I wrote an answer to question Who wrote about an energy free space elevator?.

The question is asking for scientific writers - which may indicate science-fiction writer using real science, or actual scientists - who would have considered the energy free space elevator. This is actually a triviality from a scientific point of view, based on a principle that was probably known even to engineers in the middle ages, possibly earlier.

Thus I suggested the names of scientists who had contributed the idea. They clearly were scientific writers, as requested in the question.

The answer was deleted on the basis that they are not science fiction writers, which is not what is being asked.

I actually checked the wording of the question before answering, as the answer represented some real work on my part, which I thought might be useful to science-fiction readers. It could also be useful to some authors who do write nonsense on that topic.

The site is about science fiction, but there is no constraint that matters relevant to science fiction should exclude real science, or real scientists.

But I did not get a chance to answer the moderator criticism, which seems unfounded, given the actual wording of the question, which is not the wording the moderator seems to be asserting.

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    The question is tagged story-identification. It isn't asking for all writings on the subject, just the one that the OP had in mind. The wording of the question could be better, in my opinion.
    – Molag Bal
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 23:31
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    To answer the question in your title, this (meta) is the correct place to bring up such concerns. And although you've been civil so far, discussions like this do occasionally devolve into accusations, so I'll just pre-emptively remind everyone to please keep the discussion civil and on-point :-)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 23:32
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    @amaretto In my experience with various SE sites, tags are necessarily approximative, and question titles often too short to be precise. The wording of the question is what counts, given that the asker could have chosen another wording.
    – babou
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 23:40
  • @babou Regardless of the wording, the tag:story-identification is one that, in this case, cannot be dismissed. "I'm trying to identify a specific story" is on-topic, and precisely what that tag is for. The question does not mention "first", so even if you took it for "any stories" instead of a specific one, it would then be an open-ended list question, and would have almost certainly been closed as such.
    – Beofett
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 22:28

3 Answers 3


The appropriate course to contact a moderator is to flag the post with a custom reason explaining what you want reviewed. You might get the same moderator, or you might not, and even if you do get a different moderator you might not get the desired reaction (in this case Kevin agrees with me, Thaddeus does not). Had you flagged with a custom reason and I saw it, I would have asked the other moderators for their opinions.

You can also take the issue to meta as you've done in order to get the community involved (but not all users will have the privilege to view your answer if it is still deleted).

As for why I deleted your post, I was responding to a "not an answer" flag. My initial reaction upon seeing your lengthy, upvoted post was to decline it, but I owe it to both the flagger and the poster to take a good look.

When I looked more closely I noticed that, while the question asked for a "scientific writer" as opposed to a "science fiction writer", the other example writers given in the question were science fiction writers. Furthermore, the asker said he was looking for a "story" (as in, a fictional work), not a "scientific work" as you posted. Still further, the accepted answer and another answer both cited fictional works.

I also think your answer has an issue in that you provide some Wikipedia links but do not cite a specific work. Moreover, you mention

It would be nice if some other user proficient in Russian could check these two authors

All told, this answer looked to me like it should be a comment rather than an answer since it would be a good hint to "some other user proficient in Russian" to look into those scientists and develop an answer out of it. However, it was too long to convert to a comment. Unfortunately, therefore, I judged that deletion was necessary.

You are correct that citation of real science and real scientists is permitted when relevant to the question, but I did not delete your answer for that reason.

Update: The user who asked the question you answered has confirmed that he was looking for the fictional work in the accepted answer. In light of this, Kevin has re-deleted your answer.

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    With all due respect, I think this is a misuse of the "Not an answer" flag; the flag should've been declined. As per the FAQ on meta-meta, the flag should be used for posts that are clearly not an answer. In this case, down voting on disagreement would be in order, but not deletion. A bad answer is an answer too.
    – SQB
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 11:30
  • @Null I do have precise answers to the points you raise, if only the fact that the accepted answer (from a high rep user, top 2%) did not do any better for 6 weeks. Furthermore, I also have further information on the topic, with quotes. But I am now taking it up with the question OP, and I asked him to make clear what he wants. Though I can contribute more precise data, I am not willing to do more work just to have it rejected. But if you tell me an actual quote wil get my answer undeleted, that is also fine with me. I am surprised how picky people can be on a quite reasonable contribution.
    – babou
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 13:23
  • There is a real problem with tags, that I noticed also on other SE sites. The posters of questions tend to use them loosely, as it is real effort to find the right relevant tags, and one may have a more restrictive view than one would with a better understanding of the topic. Then the tags get interpreted very tightly by some users who have very restricted or conservative view on the topic. Askers tend to just use tags they have seen often, and are approximating their intent.
    – babou
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 13:50
  • @SQB NAA is arguably the wrong type of flag, and the flagger should have used a VLQ flag (assuming the answer hadn't already received an upvote) or a custom flag instead. However, moderators are encouraged to mark a flag as helpful if it led to the moderator taking action (so as not to discourage flaggers). Since I decided the answer should be deleted I marked the flag helpful.
    – Null Mod
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 15:00
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    @babou The question is appropriately tagged, with the exception of the Heinlein tag that the OP obviously could not have known about before he got his answer. The moderators are still determining a final decision on what to do with your answer. Additionally, I noticed that the story-id OP responded to your comment on his question and considers your answer to be "out of scope".
    – Null Mod
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 15:10
  • VLQ flags are for questions only, but wouldn't have been applicable either, since the description reads "This question has severe formatting or content problems. This question is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed." The only actions needed for this answer are voting (up or down) and commenting (offering insight in the voting).
    – SQB
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 15:20
  • Also see this meta question about a declined NAA-flag (which I raised) for an answer that was far worse than this one.
    – SQB
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 15:22
  • @SQB VLQ flags are for answers, too (just click the flag button on any answer with a score <= 0). The description looks appropriate to me, as the answer has "content problems" that I've outlined above and "is unlikely to be salvageable through editing, and might need to be removed." In any case, my point is that I marked the flag as helpful -- even if it was the wrong type -- because it led to moderator action.
    – Null Mod
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 15:26
  • Ah, okay, I tried it on that specific answer, but that has a positive score, so I didn't get that option. Still, I think that it's the wrong flag in this case.
    – SQB
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 17:44
  • The question has 2 tags, 50% being wrong. The question can be trivially answered by Google (see my last comment on it) and should not even exist. I took it for a real question, and worked to give it a good answer (I have an even better one now), and I get people picking on me because they are only interested in obvious trivia (despite the site charter), and using arguments they could have applied to the accepted answer. My view that people give undue importance to this energy free issue is actually supported by the question itself. I take SF seriously, but is SE the right place for it? cc @SQB
    – babou
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 20:12
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    @babou If you think the question is trivially answerable, downvote it. It's still on topic. You are not being picked on -- multiple users (including the OP) and moderators have come to the conclusion that your answer did not answer the question. The other answers cited a fictional work as the OP asked whereas you did not. If you wish to discuss space elevators in a non-fiction context, a better fit might be Physics.SE or Space Exploration.SE. You are of course welcome to discuss science fiction here as well.
    – Null Mod
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 20:34
  • @babou As was mentioned, no one is "picking" on you. An analysis of scientists who may have written scientific papers on a topic, when someone asked "what story was this" is simply missing the target. Criticizing the OP for "not doing their homework" is not helpful, nor is saying the question "should not even exist" and isn't "a real question. The question is perfectly on-topic, and within established site rules.
    – Beofett
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 22:34

I think the original deletion was the right thing to do - your answer has some serious problems:

  • It's a story identification question: in addition to the tag, the OP clearly states in the question that he's looking for a Sci-Fi story, not a science reference.

  • "scientific writers" is most likely a reference to Sci-Fi authors with solid scientific backgrounds. The specific mentions of Clarke or Charles Sheffield indicate that he's looking for authors of stories.

  • You're guessing that the original proposers of a space elevator would have mentioned the idea of descending elevator cars generating most of the power needed by ascending cars.

You don't actually know if the scientific papers you're citing fit what the question is asking for. You haven't read the original papers:

I guess no one here (myself included) has read the original scientific work on this topic

but then claim:

... I am pretty sure the original thinkers of the system thought so too.

(thought of the "the issue of free resources")

  • More than half of your answer is general information about conversation of momentum and Bussard ramjets and has nothing to do with the actual question.

Flag the post with a custom reason and another mod will review it, or bring it up here on meta for more public feedback. But it's not going to help you here, the question is looking for a particular work by a particular author, not the scientific literature on the idea.

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    I just read what is written. Actually I remember that at one time, people would even attribute to Clarke the idea of the space elevator, and of the geosynchronous satellite.
    – babou
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 23:43

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