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Entry updated 26 February 2024. Tagged: Theme.


For students of science fiction, here luckily distinguished from students of what were once called non-genre literatures, bibliography is the second arm of criticism. Science fiction bibliography encompasses both description (physical description of the books of a single author or press) and context (what was published, in what significant form, when, and where). Compiling checklists and bibliographies was initially and has to a surprising extent remained a labour of love, very often carried out by fans or sometimes by book and magazine dealers. Since 1995, changes in technology, including the availability of online library catalogues and databases, and the explosion of author websites, have made the bibliographer's task simultaneously much easier and much more perilous; this entry focuses primarily on works originally available only in print form, most of them not yet digitized (for selected digital resources, see Online SF Resources). The abundance of information is welcome; the need to sift fact from myth, and real books from ghost titles, remains imperative.

The first, tiny sf bibliography, Science Fiction Bibliography (1935 chap), was produced by The Science Fiction Syndicate, a group of fans, though it seems to have been the work of William Crawford and D R Welch; it is avowedly incomplete, with Hugo Gernsback's Science Fiction Series being for instance "too well known to enumerate", but conveys a sense of discovery. A similar though UK-focused project was British Science-Fiction Bibliography (1937 chap) edited by Douglas W F Mayer for the Science Fiction Association. Ben Abramson's contemporaneous bibliography, "comprising several thousand pieces of scientific fiction", remained unpublished as a whole, though J O Bailey extracted from it an annotated checklist of books cited by him in Pilgrims through Space and Time: A History and Analysis of Scientific Fiction (1947). Philip Babcock Gove's book version of his 1940 PhD thesis, The Imaginary Voyage in Prose Fiction: A History of its Criticism and a Guide for Its Study, with an Annotated Check List of 215 Imaginary Voyages from 1700 to 1800 (1941), which is especially good on the evolution of genre during his chosen century, and Marjorie Hope Nicolson's Voyages to the Moon (1948), both contain valuable checklists tied to the expositional content of each text. Two works by Montague Summers (1880-1948), The Gothic Quest (1938) and A Gothic Bibliography (1940) must also be considered as forebears of the study of fantastic literature, as must also the bibliographies of early authors of interest to the genre. And the two volumes of Judith St John's catalogue to The Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books (1958, 1975) (see Children's SF) captured many titles up to 1910 not noticed elsewhere. Until more recent decades, however, few academically trained bibliographers paid any attention to sf. It was only the increasing academic acceptance of the genre and the proliferation of work from about 1975 onwards that justified the publication of Reference Guide to Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (1992) by Michael Burgess (Robert Reginald), which annotates and comments upon more than 550 relevant studies.

The Checklist of Fantastic Literature: A Bibliography of Fantasy, Weird and Science Fiction Books Published in the English Language (1948) by Everett F Bleiler, the earliest important bibliography in the field, made no distinction between sf and fantasy, was incomplete and had inevitable errors, and contained no information on contents. It was nevertheless invaluable for researchers from the first, although to look at it more than sixty years later is to contemplate the distance traversed since, both by the field as a whole and, in particular, by its author – who subsequently concentrated on more specialized bibliographical work (see below). For many years the only comparable general effort was "333": A Bibliography of the Science-Fantasy Novel (1953 chap) by Joseph H Crawford Jr (1932-    ) assisted by James J Donahue and the publisher Donald M Grant; this, though restricted to the titular total, provided valuable synopses of the 333 selected books, categorizing them with considerable acumen. Bleiler's Checklist was first added to by Bradford M Day in his The Supplemental Checklist of Fantastic Literature (1963), which contained 3000 additional titles. Bleiler thoroughly reworked his original research, publishing the result as The Checklist of Science-Fiction and Supernatural Fiction (1800-1948) (1978), which presented, alongside the corrected list, a useful category coding for most books included. But Bleiler's interest had by this point shifted to more specialized studies, and his checklist had in any case been superseded. SF Bibliographies: An Annotated Bibliography of Bibliographical Works on Science Fiction and Fantasy Fiction (1972 chap) by Robert E Briney and Edward Wood competently covers the early years, though it excludes work published in magazines, which according to the authors' definition of magazines precludes mention of Science Fiction Bibliography (1935 chap), which is described above.

