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Introduction to the Online Edition

Entry updated 11 October 2021. Tagged: Prelim.

Welcome to the Fourth Edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, launched online on 6 October 2021 as a direct continuation of the Third Edition following the (amicable) end of our partnership with Gollancz and the SF Gateway. This reference work is edited by John Clute and David Langford, with Graham Sleight as Managing Editor and the late Peter Nicholls acknowledged as Founding Editor. Contributing Editors who have shaped important sections of the Encyclopedia and continue to do so are Jonathan Clements, Mathew Downward and Steven Pearce; Roger Robinson remains our Research Editor. The Encyclopedia is now published jointly by SFE Ltd (our holding company) and Ansible Editions. For the rest, the story told in the following Introduction to the Third Edition needs little updating:

Welcome to the Third Edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, published online in collaboration with Gollancz and the SF Gateway. The launch of this new version in October 2011 climaxed thirty-five years of work (with breaks) for the senior editors, and is much expanded from previous editions of the Encyclopedia: from the 1979 First Edition published by Granada (UK) and Doubleday (US), with Peter Nicholls, who had conceived the project in 1975, serving as General Editor; and the 1993 Second Edition published by Orbit (UK) and St Martin's Press (US), edited by John Clute and Peter Nicholls, which itself took on various forms over the years. Two of its reprintings (in 1995 and augmented in 1999) featured an appendix listing corrections and addenda; and a separate CD-ROM version, which added over 65,000 words to the original text (see Introduction to the CD-ROM Edition), also appeared in 1995 from Grolier Electronic Publishing.

The Third Edition took as its starting point the text of the 1995 CD-ROM edition. The laborious effort of transforming that version into usable form – a task including though not limited to restoration of lost material, repair of missing and broken links, reinstatement of accents stripped from characters (for example, "é" was reduced to "e" throughout), and insertion of corrections published elsewhere – was chiefly carried out by David Langford, and further refined by Clare Coney.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is and always will be a work in progress, a situation more clearly evident in the present era of regular online updates than when the book editions' snapshots of the sf field necessarily remained static for many years. Owing to the sheer amount of new material published since 1995, and also to the ambitious scale of our improvements to the coverage, we did not expect to complete our essential updating of the Third Edition before the end of 2012. As a marker of progress up to the point when this site went live, we had by the beginning of October 2011 expanded the 1,378,000 words contained in the CD-ROM to over 3,200,000 words and the entry count from 6731 to 12,230; while the 43,000 internal links of 1995 had grown to some 113,500 internal hyperlinks. But much remains to be done, and always will. Although virtually all existing author entries have now been updated and most high-priority new authors inserted, there are many further authors in need of entries and new ones emerging daily; while updates in several other areas including country/regional ("International") entries, critics, editors, films and publishers are likewise ongoing, contingent on time and the availability of expert contributors. Work continues, with regular scheduled updates of this website as a whole; our contract specifies at least monthly updating, and in practice this is done twice a week if not more frequently. The hyperlinks continue to grow in number and usefulness. Expressed hopes of reaching 4,000,000 words of text by the end of 2012 were not quite realized, but we passed this threshold in January 2013 and the next milestone of 5,000,000 words in November 2015. By September 2016, just in time for the fifth anniversary of both the encyclopedia and of SF Gateway, we had added two million words since the launch; the total word count passed 6,000,000 in July 2020.

We are pleased and grateful that despite its then being very much a work in progress, this third edition of the encyclopedia won the 2012 British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Nonfiction, the 2012 European SF Society award as Best Promoter (of the sf genre) and the 2012 Hugo for Best Related Work.

