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Introduction to the First Edition

Entry updated 9 October 2021. Tagged: Prelim.

Basically, there are two ways of researching a reference book. The first, and unhappily perhaps the more common, is for the compilers to cannibalize previous reference books for information. The trouble with this system, apart from a certain unfairness to pioneer workers who are sometimes not even credited, although heavily copied, is that it tends to repeat mistakes: actual errors are sometimes carried through four or five books until finally, because of the "authority" of the printed word, they are generally accepted as true. The second is to go to the original sources.

Although our task would have been impossible without the pioneer work of such bibliographers and indexers as Everett F Bleiler, Bradford M Day, Donald B Day, H W Hall, Walt Lee, Norm Metcalf and, pre-eminently, Donald H Tuck, along with many others who, like the above, are given entries in this volume (see the entry on Bibliographies and Indexes), and although in a minority of cases we relied on their findings, wherever possible we adopted the second research system. We believe this volume to be a substantial contribution to original research in science fiction; it is certainly the most comprehensive work on the subject ever published. It contains over 2800 entries, not counting cross-references.

As we suppose must always be the case with encyclopedists innocently setting out, we initially imagined that it might be possible to put everything in: all the relevant facts. We were almost instantly disillusioned. We now believe that, though we have gone a surprisingly long way towards achieving that aim, such an accomplishment would be impossible within the covers of a single volume; nor would the life-span of a handful of researchers encompass sufficient time for total comprehensiveness. Sf is a bigger field than most readers could begin to imagine. Let us then be quite frank about what is in and what is not. Although this volume is arranged on an alphabetical basis, we originally grouped the entries according to type: Authors, Themes, Films, Magazines, Editors, Critics, Illustrators, Film-makers, Publishers, Pseudonyms, Series, Television programmes, Original anthologies, Comics, Sf in various countries, Terminology, Awards, Fanzines and a small collection of Miscellanea.

1. To begin at the beginning: Authors. The fundamental principle of selection is very simple. Ideally, all authors who have written works which are arguably sf and published them in book form, and who are not purely writers of juveniles, are given individual entries. We shall not tempt fate, however, by claiming that we have met that ideal; we shall certainly find ourselves having omitted some 20th-century authors (and are aware of it in the case of some authors of routine sf adventure), and for earlier centuries we have not attempted to be fully comprehensive. In treating the 20th century, we were forced to make difficult decisions about the inclusion of many authors, and we hope we have erred on the side of generosity. We have tried to include the juvenile writers most relevant to sf in general (so that you will find Carl H Claudy and Alan Garner represented, but not Monica Hughes or Hugh Lofting). We have also given entries to the most important fantasy writers, since the readership of fantasy overlaps substantially with that of sf, even though, in our view, the works of authors like Lord Dunsany, E R Eddison, H P Lovecraft or J R R Tolkien cannot in any rigorous sense be assimilated into sf. Many fantasy writers have been important influences within the sf field, however, and for that reason we felt it appropriate to include a selection. We also had to make some difficult decisions concerning the pattern of sub-genres that fringe sf. Some of these are: Lost-race and Lost-world stories, Prehistoric stories, Future-war stories, Political satires set in imaginary countries or in the near future, Heroic-fantasy stories set on other worlds, and Spiritualist and Astral-body stories. We have generously represented these sub-genres, giving full entries to the most important writers who used them, but we do not claim (especially in the extraordinarily prolific field of Future-war stories) to be fully comprehensive in these cases.

We have not restricted ourselves to authors whose work has appeared in book form only. A number of sf writers since 1926 who did not graduate, or who have not yet graduated, from magazines and anthologies are represented. Further information about Author entries is given in "How to use this book" and the Checklist of abbreviations.

