I'm not currently a particularly active user on Worldbuilding, although I've contributed a bunch of answer back when the site was new. I do, however, regularly visit several other sites on the Stack Exchange network and I tend to keep an eye on the Hot Network Questions sidebar for interesting questions to read and possibly answer.

Recently, I've noticed a bunch of Hot Network Questions asked by a new user on this site. They seem to have the recipe for HNQ down pat: their questions are funny and entertainingly written, with intriguing "clickbait" titles that attract curious readers, and they link together (yes, with actual hyperlinks) into something resembling a collaborative story. They prompt the reader for creative answers with multiple open-ended sub-questions and, being set in a vaguely specified fantasy world, their possible answers are only limited by the answerers' creativity.

And it seems to be working. In the six days this user has been active, they've asked five questions, gotten at least four of those onto Hot Network Questions, and earned two gold badges.

What I'm wondering is what, if anything, do these questions have to do with worldbuilding?

Looking at the specific questions, it seems to me that they're not really asking about building a fictional world. In fact, most of them don't even really seem to be "questions", as the term is generally used here on Stack Exchange, but more like open-ended lateral thinking puzzles:

  • My carrier pigeons have been replaced by spoons: how can I send messages?

    • This question, currently with 120 upvotes and 7 downvotes, starts with an intriguing title and a silly premise. Underneath that, though, the actual question amounts to "how to send messages without carrier pigeons?", which, when you think about it, is about as broad as a question can be. Especially since magic is allowed. It currently has an accepted answer (with a score of +95 / -1 votes) that says:

      "Your pidgeons are spoons on the outside but they're still pidgeons on the inside, only very confused. Get another alchemist (surely you don't only have one) and have them transmute pideon nests into soup bowls. Their instinct will catch up to their new body and they'll develop a strong desire to fall into their own bowl."

      I think that just about says everything that needs to be said about the question.

  • Is a network of spoon-launching trebuchets realistic?

    • This follow-up to the previous question seems to have failed to make it to the HNQ list, maybe because it wasn't quite funny enough. Its main problem (besides the fact that "a network of spoon-launching trebuchets" and "realistic" don't really make sense together) is that it contains a multitude of sub-questions, some of which (like "Is a trebuchet accurate enough?") are pretty vague (accurate enough for what?). Still, it's IMO one of the, um, least bad ones of the bunch.
  • What can I do to make my son's snowman survive, using medieval technology?

    • This is actually a rather nice question... it's just not really a worldbuilding question. It's just asking about historical techniques for keeping things frozen, and would (with some rephrasing to get rid of the silliness) fit just fine on, say, History. Where, in fact, basically the same question has already been asked back in 2014.
  • How effective is a spoon to mutilate my former alchemist?

    • Just like the title says, this question is asking about the effectiveness of spoons as torture devices. Technically, that would be a valid question, if there was a Stack Exchange site on torture. Which there fortunately isn't. It's still not a worldbuilding question, not even with the off-hand allusions to alchemy and magic (which just make it that much broader).
  • Is a pig-mounted cavalry possible?

    • This is the only one I would personally consider at least marginally on-topic, insofar as the feasibility of using pigs as cavalry mounts in a fictional world is a valid and answerable one. Sure, it's framed with the same silly meta-story as the others, but at the core there is, IMO, a valid worldbuilding question here.

However, so far only two of these questions appear to have been flagged for closing, and in both cases the review concluded 3 to 1 in favor of keeping the question open. So it seems that the Worldbuilding community, or at least the part of the community that frequents the close vote review queue, considers these questions on-topic here.

If so, my question is why? What makes questions like these relevant for this site and desirable to have here? And is this really the direction this community wants the site to take?

(Yes, I realize that "they're fun and popular" is a valid answer. What I'm wondering is whether they're fun and popular worldbuilding.)

