Are questions about Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" considered on-topic?

While I wouldn't necessarily classify them as science fiction or fantasy, they do have some fantastical elements (e.g. lachrymose leeches, bombinating beast, Ink, etc.) and some sci-fi elements (e.g. the VFD, a lot of the technology in some ways, etc.)

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    I think it’s off-topic. The aspects you cite all seem more mysterious than inherently fantastical or sci-fi.
    – alexwlchan
    Jan 22, 2016 at 7:59
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    @alexwlchan As do I. But I'm hoping other people don't, because I have questions I would like to post.
    – ibid
    Jan 22, 2016 at 8:04
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    Isn't there magic in some of them too? Like the one with a carnival/circus, isn't there magic/fortune telling/prophecy? That'd make it on-topic, right?
    – RedCaio
    Jan 22, 2016 at 8:26
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    @RedCaio Somebody pretends to do fortune-telling, but I think it's exposed to be a scam. I don't recall actual magic taking place.
    – alexwlchan
    Jan 22, 2016 at 17:21
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    It definitely qualifies as Fantasy to me.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 22, 2016 at 18:54
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    @alexwlchan 1.As I pointed out in the question, it involves sea monsters (e.g. the bombinating beast) and intelligent animals (e.g. Ink). 2.It also involves Jules Verne style submarines and hot air balloons. 3.Not sure if spy-fiction is considered sci-fi, but it has a lot of that stuff too.
    – ibid
    Jan 22, 2016 at 18:57
  • Why not just float a test question out there and see what the community thinks?
    – TGnat
    Jan 22, 2016 at 23:18
  • Some other fantasy/sci-fi elements would be Medusoid Mycelium and Hangfire's voice-changing ability.
    – ibid
    Jan 23, 2016 at 23:42

2 Answers 2


I would say it's on-topic.

1) It seems to be set in an alternate world with anachronistic technology and elements of fantasy/magic mixed throughout.

The books seem to be set in an alternate, "timeless" world with stylistic similarities to both the 19th century and the 1930s, though with contemporary, and seemingly anachronistic scientific knowledge. For instance, in The Hostile Hospital, the Baudelaire children send a message via Morse code on a telegraph, yet in the general store they are in, there is fiber-optic cable for sale

2) The film adaptation is classified as a fantasy movie

3) Your question was generally accepted: Reading order for books in A Series of Unfortunate Events universe

One of the issues with YA and children's novels is that the can be hard to pin down into a genre, as they're often just thrown into the category of "Young Adult" or "Children's", without going further. We see the same things with movies that get classified as "Family" and nothing else, when they're clearly also sci-fi/fantasy.

However, going back to our policy on works with sci-fi/fantasy elements, I would say this point is most relevant here:

If you're not sure it's SF but you think a good case can be made for it, it's on-topic.

You've seemed to have made a case, another user commented that they think it's fantasy and got a number of upvotes. I think the case is made.



  1. While it is set in a somewhat vague time period, that by itself does not render it on-topic. None of the time periods that it resembles are by themselves futuristic, and it does not involve any major (or indeed minor) alternate history elements. That the time period of a mundane work cannot be pinned down does not make it science fiction or fantasy.
  2. It is true that the movie is classified as fantasy on IMDB. However, while we do take into account marketing in determining whether something is on-topic, that should not be to the exclusion of common sense. IMBD can make mistakes. I watched the film (albeit some time ago), and I’m struggling to think of anything that would render it fantasy. Perhaps someone thinks that a giant magnifying glass is fantasy?

    It has a certain element of whimsy, to be sure, but I think we can recognize that not every whimsical movie is fantasy, and indeed that most fantasy is not whimsical.

  3. Considering the series itself, I’m having trouble thinking of particularly science-fictional elements. The only ones I can think that are:

    • The Incredibly Deadly Viper and Sunny, both of whom demonstrate intelligence unusual in snakes and babies, respectively.

    • The Medusoid Mycelium, which isn’t a real fungus, to my knowledge.

    • The Bombinating Beast, a.k.a the Great Unknown. Possibly a sea monster, possibly something else.

Hangfire’s voice imitation is implausible, sure, but there are people in real life with an uncanny ability to mimic voices. Besides, it’s mainly in the same category as Count Olaf’s improbable disguises.

In particular, we should consider our longstanding policy on spy-fi, and on works with minor science fiction elements.

If there is a minor supernatural element (e.g. a fortune teller’s prediction comes true, or someone sees a ghost, or a story for children involving anthropomorphic animals) but it’s just a throwaway plot element that’s not particularly relevant to the question, it’s off-topic.

These are all minor supernatural elements, and they’re mostly not even particularly supernatural. An unusually intelligent snake? A precocious baby? A possibly-genetically-engineered fungus? James Bond (ruled spy-fi and off-topic) has more science fiction elements than this—which is to say, not many.

The film and TV series, on the other hand, are firmly on-topic on Movies and TV, and there will soon be a site where the books will also likely be firmly on-topic.

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    I agree. Everything that could be seen as on-topic on this site in these books is, IMHO, there only for humor.
    – CHEESE
    Jan 17, 2017 at 1:40
  • Longstanding policy is that if a case can be made for it, it's on topic, including spyfi.
    – user31178
    Jan 17, 2017 at 1:48
  • @CreationEdge - Alas for a the spy-fi questions being closed, then.
    – Adamant
    Jan 17, 2017 at 1:49
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    People ignore the "if a case can be made for it" whenever they please.
    – user31178
    Jan 17, 2017 at 1:50
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    Where specifically have we ruled James Bond as spy-fi and off topic? Is James Bond science fiction? (duplicate) says on topic and the dupe Are works that aren't SF per se, but have occasional SFnal elements on-topic? (e.g. spy movies) merely gives our policies of considering, leaning towards being more inclusive than less. Is it discussed elsewhere?
    – user31178
    Jan 17, 2017 at 2:37

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