The most interesting fact to emerge from the making up of a list of those authors who were to receive entries is that there are more non-genre sf writers (i.e. writers not associated directly with sf magazines or sf publishing imprints) than there are genre sf writers. We realize that the greatest public interest is in the latter group, and we are sure that we have done justice to the Isaac Asimovs and Robert Heinleins of the genre sf world in terms of the length and solidity of their entries, but we are also happy to be able, in a small way, to rectify the imbalance characteristic of most previous bibliographical studies of sf, and to draw attention to that great host of authors who published and continue to publish sf books without the magic words "science fiction" on the cover, though the consequence is that many of them have remained almost unknown to the general sf readership. Taking Authors. Editors and Critics together (there is a substantial overlap between the three groups), and not counting pseudonym cross-references, there are 1817 entries.

2. Themes. It is in this area, along with Authors, that this volume has its greatest claim to originality. Remarkably little work has been done by way of analysing sf according to its themes, apart from the most obvious, such as Robots and Utopias. We have included 175 theme entries, each consisting of a short essay, varying in length between 200 and 3500 words, and mostly well over 1000 words, discussing the importance of the theme in sf and the history of modern thought generally, and the variety of ways in which it has been treated over the years. When taken together, these theme entries comprise a comprehensive overview of the concerns of sf, a book within a book; for this reason, and because the reader may find it convenient to have the headings under which this overview is assembled readily available, a full list of these entries appears towards the end of the introductory matter. Otherwise, it may not occur to him that he will be able to find entries on such matters as Absurdist sf, Entropy, Faster than light, Paranoia and Schizophrenia, Pastoral and Social Darwinism.

Now that sf is playing a much greater role in education, both at high school and at university levels, especially in the USA (see the entry on SF in the Classroom), a real need has become evident for a quick way of locating stories relevant to various areas of discussion, such as Automation, Cybernetics, Ecology, Overpopulation, Pollution and many others. Teachers often wish to dramatize such discussions by giving imaginative examples of the human consequences of the many changes taking place in the world about us, and sf is an ideal teaching aid here. There is also, of course, a considerable interest in the themes of sf among the general sf readership. No single theme entry can possibly be comprehensive, and the usefulness of such an entry would be reduced if it did contain complete lists of all stories and books dealing with its given theme, because much of sf in its lowest strata, like all genre literatures, is derivative and occasionally downright stupid. We have tried to select the most important stories under each theme heading: important either for literary strength, or for the intrinsic interest of the concepts they contain, or because they register changes in popular thought as represented in popular literature at different periods. The last point will make this volume, we hope, especially interesting to social historians and those who are concerned to trace the variation in and evolution of the prejudices and aspirations of the Western world.

3. Films. There are 286 film entries (listed in the entry on Cinema). This area of the book is not fully comprehensive, partly because it is difficult to establish where horror or fantasy stops and sf begins, and more importantly because having an entry on every B-grade monster movie ever made would have been deeply depressing, and would have taken space needed for more important matters. The selection was made first by giving entries to the generally agreed classics; second by following the careers of certain film-makers; third by choosing representative films from all the various sub-types of sf cinema. This book contains the longest and most comprehensive, fully annotated sf filmography in existence. There are longer indexes, including a remarkably fine one by Walt Lee, but these do not give any sort of detailed commentary.

4. Magazines. We give entries to academic critical magazines such as Extrapolation, Foundation and Science-Fiction Studies, to the most important of the magazines that printed sf before the advent of genre sf magazines in 1926, from the Strand Magazine to the Blue Book Magazine (see the entries on Magazines and Pulp Magazines for a full list), and finally to all professional sf magazines published in English, together with all fantasy magazines that regularly printed stories by sf authors. This is a comprehensive listing with full publishing details. (See the entry on SF Magazines for a list of all the sf magazines that receive entries.) We do not give entries to straight horror or supernatural story magazines. Outside the magazine indexes, so full a treatment of sf magazines is nowhere available, and the indexes themselves do not include any sort of critical and descriptive comment. We have even given entries to such bizarre peripheral titles as Dusty Ayres and His Battle Birds and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. 207 fiction magazines receive entries.

