I'm writing a science fiction novel. There is a scene in which the protagonist wants to accomplish a goal using a chemical reaction.

Is it on topic to ask whether the specific reaction I envision is plausible and to ask about other chemistry-based approaches that would be more realistic and/or more effective?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ It probably depends on how exotic the reaction is but if it is based on hard chemistry then it should be on topic. $\endgroup$
    – bon
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 22:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ related meta.chemistry.stackexchange.com/questions/2904/… $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 22:49
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Also take care that is not too broad or primarily opinion-based. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 23:48
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Also, World Building worldbuilding.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$
    – Ben Norris
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ We already have a question concerning plausibility of the chemistry in a fantastical scenario, and I don't see why we wouldn't want to expand that to encompass proactive questions. $\endgroup$
    – tschoppi
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


This is a hard one. We probably won’t know until you ask the question. I’m pretty sure that there are two extremes:

  • Um, so I want my protagonist to turn straw into gold, how can he do that well?

  • Yeah, so I have this guy and he wants to go into the drug dealing business. Is it conceivable that he devises a more efficient synthesis for crystal meth?

(Ignore the bad phrasing and possible opinion-basing and think of the chemistry behind the questions.)

The first is a clear hammer down, no chance, go home and do some basic research. Or go to worldbuilding. The second is clearly within the scope of chemistry. (Or would be, if I wrote it in a good way.) And there is a vast grey area in between. Some bits light grey, some bits dark grey.

Of course, you also need to consider too broad or opinion based. But actually, too broad is okay for a world-builder, because that means that there is more than one way (= good). Opinion based is still saying ‘yeah, some people might think it to be possible, but we can’t base it on facts.’ So getting those close reasons is more or less saying ‘yeah, could work’.

Long story short: consider each case separately.


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