(HP:PZ 1) Production Notes

I’ve been hanging around the HPMoR subreddit lately, and had to share two particular posts.

The first is Why Self Actualization is my favorite arc in HPMOR (spoilers and cursing, lots of cursing) which leads to this essay. It’s long so I’ll just zero in right on my favorite part:

Hermione’s growth is triggered by frustration and helplessness in the face of collective insanity, just like Harry at Azkaban and Draco upon realizing the delusions of the blood purists. It’s rationalist fiction, bitches

I love this line, because it gets right at what – to me – this is the emotional core of most Rationalist Fiction. “People Are Crazy And The World is Mad”, followed by the hero rebelling against that in a effort to not be swept away by the accepted social insanity. Many thanks to Writingathing for helping to cement that in my mind. Previously it had just been a vague emotion without any physical grounding.

The second is a rather hilarious request by someone who’d stopped reading for the community to summarize chapters 63-101 for him. :) This is the most brilliant reply:

The following is a quick summary of ch 63-101, avoiding spoilers.

ch 63 — Lying is dangerous, because you have to keep telling more lies to cover it up.

ch 64 — Don’t forget to get some sleep.

ch 65 — When you don’t want to believe something that’s true, it’s easy to get into the habit of lying and thinking other people are lying. Growing up happens not as a result of age, but of being through hard adult experiences.

ch 66 — Hesitation is always easy but seldom useful. Decide right now what information you will need and what decision you will make depending on the information you get.

ch 67 — Aim for the head when fighting someone wearing body armour. Don’t keep trying strategies that aren’t working.

ch 68 — People disagree on what it means to be “who you were meant to be” but think it’s a good idea.

ch 69 — People don’t always achieve their potential because they get bad ideas from their environment. Helping people feels good, but being a true hero isn’t fun or easy.

ch 70 — It isn’t sexism if they act that way with everyone.

ch 71 — Feminism should be about women being free to be who they want to be, not trying to pretend they don’t care at all about men.

ch 72 — If you lie too much, people won’t believe things you say. If you refuse to answer questions, people won’t know what to think.

ch 73 — Making every other paragraph a flashback makes the story hard to understand. Knowledge is better than ignorance, because not knowing about a problem doesn’t make it go away.

ch 74 — You should think before you do things.

ch 75 — When you try to be sensible, your friends might not understand you. Consent is important. Being a hero means doing whatever you can to help, not worrying about whose fault it is or whether it ought to be someone else’s job.

ch 76 — Sometimes you can get good ideas by talking to well-meaning clueless people.

ch 77 — Sometimes it’s better to “lose” a small conflict than escalate it and raise the stakes. But some things are worth fighting for. Memory-wiping magic is OP.

ch 78 — Unflinchingly discard ideas that are appealing in some sense but ultimately flawed.

ch 79 — Sometimes people assess the quality of an argument based on who they usually hear using it, rather than its quality.

ch 80 — When you think of someone as “bad” for some reason, it’s easy to keep seeing more bad things about them. People are too quick to heap hate on unpopular people when they should urge restraint.

ch 81 — It’s hard to give up large amounts of money, even for a good cause.

ch 82 — Sometimes we act contrary to game theory to protect those we love.

ch 83 — Rumours aren’t always true.

ch 84 — People like to do what everyone else is doing, even if they know it’s wrong.

ch 85 — It’s really hard to say what’s good and bad, and what’s justified in pursuit of a good cause.

ch 86 — Consider multiple explanations and use Bayes’ Theorem to consider the likelihood of each.

ch 87 — A lot of the things we do are because of small rewards and punishments. Evolutionary psychology is a bad topic to bring up when someone asks you what your relationship with them means.

ch 88 — Don’t waste time thinking about things that aren’t helping you solve the problem.

ch 89 — There is no God.

ch 90 — Sometimes people act like they imagine the person others see them as would, rather than doing what is actually smart.

ch 91 — You can’t learn from books what it’s like to be Severus Snape. It sucks to live in a society where you have no rights.

ch 92 — It’s a good idea to think of doing things before it’s too late, rather than after.

ch 93 — Sometimes people will step outside their “roles” and exceed your expectations.

ch 94 — Life isn’t fair and it’s really scary to fight people who are smart.

ch 95 — Just because someone doesn’t do something that would help others doesn’t mean they don’t care about them.

ch 96 — Throughout most of history people have been unable to stop death. But maybe we can.

ch 97 — Getting a lawyer is a good idea.

ch 98 — Don’t let your real enemies trick you into fighting people who could be your friends.

ch 99 — Apparently we’re doing the forbidden forest scene.

ch 100 — Consider the worst thing that could happen and take precautions.

ch 101 — What actually happens will probably be worse.