5. Illustrators. There are approximately 60 entries on sf illustrators, ranging from the 19th-century Albert Robida to such recent arrivals as Vincent Di Fate. This is by a long way the most comprehensive study of sf illustrators in a published book, though it is not complete: we had to make a selection from several hundreds. We based our selection on historical importance and general popularity as manifested in magazine letter columns, awards and portfolio sales, and in some cases on our own intuitive taste, whether for good or ill. We have included comics and book-cover illustrators as well as genre sf magazine illustrators, but we decided not to include those "serious" or gallery artists who occasionally incorporate items of sf iconography, such as Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005).

6. Editors. We have given entries to all editors of important magazines and anthologies.

7. Critics. Entries are given to all critics who have written books on sf, and to a large selection of those whose critical work is restricted to articles or pamphlets.

8. Film-makers. We have included about 20 entries on important directors, producers, special-effects designers and screenwriters closely associated with sf – more, if one counts such entries as those on Jerome Bixby and Richard Matheson, who would have received entries in any case on the basis of their work for sf in the written form. We decided not to include directors whose work is fundamentally horror with sf trimmings, such as Bert Gordon, or directors known for only one sf film, such as Fred McLeod Wilcox.

9. Publishers. It would have been absurd to give entries to every publisher who has ever published sf. We felt, however, that there was a strong case for giving entries to about 20 specialist sf publishers, including some of the small pioneering firms such as Arkham House and Gnome Press, even where they did not publish sf exclusively.

10. Pseudonyms. Information about pseudonyms is to be found under individual Author entries. The main entry for any author is under the name by which he is best known, hence Lewis Carroll rather than Charles Dodgson. (For full information about our usage with Pseudonym entries, and the kinds of cross-reference we use, see the entry for Pseudonyms.)

11. Series. There is no separate entry listing series. All relevant series are listed in the entries for individual authors. A useful feature is that when a series consists primarily of books but also of short stories, we also list the short stories belonging to the series. This is a peculiarly difficult area of research, in part because it is not always simple to define a series (they are not always coherently and unambiguously in serial form), and in part because it is not always possible to track down every short story.

12. Television programmes. We have given entries to the most important television series; the omissions are primarily peripheral fantasy series, and series designed for young children.

Occasionally individual dramas with sf connotations turn up on the television screen; some but not all of these made-for-tv films and plays have also been given entries, more especially those which subsequently attained theatrical release as films. There is also a theme entry, Television, which lists all the other 56 television entries.

13. Original anthologies. Because of the importance of this publishing phenomenon, which has extensively supplanted the sf magazines as a market for sf writers who work in the short-story form, we have given entries to 10 of the most important original anthology series, such as Orbit and Universe, though not to original anthologies which are single books only, and not part of a series. A theme entry, Anthologies, discusses this branch of sf publishing.

14. Comics. Here we have been highly selective. There is a general theme entry, Comic Strips and Comic Books, and there are individual entries for 12 of the most popular and influential sf comics. There are many hundreds of sf comic-book titles, but although we touch on this specialist field, we regard the trivia of comics publishing as being outside our brief.

15. Science fiction in various countries. We have given separate entries for each of the most important sf-producing areas (a phrase which sounds, though we do not mean it to, like something from a textbook of industrial geography). The entries are as follows: Australia; Benelux; Canada; Eastern Europe; France; Germany; Italy; Japan; Russia; Scandinavia; and Spain, Portugal and South America. It would have been redundant to give separate entries for the USA and the UK, since Anglo-American sf dominates the book.

16. Terminology. A theme entry, Terminology, lists 74 important items of specialist sf jargon; each item is also given a separate entry. Some of these entries do double service as theme entries, e.g. Entropy, Cybernetics and Robots.

17. Awards. All the most important English- and French-language sf awards, including some fan awards, receive entries, as follows: British Science Fiction Award; Ditmar; DUFF; Hugo; International Fantasy; James Blish; John W Campbell; John W Campbell Memorial; Jupiter; Nebula; Pilgrim; Prix Apollo; Prix Jules Verne; TAFF. We have not given entries for the Gandalf and British Fantasy awards, or any other award exclusively for fantasy.

