We've already had several discussions about the issue of country/language-based tags, culminating in Do we need such broad tags on questions about specific works?, a rather broad question which attracted one answer (score of +1) saying that broad tags in general (it mentions , , , and as well as ) should be discouraged, and another answer (score of +7) saying that language-based tags in particular are desirable for the site.

Although many have viewed these two answers as contradictory, they aren't necessarily. Perhaps we'll end up discouraging all broad tags except those based on the original language of the work. To find out more about what the community thinks of other broad tags, I hereby ask:

How do we feel about genre tags?

Do we want to, for instance, tag all questions about works of fantasy with a tag like or or ? Do we want tags for detective fiction, horror, and so on?

  • On the one hand, many of the same arguments can be made in favour of these tags as for language-based tags. Many people have specialised genre-wise, and might be very knowledgeable about one genre and not so much about any other. Having a tag for, say, science fiction would enable science fiction experts to find questions that interest them without having to hunt through dozens or hundreds of different author/work tags.

  • On the other hand, we can't have too many different types of broad tag. Each question can only have at most five tags, and at least two of these are already being taken by the author and work/series tags. If we add tags for language and genre, we're already almost at the limit. Given that we're going to use broad tags at all, we'll have to pick and choose which are most useful.

2 Answers 2


We shouldn't use genre-based tags.

Not because they're too broad to be useful, or because we should only use work and author tags, but because genres usually can't be objectively defined.

  • What makes a story sci-fi rather than fantasy, and what happens when it's kind of in the middle?
  • What is a romance novel? Clearly not everything involving romance counts; does the story have to be primarily about romance to count, and how do we define 'primarily'?
  • What about a series of works which span many different genres? Random example (I'm sure there are better ones): Doctor Who is a franchise which is primarily sci-fi, but individual stories might count as historical fiction, detective drama, horror tales, etc. etc. If we get questions about DW books, would we tag them differently according to each book?
  • For that matter, what about an individual book which has elements of many different genres? If we get a question about a historical romance novel with a sci-fi detective, it'll soon run out of tags.

With no clear way of defining any specific genre (that I can think of), it seems that this tagging system would lead to unclear usage and constant disputes. I have experience on a site whose entire scope is defined by genre issues, and it gets a vast number of meta questions of the form "is such-and-such a work on-topic?" and long debates about exactly what constitutes sci-fi, fantasy, or speculative fiction, which never really get resolved. That's not a quagmire we need to get into here.


We should use broad genre tags, but not subgenres.

A large proportion of the people using this site are readers. As a reader, if I'm looking for a book in a library or in a bookstore, I'll find the book on the shelf dedicated to the broad genre that this book is in — most separate at least several broad genres: general fiction, mysteries, romance, SF.

A question about a book should be tagged , or if it's marketed as SF/romance/mystery. This is a subjective judgement to some extent, but one that someone else (the publisher, the author or their agent) has made for us.

A question should also be tagged with these broad genre tags if it's about the specific aspects of that genre. For example, if the question is about exploring romance in the Illiad, tag your question .

These rules are similar to what Science Fiction & Fantasy uses to characterize what's on-topic: if it's marketed as SF, it's on-topic; if the question is about SFnal aspects, it's on-topic.

We should not use subgenres, however (just like SF&F doesn't have tags for subgenres). Subgenres are often a topic of dispute and don't help so much in classifying questions. For example, don't tag a question unless the question is specifically about how the work weaves rigorous science or scientific exploration into a story.

Note that genre classification only applies to certain categories of modern fiction. I don't think we should retroactively try to fit classics into those categories (once again, except when exploring how the genre is expressed in a classic).

  • 3
    Were books marketed as being in specific genres more than a couple hundred years ago?
    – amaranth
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 21:51
  • @amaranth No, I don't think so. Today they're marketed as “classics”. I think “classics” is too broad to be useful as a tag; it certainly is a category that both readers and academics use, but it should be subdivided into historical periods (just like on History). Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 21:55
  • 1
    A significant number of places in the world don't use the same genre-based marketing approach that anglospheric publishers use. (These terms don't even necessarily mean the same thing from publisher to publisher.) Additionally, many novels are subjectively categorizable differently than the publisher, either because the publisher marketed the book as something it isn't, or because the nature of the book as it pertains to its marketing is subjectively debatable. What would we do in these cases? Additionally, do you foresee categorizing by publisher's marketing to be particularly searchable?
    – user80
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 22:03
  • @Emrakul I figure we'd go by English language publications. Is it common for English translations to be marketed in different genres? Marketing genres are searchable: you just look at the book, or look up the imprint in a book catalogue. I'm sure that you can find ambiguous cases, the point of tags is not to work with simple rules 100% of the time, the point is to work with simple rules 90% of the time. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 22:19
  • 2
    Is there any objective system for telling the difference between a genre and a subgenre? It seems to me that the entire genre classification system is quite woolly and hard to pin down. As, in fact, you yourself said in another post here: "Debating whether a book is this or that genre is sterile. Many books have elements of one genre, and other elements of another genre." Given that, how do you expect genre tags to be able to be applied objectively and intuitively?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 23:26
  • @Randal'Thor A broad genre is what you see as the header of a section in a library or bookstore. Broad genres are often printed on the book (many publishers split imprints by genre), which provides an objective way to identify them. Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 23:31
  • Is there any existing genre categorization system we could use? The Dewey Decimal system apparently has fiction categories that no one uses, and Library of Congress Classification system doesn't seem to cover fiction. My library has "fiction" and "mystery" sections, and I don't know what else, if anything.
    – amaranth
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 23:40

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