Frank Herbert's way of thinking is almost completely inside his books. Between the very few of his writes outside, there is an article resuming what his books are about and how he wrote these books.

Only one of the fans of his Science Fiction material could give context to a phrase in that article that I want to understand. Since the only users that can do that precisely are SF&F SE users, how do I do to avoid admins closing my question as off-topic?

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    Just to clarify something, none of the close voters are moderators. Close voting (VTC) is a "privilege" awarded once one reaches 3000 reputation; mods can VTC as well, and their vote is binding, but most of the closing is done by the community after having been out in a review queue. TL;DR: no mods closed this, a couple users did, who might have had their reasons but unfortunately didn't elaborate in the comments (unless there's deleted stuff that I can't see).
    – Jenayah
    Jan 14, 2019 at 3:30
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    It’s late for me so I may be remembering wrong but isn’t the quote talking in the general sense about the real world rather than something fictional*?
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Jan 14, 2019 at 3:41
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    Good to know @Jenayah, thanks again for clarify these things! Jan 14, 2019 at 4:45
  • @TheLethalCarrot yes and no, because all his books are truly about those real world issues disguised in fictional world. I don't know if describe it as analogies or metaphors, but anarchy is in the plot everywhere. The article talk much about it. Jan 14, 2019 at 4:50
  • @Jenayah The consensus seems to be that explaining VTCs (and downvotes) often leads to arguments and flamewars. I know I feel compelled to explain myself, but I understand why many users prefer not to ;)
    – Andres F.
    Jan 17, 2019 at 15:02

4 Answers 4


Kind of an "if it's only about the real world, it's off-topic; if it's about how it's tied to Dune, it's murky" situation.

Disclaimer: I'm certainly not the most knowledgeable person about Dune in these parts, but I don't think that's a problem.

I don't understand why this question was closed, at least not as "off-topic". From what I get by reading the question and (admittedly skimming) article, this is a written piece:

  • by the author of a major SF work;
  • talking about said work;
  • in Omni (the magazine).

And the question asks about the meaning of a sentence in the context of that Dune explanation. So far, I'm not seeing anything blatantly off-topic.

If I understand that right, this is basically asking "what does Dune tell us about Herbert's statement of humans​ not having equal ability", which I think falls under literary analysis. Per Is literary analysis on-topic?, this is on-topic as long as it can be answered without (too much) speculation. Typically these could fall under "too broad" or "primarily opinion-based", but certainly not off-topic.

Once again I only know the very big outlines of Dune (shoot me), but for the peasant I am, it seems big enough of an universe and "behind the scenes" info for the question at stake to be answered (in a way that fits SE's format).

It might put some people off that it's been cross-posted on Politics.SE, but I'd argue that a SFF answer backed with quotes etc wouldn't be redundant with the answers there - so far there's only one undetailed mention of a character, Vlad Harkonnen.

To put it in a nutshell, I think the question is fine as is and should be reopened (and voted as such). I may be missing something though, and as I'm unsure whether the uncertainty stems from my lack of Dune knowledge, my misunderstanding of one​ of our policies, or something else, I'm looking forward to clarifications.

  • Thanks for your analysis! I came from the Physics and IT SE when the focus is "help people to understand things" and I feel like in a "to-may-to to-mah-to" situation since the author thinking is just the book message. Jan 14, 2019 at 5:04
  • If it's been cross-posted by OP then it's incredibly simple. It doesn't get re-opened; Is cross-posting a question on multiple Stack Exchange sites permitted if the question is on-topic for each site? (Spoiler: No).
    – Valorum
    Jan 14, 2019 at 7:33
  • If anything, it ought to be significantly revised to make it different from the repost (and maybe concentrate on the relation to Dune more). Then they could maybe coexist.
    – TARS
    Jan 14, 2019 at 10:57
  • @TARS That is I want to know. I'm concerned in Herbert works, not if he has right in his point of view. Jan 14, 2019 at 18:34
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    @LeopoldoSanczyk Then start by editing the question more into that direction. You might even be able to include information from the Politics discussion in order to refine your SciFi question further (and thus make it both on-topic and sufficiently different from the cross-post). (Though, if it's significantly different, maybe a reask here would work better altogether. A bit of an unfortunate situation you've maneuvered yourself into, I admit.) ;-)
    – TARS
    Jan 14, 2019 at 18:40
  • @TARS that is exactly the help I need, to edit my question to be on-topic to share insights with Science Fiction experts. Jan 14, 2019 at 18:43
  • You are right @TARS I was beaten by the system. I commented like crazy there, but most of the theme is a subtle anti-communist talk, they are Politics of course. Too much hours translating back and forth, trying to answer the question in the books myself too, was too much work. And now I'm losing rep for down-votes here, I just quit. Thanks for the help anyway, I appreciate your time answering. Jan 14, 2019 at 19:24
  • +1 In that this question is borderline on-topic. However, judging by the comments it's already looking dangerously off-topic, since it invites discussion of real-world history and issues, instead of focusing on how it influenced Dune :/
    – Andres F.
    Jan 17, 2019 at 14:59

Honestly, I might have been tempted to vote to reopen as simply being on-topic (for the reasons Jenayah mentioned in her answer) but since you've cross-posted this question on Politics:SE where it appears to be on-topic and well received, per the standing site-wide policy, you can't cross-post something unless it's already been poorly received and/or failed to receive an adequate response.

