Quakes (not on Earth): a new entry in the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction

There are many terms from classic and modern SF that remain unresearched, and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction will be continually updated, especially as additional resources are put online. Boing Boing is syndicating new entries from the HDSF on a regular basis. (Read the series introduction.)

Marsquake, moonquake, planetquake

The word quake, meaning 'to shake or vibrate', goes back to Old English; the noun quake, referring to an earthquake, is found from the fourteenth century onwards (along with the full form earthquake itself) . The next few centuries saw several figurative compounds—kingdom-quake, churchquake—but it took rather longer before English developed words referring to seismic events on other, specific, astronomical bodies.

The earliest of these, perhaps not unexpectedly, is moonquake, which is found from the middle of the nineteenth century. It usually refers to the Moon—our moon, Earth's moon, that is—but in science-fictional contexts can sometimes denote seismic activities on other moons. The word planetquake, which is effectively a generic word for earthquake, comes next, by the end of the nineteenth century; Marsquake appears in the early twentieth. There are of course many others: if you choose to look, there are examples of Jupiterquake and Saturnquake and the rest out there, but these are very rare.

These words could all be regarded as genuine scientific terms—they appear in NASA documents all the time—but they are widely used by prominent SF authors (today's entries include quotations from Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, C. M. Kornbluth, and Robert Silverberg, among many others), and if you read one of them, you'd probably think that you were reading an SF story, so it feels appropriate to include entries for them now so their own history can be tracked.