Research in a field like sf, the basic texts of which are often elusive, depends initially on the existence of one central tool: the comprehensive checklist. Bleiler's selective version had served well for nearly three decades, and Marshall B Tymn, in American Fantasy & Science Fiction: Toward a Bibliography of Works Published in the United States, 1948-1973 (1979), gave selective coverage up to 1973. In the same year, however, the definitive work was published: Reginald's Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature: A Checklist, 1700-1974, with Contemporary Science Fiction Authors II (1979 2vols; exp 2010 2vols with Mary Wickizer Burgess and Douglas Menville), which listed, according to fairly strict criteria of eligibility – no title whose fantastic content did not comprise at least a third of the book was listed – three times the number of titles Bleiler covered; the second volume was a biographical dictionary based on Reginald's earlier Stella Nova: The Contemporary Science Fiction Authors (1970) and Contemporary Science Fiction Authors (1974). Reginald later supplemented the checklist portion of this work in Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991: A Bibliography of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Fiction Books and Nonfiction Monographs (1992), which takes into account some errors (very few) and omissions from the 1979 volumes while adding almost 22,000 new titles – more new titles in 17 years, it might be noted, than had appeared in the previous 250. Although – unlike Bleiler's later work – the Reginald checklists do not code cited texts according to the genres and subgenres contained within the broad field of the fantastic, they now constitute the central bibliographical resource for any sf/fantasy library in book form for any sf/fantasy library, though the online Internet Speculative Fiction Database or ISFDB [see links below] has superseded Reginald for publications since 1950 or so; ISFDB registers books received or examined, without noting edition status, and can therefore be deceptive when a first edition has not been seen; and it remains less complete and reliable for publications preceding World War Two, but gaps here are rapidly being filled.

Also at the end of the 1970s appeared L W Currey's Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors: A Bibliography of First Printings of their Fiction (1979), a genuine first-edition bibliography which covered about 200 of the principal genre writers up to the end of 1974 (a revised edition was issued on CD-ROM in 2002). George Locke's remarkably accurate (and intriguingly anecdotal) A Spectrum of Fantasy: The Bibliography and Biography of a Collection of Fantastic Literature (1980), which suggested en passant several titles that plausibly supplemented the Reginald Checklist. A Spectrum of Fantasy: Volume 2: Acquisitions to a Collection of Fantastic Literature, 1980-1993 (1994) and A Spectrum of Fantasy: volume III: Acquisitions to a Collection of Fantastic Literature, 1994-2001, Together with Additional Notes on Titles (2002), plus two supplementary pamphlets [for details see his entry], complete this invaluable enterprise.

Other forms of extensive coverage were of varying use. The Dictionary Catalog of the J. Lloyd Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (1982 3vols) is a photographic record of the 37,500 cards recording 20,000 items in the J Lloyd Eaton Collection (unfortunately, some large acquisitions dating before 1982 were not included, and it was out of date before publication).

After gaining some control over the field as a whole, the sf researcher would then find her/himself needing more specialized aids as well. Sf was for many years a genre dominated, in the USA at least, by the Magazines, and magazine indexes are an essential tool. These include: Bill Evans's The Gernsback Forerunners (1944 chap), which indexes sf in Modern Electrics and other journals founded by Hugo Gernsback before Amazing Stories; Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1926-50 (1952) by Donald B Day; The Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1951-1965 (1968) by Norman Metcalf or, for the same period, The MIT Science Fiction Society's Index to the S-F Magazines (1966) by Erwin S Strauss; Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1966-70 (1971) by the New England Science Fiction Association; and The N.E.S.F.A. Index to the Science Fiction Magazines and Original Anthologies 1971-1972 (1973). NESFA Press continued to bring out short fiction indexes and an annual basis though 1989. More specialized productions include Monthly Terrors: An Index to the Weird Fantasy Magazines Published in the United States and Great Britain (1985) by Mike Ashley and Frank H Parnell (1916-1996), and Mystery, Detective, and Espionage Fiction: A Checklist of Fiction in U.S. Pulp Magazines, 1915-1974 (1988 2vols) by Michael L Cook and Stephen T Miller. Mike Ashley has continued his bio-bibliographical work on the history of magazine sf in The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1950 (2000), Transformations: The Story of the Science Fiction Magazines from 1950 to 1970 (2005), and Gateways to Forever: The Story of the Science-Fiction Magazines from 1970 to 1980 (2007); a fourth volume is planned. Indexes to individual magazines – like The Complete Index to Astounding/Analog (1981) by Ashley and Terry Jeeves – are cited in this encyclopedia in the relevant magazine entries.