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    $\begingroup$ Just for clarity, the spoon-launching trebuchet one did make the HNQ list; it just didn't get many answers. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Aug 15, 2018 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ I only visit Worldbuilding occasionally, so I didn't know there were so many spoon questions. I guess as with many things one can overdo it. In small doses it's funny, in large amounts it gets a bit boring. So the enthusiam for it should wear off soon. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2018 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ Tbh I didn't expect my spoon-pidgeons answer to be taken seriously. Suddenly getting 1k rep out of it sure was surprising. I suppose in restrospect I shouldn't have answered the question but I remembered this answer by Tim B and figured it was fine. $\endgroup$
    – 0xFF
    Aug 17, 2018 at 17:37
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    $\begingroup$ If the ridiculousness of spoons was stripped out and magic wasn't permitted, would you still think the concept behind #1 (how to send messages across a large kingdom in a short timeframe without access to pigeons) doesn't belong on Worldbuilding? $\endgroup$
    – Troyen
    Aug 18, 2018 at 7:10
  • $\begingroup$ @Troyen: I would still think it was hopelessly broad. It's a bit like asking how traffic would work without Segways. Carrier pigeons are not, and have never been, the only or even the primary means of rapidly sending messages. Now, if the question had identified some specific unique feature of carrier pigeons (like, say, their ability to fly over terrain obstacles) or some specific situation where messages could historically have been sent only by carrier pigeon, and asked how to deal with that situation in their absence, then it might have been a properly scoped question. But it didn't. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2018 at 9:31
  • $\begingroup$ [...] Personally, I'd say that an even better worldbuilding question on the topic would've been something like: "how would the absence of carrier pigeons affect my society?" At least if the setting was well enough specified to make it answerable without lots of guesswork. Depending on the specific details, it's of course possible that the answer would end up something like "not much; a bit more work for couriers, less work for pigeon keepers, slightly slower messages in some cases." But that would still be a valid worldbuilding Q&A. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2018 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ For what it is worth … I purposefully ignored those questions. No offense necessarily meant to their author, as I don't know whether they were made as gimmick or in honest silliness. However, they didn't seem like genuine worldbuilding to me. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2018 at 6:22
  • $\begingroup$ As a fact: I also have never read any of those “balloon whale” ones either … $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2018 at 6:24
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    $\begingroup$ Humor is like a drop of rain. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2018 at 6:25
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    $\begingroup$ IMO, they are still part of worldbuilding : the person seeks validation for his ideas and, depending on the answers, might decide to include them or not in his world. This is worldbuilding to me. It might lack details about the world itself, but nothing prevents you from asking more about the world. $\endgroup$
    – Hawker65
    Aug 20, 2018 at 8:54
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    $\begingroup$ The user is telling stories to his son/kids, thinking of writing more seriously, getting the gist of the type of help he can get from worldbuilding. I went through a similar process myself and learned from discussions of why an answer was closed. Closing NonTyrant's opinion-based/idea-generating questions will not only benefit the WB community, it'll benefit NonTyrant's own WB's ability, when he realizes what he should figure out himself and when to ask for help. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2018 at 10:07

5 Answers 5


Having come to SE from older, perhaps more traditional, worldbuilding forums, I think I have probably a more narrow view of what worldbuilding is, whether as a hobby or as an art. I also have a rather narrow view on what kinds of questions should be allowed here. The local culture is far broader in what it is accepting of. While I can appreciate & accept differing opinions on the scope of what worldbuilding is and entails, I do think there are a couple issues that deserve attention.

In my opinion, "real world questions", "homework questions", "math questions" and "silly rubbish questions" are entirely off topic and really don't have a valid place here in this subforum. Real world questions should be asked in more appropriate places, like over on Physics or History or someplace. Maths questions should be addressed to the Maths forum. Homework questions should be immediately deleted as a matter of course. Rubbish questions I feel should also be deleted.

I know well enough that sometimes other SE forums don't want to be troubled by "real world" questions being asked on their forums. I don't see how that makes those questions any more on topic here in Worldbuilding. We shouldn't be using another forum's measure of topicality as a measure of topicality here.

I'm not saying that humour can't be part of the Q&A here or that cleverly worded questions should be frowned upon, but it just seems like the majority of questions we get here really do have nothing to do with, well, fictional worlds (i.e., fantasy, sci-fi & game worlds).

For example, at present the first page of questions:

  • How fast would a Martian space elevator travel?
  • Taking control of the Human population with nanobots
  • What is the distance between binary planets? [on hold]
  • What factors would deternine the evolutionary pathways of chaos spawn?
  • How would I create a planet with exaggerated aurora?
  • Why shouldn't we turn every star system into a Matrioshka brain?
  • How many dead bodies are required to stain a river red?

Yay! Two out of seven of the questions actually involve some aspect of a fictional world (the M-brain and the Chaos Spawn questions). The rest are either real world or sciency ~ astronomy questions. Staining a river red is a basic maths question.

I agree, the mochery question, about the boar mounted knights, is interesting and at least touches on worldbuilding. (And we see an example in Jackson's Battle of Five Armies.) The other questions, not so much. No actual worldbuilding content involved.

