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I think that the current complete ban on third-party/licensed worlds is overzealous.

Research is not worldbuilding

Firstly, a question like "How do lightsabers work in Star Wars?" should remain illegal. Not because it references Star Wars, but because it is not worldbuilding. Asking someone to find the "canonical answer" in a pile of scattered and often contradictory lore is research, and it belongs on SciFi.SE.

An analogous question: "How do Zeus' powers work in Greek mythology?" Such a question would also be forbidden, and it would fit on Mythology.SE instead. A question that asks for a canonical answer, that is answered solely by research, is not doing any worldbuilding.

When questions with third-party worlds are worldbuilding

First for mythology: "Zeus is real, he is a three meter tall alien. [insert complete skillset here]. Could his lightning bolts be produced by an organ like that of the electric eel?" Such a question is worldbuilding, in my book. In fact, it is the biological equivalent of this existing question. The purpose of this question is not to understand a work, but to expand on it. Zeus' myths are many, but even if one of them happens to say just where his powers come from, stating that explanation is not by definition the most valid answer. That is the difference with SciFi.SE, where canonicity is a criterium for answer validity (even if speculation within the bounds of canonical rules is allowed).

An author building a world can use any works they want for inspiration. A fanfiction author is one who is expanding on a setting that already exists. That includes mythology - there is fanfiction for the Bible. The more ambitious fanfiction authors do not just utilise the same characters in canon to tell new stories with, but they expand the world as they do so, to facilitate the story they want to tell. Sometimes doing a lot of worldbuilding is necessary, if the original left a lot unsaid.

And that is where a platform supporting worldbuilders, such as Worldbuilding.SE, comes in handy. If one is making a world based off of a different property, the thing being added is still fresh and new, but working under certain confines. Such confines are no any different from the confines of one's own already-established premise.

Example question

I quickly made a question to see what this exotic creature, an acceptable third-party-world-based question, might look like.

Should the Water Tribe from Avatar put waterbenders on ocean-going vessels to make them go faster?

The setting of Avatar: The Last Airbender features several kinds of telekinetic magic, one of which is called waterbending and is practised by some members of the nation called the Water Tribe. The wielders of this magic perform various poses (inspired by martial arts) in order to manipulate water, both tiny drops in the air and massive bodies of water - even occasionally human bodies. Some clips to serve as visual references: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Waterbenders are rare, but if a bunch of them worked together, how fast could they propel a vessel over oceanic distances? The goal of the question is to see how a more militant Water Tribe would best spread out their limited supply of benders; whether putting them on ship-propelling duty would make a difference in speed marked enough to make that a full-time job in the army.

The world is based on East Asia around the 18th century, so take a ship the size and design of a mid-sized Junk (reference). With twenty people aboard it should weigh at least eighty metric tons.

The force of waterbending in the show varies from user to user, as well as from moment to moment (as the plot demands it). For the purposes of this question, I will assume they can exert a force of 200000 Newtons on water within reach (30 meters in any direction, no line of sight required), but no more than 30 Newtons per liter. So with more water they can do more. They can sustain that force for two hours a day, in spurts of fifteen minutes with rests in between.

There are three waterbenders taking turns, and they move the ship by moving the ocean underneath it. How fast could a cruising speed could they maintain over long trips? Would that speed be sufficiently greater than average sailing speed to make this task a worthwhile one?

The precise role of canon

The biggest part of making third-party-world questions compliant with Worldbuilding.SE is to affirm that the "correct" answer is not automatically the best answer. Most of these questions frankly would not have correct answers to begin with because worldbuilding fanfic authors are by definition pushing boundaries. Canonical information can however contribute to an answer, even canonical information not given in the question body. I have thought about this for a while, and I think I can justify that we take the same approach that we do to world history. Any "canonically accurate" information should be treated like "historically accurate" information.

There are no documentary writers on this site so every real-life question is at least for historic fiction, basically a fanfic of world history. That means that if a question is e.g. about what churches would do with orphans in the middle ages, the correct answer (a listing of their historical practices to our best understanding) can be a good one, but so can a bit of intriguing writing that is both believable and makes for a good story.

Similarly, an answer to the Avatar question mentioning waterbenders utilising the full moon, when they are at their strongest, is using "canonical" information outside the question body. The responsibility of the querent is to specifically mention every part of the fictional system that they want an answer to address. The full moon factor is not something to just expect answerers to know, and if the querent corrects people who fail to mention it, then they are essentially moving the goalposts. So they should add enough information to the question body, that they are comfortable with someone who knows nothing else of the source material to answer it. Someone who is familiar with the lore may have even more ideas, but that would just be a bonus.

A tag

I suggest a tag , and if possible I would suggest that said tag adds a warning above the question (like has), so site visitors understand the same principles I just laid out:

This user is building their world based on a third-party world. The purpose of this question is to expand on the source material, not to merely expand one's understanding of it. Canonicity with all of the original lore is not a criterium for answer validity, only with what has been established in the question body.

The tag description could read:

Use this tag when some of the rules or aesthetics of your setting are explicitly derived from one or more existing settings. Ask only questions to expand on those worlds with worldbuilding of your own. Finding canonical answers is not what Worldbuilding.SE is for; see SciFi.SE or Mythology.SE instead.

One could even argue that this tag should be retroactively applied to all questions based on existing mythology.

About world ownership

Some of elemtilas' thoughts deserve a response not spread out over six comments. Firstly, I am aware of the ethical issue with fanfiction. Strangers playing with their intellectual property is something that some renowned authors absolutely detest (and others welcome), and while lawsuits are unlikely due to the fanfic authors making no money of their unlicensed works, it is a completely fair view to be against the practise altogether. If an ethical reason is one why Worldbuilding.SE cannot support fanfiction, then so be it - I have nothing to say in response.

Another argument however is that of whether the world being owned by someone else would hamper the ability of the querent to judge the best answer. Now again, from a legal point of view a world absolutely has an owner (unless it's public domain), and arguably so from an ethical point of view. But worlds live not just on paper, but also in the heads of those who have read it. If you are passionate enough about a world - which fanfic authors are without exception - then you will be having your own conception in your head of every rule from the source material that you wish to implement in your work of fiction.

A fanfic author chooses whether and in what respects to satisfy the rules of the source material. Both softer thematic rules and concrete systems. And the rules that authors do choose to satisfy to the letter, they will tend to understand how that rule is applied. That means that a querent asking about a fanfic will absolutely be able to judge the best answer.

This is even more obvious for the medium of crossover fanfiction. Someone writing a serious crossover fanfic will need to do their own analysis on the source works, as rigorous as they want the resultant work to be.

Would Darth Vader's sword cut through Captain America's shield? No author, living or dead, can state that with authority. Not even if we put George Lucas and the revived body of Jack Kirby in a room together. But an author who does their own analysis of just how a lightsaber melts things and what sort of things have damaged vibranium over eight decades of canon, and then presents their findings to Worldbuilding.SE and asks whether their conclusion holds water... are they not welcome on the site by definition? I think they should be. They are asking about their version of the sources, their interpretation of it. They started doing worldbuilding the minute they started applying the results of their analysis - which become new rules. That is also exactly what would make them unwelcome on SciFi.SE, where others can have a different interpretation of the source works and it's all fair game.

Why not just use generic water mages?

Mentioning the setting is the equivalent of adding paragraph upon paragraph of flavour text, background and aesthetics that, while not crucial to the question (crucial details must be mentioned in the question body), can serve as inspiration for the creative writers of Worldbuilding.SE to hook on.

Using generics and obfuscating the source material is the current solution for fanfic author on this platform. They are to neglect from naming their setting, to forego providing its many visual references because as soon as one mentions a word that should have a ™ behind it, the close-votes quickly rack up. This has hindered some questions of mine, and possibly some of others too.

Why else?

For clarification of the current rules. These questions are worldbuilding. There are no ocean-going waterbending-propelled vessels in Avatar; this author is inventing them within some of the confines of the source material. And when those confines are clearly specified, it is no different from giving the premise of one's own setting.

The current rule is just overzealous, banning words instead of banning bad questions. The nuance between asking about worlds and expanding on worlds is a vital distinction, and by overtly making it, the site could not just facilitate fanfiction: it would improve its very definition of worldbuilding.

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  • $\begingroup$ I just wish I found back one or two questions which were saying things like "This is like spiderman, but it's not spiderman". These are the kind of questions that are playing on the acceptance line, I believe they're like this because they're sometimes hidden fanfiction works. Or because that they're very heavily inspired. It's all blurry there. $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 6 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Tortliena There's also the C.A.S.T. approach... I love those questions but that tactic won't work for more serious questions and they too have been on the VTC queue before. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ Yep. I think it's because there is no clear line on what is acceptable or not for these cases. Hopefully people will manage to dig it and set it under the sun! $\endgroup$
    – Tortliena
    Oct 6 at 20:13
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Food for Thought at KeizerHarm's Tag Sale

I think my answer to the other question addresses the issues of overzealousness of rule & Policy application.

