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?

  • Funny, tricorders seem to use buttons... Maybe they meant PADDs?
    – Izkata
    Aug 29, 2014 at 23:21

1 Answer 1


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, 2014 at 15:06
  • 2
    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, 2014 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, 2014 at 15:16
  • Precisely. Since it's real, asking "who was the first author to mention it" is clearly off-topic.
    – Valorum
    Aug 29, 2014 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, 2014 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, 2014 at 19:19
  • 6
    @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, 2014 at 19:24

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