10

Please don't mistake this question for In-universe speculation vs. original research

I have answered two questions in past few days and both my answers made me wonder about this. What if person asks question about fictional universe like Harry Potter, Star Wars or Tolkienverse and answer does not lay in that particular universe? For example someone asks if guns would be any good in Harry Potter. Now, truth is that there are no guns in HP because it is books for kids. There are some story measures that explain lack of regular guns, but one can deduce by simple logic (provided that he/she has good knowledge of the universe), that guns would in fact be very effective. What is right answer? Cite story measures that explain lack of guns? Say it is book for kids, which is answer outside of that particular universe? Or explain why guns would be very effective, but just aren't there, even if that means to speculate a bit but very "safely"?

And what about sci-fi? What if there is very basic explanation of some phenomenon in the original work, but person providing the answer can very simply ratiocinate more elaborate and science friendly answer, that would not in any way disrupt the universe and would be in fact just more elaborate version of simple answer provided by canon? Is such answer right and legit?

  • This particular example was massively popular and the top answer is exactly that: Why don't muggle-born wizards use Muggle technology to fight Death Eaters? – Izkata Apr 10 '14 at 1:03
  • Another example would be my answer to the question if Leia slept while captured by Jabba. I reasoned, people die if they don't sleep, we have evidence that this is different for Leia, she was in Jabba's power for some time, therefore, she must have slept at some point, even though there is no footage in any of the films and no paragraph in any of the books that have her sleeping. – SQB Apr 10 '14 at 9:31
  • ...and Aragorn obviously goes to the toilet even through Tolkien never wrote about it. There's a huge danger in the attitude that if the author didn't write it, it didn't happen. – user8719 Apr 10 '14 at 10:15
  • @JimmyShelter No. This is canon. Aragorn doesn't poop. – SQB Apr 10 '14 at 12:22
  • The ultimate answers to questions like these is always "It's a fictional universe. Things do or do not happen solely because the author(s) says so. Everything else is subordinate to this rule." – RBarryYoung Apr 13 '14 at 22:22
  • 1
    See, if I were asking a question and someone responded with It's a fictional universe. Things do or do not happen solely because the author(s) says so. Everything else is subordinate to this rule. not only would I feel obligated to downvote, but I would certainly never choose that answer. With respect to @RBarryYoung, I think there's a difference between saying, "Based on X, Y, and Z, I extrapolate A, B, and C." and just using some quote (source?) to put forth any theory, no matter how wild or baseless in canon it might be, just because I want it to be so. Am I misinterpreting? – Slytherincess Apr 22 '14 at 17:25
9

I rather like questions that can be answered logically as long as they're based on canon material or a "voice of god" statement that provides the basis for the answer;

If a concept or principle is sufficiently well laid out by the original author, then you shouldn't need a specific quote in order to answer every niggling example. If, on the other hand you disagree with the logic at play, you can always dispute it with a better canon quote or simply use logic to prove your own point.

7

If it's presented well and has sufficient in-universe evidence and support for the speculation, then it can be quite a compelling argument. I don't see any harm in it. Many in-universe matters can be left untouched by an author, so sometimes that's the only way to reasonably answer a question.

On the other hand, there are tools to deal with the kind of question that requires such speculation. The question can be closed as "Primarily Opinion-based" if a good argument supported by other in-universe facts can't be put together. Answers that aren't well-argued can be downvoted and even deleted if necessary.

Ultimately it comes down to the quality of both the question and the answer. "Why are there no guns in HP?" is something I'd consider verging on a bad question, but a good question that invites speculation is probably worth leaving open for a bit to see if good, well-reasoned and well-supported answers come.


As an example of the kind of thing I'm talking about, see the question "What is Thorin's hair colour?" and my answer here. This is a case where the author didn't provide an answer but did provide enough information to make some logical speculation. Let's go through the main speculative points:

  • That the naming of the clans was on account of distinctive physical features.
  • That "Blacklocks" and "Firebeards" refer to hair colour.
  • That therefore black and red hair were distinctive enough to have clans named after them.
  • That therefore no members of other clans have black or red hair (or at least generally don't).

That seems a compelling argument, it's soundly based on writings by the author that can be sourced from published material, but yet the conclusions is clearly not based on any direct statement or evidence: it's pure logical speculation. But yet it's worth noting that this answer got upvoted, was accepted, and was awarded a bonus.

  • I agree. You can use logic to apply one answer to another. There may well be a canon quote about "no guns in Harry potter" from JKR. We can then apply the same quote to "no grenades in Harry POtter" without needing a further quote – Valorum Apr 18 '14 at 23:32
1

What is right answer?

Cite story measures that explain lack of guns?

If such exist, definitely yes! Great answer!

Say it is book for kids, which is answer outside of that particular universe?

Not really, though depends on the answer. As discussed previously on Meta, the whole point of asking most questions in SFF is in-universe; and obvious "well duh" out of unverse explanations do not in any way help the question asker nor anyone else reading later.

This is not an iron rule though - sometimes, the out of universe reason isn't obvious at all, and instead of a boring smart alec answer we get an insightful and unobvious out of universe explanation. The latter is quite welcome even by "in universe" cops like myself.

Or explain why guns would be very effective, but just aren't there, even if that means to speculate a bit but very "safely"?

Depends on the quality of speculation and how grounded it is in facts.

And what about sci-fi? What if there is very basic explanation of some phenomenon in the original work, but person providing the answer can very simply ratiocinate more elaborate and science friendly answer, that would not in any way disrupt the universe and would be in fact just more elaborate version of simple answer provided by canon? Is such answer right and legit?

Legit? Probably (depends on the answer).

Right? Depends on the answer and what it's being compared to. "This is what we know in-universe; this is what we know from author out of universe; this X is what we don't know but can be logically speculated" seems like an excellent answer; whereas "well, we can guess that Y" seems like wild-ass guessing with not much benefit to any reader.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .