. I've always enjoyed our little conversations, you know. This one is rather one sided, I admit, but you will more than make up for it once you learn to talk, believe me."
The angel glanced at it's wrist watch, then smiled fondly at the baby, giving it its full attention for a moment.
"I think this is it, we're starting again, you and me. I have a good feeling about this one. I wish I could help you down there, but you'll be on your own most of the time. Good luck." The angel sighed, dipped a pen that suddenly appeared in a cartridge that materialized out of thin air and began writing in small, curly letters on a large piece of parchment that wasn't there before.
Jenny arrived at the hospital a little early and had to wait for a nurse to let her in. She didn't mind, it gave her a chance to compose herself and prepare a smile for her husband. Her smile always made him smile in return and his smiles were such a rare commodity [rarity] these days.
But as soon as she saw him the smile vanished. His rumpled hair, sweaty face and awkward pose only confirmed what she noticed immediately in his eyes - this was a bad night.
He didn't say anything, just looked at her, then closed his eyes and tried to refocus, so she rushed to his side and held his hand which he squeezed lightly, almost on reflex.
They stayed like that for almost half an hour before her husband broke the silence, his voice so unlike itself she almost had to check it was him: "I want to die". The sound seemed to float in the air above them, waiting to be addressed. She refused to even acknowledge it.
"Please don't ignore me, Jenny. I'm too tired to play the silence game."
"I'm not playing anything, Harry. But I will not be a part of this conversation. Are you hungry? I brought some food..."
"Can't eat anything, it will just go right back up. They'll probably hook me to the IV again. I'm too tired." He said again.
"Do you want me to read to you?" She tried, "There's the one we started yesterday or we can read Chloe's letters again. Maybe even - "
"No, no." He cut her gently, "I just want to rest." And die, he thought.
They sat quietly once more, taking comfort in each other's presence.
"If you won't help me, I think I'll try it myself, you know." He said finally. "I've had enough, no one deserves this." he gestured at the room, at the entire situation.
"You can't." she said sadly, "you'll just come back and it will be worse".
"Then why won't you help me? I've had a good life, Jen. Many lives, if you look at it a certain way. I've had enough, I want out. Every minute I spend here takes away another happy memory and replaces it with pain. I need you to help me end it."
Eddie’s Column, Oct 18
I’m afraid I’ve ruined the entire realm of fan fiction for myself by accidentally starting with the best; there seems to be nowhere to go now but down. Of course, having read only one fanfic, it’s a bit early to make such depressing assertions. One can hope.
For as long as I remember I’ve considered fan fictions to be, well… bad, almost by definition. Why would any talented individual write stuff for free? It’s a good way to practice, sure, and to get feedback. But if you have something actually worth reading, wouldn’t you want it to reach the largest possible reader base? Or make a profit?
Well, it seems like word of mouth is still an effective way of distribution and quality work tends to find its audience, as is the case here.
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality/ Eliezer Yudkowsky
A Review by Eddie Smolyansky
AI researcher and decision theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky probably woke up one day and asked himself a single question: what would have happened in Harry Potter’s first year in Hogwarts, had he not been such an insufferable idiot?
You might not have considered him an idiot in the first place, but as the book progresses and the new Harry makes his way around Hogwarts, facing the same problems and situations, it becomes impossible to ignore the oh so logical and natural way he handles them this time. It really makes one wonder what was going through his head in the original version and feels like a direct critique of Rowling. It made me wonder how I managed to ever take the original seriously (might have something to do with me being 8 years old at the time).
In Eliezer’s version of the story, Harry is a child prodigy; Highly intelligent and educated well beyond his years in the sciences and the methods of rationality, he is well equipped to handle anything the magical world can throw at him and then some. But this Harry also has a dark side and we get to know him better as he struggles to find balance in himself.
The differences in this parallel universe don’t end with Harry, though. His adopting parents, Petunia and Prof. Michael Verres-Evans, are happily married and treat him as they would their own flesh and blood. Ron and Hermione remain mostly the same, although genius Harry obviously prefers to interact with the hard working book-worm and quickly decides that a boring, average ginger is simply not worth his precious time (speaking of time... no, I won’t ruin the surprise). A cunning and manipulative Draco Malfoy and a powerful yet cynical Prof. Quirrell take on larger roles, in quite unexpected ways. We also see much more of Dumbledore (who has actually read The Lord of the Rings, seeing as every muggle student ever to come to Hogwarts thought that gifting him a copy was an original idea).
It seems important to note that magic is also treated a little bit differently, especially by a scientific Harry, who sets out to test and understand it, thus restoring order to the seemingly shattered laws of physics. Naturally, things don’t go according to plan and at times he is forced to improvise.
The book started out pretty well, with some laugh out loud scenes as Harry finds out about magic for the first time (see quote below). As I read the first few chapters I kept waiting for the level to drop, for the premise to exhaust itself, for my enthusiasm to subside, but 300 pages in and hungrily reading on, It was clear that I’ve stumbled upon something great and that the story is safe in the deft hands of Eliezer Yudkowsky.
“You turned into a cat! A SMALL cat! You violated Conservation of Energy! That's not just an arbitrary rule, it's implied by the form of the quantum Hamiltonian! Rejecting it destroys unitarity and then you get FTL signaling! And cats are COMPLICATED! A human mind can't just visualize a whole cat's anatomy and, and all the cat biochemistry, and what about the neurology? How can you go on thinking using a cat-sized brain?”
The book is funny, at times hilarious. The premise is well executed as Eliezer draws from his vast experience as a rationalist and lets us take a look at genius minds at work; we all know how hard that is to pull off. Methods of Rationality really hits its stride around chapter 5 and according to the author if you haven’t taken to it by chapter 10, then that’s a good time to call it quits (and rethink your interests).
From the get-go, different decisions create chains of cause and effect that send the book in pretty different directions (like Harry finding out almost immediately that he’s prophesied to battle against the dark lord). Other scenes repeat almost word for word, like the first potions lesson with Snape (only this time, Harry refuses to play the victim and stands up to him, in a rather spectacular fashion).
As the story progressed, I found myself engrossed in the plot, invested in the characters and generally unable to put the book down. It is not flawless and at times Eliezer’s inexperience as a novel writer shows, but overall this is as good as it gets. Come for the premise, stay for the story and along the way let the message of rationality rub off and enlighten you. I’ve rarely been as inspired to study, as in love with science or as driven to succeed as when I’ve read this book.