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The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Paperback – November 1, 1995
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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Did your last con visit leave you feeling out of touch? Was the latest issue of Locus full of unfamiliar writers? Or are you looking for a definitive analysis of the role of eschatology in science fiction? Look no further. You can find all the help you need, and the answers to questions you didn't even know you wanted to ask, in John Clute and Peter Nicholls's invaluable reference work, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. In the introduction, Clute and Nicholls write, "We see this book as more than merely an encyclopedia of sf; it is a comprehensive history and analysis of the genre."
With over 4,360 entries and 1,300,000 words, this is a jam-packed sourcebook on science fiction authors, books, subgenres, movements, and history. You can live without it, but why would you want to? It's got riveting trivia on every page, hours of browsing enjoyment, and endless potential for playing spot-the-error, a game popular among science fiction writers and fans. Clute and Nicholls have put together an admirable, ever-improving encyclopedia that tries to encompass a genre that grows new pseudopods every year. This is a great resource for fans and writers. Those with a yen for a more visual approach might appreciate Clute's Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia, and fantasy readers and writers should definitely check out The Encyclopedia of Fantasy when the new edition is published early in 1999. --Therese Littleton
Extensively revised from the 1979 edition, this edition has been expanded from 2,800 to more than 4,300 entries. Approximately 2,900 of them are for authors. Included besides mainstream writers of science fiction, horror, and fantasy are such authors as H. P. Lovecraft and J. R. R. Tolkein, who have influenced the genre.
There are 212 topical entries, including Robots, Time Travel, and Cyberpunk. A list of these topics is found in the introduction. Sixty-five scientific or sf jargon terms are defined. Science fiction in 27 different countries is covered in separate articles, which helps to balance the collection's strong U.S.-U.K. bias. This focus is probably inevitable given the anglophone domination of the field, but it has its drawbacks. The Japanese film industry, which "owned" the monster-movie market for years, is relegated to a few paragraphs in the article Japan.
Individual novels, even such seminal ones as Stranger in a Strange Land and War of the Worlds, do not get separate entries, but 544 motion pictures, 34 filmmakers, and 96 TV shows do. The movie known to monster-movie fans as Godzilla is listed as Gojira (a transliteration of its Japanese title), but there are adequate cross-references. Publishing houses (Arkham House), editors (Judy-Lynn del Rey), and critics (Kingsley Amis) have entries, as do comic book writers, artists, and publishers. Magazine and cover-art illustrators are also listed.
The editors devote considerable space to sf fandom, with such entries as Fanzines and Semiprozines, magazines which have provided some authors with their start in the field. There are also articles on fan organizations, without addresses.
The article Bibliographies is a useful survey dating back to the 1940s when fans compiled some ground-breaking titles such as Raymond Bleiler's The Checklist of Fantastic Literature (1948). It also lists more academic studies, including The Reference Guide to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (1992). The encyclopedia has no separate bibliographies, but entries cite titles of major works in the field with variant titles and dates of publication.
An introductory section includes a list of contributors with initials--all entries are signed. Contributors express opinions, sometimes strong ones. Articles range in length from a few lines to several pages. The dictionary format and abundant cross-referencing allow the browser or librarian with a ready-reference question to plunge right in.
More detailed author biobibliographies and criticism can be found in such sources as Contemporary Authors or some of the works cited in the Bibliographies article. But its coverage of so many related topics makes The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction a recommended purchase for medium-sized to large public and academic libraries. High schools will want to consider it, too. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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What I like most about the book is its combination of balanced, critical judgment on the one hand with a careful thorough-goingness on the other. The work is too short to be completely exhaustive, but it is about a complete as a single-volume work of just under 1,400 pages can be. It is hard to imagine how they could have done a more thorough job than they did. The book is currently out of print, but anyone interested in Sci-fi should search out a copy. I might go so far as to say that if you can own only one Sci-fi reference book, this is the one you should own.
I have one tiny bone to pick with the volume and one big hope for the future. The hope first. It is now over a decade since the book was published and we have continued to be deluged with Sci-fi novels and movies and especially television shows. With some justification, the entries on pre-1995 television shows are either dismissive or belligerent. Most of the good Sci-fi ever done on television has been done since 1995. Book-wise, Sci-fi is as big business and mainstream as it has ever been. There is simply a big need for a completely up-to-date work. We can hope for an updated edition. Whether it is financially feasible is another matter, but I do hope that the step is taken at some point. And mind you, I want an updating of THIS work, not a new work by other editors. They did it right; we just need it updated.
The tiny bone is that I wish the volume had done a bit more in guiding readers to new authors. Some of the articles do a better job of summing up the career of a writer without letting the reader known precisely which books would be the most important to read. Perhaps they could have put an asterisk beside the most important titles. Some of the entries are phenomenal at letting readers know how to proceed, but it isn't carried consistently through the whole work. But this is a minor point. All in all this is an admirably compiled work. As I said, if you love Sci-fi, you need this book.
It's impossible to completely describe the contents within the space of a short review. However, a summary should be enough to give a general impression. There are (alphabetically-sorted) articles on all different aspects of the genre, from the cinema to the written word.
To start off, there are biographies on every major science fiction writer from the 19th century-1993, and almost all of the minor ones. These biographies, although of varying quality, are almost all of considerable interest. As well as listing all of the writer's major contributions to the genre, they often include analyses of the author's writing styles, including discussions of specific works. Although readers may find themselves disagreeing with some of the contributors, it is nonetheless fascinating to read the opinions of other devotees.
Perhaps just as important, there are many articles on the various science fiction magazines and their editors. Such articles are vital to any comprehensive discussion of the genre; after all science fiction started out in the magazines, and many fine stories are still published there. These articles include detailed and interesting descriptions of the magazines' histories, including editors, major contributors, and high and low points of success.
In addition to written fiction, considerable attention is paid to science fiction movies. There is little information on actors, directors, or screenwriters, but plenty about the movies themselves. Most major science fiction films have their own individual entries, including information on plot, acting, production quality. The authors always make clear whether or not they like each movie; their recommendations have led me to many good rentals!
Finally, there are many articles on the genre itself. Much attention is given to the history of the genre, from it's embryonic period in the 19th century, to it's consolidation in the 1920s, to it's maturation in the '40s, right on up to the '90s. There is also a great deal of information on specific subjects and items of terminology, from "Aliens" to "Cyberpunk" to "Spindizzies".
I can pick this Encyclopedia up any time, and be sure of finding something interesting. It's a surefire winner for anyone interested in random fact-finding. All SF fans, even if they're not "browsing" types, should still keep this tome on hand. Any question concerning the genre is likely to have an answer somewhere between the front and back covers.
Most recent customer reviews
the entire third edition is online.
Oh how I loved this book in the 90s