Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Weird Fiction Magazine Index (1890-1997)

By Gunn, James | Utopian Studies, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Weird Fiction Magazine Index (1890-1997)


Gunn, James, Utopian Studies


Stephen T. Miller and William G. Contento, eds. Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Weird Fiction Magazine Index (1890-1997) Locus P, 1998. $49.95 cd-rom.

A BIT MORE than a dozen years ago, when I was getting ready to edit The New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, I had dinner in New York City with the book packager, Peg Streep, and her husband Peter Israel, then publisher of Putnam Books. After dinner, as we were leaving the restaurant, Israel asked me if science fiction had a good data base. It was a measure of my inexperience that I thought he was talking about reference works. I considered the number of encyclopedias, indexes, histories, bibliographies, guides, and other resources that filled several shelves in my office, and said "yes." Afterwards I realized he was talking about electronic materials and sheepishly recognized both my inadequacies and those of science fiction.

It is a measure of science fiction's coming-of-age that both inadequacies are being remedied. I had a cd-rom drive installed in my old computer (and the mother board and memory upgraded) in 1995, in time to install Grolier's cd-rom version of the Clute and Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, and now we have an index to the magazines, going back to 1890, and an index to science fiction from 1984 along with William G. Contento's electronic version of his two indexes to SF anthologies and collections.

The constant here is Contento, whose indefatigable energy and exquisite concern for detail is evident in both volumes. I have both his published indexes on my shelves, and they have been valuable resources, even down to the process, that happens with some frequency, of identifying and locating stories that people have remembered from their youth. The electronic version looks even more useful. The index to the magazines includes and replaces several volumes that began with Donald B. Day's 1952 Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1926-1950 and continued through two volumes published by MITSF and NESFA. I kept looking for supplements, but that labor-of-love ran out of steam after 1970. Now they are all here in one easy-to-use disk that the editors promise to update annually.

I write "easy-to-use" but I ran into difficulties trying to access them through Windows 3.1, which kept informing me that it could not find the file. They worked flawlessly, however, on my wife's Windows 95 Netscape, and my younger son, who is my computer consultant, said that I might have to bite the bullet and install Windows 95. But then he suggested that I might try them on my more up-to-date laptop with its Window 95 program. The cd-roms came up effortlessly through "Explorer." I might raise the question here as to why the indexes are accessed through a browser rather than through a window, as in Grolier's Encyclopedia. I usually want information while working on a manuscript, to check, say, a biography, a publication, or a date; but other needs may differ, and the Locus cd-roms have built-in network connections and updates, which may provide sufficient rationale for most users. Those users, such as libraries and other research-oriented institutions, may have a computer dedicated to cd-rom use, as, in a sense, I do now, with my laptop on my desk and my desktop on a computer desk just opposite.

I should also admit that my experience may not be typical: my limited expertise with cd-roms is illustrated by the fact that my wife had to show me how to open the jewel box in which it is stored.

All these quibbles aside, the indexes are excellent resources. Anyone familiar with the Locus on-line index will not find anything truly new about the Locus Index, although this one is more complete, more readable, and cross-indexed in thorough and convenient ways. In addition it contains data not otherwise available, including --remarkably--book and magazine statistics: 4767 SF novels, 4297 fantasy novels, 2246 horror novels, 3676 anthologies, 2992 collections, 1330 reference works (! …

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