Utopias and dystopias are a genre loosely connected to Science Fiction and Fantasy. They often are set in the future, occasionally involve technology which has not yet been invented, and otherwise wear the trappings of sci-fi. However, they normally focus heavily on social and political commentary, and the involvement of obvious sci-fi elements is often peripheral. Sometimes it is not present at all.

Consider, as an example, this question:

Short story where everyone is given $1,000,000 at birth, a guy figures out how to game the system, wins despite everyone thinking he's crazy

In its current form, the entire body of the question is as follows:

I've searched for this short story for years.

In it, everybody is given $1,000,000 at birth. A single guy figures out how to game the system. Everybody thinks he's crazy to buck the system but he wins.

(In case it's not entirely clear, this is a question.)

There is no mention of any sci-fi elements, but this clearly looks like a dystopian story of some kind (a planned society with some unusual or different social rule). The answer might have sci-fi elements, but it's a long-established rule that answers do not make questions on-topic, so we can ignore that as irrelevant.

Are all utopias and dystopias on-topic, even if they do not have any "classical" sci-fi or fantasy elements like magic or futuristic technology?

Utopias and dystopias are not adequately addressed by How much dystopia is needed to be on-topic? because it does not have an answer. They also is not adequately addressed by Are works that aren't SF per se, but have occasional SFnal elements on-topic? (e.g. spy movies), because it has nothing to do with utopias and dystopias in particular, and applying it to utopias and dystopias across the board is likely to be controversial. The question I used as an example above was repeatedly closed and reopened, and we are likely to see similar disputes across the site if this discussion is swept under the rug as a duplicate of an old, unanswered question.

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    What is the official definition of "science fiction" for this site? I've never been able to find it.
    – user14111
    Feb 22, 2019 at 2:38
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    This highly upvoted answer seems to indicate that a dystopian setting should make a story presumptively on topic: scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/12037/… I don't see an particular reason why utopias should be especially different.
    – Buzz
    Feb 22, 2019 at 3:21
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    Historically, yes; it is.
    – Möoz
    Feb 22, 2019 at 3:27
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    Possible duplicate of How much dystopia is needed to be on-topic? (Your general question is a dupe. If you're asking about how this specific post fits with the policy, you should edit your title/question accordingly.)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Feb 22, 2019 at 8:15
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    Yeah to be honest if you want to discuss the specific post please don't make a meta asking about the general case, just discuss the specific.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Feb 22, 2019 at 9:03
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    @Valorum It is pointless to rollback a rollback by the author of the post. If the author insists on a particular version of the post then you might as well deal with that version of the post as appropriate.
    – Null Mod
    Feb 22, 2019 at 18:25
  • @Null - Ideally I'd like to vote to close (this version) as unclear since it's asking two different questions. Unfortunately, having retracted my earlier close (after fixing it), I can't reinstate it now that OP has rolled it back to the "bad" version
    – Valorum
    Feb 22, 2019 at 18:32
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    @Valorum It seems to be pretty clearly asking if all utopias/dystopias are on-topic and using a particular question about a utopia as an example. That makes it a duplicate.
    – Null Mod
    Feb 22, 2019 at 18:41
  • @Null: I still don't really understand how "this question has an answer here" when A) the linked question does not have an answer and B) the dupe target of the linked question does not have an answer which mentions either of the words "utopia" and "dystopia." But as long as we have an upvoted answer on this question, we still have a u/dystopia policy, so meh I guess.
    – Kevin
    Feb 26, 2019 at 5:39

1 Answer 1


(Un)fortunately, yes.

We already decided to include alternate history as on-topic, and (mundane) utopias and dystopias are just like alternate histories except set in the future instead of the past. So for consistency, we have to include utopias and dystopias too (or else we have to change our alternate history policy).

("Mundane" is a word which normally means "not fantastical," and is used here to denote stories which do not contain any "obviously on-topic" content, such as magic, futuristic technologies, etc.)

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    Fortuantely, I would say. I wouldn't care to participate in a site where Space Invaders and the Keebler elves are on topic and Nineteen Eighty-Four is off topic.
    – user14111
    Feb 22, 2019 at 4:34
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    @user14111: When I think of "Science Fiction and Fantasy," Plato's The Republic does not spring to mind.
    – Kevin
    Feb 22, 2019 at 4:37
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    @Kevin - He's created a fantastical world of his own imagining. What could be more on-topic?
    – Valorum
    Feb 22, 2019 at 10:09
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    I haven't read Plato's Republic. (Is it any good?) If he actually tells a story which is set in his Republic, then yes, it's SF (or proto-SF) and on topic here. If it's just a story about a bunch of guys in contemporary Athens sittin around *talking about an imaginary Republic, then no.
    – user14111
    Feb 22, 2019 at 15:08
  • @Kevin (Like user14111, I haven't read Plato's The Republic and can't comment on its on-topicness. But) until we get flooded with questions about Plato's The Republic, is it a problem? If it's at least arguably on-topic, a few questions about it are unlikely to harm the site too much. Our scope was designed to be inclusive, since it's hard to define the exact borderline of "speculative fiction".
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Feb 22, 2019 at 18:17

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