For example, spy stuff like James Bond, 24, Tom Clancy, have some elements of sci-fi, but are a genre unto themselves. Should we include them in the list of on topic discussions?


3 Answers 3


I suggest the following guidelines (improvements welcome):

  1. If it's marketed as SF, it's on-topic.
  2. If magic, futuristic science or technology, alternate history, or other sf-nal concept is an important part of the overall plot, it's on-topic. (Alice in Wonderland, Clockwork Orange, etc.)
  3. If the question is specifically about an sf-nal element, even if it's only a minor part of the work, it's on-topic.
  4. If it's set in an on-topic universe, it's on-topic.
  5. If you're not sure it's SF but you think a good case can be made for it, it's on-topic.
  6. If there is a minor supernatural element (e.g. a fortune teller's prediction comes true, or someone sees a ghost, or a story for children involving anthropomorphic animals) but it's just a throwaway plot element that's not particularly relevant to the question, it's off-topic.

This is a rather inclusive policy. I think being inclusive will generate less friction (better have a few questions that purists can just snub, than cause bad feelings by closing borderline questions). This isn't to say you shouldn't vote to close if you feel that a borderline question is on the wrong side of the border, but please explain your reasoning when you cast your close vote.

Data point: ISFDB excludes “technothrillers” but includes “non-genre speculative fiction”. It doesn't include any of Fleming's Bond novels, but has Burgess's full bibliography. I don't claim ISFDB has particularly clear rules; I suspect that because SF.SE is more community-run, we'll end up more inclusive than ISFDB.

  • 4
    Why is "sf-nal" short for "Speculative Fiction"?
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 13:05
  • 1
    @OrangeDog To form an adjective from the term "SF", patterned after "science fictional"; I imagine "speculative fictional" (or "speculatively fictional"?) sounded just as odd, and wouldn't have matched the use of "SF" through the rest of the answer.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Apr 9, 2020 at 14:39

Should depend on how heavily incorporated the sci-fi elements are in the spy-fi property.

Moonraker would lean a lot in the sci-fi elements. Probably.

Whereas another film in the James Bond franchise, e.g. On Her Majesty's Service, far less so.

But then we're onto the slippery slope of topics and what is and isn't right for the site.

And it's a totally separate discussion to fantasy, which for a long time is mentioned in the same breath as sci-fi that they're pretty much bookshelf genre neighbours.

  • 4
    Perhaps it should depend on how heavily incorporated the sci-fi elements are, to the question.
    – Megha
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 18:29

The boundaries of genre are fuzzy, and it would be a shame to exclude a work simply because of what a marketing department calls a work. I'd be fine with these questions where they relate to elements of the story that are explicitly science-fiction or fantasy.

Is "Moonraker" science-fiction? One could argue that, but it's really nothing more than spies and soldiers... IN SPACE! On the other hand, "A Clockwork Orange" is less obviously science-fiction, but it involves societal change.

Let's ask a few of these questions and see how they go.

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