Are questions of the form "I really liked X series. Could you recommend me some similar works?" allowed?
Actually, there are guidelines: the site definition questions. And based on the votes there, I'd say that recommendations are on topic here.
Quite frankly, I use a very large number of the questions as the "recommend-me" questions to some extent.
For example, in https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/130/what-are-the-most-common-ways-of-communication-between-humans-and-aliens besides satisfying my curiosity also gave me a list of interesting books to read.
As another example, https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/7/has-any-science-fiction-work-accurately-predicted-the-emergence-of-future-technol is probably the best question I've seen on this site (just my humble opinion). And, surprise surprise, it contains a nice list of interesting works, each one implicitly being a recommendation.
This site is a great place for science fiction enthusiasts to recommend things to each other, and to be completely honest, I don't see a problem with that!
I am quite confused by the current situation. Unless I am misunderstanding, essentially everyone that has answered/voted on this question is in favour of allowing these questions. However, this is being applied fairly inconsistently at the moment. For example:
A recommendation for novels like those by an author was closed (by moderator) whereas basically the same question (different author and attributes) is not (and in fact, was answered by that same moderator).
Recommendations for stories about immortality, positive religion, the extinction of the human race: all closed. Recommendation for stories about xenophobia or mars colonisation: open (although there are two close votes for the former).
Perhaps I should ask this as a separate meta question, but what can we do about this? It seems like the closing does not match the meta discussion, which in turns makes meta seem a bit pointless.
I think we should treat recommendation questions like we treat story-identification questions: they are acceptable, but held to high standards, and we make this as clear as possible to users. It seems clear from the other answers here that nearly everyone can see the high value in these questions.
A broad recommendation question ("What's your favourite epic fantasy series?", "I just read Ender's Game, now what should I read?") is not acceptable.
A specific recommendation question is acceptable.
- The question explains why the criteria have been chosen. "Books like Asmiov's Robot Series" is too vague. "Books where the moral and ethical implications of human/AI interaction are explored, like in Asimov's Robot Series" is better.
- The question doesn't ask just for a title, it asks why. Good answers explain why this is a particularly good match for the recommendation criteria. This results in detailed, interesting, answers, not single-sentence type answers.
- The question asks for answers that draw on personal experience, but are impartial. Good answers explain why the recommended work using their experience with it as an example, without assuming that everyone shares their viewpoint.
- The question may ask for references. For example, good choices for recommendations may have won awards (not just a Hugo/Nebula, but perhaps some lesser-known award), or may have been recommended by someone with significant reputation in the field in question.
How do we draw the line between broad and specific? We don't - we note (in the FAQ, in the recommendations wiki) that specificity is a requirement, and then we vote as we each see fit - if it's poorly asked (in your opinion) downvote, if it's too broad (in your opinion) close vote, and if it's great (IYO) upvote.
To use StackOverflow as an example (since it's the eldest site): "what's your favourite programmer's cartoon" is not ok, "I need to do full-text queries using a SQL-like interface with 4-10GB of data, sub-2-second queries, and real-time indexing. What's the best tool to use?" is ok. (The first of these is certainly not acceptable on SO or even programmers.se; I'm pretty certain the second would be fine).
Community wiki in case anyone would like to improve this.
Next time someone asks for a scifi or fantasy recommendation point them to this wonderful chart
They're a sickness and serve no good other than making themselves into polls with chunky text and letting people high five each other.
Rephrase them all you want, the pointlessness is still the same. And they're lists, let's not delude ourselves from that fact.
Not knowing what book to read or film to watch next doesn't validate the question, nor this site.