Most of the questions on site are about a specific SF work or universe. That's fine, but it's disappointing to have pretty much only questions of this kind.

In particular, most popular works and universes have a webforum out there, and even if the interface ahem not great, there are passionate communities who aren't going to move any time soon.

One of the strengths of this site is that it puts together people with different backgrounds. We all like SF, but we've read (seen, heard, …) different works. How can we benefit from this?

Unfortunately, the bulk of questions that have been asked without reference to a specific universe are list questions, that ask for works matching certain criteria (theme, plot point, …). These questions are poorly suited to this site. Even when this wasn't the intent, they tend to receive answers that cite one matching work, and the end result is a list of unrelated examples. These answers are not useful: the voting tends to indicate how old an answer is, and to some extend how popular the cited work is, but not how good the answer is (for example, how relevant the cited work is).

What kinds of questions can we ask that

  • are not about a specific work or universe, and
  • do not fall into the “list question” trapping,

and perhaps, how can we ask them?


Why is this disappointing? Seems to work just fine for Gaming.SE and Stack Overflow.

Like Gaming.SE, the reason people are interested in a more general site (as opposed to say, Star Wars.SE or Middle-Earth.SE) is because there's a high likelihood that if you really like one SF or Fantasy work, you like the entire genre and are likely able to answer questions about a variety of different works and series.

But like Stack Overflow where people can live in the [C#] or [PHP] tags, even if one cares only about one series, it doesn't mean they don't belong. The benchmark is whether experts on one topic would be comfortable with questions about other, related topics. For SF and Fantasy, that's definitely the case.

The truth is, the questions that would be general enough to not be about a specific work or series are generally uninteresting, boring, and/or off-topic. We even have a close reason for questions that are general reference.

And trying to make sure we ask more of those types of questions—asking for the sake of asking—is exactly the opposite type of behavior we should be encouraging. Specific questions about series are the interesting ones, which is borne out in practice organically on SciFi.SE: they're the SF/Fantasy geek's version of practical problems people actually face.

  • 2
    SO does have some cross-language questions about programming concepts and APIs. The only questions I've every wanted to close as general reference were questions about a specific work where the answer was obvious in the Wikipedia article. As for “practical problems”, “what shall I read next?” is a very big one, which Q&A is not the best format to solve. Asking about works exploring a certain concept would be very useful in this sense, if there was a way to enforce useful answers. – user56 Apr 18 '11 at 21:48

You must log in to answer this question.