Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia

This one came to me as a gift.

This review is for the smallest subset of those few readers who like to read about science fiction.

Review: Science Fact and Science Fiction: An Encyclopedia, Brian Stableford, 2006.

Yes, I read every entry in the 575 pages of entries, from “Acoustics” to “Zoology”. (A bibliography, index, and list of entries pushes the total page count past 729 pages.)

The only comparable book I’ve come across is The Science in Science Fiction from 1982 which Stableford co-wrote with David Langford and Peter Nicholls. That was considerably thinner and featured many color illustrations. This book has no illustrations. That book focused on the scientific accuracy behind many common science fiction themes. This one throws a much wider net. For instance, there are entries on “Aesthetics”, “Occult Science”, “Pataphysics”, “Poetry”, “Narrative Theory”, and “Publication, Scientific”.

Generally, the scientifically themed entries focus on the development of a science or scientific theory and its interplay between science fiction and science fact. Generally, that’s the history of a subject and its scientific development and later use in science fiction. But the documented flow of ideas isn’t always from science to science fiction. The “Omega Point” started with philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and then was picked up by a series of scientists and fiction writers. (Stableford doesn’t seem to place much credence in the whole thing.) “Space Travel” could, arguably, be said to have first been initiated by literary dreamers and taken up by scientists.  “Paracelsus”, “may be the “great grandfather of quack medicine”, but he was also one of the fathers of modern chemistry and influenced both science and fiction.

The entries range from half a page in length to several pages in the case of popular science fiction icons like “Robot” or areas of universal intimacy or concern like “Sex”, “Medicine”, “War”, and “Psychopathology”.

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