4

We are starting to see questions such as this one on injury verification, where the poster is asking for logical reasons for a person to have suffered certain injuries.

This is the third or fourth question of this nature to pop up on the site. There are already sites where this is on topic (Literature, Writers, Worldbuilding), however I would like to get a community consensus on how to treat questions of this nature on our site.

5

I'd prefer blatant versions of these questions not be on-topic, although I also probably wouldn't apply a blanket ban on them: if a well-researched question is asked and the asker happens to be a writer rather than, say, a medical student, I don't think we should discriminate. However, these sorts of questions rarely have such prior research.

  1. These sorts of questions are often very lazy. They are effectively trying to substitute a StackExchange answer for doing their own background research, or hiring a consultant if they are aiming for true realism. The Q&A is unlikely to be useful to anyone else.

  2. Hypothetical questions are often unrealistic and therefore the answer is not particularly interesting to someone interested in medicine. Writers are often coming with a answer in search of a question: they have an outcome in mind and want to cause it.

  3. The actual biological, medical answers are often "it depends" which makes these sorts of questions too broad to really be specific and useful.

  4. I think a version of such a question could be used in some cases to circumvent the restrictions on personal medical advice: "I'm not asking about me I just want to know if you would diagnose the character in my book with lupus."

  5. At least one of these questions I remember in the recent past, I think it was on this stack but it may have been Biology.SE, could have been utilized to do someone harm (or, more specifically, to avoid suspicion while doing harm) yet was posed as a "writer's advice" question. I think we have to be very cautious with giving professional advice with respect to the crime-based scenarios that often arise in writing.

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    I also have concerns about #4, although I think in most cases such attempts will be obvious. But +1 for #5. I hadn't considered that. – Carey Gregory Jun 10 at 19:03
  • @CareyGregory Yeah, I think #4 would be most a concern only if such questions were explicitly deemed on topic such that someone asking for advice could point to that policy and complain about their question being closed; I agree most such cases would be only superficially obfuscated. – Bryan Krause Jun 10 at 19:06
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    Being cynical about #4: wouldn't that be tremendous improvement over the current state of affairs? – LаngLаngС Jun 10 at 20:18
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    I'm most concerned about #5, and #4 is an issue as well. – DoctorWhom Jun 12 at 17:00
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These sorts of questions are better suited to Worldbuilding SE. There, writers of any medium can ask theoretical questions pertinent to the fictional "world" they are creating. For example, I could ask about how having 5 moons would affect tides (astronomy/geology), or whether human would survive and be able to walk upright if a grow-ray zapped her to 20 meters tall (biology, physiology). Here's a popular question from just a few days ago: How can powerful telekinesis avoid violating Newton's 3rd Law?

In some ways, the site helps indie writers do exactly that - avoid having to pay an expensive subject matter expert consultant - for minor fact-checks when designing a fictional world or story. There are a lot of how-to's and it's a very rich SE community. It brings together expertise from many fields to help writers build more realism into their stories.

I think we should discuss with the Worldbuilding mods about migrating to them the few we've gotten so far on MedicalSciences (only the ones that are on-topic there too, of course). And then we can consider closing the other ones. Although I haven't seen a lot of medical-related questions there yet, I would try to answer them myself if I saw one there, and would encourage some of you from this site to check it out as well.

I agree with the "potential harm" questions being concerning and those I would not recommend migrating, and would recommend closing here as well. Because this is an INTERNET community, the question/answer will hang around indefinitely and be searchable, and potentially be accessible to someone who might actually plan to harm.

  • My experience with Worldbuilding is mostly from the HNQ so I'm not completely familiar with what is on- and off-topic there. I do know that physiology/medicine-based questions are on-topic, but they typically are occurring in some sort of sci fi or otherwise foreign world. Do they also allow more general questions about writing a story in a more realistic setting? – Bryan Krause Jun 12 at 18:16
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    AFAIK yes @BryanKrause . Consider that in the fantasy genre (e.g. Lord of the Rings or Dungeons and Dragons) humans (and to a degree other sentient species) are for the most part assumed to be physically the same as actual humans. It's various other aspects of the world that the writer is building that the more "fantastic" elements are built into. But this may be worth a discussion with Worldbuilding and Writing mods to see where it best fits. I avidly lurk in both of those main sites, but rarely in their metas. – DoctorWhom Jun 13 at 2:42
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    For what it's worth, I have very rarely seen a human anatomy/physiology-related question in either, however. There are a great deal many more sci-fi and extraordinary questions on Worldbuilding, naturally, and Writer tends to have more to do with the process than the specifics. If I had to vote, I'd say these would fit in Worldbuilding, and I'd be happy to contribute to answering them. But to date, I've seen most of the human-related ones end up here. (oops fixed comments I posted in wrong order heh) – DoctorWhom Jun 13 at 7:35
  • Worldbuilding is not just for fantasy; we have people trying to get the hard science of physics or orbital mechanics or geology etc right, too. Questions that are purely about our world have gotten a mixed reception, as the premise of the site is that you're creating something. We don't really want to be the go-to site for "misc". See our tags for creature-design, biology, humans, and medicine for some more context. – Monica Cellio Jul 5 at 4:21
  • @MonicaCellio Do you mean you agree or disagree with migrating these human biology related questions? I definitely agree Worldbuilding isn't a "misc" site - it's one of my favorite on the network because of exactly that, helping writers create worlds that make sense within physics, biology, chemistry, geology, astronomy etc etc. That's why I'd love to see the appropriate questions for Worldbuilding migrated there, so that they're in the right place. And that's why I'd like to contribute to answering them there. – DoctorWhom Jul 5 at 8:12
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    Basically, those questions are usually easier to answer when properly framed in a fictional forum than in a real-life medical forum - e,g, weapon damage, injury mechanism, etc can get a little odd here in MedicalSciences SE... – DoctorWhom Jul 5 at 8:15
  • @DoctorWhom I think that's the key in your last comment: if the problem you are trying to solve fits on Worldbuilding, then please do ask these questions there. Such problems will usually arise from wanting a certain outcome in your fictional world or trying to understand how conditions in your world would affect creatures (including humans). All that's fine. If the question is just "how does such-and-such aspect of human anatomy/biology/etc work?", that's likely to get closed as "not worldbuilding". – Monica Cellio Jul 5 at 16:53

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