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Working our way around the edges of the "real-world science" category, there doesn't seem to be a discussion about crackpot and pseudoscientific ideas.

There are a couple of near misses on Meta:

I would certainly agree that writings about crackpot theories presented as scientific truth are decidedly off-topic. But if a writing which hinged on the same elements was presented as fiction, we'd probably consider it as fantasy, science fiction, or some blending of the two.

  • Rudy Rucker's 1990 novel The Hollow Earth would be on topic.
  • Philip K. Dick frequently trod the line between SF and non-SF. His novel The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike involves a semi-hoax involving "recent Neanderthal fossils" and is probably off topic since it only appears to contain SF elements (but doesn't really). But what if he had instead written them as real?
  • A peculiar case is Zecharia Sitchin whose writings promoted "ancient aliens" theories. Eventually, however, he (or his publisher) decided to present them as fiction (see this answer of mine on Mythology SE). Is it SF if the publisher overrules the author?

If I think of more edge cases, I'll add them.

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    I think you've hit upon the key distinction, presented as fact vs presented as fiction. A news article hypothesising that a real global pandemic was deliberately started by a mad scientist in a lab - off-topic. A novel telling a story in which a global pandemic is deliberately started by a mad scientist in a lab - on-topic. (I'm not sure if this addresses what you're actually asking re "edge cases" though, hence comment rather than answer.)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Nov 20 '21 at 18:26
  • "His novel The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike involves a semi-hoax involving "recent Neanderthal fossils" and is probably off topic since it only appears to contain SF elements.: did you mean to write on topic?
    – terdon
    Nov 22 '21 at 11:52
  • @terdon: I think that they do mean "off topic" in that there are not any SF elements, only ones made to seem that way by how they are presented.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 22 '21 at 12:48
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    Ah, right! Thanks, @FuzzyBoots, I read that as "it only appears to contain SF elements (and nothing else)" as opposed to "It only appears to contain SF elements (but, in truth, it does not)".
    – terdon
    Nov 22 '21 at 12:57
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If the pseudoscience is presented as factual in the reality of the story, there's no good reason to exclude it, just because it's pseudoscience in our reality.

A good example of this would be 'Young Earth Creationism'.

Any genuine edge cases (such as an author that refuses to confirm if their stories are intended to be fiction or non-fiction) would need to be asked on Meta on a case-by-case basis.


q.v. Hollow Earth vs Hollow Earth / Tesla Tech vs. Tesla Tech, etc

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  • This highlights the problem with the “it’s pseudo-science bunk” close rationale. If a story or question is real world science, then it’s not appropriate. But if it’s pseudo-science or junk science, then that fact all but settles that element must be or likely is science fiction (or fantasy unobtanium/justbecausium) in the story in question, even when author may be a crackpot themselves. If cold fusion or zero-point cosmology is at heart of some question, the question shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand because these elements are bunk or aren’t settled science yet. Dec 1 '21 at 15:48
  • @SillybutTrue - cold fusion may (usually) be nonsense, but that doesn't make it fiction.
    – Valorum
    Dec 1 '21 at 18:11
  • Right, but a sci-fi story premised on the impact of cold fusion being able to run to every household in the world from the tap shouldn’t be closed just because it’s currently junk science. Dec 2 '21 at 12:56
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    @SillybutTrue - precisely.
    – Valorum
    Dec 2 '21 at 15:00
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    You convinced me. I’m on board! Dec 2 '21 at 15:05

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