• When you need to Get Away From It All in science fiction fandom, that's… Gafia

    A new entry from 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.)

    Gafia, gafia, gafiate

    There is a category of words known variously as auto-antonyms, contronyms, or Janus words (after the two-faced Roman god). These are words having opposing meanings: dust can mean both 'to sprinkle dust upon' and 'to clean by removing dust'; sanction can mean 'to penalize' or 'to permit'. Auto-antonyms can arise in various ways: etymologically distinct words can develop the same form (the senses of cleave meaning 'to separate' and 'to adhere' stem from entirely different words); different varieties of language can develop contrasting meanings (in British English, table means 'to discuss a topic', but in American English, it means 'to postpone a topic'); words can be interpreted in different ways, by normal processes (to luck out usually means 'to be lucky', but occasionally means 'to be unlucky').

    The classic fandom term gafia is an example of this kind of varying interpretation. It is unquestionably an acronym for "getting away from it all." What the "all" is, however, can be construed in different ways. When the word first appeared, in 1940, the "all" was the real world: gafia meant 'participation in fandom', as a form of escapism. (The word is credited to well-known fan Dick Wilson, who coined it in reference to the British spy Cedric Belfrage's 1937 book Away From It All: An Excapologist's Notebook.) As fandom evolved, the "all" got reinterpreted to refer to fandom itself, and gafia developed the opposing sense 'the state of having quit fandom; cessation of involvement in fannish activities'. This is found by 1950, and was certainly the main meaning by the 1960s, with writers observing the semantic shift.

    The HDSF had already had entries for the verb gafiate 'to leave fandom' and the noun gafiation 'the state of having gafiated'. We are now adding the original form, in both meanings, as well as the noun gafiate 'a person who has quit fandom', first used in 1956.

  • Have you committed a Time Crime? Maybe you will…

    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.)

    Time Crime

    Perhaps the most classic trope of time-travel stories is that of the time paradox (of which the grandfather paradox is itself the most classic subvariant): What happens if you go back in time and change something that affects the future from which you left? Science-fiction writers have come up with numerous ways of addressing this, but whatever mechanism is invoked to explain it, it usually remains true that changing the past is a big potential problem.

    Thus, the existence of a time police, a governmental body that regulates time travel, to prevent what is usually referred to as violations of "causality," or changing the cause-and-effect model underpinning the idea of time paradoxes. And someone who attempts such a violation is, clearly, guilty of a time crime.

    This term first shows up in the 1950s, used as a story title by H. Beam Piper, whose Paratime sequence presented a parallel-universe version of time travel, featuring a Paratime Police who can move between different timelines, some more advanced than others. As a term, it is less common than time police, perhaps because these officers are, thankfully, good at their jobs.

  • What is a "problem story" in 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.)

    Problem Story

    In the 1960s, around the time that soft science fiction was taking off—SF that was not focused primarily on science and gadgets—there was some concern about what to call the "real" stuff. Indeed, "real science fiction" was one suggestion, along with "straight science fiction", "Campbellian science fiction," "engineers' stories," and others. Eventually, hard science fiction became generally accepted as the name for this variety.

    One common feature of such stories was the need to solve some difficult engineering problem by ingenious thinking. An almost impossibly clichéd version of this famously appears in the 1995 movie Apollo 13, when the astronauts have to fit a square peg in a round hole; the great power of the scene is that it is not fictional. But the idea that space travel involved brilliant technical feats is a core tenet of hard SF. Ross Rocklynne specialized in such stories, starting in 1938 with "The Men and the Mirror," in which two antagonists are trapped on the surface of a frictionless mirror, and must figure out how to escape it.

    These puzzles were appealing to readers, who delighted in coming up with their own answers, or pointing out that the provided solutions didn't work. (In 2008, the writer Geoffrey A. Landis published "The Man in the Mirror," an updated version of Rocklynne's story, with improved physics. When Larry Niven published his popular Ringworld in 1970, about an artificial world in the form of a flat ring revolving around a star, he was quickly deluged with complaints that the world would be unstable, and needed to write a sequel to explain away the engineering issues.)

    The very first examples of the term problem story, from the early 1940s, refer specifically to actual puzzles that readers could solve to win a prize, but our sense, 'a story concerned primarily with the resolution of a (technical) problem', turns up very quickly. Despite stylistic shifts within science fiction, these stories remain popular: Cory Doctorow argues that they are fundamentally "about technological self-determination", and thus aren't about the tech as such, but demonstrate "remaking the social relations for technology." Reintepreting classical hard-SF writers like Robert Heinlein as promoting "seiz[ing] the means of production"? Sounds like excellent problem-solving.

