Our current trajectory seems to be to restrict this site to mere trivia questions both in and out of various science fiction universes. Who wrote this story? Why did character X in universe Y do Z? Where did idea a come from in story b?

Those are not worthless questions. But they are not Science Fiction. If we restrict this Stack Exchange simply to those questions, then we need to change the name: Science Fiction Trivia and Fandom. Because that's all we'll be. A site for expert Sci-Fi Trivial Pursuit players. Not a site for experts in Science Fiction.

Who are the experts in Science Fiction? They are the writers of Science Fiction. What sort of question are they going to want to ask? They sure as hell aren't interested in answering questions about their stories that a quick trip to wikipedia will answer.

They are interested in asking and answering questions about speculative science. Science that is borderline, science that is on the edge of imagining, new ways to think about old concepts, the breath and blood of Science Fiction. They are going to want a place where they can truly discuss and get feedback on their Science Fiction and the science behind it.

Questions like "Can you terraform a gas giant?" or "Are warp drives actually feasible?" or "Is there a basis for hyperspace?"

They are going to want to ask speculative questions, things that help them hash out their next story. Or questions that allow them to examine previous stories in a new light.

They are going to want to ask about writing Sci-Fi.

Stack Exchanges are supposed to have a target expert. Right now, for a Science Fiction Trivia and Fandom SE, I fit that bill for the target expert. But frankly, I don't really want to participate in a site where I'm the target expert. I can answer any question I might ask on that site with a quick trip to wikipedia (or the relevant in-universe wiki). And any questioners could do the same with any question I could answer.

The target experts for this site should be Science Fiction writers. What sort of site is going to attract Ben Bova, David Brin, Stephen Baxter, Orson Scott Card? What sort of site would have attracted Carl Sagan, Gene Roddenberry, Robert Heinlein or Issac Asimov? That's what we should be asking ourselves. What sort of questions would they ask? What sort of questions would they answer? How can we truly attract the experts?

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    These are all excellent points, but I worry about the overlap with the Writers Stack Exchange, not to mention the fact that this is straying very far from the Area 51 definition. I do believe that a site like this would work, but it probably wouldn't have even gotten to Commitment phase yet in Area 51 with our current demographics, if it were proposed as you describe.
    – Aaronaught
    Jan 24, 2011 at 2:13
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    Then again, if speculation about science could be made to work here, it would give the site a purpose. We could deflect questions clearly about writing and not about scientific speculation to the writer.SE site. Even though there are some SF/fantasy writers there, science isn't going to be a designated area of expertise of the writers site. Jan 24, 2011 at 3:41
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    Couldn't the site answer both types of questions - trivia, as well as questions aimed at the speculative/hard science behind books? Jan 28, 2011 at 17:48
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    @blueberryfields That's what I'd like to see. Jan 28, 2011 at 19:06

5 Answers 5


It's not going to happen, sorry. The Stackexchange sites that get world-class practitioners on them are ones relating to vast technical domains, where no one can know all of the options, and there are unambiguously correct answers. Writing in general, and SF in particular, just aren't like that. Participating here won't help a writer to produce better work; spending the same amount of time actually writing will work much better. I've not been over to the Writers Stackexchange to check, but I'm prepared to bet money that it's full of wannabe writers, with precious few actual successful professionals.

Now, writers like to chat and hang out with their friends as much as anyone else, and a social forum site based around SF might well attract some -- there used to be a fair few professionals on the rec.arts.sf.written Usenet group -- but that's explicitly not what Stackexchange sites are for.


The main hurdle is that science fiction is a genre and not a skill.

Being able to logically construct a solution to a problem faced in science fiction, or working out the how and the why something is or isn't feasible, now those are higher watermarks.

Let's look to less plot hole filling and more on understanding the actual mechanics of scifi.

We need to make this site for the top level in the scene of science fiction as well as those that want to be there. They're the ideal expert that we want to cater for. But as noted by Aaronaught in the comment, this veers much into the territory of Writers.SE.

Winning all the slices of pie at Trivial Pursuit is not an angle this Stack Exchange should be celebrating or wanting as its mission statement.


Sure -- hard-core writers should all be on http://writers.stackexchange.com , correct?

Beyond that, I think some of our communities can be potentially a case of "be careful what you ask for".


While I agree that forecasting from current science may be a bit out of the scope of the current scope of this site, there may be an interesting idea here. As I mentioned in this answer, I do think that there is a defined area of overlap that could be interesting both to a writer and to a reader. That would be trying to understand how the things that exist in current SF works could work in that universe.

Basically, rather than trying to solve the problems of how to achieve science fictional concepts in the real world, this could be a site to explore the solutions that are currently described in SF.

For example, given what the TV shows (and the movie) have shown about how the Stargate functions, can we speculate on how the addressing systems works using metaphors from computer routing systems? (See here.) (A similar question was recently asked about The Matrix.)

This would be a tricky balance, because we're looking to understand current SF works rather than solving the problems in the real world. But it is an intersection that is currently underrepresented -- particularly for smaller SF franchises.

The key would be to make sure that the question relates to one or more specific SF works -- exploring how the universe functions in that fictional reality. Therefore, a question such as whether a gaseous planet could be terraformed wouldn't be on topic. But asking about how the terraforming in Red/Blue/Green Mars could be applied to Saturn would be on topic. The big difference would be that the question wouldn't ask about terraforming in general, but about one specific fictional method of terraforming as described in that trilogy.


I see two basic contradictions forming:

Site Purpose Contradiction #1:

  1. The questions being asked are all very subjective, because the very nature of SF is subjective.
  2. SE does not want subjective questions. They are begrudgingly allowed in certain circumstances only, and SF.SE is not being given that allowance.

Site Purpose Contradiction #2:

  1. The element that will attract SF writers and other 'experts' is a social, speculative place where ideas can be vetted.
  2. SE does not support strictly social SE sites.

I can think of two possible solutions:

  1. Make SE more flexible to subjective, speculative sites. Add a new category of sites to support this, perhaps?
  2. Turn this site into a forum somewhere else.

What I see happening is that #1 is not happening at all, so the SF.SE community is being forced into compliance with SE rules, and the result is something that is not serving the community's needs of speculation and social interaction.

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    Your contradiction #1 (2) is deceptively outdated Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. What you call "forced into compliance", most people see as "raising the bar on Q&A." The rest of your advice sounds like "Scifi-SE cannot take advantage of the features and philosophy that make these sites great, so let's just start a forum like the 1000s others already on that subject." You may fee that is the case but that is tantamount to just closing this site outright. Jan 24, 2011 at 20:06
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    @Robert - I certainly think SF.SE would not just benefit, but thrive on SE. However, I am consistently seeing questions that would be considered subjective, yet which I would see as falling into that 'Good Subjective' category, being closed outright in the last week. It's almost as if the 'drive by closings' that @Zypher did have made the SF.SE community overcompensate by closing perfectly good, yet subjective, questions for fear of another such 'drive by'. Note: none of these questions are mine, for the record.
    – morganpdx
    Jan 25, 2011 at 1:14

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