Example: Travelling the multiverse by accident?

The original question:

As you've probably guessed, I have no idea about how multiverses and parallel universes, or space-time travel, etc work. But, they are pretty much a driving plot point in my WIP. Is it possible to accidentally travel from one universe to another, without having been trying to access it? (not sure if that made much sense, lmk if unclear and I will try my best to clarify) How does science/math explain alternate universes?

Since we don't even know if alternate universes really exist, how can "Is it possible to accidentally travel from one universe to another" be anything other than purely speculative fictional opinion? And "How does science/math explain alternate universes?" is so broad it requires dozens of PhD theses.

Should such questions be instant candidates for closure?

  • @Raditz_35 a different direction version of this question seems reasonable. – RonJohn Oct 4 at 11:45

I think we have to close these questions, though I think the answer I provided to that question shows the kind of help I'd like our community to be able to provide.

I'd consider this another excellent candidate for the Community Wiki solution, where we maintain a set of community wiki's containing general information and directions to help people answer their own questions.

For example, everything I wrote in my answer would be valid for a general question about writing fiction in the multiverse. Tegmark's 4 levels are a well accepted standard way to handle multiverses, and Heinlein provides historical examples of how authors have dealt with these things. I'd point anyone who asks vague questions about multiverses to that answer. It's a general foundation that could be used to either answer your own question, or better refine it into something answerable on WB.SE

We've had a spate of new users lately (good!) that haven't read through a single link on the site (bad!) asking questions so vague, so unprepared, so unrealistic that I tend to sit in my comfortable chair, staring at the screen, wondering how to explain to the OP that they need another 3-4 years of education just to understand why their question doesn't have a practical answer from a writing perspective.

But, this happens everytime we receive a burst of new users. (I'm curious to know why they come in bursts, but it seems every 4-5 months there's suddenly 20 new users asking questions that require writing their book to answer.)

Should such questions be candidates for closure?


I'm becoming an advocate for swift closure, even if it costs us a few users, simply because of the mess it makes with low quality questions leading to low quality answers. Regrettably, we have a fair number of users right now who will post an answer to anything, even if it doesn't make sense.


This is also a price we pay for being the least objective, definitive, and focused site in the Stack Exchange galaxy. We're the one thing SE was never designed for: we're imaginative. Which means our lines aren't drawn in sand with sharpened sticks, they're drawn on moving water with spray paint.

The consequence is that we, the experienced users, need to be regular and consistent providers of clear reasons why we're voting to close or downvoting a question. True, SE doesn't require anyone to explain their reasons - but the Help Center only addresses broad definitions — and the OPs that post questions like those you're talking about are already unable to jump from a broad definition to a specific application.

I believe it's our job to help them make that connection.

A question like the multiverse one --- definitely NOT a candidate for instant closure. This is actually an interesting worldbuilding question. The OP doesn't ask for hard science or even science based responses. The query has too much personal fluff (doesn't really matter how much or how little you know about multiverses --- the only things that matter are your vision of the otherworld in question and how creative you are with the topic at hand). But the basic query is sound and fairly standard SF fodder. It needs work, to be sure!

I've noticed of late a veritable slew of queries being slammed shut after only a few minutes on the board. It's my opinion, and I know others disagree, but I find this practice at best troubling and at worst counterproductive. Worldbuilding is not only for the realists, the scientists and the engineers. There has to be room for the fantasists, the creatives and the irrealists, too!

I agree with JBH on this: we are imaginative. I've also said before that SE is NOT designed with an imaginative endeavour like ours in mind. It's totally unsuitable. But we're here, and so long as Stack Exchange (the company) doesn't shut this forum down, it's up to us to sort out how to fly our imaginative airship through what is basically inimicable territory. If we keep shutting down the creative, the whimsical and the imaginative questions in favour of the strictly SE-answerable types of questions, then we really defeat the purpose of our forum's existence, which is a Q&A forum for worldbuilders regardless of their skillsets, level of practice, knowledge base or preclivity for prior research.

I see no problem with helping (especially) new users learn how to ask good questions; but I really don't see the point in closing questions like this just because of reasons. The OP doesn't learn how to write a better question certainly; other users who might be considering a similar aspect of their own worlds gain no insight from the community; other users who already have this as part of their worlds gain no further insight; those of us who have insight or experience or knowledge to share are cut off.

Generally speaking, I'm all for closing queries that are egregiously inappropriate for this worldbuilding forum (story based questions, do my homework requests, maths questions, strictly primary world questions, extremely broad questions). I am much less in favour of swift closure of "opinion based" queries. After all (and I've said this before, too), worldbuilding is by definition and by nature a matter of opinion!

I'd be much happier if the more experienced users would make less use of the cleaver and more use of pencil & eraser! In other words, rather than close these questions, edit them and make them into good worldbuilding questions! If the OP doesn't want to play along (and I notice the OP of that question has chosen not to alter her query any further), that's fine with me. I see no reason why one or more of us can't (gently) seize control by paring down what should be excised and building up what might make for a better or more helpful question.

  • "then we really defeat the purpose of our forum's existence" But stack exchange is not a discussion forum. – RonJohn Oct 6 at 8:49
  • ?? Ah, I see the issue here. You forgot to continue reading: then we really defeat the purpose of our forum's existence which is a Q&A forum for worldbuilders ;) – elemtilas Oct 6 at 8:59
  • Questions that are POB have "only" discussion-type answers. (No doubt, it's a problem.) – RonJohn Oct 6 at 9:05
  • All worldbuilding questions are, at their root, POB. I don't see that as a problem of worldbuilding. POB answers are a problem for the SE model. Our choice is to conform to the model and shut down; or else modify the SE model to suit worldbuilding. – elemtilas Oct 6 at 15:47
  • Changing the tenses on your words slightly... I'm now going to think of WorldBuilding.SE as an imaginary airship. The phrasing seems fitting to me! – Cort Ammon Oct 7 at 20:15

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