  • How to stymie telepathic intruders (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.)

    Thought screen, Thought shield, Thought wave

    We've previously discussed the history of paranormal mental powers in science fiction, when we added telepathize and mind-control. Today's new entries reflect a similar background. The first, thought wave, originated in mid-nineteenth-century poetry, representing an impulse of thought emanating from someone's brain; by later that century, it was used in more clearly parapsychological contexts.

    Pretty much as soon as pulp science fiction began, the term was adapted into the gee-whiz technical style of that era; a character in 1926 described tuning into a person's "thought-wave length" the same way a radio works. The trope of telepathic emanations was used by a range of prominent authors—Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. E. van Vogt, Philip K. Dick, Stephen King—and the term remains in use today.

    An ongoing concern with telepaths is maintaining one's privacy from them; it is a core theme of Alfred Bester's greatest work, The Demolished Man (in that case, it is a criminal who wants to prevent the police from proving his guilt). Several terms have been used for mechanisms to block telepathic examination, all arising in the 1930s: thought screen, thought shield, and mind shield. (There are also a few examples of mind screen in science fiction, and of these few, many are in the different sense 'a notional area where one visualizes one's thoughts', like a TV screen; we are not adding an entry for this yet.)

    Both thought screen and thought shield are frequently associated with E. E. "Doc" Smith, who used them in his Lensman space-opera series, and thought screen in particular has become rare except in reference to Smith. Precisely how any of these operate is almost always hand-waved away: they can be gadgets that block intrusive thought waves; they can be some kind of mental effort on the part of the would-be subject; they can be entirely unexplained. Regardless of how they operate, though, one imagines that they will remain useful in any universe where telepaths exist.

  • 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.

  • Telescanner: 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.)

    Telescanner

    As science-fictional gadgets go, the scanner is a pretty familiar one: the need to get information on something, especially if its far away or hidden behind an obstacle, is rather important indeed. The earliest examples of the word scanner in science fiction date from the 1930s—about the same time as modern radar was being developed—but it can be hard to pinpoint which of these is an actual SF term. The various devices used to capture images of objects for television transmission were also called scanners, from the 1920s onwards, and the line between the real devices and the imaginary ones is not finely drawn.

    One way to make something feel more techy is to simply slap a good prefix onto it (cyber- and e- were briefly popular in recent decades, before becoming stale), so it stands to reason that tele- would have been pressed into service. By the 1930s there were a variety of terms beginning that way: telepath as a verb; various teleportrelated words; telescreen. Naturally, then, telescanner had to arise. The prefix serves multiple purposes here: it not only establishes that this really is operating at a distance, but it also sounds modern, or did at the time.

    Although even then it may have been something of a cliché; by 1940 we have a tongue-in-cheek example of rewriting a western into a science-fiction story by replacing "lariat" with "tractor" and "binoculars" to "tele-scanners." Despite this, the word managed to stick around, and while the bare scanner is more common, the tele- version remains a regular alternative.

  • Plastiskin: 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.)

    Plastiskin

    Perhaps the most famous scene in the 1967 movie The Graduate sees the newly graduated, and aimless, Benjamin Braddock buttonholed by a guest at a party, who urges him to listen carefully to the one word he should know about the future: "plastics." The joke works on multiple levels: plastics were indeed the future, but by that time this was hardly a secret, so the revelation is a let-down; either way, it is a dull future, one which will not provide a real solution to Benjamin's lack of direction.

    But in the 1940s and '50s, plastics really were exciting, and science-fiction writers were on it. The comics superhero Plastic Man, who could bend his body into all kinds of shapes, debuted in 1941; in 1942, we find the first example of plasteel, an imaginary substance that combines some of the qualities of plastic (such as lightness or transparency) with some of the qualities of steel (such as hardness or strength).

    By the end of that decade, a new imaginary artificial material was named: plastiskin, which can be defined succinctly as 'synthetic skin'. This tended to manifest in two forms: as the exterior covering for an android, or as a material used for first-aid or other medical purposes. In both cases, real-world scientists are currently working to create such substances, although the word plastiskin is still restricted to fictional contexts. Nowadays, science fiction can look at plastics in less-positive ways; recent cli-fi is concerned about the amount of plastic waste in our world. Perhaps we should not expect many new plastics terms in the SF vocabulary.