I know your focus is on the spoon questions, but I hope you can see the issue is really quite a deep one here. I don't know what the local culture was like when the forum was first conceived, but at this point, it really has become a free-for-all forum where any kind of question can be asked whether they are purely worldbuilding, tangentially worldbuilding or not-at-all worldbuilding in nature.

My answer to your query would thus be No, the "spoon questions" are not on topic and no, they really shouldn't be. A "vaguely specified fantasy world" doesn't really cut it, and in my opinion is little more than a way to cleverly game the system. Because technically a "vaguely specified fantasy world" is by definition a fantasy world and thus touches on worldbuilding! That's kind of like saying a taco flavoured potato chip is Mexican cuisine because, well, tacos.

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    $\begingroup$ If you feel a question is off-topic, it is your responsibility as a community member to vote to close the question and explain why it is off-topic. Continuing to ignore questions that are off-topic does the site, the community, and future users a disservice. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 15, 2018 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ To be honest Frostfyre, I did my bit and I've said my say. My complaints & opinions about these kinds of posts have generally been shot down in the past by community leadership, and my comments re closing posts have been sufficiently argued against. So, myeh. Somebody else can tilt the windmill. I debated with myself whether or not to even say anything in this question. I only pushed through hoping that community leadership will take the issue a little more seriously than it does. I mean, if a mod can delete the egregious rape question, they can certainly delete the egregious spoon question. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 15, 2018 at 12:49
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    $\begingroup$ Just because a diamond mod can do something doesn't mean they will, or will even notice. The purpose of reputation is to distribute the moderation responsibilities across the subset of experienced users so the diamond mods have visibility and time into the bigger problems. It's possible the rape question was deleted because a user flagged it for attention. If people were skipping the question because it addressed rape, then it would never have been flagged and subsequently deleted. $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Aug 15, 2018 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ @elemtilas The rape question was an exceptional case, and it was only deleted after a good deal of thought. I would not like to set precedent by it. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868 Mod
    Aug 15, 2018 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre, you don't need to teach me what I already know. I'm simply explaining my perspective on these issues at the present moment. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 15, 2018 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ I generally agree with your point, but I disagree about science questions being off topic. Not everyone has the same WB process (of course), but I know for a fact that there is a group in the community who devote significant time to designing realistic settings for their worlds. This involves a lot of questions about things like astronomy, geology, and weather. I think it fits our community, and honestly the physics/astronomy/earth science SEs may not appreciate us migrating these types of speculative questions to their sites. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2018 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @realityChemist -- indeed. I'm certainly not criticising various worldbuilding processes or anything. It's just my opinion that there are forums better suited for those questions. I also understand their concerns -- very much -- I don't really appreciate pure astronomy / physics / geology questions being dumped here! If there's some obvious worldbuilding context, sure. But plain and simple Earth geology or primary world physics questions really don't belong, even if the goal is an invented world! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 15, 2018 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ I think a lot of those more sciency questions are asked here because the other SEs for them tend to close them because they're about fictional scenarios. $\endgroup$
    – Pyritie
    Aug 16, 2018 at 11:21
  • $\begingroup$ Heh. To "fictional world" for them --- to "real world" for us. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 16, 2018 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ Referring to people's questions as 'rubbish' is pretty insulting. Even if they are silly and off-topic there has been a non-trivial effort went into them to make them humourous (albeit not to everyone's humour), well presented and to even join them into some form of narrative. This endeavor may be a bad fit for WB.SE but I think you can (and have) explain that well without insulting the poster. Sharing my thoughts with you as it's the only thing that stopped my up-vote. $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2018 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ (Note I'm looking more at the line "Rubbish questions I feel should also be deleted." than the "silly rubbish" part which I take to mean 'silly talk' / 'silly nonsense' but is still not great) $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2018 at 12:20
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    $\begingroup$ @RyanfaeScotland --- sometimes the truth can be interpreted as insulting. I appreciate your slant on the matter, and also your expl. as regards withholding of vote. In defense of my wording, I find that, regardless of time and effort put into the post, the actual result is silly and also rubbish. Especially given the history of seeking HNQ points. Low quality question + low quality humour + suspect worldbuilding + HNQ seeking behaviour = rubbish. As a final note, however, please understand that I do not know the OP and offer no ad personam insult! Only ad rem. I distinguish person & thing. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 17, 2018 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ Too long; didn't read: I also gave up, +1 $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Aug 17, 2018 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for "Taco flavored potato chip" feels like a good summary of the idea $\endgroup$ Aug 20, 2018 at 2:09

Off topic in my opinion. They are questions about a story set in a world, and don't offer any relevance to the Worldbuilding process.