To summarize: I concur with your position that "research is not worldbuilding". However, I must also point out, that WB is not a research facility and I am not being paid enough by the Lords of the Instrumentality to do people's research for them. The purpose of this forum is to guide the geopoet with an already researched topic which she is having some trouble fitting into her own fictional world.

As for the illegality of "how does a light sabre work in the SW universe", true, it is not an illegal query because it references Star Wars. It's not even an illegal query because it isn't about worldbuilding. (Obviously, it ìs about worldbuilding!) It is an illegal question because the concept of "light sabre in the Star Wars universe" does not belong to the querent. Unless that querent is George Lucas!

As I argue in the other question, the Policy isn't about the nature of the fictional world itself, but rather concerns who the geopoet actually is. If you're the the George Lucas himself, then you'd have every right to join WB and ask questions about light sabres in the context of your own fictional world. Problems only arise when Jack Quhatt comes in here asking about SW light sabres. It's not his world and he has no competence to judge one answer as being better than another. If he asks about light sabres in his own fictional world, then all stars are in perfect alignment with us respondents being competent to answer and the querent being competent to adjudicate.

Tags

I concur, and, as of this writing, am prepared to be convinced that this is a good idea. I have qualms, and you exemplified those qualms in big letters!

Where we agree: I am with you on the concept of making a setting for a fan fiction being a form of worldbuilding. The underlying concept of the fanfic is that the third party world is being used as if it were a shared world project. The original author may encourage others to play in her sandbox, may tolerate others playing in her sandbox or may sick her legal staff on anyone who makes it past the sand box's killer rottweilers.

The partnership is always unequal and almost always somewhat non-consentual. It is for these reasons that I do not wholly support the creation of fanfic related tags or allowing this question in WB.

My main concern is that your airbending example question really reads like a question about DiMartino & Konietzko's Avatar world, and not about your own world. As I read it, the question is more about taking a junk out of 19th century China and plopping it in the waters of the Avatar world, than it is about applying a concept you like from someone else's work to your own work.

  • Non-consentuality, for me, is a major problem this proposal faces. WB.SE is, after all, founded on the notion that we're here to help you the geopoet build your own fictional world. Since the fictional world's actual creator is not present in the forum and not participating in the questions, that could I think be argued is a deal breaker.
  • I think you need to work out some kinks as to the nature of the questions and the nature of the materials or phenomena that would be allowed under these tags. As of now, I'm not going for it, though am still somewhat enchanted by the underlying idea.

Canon

I concur 100% with your analogy between fictional world canon and real world history or laws of Nature.

I think if you were to reword your example question using typical "medieval-esque fantasy world" questions, I'd like the idea much better. This is because I don't want to answer a question about medieval history or culture. I want to answer a question about the person's fictional world where "medieval history & culture" come into play, where those concepts can be used as background or foundational material. Likewise, I'd want to answer a question about your own work within the Avatar world. The example question as asked strikes me as too much of in-world maths question. Sort of like, "I'm writing a LotR fanfic about Gandalf: how fast can Shadowfax run over the prairies of Rhun?"

  • I agree that fictional world canon ought to be treated the same as real world fact. I think the problem I'm having with canon is the relatively large amount of canon that is required to answer the question and also that the fanfic portion of the question seems to be negligible to non-existent. It almost reads as a story based question! Because the answer is really "does it matter so much if the ship can go 63 knots vs 57 knots?" Made all the worse because you yourself just told us that their abilities are somewhat labile depending on narrative necessity. That's another problem with working in someone else's worldbuilding project: you can't correct that propensity towards deus ex machina without breaking either the Author's world or the characters' abilities as matters of established canon.

Moving the Goalposts Where!?

Utilising canon to answer a fanfic writer's worldbuilding question opens a whole new can of worms for WB and tosses it straight down the rabbit hole. When you added the bit about waterbenders' abilities waxing and waning with the position of the Moon, but didn't make that part of the query even though it's a matter of established canon, I think you can agree that this will be problematic for respondents: those who stick to your specifications vs those who know the lore well and can extrapolate from what you don't say in the question.

Eventually, a querent is simply going to have to copy-n-paste the entire corpus of JRRT & CJRT's writing, as establishing canonicity, just in order to answer a question about how fast a horse can run. To answer the question, we'd have to shimmy down the rabbit hole of Shadowfax not being an ordinary horse, but a meara; Rhun is not Rohan, and Shadowfax doesn't know the land as well. These are the sorts of things that can gum up a potential answer, because those little details of lore must be taken into account by a would-be fanfic writer.

