The much-anticipated (by science fiction nerds like me) and newly expanded online edition of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is now available in its "beta" version. The scope of the project is enormous. The Second Edition, which appeared in print in 1995, was approximately 1.3 million words. The beta version of the Third Edition is about 3 million words, with the "completed" version expected to total 4 million words. Completed is a relative term for online editions. Monthly updates are planned for some time after completion. Nor are these padded entries, providing endless trivia about minor authors. They tend to be brief, sometimes overly so to this reader, with longer entries for longer and more significant careers. This is not a Wikipedia-style project. It is edited by John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight, with several knowledgeable contributors. It is a scholarly and critical guide, packed with information and enlivened with well-informed critical judgments.
I listened this morning to Cheryl Morgan's Salon Futura podcast where she interviews Graham Sleight about the SF Encyclopedia and it provides an excellent overview of the scope and goals of the several-years-long project. Sleight compares the project, in part, with the wonderfully opinionated Biographical Dictionary of Film by David Thomson, whose book I admire.
In browsing the new online edition I've already found it to be addictive and fascinating. The subdued star-map background is pleasant and not distracting. Toward the end of the text describing Gene Wolfe's career I came across the phrase "he wears the fictional worlds of sf like a coat of many colours", which is beautifully stated. Elsewhere in the Encyclopedia I've found gaps that I hope will be filled soon. Congratulations to all involved for reaching this beta release milestone.
SFE: The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Third Edition
Cheryl Morgan's Salon Futura podcast on The Encyclopedia of SF
SFE: entry for Gene Wolfe