@Hamlet mentioned in chat that one way to promote this site would be to post links elsewhere on the internet to some of our best content. In order to make this easier to do, I thought it would be a good idea to gather a collection of particularly good posts here so far, so that we have some easy links to show off to people when we need to do so.

Since a collection of good posts "so far" will necessarily go out of date as time goes on and the site evolves, I decided to impose a time limit. Various other sites have a quarterly round-up of best posts; since this site started in January, and it's now April, it makes sense to limit this list to the first quarter of 2017, so that we can get new collections of best posts each quarter from here to eternity without being subject to the FGitW effect on whichever answers get posted here this month.

So, without further ado:

please nominate some exemplary Q&A from the first quarter (Jan/Feb/Mar) of 2017.

Well, just a little bit more ado ...

  • When choosing nominations, please remember the primary purpose: to showcase our site to people elsewhere in the hope of maybe tempting them to come here. Let's try to focus mainly on great questions with great answers, and perhaps also great unanswered questions (which we can advertise as "hey, why not come and answer this"), but not anything with subpar answers, which will tend to give a bad impression and defeat the purpose.
  • Getting a wide range of different stories represented in our list here would also be nice, but not strictly necessary - feel free to nominate a bunch of Q&A about the same book, if you think they're all outstanding. But don't nominate questions just because they're about your favourite book; please try to optimise for interesting, insightful posts.
  • Multiple nominated posts per answer here is fine.
  • Feel free to nominate either some of your own posts which you're particularly proud of, or posts from other people which really impressed you.
  • Ideally, some explanation of why the nominated questions and answers are so good would be useful - it might give people here some ideas about what to aim for in the future.
  • 1
    I don't think we need an official list of good questions to promote the site: you can just pick what questions you personally find good and promote them.
    – user111
    Apr 10, 2017 at 0:58
  • But I do think it's a good idea to recognize good content, so I'm upvoting this post, and I suggest we do something similar every quarter.
    – user111
    Apr 10, 2017 at 0:58
  • @Hamlet Sure, but that's assuming you find it easy to pick such questions. I always find these "best of" posts tough to answer because it's hard to remember which Q&A were really good, perhaps months after reading them, and it's probably even harder for people who haven't seen as much of the site's content. The point of this is not to get an "official" list, but to get inspiration and good suggestions.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Apr 10, 2017 at 8:40

4 Answers 4


The first good answer I think of from the first quarter of 2017 is Gallifreyan's answer to one of my earliest questions on Literature (Does Dr. Manhattan have free will?). It

  1. clearly and definitively answers the question
  2. with a lot of support from the book and related works,
  3. clearly dealt with my side question (and made me totally unable to post that as a separate question!) and
  4. suggested a few works for further reading.
  5. As a bonus, Gallifreyan also put a lot of work into making sure that the answer, with its many pictures, was accessible to readers with vision impairments. That's a pretty big deal, and also probably took a lot of effort.

Receiving that answer was one major factor (among others) that convinced me to try to remain active on this site.


Any list would be incomplete if it didn't mention robopuppy's answer to the question What suggests Edmund might be gay? It's a brilliantly written answer, it approaches literature from an angle many people don't consider, and it deserves a lot of praise.

Community member Nathaniel has some really good answers, such as Nathaniel's answer to the question Is Deeper Magic something more than God (the Emperor beyond the Sea) in Narnia? and to the question Why does Modesta Gómez demand payment from the indigenous girl?

One of the questions I asked, Why does Robert Frost contradict himself in "The Road Not Taken", brought out some interesting discussion, as well as a truly excellent answer by ShreevatsaR.

I'm sure I'll think of others later, but these answers are definitely in the top ten as far as content goes, and they should serve as examples of what an answer that goes above and beyond looks like.