  • I think this is another kink you'll have to iron out. Realistically, how much canon is sufficient to answer the question? Or, how much is not enough by half? Or how much is a superabundance? And also, what about matters where the lore is not so well worked out? What if Tolkien was silent entirely on some matter? How much speculation should the tag allow? How far from canon can you go before the goalposts are moved into an entirely different stadium?

Generic vs Brand Name™ Watermages

You make a good argument here. There is currently a (I think well founded) perception that while fanfic worldbuilding is indeed worldbuilding, it's not the kind of worldbuilding we support here. And by "support" I do not mean like or dislike, but rather I mean we make space for it within our scope of practice. And yes, I can see how such questions would be either downvoted (I wouldn't) or closed (I might depending on how egregious the canon percentage vs worldbuilding percentage actually is).

  • The problem I have here, again, is one of authorship and authority. As I wrote in the answer to the Other Query, the issue really isn't the world, and it's not the worldbuilding per se. The issue with third party worlds is that you as the writer of fanfic are not the geopoet and you have no authority over that world. As a writer of fanfic myself, as well as a writer from within my own fictional world, I am well aware that when I write fanfic, I'm playing with someone else's toys. I may not have asked to play with them, and I'll never own them and I always have to recognise that they're not mine.

Why Else Indeed!

In conclusion, I think your proposal is, in its outline, a reasonable one. I agree that, to some extent and in some understanding of the term, "expanding" a third party world for writing a fanfic is a kind of worldbuilding. I also agree that fictional world canon and real world fact are analogous and that for the purposes of such questions canon ought to be treated as fact.

I do not agree, yet, that the proposal is ripe. I think it needs work. I think some work needs to be done on the kinds of fanfic questions we should entertain here; and I also think some work needs to be done on the quality of material the fanfic questions would present.

More importantly, I also think that the kind of worldbuilding a fanfic writer engages in is really and fundamentally not suitable for this particular SE forum. I'd argue that in order to make such worldbuilding suitable, you'd have to first propose & gain support for a basic and fundamental change to the forum's constitution. The proposal would seek to change "we're here to help you build your world" to "we're here to help you build someone else's world in order for you to write a story in that other person's world." That I'm not prepared to support.

