I would like to understand why the question How to deal with people who think that scifi and fantasy is childish? was closed. What do the people who voted to close (or anyone else) have against it?

As far as I'm concerned, this is a valid question, about social attitudes towards SF. I put it in the same category as questions about SF fandom, which on balance seem acceptable to the community (and which I'm also in favor of). There may be a concern that this particular question is too subjective or unanswerable, but for me it's a good subjective question.

The question has had two votes to reopen (now expired, I know I took a while to raise the issue). No comment though, so it's hard to know why people are for or against it.

Note that this is not a reproach towards closers. Indeed meta questions about closings should never be about berating closers, they should be about understanding why (part of) the community rejects a question, and ideally gain experience for future cases.

So, what's wrong with this question? What other questions are similarly wrong? (or right, if you disagreed with the closing)

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    Also, I would like to point out that the close message says closed as off-topic, instead of the closed as subjective and argumentative I half expected. – apoorv020 Jun 4 '11 at 15:18
  • One of the reopen votes was mine. I didn't think of adding a comment for the re-open vote, sorry. My reasoning is more-or-less what you've said: it seems on-topic to me. – Tony Meyer Jun 4 '11 at 21:44

This question seemed to me to be about psychology. About how to deal with people. It would be the same answer to a question like: "How to deal with people that think watching Anime is childish?" or building with Lego, or owning lots of action figures, so on.

I'm not against having the question. Personally, I'd love to see tangentially related things be considered as on topic. But the community seems to feel otherwise. Maybe we should broaden our scope again?

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    I disagree that it's not specifically about SF. I was thinking of answering, and my arguments would have included things like “it's about your imagination running free” and “a lot of it is about philosophy, for example the Bible is SF”. I'm not opposed to broadening our scope, but this is a different issue: the question is in our current scope as I understand it — so if [generic] you don't think it's in our current scope, please enlighten me. – user56 Jun 4 '11 at 20:45
  • I find Tony's arguments much more pertinent than Mark's. However the voting on this meta question shows more agreement with Mark. You have a sort of intermediate position, so I'm making this your call. – user56 Jun 9 '11 at 17:51
  • @Gilles Unfortunately, the voting for many meta answers is significantly influenced by how quickly the answer is posted. If an answer is added more than a day after the question was asked, then it tends not to get many votes in either direction. By accepting DampeS8N's answer, what are the mods saying? Are similar questions considered off topic (i.e. this is precedent setting?). Just this one stays closed? This one stays closed unless it gets enough reopen votes (i.e. what would have happened with no meta question)? – Tony Meyer Jun 10 '11 at 1:48
  • @Tony, I don't think we mods are unified on this. I was mainly speaking here for what everyone else seems to think. Voting should determine if they agree or not, I guess. – DampeS8N Jun 10 '11 at 5:29
  • @Tony: By accepting this answer, “the mods” aren't saying anything. I am saying that I defer to DampeS8N's opinion on this question (and the fact that he's a mod means that he can reopen the question if he wants). It's clear that only three people have spoken in favor of the question (apoorv020, Tony and I). The arguments against aren't stupid, even if I disagree with them. So I don't think it would be fair if I went and reopened it; I consider DampeS8N to be neutral enough on this matter, so I defer to his judgement. – user56 Jun 10 '11 at 18:23
  • @Tony @Gilles, and I'll defer to the community. Feel free to vote to reopen. – DampeS8N Jun 10 '11 at 18:31

DampeS8N touched on the main reason, although I disagree the site's scope needs to be broadened.

On any Stack Exchange site, a question is on-topic if, and only if, it is best served by the site's audience. That is, there needs to be a strong connection between the topic of the question and the site's "expertise".

How to deal with mean people has precious little to do with Science Fiction or Fantasy culture. There are a variety of activities and hobbies that elicit that type of behavior from people, and dealing with those people is not contingent on what they happen to be making fun of. Being a Science Fiction or Fantasy enthusiast doesn't make you uniquely qualified to answer such a question.

Because there is no strong connection to the site's expertise, every time a question like this is asked and entertained, Stack Exchange takes one step away from being a Q&A site and one step toward being yet another discussion board: a place to "hang out" and harp about how all the "outsiders" aren't like us. The FAQ codifies this sentiment:

Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

Compare this question to the two example questions in What questions are on-topic, and what questions are off-topic?:

They're questions about connecting with other Science Fiction fans: conventions, resources devoted to Science Fiction, etc. Only a science fiction enthusiast is going to be qualified to answer such questions. As such, they're on-topic.

