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Yesterday I asked whether we should burninate the tag on the Main site here. In that post and the comments I mentioned that I think the tag would already be enough to show that a question is about science-fiction, as I think that every question on this site is dedicated to creating fiction and a question focused on science is thereby automatically a question relating to what I would call science-fiction.

But apparently there are different opinion on this matter, two of which I will try to postulate. This is especially difficult because there are apparently quite a lot of Definitions of science-fiction:

According to Wikipedia science-fiction deals with imaginative concepts such as futuristic science. This includes things like time-travel, faster-than-light-travel and extraterrestrial life. The tag should be used for fictional science elements related to the future.

Science-Fiction deals with imaginative concepts. The term is often related to futuristic concepts, such as time-travel and faster-than-light-travel, but not limited to a certain time. For example steampunk can be seen as a subgenre of science-fiction. The tag should be used for fictional science elements in your specific world and time.

This post should be a list of possible tag wikis that include a more elaborate statement than the ones I provided. The wiki should include the reasoning for why a certain definition was used. If you feel that your reasoning shouldn't be included in the real wiki please make sure that it is obvious which parts are your meta discussion about the tag and which parts are the tag wiki you propose.

Upvotes on the answers to this question should indicate which tag wiki you prefer so that we can find a fitting definition. Please add other wiki drafts if you feel that the existing answers do not fit the definition that you think we should use on WorldBuilding or suggest edits by editing or commenting on existing drafts if you feel like one of them is already pretty close to what you have in mind.

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We should remove the tag entirely.

It's entirely too broad. Science fiction as a genre covers everything from the new Voltron, a show about giant shape-shifting robots powered by superscience space gems, to Primer, a movie that carefully describes the rules for a limited form of time travel lets the consequences of it play out. Tagging a question [science-fiction] just muddies the waters since the majority of the questions on this site could be tagged with it.

I don't know if it's an official litmus test but I remember somewhere seeing "It's a good tag if you can become an expert in it." I don't think someone can become an expert in science fiction. That would be like becoming an expert in science.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you are referring to this answer from Michael regarding Meta tags on the Main Site, such as [science-based] or [reality-check]. The question was about adding a NSFW tag. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 11 '17 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ Where the tag is useful is in specifying the world of a given question is a science-fictional one. This means the common tropes of science-fiction (SF) can be taken as givens. Being an expert in SF isn't the same thing as being expert in science, and I say this as an expert in SF with a scientific background. The tag wouldn't muddy questions, it can clarify. problems can arise with questions where SF and scientific concepts are confused. Getting rid of the tag won't solve that. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 11 '17 at 12:47
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android There isn't one set of common tropes for sci-fi. Consider the sub genres of cyberpunk, and space opera. Both are definitely sci-fi, but the the tropes of the genre differ wildly. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Aug 11 '17 at 12:54
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings SF isn't defined by a single set of tropes. However, context is everything. A question about brain-computer interfaces can be cyberpunk, while one about FTL travel space opera. Of course, a question about brain-computer interface controlling a FTL drive will still be SF. Effectively this argument is along the lines of saying historical fiction should be confined to only one period, because are too many different eras it can be set. Usually SF-related questions do set their context and therefore the relevant tropes. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 12 '17 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android It's also too broad. The majority of the questions on this site could have the tag. Since the tag is so broad it is uninformative use such a tag. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Aug 12 '17 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ Yes the majority could but they don't. Only 583 compared to science-based's 2800. hard-science's 317, and outed-science's 4, science itself has only 118. Mostly I've seen the science-fiction tag used to refine the scope of questions & therefore their answers (research can confirm or deny this), however, tags are rarely used alone. Even a broad tag used in conjunction with others can provide precision. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 12 '17 at 5:02
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android However, [science-fiction] is #12 by questions count when you exclude the meta tags science-based and reality-check, which are both about how the question should be answered rather than the content of the question. It's also sitting at just about half the number of questions of the single most used non-meta-tag, which is biology. That's rather substantial usage. $\endgroup$ – user Aug 12 '17 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling It's still only 4.623% of all questions. People seem to be focused on the tag as a discrete item and forgetting to factor in context. Otherwise we would have to consider taking add tags 1 to 11. After all, biology can be wide-ranging too. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 13 '17 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ @a4android Biology, while a very broad topic, has much clearer boundaries than science fiction. It's easy to tell when a question should be tagged Biology. $\endgroup$ – sphennings Aug 13 '17 at 1:02
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android We can argue statistics back and forth all day. (Remember the adage: lies, damned lies, statistics.) That same percentage, with the tag's broadness, can just as easily be seen as indicative of the enormous breadth of subjects that Worldbuilding SE caters to. Just for fun, I made a quick comparison to Space Exploration (because I happened to have it open in another tab); the most used tag there is [launch] with 528 questions, out of 6100 (about 8.66%). Their #12 tag by number of questions is [spacecraft] with 241 questions for 3.95%; for me, that's close enough to 4.62% to be comparable. $\endgroup$ – user Aug 13 '17 at 11:01
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    $\begingroup$ Comparing Space Exploration's [spacecraft] tag to our [science-fiction] tag, I would say it's much easier to know when a question should be tagged [spacecraft] on Space Exploration than it is to know when a question should be tagged [science-fiction] on Worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – user Aug 13 '17 at 11:04
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling It is a matter of comparing apples with apples. While this is interesting about Space Exploration's tags, they're all oranges. Events, vehicles and objects not a conceptual entity like a form of literature (not that I'm ignoring other media) and drama. I agree that's easier to know a question should be tagged spacecraft in Space Exploration. Presumably an OP might know if they wanted their question tagged science-fiction. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 13 '17 at 13:05
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling I had posted a comment earlier in response to your comment beginning "However" etc etc. Because it raised, what I thought, was a relevant question. This is dang annoying. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 13 '17 at 13:08
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelKjörling Take two. Glad you raised the issue of meta tags. I have read tags for science-based, reality-check, and science-fiction. The science-fiction tag like the two meta tags shapes how the answers to the question should be answered, so it's not purely about content.. This suggests it isn't a non-meta tag. Is there somewhere on WB that the criteria for meta tags are explained? I do like check things especially when there are criteria to guide decisions. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 13 '17 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android Here is a discussion about meta tags. And there have been discussions about the tags [science], [science-based] and [science-fiction] before like here $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 14 '17 at 11:16
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Here is the current tag wiki excerpt:

For questions relating to worlds with a setting of common science-fiction.

The current tag wiki is as follows:

This tag should be used on questions relating to settings in science-fiction. This tag merely denotes the world's setting, and answerers should take this into account when coming up with answers: answers to questions are also required to have the elements of science fiction in them that the question has.

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Here is my proposal for changing the current tag wiki excerpt:

For questions about fictional science in your world. This tag is often used for, but not limited to, questions about futuristic concepts, such as time-travel and faster-than-light-travel.

Here is my proposal for chaning the current tag wiki:

The term "science-fiction" deals with imaginative concepts. The term is often related to futuristic concepts, such as time-travel and faster-than-light-travel, but not limited to a certain time. For example steampunk can be seen as a subgenre of science-fiction. The tag should be used for fictional science elements in your specific world and time.

Examples for using this tag include questions such as:

  • How to create an artificial planet?
  • What are the problems of my time-travelling proposal?
  • How to design a giant Mecha?
  • How to change air-ships to make them useful in my scenario?
  • How could I go to space in a steampunk world?

This tag can be used in conjunction with tags such as if you would like to get feedback on your proposal or if you need help with a design. Dependin on your specific use of technology you might also want to consider adding tags such as , , , , or any other tag that helps to identify in which context you want to ask about science in your scenario.

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  • $\begingroup$ Frankly the proposed tag wiki adds nothing of value, In fact, it narrows the range of concepts used in science-fiction. The current tag wiki is far superior because it implicitly embraces the full scope of what can constitute science-fiction without getting bogged in the totally unproductive hairsplitting of what is and isn't science-fiction. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 11 '17 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android The current tag is ambiguous as some people understand science-fiction as "future technology" whereas others understand it as "unusual technology in any time" and there is no real deifinition you can use. The term is incredibly broad and may therefore be applied to basically everything if you don't define it. My goal is to clear that amiguity. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Aug 11 '17 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ The ambiguity you talk about arises from common misunderstandings of SF. Yes, it is both types of technology as you mentioned above. Imposing definitions on things rarely solves the problem. Twentieth-century philosophy went down that dead end. Questions with the SF tag usually are self-define the type of SF they are related to by their context. SF questions about aliens fall under xenobiological SF. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 12 '17 at 2:15
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I don't think is a compliment of in the same way is meant to be. If it is, it might make more sense to call it *.

It could be a compliment to , but thanks to things like and (if we had one, a tag like) *, there is so much crossover between science-fiction and fantasy that it almost begs the question if we want any tags that attempt to classify the shelf in a bookstore where the story is most likely to be found.

Therefore, does it make sense that we try to categorize the literary genre of the question? If so, we should be considering adding a tag for science-fantasy, of which is considered a subgenre.

Therefore, I think both and should be retired as they're both too broad (given the basic nature of WB:SO to host questions about science-fiction and fantasy) to improve the categorization of questions.


* These tags don't actually exist.

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  • $\begingroup$ This raises issues about how and why tags are used. Their role is less to categorize the genres of questions, but to aid answerers know to frame their answers and make the topics accessible by search. Science-fiction should be used to tag questions where the topic applies to a properly science-fictional world. The weakness of speculative-science as a tag is that in science itself there is a body of scientific speculation much of which isn't relevant to SF worlds or fiction. Science-fantasy could be a useful for questions with very light 0r soft science. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 12 '17 at 5:11
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android, while I see your point, I worry that incoming users won't generally see it that way. Honestly, how many of us thoroughly read the details before we started posting? With at least 50% of all questions being definable as science-fiction (or, at least, being "science-fictiony"), what could we possibly do with a definition rewrite that would help things? $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 12 '17 at 5:13
  • $\begingroup$ Empirically, only 4.623% of questions are tagged science-fiction. Basically most people have a general sense of what constitutes SF, definitions are not required. Context is given by the other tags. I'd be surprised if someone only used the SF tag alone, not impossible merely improbable. Even newcomers don't bother with the SF tag, because they don't need too. SF & fantasy are easily understood as what WB:SE is all about. Only they need to be specifically SF do they tag it. Just trust commonsense. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 12 '17 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ @a4android, is that an argument to discontinue the tag? $\endgroup$ – JBH Aug 12 '17 at 13:54
  • $\begingroup$ No it is not. I wanted to say just "no" but there is a minimum character count for comments. $\endgroup$ – a4android Aug 13 '17 at 0:55

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