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  • $\begingroup$ I would judge "How does a lightsaber work in Star Wars?" to not be worldbuilding, because of the lack of building. That's why it is a research question. Someone isn't making new lightsabers, or doing interesting things with them, they are exploring the reference materials that already exist. --- About fanfics being non-consensual: that's a 100% fair take, and I won't try to change your mind on the ethicality of it. --- About the example question being bad... also a fair take, although I think I have improved it a little now. What can I say, I like these math questions myself. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ About how much canon should be in the question body: enough so that the questioner is comfortable with someone with no familiarity with the source material answering it. Describe Shadowfax as a mere horse, and you should expect horse answers. Maybe in the fanfic he is a horse! Narrative necessity is actually something that I mentioned in the example question but specifically resolved to a number of Newtons to make the thing answerable; I am essentially temporarily treating the world as 100% consistent for the thought experiment. Straightening out systems is also something fanfic authors do. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ About "someone else's world" here we somewhat disagree. Obviously I greatly respect the original authors of what I am working with, I'm no peer of Bryke in terms of legality or writing talent. But when writing in my own part of an existing world, frankly 95% of the things in that region do feel like mine, only borrowing from the original's rules and aesthetics. The fact that I could not change some of those rules if I wanted to, that does make frame challenges less applicable - but plenty of original authors have rules they are personally attached to and won't change under any circumstance. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ So if a fanfic author working on actual worldbuilding comes here, respecting the rules of their setting but also knowing what kind of a story they wish to tell within that setting, then they absolutely can judge the most suitable answer. Canonicity is not a criterium for answer suitability - it is up to what kind of story the fanfic author wishes to tell. --- Naturally, thank you for your thoughts and contributions. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 7:34
  • $\begingroup$ Something that I neglected to mention earlier but which could be another interesting point regarding the "you are not the geopoet" argument - crossover fanfiction! Those are plentiful and fun, and there is no one author in the world, living or dead, with the authority to state whether a lightsaber can cut through vibranium. So if a major argument against fanfic on Worldbuilding.SE is that the questioner does not have sufficient authority, then that means by extrapolation that crossover fanfic is in an even weirder limbo, and the medium is practically banned in its entirety. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 7:57
  • $\begingroup$ On the other hand, if I do my own analysis of Star Wars media and decide for myself just how a lightsaber melts things, and do my own estimations on the melting point of vibranium from reading a bunch of comics, then present my preliminary conclusions to the WB community and ask whether any cutting action would have the effect that I want it to for my crossover fanfic... if I at that point don't have the ability to judge the best answer, who does? $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 8:01
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm Couldn't you just ask "Would a heat source putting out X cut through a material with a melting point of Y in a reasonable (less than Z units) amount of time?" At that point it doesn't matter what you name the things. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 6 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings Yes, the example meant to support the argument regarding world ownership is not great at supporting my other argument that naming the setting adds very useful context. :) Though I would still say that "lightsaber [image link]" is more concise way to say "cylindrical plasma 1 meter in length, contained by a magnetic field, emitted from a handle, the whole serving as a crossguard-less blade" and adding the picture would probably still get the question closed. And if my question is about abstract heat sources without an ounce of duelling tactics then it will get migrated to Physics.SE $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ Whether it's a plasma sword, lightsaber, or a flame spell, it shouldn't change the answer to "Would a heat source putting out X cut through a material with a melting point of Y in a reasonable (less than Z units) amount of time?" If your worried about it being worldbuilding enough just say "There's a swordfight in my world and I want to know if their <weaponname> will cut through someone's superalloy shield." before asking the meat of your question. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 6 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings That may work for some questions but not for others. As I said, you are using a specific example I pulled out of my sleeve for the matter of world ownership, and that particular example doesn't need its original setting as much because it's a physics question underneath. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ Can you provide an example of a question that would be a good fit for this site but cannot be asked under the current policy? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 6 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings I have provided one in the main question body, under Example question. I would appreciate your thoughts on the full proposal. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ I'm unsure how asking "How fast could water wizards move a boat on a long voyage?" couldn't be asked under current site policy. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 6 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings I can only advice you to read the entire proposal, where I try to make clear the added value of allowing the naming of the source material for the setting, to do the equivalent of adding paragraphs of flavourful context as inspiration for any potential answerers who are also familiar with the source. Adding the visual references also greatly simplifies descriptions. Asking questions without naming the setting is not strictly impossible, in the same sense that it would be technically possible for me to keep using this site if they required questions to be written in French. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 6 at 23:46
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    $\begingroup$ So if there aren't questions that can't be asked and having this policy makes it easy to quickly close questions that are asking questions about existing works of fiction why do we need to change site policy? $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Oct 6 at 23:48
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The original question in May 2019 asking for a policy clarification listed a number of issues:

Pros:

  • It expands the number of questions people may bring to our stack.
  • It increases the visibility of our stack to search engines (e.g., "Star Wars" is mighty visible).

Cons:

  • It might (and probably does) duplicate what's going on at SciFi.SE (and others, including RPG.SE and Movies.SE).

  • Answers provided on WB.SE may not express the "canon" of that third-party world, potentially opening up unwanted comment discussions.

  • Would invariably create a list of tags identifying the third-party world, the rules of which should (must?) be followed for the purposes of answering the question.

Issues:

  • I suspect the majority of questions will be requests to explain in-universe eccentricities. In other words, a world isn't actually being built. It's merely an effort to sate the OP's curiosity.
  • OPs don't have control over the world the question refers to. In other words, in the worst case, we might be participating in copyright infringement. (I consider that an outlandish worst-case as fan fiction has some protection. Some.)
  • We sometimes see questions (like this one) where the source of the question is fairly obviously a third-party world. Along with a clear Yes/No, it would be nice to comment on whether or not "I'm borrowing their idea for my world" questions should be permitted. If you think this bullet should be its own question, please indicate so in a comment.

To the "Cons" List I will add...

  • While fan fiction has a large following, it does not have a substantial legal following. Copyright belongs to the world owner, not the fans. That copyright can be protected at the whim of the owner, and puts us in the dubious position of supporting copyright violation. The owner of a third-party or commercial world is the one and only entity or person who has the right to discuss changes to that world.

Too many people do not realize that fan fiction falls under copyright as a derivative work.