18. Fanzines. Here we have been highly selective. All Hugo-winning fanzines receive individual entries, as do the most serious and critical contemporary fanzines, along with a handful of others interesting for one reason or another. There are over 40 entries on fanzines and other magazines about sf. There is also a theme entry, Fanzines.

19. Miscellanea. We give entries to several items that concern sf enthusiasts, including Conventions, Fandom and Fan Language. There are entries on various sf groups, both fan and professional, such as N3F and SFWA. Several scientists whose work bears especially strongly on sf are given entries, including Freeman Dyson, Herman Kahn and Carl Sagan. We also give entries to such prominent popularizers of theories of Pseudo-Science as Immanuel Velikovsky and Erich von Däniken.

We hesitated for a while over whether or not to make all entries anonymous, but eventually decided to follow the example of those reference books which append to each entry the initials of its author. We do this to give credit where it is due, but also to apportion responsibility for those cases where the reader may feel that the content of the entry has gone beyond the factual into matters of opinion. This latter point is important; early on, we decided, in the interests of liveliness and readability, to permit some critical comment in the entries; a certain amount of criticism and historical "placing" is, anyway, implicit in all selection procedures. We soon discovered that, especially in the theme entries, it was impossible and probably undesirable to avoid all matters of opinion, particularly those regarding the relative importance of different writers. Within Author entries, some books necessarily receive more comment than others. We recognize that this facet of the Encyclopedia could become controversial, and therefore emphasize here that it is only peripherally a critical work. Opinion has been kept to a minimum, and in each case it is possible to identify, through the initials used, whose opinion it is. (See, for further details, the Checklist of contributors.) However, though every entry is signed individually, there is a very real sense in which this volume is a team effort. Few entries have not been scanned by at least four of the five editors named on the title page, and most incorporate suggestions from more than one source. Two signatures are given for the more fully collaborative entries, the first initials being those of the primary contributor.

This is, we hope, a book to be dipped into or read, and not merely a reference source for titles, dates or plot summaries; certainly it was so designed by us. While it is primarily an Encyclopedia, we hope it serves an additional function: not merely to tabulate facts, but to record them coherently and interestingly, bringing out their inter-relationships and their significance wherever possible. This work is not only an Encyclopedia of sf, but also a comprehensive history of and commentary on the genre.

Another urgent matter on our minds from the beginning was the potential cost of the volume. We naturally wanted to keep it down to a level where we could properly view this as a popular book for the layman and not just as a reference work for university and other libraries. In terms of cost per word (there are over 700,000 words of text) this is certainly, by a substantial margin, the cheapest sf reference book available. To help accomplish this, we have kept illustration subordinate to text, and have included no colour plates. None the less, the book is copiously illustrated with black and white plates, each one tied specifically to an item of text and with the intention of illuminating that item. We have been particularly generous with plates illustrating magazine covers, since the style of the cover is often of assistance in correctly and rapidly identifying magazines in this notoriously confusing field, confusing because so many magazines have similar or identical titles. We have naturally given an example of the work of each illustrator who receives an entry. Comics are comprehensively illustrated, and we have included stills from many of the films we discuss. In choosing magazine and book covers to use we have not spent a great deal of time in seeking out examples in mint condition. We wish to show sf as it appears to the average collector, including the occasional remainder stamp or tattered edge.

It is our hope to produce revised and updated editions of this Encyclopedia. It would be irrational to suppose that we have miraculously achieved a reference book devoid of error, and we are anxious to hear from any reader who can give us additional information, or correct any item which he has reason to think is wrong. All such letters may be addressed to the General Editor, c/o Roxby Press Ltd, 98 Clapham Common Northside, London SW4 9SG, England. Future editions will take account of books, magazines and films produced after our present closing date, which is generally between December 1977 and June 1978, according to the entry in question. We have been quite strict about not including items which have been announced for the future. A number of books, for example, have already been announced for later in 1978, and we are in possession of much of this information; but our experience is that last-minute changes of title or publication date can make nonsense of reference books which include projections of the near future. [PN/JC]

Peter Nicholls and John Clute
26 June 1978


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