I understand this question and its accompanying answer were made in jest: What is JK Rowling "bad" at?

I have a sense of humor, but unfortunately the question is blatantly off-topic (and not particularly funny either, but that's just my opinion): it's not about the Potterverse, or even about JKR's skills as a fantasy author, but about her personal life. It's also an open-ended list question. The accepted answer looks like a scattershot at everything JKR has ever twitted. Frankly, almost every close reason in the list applies to the question.

Unfortunately, it cannot be voted-to-close because it has an open bounty. Are we allowing this kind of questions now?

One problem I see with off-topic joke questions being allowed is that explaining to newcomers why their off-topic questions get closed but this one isn't becomes very hard.

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    It's not even a "fandom" question, as Skooba tried arguing in the comments. If we allow ANY questions about an author's personal life, then political questions, sexual preferences, preferred brand of car, sports questions, etc, are all fair game. Do we REALLY want this? – Andres F. Jul 14 '17 at 20:55
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    Nice one, ibid - due to the bounty it can't be closed :D A historical lock with the a suitable disclaimer would be appropriate, I think. – Gallifreyan Jul 14 '17 at 20:57
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    Another important thing to note is that while JK Rowling is primarily known as an author of fantasy literature, not all SF/F authors are. For example, Stephen Hawking has written at least one science-fiction book; does that mean asking about how he copes with his illness or what colour his dog is would be on-topic for this site? (I'm sure there are even better examples, people who are known neither for science nor fiction but who have at some point written science fiction.) – Rand al'Thor Jul 14 '17 at 21:28
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    for what it is worth, (and I don't think it skirts the 'be nice' rule, it's a valid question), Andres asked if anyone other than a super high rep user asked the question if it would have been immediately shut down, and I think the answer is yes. Again, not saying anything against the user in question - but I think it does speak to a sense of rep bias at play in this particular discussion. In other words, joke questions / answers are fine if you have enough rep - but if a new / low rep user tries it...good luck to you – NKCampbell Jul 14 '17 at 21:28
  • for instance, re: rep bias - I have no idea how this question was allowed to live: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/7543/… - primarily opinion based and real world science - but oh well :) – NKCampbell Jul 14 '17 at 21:32
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    In part, it was allowed to live because of how early on it was asked. The site was a much different place back then. I'm not even 100% sure we had the "scientific explanation" close reason back then. But the question does ask if there is anything in-universe that would support the animals depicted, which would avoid the "scientific explanation" close reason. – phantom42 Jul 14 '17 at 22:44
  • You must have a very different personal definition of "joke". Just saying. – Martha Jul 18 '17 at 14:21
  • @Martha Hey, I didn't say it was a good joke! Regardless, in my opinion, there are multiple valid close reasons for that question: open-ended list question, off-topic for this site, and finally, "a bad joke" :P – Andres F. Jul 18 '17 at 14:50

Fandom questions are on-topic ...

See Why is fandom information treated as if it weren't on topic? There's an occasional problem on this site with people voting to close fandom questions because they aren't familiar enough with the site scope to know that behind-the-scenes and fandom information is explicitly on-topic here. This much of Skooba's answer is correct, and most of the questions he lists have been well-received, being out-of-universe fandom questions relating to specific works of sci-fi or fantasy.

... but not every fact about an author is fandom information.

The question under consideration here isn't a question about the Harry Potter series/universe, nor about JK Rowling as a fantasy author. It's a question about JK Rowling as a person, and JK Rowling as a person isn't a science-fiction or fantasy entity.

I think a lot of the dispute here arises from the fact that JK Rowling is primarily known as an author of fantasy. Imagine if the question was about the personal lives of the models / TV personalities Kendall and Kylie Jenner (who once wrote a science fiction novel), or of the physicist Stephen Hawking (who's written a series of children's science fiction books). I doubt anyone would hesitate in closing "Who is Kylie Jenner going out with?" or "Has Stephen Hawking ever owned a dog?" as off-topic.

Questions such as Did Tolkien have experience with addiction? or Is Tolkien prejudiced against the East? are directly related to Tolkien's fantasy writing. They're not just asking for factoids about his personal life; they're asking whether Tolkien's portrayal of addiction and of Easterners in The Lord of the Rings was influenced by his real-life experiences or views. But with questions like What is JK Rowling "bad" at? and Was Tolkien a driver?, the connection is far more tenuous.

So the question we need to ask for such a question is:

Is it justifiably connected to an SF/F work?

Valorum's answer is essentially correct, although I'd phrase the key criterion as relevancy rather than notability, but he also says (having answered it) that the Rowling question is fine. I leave it up to you:

  • If you think the question is relevant to Harry Potter, or any other SF/F work, leave it open.
  • If you think its relevancy is too much of a stretch, vote to close it.

(I say "justifiably" because it's possible to draw a connection to almost any question about an author from their work, if you're willing to stretch its credibility enough. If a question tries to make a connection which you feel is too tenuous or ridiculous, you can still vote to close it.)

  • You should allow to me to edit the question to make some of these adjustments rather than close it. IIRC this is allowed* even if it invalidates/make incomplete existing answers. – Skooba Jul 15 '17 at 17:52
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    @Skooba Since there was a rollback war (and neither side has backed down afaik), it might be worth a meta post to ask whether or not it's OK for you to make such an edit to the question. A separate meta post from this one, I should add - whether or not the question should be allowed is a different issue from whether or not it should be edited as you suggest. – Rand al'Thor Jul 15 '17 at 18:23
  • Well based on your answer here the edit may be very relavant to whether the question would be allowed... This meta leads me to believe that it is okay to make these edits, do we really need a separate meta every time there is as rollback war? – Skooba Jul 15 '17 at 18:46
  • @Skooba I'm not sure why you're reading it that way. The accepted answer there says, "I don't personally think there's necessarily anything wrong with making clarifying edits to a question; it depends a great deal on the specifics of the edit, and how drastically it changes the parameters of the question." If it depends a great deal on the specifics, then a particularly controversial specific case may indeed be worth a separate meta. – Rand al'Thor Jul 15 '17 at 21:03

Fandom questions must have some reason for being asked.