Many content creators are supportive of fans taking the time to express their love for the content and enjoy seeing how their fans are able to reimagine their work. There is still the legal side of copyrighted content that fans always need to keep in mind when creating new fanfictions. Fanfiction allows people to channel their inner creative mind and use their love for a series to create new connections to a creator’s content by making characters that reflect their own attributes. It needs to exist in order to maintain a creative and imaginative society that can work together and combine the ideas of others with their own, so long as they abide by the copyright protection laws or get permission from the original content creators to use their characters and/or stories. (Source)

That means that, as a Stack, we're either supporting the potential illegal violations of copyright, or we're setting ourselves up to police copyright.

But, worse (and it's a LOT WORSE...), Stack Exchange operates under Creative Commons Copyright. That means that anything someone posts here in regards to someone else's copyright-protected third-party or commercial world is in the public domain.

On that fact alone, we'd be idiots to allow questions about third-party or commercial worlds. The Stack Exchange Overlords would be idiots to let us do it.

Moving on, it's also worth noting the comments made by Monica when she answered the original policy clarification post:

This site is for questions about building worlds, not questions about how others' worlds work. Now very few ideas are completely original, so your world might use elements from, or derived from, other worlds, but there's a key difference: If you ask "how does a lightsabre work in Star Wars", the only authoritative answers come from the Star Wars canon. If, instead, you want lightsabres in your world and ask "how can I power my lightsabres given (constraints)", that's a worldbuilding question that will likely get answers that have nothing to do with the Star Wars canon.

The simple reality is this: the goal of this Stack has always been to build original worlds, not help people write stories. From the Help Center we read:

When asking questions keep in mind that the goal of the site is to help you build your world, not to tell your story.

And there's the basis of my problem.

  • Users cannot legally ask questions that modify the rules of a world they do not own.

  • Which means users can only ask questions about how to tell a story in someone else's world, which is off-topic per the Help Center.

Finally, we've been fighting becoming the dumping ground of every question other stacks don't want to answer since the day we were born

Which is one of the reasons why this Stack's mandate has always been very narrow. The debate about real-world questions is evidence of that, and it took a lot to convince the community under what set of circumstances we would permit them. The result?

They're now asked all the time and nearly impossible to regulate, despite an existing community policy.

Widening the window will always have a substantial negative consequence. In this case, with no value. One of the basic premises of Stack Exchange is that people can re-use the answer to a question — that the question is supposed to be valuable to more people than the person who asks the question. That's harder than it sounds, here, but not impossible (assuming we regularly police new questions to remind people that there's more at stake here than just their world).

But, IMO by definition, questions about somebody else's world cannot benefit the process of worldbuilding for others because, as mentioned, not being the owner of the world, it's disingenuous to let people believe that they have a right to modify somebody else's world.

Conclusion

It is not the job of the Worldbuilding Stack to be everything to everyone. There are plenty of ask-anything-you-want services in the world. We have enough people asking questions about their own worlds that we do not need the extra traffic. And I personally believe it's entirely unfair (and factually illegal) to dilute the copyright protection of the actual world owners.

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  • $\begingroup$ Question one: while I agree that authorship of fan fiction is on shaky legal ground, surely discussion of fiction is not? Fanfic questions would describe derivative products, perhaps even link to them, but never host them, so I don't see how SE could end up in legal trouble even if every media corporation were violently suing fanfic. So I don't believe the argument that you cannot discuss modifications to works because we already discuss plenty of illegal things. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 7 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ Your other argument regarding Worldbuilding SE becoming a dumping ground is far more persuasive to me. I have been considering well-meaning fanfic authors. I will ruminate on this and see what I can salvage. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 7 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ @KeizerHarm you're the one who introduced fan fiction as the basis for allowing Qs about 3rd party/commercial worlds. And I'll follow the adivce of my father, who's an actual attorney, "people can and will sue anybody at any time for any reason." Handing them a reason is just plain foolish. And there's a difference between "illegal things" (whatever that might mean) and intentional copyright infringement. $\endgroup$ Oct 10 at 2:07
  • $\begingroup$ I just think you are not being fair. There's a difference between discussing illegal content (murder, kidnapping, copyright infringement, which we all have questions about) and hosting illegal content. Surely you see the difference? And "Everyone will sue everyone for any reason" is a very simplistic view that not really testifies the deep understanding of copyright law that you claim. $\endgroup$
    – KeizerHarm
    Oct 10 at 7:59
  • $\begingroup$ No, works licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license are not in the public domain, even in those countries where such a thing as public domain exists. You may be confusing CC-BY-SA with CC-0. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Oct 11 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexP You're correct, but you also missed my point, which isn't changed by your observation. $\endgroup$ Oct 11 at 13:28

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