Honorable Mentions:

  1. HDE's answer in In Wind in the Willows, why is Mole's garden full of Italian heroes?
  2. Emrakul's answer in Is House of Leaves' ergodicity preserved as a digital text?, as well as their answer to Why are haiku usually of 17 syllables?
  3. BESW's and verbose's answers in Could you actually go around the world in 80 days?

If you're interested, my criteria for "excellent answers" is the following:

  1. Good, clear writing.
  2. Is correct in the big picture sense and the little details sense.
  3. Broad in scope, meaning that it answers the specific question, but does so in a way that it illuminates a broader aspect of the text or the text's place in society.
  4. Bonus points if the answer considers an overlooked perspective.

There are many "good" and "great" answers that I upvote. I tend to give "excellent" answers bounties. It should go without saying that no one expects every answer to be "excellent". These answers are something to strive for and should be examples of how to do things right, but wanting every answer to be "excellent" is like wanting everything to be "perfect": it's impossible.

  • 1
    You can link directly to answers through the "share" link underneath the post. The link won't automatically look nice, but I think it's worth it to work around it to link directly to a specific answer when that is your intention. (Even if you identify the author of the answer 1] names change 2] it's still easier on others if they don't have to search for it)
    – Shokhet
    Apr 10, 2017 at 18:10
  • I agree with you that robopuppy's answer to my Edmund question is very good, and I'm glad to see it singled out. Unfortunately, the Meta effect has attracted a new round of downvotes for my dumb question. C'est la vie.
    – Torisuda
    Apr 11, 2017 at 4:07
  • @Torisuda sorry about that; I upvoted your question BTW. Hope you keep participating! Remember that reputation is fake internet points; it's worthless and not worth worrying about!
    – user111
    Apr 11, 2017 at 4:56
  • Yeah, I sometimes take downvotes too personally. I definitely intend to stick around though, since even a dumb question can lead to a good answer like robopuppy's.
    – Torisuda
    Apr 11, 2017 at 15:33

Ok, here are my nominations!

I have to mention our highest voted question How do we know Humpty Dumpty was an egg? and the fantastic answer which showed some amazing research by Terriblefan, and definitely deserved the bounty.

Mithrandir wrote a great answer (and currently our highest voted one!) in reply to Why was 1984 set in 1984?

This answer by DJMcMayhem was one of the best I've seen.

Some of my personal favourite questions:

  1. What is Hobbes?
  2. Why are haiku usually of 17 syllables?
  3. Is there any textual evidence that this death in Deathly Hallows symbolized the end of childhood?

Although I have to say, the quality of questions so far has really impressed me. It has been hard just choosing my favourites.

I'll follow in Hamlet's footsteps and define my criteria of a 'good answer'

  1. Is clear and precise, and answers the question
  2. Shows good and extensive research and includes relevant information (quotes or facts)
  3. Makes good and viable deductions if the answer is not explicit
  4. Covers all the points necessary
  5. Maybe provides a different view or opinion

I am pleased to say that I have seen many answers that meet my above criteria.