Simply put, a fandom question is generally considered to be on-topic if it has notability. In this case, JKR has repeatedly excused mistakes in her writings as being a result of a personal failing (in maths). It's therefore acceptable to ask if she's ever claimed any other personal failings as this may help the OP to understand other elements of her work.

By comparison, a question asking

"Does JKR prefers red wine or white?"

would be perfectly answerable, but off-topic since it never comes up in her writings and there's no sensible reason to ask it.

This question is not a "joke question", at least by the generally agreed definition on the site.

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    maybe the question could be better asked to make it clear that it is specifically asking if her other failings have affected the on-topic work and not her off topic life. I don't see that in the question as it currently stands which may be lending fuel to the fire – NKCampbell Jul 14 '17 at 21:34
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    I think this particular question is unsalvageable, but that's just my opinion. I agree that fandom questions must have a reason (a SF/F-related reason!) for being asked. In this case, in its unedited form, the link was tenuous at best. If there was a link, it was about JKR being bad at math, not about everything she's bad at! – Andres F. Jul 14 '17 at 21:40
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    "Since wine is mentioned in the books, does JKR have a preference for red or white wine in real life?" - would that make the question on-topic? – NKCampbell Jul 14 '17 at 21:43
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    @NKCampbell - It's tenuous at best. Have any of her characters ever expressed an interest in a particular wine? – Valorum Jul 14 '17 at 21:45
  • how then is the question..erm...in question any less tenuous than my wine question which at least tries to connect explicitly to the books? – NKCampbell Jul 14 '17 at 21:47
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    @Valorum Wine & food are mentioned very frequently in A Song of Ice and Fire. Would a question asking about every wine and food GRRM has ever mentioned liking be acceptable? What about one asking if GRRM has any food allergies? – Andres F. Jul 14 '17 at 21:47
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    @AndresF. - No, because the only reason you'd asking it is to be a jerk ;-) For the record, we've had at least one question about an author's food intolerances; scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/159571/… – Valorum Jul 14 '17 at 21:48
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    To be clear: I know they are bad questions, and I'm not about to ask them -- I'm not that kind of user. What I'm asking is why they're different than Skooba's question. Are we divining intent now? – Andres F. Jul 14 '17 at 21:49
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    lol, now now Valorum "be nice" ;D – NKCampbell Jul 14 '17 at 21:49
  • fwiw - I agree w/ Valorum's answer. I disagree if implication is that the question meets this meta answer criteria – NKCampbell Jul 14 '17 at 21:54
  • Harry Potter and wine: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/128849/4918 – b_jonas Jul 14 '17 at 21:57
  • Almost all of the concepts here are things with which I concur — especially with it not being meant as a joke, — but I don't think they serve to ascertaining whether the topical question is suitable for the SF&F SE. – can-ned_food Jul 17 '17 at 1:47

Yes this question is firmly on-topic, as fandom always has been. There are many examples of questions asking about an author's life.


In this specific's question's case, it is well known within the fandom that some JKR's flaws can show in, and affect her stories. Her "bad maths" is the prime example. Maybe this should have better defined in the original question, but either way it still remains on-topic.

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    Thanks, your list looks like a reasonable compilation of historical bad questions that should be closed :) Some are debatable (JKR's religion in her works is arguably on-topic, as is the number of stars in WW's panties... the dress of a fictional character is on-topic!), but others are so poor I wonder how they were ever allowed ("was Tolkien a driver?" Really?) – Andres F. Jul 14 '17 at 21:37
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    @AndresF. and yet almost all of them have been quite well received.... go figure... – Skooba Jul 14 '17 at 21:39
  • The "Was Tolkien a driver" was asked directly because of comments on this question in debate. – Skooba Jul 14 '17 at 21:40
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    well received? The Tolkien one has net -3 votes – NKCampbell Jul 14 '17 at 21:40
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    @NKCampbell hence the qualifier... most – Skooba Jul 14 '17 at 21:42
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    Yes, actually I retract my comment. Most are ok, because they are either directly related to SF/F (e.g. Wonder Woman's uniform) or indirectly related (why some actors had issues with Star Trek, or whether some author's viewpoints influenced her work). Tolkien's driving license is terrible, though. – Andres F. Jul 14 '17 at 21:45
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    Most of these other questions you've linked to are connected to on-topic works in some way - how does JKR's bad maths come out in the HP series, what do actors think of a certain aspect of the ST series, did real-life experience inspire Tolkien's descriptions of addiction in the LotR series, and so on. So I've downvoted this answer for being a false analogy. – Rand al'Thor Jul 14 '17 at 21:45
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    @AndresF. Agreed: the Tolkien driver question is by far the worst on that list. In fact, it's already been closed and reopened once, and currently has 4 new votes to close. – Rand al'Thor Jul 14 '17 at 21:46
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    @Randal'Thor How she is bad at other things ALSO comes out in the HP series. The question just did not make that clear enough I suppose. There was a chat conversation that inspired the question to begin with. – Skooba Jul 15 '17 at 17:57
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    @Skooba IMO, your question ("what is she bad at?") already has an answer, and "how does her being bad at X/Y/Z come out in the HP series?" would be separate question(s) - there's already one for maths, for example. – Rand al'Thor Jul 15 '17 at 18:25

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