Basically, I recently stumbled on a story identification question that lacks sci-fi element in the way it's described (though until OP specifies whether or not it did or didn't have any sci-fi element, we can only guess).

On the instant, my reflex was to write an answer, since the story sounded like a cartoon I had watched during my youth. Since it had no sci-fi element at all, I was thinking that if OP confirms it is the right one, then the question would definitely be off-topic.

But then I started wondering if that was the right thing to do.

If the question by itself doesn't mention anything sci-fi about the work OP is looking for, even if the work could possibly be a sci-fi one, should I assume that it's off-topic until proven otherwise?

  • 4
    The general rule is yes, assume off topic unless told otherwise. In cases like this I generally find it preferable to leave a comment with the work instead of an answer, certainly so if the work you are answering isn't SFF-nal.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Nov 30, 2020 at 14:11
  • 1
    Very related, possible dupe.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Nov 30, 2020 at 14:13
  • @TheLethalCarrot Seems like in the question, the OP is confident that their questions will always be about sci-fi. The answer, though, does point out that, if it's not clearly proven as sci-fi, then it should be considered off-topic, yeah.
    – Clockwork
    Nov 30, 2020 at 14:16
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    I think you'd be surprised at how many people post here not knowing this is a site for science fiction and fantasy and just want anything, and I mean anything, identifying for them. We can't be confident that the OP thinks their work is SFF-nal so we have to go by the content given in the question which doesn't always include SFF-nal details.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Nov 30, 2020 at 14:23

1 Answer 1


My understanding is as follows:

If I don't see any SF or fantasy elements in the question, I'll comment about it (as was already done when I saw the one referenced), but not answer even if I (think I) know the answer -- until there's good confirmation that the question is on topic.

The general guideline for all Stack Exchange sites is not to answer questions that ought to be closed. The one exception is duplicates, because sometimes it takes answers to be sure a question really is a duplicate (or a confirmation from a VTC for dupe).

Generally, however, as I understand it, we're likely to want to delete off topic questions, over time if not immediately, and deleting a question with answers requires more authority (I presume because answers might be good even if the question isn't).

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