(101) Production Notes

This marks the first time I haven’t accompanied Harry’s Doom Alarm of “DON’T. STOP.” with the Kill Bill screeches. I felt like with everything else that was going on, it would be overkill.

This episode also again brings us current with the text of Methods of Rationality. I do have more things in the works to keep us going until MoR is completed. Not all of them will be readings of fiction, so we’ll be branching out a bit, but they should all be enjoyable. :) Next week – the first half of a MoR fanfic. It’s good!

(100b) Production Notes

Those of you who listen to Hardcore History will be just as excited as I am to hear that Dan Carlin has kindly donated his voice to play the part of Auror Captain Brodski! I’ve gone back and edited him into last week’s episode. This makes TWO celebrity voices in a single episode!

Those of you who don’t listen to Hardcore History may be asking “What’s the big deal? History is in the past, I’m more interested in the future! Has this guy ever, say… quoted Nick Bostrom on existential risk?” First, his delivery of the history is very exciting, and his voice is striking. I could listen to him all day, and it’s a fun listen! Second, something about being forced to repeat the past. And Third, it’s funny you should ask that specific question, because he did that exact thing in the most recent episode. This is forward-looking history. The episodes are long, but with months between them there’s plenty of time for listening.

(3WC pt6&7) Production Notes

Fun Fact: The last line of part 6 was not in the original story. Eliezer added it afterwards as part of a response to a reader comment. That’s one of the great things about non-traditional publishing. :)

Another Fact (probably not as Fun): “Huygens” is very likely being pronounced incorrectly. If the source for the name is what I think it is, then it should be pronounced like this. However with a half a dozen actors saying it, scattered across the country and separated in time, I decided it’d be best to go with the Americanized bastardization for consistency and ease.

(3WC pt5) Production Notes

Just a quick note – the file of available roles (and the full list of their lines) has been updated! If you want to contribute a voice to HPMoR, anything from an anonymous single-line to a minor character with a few paragraphs, now’s the time. See the Voicing A Character page for details and tips.

If you haven’t heard Hands Around My Throat in full, the tiny snippets in this episode really don’t do it justice. I love the way the song builds. It starts with a single instrument, which repeats for several measures. Then it layers the next one on top, and both play for several measures. Then the next one. Then the next one. And so on. It’s a great build up. I don’t think I ever would’ve heard it if not for the Animatrix Soundtrack, which I happened to get for free as a promotion. Huzzah for serendipity!

(3WC pt4) Production Notes

SPOILERS for the current chapter! (Part 4: Interlude With The Confessor)


One of the roles in this story was offered to a friend who initially accepted, but then turned it down after reading the story. She felt that Eliezer was portraying rape in a manner that implied there was nothing wrong with it, and didn’t want anything to with the project. This was my reply to her (slightly edited).

I don’t want you to have the wrong idea about Eliezer, so to pass along his explanation in brief – he once wrote that if our ancestors from even a few hundred years ago had been able to see what their children had wrought, they would be horrified. What we call Civil Rights they would call destroying the social order – allowing the vote to the lowest classes of humanity and thereby reducing governance to pandering to the lowest common denominator. We’ve allowed jews to take over large parts of our entertainment and financial sectors, and allowed a member of the slave race to become president! Sexual depravity is rampant, with everyone indulging their carnal desires with no regard for any decent morality. And perhaps worst of all, we’ve abandoned God and consigned our souls to hell and our time on earth to a living hell of satanic evil. (On a personal note, my mother locked herself in her room and wouldn’t come out for three days after I told her I was an atheist, so that one hit kinda close to home).
He conjectured that it’s entirely likely that if our ancestors had been able to see what we would become, they could decide it would be better for the human race to be wiped out than for such a disgusting travesty be allowed to take place. When writing 3WC he wanted to find a way to convey that feeling to his audience, that sort of disgust and repulsion. This was what he came up with. It’s not an endorsement of rape any more than Dexter is an endorsement of methodical, clinical murder.
I do understand your position though. I was unable to continue watching Dexter past the second episode, and I wouldn’t want to actively participate in it either.