The pigs are on topic. The highly voted carrier pigeon spoon transmogrification question is off topic, please vote to close. The rest are up in the air.

Generally I avoid voting to close questions with high vote and/or view totals. But in this case, the carrier pigeon question doesn't really make sense. Its just a non-sequitur. The other questions I will give the benefit of the doubt due to their exposure.


Let me introduce some dissidence into this topic.

Point 1: A rather technical point regarding the question-answer format in a creative area. As time passes, the boundaries of the domain Worldbuilding has to expand, otherwise all possible questions become exhausted in the frame of what is allowed (not off-topic, no duplicate, etc). The reason is that creativity is fundamentally based on expanding what is known by creating something that is new. That also goes for questions related to that. While Stack Overflow expands naturally through new technologies and questions emanating about them, the domain of Worldbuilding does not have such a natural source. They have a common source though, which is creativity and time - but that is the only source for Worldbuilding and therefore that much more relevant.

A more concrete explanation: Stack Overflow will inevitably have more and more tags, while the tags of Worldbuilding have no reason to grow at all. However, creativity has a much larger relevance in this, which is the matter of debate here. This is also the reason why it grew in the scope of questions over time, which I often read were "already too broad." Imagine Stack Overflow restricts questions only to C. C# would be a major offender then, given that it would be "off-topic" forever.

So there is an aspect of categorization and continuous growth, which necessarily requires boundaries to expand - and therefore render topics on-topic which were off-topic in the past.

Point 2: The nature of Stack Overflow (it's a good example) is that each question may have multiple answers which lead to a solution, but usually there are objectively better and worse answers. It's less opinion based and more situation and skill based. The nature of Worldbuilding is creative in nature. Regarding a question there may be multiple answers, all of which are derived from various sources - be it mathematics, biology, sociology, psychology, myths, known fiction or just plain creative solutions. Even fictional elements have boundaries, and the questions asked usually have to provide them (not if it's obvious enough).

So not only do Worldbuilding questions naturally evoke wildly differing valid answers (as currently desired), but also opinions in form of suggestions. Figuring out objectively better or worse answers is really left to subjectivity to a large part.

That in turn raises the question - which questions ask for answers with valid opinions, and which don't? If the nature of the question in itself is creative, should it disqualify it on itself, or rather do the opposite and promote it? As it stood, the series of questions in question were quite popular in quite a short time - and people are not hesitant to downvote if they see fit. People were certainly intrigued to read a continuation of it. Whom does it really serve if that became prohibited? What is the "higher cause" that has been served here? We know a bit in history about collective higher causes, maybe we should be careful with putting them above everything else.

Point 3: The way of discourse: The way of discourse was tyrannical. People will downvote questions they deem bad or inappropriate, and upvote questions they find good or appropriate. That mechanism was already in place and the result was in strong favor of the entire question series. Yet moderators and some other people decided that fun may not have to be had if they do not approve of it - so the powerful minority of people decided to forgo what the public desired and coercively shut it down by not just closing it, but even deleting it and setting a warning to all those involved and practically punishing those who could gain reputation from that.

What about this: If you don't like it, don't bother with it, and have people have their entertainment or get the information or inspiration they seek for. If the questions or answers are not desired or bad, they'd be downvoted anyways - or remain around 0 points until they vanish.

The process of deletion shows a display of tyranny which was not appropriate (not that it normally is). Less harsh actions could have been performed, or even no action at all.