Personally, had I known Behind-the-scenes and fandom information was going to be construed to include all questions about random life issues that might affect a science fiction/fantasy enthusiast, I would've voted it down and objected to it when we were building the FAQ. That's not the point of this site.

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    Wouldn't a SFF fan be best equipped to argue why SFF isn't equal to children's literature? Surely questions about interaction between a SFF-fan and non-SFF-fan would be on-topic here? – apoorv020 Jun 5 '11 at 6:06
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    @apoorv020 The question wasn't 'why isn't SFF equal to children's literature'. If that's what you meant to ask in your question, then edit it. – user1027 Jun 6 '11 at 2:54
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    @Keen:The question was about how to best bring the point 'why isn't SFF equal to children's literature' across to people who don't read SFF. – apoorv020 Jun 6 '11 at 7:56
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    @apoorv020 If so, then edit it so it actually says that. Right now it says 'people are picking on me, how should I deal with these bullies?' – user1027 Jun 6 '11 at 13:57
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    @Mark: I don't understand how the question relates to the bits of the FAQ that you cite. After seeing Keen and DampeS8N's explanations (we've also chatted a bit), I understand part of it, and I agree that the question needs clarification (I'd interpreted it as apoorv020 meant, but clearly many people didn't). However I still don't see how it's a bad question (post edit), nor how SF fans aren't the best people to answer (as they have first-hand experience) barring perhaps academics. – user56 Jun 8 '11 at 0:07
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    @Gilles Great, now I need to go see if there's an Academics.SE so I can ask them 'Why do sci-fi/fantasy fans think they're just as qualified as academics to answer questions about being shunned by society?' – user1027 Jun 9 '11 at 14:16
  • @Keen: Did you fail to avoid misunderstanding a double negative in my previous comment? – user56 Jun 9 '11 at 17:49
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    @Gilles Yes, and I failed to pull off a joke. – user1027 Jun 15 '11 at 16:50

Not all questions need to have a single definitive answer (e.g. this question was personally approved by both StackExchange founders, and absolutely does not).

This is clearly a subjective question, which are meant to fit certain guidelines, and fit this question extremely well:

  • Inspire answers that explain “why” and “how”. A good answer would certainly do this, explaining why people might feel this way (e.g. referencing the history of the genre), and obviously the question is all about "how". It seems unlikely it would inspire the worst type of "name and link" answers.

  • Long, not short, answers and invite sharing experiences over opinions. This question absolutely inspires users to share their actual experiences, as suggested.

  • Constructive, fair, and impartial tone. The only impartiality here is that scifi/fantasy is not childish (perhaps the real answer is that people think this because it's true!). However, this is almost certainly a belief shared by nearly everyone here, so not a rant or flamebait. It's about (how to) educate others, not about arguing the right/wrong.

  • Insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references. Not so much (but not every guideline has to fit). It's certainly possible that an answer could do this, but it doesn't seem especially likely.

  • More than just mindless social fun. Obviously not the case here.

This sort of question is best answered by people who have experience dealing with this problem, not with psychologists. It's much like all of parenting.stackexchange.com - the "experts" there are parents, not (necessarily) parenting researchers or psychologists.

An answer from an expert in psychology (or sociology) is not likely to be of practical use to the asker (or anyone else that has this problem that ends up at this question later) because it will be too theoretical. What's needed is not an analysis of why this problem exists, but practical suggestions (based on experience) about how to deal with it.

The question isn't "how do I deal with mean people". It's "how do I combat the perception that this genre is childish". Good answers are likely going to be specific to the genre - i.e. you'll get more useful advice to this question than to the generic "people think that X, which I like, is childish" (which would be off-topic, because it's generic).

The only way that this seems off-topic to me is if our scope is limited to something like "existing scifi/fantasy works". If questions outside of existing works (e.g. about cons or the impact of the genre on language, or what might happen to a really unfortunate person) are acceptable, then this should be too.

  • Taking single questions from the site's early days isn't a good argument, those are often outliers (and citing them could even lead to a late flurry of close votes). But other than that I thoroughly share your analysis of why it's a good subjective question and appropriate for the selected audience. – user56 Jun 8 '11 at 0:10
  • @Gilles which questions do you mean? The programmers.se one was at least 6 months after it launched, and definitely post-beta. The one here is from 17 days ago. – Tony Meyer Jun 8 '11 at 0:57

I think this question is a bad one because there's no single, definitive answer to it. It's a question looking to start a discussion rather than asking a specific question.

  • This is part of why I voted it closed. The other part was that I agree with MarkTrapp's answer. I think discussions of how SFF fans are treated by 'outsiders' is pretty off topic. – user1027 Jun 6 '11 at 2:57

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