Of course stories are not published solely in magazines. In an ongoing project complementary to his projected story index, Contento has produced, in Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections (1978) and Index to Science Fiction Anthologies and Collections, 1977-1983 (1984), a highly usable reference source which, in addition to listing stories not initially published in magazine form, also covers those published originally in magazines and later made more generally available in book form. His Indexes, therefore, are an aid to the researcher, as the stories they catalogue are both valued and available; but Contento should be used with caution in this regard. He does not himself make any qualitative claims about the stories he lists in this format, nor is he complete within his declared remit, and no researcher should assume that unlisted stories are necessarily less rewarding. Contento's indexes for coverage of the years after 1983 now appear online as The Locus Index to Science Fiction: 1984-1998, with additional annual coverage through 2007. Paperback publication constitutes another source of original sf material, and Christopher Stephens, a New York bookseller, compiled The Science Fiction and Fantasy Paperback: A Complete List (1943-1973) (1991).

From yet another angle of approach, Jack L Chalker and Mark Owings, in The Index to the Science-Fantasy Publishers (1966; rev vt Index to the SF Publishers 1979; very much exp vt The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History 1991), provides a checklist of (and anecdotal commentary on) almost every title released by the specialist sf houses, arranged by publisher. The 1991 version, ten times the size of the first edition, gives its users an invaluable grasp of the shape – though it is less secure on the detail – of sf Publishing through the twentieth century; inconveniently, that first edition has been several times revised in successive small unmarked reprintings, with the result that readers cannot know the status of the volume they have in front of them. Rich in personality and flavour, The Index to the Science-Fantasy Publishers migrated to CD-ROM in 1996, with a final edition appearing in 2003, updated by a terminal Supplement 12 (2004). It will remain a key work in the bibliographical history of the field.

Two ongoing index series by Hal W Hall are also essential. The first – comprising the Science Fiction Book Review Index, 1923-1973 (1975), Science Fiction Book Review Index, 1974-1979 (1981) and Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review Index, 1980-1984 (1985) – along with its annual supplements – released under the full latter title, and covering, as of the volume published in 1994, the years up to 1990 – functions as an accurate if incomplete bibliography of sf criticism. And his Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Index, 1878-1985 (1987 2vols), which incorporates early reference guides, covers non-review research and criticism in the field; together with the supplemental volumes, Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Index 1985-1991, and Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Index 1992-1995, this has formed the basis for The Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database edited by Hal and hosted by Texas A&M University., which also makes available digital files of the Book Review Index.

Moving from comprehensive bibliographies whose remit is to encompass the field rather than to evaluate it, we come to research aids which are designed to provide a critical commentary as well, like the above-cited Gove and Nicolson volumes from the 1940s. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968 in three volumes (1974, 1978, 1982) by Donald H Tuck engagingly annotated a wide variety of texts, but its author frequently cross-referred readers to Bleiler for fuller listings. The first edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979), general editor Peter Nicholls, attempted to list or mention all sf or fantasy books published by the approximately 1700 fiction authors treated, but the ascriptions in that edition and in the second edition (which has entries for about 3000 authors) are not arranged in checklist form, and are not intended primarily for bibliographical reference. The second edition, the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993), edited by John Clute and Nicholls, greatly expanded its scope and ambition; it served as an authoritative tool for a decade. The third and current version of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current online), with David Langford added as co-editor, provides, in a format not entirely consistent with normal library cataloguing practice, detailed citations for the many thousands of volumes here listed (roughly 80,000 as of late 2022; see Statistics for the most recent update to this figure). Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers (1981; rev 1986; rev 1991), first two editions edited by Curtis C Smith, third edition edited by Paul E Schellinger (1962-    ) and Noelle Watson (1958-    ), though valuable for its biographical and critical sections, could not be recommended for its checklists, which were eccentrically conceived, inaccurate, and which remained complacently uncorrected from one edition to the next. The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1988) edited by James E Gunn lists without bibliographic detail selected titles by those authors (about 500) given entries; George Mann's The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2001) is ambitious but fettered by space constraints.

