The tag wikis have been updated and the new reality-check tag made a synonym of science-based. Users can conveniently find links to the modified tags here: Please review the updated tag wikis for internal-consistency, science-fiction, science-based, and hard-science
Based on the answers and comments the following solution has been proposed to the Moderators.
A new synonym of science-based will be created named reality-check, since there is no practical difference between asking for a science-based answer and asking for an answer based on the reality of the Real World. The science-based tag wiki will be updated to explain the synonym.
@DaaaahWhoosh's original Meta post will be updated with a link redirecting here.
Thank you, everyone, for participating!
Almost nobody uses the reality-check tag correctly
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, @DaaaahWhoosh asked a perfectly sensible question:
I even answered the question (badly, I might add...). And after all these years of watching people use the tag over and over in the wrong way (because all they ever do is read the tag title and not the tag wiki), I could wish the tag never existed.
- Asking if something on a fictional world is "realistic" is, frankly, asinine on a stack that claims, "Worldbuilding Stack Exchange is a site for designers, writers, artists, gamers and enthusiasts to get help creating imaginary worlds."
There are two uses that I regularly see:
- Here's my fictional idea for use in the real-world. Is it "realistic?"
The answer is always "no" because the fictional idea doesn't exist in the real world — the rules of which are immutable — and we're not interested in the real world anyway.
- Here's my fictional idea for my fictional world. Is it "realistic?"
Compared to what? Earth? In this instance what the querent probably means is, "does this idea meet everyone's expectations for suspension-of-disbelief?" But I've worked with some querents who really want someone to tell them that their fictional idea on their fictional world could really, really exist!
Since the goal here is to help people create and consistently use the rules of a fictional world of their own creation, what's the point of asking if something is "realistic" in the first place?
Here's the gist of the problem: What the reality-check tag is supposed to do is allow the querent to present one or more world rules and an application of those rules and have us judge whether or not the application is consistent with the rules. In other words, "Is the following scenario consistent (aka "realistic") when judged against my world's rules?"
Currently the tag wiki states that the reality-check tag is not for judging anything against the Real World. I freely admit that I put that restriction in the wiki based on years of discussing what the reality-check tag was intended for and in an attempt to minimize the number of questions asking whether or not a fictional idea in the real world was "realistic" (it's like asking if a saw blade weapon is realistic).
So, what to do?
@DaaaahWhoosh was correct. Do we actually need this tag? I can see where it would be useful to have a tag like rule-consistency because I think people would basically understand what those two words meant without having to read the tag wiki.
But I think it's a mistake to continue using the reality-check tag because it's almost never used in the way it's intended and is almost always used in a way that's contrary to the intent of the Stack. Honestly, how can anyone judge the "realism" of a fictional world?1
Proposal: Rename the reality-check tag
Down vote if you want to continue with the mess as it is.
Answer if you have insight into how we can either (a) convince people to use the reality-check tag correctly, (b) if you have an alternate suggestion for a replacement name, or (c) you simply want to taunt me for being too anal about the whole situation. My wife keeps reminding me that I'm supposed to be an adult, so I think I can take it.
Note that it's been a while since I did any tag maintenance. I can't remember if we can rename a tag or not. If not, then "renaming" the tag means creating a new tag and systematically deleting the old one and replacing it with the new one in 6,077 questions. If that's the case, then we may simply be stuck with the fact that we answered @DaaaahWhoosh's question badly five years ago and hopefully have learned our lesson.
1 I had the time of my life reading Greg Egan's Orthogonal Series, which would have been a PERFECT example of the intended use of the reality-check tag. He'd present his appendix about the mathematics of his world, a chunk of his story, and ask if his story reflected the "reality" of his world — which had next to nothing at all to do with the Real World (it wasn't even a complete expression of science). If you want to better understand my frustration over the reality-check tag, go read his books and then compare your experience to what people usually mean when they ask if something is "realistic."