This question is an example of a question which is answerable with a single example if the answer is yes; but an answer of no would effectively require an exhaustive knowledge of the subject (speculative fiction television anthology series). Are such questions "non-constructive"?

(The example question was downvoted twice, and I think there was no other issue with the question [except possibly the post-question content might be viewed as trying to encourage discussion rather providing a context for the interest in the answer and the perceived unlikelihood of the answer being yes].)

A similar question was asked on Christianity SE where the weakly supported view seemed to be that such questions were OK; but, of course, different SE sites have different standards.


3 Answers 3


I believe the question as asked is not constructive. Per the FAQ:

Please note the following types of questions are off-topic here:

Questions calling for a list of works, authors, …: What are all the books that have X? Who wrote about topic Y?

You're asking for examples of anthologies that have variable story length. This is a textbook list question.

  • 1
    Technically it is not a list question but an "are there any others" question. (E.g., I assume a question like "Did Tolkien write any other fantasies than LOTR and The Hobbit"--if not too "general reference"--would be acceptable. Is this wrong?) But I also thought short lists were allowed. How many SFF TV anthology series have there been? Of those only a small fraction (it seems/I guess) have variable length stories.
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 15:38
  • 2
    @PaulA.Clayton So what, in practice, is the difference between the two? How will your question not accumulate a bunch of "me, too" answers as people dredge up single examples and post them as new answers?
    – user1027
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 15:39
  • This also does not address the general question of falsify/validate questions with one possible answer requiring exhaustive knowledge.
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 15:40
  • 1
    @Keen In practice, this question isn't different than the "what is the earliest example of X" questions that we have entertained. Both have the potential to generate "me too" answers, and if they do then a moderator can lock the question. The advantage that this question has is that once a positive answer is provided it is answered definitively, unlike the "earliest example" where it is possible that earlier examples can continue to be found.
    – Xantec
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 15:45
  • @Xantec Except the 'definitive' answer to this type of question is "yes" or "no" + some examples. There's an objectively complete and correct answer for the "earliest example" questions, which is something list questions lack. That's what makes list questions problematic; anyone can come up with a new example that others missed, and add it to the pile.
    – user1027
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 15:51
  • How can an asker know beforehand that there are many examples or just a handful. (I suspected that there were 0--I admit I assumed Night Gallery was more horror than spec.fic.) If the question degenerates into a list question, it might be right to further constrain the question (temporarily closing it) or just close/lock it. The specific question got 1 answer with 2 examples and I suspect it will not draw a heap of single-example answers (only 62 views in a day).
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 15:52
  • Well, "earliest example" also assumes exhaustive knowledge. If some obscure Samoan author produced an earlier work, a wrong answer would probably be accepted. If the work is only available in a rare language and a hard copy in a remote-to-most-readers location, confirmation would be impractical.
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 15:57
  • 1
    @PaulA.Clayton The asker likely doesn't know if there's a ton of examples. But it's in the FAQ because experience has shown this type of question doesn't work well in the SE framework.
    – user1027
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 15:58
  • So would changing the question to something like "Excluding 1980s The Twilight Zone, what was the earliest SF TV anthology series with variable length episodes?" then make it OK? (Or would that then be "too localized"?) That seems screwy (even if one ignores the potential for repeating the question with a different exclusion and/or direction [earliest/most recent] to effectively develop a list). OTOH, community consensus does not have to make sense to me.
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 20:23
  • Oops! I guess one would need a little more clever phrasing to actually develop a complete list from single-answer questions, but it is probably possible--though I think a violation of the principles behind good questions.
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 20:29

Well, I found it easy to answer (I know of two shows that fit the criteria), so I think that provides information to the overall SE:SF&F database.

I think I should also add that we do not always know the motivation for a question. While I admit that the motivation of even some of my own questions may be questionable, we often don't know why a question is asked. (We won't get into the Santa Claus one again...) I often ask questions that help me in my writing. If someone is a screenwriter or working with a producer, this might be quite an important question for them. They may want to see examples of shows that fit this description, for example.

Or they might be working on an article about the history of SF on TV and think they have information for their purpose, but want to see if they can get anyone to disprove their thesis or topic.

Many questions on this site tend toward what may be called trivia and we get used to the idea that all questions are based on understanding or learning more about the fictional universe in the work(s) in question. It's also quite valid to learn about the background of SF&F works.

  • @PaulA.Clayton: Uh, is 6 minutes ago soon enough? ;)
    – Tango
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 3:22
  • @PaulA.Clayton: I think the new Outer Limits stuck with full episode long stories (other than two-parters). I would say that variable length stories are the exception rather than the rule. I remember Darkroom - I saw some episodes, but I don't think I saw them all. It was very short lived and I had to ask a StoryID question to find out the name of the series at one time. And, again, if you're in the US, you can see Night Gallery on MeTV. (One episode just finished up as I started writing this comment!)
    – Tango
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 3:29
  • 1
    "It's also quite valid to learn about the background of SF&F works." Especially those tagged 'history-of'? :-)
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 3:30

My problem with this question (I didn't vote either way though) is that this feels awfully close to either a list question or a question that can't really have a "best" answer based on how it's phrased.

have there been any speculative fiction television anthologies which had different numbers of stories within a single episode (time slot)?

Answer: Yes.

Done in one.

Oh, you wanted examples? Well, you didn't really ask for those, but that's where we start getting into list territory. And what do you want to define as speculative fiction? (Yes, I know I could have asked this in a comment on the question, again - I took no action at all). Anything from a two-parter of Are You Afraid Of The Dark to an extended episode of The Walking Dead could fit in there. With such a wide range, this easily becomes a list question, which would be off-topic.

  • But doesn't any good answer provide evidence and not just "the answer"? E.g., "Are the Weeping Angels Time Lords"--most recently active question as I write--could be answered "No, no, and no." (With respect to two-parters, I did not mean to include such--perhaps the question should be edited to clarify this.)
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 12:59
  • Sorry, that should have been "No, no, and yes." :-/
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 13:02
  • 1
    "But doesn't any good answer provide evidence and not just "the answer"" Yes, but with such a wide/undefined term of "speculative fiction", what is a "best" answer? The one with more examples than the others?
    – phantom42
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 13:20
  • That is saying the problem is 'not a real question'--"difficult to tell what is being asked"--rather than 'not constructive' ('unending' list). "Best" answer might be more subjective than for some questions--though this also fits 'Does better mean: more reasons [examples]--even if some are weak--, better addressing the main part of the question, first to post'--the accepted answer showed the last two, the lowest voted answer showed the first 'better' aspect (I think, but I wrote it).
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 13:48
  • I can understand the desire for answerable questions. I also think it is important that the general aspect of this meta question be addressed (and by more than 23 views and no votes on answers other than from the asker--it's only 12 hours old).
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 13:56
  • For the specific question, if another answer is posted, the number of examples would be a consideration (Tango found two and in comments above said such was "the exception rather than the rule"--and anthologies are a minority in TV though most might be SF (at least in U.S.)--, so more than a dozen seems unlikely), along with sourcing (links) and brief descriptions, and even applicable side comments like that on the 4th season of The Twilight Zone. Even though it was not part of the question, I would probably view as less useful non-English-language TV (but would upvote such an answer).
    – user11683
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 14:11