I've seen a couple of questions (one of mine, one of other's) that was downvoted or simply not well received because they were about thinking too much about some detail in some work. But that confuses me, because, as far as I understand, sites like this are precisely about that: asking about all the details we can imagine about our favorite SF/F stories.

So, is there a limit about how much detail can we ask about the works? Or are those only personal opinions that don't affect how are questions accepted?

  • 1
    Related: What problems does answering a question on this site solve?
    – Izkata
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 5:25
  • 5
    We are Science Fiction and Fantasy. You seem to be asking for the science behind fantasy. People get enough backlash looking to deep into the science of science fiction, of course science fantasy is going to get shot down.
    – Kevin
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 17:26
  • @Kevin - Exactly my point.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 10:23

4 Answers 4


In my humble opinion, your Avatar question was always going to suffer from downvotes.

You're essentially asking for an atomic-level scientific explanation of something that's only really explainable by saying "it's magic". Elements aren't real and when you dig too hard into any fantasy universe, you'll inevitably come up short.

That's almost certainly why you've faced an accusation of over-thinking by @MishaRosnach and why so many people have agreed with his comment.

  • 2
    You can also only go as far down into the science as the author has chosen to go. If one day the Avatar series introduces some midiclorian-esque mechanic (god forbid), there may be an answer in-universe. But this is not a hard-science series, so one shouldn't expect hard science.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 14:34

The issue here is a question of answerability.

It is true that there may be some canonical source that can answer a question, there may even be an exact explanation in some third-party or even straight canon source that fully explains how these things come about.

In some questions though, that is not true. And while speculation can be fun, that is not what SE is about (try the chat for that, or a forum).

Sci-Fi in general draws a lot of fans that are curious about the 'why' and 'how' of things in their favorite shows. We're deeply interested in them too, but unfortunately a question that is asking for information not present in the canon is something we cannot answer.

Some questions ask for an explanation of what goes on at the physical level in Science-Fiction, and while that may be incredibly interesting if written into a good question, it is not something we are prepared to answer. This is Sci-Fi, and sometimes authors don't write an explanation of the full science-based details of a phenomena. We could only speculate, and that is frowned upon in SE as a whole (though not forbidden if it is a good subjective question, but those are rare and more based on intent and decision rather than physical phenomena).

In short, while your questions may be interesting, they may also be too broad, may focus on science-fact over science-fiction, and may not be following the standards of an SE question.

You might get better answers, incidentally, if you post a few links to the questions you're asking about specifically. I'm only speculating at this point because I have no frame of reference, but by how you've described it, those are the most likely reasons you're seeing downvotes/closures.

Edit: For further reading, real questions have answers.

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    +1 and in summary: Real questions have answers.
    – user8719
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 19:16
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    @DarthSatan Adding this to the answer. Thank you.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 19:20
  • Curious. Though I don't oppose it, why the downvote?
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 15:34

If a question is downvoted but not closed that means it's unpopular, but not unfit for the site.

Some citizens of the site may feel it's worthy of downvoting for whatever reason (they think it's not useful, or poorly formatted, or they just had a bad hair day), but that's a risk we always take--we can either ask the questions we want or need to ask and let the votes fall where they may, or we can censor our posts according to what we think will get us the most reputation.

In my experience, trying to predict voting trends is more accurate than cross-referencing astrology with tarot to win the lottery--but not much more accurate. Ask questions within the site's guidelines and remember that downvotes shouldn't leave any lasting scars unless a disproportionate number of your posts are significantly downvoted.


This site seems to have tow very distinct - and largely clustered - demographics.

One is people who like "overthinking" questions, and moreover, think that such questions are an important part of the site's attraction.

One is people who don't like/get such questions and want to burn them with fire.

Without splitting the site into two, I fear that this divide is irreconcilable, unless and until the second group grows up, and learns to live and let live, and NOT close/DV questions that aren't actually bad for the site and merely not interesting to them personally.

  • 7
    I don't think the distinction is as binary as you describe here.
    – user8719
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 19:14
  • I must admit that I genuinely enjoy the "puzzle it out" questions. This is a perfect case in point. I'm fairly sure my answer is entirely b*llshit but it pleased me no end to dig deep into the canon to find a workable solution to the question; scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/67169/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 10:22
  • I also don't find it as black and white as you. I like questions that really make me dig into canon and hunt around for a correct answer. I've never thought of myself as a site attraction in and of myself and I haven't heard anyone else express that opinion about themselves. Do you mean to say that User A thinks he/she is "all that" and believes that other users come to SFF.se with the distinct goal of tracking User A's questions, answers, and stats? I don't know if I get that vibe here. In fact, I think I can safely say I do not. Did I interpret what you said correctly, though? :) Commented Nov 8, 2014 at 1:19
  • @Slytherincess - no, you didn't interpret it correctly. "they" in my second paragraph referred to "overthinking" questions, not to people. Edited to clarify :) Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 2:33

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