Broadest in scope of the non-encyclopedic projects are the three volumes edited by Neil Barron. The most relevant of these is Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction (1976; exp 1981; further exp 1987; fourth edition, 1995, and fifth edition, 2004), which is a selective (but very broad) bibliography of the field, complete with critical annotations on each volume chosen. The other Barron productions, Fantasy Literature: A Reader's Guide (1990) and Horror Literature: A Reader's Guide (1990), are smaller and less definitive; they were later amalgamated with new material as Fantasy and Horror: A Critical and Historical Guide (omni 1999). Bibliography-based studies of particular periods began to appear in the last decades of the twentieth century, to date concentrating – very appropriately, considering the sf field's state of ignorance before then about its earlier years – on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Darko Suvin's Victorian Science Fiction in the UK: The Discourses of Knowledge and of Power (1983) and Thomas D Clareson's Science Fiction in America, 1870s-1930s: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary Sources (1984) supply complementary coverages from widely differing critical perspectives. Everett F Bleiler – in two enormous annotated bibliographies, Science-Fiction: The Early Years (1990 [1991]) and Science Fiction: The Gernsback Years (1998), provide what may be a definitive coverage of the period up to 1936 in the form of story synopses. Jess Nevins's The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana (2005) arranges a comprehensive take on its subject matter by characters in the many books covered. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works and Wonders (2005 3vols), edited by Gary Westfahl, contains more than 400 thematic entries as well as individual essays on 200 canonical works.

Some thematic bibliographies had begun to appear before the end of the 1970s, including Atlantean Chronicles (1971) by Henry M Eichner; Voyages in Space: A Bibliography of Interplanetary Fiction 1801-1914 (1975) and the similarly titled but vastly expanded and differently structured Voyages in Space: The Interplanetary Theme in Creative Writing to 1914: A Researcher's Companion by George Locke; and Tale of the Future (1961; exp 1972; further exp 1978) by I F Clarke. More appeared in the 1980s, including Nuclear Holocausts: Atomic War in Fiction, 1895-1984 (1987) by Paul Brians (1942-    ), The First Gothics: A Critical Guide to the English Gothic Novel (1987) by Frederick S Frank (1935-2008), and Lyman Tower Sargent's British and American Utopian Literature, 1516-1985 (1988). Supernatural Fiction Writers: Contemporary Fantasy and Horror (2002) edited by Richard Bleiler (a new edition of a 1985 work) provides a capacious umbrella under which many sf writers are surveyed. Auction catalogues of significant collections frequently record ephemera and runs of fanzines, notably: the Fantasy Archives sales, Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Literature from the Inventory of Fantasy Archives, in five sales at Swann Galleries (1993-1995); and The Sam Moskowitz Collection of Science Fiction, sold on 29 June 1999 at Sotheby's in New York City. Bookseller catalogues continue to chart interesting territory, such as Lost-Race Fiction: The Stuart Teitler Collection, compiled by William Matthews for Serendipity Books (2001), and the Hordern House catalogue, Imaginary Voyages & Invented Worlds (2002). More intensely comprehensive than either of these checklists is Raymond John Howgego's Encyclopedia of Exploration: Invented and Apocryphal Narratives of Travel (2013) (see Fantastic Voyages; Proto SF.) But there will always remain room for much further work of this sort.

Specialized bibliographies of individual authors have proliferated since the late 1970s (many are cited at the foot of the relevant author entries in this encyclopedia), often being published by sf houses like Borgo Press and Starmont House, or by individuals like Phil Stephensen-Payne in collaboration with Gordon Benson Jr, and like Chris Drumm, or by academic presses like Garland, G K Hall and Meckler. Several pseudonym guides specifically devoted to sf and fantasy writers have also appeared, including James A Rock's not entirely reliable but intriguing Who Goes There (1979) and Roger Robinson's fuller Who's Hugh? (1987). Interestingly, although the fan bibliographers in general exhibit a wide variety of ascription techniques (some of these being of Rube Goldberg-like complexity and sometimes questionable accuracy), they have often accomplished the most interesting work, and their productions are very much more likely to be up-to-date than those which appear, sometimes years after completion, from the staider firms.

No volume like this encyclopedia could be properly written without the benefit of original research on the part of its authors. But, equally, no volume like this encyclopedia could hope to exist without the constant support and reassurance of every book mentioned above, and of ten times again as many. The editors of this book are in debt to them all; specific acknowledgements can be found in the Introduction. [JC/PN/HW/DRL]

further reading

Books by authors given entries in this encyclopedia are not listed here.


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