Guide to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror by
Michael Burgess and Lisa R. Bartle
Libraries Unlimited Hardcover: ISBN 1563085488 PubDate Nov 02
Review by Ernest Lilley
605 pages List price $75.00
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The Reference Guide to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror isn't about SF, F, and H, it's about books (and other sources) about it, so you'll have to be pretty serious about your reference collection to decide you're ready to plunk down seventy-five bucks for the privilege of sporting this 600 page tome on your shelf. The second edition sports a much flashier cover than the first, though I'm not sure it's an improvement.
In the introduction, the authors state: "The world of SF criticism is a small one indeed, involving no more than a few hundred individuals, most of them having some near or distant acquaintanceship with each other. ... Our sole purpose here has been to dissect these publications in such a way that their construction becomes obvious to all, and then to provide some clear idea of how well each has met its objectives, and how useful each may be to the librarian or scholar."
And they do a pretty good job of it. They cover Encyclopedias and Dictionaries, Pseudonym lists, Statistical Sources (Mike Ashley's "Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Lists" and a few others"), Magazine and Anthology Indexes, Bibliographies (General, National, Subjective, Publisher, Author, and Artist), Core Periodicals, Printed guides to the internet, and even some online sources. And more.
Looking for a few familiar faces, I had trouble finding my default sourcebook, "The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction by John Clute and Peter Nichols", though I should probably chalk that up to my non-scholarly approach to thumbing through the titles. It's buried in the entry for their "Illustrated Encyclopedia", which I don't pay much attention to. Having gotten through that, they have a good grasp of what it's about, suggesting that despite it's "pro-British slant" it is "the last word in speculative source material and should be on the shelf of any library worthy of the name.
They don't have much of a sense of humor, being academics, and it's hard not to feel a bit looked down on (Hey, they're the ones with the cheesy cover art!) Still that's beside the point. Browsing through the RGTSF I came across a number of books on SF that I'd really like to read (Anatomy of Wonder: Science Fiction, Science Fiction Writers of the Golden Age, Images in a Crystal Ball: World Futures in Novels of Young People, to name a few) and the references to those I know seemed accurate.
The online reference section is mostly afterthought, taking up about 13 of the book's 600 odd pages. They conclude their introduction to the section by noting that "many sites of interest to some SF researchers will have been either missed of deliberately omitted here." Deliberately omitted? Well, Locus Online made it, and so did The SF Site, but Science Fiction Weekly wasn't academic enough for it, and well, neither was SFRevu (Bitter? I'm not bitter).
Griping aside, go ahead, tell your librarian that no decent library should be without a copy. Then pull it down and peruse all the publications that peruse the genre. Maybe you'll get inspired to do a paper for the next SFRA. convention.