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Internet Speculative Fiction Database

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database is a database of bibliographic information on science fiction and related genres such as fantasy fiction and horror fiction. It is widely viewed as an authoritative source of information, and is constantly being updated. While out-of-date FAQs at the ISFDB indicate that only a small fraction of authors and works have been cataloged by the site, in reality the ISFDB has cataloged most of the field's authors and works. The database contains roughly 30,000 author entries tracking over 35,000 novels and 100,000 works of short fiction; by comparison, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (John Clute, Peter Nicholls, 1993) has roughly 2900 author entries.

The major strength of the ISFDB is its integrated approach to author information, combining variant titles, pseudonyms, series, and awards information into a single bibliography. It also contains the largest online collection of content listings to magazines published prior to 1984. Major alternatives to the ISFDB include:


During the period of 1984-1994, a series of speculative fiction author bibliographies were posted to the USENET newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written. These were begun by Jerry Boyajian (1984-1986), continued by Gregory J.E. Rawlins (1985-1988), and then finally picked up by John Wenn (1988-1994). Over the lifetime of this series, a defacto bibliographic format evolved for SF-related authors. The bulk of these bibliographies still exist and can be found at The Linköping Science Fiction Archive.

In 1993, Al von Ruff created a database of awards information that could be searched via command line tools. These tools were modified to emit HTML and installed as Common Gateway Interface applications on a private web server. Over the course of 1993 and 1994, the awards database was fleshed out with data from the private database of David G. Grubbs. In 1994, John R. R. Leavitt created the Speculative Fiction Clearing House (SFCH), arguably the first SF-related portal on the Web. In late 1994, he asked for help in the creation of online tools that could display awards information, and the pre-ISFDB tools were offered for use there. Leavitt declined to use the tools, looking for something that could be integrated with other aspects of the site - such as magazine content listings. In 1995, Al von Ruff began communicating with Ahasuerus (a prolific rec.arts.sf.written author) and began to construct the ISFDB, using lessons learned with the SFCH and the bibliographic format finalized by John Wenn. The ISFDB went online in Sept 1995, and a URL was published in January 1996.

Initially launched as a home page at a small ISP in Champaign Illinois, the ISFDB suffered from limitations in disk space and database support that limited its growth. In October 1997 the ISFDB moved to [ SF Site], a major SF portal and review site. Due to the rising costs of remaining with SF Site, the ISFDB moved to its own domain in December 2002. The site was quickly shut down by the hosting ISP due to high resource usage. Soon afterwards, Texas A&M University responded by providing hosting for the ISFDB at a new address,

Originally, the data and source code associated with the ISFDB was not available to the public, primarily due to disk space constraints. In May 2002, the source code was made available under the BSD license, while the datasets were made available under the OpenContent License, giving the site status as OSI Certified Open Source. On 27 February 2005, both the source code and the bibliographic data from the ISFDB was released under the Creative Commons Attribution License, an the OSI Certified Open Source designation was removed. Al von Ruff says that this change will not have much practical effect.

Von Ruff has said that he plans to give up his editing duties at the end of 2005. [1] He is currently seeking volunteers to take over the project, either continuing the single-maintainer model he's used, or moving to a more collaborative style. He's currently rewriting the site to use a MySQL backend, planned to be in operation by "March or April 2005". User submissions to the database are currently down, but they will return when the new version, dubbed ISFDB2, debuts.


The ISFDB contains:

  • Author bibliographies
  • Publication bibliographies
  • Award listings
  • Magazine content listings
  • Anthology and collection content listings
  • Yearly fiction indexes
  • Forthcoming books
  • Numerical statistics of data contained in the database
  • Graphed statistics of data contained in the database
  • A discussion board

As of 1 March 2005 the ISFDB contains data on 30476 authors, 26743 awards and 137356 titles (including 37899 novels and 61916 unique pieces of short fiction).

Compare with these other online sources:

  • the Locus Index to Science Fiction
  • the Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Weird Fiction Magazine Index

External links

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