  • "Planet" as a verb: 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.)

    Planet, v.

    Time for some space travel!

    As we've previously discussed, people sometimes get upset about verbing nouns, but it makes sense that when you arrive at a planet, you would…planet it. There's already the parallel verb land, used of a (nautical) ship, which dates from the 13th century, and extended to refer to airplanes by the 1910s. Planet has two closely related senses, 'to arrive at a planet' and 'to land on a planet', for sensible reasons (large sea ships don't actually beach themselves when they land; presumably most large space ships would just go into orbit around a planet.) If anything, it's a little surprising that this word doesn't appear until the mid-1940s; it was a favorite of George O. Smith, an electronics engineer whose science fiction was so focused on technical problems that he never really got around to plot or characterization, but whose popularity at that time may have helped the word to catch on.

  • Three feminine forms 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.)

    Superheroine, Supervillainess, Martianess

    After our recent essay on supervillains, we got a few questions about terms for females with superpowers.

    In fact we have had an entry for superheroine in the pipeline for some time, and it's clearly time to publish it. As with superhero, the broader sense 'an extremely heroic woman' is found much earlier, from 1909, and this sense is common through the mid-20th century. It took until 1960 before we have clear evidence of the comics sense 'a woman with superpowers; a female superhero'.

    While the comics world has no lack of female villains, the word supervillainess itself took even longer to arise. Its generic equivalent 'an extremely villainous woman' shows up by the 1910s, and also remained in use (Joan Collins's character Alexis Colby on Dynasty often got this descriptor), but the first comics example is only from 1970. It remains relatively uncommon; we expect that the feminine -ess ending makes the term feel inappropriately unthreatening for what it describes.

    Finally, while we're on the subject, we're also publishing the word Martianess for a female Martian. This one is much older; Martian is found from the 1860s (the much less common term Marsian is from the 1850s), and the female form arose by the 1890s. It is fairly rare, perhaps because there has not turned out to be much need to describe women from Mars.

  • What is an "inhuman"? 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.)

    Inhuman

    To comics fans, the noun inhuman is most familiar as the name of a race of superhumans in the Marvel universe, introduced in the December 1965 issue of Fantastic Four, and especially to the Inhuman Royal Family, a particular team of these. But the word is used more broadly to refer to any non-human being. Though it has a Lovecraftian feel, H. P. Lovecraft himself never used the noun, even if, like many Weird Tales writers, he was rather fond of the adjective, writing about "inhuman evil" and "inhuman squeals" and "shrieks" and "screams" and "cries." (We do not include the adjective in the HDSF; there's nothing particularly science-fictional about it.) The Oxford English Dictionary has evidence for the noun from the 17th century in the sense 'a brutal person', but it's labelled both "obsolete" and "rare." The first person to use the noun in SF appears to be Isaac Asimov in 1940, referring to aliens; it's now more common in fantasy and horror, referring to non-humans of our world world rather than aliens of other ones.

  • What is a Supervillain? 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.)

    Supervillain

    The science-fictional history of the word supervillain is hard to trace primarily because it's hard to agree on just what one is. A superhero is not just a really terrific hero—or, rather, it originally was; piles of news articles in the 1910s and 1920s apply the word to the brave feats of military men. But in the comics sense, a superhero generally has superpowers, powers beyond what is possible for ordinary people. Unless you are, say, Batman, in which case aren't you just a rich guy in a costume with fancy toys? No, the toys are also beyond what is ordinarily possible: they use superscience. There are still nuances, of course, and one can reasonably debate whether a costumed do-gooder with no special abilities or gadgets deserves the name, but for our purposes, we will stipulate that, say, pre-surgery Kick-Ass wasn't a superhero, just a kid in a suit.

    While there are many tropes associated with supervillains (genius-level intelligence, vast wealth, dreams of global conquest, costumes, longhaired cats), we will make their defining characteristics the same as those of superheroes—superhuman powers or magical science—but used for ill rather than good.