  • 6
    Not sure if I agree with using votes as a judge of good content. Sometimes lots of votes mean that the content is good, sometimes it means that the question went viral and got a lot of pageviews. Votes are an OK starting point, but nothing more than that.
    – user111
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:29
  • @Hamlet true. HNQ can sometimes grant questions undeserved attention. But generally those questions will be of a high quality Apr 10, 2017 at 19:33
  • Other than that, while most of the content here personally wouldn't be my choice for my nominations for best questions and answers (other than Emrakul's haiku answer, which I added to my list), it's good to get different perspectives, so I gave this answer an upvote.
    – user111
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:33
  • @Hamlet I feel we are going to get lots of different views here. After all, not two people have the same taste in books :) Apr 10, 2017 at 19:34
  • If you're up for it, it would be interesting if you outlined your criteria for what content you consider worthy of nomination (similarly to what I did in my answer).
    – user111
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:36
  • @Hamlet will do. Its interesting to see what different people are looking for ... Apr 10, 2017 at 19:38
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    Oh God. This is exactly the sort of thing I wasn't looking for: nominations for highly-voted stuff which doesn't really deserve all the love it's had. We need to show people our best stuff, not the pap that's happened to hit HNQs. -1 for the entire first section, another -1 for starting with the highest-voted question and answer, another -1 for the Bradbury and Hobbes answers which are mainly based on authorial intent, another -1 for Harry Potter. (Well, I can only downvote once, but you know what I mean.) But thanks for the Humpty Dumpty and haiku posts, which I agree are pretty good.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Apr 10, 2017 at 22:18
  • @Randal'Thor Why aren't they good questions? They certainly engaged a considerable number of people. When you ask about showing "great questions with great answers" from what is currently Lit.SE's entire history, why wouldn't we show off our HNQ-worthy highest-score Q&A that presents something many people would not know about? Why wouldn't we show off other high-score or HNQ material? If this is personal feelings over what's "good", just downvote and move on. If there's important criteria being missed, point them out or revise your question to make them clear. Apr 10, 2017 at 23:06
  • 2
    @doppelgreener Because if there's one thing the HNQ system has taught us, it's that votes don't necessarily reflect quality, and if there's one thing that "best of" meta posts are good for, it's promoting quality over score, perhaps even bringing out so-far-unappreciated gems. Anyone can pull up the highest-voted Q&A on the site, but finding really great representative posts to showcase the site is hard - and is the entire point of this post. If I just wanted to see highly-voted stuff, I wouldn't have bothered asking in the first place.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Apr 10, 2017 at 23:16
  • @Randal'Thor well, I guess we can differ. :) Personally I think the highest voted answers this time round actually were perhaps some of the best, although I take your point. Apr 11, 2017 at 8:25
  • 1
    I'm torn on that Harry Potter question. I agree with Rand that this should be a place to escape Harry Potter, but that particular question and its answer were also really good literature discussions, not the usual exercise of combing Pottermore and JKR's Twitter.
    – Torisuda
    Apr 11, 2017 at 15:41
  • @Torisuda true, there will be a lot of Harry Potter questions and they will be best avoided, but in that mass, there will be some great questions which deserve notice, and not be ignored just because its a certain book Apr 11, 2017 at 15:42
  • 1
    (a pointer: I'd remove the first section, since it's going to cause some friction (as we see now). I'd just stick with the middle and end sections. Also, thanks, but I would have preferred some of my questions about stuff that nobody has read over the HNQed 1984...)
    – Mithical Mod
    Apr 11, 2017 at 17:44
  • 1
    @Mithrandir yeah fair enough, I deleted the first section. I'm not going to change the rest though. That answer was still good one, and in my opinion deserves a nomination. Apr 11, 2017 at 17:48

Warning: self-promotion follows! This is not an attempt to gather the best of all answers from 2017 Q1, but rather a collection of my own posts that I'm most pleased with. I'm sure others have written even better answers than these.

There are a few different types of answer on this site: those based on online research (e.g. finding interviews, reviews, any other relevant material to be quoted); those based on careful reading (simply taking the text of a story and examining it carefully, pulling out quotes to support one's conclusions); and those based on subject knowledge (which don't necessarily need to be supported by any kind of quotes, but simply by a deep knowledge and expertise on the material of the story).

Online research is, in my view, the least interesting of these. Subject knowledge is of course a great thing to use on any SE, and careful reading is a literary skill which can be honed to great effect, but Googling up some quotes is a skill which isn't really very literary. I don't say this to be snobbish - Googling is a skill, and a useful one, and a lot of my own answers are based on online research, especially from my early days here when I was still too influenced by SFF - but to justify my choices in this post. I've mostly ignored online-research answers when hunting for favourites here.

I've gone through my own answers from 2017 Q1 to pick out the ones I'm most proud of. Great questions are harder to judge, and great answers from other people are harder to find. Sorry.

Favourite answers:

Subject knowledge:

Careful reading:

Honourable mentions:

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