Is it possible to ask for a story identification where the story itself isn't really sci-fi or fantasy related? For example, a story like a memoir or fiction about old England... or let's say somebody asks a question and it turns out the answer is "Saving Private Ryan" (not sci-fi or fantasy in genre, but nonetheless a story).

If not, which SE site should I go then? because I have a genuine story that I've read a long time ago but already forgot about the title and only remember parts of it.


3 Answers 3


If it's not a Sci-Fi or Fantasy work, it's not on topic here and will be closed.

If the description doesn't seem to have SFF-like details, the community is pretty good about closing the questions and asking for clarification on what parts make it SFF (if any). If there are none, it'll stay closed.

The Literature Stack Exchange is now public and seems to currently allow story identification questions from all genres. Rand's answer addresses this, but visiting Literature meta is the best place for advice on their scope and guidelines.

  • As far as I know we do not have a definition of "Sci-Fi or Fantasy work". I have noticed that the Topic Police on this site have an excessively narrow view of "Sci-Fi or Fantasy", and questions about works they believe to be not sci-fi or fantasy will be closed. Given the difficulty of reaching agreement on whether a specific known work is sci-fi or fantasy, it is ridiculous to think that we (meaning five random users) can pass judgement on whether an unknown work is sci-fi or fantasy.
    – user14111
    Feb 26, 2017 at 22:12
  • 1
    @user14111 I don't disagree at all. I adamantly believe our original policy was meant to be inclusive and that some specific types of fiction have been targeted as off topic over the years, in violation of that policy. Nonetheless, what I outlined here is what happens. If there's no SFFnal elements in the question, I've seen them get closed.
    – user31178
    Feb 26, 2017 at 22:23
  • Is there a definition or a list of approved "SFFnal elements" around here somewhere?
    – user14111
    Feb 26, 2017 at 22:31
  • 2
    @user14111 No, because no one is willing to make or allow a list, which has allowed the cherry picking of which sub genres are appropriate. It's frustrating, and leads to opposing policies on stuff like on Spy movies. If I weren't on mobile right now I'd link to the examples, but it's a bit disconcerting to me.
    – user31178
    Feb 26, 2017 at 22:39
  • 1
    What's extra disconcerting is that everyone cites Gilles' original answer to justify their actions, and to exclude subjects - the same answer that describes itself as being inclusive.
    – phantom42
    Feb 27, 2017 at 13:27

As CreationEdge says, please don't ask here if it's not sci-fi or fantasy.

Instead, you can ask on Literature SE, a relatively new site which is currently in public beta. That site has already had several story-ID questions, none of which so far have been closed or have a negative score. The conclusion of the corresponding meta discussion seems to be that they should be allowed until/unless they become a problem (e.g. the site starts getting overrun with low-quality ID questions).

So if you have an ID question about a written work which isn't sci-fi or fantasy, Literature may take it. However, as always, please do try to make it as thorough as possible, and include every last detail you can remember of the story. Please check through the answers to How to ask a good story-ID question? here on SFF, to see if anything on those checklists jogs your memory for more detail.


Playing Devil's Advocate, if it's ambiguously SF&F, it might do alright. I've had a few ID questions like that, where I could not remember whether there were actually fantasy elements to the story, or if people just thought that they were in-story. For example, Children's book about a girl maybe being influenced by her black cat to become a witch and Teenage boy travels to Scotland to settle his family's curse. Alternately helped and hindered by a girl from the rival family. Smoked fish?. Although, admittedly, both were slightly ambiguous as to whether there was magic after all. I have a third question that I've never asked here (involving a pair of kids who are convinced that their next-door neighbor is a witch, and manage to convince her enough to play along and try to be one) because I'm 90% certain that it was clear by the end that there was no actual magic.

In cases where it has been found that the work in question is unambiguously not fantasy/sci-fi, I've voted to close, since the question is not on-topic, although it will often stay on the site, because some of the answers are fantasy/sci-fi, and could help others (to give a contrived example, imagine someone looking for a film where a girl keeps getting gifts from her "fairy godmother", they wind up accepting an answer that points out that it's a 1970s TV film where the "fairy godmother" is found to be their mother, secretly encouraging them, no magic involved, but there are also valid answers that match the original question but refer to actual fantastic works).

  • Well, it's not really scifi. From what I recall there are four friends who grew up together, I remember one of them having (please excuse me) given pleasure to another girl by touching her. Then I couldn't remember too well, but they were sent to prison for something, and now they had to deal with a cruel guard who regularly beats them and rapes them. I recall a particular chapter were they are fed oatmeal pissed by this particularly cruel guard. So they grew up, one of the four became a lawyer, and the cruel guard got what he deserved. It isn't scifi, but I though I'd post it anyway.
    – Malky.Kid
    Feb 27, 2017 at 22:47

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