We should close them
They’re “list of works” questions in disguise
One of our close reasons is for questions about lists of works or recommendations”:
Requests for lists of works or recommendations are off-topic as they
do not fit our questions and answers format. Feel free to ask about
people’s favorites in chat.
When they do get answered, these questions almost invariably attract lists of single-example answers. Such lists are often interminable, which is one of the main things we want to avoid. For example, Are there any stories of demons gone good? might “only” have four answers (one of which lists multiple examples), but the list of potential answers is far longer than that. If there are seven stories of demons who turned good, there must be seven hundred more. There’s a long list here, under the heading of “Ascended Demon.” Taken to the extreme, Is there a superhero who is an actor when not on superhero duty?, still open, has nine answers giving many separate examples. We can’t argue that these aren’t legitimate answers, either: they answer the question, which is another sign that this is our friend List of Works in disguise.
Interminable list questions are one of the main things we want to avoid.
These share many of the features that make list questions bad, as described by a CM on the main meta:
Asking everyone to contribute to a large bucket of answers means that
it stops being a question of specific expertise and becomes a “poll”
of the community. For right or for wrong, answers start accumulating
and people start voting on what they recognize as familiar, rather
than vetting the relative merits of each answer. Often there are too
many entries to even know what anyone is contributing anymore. It
doesn’t even matter; There’s usually no expectation that any one
answer will be better than any other.
They might be recommendation questions in disguise
They tend to get the same answers as recommendation questions, as partly discussed previously. They are going to be of interest mainly for the same reasons: people will click on them because they want to find out about some cool books with demons who turned good. Perhaps most important, they offer an easy out for anyone who wants to ask a recommendation question: just change “recommend me some” to “are there any” and the community will do the rest.
The “first-of” (“What is the first thinking computer?,” “What is the first universe where P-NP?”) questions share this problem to some degree, but they’re harder to exploit: instead of getting a list of all the cool new books with demons who turned good, you get a bunch of works from the 1800s.
The answer is a foregone conclusion
This is less an argument for closing them, at least based on their similarity to “list of works” and recommendation questions, and more a statement of their low quality. The answer to these is almost always “Yes.” If it makes sense enough for someone to think of it, and ask it on Stack Exchange, someone has likely already thought of it. Even things that contravene the conventions of a genre (the motivation behind many of these questions) have usually been done many, many times before. What these questions bring to the site is often less interesting historical or genre analysis (which sometimes comes out of history-of questions), and more lists of answers saying “Yes, here’s an example.” Occasionally one might get “I can’t think of any, and I’ve read a lot of books,” but that’s not really a definitive answer: there’s still probably a work out there that fits the bill. This is not good for the site.