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I just noticed the tag.

https://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/science-fiction

This tag feels meaningless to me, it should possibly be a synonym to science-based but even that feels weak.

Should we delete it? Synonym it? Have I missed something that means it is actually useful?

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I've seen that tag too, and I've never particularly liked it, or its ilk.

Genre or settings tags (which is what the science-fiction tag is, but is not the only example of) make sense when the genre or setting itself is important to the question.

In our case, and taking science-fiction as an example, it seems that I would be more interested in finding questions that are about, say, transporters, or faster-than-light travel or communications, or energy weapons, or computers, or maybe time travel, or even (say) space colonization, than just "something that's commonly used or done in science fiction". Those seem likely to be decent tag candidates. Just science fiction? Not so much, in my book.

Generally speaking, any tag should make for decent categorization of a question even if it is the only tag on that question. What can I expect a question tagged only science-fiction to actually be about? (This same argument goes double for meta tags such as science-based.) What worldbuilder expertise will help answering questions in that tag? (Say it to yourself: "I am an expert in <tag name> in the context of <site name or subject>". If you can't say that and have it make sense, at least linguistically, it's very likely a poor tag. How does "I am an expert in science fiction in the context of worldbuilding" sound?)

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    $\begingroup$ "How does "I am an expert in science fiction in the context of worldbuilding" sound?" Actually pretty good. Both science fiction & worldbuilding are interrelated. The parsing of them both is commutative. Every work of science fiction automatically builds a world, therefore science fiction is a mode of worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – a4android Jan 5 at 2:59
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Actually, I think a CVn is arguing rather strongly for the sci-fi tag. Sometimes a question can be answered, slightly differently, given the genre bias of the respondent. If the querent is making a "sci-fi" universe and specifies that answers should be "sci-fi" oriented, based on the tag, then I as respondent would know to leave out the quirky, fantastic aspect of answering. In other words, the setting is important to the answer!

As far as searching for questions goes, I'd be much more likely to search in general terms for "sci-fi" than something specific like "transporters". Unless I were looking specifically for queries with that particular search term.

For queries tagged SCI-FI, I would be expecting queries about worlds and settings similar to Star Trek or Babylon 5 or Battle Star Galactica: space ships, laser guns, transporters, matter replication, space travel and the like. In conjunction with the spectrum of science tags, I'd expect a lot of primary world physics and mathematics to come into play. Even with other tags present, I'd still be expecting queries and responses aligned with that genre.

I would not expect much in the way of magic or mythical beasts or where to find them or how to deal with the wonkiness of a wonderworld. Here, in conjunction with the various science tags, I'd expect a much more creative (and "opinion based") application of alternate and altered sciences. I would not be expecting queries aligned with fantasy, mythological, alt-historical, steam- / stone- / mage- / bronze- / etc-punk genres. Nor even necessarily futuristic fantasy-scifi settings.

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    $\begingroup$ But does any of this imply the need for it to be a tag? Answerers are already expected to be based in sciences, not magic unless otherwise specified in the question. The OP is free to state "my world is similar to the Battlestar Galactica universe except for...". Tags are for categorization of the questions, not for influencing the content of answers. While science-fiction isn't exactly a meta tag, it certainly seems a very broad tag. When a significant fraction of questions on a site could use a tag, it's probably too broad. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 4 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ @aCVn, the same could be said for the magic tag which is arguably used more often. Scifi can be considered as a synonym for handwavium, which might as well be magic but we understand it as magic wearing a "science" hat so we make up some science to go with the requested effect. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jan 4 at 13:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix Indeed; like I said in my answer, the science-fiction tag isn't the only one that has these (from my point of view) problems. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 4 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ @aCVn -- I think it does, actually. Sci-Fi doesn't necessarily imply "based in science". Handwavium comes into play in the genre often enough! And that's basically sci-fi's answer to magic. And yes, I understand the categorisation aspect. That's why these high level tags are so useful: for categorising a broader swath of questions than the much more specific "science based" (because I can ask valid science questions about a purely fantasy world, too. Secondarily, I do believe tags have a natural influence on the answers. In fact, the hard science tag drives the kind of answer expected! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 4 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ (cont...) I think I just see the genre tags as far less problematic! $\endgroup$ – elemtilas Jan 4 at 14:40
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Do not make it a synonym of science-based

it should possibly be a synonym to science-based but even that feels weak.

Science fiction is the opposite of science-based. E.g. Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars novels or EE Doc Smith's Lensmen novels, where they made up the science wholesale. Science-based is where the science needs to be real. Science fiction is where the science itself can be fictional but should not be wholly magical. I.e. the scientific method works in science fiction but does not have to work in fantasy.

Science fiction is when your universe has rules but does not have the same rules as our universe. And not just a different constant or something (that would be an alternate universe). The rules are fundamentally different on multiple levels.

The one thing that we should definitely not do is make science-fiction a synonym for science-based. That would completely confuse things on any question using it correctly. If it's problematic, we should either clean up the tag (removing it from questions where science-based should have been used) or burninate it. Or you could make a new tag, fictional-science, that might be used better.

