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Occasionally, particularly in Harry Potter questions, I see people give answers which cite fan fiction instead of canon, in response to questions that aren't specifically about that fanfic.

We see a fair number of speculative answers along the lines of "In canon, [X] is true, and it seems like that would imply [Y]." These are not the answers I'm talking about. I like those answers. They're fun and interesting. I'm specifically concerned with answers like "In fanfic [W], [Z] is true, and canon never says [Z] is false, (so I'm going to assume that [Z] is true)." The part in parentheses is often left out, but it is the natural implication of these answers.

Do we have a formal policy against this? Should I downvote such answers, flag them, or just ignore them?

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Questions are about canon unless specified otherwise (or when restricting to canon would be nonsensical, such as out-of-universe questions). Such answers should be downvoted as irrelevant.

Questions do not implicitly require canon answers. But they are still about canonical things (or if there is no canon, those things which are in some sense "official" or licensed). If I ask whether Hermione is white, there are various ways you can answer that:

  • We don't know, because the books don't say, and we know the books don't say because Rowling said so in an interview.
  • Yes or No, because while the books don't actually say, they do say some other things which lead us to believe that she is or isn't white.
  • Yes, because Emma Watson is white.
  • No, because Noma Dumezweni is not white.

These answers are not all solely based on canon; the second in particular is largely speculative. But they are all about one or another canonical version of Hermione, and I would regard them all as valid answers (though the question should probably specify which canon it wants). On the other hand, an answer based on some fanfic is not about any canonical version of Hermione, and so it is answering a different question than the one asked (namely, "Is Hermione white in fanfic [X]?").

(Yes, I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality too. But I'm not terribly interested in hearing about it when I'm reading random Harry Potter questions.)

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