    Like superhero, the word supervillain is found in generic senses at an early date; the Oxford English Dictionary has evidence from 1912 in the sense 'an extremely villainous person', and from then on there is no shortage of examples referring to dastardly deeds. But unlike superhero, which doesn't clearly show up in the comics sense until the 1930s, there are several early quotations for supervillain which would seem to represent our modern sense. A 1917 newspaper review of a play describes a scientist as "the supervillain who does the plotting," with said plotting consisting in part of developing a bioweapon from a leprosy germ that would instantaneously incapacitate a victim; we're not a doctor, but that seems sufficiently unlike how leprosy works to count as "superscience." A 1920 example uses the word in reference to Dr. Fu Manchu, the stereotypical evil genius mad scientist. And a 1933 story features a Professor Sheldon who has a secret hideaway in an undersea grotto that he can flood as a defensive tactic; although lacking a longhaired cat, this also strikes the reader as pretty darn supervillainous. By this time, the comics sense catches up to us, and we are unquestionably in supervillain territory.

  • New entry from the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction: "Time Opera"

    There are still many terms from classic SF that remain unresearched, and, as new resources are put online, the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction will be updated. Boing Boing is syndicating new entries from the HDSF on a regular basis.

    Time Opera

    The best-known non-musical opera is probably the soap opera, a term that arose in the late 1930s referring to melodramatic domestic serial dramas on radio or TV, so called because these programs were sponsored by soap companies. This was preceded by the early-1920s horse opera, for a Western.

    The only truly prominent science-fictional opera is the space opera, a sprawling adventure-driven story set in outer space. This term was coined by superfan Wilson "Bob" Tucker in 1941, explicitly acknowledging its horse and soap predecessors. While it was originally pejorative, sneering at the hackneyed and clichéd nature of these stories, it now has a more neutral (or even affectionately positive) connotation when referring to science fiction of the type pioneered in the 1930s pulp magazines by such authors as E. E. "Doc" Smith and Edmond Hamilton.

    With the great interest in subgenres among SF fans (or, perhaps more cynically, among people who want to market stories to them), it should be no surprise that a sprawling adventure-driven story based on time travel rather than space travel would get its own name: obviously, time opera. Coined in the 1950s, apparently by Anthony Boucher, the editor of the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, it avoids the suggestion of unsophistication that space opera has, probably because time operas are simply not common enough to have become annoyingly clichéd. The term itself is likewise less common, but has remained in use for almost seven decades. But while there are occasional nonce uses—Game of Thrones has been referred to as a dragon opera—there sadly don't seem to be many other major opera subgenres to follow.

  • New Entry from the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction: "neurolink"

    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.)

    New entry: neurolink.

    The science-fictional neurolink is an example of what is formally known as a brain-computer interface. Unlike a mindlink (1954), which is always a telepathic connection, a neurolink is always described as a technologically based interface. Unlike other types of cyborg constructs, a neurolink joins the brain to a full computer system, not merely, say, to a prosthetic limb. 

    The word apparently first appears in a 1990 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Omni used the form in 1988, only as the title of an article about identifying memories in the brain). But the idea of a physical interface between one's brain and a computer has a longer history in SF, perhaps most famously in Neuromancer's 1984 description of jacking in to a network (although that term itself was used by Robert Silverberg as early as 1970).

    Many forms of BCI are possible using real-word technology; Elon Musk's similarly named company Neuralink was established in 2016 to develop implantable BCIs. But a working Ethernet jack in one's skull still looks to be a long way away.

  • New entries from the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction: "mind-controlled"/"mind-controlling"

    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.)

    New entries: mind-controlled, mind-controlling.

    In our last update, we added an entry for the 1970 verb mind-control, mentioning that it is rather recent in comparison to the noun, which is found as far back as 1902. We also took note of the related forms mind-controlled and mind-controlling, which we are adding today. These forms may appear to be based on the verb, and it is admittedly sometimes difficult to tell: "They were mind-controlled" could represent either a verb or an adjective. 

    In fact, the historical evidence shows that these are actually adjectives formed from the noun, rather than verbal derivatives: they first appear in 1938 and 1929 respectively, after the noun, but well before any example that is clearly a verb.

    This pattern is very common in English: compound verbs tend to come somewhat later than their base nouns. An almost exact parallel from our project is the cluster of terms around time warp. The noun first appears in 1937; the adjective time-warped is from 1938, with time-warping coming in 1940. The first clear example of the verb time warp doesn't show up until 1969 (initially in mundane rather than science-fictional use). While there is nothing wrong with verbing nouns, the process does usually take some time.

  • New entries from the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction: "telepathize"/"mind-control"

    There are still many terms from classic SF that remain unresearched, and, as new resources are put online, the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction will be updated. Boing Boing is syndicating new entries from the HDSF on a regular basis.

