This question recently got closed because the sci-fi technology being asked about is a real technology, or we assume it is based on the answers and comments given in the question.

Now I cast the final close vote on this question because I agreed with the highest-voted answer - that the reference in the Bible is close enough to being a reference to it being real that it was not actually a science-fiction technology.

However, the asker did not know this at the time of asking, and it is reasonable for them not to know - a quick search on 'poison lipstick' on google does not turn up any real-world poison lipstick.

Someone also brought up the point of Tricorders - handheld devices that offer touch-interaction much like modern cell phones.

It's clear that as technology advances, more science-fiction devices are going to have real world counterparts that people will have questions about - and they will ask those questions here. It's also clear that sometimes what seems like a sci-fi invention can turn out to have a real-world origin.

Should we allow questions that ask about the origin of a science fiction technology if that technology turns out to be real? What restrictions should we place on what technology can reasonably be asked about on this site?


The idea that if a technology exists in the real world questions about it are automatically off-topic is just bizarre. As William Gibson has said, "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." Of course the idea that science fiction is about futuristic technology is equally problematic...

Questions about technology may or may not be on-topic, but I don't think that will depend on whether they exist in the real world. Remember that "setting explanations" as well as the "Historical or societal context of a work" are specifically on-topic. Questions about technology should be judged on the normal criteria: is it focused and clear.

I think we can distinguish between questions asking about the references to a technology in works of sci-fi/fantasty and references to a technology in any genre, or even in the real world. But asking about poison lipstick or rockets or mobile phones in works of sci-fi, as long as the question is focused and clear, should be on-topic regardless of their real-world existence.

  • What about the specific question linked, which is about the origin of a 'sci-fi' technology that turned out not to be sci-fi in origin?
    – Zibbobz
    Aug 29 '14 at 15:06
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    The fictionality of a technology should be irrelevant. If asking about the origins of a trope which is used in sci-fi (among other genres) is on-topic, then the question should be on-topic. Sci-fi isn't about inventing things. Aug 29 '14 at 15:13
  • What do you think about this distinction: "What is the earliest reference to X in a work recognised as sci-fi/fantasy?": on-topic, vs "What is the earliest reference to X in all creative works ever?": off-topic. Aug 29 '14 at 15:16
  • Precisely. Since it's real, asking "who was the first author to mention it" is clearly off-topic.
    – Valorum
    Aug 29 '14 at 17:22
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    @Richard I do agree though that asking when it first appeared in Science Fiction Writing is on-topic. Though maybe not the greatest question to ask - and also encouraging other like-worded questions of low quality.
    – Zibbobz
    Aug 29 '14 at 19:10
  • @Zibbobz - My first thought was 'if this is on-topic' then is 'when was the first mention of hats in science fiction' also on-topic?
    – Valorum
    Aug 29 '14 at 19:19
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    @Richard Exactly, and strangely I think that would be on-topic too...but I'd downvote it in an instant. On-topic and high-quality are two different things after all. What's on-topic isn't always necessarily good.
    – Zibbobz
    Aug 29 '14 at 19:24

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