Recently, this question was asked:

Why does "Brave New World" change perspective so many times in the first (ish) chapter?

At the time of writing, it has four close votes for a mixture of "too broad" and "primarily opinion based." However, this is a reasonably narrow and specific question about literary analysis and technique (and would easily fall into the "good subjective" bin on a site like Writers.SE). To the extent that it is on-topic, I do not see how either of these close reasons apply. It could use a bit of editing, certainly, but that's no reason to close a question.

Are literary analysis questions like this one generally on-topic, or should they be closed as off-topic?

  • 8
    FWIW, it would be on topic at Literature, where literary analysis is on topic.
    – Mithical
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 6:32
  • 4
    As the OP: I'm happy to move it elsewhere. However, the reason I asked specifically on scifi is because I felt that the book itself related more to that site than general literature Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 10:37
  • 1
    My instinct is no. The question that inspired this meta isn't about science fiction, it's about why someone would use a mixture of the omniscient narrator and various POVs in writing. That fact that it relates to a scifi property is just coincidental. Would this question be on topic on Cooking:SE if it was about a cookbook?
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 11:17
  • 3
    @Valorum but since Brave New World is sf, shouldn't questions about it be on topic?
    – SQB
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 13:18
  • @SQB - The book is incidental to the question about choices of literary technique
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 13:32
  • 2
    @Valorum doesn't it fall under the second bullet here, possibly even the first??
    – SQB
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 13:34
  • 4
    So asking about Han Solo's family tree is on-topic but the above question isn't "SFF-nal"
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 15:38
  • 1
    @SQB - I don't see us becoming plagued with these so I've very little interest in fighting against them, I just don't think they're a very good fit for us
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 16:11
  • Re. those 'bullet points' : Are works that aren't SF per se, but have occasional SFnal elements on-topic? - what if that said, "Are questions that have nothing actually to do with SFF on topic?" That's a pretty easy no IMO. Migrate or close because it belongs on another site. Help Center says : If your question is about [the] writing of science fiction or fantasy, ask on Writers Stack Exchange.
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 22:35
  • "Perhaps it should depend on how heavily incorporated the sci-fi elements are, to the question." – Megha
    – Mazura
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 22:37
  • 4
    @Valorum: Counterpoint: If we refuse these questions, we're basically consigning ourselves to being a "fan trivia + story ID" stack. Although that would still be useful, it would also reinforce the (wrong) perception of genre fiction as somehow "lesser" than literary fiction.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 23:18
  • 6
    How does this question have less to do with SFF than, oh, "Was Tolkien Good at His Day Job" or "Was Leonard Nimoy a Vegetarian" or "Did Michael J. Fox write his own music for BTTF"?
    – user14111
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 5:26
  • @user14111 - As I said above, the fact that it's about a sci-fi book is entirely coincidental. If I asked (for example) "Why is the author name larger than the book title here?", the fact that it's sci-fi would be barely worthy of note.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 15, 2018 at 19:24
  • 1
    @Valorum Is the fact that Narnia is fantasy worthy of note in the turkish delight question?
    – user14111
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 6:09

1 Answer 1


Literary analysis of works of sci-fi and fantasy should be on-topic ...

One of the close-voters made the argument in comments that "This doesn't appear to be about sci-fi, it appears to be about writing." But we already have a huge number of questions about works of sci-fi and fantasy which aren't specifically about the sci-fi or fantasy elements and are considered on-topic. Questions about works of SFF are on-topic even if they're not about the SFF elements. See also How should we handle questions that are about non-SF/F elements in a SF/F work?

... as long as they're answerable with more than pure speculation.

Of course, being "not about sci-fi or fantasy" isn't the only reason to close a question. And in fact, this question was closed by 4 votes as "too broad" and 1 as "primarily opinion-based" (although reviewers were fairly divided on whether or not to close it at all, and 5 people have already reopened it by now).

So, are literary analysis questions closeworthy even without being off-topic? Well, in general certainly not: we have a tag with 19 questions only 2 of which are currently closed, and also a meta discussion at Is critical analysis now off-topic? (spoiler: no, it's on-topic). Literary analysis of works of sci-fi and fantasy is a valid thing to ask about on a site about sci-fi and fantasy.

Such questions can be harder to answer well than fan-trivia questions, since they're usually not answerable by a single passage from the book or quote from the author, but require more actual subject knowledge and expertise to answer properly. I'd encourage people to downvote answers to such questions which are based on unsupported opinion, but to upvote answers which are supported by convincing arguments. Note that such answers don't necessarily have to be objectively, canonically, correct - it's possible to make a compelling argument based on other things than canon quotes. See also Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and the help centre guide on subjective questions:

Some subjective questions are allowed, but “subjective” does not mean “anything goes”. All subjective questions are expected to be constructive. What does that mean? Constructive subjective questions:

  • inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”
  • tend to have long, not short, answers
  • have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone
  • invite sharing experiences over opinions
  • insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references
  • are more than just mindless social fun
  • I remain unconvinced. This question could just as easily be about a non-sci-fi property and get just as good an answer. We already have a stack (in fact two of them) about writing and literature.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 9:19
  • 8
    @Valorum Doesn't the same argument apply to many of our questions that aren't specifically about SF/F elements? E.g. questions about what some particular phrase in a work of SF/F means - could just as easily be about a non-SF/F property and get just as good an answer.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 9:23
  • - "Phrase meaning" is definitely also quite borderline
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 10:21
  • 8
    @Valorum No it's not.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Apr 14, 2018 at 11:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .