I don't understand why we're asking these questions over and over again, when our guidelines seem to be broadly inclusive. Most of the time when these questions are asked, the answer is a very firm, "Yes".

These are from this month:

Is Friday the 13th on topic here?
Is the Nolanverse Batman on-topic on SFF:SE?
Is Super Mario Bros on topic here?
Is Zootopia on topic on SFF:SE?

And going (slightly) further back:

Is Clash of the Titans considered on topic for Science Fiction and Fantasy?
Is "Penguins of Madagascar" on-topic?
Is League of Legends on topic?
Are Andy Griffiths's bum/butt books on-topic?
Are questions about Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" considered on-topic?

Those are from this year alone.

Here are the 4 similar questions that received a "No" instead:

Would The Jungle Book be on-topic?
Is Charlotte's Web on-topic?
Is *Lord of the Flies* generally classified as SF?
Is Zoolander sci-fi?

For further reference, over 150 of all meta questions are about what's on-topic. This makes it incredibly difficult to get an easy or consistent answer. Of those, 1/4 have been asked in the last 6 months alone.

Many of the answers repeat the same ideas or concepts, in different words or number of words, usually varying only to tackle specific examples.

This confusion seems a bit contrary to our standing policy, specifically:

This is a rather inclusive policy. I think being inclusive will generate less friction (better have a few questions that purists can just snub, than cause bad feelings by closing borderline questions). This isn't to say you shouldn't vote to close if you feel that a borderline question is on the wrong side of the border, but please explain your reasoning when you cast your close vote.

Several of these questions are being asked in meta after questions about the works already exist and have been opened plenty long enough for users to close them, which would seem to indicate that they're already on-topic per policy.

So are these questions really helping us, or are we just rehashing the same ideas over and over again, because what we have now is getting lost or hard to find?

When our answers are spread out over many questions, and reception on individual answers varies, it can confuse our general community stance. (Why does one "Yes" get +2 and another +20?, for instance)

Should we rewrite our existing policy to make it more clear, without changing the meaning? Can we make it more visible so users can easily get their question answered in one definitive place?

The information is already here, how do we make it accessible?

  • 3
    No real reason that would be appropriate to mention here.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 1:51
  • @amaranth That's a meta meta question.
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 2:08
  • In the immortal words of Anakin Skywhiner: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!". More seriously, not all such questions have the opposite agenda - I posted at least one in the past asking if something is ontopic, hoping to ask a question on that topic - just to be safe ;) Personally, I agree with Mike's answer below - those questions are a good thing in theory but most of them are just not worth it efficacy wise. Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 3:51
  • @DVK Yeah, there's a couple that are legit "Can I ask this here?" questions which make more sense than even broad "Is everything about this work on topic?"
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:06
  • 1
    Note that we've been down this path at least once before (and recently). The general consensus was that on-topicness should be determined on a case-by-case basis and where disputed, put to the vote in Meta; meta.scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/9810/…
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 19:02
  • @Valorum But when are we reaching disputes? No one is voting on questions, so these disputes all seem to be in people's heads or coming from chat
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 19:07
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    @CreationEdge - Well, in the case of the Zootopia questions, there were close votes. Once the topicality had been defined more clearly, they stopped.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 19:12
  • 3
    From Shog9: Having one "perfect" form of a question that contains every possible answer to every slight variation of that question is a myth at best and actively harmful at worst. Having dozens and dozens of variations of the same question is clearly bad. A similar argument can be applied here. We're not going to get a single magical question which will determine whether everything is on-topic or not (see the post @Valorum links). We probably do have more of these questions than necessary, but hey, that's what the [scope] tag is for.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 20:01
  • 1
    Note that the Penguins of Madagascar question I asked on the main site was closed and reopened twice, and almost got closed once before that but the four close votes expired. The Meta question was asked after the second time it got closed.
    – b_jonas
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 8:33

4 Answers 4


In theory, asking questions to clarify our scope is a good thing. The more the community talks about what is and isn't on topic, the easier it is for the community to consistently vote to close or not close questions. Having some examples to work from helps understand how to apply those rules. In particular, known where to draw the line (James Bond? Jungle Book? Watership Down? etc.) should help apply those rules in a similar way as new topics arise.

In practice, your impression is largely correct that asking about every new work that someone happens to find borderline maybe-off-topic maybe-on-topic is not productive. The number of minutes spent arguing over Zoolander or Friday the 13th dwarfs the number of minutes spent actually reading the sum total of all questions on those works. And in all but one case, a pretty simple application of our existing inclusive policy ends up being the answer.

(I dispute the Jungle Book conclusion, since as far as I can tell, Mowgli literally talks to the jungle animals, which is clearly fantastical, but I have not seen it so I can't object too loudly.)

These are not cases where people are arguing over classes of work -- spy-fi, horror, anthropomorphic animals, etc. They are, to be brutally honest, cases where people just decide for themselves that they don't like the scope rules and try to end-run around them by coming to meta.

Again, in theory, that's what meta is for -- if we're going to change the rules, here's where we do it. In practice, though, people don't really want to change the rules overall, they just want to make the case that this time we should bend them a little. I think we'd all be better off if we just relaxed a bit and let people ask their questions.

except watership down.

  • 7
    I get what you are saying, but I think this still serves a purpose: to determine if a particular work has any of a (well-agreed upon) set of qualifications. For example, Zootopia has sci-fi elements outside of mere talking animals, according to the consensus answer, making it clearly on-topic. Without a Meta discussion, we wouldn't have found that out. Basically, the point is to help show the people who would otherwise be voting to close such a question why it qualifies, even if in theory it should be obvious to anyone who knows the general rules and the details of a given work's plot.
    – Adamant
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 2:39
  • 1
    I don't think we should never raise these questions on meta; if a work is truly borderline, or it's not clear if/how the scope rules apply, this is the place to ask it. IMO, Batman, Friday the 13th, League of Legends, etc are pretty obviously sci-fi, and Lord of the Flies isn't. Plus, many of these debates happen when someone asks a question, the community overwhelmingly agrees on an open/close vote, and a small group decides to object on meta. That is their right, of course, but I stand by my contention that it's a waste of time.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 2:48
  • 2
    "The number of minutes spent arguing over Zoolander or Friday the 13th dwarfs the number of minutes spent actually reading the sum total of all questions on those works." I ROFL'd, but that was the point I was trying to make, too.
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 2:55
  • Also, to be clear, I wasn't meaning to discourage the use of meta, but trying to point out that we keep addressing individual symptoms, essentially, and not the underlying issue.
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 4:14
  • 1
    +1 to this. However, @Obie2.0 also has a good point; it's much easier to apply policy to a particular question if there's a clear meta consensus on whether that particular work should be on-topic. Particularly for mods - we'd be happy to closehammer a Lord of the Flies question or reopenhammer a Nolanverse Batman question, based on strong meta consensus, but we'd leave a question on [insert borderline-SFF work here] alone if it hadn't been specifically discussed on meta - but to a lesser extent for any close-voter who wants to be sure they're adhering to policy.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 8:07
  • Mods should not have to step in and modhammer every off-topic question. That is routine community moderation stuff, not an exception. There's more than enough active high-rep users here that, if everyone just accepted the current scope rules and applied them, mods wouldn't need to get involved in 90% of the cases. Which is as it should be.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 10:14
  • @Rand Except the current policy is really saying to leave questions to be voted on in the wild, not a meta consensus.
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 11:57

Did we need to ask the scope questions above? Yes.

Each of the questions listed has a legitimate reason for existing, typically because one or more high-reputation user has questioned the right for such a question to exist on the site. The place to settle these sorts of debates is Meta using the tag.

In the case of Zootopia, for example, the first couple of questions in this tag attracted close votes. After the Meta question was asked (and answered), the subsequent questions have attracted no close votes for being off-topic. It would seem that once a consensus was reached in Meta, those who were minded to close accepted that ruling and have turned their fire elsewhere.

Do we need to ask about everything? No

As a community we've already decided that certain works and properties are so heavily immersed in scifi and/or fantasy tropes that every question about them is on-topic. Asking about the new Star Trek series, for example, would be worthless.


Not all the questions you linked to here are from veteran users. Half the ones in your recent 4 aren't (and the other half are from @Valorum, who likes to keep the conversation going). Also quite a few (though perhaps not half) of the earlier and rejected ones are from non-high-rep users.

While it would be nice if relatively new users would come to Meta, dig into its search and try to look for established policy, it might be a bit of an ordeal if all you want to do is do the polite thing and ask if your proposed question would be on-topic. Not everyone on Meta necessarily knows what the established, accepted policy is. I have no problem with Meta-n00bs (which aren't necessarily site-n00bs) asking "is X on topic" - this is one of Meta's primary jobs.

Of course, some of those questions are people who do know better who want to push for an exception, or a rule change, or just want to debate minor nuances of genrehood. But for those that aren't, I see no issue.

  • 1
    Not sure veteran status is relevant. If new users can ask on meta, they can get here. Is there a way to make our policy more clear and easier to find for new users and veterans alike?
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 18:50
  • @CreationEdge - Sure. You could encourage people to use the search facility. Like that's gonna happen.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 18:51
  • @Valorum We also have FAQ and Featured tags and help pages that could stand to be updated
    – user31178
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 18:57
  • @CreationEdge I went through tidying up the questions in the FAQ tag a few months back, but doubtless there are more that should have that tag and don't. If you have new proposals, please do slap a faq-proposed tag on them and/or post an answer here.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 19:48

There isn't a need to ask these questions, although the only harm in them is the amount of time and effort that they take up.

Users should be aware that in most cases we're generally welcoming of new works being presented to us, whether it's recent works or not. As can be evidenced by the list of meta questions linked in the question, most of the time the works in concern will be acceptable here.

This means there's not a strong reason to fear the new question being rejected or poorly received because of the work it's about. Fear or concern shouldn't be the motivator here.

If you think your question will take more effort to write up than one on the meta, then it makes sense to ask on meta first. Keep in mind, though, that you may have just added more work for yourself, asking two questions, instead of one!

Of course, if you want to ask just to annoy me, that's a legitimate reason, too.

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