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This answer is currently our consensus policy on using work, franchise, and author tags, and (in my opinion) seems to cover most situations pretty well. It doesn’t really seem to cover or at least discuss short stories.

KutuluMike: I never came up with a good answer for short stories.

With books, we generally tag with the name of the book and not the name of the author (unless the question is specifically about the author or general aspects of their work), per the previously mentioned policy.

There are several problems with extending this policy to short stories, though, and creating a tag for each short story that someone asks about.

  • A number of short stories have long titles compared to books.
  • More pertinent, a lot of short stories have very short, undescriptive titles.
  • People are less likely to be very knowledgeable about one short story (and not a bunch of others) than they are to be knowledgeable about a single book or series.
  • People are extraordinarily unlikely to subscribe to most short story tags.
  • People are not going to search for questions about a specific short story. Even if they remember a specific short story, they are more likely to search for short stories by a certain author, because of their interest in that author. If (as is more than likely) they don’t even remember the name of the short story that they’re wondering about, they’ll definitely just search by author.

  • Short stories are often rather thin on plot and worldbuilding, and thus potential questions. For this reason, as well as issues of obscurity, except for the most famous short stories (award winners and so forth), repeat questions are quite unlikely. We might end up with a lot of one-question tags.

In short, the author is the unifying element of most short story questions.

In addition, as another way of looking at things, I applied the rough (and disputed) tag creation guidelines discussed in this post, to a hypothetical tag for, say, “We Who Stole the Dream,” a short story by a pretty famous sci-fi author, identified here.

  1. Could someone be an expert on that story? Not really. -1
  2. Could a question be tagged only with that? Yes, if we adopt the opposite of the policy suggested here. +2
  3. Would the tag have an unambiguous meaning? Yes, +2.
  4. Is it likely to be used correctly? Yes, +2
  5. Are there "enough" (> 15) but not "too many" (> 10% site-wide) questions that qualify for the tag? Definitely not. -1.
  6. Would people use the tag to find questions to answer? Quite unlikely. They’d just search for the name of the author. -1.
  7. Will anyone favorite or ignore it? No. -1.
  8. Could it be used to feed questions to a specialized chatroom? Nah. -1.

  9. Finally, could it productively be used to search for questions? Sometimes. +1.

The total comes to 0, compared to 8 or more for a good tag. Stories with vague titles would come out better in the “productive search” category (+2), but worse in the unambiguous meaning category (+1) and “likely to be used correctly” (-1).

Finally, this basically is our current de facto policy. The few questions about short stories that I see tend to be tagged with the name of the author.

Should we simply tag most short stories with the name of the author?

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    Re tag scoring: it was decided (some time after the post you linked) that that scoring system isn't really very useful, perhaps even that no tag scoring system is going to be very useful. – Rand al'Thor Oct 2 '16 at 23:07
  • @Randal’Thor - I agree. I saw that post, and I don’t think that the tag scoring system is that useful. It’s just there as a rough metric. The real arguments are mainly given before that, though some are discussed in the scoring. – Adamant Oct 2 '16 at 23:09
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    You should consider the circumstances, then apply common sense to your choice of tag if none presently exists. – Valorum Oct 3 '16 at 0:07
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    @Valorum How common is common sense, really? – Rand al'Thor Oct 3 '16 at 1:01
  • @Rand’alThor - Yeah, I agree we occasionally need some policy to guide our common sense (else we would not need the tags tag). If you have some opinions, would either of you like to write an answer (either yea, nay, or something else), so that people can vote on it? – Adamant Oct 3 '16 at 1:02
  • @Adamant Don't worry, I was mainly being facetious in my last comment :-) I'm not going to post an answer yet - want to wait for others to weigh in before gathering my thoughts on this. Plus it's pretty late for me and Valorum right now ... – Rand al'Thor Oct 3 '16 at 1:07
  • Uhhh, sure, unless there's something else that identifies it better (Asimov I think would be the test case; he has oodles of stories, some of which would fall under the I Robot theme, some not, right?) – Radhil Oct 3 '16 at 14:39
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TL;DR I agree that author tags should be used for short stories.


You present a very well reasoned approach in your question. I see a couple different scenarios and all would need the author tag to not create confusion.

  1. Short stories published as an anthology by a single author.
  2. Short stories published as an anthology with different authors.
  3. Short stories published as stand alone works.

Short stories may be published in numerous collections or publications so using that as a tag will be confusing because which anthology title should we use? As @Adamant mentioned in the comments, fans of short stories are going to be searching by the title of the story and/or the author.

I agree that many short story titles can be too generic which is why it a bad idea to use them for tags. The short-stories (even though it generally used for ID questions) could be helpful to differentiate between a question about the author themselves or a story they have written.

My overall suggestion would be to use the author's name for the tag and make sure the title of the short story is prominently featured in the title or body of the question.

  • Just from following Butcher and Sanderson, I know that once (2) happens often enough for a given author or setting, (1) becomes inevitable for those same stories. That's a reasoned enough answer, but it can break down over time. – Radhil Oct 3 '16 at 19:03
  • I actually cannot agree with this answer, for the simple reason that the title of the anthology is fluff. People may not always search for a short story by title, but they will almost never search by anthology name. If I’m a Sanderson fan, I’m looking for “Shadow for Silence in the Forests of Hell,” or “Brandon Sanderson.” I’d have to look up Dangerous Women, the name of the anthology in which it first appeared. – Adamant Oct 3 '16 at 19:55
  • Even more relevant, in most cases we’d be rather lucky for there to be a single anthology. If I read “We Who Stole the Dream” in Wollheim’s World’s Best SF: Series Eight, I’m going to have a tough time finding a question about it tagged stellar-4-science-fiction-stories. It just not clear which anthology tag would be right. Even if we reached a convention, it would be counterintuitive and get in the way of searching. People should not have to turn to ISFDB to figure out how to find a question. – Adamant Oct 3 '16 at 19:58
  • @Adamant Thanks for the comments, I edited to reflect this. – Skooba Oct 4 '16 at 17:12

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