Nicholls, Peter

Tagged: Author | Editor | Critic

(1939-    ) Australian editor and author, primarily a critic and historian of sf through his creation and editing of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction [see below]; resident in the UK 1970-1988, in Australia from 1988; worked as an academic in English literature (1962-1968, 1971-1977), scripted television documentaries, was a Harkness Fellow in Film-making (1968-1970) in the USA, worked as a publisher's editor (1982-1983), often broadcast film and book reviews on BBC Radio from 1974 and published much sf criticism – generally waspish but unsnobbish – in newspapers and magazines.

He became first Administrator of the Science Fiction Foundation 1971-1977, and edited its journal Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction 1974-1978, part of this work being republished as Foundation Numbers 1-8: March 1972-March 1975 (anth 1978). Science Fiction at Large (anth 1976; vt Explorations of the Marvellous 1978), assembled essays written for a 1975 sf symposium he had himself organized, by Philip K Dick, Thomas M Disch, Alan Garner, Ursula K Le Guin, himself and others. The Science in Science Fiction (1982), edited by Nicholls and written with David Langford and Brian M Stableford, is a study of sf's scientific content. Fantastic Cinema: An Illustrated Survey (1984; vt The World of Fantastic Films: An Illustrated Survey 1984), Nicholls's first solo book, is a critical history of sf, horror and fantasy Cinema.

He will probably be best remembered as the editor/co-editor/editor emeritus of various editions of this encyclopedia, having planned and contracted for the project in the mid-1970s, and remaining engaged with the enterprise until his partial withdrawal due to illness. The encyclopedia has been his major accomplishment. He initially served as General Editor, with John Clute as Associate Editor, of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: An Illustrated A to Z (1979; vt The Science Fiction Encyclopedia US; much exp, rev 1993 with Clute and Nicholls co-editors; rev 1995; exp rev 1995 CD-ROM; further rev 1999), which was awarded the first Nonfiction Hugo in 1980; he also won a Pilgrim Award in that year for services to sf scholarship. The revised edition of 1993, co-edited by Clute and Nicholls, won a second Hugo, along with several other awards. He was Editor Emeritus of the third edition (2011-current), which won a third Hugo, as Best Related Work, in 2012, and gained other recognitions.

In 2000 Nicholls was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disease of the brain, and his contributions to sf criticism and scholarship were increasingly curtailed. He did all the same compose some new entries for the current edition, revised some earlier entries and provided editorial advice, but (as he made publicly clear) on a very much smaller scale than previously. The term "editor emeritus" was intended to reflect this contraction (but not elimination) of editorial responsibility. The current edition of this encyclopedia bears his mark throughout. [PN/JC]

see also: Bibliographies; Collections; Critical and Historical Works About SF; Definitions of SF; Eaton Award; Proto SF; SF in the Classroom; Sense of Wonder.

Peter Douglas Nicholls

born Melbourne, Victoria: 8 March 1939

died

works

nonfiction

Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

For convenience, the three editions of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction below are listed as separate titles.

works as editor

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