Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, The by Tuck, Donald, ed., 1969

Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, The by Tuck, Donald, ed.

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Prior to the late 1960's I get the feeling that the SF reference field was pretty much empty. I don't know that for sure, but there seem to be very few reference books from 1970 or before. The only exception I have ever seen is 1946's The Checklist of Fantastic Literature, E.F. Bleiler, ed. Up until that time, if you wanted to know which stories were published in which magazines, or what authors had penned what works, you pretty much had to write to the publisher, or at least wait for the year-end publishing matrix that was run in a few of the higher volume periodicals. Then along came an Australian fellow (Tasmanian, actually) named Donald H. Tuck and changed all that. That he worked quite slowly was beside the point. Starting with volume 1 in 1968 and ending with volume 3 in 1982 Tuck managed to squeeze out some pretty useful reference books, even if the data is now almost 40 years out of date. I still see these books cited frequently on in various bibliographical authorities. I have heard that John Clute, who published one of the more recent SF encyclopedias (found here, in 1993, 1995 and 1999) used the Tuck books as a starting point, and even viewed his work as a vital and necessary update. The latter claim is something I do not believe, as the format of Clute's work is quite different than Tuck's, in that it contains quite a bit more commentary both proportionately and by item.

The one thing I really love about Tuck's book seems to be the one thing that most others lament. That is, its horribly out of date. Well, if you want up to the minute reports, go to Locus! If you want a bibliography of works written by authors from the old days, here is the place you should be starting from. In that respect this work is really only for historians, though I personally enjoy paging through it from time to time just to see what Tuck and his team of writers had to say about certain subjects. I really appreciate the fact that this book is not cluttered up with the endless references it would undoubtedly have if it were written in the 90's or oughts. I do like modern SF, but having a reference that does not include every Eric Flint and David Weber book in it, for example, makes the reference work manageable, and easy to use. I also like that it is multi-volume, and that none of the volumes would stand a chance of killing me if they fell off the shelf onto my head. That is not something that may be said about many of the other books in the encyclopedia category. Now, if I want to see what someone who is still working has published, then of course I would go to a more recent reference work. But Tuck's books will always have a warm place on my shelf.

Volumes I & II of Tuck's work are basically A-Z listings of every author who published a genre work starting basically with the 1851 publication of Shelly's Frankenstein. The date coverage ends is very difficult to determine, as Tuck took so long in producing each volume. My understanding is that Volume II of the A-Z came out in 1974, six years after the first Volume, so common sense tells me that it is slightly more current, though that does not appear to be the case.

Hardbound and paperbacks are included, and the editor made every effort to account for every edition and printing known at the time. In the pre-computer era, however, I cannot imagine how difficult that would be, and so I'm sure some editions and maybe even entire books were missed. However, Tuck obviously did his homework because as it is quite comprehensive and includes non-English works from Western Europe and Japan.

As valuable a resource as Volumes I & II are, Volume III I find the most interesting. Published in 1982, and by far the largest of the three books, Volume III catalogs every periodical up until date that had ever published genre work, all paperbacks ever printed, even if no hardback was first issued, a tree diagram of every series with each work noted, foreign publishing houses, lists of films, radio shows, TV shows and amateur magazines known to the compilers, and a list of pseudonyms linked to the author's real name.

As far as availability goes, Advent has ceased production, and original copies of this work go for between $150 and $750 on eBay and Amazon (and most of them are incomplete). I have determined that this book is the SF reference book most likely to turn up in local libraries, so if you are ever interested, call around and I'm sure you will find one, especially at the regional library level. However, I have recently learned that NESFA is still selling these titles, and if you want George Price's phone number and address (Price is the publisher of Advent), just drop me a line. Im sure he would sell you one, or you can go to the NESFA site.

Copyright 2007, Gregory Tidwell

Reviewed by GTT · Rating Rating of 4 star(s)


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