Frequently Asked Questions

Using the SF Encyclopedia

Is there any way to fine-tune searches?
Yes: there are some notes about this here. This page also lists known problems with the search engine, mostly involving less common accented characters.

Where can I find the Introduction?
There are multiple introductions (including one from the 1979 first edition) in what, in a book, would be the front pages. Click About us at top right for links to the most important sections, or start with the main introduction. This has links to all the other introductory pages.

Where are abbreviations like "coll" and "vt" explained?
See the Checklist of Abbreviations entry, and further detail on book descriptions in the relevant section of Editorial Practices.

What should I do if I find an error?
Please let us know via our email contact form. All feedback is read by at least one editor, though we may be too busy for a prompt reply.

How should I cite an entry referred to in my essay or dissertation?
See Advice to Students. The blue Incoming/Citations button at the head of each entry leads to a page providing suggested citation data in two common formats.


Why is there no entry for the great Robert Jordan?
Because he was exclusively an author of fantasy, and this is an encyclopedia of science fiction. Jordan received an entry in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, a companion volume to the 1993 SFE, and would be covered at greater length in any new edition of that encyclopedia. However, we have inherited some entries for older fantasy authors like Tolkien -- see here for more about this -- and we normally list most if not all fantasies published by included sf authors.

My favorite author/film/TV programme doesn't have an entry. (Or: there is an entry, but it doesn't seem to have been updated since the 1993 edition.)
This was an early problem owing to our October 2011 launch as a "beta" text still under construction. We have worked hard ever since to fill the gaps, though some still remain.

Why did you launch in beta form without finishing the first round of updates?
Because that's the way our publishers wanted it. We were flattered to have the SFE launch regarded as an essential part of Gollancz's 50th-anniversary celebrations in Autumn 2011.

How dare you express opinions and commit original research? Wikipedia would never allow that.
Though we admire it as an indispensable online resource, we are not Wikipedia. Since 1979 the SFE has had a tradition of publishing critical judgments and original research.

Why are there so few Wikipedia links?
Excellent question. To do justice to Wikipedia and link to it from every entry that's also well represented in Wikipedia would be a huge undertaking, and we're having to give priority to essential updates and additions. When time permits we hope to add Wiki links, beginning with the relevant episode lists for all our television entries. Volunteers for this work will be welcomed.

Who wrote the entry about ...?
Entries are signed with initials: JC for John Clute, DRL for David Langford and PN for Peter Nicholls, to name the most prolific of the chief editors. Other contributor initials can be looked up on the Contributors page. Much easier, though, is to click the blue Incoming/Citations button at the head of the entry (one of the site improvements added in August 2012), which produces not only a list of incoming links but shows the full name(s) of the entry author(s) and the word count for the entry.


What does it mean when a name appears {LIKE THIS}?
The curly brackets mark an intended link that hasn't yet been activated, usually because the named entry has yet to be written, or exists only as a cross-reference entry pointing to other entries. If you find a curly-bracketed link to a full entry that does exist, that's a mistake: please tell us.


Please can you give me contact details for Author X?
This is outside our scope. The SF Encyclopedia is a reference work, not an introduction service. If the author doesn't have a website giving contact information (see links at the end of the relevant entry and try Google if we don't give a link), the best approach is through their most recent publisher (see the entry's Checklist). If the author has died, no contact is given and you have a serious business proposition for the author's estate, try the SFWA Estates page.

I want to reprint this story or book -- can you confirm that it's in the public domain?
Again, this is outside our scope. Our Rights and Copyright Queries page has some notes and links which may be helpful.

The Future

When will there be another hardback edition of the SF Encyclopedia?
We regret that a new book version has become vanishingly unlikely. At 1.3 million words, the second book edition of 1993 was regarded as pushing at the limits of marketability for a specialist reference work -- indeed we're still finding and often restoring good material from the first edition that was cut from the second to make room for all the new authors, books and films. Now that the text is nearly five times as long as in 1993, a print edition is no longer commercially viable. The Encyclopedia Britannica, though not restricted to a specialist sf market, has met the same problem and its 2010 printed version was the last.

Are you planning to charge for the SFE at some future date?
So long as our current relationship with Gollancz lasts, access to the encyclopedia will always be free. If you'd like to help out, donations are very welcome and can always be put to good use.

Last updated April 2018

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