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The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Paperback – November, 1995

4.8 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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

Review

...the most intelligent, wide-ranging, and richest reference work on science fiction ever assembled. To date it is the indispensable volume on the topic. -- Samuel R. Delany
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1386 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; Reprint edition (November 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031213486X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312134860
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.4 x 2.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book may not include everything you ever wanted to know about science fiction, but it definitely comes closer than any other work in existence. Long-time fans will enjoy the extensive analytical and bibliographical material. Beginners looking for a useful introduction to the genre are sure to find it here.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Science fiction has long needed this comprehensive encyclopedia. Although the biographical details are necessarily short, and some of the entries border on the hopelessly opinionated, the authors provide an invaluable listing of almost every single author and subject in the genre. Particularly wonderful are the bibliographies of the complete books of each author; finally, a reader can know if he's read all of his favorite writer. It's not the kind of book one reads from cover to cover, but playing encyclopedia tag is wonderful fun; pick a page, read an entry, and then follow the references to other subjects until you get hopelessly, wonderfully lost! An excellent gift for any readers who are never without a science fiction book in their hands (and for whom you're afraid to buy something they have already read).
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Format: Paperback
No serious science fiction fan should be without this book. Since this book is filled with analyses of authors' works, it is SPOILER LADEN. So if you use it for reading suggestions (as I do), you must learn to read around the plot summaries. Caveat lector
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Format: Paperback
Along with its companion volume, "The Encyclopedia of Fantasy," the editors offer the most comprehensive references currently available on speculative fiction, covering authors both minor and major, discussion of the impact of writers and their works upon the genre, influences both obvious and obscure, as well as erudite observations upon the history and development of imaginative fiction. And this is but a fraction of all this marvelous reference has to offer! Indispensable to either the devotee of the genre or the casual reader, this text, along with its companion, should grace the shelves of anyone seriously interested in science fiction or literature. As with most references of this scope, already it is beginning to become out of date, lacking entries for newer and already significant authors, such as China Mieville, but one can hope a new edition will soon be in the offing. I know I will rush out to buy it, and in the meantime there is more than enough information here to occupy and entrance me for many months to come. If you read science fiction regularly, shame on you if you don't own this book.
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Format: Paperback
A book that all serious sci-fi fans will find useful. An excellent reference text, it also does well for browsing - just flip open any page and you find something interesting, which will lead you on to something more interesting, and before you know it, hours have passed! Opinionated but always entertaining, the Encyclopaedia is definitely worth a buy. Warning - the binding is a tad flimsy though (or maybe it's all the abuse that my copy's been through)
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Format: Paperback
Sometimes they do a book and just get everything right. Many reference works on Sci-fi are distressing by how much truly essential material is left out or ignored. Not this one. For instance, years ago I read an extremely early and very odd book by Philip K. Dick called THE COSMIC PUPPETS. Most Sci-fi reading guides or dictionaries or surveys omit this title, but not this one. I have a friend who is an exceptionally good mainstream novelist, Jack Butler, who usually publishes his highly praised and critically acclaimed works on publishers like Knopf or Penguin. But he also published on Atlantic Monthly Press what he intended as a straightforward Sci-fi novel in the grand tradition. Because Jack's reputation is as a mainstream writer and because it was published on a prestigious literary press, the novel was almost universally ignored by the Sci-fi community and Sci-fi reviewers (even when Gregory Benford wrote a review lavishing it with praise, it was published not in a Sci-fi mag but in the New York Times). But when you look Jack up here they not only have a listing, they recognize the book as the superb work it is and evince an understanding that its failure in the Sci-fi community stems from marketing errors.

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.
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