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We've been hashing out what types of questions are on-topic and what types of questions are off-topic for a few days now, so I'd like to start preparing a draft of what will be added to SciFi.SE's FAQ.

The format is taken from the fairly successful FAQ for Programmers.SE: it is a distillation of the heavily up-voted answers (5 or greater) from What questions are on-topic, and what questions are off-topic? and the following Stack Overflow Blog posts:

Some answers have been combined to make it easier to summarize our site's purpose.

Please provide any feedback you might have, but be sure to read the posts linked above to understand the purpose of these changes.


What kind of questions can I ask here?

Science Fiction and Fantasy - Stack Exchange is for questions targeted towards science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. This includes questions about:

  • Plot, character, or setting explanations
  • Historical context
  • Behind-the-scenes and fandom information
  • Story identification
  • Franchise/series reading or viewing order

What about other Science Fiction and Fantasy related questions?

Not all questions have a home on Stack Exchange. Please note the following types of questions are off-topic here:

  • Questions easily answered by a Google or Wikipedia search: Who played X in Y?
  • Real-world speculation and extrapolation: Is X technology from Y possible in real life?
  • Reading and viewing recommendations: Can you recommend me a book that has X?
  • Lists of works, characters, or settings: What are all the books that have Y in them?
  • Genre classification: Is X Science Fiction?

For more information, see the question where these topics were discussed on our meta discussion site.

If your question is about...


(At this point, the FAQ continues with the global FAQ copy starting at Please look around to see if your question has already been asked (and maybe even answered!) before you ask. It’s also perfectly fine to ask and answer your own question, as long as you pretend you’re on Jeopardy: phrase it in the form of a question.)

As of 2011-02-27, the FAQ has been updated based on the text in this answer.

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    I think it's better to look at the overall vote count than at just the number of upvotes. Your examples also don't match, e.g. fandom is +5/-2 and you have it on-topic here, and relating to real life is +6/-3 and you have it off-topic here. – Tony Meyer Feb 21 '11 at 23:06
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    @Tony consensus arises from the lack of controversy: a heavily up-voted answer that's also proportionally down-voted isn't consensus. Fandom was combined with behind-the-scenes because that's how it's perceived to the wider SFF audience (c.f. ComiCon, DragonCon, WonderCon). For why real-life speculation isn't on-topic, read the background blog posts, particularly the last two. – user366 Feb 21 '11 at 23:42
  • @mark I wish people would stop telling me to read blog posts that I read when they were posted. Are you saying that you have received definitive word in your new role as moderator from the SE team that real-life speculation has been banned network-wide? If so, please add that information to the relevant meta posts. – Tony Meyer Feb 21 '11 at 23:44
  • @mark are you saying that if there is any controversy then those topics are automatically off-topic? – Tony Meyer Feb 22 '11 at 0:28
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    "what actor played x in y" is off topic AFAIK, because it is easily answered by IMDB. This is a bad example for that category of question. – Tony Meyer Feb 22 '11 at 10:05
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    Reading/viewing order (I still wish someone could come up with a medium-neutral tag!) is not just which book is next - that's easily answered by Wikipedia. It's which should I read/see next. – Tony Meyer Feb 22 '11 at 10:07
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    I still don't understand why meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/350/… is off-topic. If I understand Mark correctly (in chat) he's saying that this isn't up to the community (who have given it the same votes as reading order at present). Can someone explain it? – Tony Meyer Feb 24 '11 at 3:16
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    If I might make a suggestion: could we postpone the decision on the controversial question types for a defined length of time (say a month)? This would allow for more data on what effect those questions had on the community and the level of discussion. They would not be included in the FAQ as appropriate, but neither would they be forbidden as off-topic. That would allow all of those with strong opinions (including me and Mark) to collect more information to support their point of view -- and at the end of the month, we could reopen the discussion to simple voting on those types of questions. – Martha F. Feb 24 '11 at 4:16
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    I agree with @Martha F., we are still in Beta after all. But we should mention that temporary status it in the FAQ. – DavRob60 Feb 24 '11 at 13:45
  • IIUC "real world speculation" was left out of both on- and off- topic, because it's still not clear what the consensus is. Doesn't personalised recommendations (+5/-5 in the summary question, +12 or more in the specific question) fall into that group too? – Tony Meyer Feb 27 '11 at 19:58
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Here are some proposed minor changes.

  • Off-topic categories
    • Reordered so that lists come second
    • Changed the wording of the too-trivial category; I'm still not satisfied with it
    • Changed the wording of the list category
    • Changed the recommendation example to me more distinctive from lists
    • Removed real-world speculation altogether, because I don't feel we have a definitive ruling yet
  • Added a link to , so people easily find a guide on how to ask a good story-id question

What kind of questions can I ask here?

Science Fiction and Fantasy - Stack Exchange is for questions targeted towards science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. This includes questions about:

  • Plot, character, or setting explanations
  • Historical context
  • Behind-the-scenes and fandom information
  • Story identification
  • Franchise/series reading or viewing order

What about other Science Fiction and Fantasy related questions?

Not all questions have a home on Stack Exchange. Please note the following types of questions are off-topic here:

  • Facts easily found on a reference site: Who played X in Y?
  • Questions calling for a list of works, authors, …: What are all the books that have X? Who wrote about topic Y?
  • Reading or viewing recommendations: I liked X, what should I watch next?
  • Genre classification: Is X Science Fiction?

For more information, see the question where these topics were discussed on our meta discussion site.

If your question is about...

  • I think you forgot to add the link :) (It's a good idea though!). – Tony Meyer Feb 25 '11 at 0:17
  • @Tony: It was a markdown syntax error. Thanks, fixed. – user56 Feb 25 '11 at 0:23
  • I suggest "Facts easily found on a reference site like Wikipedia or IMBb" – DavRob60 Feb 25 '11 at 2:20
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    Or "Questions that can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference site with no additional explanation necessary." – DavRob60 Feb 25 '11 at 2:21
  • @DavRob60: Jeff's full quote is a bit long. If we start listing the sites, there's also ISFDB; again, it's getting long. – user56 Feb 25 '11 at 8:33
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    Then "Information easily found on a reference site: Who played X in Y?" – DavRob60 Feb 25 '11 at 11:36
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I think we should steal from other good FAQs:

  • Cooking SE has a link to questions tagged on meta. Many of our posts could be considered for that tag, and adding a link in the FAQ is good.
  • Math SE has a section of topics that while on-topic would be better answered elsewhere. I like that wording better (e.g. for writing) - i.e. we encourage users to go to Writers SE, but they aren't banned here. Likewise "who played X in Y" is presumably best answered by IMDB. Is there a single best discussion place we can point people to? (like how boardgames has BGG)
  • Unless it is going to be added to the generic network-wide text, a sentence or two about "answerable by general reference site" questions with a link to Jeff's post about that would be good.
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    Linking to faq-tagged questions: yes. Linking to the on-topic-discussion: no, these are our internal quibbles, not the first things a new user should see. – user56 Feb 22 '11 at 0:01
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    I like the faq idea, but right now there are no questions in the FAQ tag: we can always add it later. Regarding your second point, as it stands right now, questions about writing SF are being considered off-topic by the community. – user366 Feb 22 '11 at 0:47
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I think we should specifically include those questions with high positive/negative votes in the FAQ. The others should be carefully considered, and if the question has merit, it will be allowed. If it doesn't, well, it can be closed. But none of this need to be included in the FAQ directly.

  • By "questions" you're meaning categories of questions, yes? Not actual links to existing questions? – Tony Meyer Feb 25 '11 at 0:14

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