    Today's new entries are a pair of words of related meanings, but very different backgrounds. While the heyday of science-fictional interest in paranormal mental powers was the 1950s, it has always been an important part of the genre. Telepathize 'to transmit (a message, image, etc.) by telepathy; (also) to communicate with (a person) by telepathy' originates outside of science-fiction, in the late-Victorian interest in psychic phenomena. It makes it into SF proper by the 1930s, used by notable authors such as John W. Campbell, Jr. and Eando Binder (a pseudonym for the brothers Earl and Otto Binder, who used the name together and independently), and remains in use in current writings.

    The noun mind control shares a similar origin, first appearing in the early 20th century, but our new verb mind-control is much more recent, first showing up in Lin Carter's 1970 novel Star Rogue. (There is earlier evidence for the adjectives mind-controlled and mind-controlling, in slightly different senses, which we hope to publish very soon.) If it seems genuinely newish, it's probably because verbing a compound noun just has that feeling to it.

    [To see all the new Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction entries, bookmark the HDSF tag]

  • New BB series! "Updating the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction"

    Even when Boing Boing wrote about the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction (HDSF) at its launch, in January 2021, the project was already evolving. The HDSF — based on the OED Science Fiction Citations Project, a 2001 effort to crowdsource quotations for the  Oxford English Dictionary — is a full-fledged dictionary of SF on historical principles, meaning that every entry is illustrated with contextual quotations showing exactly how a term has been used over time. This allows the reader to see that teleport has been in use since 1878, that the hypospray was a real (and trademarked!) device two decades before Star Trek, and that biotechnician was used in SF before it came to refer to an actual laboratory worker. One can also directly see the importance of early writers such as E. E. "Doc" Smith, John W. Campbell, Jr., and Edmond Hamilton, who coined so many of the terms that established the core vocabulary of modern science fiction.

    The HDSF focuses on brief, accurate definitions and documentable history of terms; it sits alongside (and links to) other reference projects, such as the comprehensive Science Fiction Encyclopedia, and, for the world of fandom, the Fancyclopedia. Since its launch, the HDSF has improved its bibliographic records, linking most authors and entries with the Internet Speculative Fiction Database; added many more links to the original, full-text versions of SF stories (often in the Internet Archive); and added new features for navigating the data. 

    Of course, the most important feature is the continued addition of new entries. Since the launch, we have continued to unearth new information, and we are excited to be able to share it with readers. The over 200 new entries (as of this writing) include accidental omissions (Vulcan); terms from proto-SF (space senses of fleet, battleship, and warship, all from around 1900); and genuinely recent entries that came to prominence after the original project began (cli-fi (2009), murderbot (2006), Nnedi Okorafor's Africanfuturism (2018)).

    Research has also targeted several semantic clusters of entries, such as adjectives derived from authors' names (Asimovian (1942), Ballardian (1964), Campbellian (1949), Ellisonian (1954), Gernsbackian (1952)); demonyms, or names of beings from particular locations (Aldebaranian (1930), Alpha Centaurian (1931), Betelgeusean (1921), Callistan (1932)); names of languages (Anglic (1950), Galactic (1954), Jovian (1932), Neptunian (1930)); and names of recent subgenres (grimdark (2008), New Weird (2002), mundane (2004)).

    We have also taken some steps to extend the project to cover related fields, such as gaming (beast mode (1991), power up (1983)), anime/manga (mecha (1986)), and comics (Kryptonite (1943), spider sense (1975, with earlier parallels in the Spider-Man comic and elsewhere)); continuing this work will require input from people familiar with the history of these fields and knowledgable about how to research them. 

    Yet the majority of the new entries are simply common SF terms that never made it into the original: cityship (1953), doppel (1981), the proto-SF ether ship (1883), ion gun (1935), the fandom word kipple (1960), pseudopod (1929), skin job (in an original (1958) and a Blade Runner sense (1981)), star liner (1932), timequake (1954).

    While the core coverage is reasonably complete, there are still many terms from classic SF that remain unresearched, and, as new resources are put online, the revision of existing entries will benefit. Beyond documenting the past, the project also aims to capture the ways science fiction continues to evolve. We're looking forward to bringing more insight into how the language of SF was formed, and how it continues to grow. To that end, Boing Boing will be syndicating new entries from the HDSF on a regular basis. There are hundreds of draft entries in the database; though some of these are probably too marginal to include (words found only once or twice, or associated solely with a single author's work), many others are solid candidates for inclusion, and we look forward to sharing these with readers.

    [If you want to see all the new Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction entries, bookmark the HDSF tag]