I asked a question similar to this https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/34196/depth-of-an-inhabitable-shell-around-the-earth on the SF&F site. I deleted it because I didn't want to lose the rep just to have it get closed on me. This comment, while helpful, is incredibly disturbing to me.

This question is much better suited to worldbuilding.stackexchange.com. SciFi.SE is about existing properties, and I'm pretty sure cross-posting is frowned upon. -Name Omitted- 16 mins ago

Better suited, okay I'll concede that point... Don't cross post, okay, I can accept that. But existing properties??

As a young writer, one of the things that established writers consistently repeat is that, "If you write you're a writer." This is important because it helps new writers to not look down on themselves because they are not published. Getting paid is not what makes good writing, or good sci-fi.

I believe the SF&F community should be just as much about building up, teaching and even helping to create the next generation of science fiction and fantasy. Otherwise, all this might as well just be a chat. Why make it permanent if not to be a lasting resource? The Q&A format that we live and die by here is about answering questions in perpetuity.

So that's my two cents, but I'll respect the opinions of the community. Is the question that I asked appropriate for the site or not? If not, does a work of science fiction need to be published for it to be discussed here? If neither of these are correct, then where do we draw the line?

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    Can you provide the link to the deleted question? 10K+ users (and yourself) will be able to see it, which will be very helpful in responding to your specific issue Jan 25, 2016 at 16:52
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    @JasonBaker This is the link. Didn't think linking deleted would work. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/116233/… Jan 25, 2016 at 16:54
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    On or off-topic, what you asked for, as it was written, was incredibly broad and better suited for a discussion forum or chat room. The Q&A format which we live and die by here is not suited for such questions.
    – phantom42
    Jan 25, 2016 at 17:08
  • @JasonBaker I don't mind down votes, they're a part of life here, but when someone asks a question in meta about a question that just got crushed on the main site and provides no feedback it just feels like piling on. Sometimes I feel like people just enjoy making newer members look stupid. Since you're up for election I just thought I'd mention it. Seriously, if I had understood your explanation beforehand I wouldn't have asked either question. Maybe I'm just too sensitive for this format. I expect this comment will get down voted too if anyone even sees it. Jan 29, 2016 at 10:22
  • I wish I had a good response for you, but sadly I don't. It's something we struggle with. If it helps, I assume people are downvoting this question because they disagree with your suggestion about the site's scope; voting is (meant to be) a bit different on meta, though we don't always do a good job of explaining that. The best advice I can give you is to not get discouraged, and ask on meta (or in chat) if you have questions or concerns. I know that's easier said than done; but there are those of us who want to help, and we'll do what we can Jan 29, 2016 at 17:31
  • SF&F Stack Exchange isn't about writing, it's about reading. I don't see anything wrong with that. The internet is a large place, and there are sites out there for writers - including Writers Stack Exchange.
    – Misha R
    Jan 31, 2016 at 4:54
  • @MishaRosnach I understand, and I agree with you. The problem is that it's not a writing question. World building beta is probably the most appropriate place for it. But it's really more a science question. I could post it on physics, but they might also tell me to GTFO because it's not real. So I have a science question, but not real science... You could call it a theoretical science question. You could also call it a science fiction question. Which brings me back to my original point. Basically this site says fake science doesn't matter until you're paid. I get it. I'll go away. Feb 1, 2016 at 0:07
  • @StevetheMaker @#$%... Look man, I actually don't think you're all that wrong to complain about that. But you haven't tried asking that question on Writers Stack Exchange (yes, I checked :) ), and it's worth a shot. They get pretty specific on that site sometimes. Your question sounds more like a question I usually see on there than like a question I usually see on here. And if it doesn't work, that's fine - they are a lot less trigger-happy with down votes than SF&F people. Besides, there have got to be other Sci Fi writers on there who might tell you where they get such info.
    – Misha R
    Feb 1, 2016 at 3:57
  • @StevetheMaker ...Of course if you're worried about someone there running off with your idea, that's a different story. Although worrying about that is usually detrimental to an artist's productivity.
    – Misha R
    Feb 1, 2016 at 4:03
  • @MishaRosnach If I was that worried I wouldn't have asked here either. In this question meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/11/… Standback, who is a mod on writers explicitly stated that content is off-topic there. It looks like Physics or Math might be my best shot if I can't ask here... Feb 1, 2016 at 4:06
  • @StevetheMaker Bah. He said that in 2012. He may have changed his mind, or maybe someone else is the mod there, or I dunno. Who gives a dam, just ask it. They might close your question, but you might still get some good answers/comments before that happens. Haven't you ever attended an event you weren't supposed to just to eat some awesome free food? They might kick you out, but not before you're drunk and full of cheese.
    – Misha R
    Feb 1, 2016 at 4:15
  • @MishaRosnach -_- If I'm going to party crash, I'd rather ask it here. SF&F is the arguably the best sci-fi fan community in the world. 10% of the people would be annoyed by my question. 60% would ignore it. 20% would never see it. But 10% of this place is like 10x the readership at writers. I like writers beta but the audience is tiny. If I'm going to break rules to get a question answered it would be here. My whole argument here is that I really shouldn't have to. Feb 1, 2016 at 4:20

