The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Cover of the original 1979 edition
Cover of the first edition
EditorPeter Nicholls, John Clute;
David Langford from 2011
CountryUnited Kingdom
SubjectScience fiction
Media type
  • Print (1979, 1993, 1995, 1999)
  • CD-ROM (1995)
  • Online (2011)
  • 672 pp, 1979
  • 1370 pp, 1993
  • 1386 pp, 1995
  • 1396 pp, 1999
LC ClassPN3433.4

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (SFE) is an English language reference work on science fiction, first published in 1979. It has won the Hugo, Locus and British SF Awards. Two print editions appeared in 1979 and 1993. A third, continuously revised, edition was published online from 2011; a change of web host was announced as the launch of a fourth edition in 2021.


Malcolm Edwards, John Clute and Peter Nicholls discussing the early days of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction at Loncon 3, Worldcon 2014

The first edition, edited by Peter Nicholls with John Clute,[1] was published by Granada in 1979. It was retitled The Science Fiction Encyclopedia when published by Doubleday in the United States. Accompanying its text were numerous black and white photographs illustrating authors, book and magazine covers, film and TV stills, and examples of artists' work.[2]

A second edition, jointly edited by Nicholls and Clute, was published in 1993 by Orbit in the UK and St. Martin's Press in the US. The second edition contained 1.3 million words, almost twice the 700,000 words of the 1979 edition.[3] The 1995 paperback edition included a sixteen-page addendum (dated "7 August 1995"). Unlike the first edition, the print versions did not contain illustrations. There was also a CD-ROM version in 1995, styled variously as The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Grolier Science Fiction.[4] This contained text updates through 1995, hundreds of book covers and author photos, a small number of old film trailers, and author video clips taken from the TVOntario series Prisoners of Gravity.

The companion volume, published after the second print edition and following its format closely, is The Encyclopedia of Fantasy edited by John Clute and John Grant.[4] All print and CD-ROM editions are currently out of print.

In July 2011, Orion Publishing Group announced that the third edition of The Science Fiction Encyclopedia would be released online later that year by SFE Ltd in association with Victor Gollancz, Orion's science fiction imprint. The "beta text" of the third edition launched online on 2 October 2011,[5] with editors John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls (as editor emeritus until his death in 2018) and Graham Sleight. The encyclopedia is updated regularly (usually several times a week) by the editorial team with material written by themselves and contributed by science fiction academics and experts.[1] It received the Hugo Award for Best Related Work in 2012. Though the SFE is a composite work with a considerable number of contributors, the three main editors (Clute, Langford and Nicholls) have themselves written almost two-thirds of the 5.2 million words to date (September 2016), giving a sense of unity to the whole.[4]

The Encyclopedia ended its arrangement with Orion on 29 September 2021 and moved to a new, self-owned web server. The move was completed by 6 October 2021, and announced as the launch of the fourth edition. While based on the earlier design, the new edition incorporates a number of revisions; for instance, many author entries now include thumbnails of the author's book covers, randomly selected from the relevant Gallery pages.[6]


The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction contains entries under the categories of authors, themes, terminology, science fiction in various countries, films, filmmakers, television, magazines, fanzines, comics, illustrators, book publishers, original anthologies, awards, and miscellaneous.[7]

The online edition of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction was released in October 2011 with 12,230 entries, totaling 3,200,000 words. The editors predicted that it would contain 4,000,000 words upon completion of the first round of updates at the end of 2012; this figure was actually reached in January 2013, and 5,000,000 words in November 2015.[8]


Edition Awards[9]
1st ed. (1979) Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book
Locus Award for Best Related Non-Fiction
2nd ed. (1993) Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book
Locus Award for Best Non-Fiction
BSFA Award (Special Award)
3rd ed. (2011) Hugo Award for Best Related Work
BSFA Award for Best Non-Fiction


See also


  1. ^ a b Debnath, Neela. "'The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction' makes internet debut". The Independent Blogs. Archived from the original on 6 July 2015.
  2. ^ James, Edward (1993). "Review: John Clute and Peter Nicholls, eds. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction". Foundation. 58: 100–103.
  3. ^ Fox, Rose (6 July 2011). "Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Goes Digital, Searchable, and Free". Publishers Weekly Blog. Archived from the original on 7 July 2011.
  4. ^ a b c Nicoll, James Davis (10 April 2020). "All Hail The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, Bringer of Knowledge!". Macmillan.
  5. ^ "SFE Beta Text launches". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. 2 October 2011. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  6. ^ Glyer, Mike (6 October 2021). "New Publisher and Other Changes Herald Encyclopedia of Science Fiction's Fourth Edition". File 770.
  7. ^ "Notes on Content". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. 3 January 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  8. ^ "Introduction to the Third Edition". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. 14 March 2013. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
  9. ^ "Peter Nicholls Awards". Science Fiction Awards Database. Locus Science Fiction Foundation. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  10. ^ The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: An Illustrated A to Z Archived 8 March 2018 at the Wayback Machine title listing. ISFDB. Retrieved 2013-04-17.
  11. ^ a b c d The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2013-04-17.