(3WC pt3) Production Notes

I decided to put the credits at the front for this episode (and will for several others as well) to serve as a reminder of which voice is associated with which role. In HPMoR there are a number of distinct voices that reappear constantly, and after 100+ episodes I no longer tag every line with the speaker (McGonagall, Snape, Draco, Dumbledore, etc). I’m not sure that 3WC has been going long enough to cement actor’s voices with specific characters… but maybe? On the one hand, I have no trouble telling them apart, and I don’t want to cut up the dialog too much with unnecessary “said the pilot” tags. On the other hand, I know almost all of these people personally so I’m very familiar with their voices already, plus I’m the one who picked them for the role so the link is very strong in my mind. I think I make a particularly terrible judge of how much tagging is needed. So I introduced the Dramatis Personae. Hopefully that will help.

Speaking of which, I was appalled by how that’s pronounced. I’d always thought it ended with a “-nye” sound, not a “-nee” sound. I’m glad I looked it up, but man does it grate on my ears. :/ I’ve been surprised by a few pronunciations in the past, but they never hurt before.

In next episode’s news (no spoiler) – it looks like there isn’t an accepted pronunciation of “anti-agathics” yet. So I get to use the one I think sounds best, and try to sway history to my side. The power!!! ;)

(3WC pt2) Production Notes

I had a lot of trouble with Akon’s voice. I kept reverting to Harry’s voice (which is close to my natural tone anyway), but that didn’t feel right. Akon has a hundred years of command experience behind him! He shouldn’t sound quite so much like a charmingly precocious wunderkind. I always base my voices on some character in fiction I feel they resemble, so I went with someone from command in TNG. I didn’t feel I could possibly pull off the stately manner and understated gravitas of Picard, but I figured I could do a pretty decent Riker. Unfortunately the character just didn’t line up.

From my observations, much of leadership is assuming a confident and commanding demeanor. Acting assured (and being assuring) even when you aren’t, and doing so convincingly. Akon, through his described actions, his choice of words and phrasing, and his internal monologue, just doesn’t convey that. Every time I got on a good “Riker taking over while Picard is away and issuing orders” roll, I’d be hit with some action or line that made it obvious that I was clearly way out of character for Akon! And the whole thing would fall apart.

As a result, I’m afraid you’ll find that my Akon voice varies a bit more than it should from scene to scene.

I finally came to the conclusion that Akon is simply a bad captain. He’s too open and honest about his insecurities. His openness is probably a major asset for a research and exploration vessel, but it’s not inspirational or guiding in a high-stress crisis. I wish I had realized this several weeks earlier than I did. I’m also a bit crestfallen to have come to this conclusion – I identify very strongly with Akon, and I was delighted to see someone like myself in a leadership position. The realization that he isn’t a great leader, and that it’s therefore very likely that I am not a good leader for similar reasons, was disappointing.

It’s interesting the things you learn when stretching your boundaries.

(3WC pt1) Production Notes

Whew, I was editing this one right up to the last day. It varies from the HPMoR episodes in several regards. Most notably, I’ve adopted a less “announcer”-like voice for narration, which I feel is better. I’ll keep it, but it makes the reading more energy-intensive for me, as it doesn’t come naturally. I guess I naturally tend to have a declaiming tone. Good for teaching/instructing perhaps, but not so good for storytelling.

Also of note – the inclusion of general background music. Previously I’d only ever done music for very specific scenes were I already had a soundtrack in my head. But lately I’ve been listening to Welcome to Night Vale, and they use background music to great effect. It really heightens the mood of that podcast, and the mix of occasional background music and silence really makes both stand out in striking ways. I was amazed how much more time it takes to add those touches. Not only do I have to familiarize myself with a whole new collection of music*, I have to add another listen-through to listen for places to insert it, and then review to make sure it sounds alright. I’m sure that with familiarity the stress level and time investment of this extra step will ease, but I was not ready for how much it would take.

(*I decided to only use freely available public-use sources. I’m ok using bits and pieces of copyrighted songs here and there, such as for the intro/outro. But to use the entirety of a song without permission seemed both unethical and of dubious legality)

(BTW, if you’re not listening to Welcome to Night Vale, you may want to give it a shot. It’s a series of events that happen in a small creepy town in the desert, as relayed by their local community radio guy. There’s no narrative or story development so it won’t be to everyone’s taste. Mainly it’s cool quirkiness and mood pieces. From the pilot – “The City Council [...] would like to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed in the dog park. People are not allowed in the dog park. It is possible that you will see hooded figures in the dog park. Do not approach them. Do not approach the dog park. […] The dog park will not harm you.” It’s like what A Prairie Home Companion would be like, if it was supernatural, and didn’t suck.)

Also I removed the use of the Page-Flip sound for breaks. I’d gotten so used to them after all this time that not hearing them was actually startling. I’ll keep it that way for Three Worlds Collide, but I really like them and they’ll be back for HPMoR.