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    $\begingroup$ Regarding your point 2, the old Good Subjective, Bad Subjective post from the SO / SE blog still seems kind of relevant. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2018 at 13:32
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    $\begingroup$ As for your point 1, I rather doubt that the set of meaningful questions about worldbuilding, even in the most narrow possible sense, will ever be practically exhausted. That's like saying that, at some point, we'll have this worlbuilding thing all figured out and every question about it answered. Sure, the easiest and most obvious questions will run out at some point, but that happens with every site. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2018 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Ilmari Karonen - It's not about absolutes. If the boundaries of Worldbuilding would remain constant (unlike others like Stack Overflow), then the rate of "permissible" activity (no duplicate questions, etc) will continually decline with the same user base. So expansion of the boundaries is a necessity in order to prevent that from happening (which occurs slowly over time anyway, but this time a nail got hammered down which stuck out quite visibly and forcibly). So I criticize the intervention into the natural process itself. What if a positive step has been prevented by questionable means? $\endgroup$
    – Battle
    Aug 16, 2018 at 13:56
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    $\begingroup$ That still seems like fallacious reasoning. You seem to be assuming a) that the set of valid worldbuilding questions, in even the narrowest sense, is small enough that this site could possibly make a substantial dent in it, and b) that, if this was actually possible, it would be a bad thing. Personally, I rather doubt both. After all, we have far more narrowly scoped sites, like Chess, that seem to have no such issues. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2018 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ [...] I do agree with you that the set of possible worldbuilding questions is limited by creativity; but precisely because that's the only limitation, I see no need for concern. After all, each new asker here will have literally a world of new questions to ask about their imaginary world(s). $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2018 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ As for your point 3, it's worth noting that neither closure nor deletion is permanent. If even a few people in the local community (as in, among those active users who have participated here enough to earn sufficient rep) wanted, they could reopen the question just as easily as it was closed. The rest of us, like you and I, can participate e.g. by discussing the matter here on meta. As for the high upvote counts, I would not read any kind of local community consensus into that, since most of them were likely cast by users coming here from other SE communities via the HNQ sidebar. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2018 at 14:14
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    $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen - Unless some people with a lot of points decide they don't like it and feel like forgoing the questions even if they are popular. The deletion may not be permanent, but why should that matter if it's likely to remain deleted anyway? I am more concerned about the procedure which preceded it and if that's how things will continue. $\endgroup$
    – Battle
    Aug 16, 2018 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen - I do not think that the set of valid questions is too small, but rather that the boundaries would cause limitations to what would be actually new. Imagine it like this: The magnitude of difference to the most similar question already asked will continue to decrease. Let's say 10% difference is a duplicate and let's set it arbitrarily at 40% on average for now. As time goes by, it will approach towards 0% IF the boundaries would remain constant. While SO can rely on techn. progress to increase its own %, WB can not. WB has to expand its boundaries, even if slowly. $\endgroup$
    – Battle
    Aug 16, 2018 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen - However the Chess site is a good counterargument. But remember, that is a game that may yield sheer unlimited variations of situations. Then again, what is the rate of activity there? Compared to WB it appears to be much lower (it's more likely given that interest in chess requires a much higher av. IQ than what may be necessary in WB). Their rate of "question saturation" is accordingly lower (maybe even up to 50 times as low). $\endgroup$
    – Battle
    Aug 16, 2018 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen With regard to your comment on point 3; There was likely an increase in traffic to WB SE due to these questions in the HQ sidebar. I cannot see that as bad. While I don't like clickbait as a principle, likeable questions will continue to build a vibrant community. $\endgroup$
    – Jammin4CO
    Aug 16, 2018 at 17:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Jammin4CO: I agree. I was just pointing out that the voting on HNQ questions cannot really be taken as evidence of how the pre-existing community here feels about them. You could have a completely and blatantly off-topic question that all the regulars agree doesn't belong here, but if it was interesting and amusing enough to random visitors from other sites, it could still receive hundreds of upvotes. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2018 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @IlmariKaronen Well, comical worldbuilding can, and should for most cases, be held to the same standard of integrity as the more serious varieties. Although most of my stuff is on the serious side, one of my worlds does have people floating around on platforms made of interlocking plates. No solid ground, nor any explanation of how they float or where. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2018 at 6:36
  • $\begingroup$ I'm on the libertarian side of things. So, I recognize that the masses can be quite moronic, and make things worse through natural gaming, but I don't like to rely on oligarchs to run my life either. In the virtual world, unlike the territorial one, we needn't be too bothered if we disagree with the so–called powers–that–be in one website. So long as they aren't total jerks, like some places, we can always begin forming our own sites which cater to different lifestyles. $\endgroup$ Aug 19, 2018 at 6:40
  • $\begingroup$ @can-ned_food - I am libertarian as well, which is why I am against the powers-that-be from above which interfere into the marketplace of ideas (questions and answers in this case). - "You were wrong to like that, so we deleted that!" - And given that the process of voting here is not a democracy (which is also coercive and involves politics) but rather a marketplace of voting as currency, I would be very careful with arguing that the masses can be quite moronic in this context, because that's what the free market is based upon - customers, their choices and figuring out demand. $\endgroup$
    – Battle
    Aug 20, 2018 at 5:23
  • $\begingroup$ I meant that people will go for what they want, and that they should. That also includes the so–called elite and those who will go along with them, more or less. If I think it be “moronic”, or whatever, then sometimes the best way to deal with it is to convince them just not to let it interfere with me or others who think likewise. Ergo: that's why I don't bother much with places like SciFi SE or MSE, which I see as corrupted by either inefficient design or mishandling by the users and bosses. $\endgroup$ Aug 21, 2018 at 0:24