  • Ah, right, had forgotten that one. Perks of posting at 5 am. Then the usual applies: OP is welcom to ask on chat anytime (I guess Literature's chat works too).
    – Jenayah
    Jan 14, 2019 at 10:19
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    Huh, I knew this question looked familiar. I'd already spotted it on the HNQ list from Politics.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 14, 2019 at 16:33
  • @Randal'Thor the problem is they concern about equality there, and not about Herbert's way of thinking. I write an answer to develop this. Jan 14, 2019 at 18:27
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    Seeing as the MSE policy you link applies to the asker, and not to close/reopen voters, I'm going to VTRO anyway.
    – Kevin
    Jan 15, 2019 at 20:19
  • @Kevin - There's nothing to stop you doing so. That being said, and in the absence of a significant edit from OP to justify the existence of a cross-site duplicate, I'd expect a passing moderator to simply reverse your vote.
    – Valorum
    Jan 15, 2019 at 20:34
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    @Valorum: An on-topic question was asked here on SFF. The fact that there is another question on an entirely separate site is none of our business, and I'd be very annoyed if "a passing moderator" did anything of the sort. Questions do not belong to the OP, they belong to the site, and we have the right to decide which questions we want to answer on our own. This case is clearly not an example of an OP trying to "game the system" as your linked question contemplates.
    – Kevin
    Jan 15, 2019 at 21:40
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    @Kevin - It's not an entirely separate site (like Quora, for example), it's part of the same Stack Exchange family of sites.
    – Valorum
    Jan 15, 2019 at 21:44
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    So what? It's not our site. There's no policy requiring us to keep a question closed after it has been re-asked on another site. Your linked answer is about a different situation.
    – Kevin
    Jan 15, 2019 at 21:46
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    @Kevin - The agreed policy is that you can't ask the same question on two different sites unless there's a bloody good reason. "Because I didn't like the answers I got elsewhere" is not one of those reasons :-)
    – Valorum
    Jan 15, 2019 at 21:47
  • @Valorum: I'm not asking the same question on two different sites, so the policy does not apply to me and my VTRO.
    – Kevin
    Jan 15, 2019 at 21:48
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    @Kevin For better or worse, network policy when an OP posts an identical question to multiple sites is to close and delete one or the other (if both are on-topic, then choose which to keep according to which is answered or better received). I might have deleted this one already if not for the OP making the effort to tailor his question to be different on both sites.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 17, 2019 at 15:25

My vote is a hesitant "it should be allowed". Let me explain:

I was about to vote to close (again, it seems), because in order for a question to be on-topic here it's not enough for it to be about the thoughts of a scifi author; it must be about scifi, and this seemed to me to be about Frank Herbert's thoughts on evolution and equality. Much like Einstein's thoughts on songwriting wouldn't be accepted as valid Physics questions, Herbert's thoughts on evolution shouldn't be accepted in a site about scifi...

...except the quoted thought was specifically discussing the thoughts put into the creation of Dune, which is on-topic. So it should be allowed, but being careful that the focus is on how this influenced Dune, and not in whether Herbert's thoughts were correct or how they apply to the real world.

The danger of off-topicness is definitely there: already I see people commenting under the question on irrelevant (to scifi) matters, such as whether Herbert's thoughts are accurate or how they apply to policies from the history of the US ("separate but equal", etc).


sorry to reply my question but think is important to know that posting the question in Politics (as I was asked to) is emptying answers of crucial context.

You may notice that the discussion there lacks of understanding of certain Herbert's ideas about humans flaws, power attracting corruption, stangment in societies, and many more relevant topics covered in the books...

I could write "John Smith" instead of "Frank Herbert" and the question in Politics SE would has the same answers. That is a proof to me is misplaced there.

The interest there is discussing if Herbert was right or not, which has a lot of sense to a politic exchange, but that was not my question.

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    Alas, your question is asked there (by you, I might add). If you don't like the answers you're getting, might I suggest you prod people with comments or raise a bounty.
    – Valorum
    Jan 14, 2019 at 18:26
  • @Valorum I'm commenting there like crazy. My only insight until now is Herbert could be elected if alive, that is rare because he was kind of an anarchist xD Jan 14, 2019 at 18:39
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    I suggest you edit the Politics.SE question to focus more on the political view being expressed (irrespective of who wrote it) and edit the SFF.SE question to focus more on Herbert's views in the wider context of his writing. Then perhaps both questions, suitably targeted to the respective communities of experts, can coexist on the network.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 14, 2019 at 19:40
  • @Randal'Thor - I'm not sure that what you're suggesting would be acceptable (since the other question already has upvoted answers) and the differences you're suggesting are very minor indeed. Thinking outside the box, perhaps OP could ask to disassociate from the other (Politics) question entirely?
    – Valorum
    Jan 14, 2019 at 19:43
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    @Valorum They're not very minor, if one question is about a political statement taken in a vacuum and the other is about the views of a sci-fi author. And the idea that disassociating could make a difference seems rather to go against the principle of "vote for the post, not for the poster".
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 14, 2019 at 19:46
  • @Randal'Thor - Call me old-fashioned, but if someone asked me "What does x mean?", the very first thing I'd want to know is "Who said it?", regardless of whether they'd intentionally tried to obfuscate the author.
    – Valorum
    Jan 14, 2019 at 19:48
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    @Valorum And yet, the top answers on Politics SE are addressing the quote in a vacuum without regard to who wrote it. If that's how Politics SE approaches such questions, let them do that, and meanwhile we can put our Herbert experts to work.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 14, 2019 at 19:52
  • @Randal'Thor I would appreciate your insights about the last edition made to the question, if you have time to check it. I want to make clear the focus in SF readers opinion. Jan 16, 2019 at 23:01

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