3 Answers 3


Regarding your original question1, there are actually three problems with it:

  1. It's got loads of sub-questions. This is something we want to avoid as much as possible, for a number of reasons unrelated to your core concern
  2. Your last part is "help me define this question." I can appreciate that you want to cover all of your bases, and I think that's commendable from the standpoint of a writer; but it's not a good fit for the Q&A format of SE.
  3. Off-topicness.

That last one is what you actually asked about, so I'm going to cover it very extensively from here on out. But I wanted you to be aware that your question had other problems (something I notice the WB folks have already pointed out).

Is your question off-topic

Yes. I'm sorry, but yes. One of our off-topic reasons is:

Questions seeking scientific solutions or explanations are off-topic unless they relate directly to a cited work of fiction.

There have been attempts to pin down what we mean by this, but your question clearly falls under it.

Why is your question off-topic

So, I think this is really what your question is driving at, and the answer is what sort of site we want to be.

According to you:

I believe the SF&F community should be just as much about building up, teaching and even helping to create the next generation of science fiction and fantasy.

I don't think that sort of community is a bad idea, but it's not the sort of community we have here. The reason for that is mainly because of our knowledge domain.

At this site, we're experts on the genre of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Personally, I'm an expert on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien; we have experts on Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, or even on the published output of science fiction and fantasy literature.

What we do not have (or, not in abundance) is expertise in geophysics, materials sciences, or narrative storytelling.

At the moment, the larger community is perfectly happy having that division of expertise; and we've been around for long enough that it's unlikely we'll be able to shift our momentum now.

But you still want a community like that

Great! Personally I think that, between WorldBuilding and Writers, you're pretty well sorted. But if you think there should be another SE community more specifically tailored to supporting aspiring SFF writers, then more power to you. We have a way of accomplishing that: Area51. That's how all (well, most) SE sites got started, and your idea might flourish too.

The point I want to get across is that, just because something isn't a good fit here doesn't mean it's not a good fit anywhere. SE may not have the niche you're looking for, so you should create it.

This does come with the caveat that your niche may not be a good fit for the SE format, or may not have enough support to get off the ground. Those are both unfortunate reasons why Area51 proposals flounder, and I can't really help you with them.

1 10k+ only link, sorry

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    fantastic breakdown.
    – phantom42
    Jan 25, 2016 at 17:17
  • Excellent answer, thanks. I appreciate the time and energy. And I'll be the first to admit I was responding a bit out of emotion. It's really hard to not take closed questions personally sometimes. Especially when it feels like, "You're not a real content producer yet, so this question is invalid." Jan 25, 2016 at 17:22
  • It's also frustrating when I know I can manipulate the same question using existing properties, but I don't feel like I should have to, but I get it... Jan 25, 2016 at 17:23
  • @StevetheMaker I do appreciate your concerns, and they're things the whole network struggles with. As much as we say closing questions isn't a censure, it often still feels that way, and to be honest I'm not sure what to do about that Jan 25, 2016 at 17:25

There's a number of issues with your post, all of which made the advice to head over to Worldbuilding exactly appropriate.

The first, and biggest, issue is that the scope of this site, as has been determined over the years by the community, has settled on discussions of works of science fiction and fantasy, and the overall features of the genre itself. In order to be on-topic here, the question needs to relate to some work of science fiction that other users can consume and comment on, or else, directly related to the genre (history questions, trope questions, etc.

A question about a work of fiction you're still in the process of writing is off-topic here because we can't read it yet. That makes it impossible for us to answer questions about it.

The other issues with your question are:

  • That's way too many questions for one post; what if one person answers #1 and a second answers #2, which is "correct?"
  • Many of those are asking for open-ended discussion, meaning there's more than one right answer. On this SE site, that's off-topic.
  • Many of those are asking for real-world science explanations of what's "plausible" or "possible". From our perspective, whatever you put in your novel is possible, because we focus on the in-universe physics you create, not the real-world physics that really exists.

"Existing properties" means "published works"; works that have already been created and are accessible to the general public.
That ranges from the most famous franchises and works by writers that are known to people outside SF-aficionados, to stuff by relatively obscure writers with just a small number of readers. We actually have some writers and aspiring writers among out regulars.

But the line is drawn at consuming vs. creating. If you want to ask about creating a fictional world, ask over on Worldbuilding. If you've read or seen something and aren't sure how to interpret it, ask here.

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