  • : the science needs to match that of our world and be justified with citations and/or equations.
  • : the science needs to match that of our world and be realistic, but not formally justified.
  • : the science does not match our world, and answers should use that science.
  • : there is not a scientific explanation, fictional or not.

These should be used in a mutually exclusive fashion except in extraordinary cases.

Distinction previously discussed here.

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Versus... what?

What are the alternatives to the tag? , which is a synonym of . Are there others? I suppose we have the alternate tags: , , and . It doesn't seem to be difficult to identify the intent of the question, which appears to be the intent of this tag.

The problem I'm having is that the tag isn't used in any of those ways. It's actually uncommon to see it used at all. It's description says that answers should conform to the sci-fi world rules of the OP. But isn't that the way all questions are expected to be answered?

I could imagine retasking the tag to mean, "answers must conform to a commercially established science-fiction universe such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, etc." But we've had an unwritten rule that questions about commercial worlds (be they scifi or fantasy) would be migrated or redirected to Science Fiction & Fantasy.SE, because commercial worlds are its primary focus. Ours has always been the OP's fictional world. (Now, if J. Michael Straczynski wants to post a B5 question here, I'm all for it. It's his world, after all.)

Therefore, my vote is to burn the tag. I don't see how it better identifies the question or better directs answers.

Out of curiosity, how should we react if a question has both the tag AND the tag? They seem mutually exclusive.

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  • $\begingroup$ The World Set Free by H.G.Wells is science-fiction and, more frighteningly, science based. In fact, despite the "fiction" elements many science fiction authors (Wells, Shelley, Verne) were "based" on solid science (for the time) - not wrong most of the time but not necessarily exclusive $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Jan 9 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ ^ (ran out of edit time): Frankenstein is another prime example, as the science-based was "the reaction of muscles and nerve groups on a recently dead animal to electric stimulation" (this was true science at the time) the fiction was the expansion of that to what it could be at a logical conclusion. So can be both, one part full scientific basis the other a fiction based on that, rare but can be both. $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Jan 9 at 0:49
  • $\begingroup$ @JGreenwell, I don't doubt you at all. I suppose my issue, in a nutshell, is that if a question isn't marked Fantasy or Magic, it's science fiction. While real-life questions are permissible here, they're always supposed to be in a worldbuilding context. It's like having a department of redundancy department. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 9 at 3:49
  • $\begingroup$ any question not fantasy or magic based? Cause I personally have no problem with worlds that are built on Earth (like alternate history scenarios) which can certainly have questions on science-based facts and issues (you can know all the geo-politics, history, and sociology you need to build a story like that but still be confused by basic, or not so basic, physics & engineering). I will admit that, currently, I do not see many of these questions and the few I do tend to be closed as "too story based" when they shouldn't be because people think "hey, you can't build a world on real Earth" $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Jan 9 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ @JGreenwell, the key word in your latest comment was "science-based." We have a tag for that. Heck, I've seen questions tagged magic that were also tagged science-based because the OP was looking for a scientific basis for the magic. My point is, I've never seen a question on this site that was benefitted in any way by the science-fiction tag because it's fundamentally the default condition for the site. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 9 at 16:19
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    $\begingroup$ ah, if I consider science-fiction the default condition that would make sense. I don't as I've never actually built a sci-fi world (mostly fantasy or real world basis). Now that I think about it though the majority of the examples I could see as "science fiction" without "science basis" would fit other tags better. Mostly thinking steampunk, cyberpunk, or just technology. So yeah, burn it. Even if not default for site, it is just not descriptive enough nor does it give a good method of following (watching) for Qs $\endgroup$ – JGreenwell Jan 10 at 1:49
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    $\begingroup$ "Out of curiosity, how should we react if a question has both the science-fiction tag AND the science-based tag?" Well, judging by a quick search, we currently have 339 of those. Pick any that you like, and react to it however you see fit. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 10 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ But only 256 are open. $\endgroup$ – Brythan Jan 11 at 8:16
  • $\begingroup$ @aCVn, react to it however you see fit? What's the purpose of tags if we're allowed to arbitrarily react to things? science-based has 4,468 questions and science-fiction has 1,045. Only 339 overlapped? I find it odd that 706 science-fiction questions were asked that apparently did not want a scientific basis to the answer. How do I get a list of those? Is there something similar to is:question I can use in the search to filter by tags? Those will be more interesting to look at. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jan 11 at 17:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH The link in my comment is to a search for questions on the main site tagged both science-fiction and science-based. (I also recommend checking out the advanced search help pages, if you haven't. There's a fair amount of magic one can do in the search field.) By "react to it however you see fit", I meant look at the question and take some appropriate action; edit, vote to close, comment, vote up, vote down, answer, forget about, groan privately, whichever. Which action is appropriate will naturally depend on which question you're looking at. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 11 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH to get all questions with tag A but not tag B, then do [A] -[B] - here is the list of all [science-fiction] questions that are not [science-based] $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Jan 15 at 14:09

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