The chief editors for this third edition are John Clute, once again the most prolific contributor, who has written many new author entries and updated existing ones, introducing substantial new features like the end-of-entry Checklists, which now register some 73,000 individual titles (see Editorial Practices: Checklists); and David Langford, who besides extensive technical work has added or updated a large number of entries in all categories, principally themes, terminology and Awards. Editor Emeritus Peter Nicholls wrote or revised some entries in the current edition, and exercised some quality control via editorial advice on a number of other entries, but on a very much smaller scale than previously. Graham Sleight (Managing Editor) has liaised with Gollancz and the initial website designers STEEL of London, as well as dealing with our finances, making many corrections and additions and writing several entries.

Roger Robinson, as Research Editor, provides bibliographic support – in particular maintaining a private bibliographic data resource highly useful for work on most entries, and essential for the author Checklists which he regularly updates – and handles the vast majority of image uploads and captions for the Picture Gallery [see links below]. This visual extension of the Encyclopedia was introduced in May 2013 and in its first year of existence accumulated more than 10,000 cover images of books referenced in Encyclopedia Checklists; the 20,000 mark was reached in 2017.

Contributing Editors and other major contributors long associated with the third edition are as follows. Mike Ashley has greatly expanded and updated the coverage of Magazines, and undertaken considerable research to amplify author birth and death data throughout. Jonathan Clements has written large numbers of new and updated entries for China, Japan and related authors and artists, plus selected Far Eastern Cinema and Manga productions. John-Henri Holmberg has added and updated a number of Scandinavian entries, especially Swedish and Norwegian authors and the country entry for Sweden. Esther MacCallum-Stewart is writing and overseeing the Games entries. Steven Pearce has written a great many entries on animated Television series including Anime, somewhat neglected in past editions. Gary Westfahl further expanded and updated the artist/illustrator entries until his other projects no longer permitted this activity; he continues to contribute occasional film/television and theme entries. Most of the past and present Contributing Editors, especially Mike Ashley, have also supplied many suggestions and corrections (and written entries) outside their own official spheres.

Former Contributing Editors and major contributors whose input has been valuable but who are no longer actively writing for this encyclopedia are as follows. The late John Grant added and updated many entries for artists and illustrators. Mathew Downward, as Associate Editor, both wrote and oversaw the writing of many entries for Cinema and Television before stepping down in 2019; until then he was also responsible for most of our presence on such social media as Facebook and Twitter; he has since returned with occasional film/television entries. Nick Lowe added and updated a considerable number of Cinema entries from the pre-launch period to Summer 2014. Abigail Nussbaum added and updated a number of Television entries in the pre-launch period. John Platt added and updated a number of Comics entries before departing from the project. Adam Roberts introduced an entirely new complex of SF Music entries. Geoffrey Stevens wrote many entries on older and obscure Cinema and Television productions and Media Magazines. Neal Tringham introduced an entirely new and very extensive complex of Games entries.

In other areas, Clare Coney (our initial Technical Editor) performed a thorough job of proofreading and copyediting much of the text, despite the extreme difficulty of doing so while Clute, Langford and many others were constantly incorporating new material throughout. Rachel Haywood Ferreira (Latin America/Iberia Subeditor) coordinated contributors of Latin American, Portuguese and Spanish entries. Farah Mendlesohn (Academic Subeditor) supervised work by postgraduates on some entries about critics.

Further contributors of information, entries, partial entries and/or other much-valued support are detailed under Contributors. Providers of other much-valued assistance appear under Acknowledgments. Our thanks to all.

As a register of our progress towards the unattainable state of actual completion, graphic comparisons of word and entry counts – between the 1979 and 1993 print versions, the 1995 CD-ROM of the Second Edition, and the current state of the Third Edition – are irregularly updated on the Encyclopedia editors' home page [see links below]. See also the Statistics page.

Comments, corrections and suggestions may be emailed to the editors using the email contact link below.

John Clute and David Langford
October 2011-October 2021

about this encyclopedia

These introductory or preliminary entries ("prelims" in publishing jargon) are equivalent to the front matter in a book, and indeed much of the material comes from the corresponding sections of the previous book editions and the 1995 CD-ROM.

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