1. This issue is doomed to exist so long as we do not post a clear description of worldbuilding in the help center.

Don't get me wrong, I think the site should favor a more lenient interpretation of "What is Worldbuilding?" Nevertheless, we get caught up in the "purity"1 of what we're trying to achieve. So much so that it sometimes appears we don't want any fiction in our science fiction.

2. We're not here to help people write stories

Having said that, the site has always generally favored the idea that we are not here to help people write stories, but rather to help them build a world with consistent rules. This is regularly at odds with those who want to remove fiction from science fiction because they're constantly saying "you can't do that, it isn't how the universe works" rather than "you know, if you bent the rules as we understand them like this, you can get what you're looking for."

And that creates a dichotomy for me with the Spoons quesitons. Several of them were clever, though most of them were the OP getting caught up in the silly fun of his early successes. But, what is worldbuilding?

3. There is no spoon

What's the difference between Willy Wonka's world filled with lollipop trees and chocolate rivers and all the pigeons turning into spoons? I'm not here because this site is enobling.2 I'm here because it tickles my fancy! Because the chance to look through the eyes of people who see a universe very much different than my own is valuable to me — and the more we try to restrict that vision because it doesn't fit into a stratified and regimented concept of worldbuilding or appears of little relevance or too dissimilar to "reality," the less valuable it is to me.

So, are they on-topic?

Some are, some aren't. It isn't (and shouldn't be) enough to exclude an entire group of questions because the flora has been subsituted with candy the fauna (or anything else) has been substituted with spoons. But, how can we tell the difference?

I've never been a fan of expecting the OP to state they are building a world. It means a question is on-topic just by making the statement. However, questions should be worded from the perspective of "help me set my rules" and not "help me write my story." Most of the spoon questions were too story-based (a function of the plot, not a function of the world).

But, ultimately and from my point of view, you can be the inspector verifying the house, the contractor building the house, the engineer establishing the specs, the architect designing the house, or the homeowner dreaming of your new home... it's all worldbuilding.

It's very, very rare for me to vote OT:NAW (off-topic:not about worldbuilding), and none of the spoon questions met my personal expectations for OT:NAW.


No, the spoons questions, speaking generally and not about any question individually, are not off-topic.

1I've been chastized for using this word in this context before, but there isn't a better way to say it. There is an aspect of worldbuilding that is about the consitency of rules. There's another about the flight of fancy. We should be striking a balance, but if I must favor one side over the other, I'd prefer to favor the liberty of flight over the bondage of rules. Which is likely a strange concept from me as I'm a stong advocate of clear and consistent rules where this site's operation is concerned.

2And I have little tolerance for people who actually believe what we know of science today is the written-in-stone truth, all that there ever was and all that there will ever be. I've seen people on this site talk about theories (e.g., dark matter) as if they're indisputable-by-God realities and shoot down clever ideas because they don't meet those indisputable-by-God realities. One of the many reasons I still read Jack Vance scifi is because his imagination was guided by science — but not bound by it.

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    $\begingroup$ We may disagree as to the topicality of the questions under consideration, but on this issue is doomed to exist so long as we do not post a clear description of worldbuilding in the help center we are in 100% accord. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 25, 2018 at 0:26
  • $\begingroup$ Also, while I generally agree with you can be the inspector verifying the house, the contractor building the house, the engineer establishing the specs, the architect designing the house, or the homeowner dreaming of your new home... it's all worldbuilding, the fact remains: there are architectural, contracting and engineering forums more suitable than this dreaming forum for questions of that kind! $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Aug 25, 2018 at 0:28
  • $\begingroup$ It's hard to draw a line between "story" and "world" in any case. I'd cite Tom Godwin's Mother of Invention as an archetypal example – almost everything in the story beyond the first couple of paragraphs that set the scene, and the final one with the punchline, is world-building. It's still my favourite SF story after A Fall of Moondust and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2018 at 16:11

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