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The following glossary gives brief definitions for many key terms and concepts used in the ISFDB and the associated Wiki. More detailed help on specific topics is available; see the main help page.
The most important terms are "publication", "author", and "title":
- Publication. A publication is a physical object you can hold in your hands, containing material that is suitable to record in the ISFDB. Examples: printed books, magazines, a mass-printed portfolio of an artists work in loose leaf format, convention booklets and pamphlets, CDs with sf texts, eBooks. Two copies of the same printing of Asimov's Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury are the same publication; two copies of a different printing of the same edition are different publications.
- Exception: an ebook or digital audiobook is not "a physical object you can hold in your hands" but each is considered a publication, just as if it had been printed out or transcribed.
- Author. An author is the person credited with writing, editing, painting or drawing something. In some parts of the ISFDB an artist's name is entered in the "author" field. There can be multiple authors for a given work, for collaborations. An author may be "uncredited" or "anonymous"; the difference is explained in detail on the help page for adding a new book, which describes just how to determine an author name.
- Title. A title within the ISFDB is the set of all publications of a given work. For example, all editions of the novel "Foundation and Empire", by Isaac Asimov, are publications of that title. An omnibus edition of the first Foundation trilogy is not a publication of that title, but it does contain that title. Another work by a different writer with the same title is not the same "title" in the ISFDB sense. To say that two works are the same title within the ISFDB is to say that they are essentially the same text, with the same authors. Some minor variations are permitted -- for example the addition of an introduction to a novel does not make it a new title. For a more detailed discussion of the variations, see the help page for adding a new book, which describes just how to determine a title.
The basic workflow for creating data in the ISFDB can be thought of as follows.
- Enter some publication records. This automatically creates titles and authors.
- Go through the titles to connect variants and merge duplicates
- Go through the authors to connect pseudonyms and merge duplicates
The following list of terms relate to various aspects of this process.
- Contents. A work such as a short story is typically contained in a larger work, such as an anthology or single-author collection. The short story is then referred to as part of the "contents" of the anthology or collection. Similarly, but less obviously, a novel which includes an introduction by another writer has contents: the introduction and novel would be the contents of this work.
- Magazine. The ISFDB allows a publication to be marked as a magazine, rather than as a novel, collection, or one of several other types. It can be difficult in some cases to determine if something should be regarded as a magazine or a book. Some magazines were published in book format; some books were published as series with letter columns and regular dates of publication. Borderline cases should be discussed on the magazine or book wiki pages.
- Omnibus. An omnibus is a publication which contains within it at least two works which could legitimately be regarded as independent works. There are borderline cases between "omnibus" and "anthology"; see the help page for adding a new book which gives more information about distinguishing between omnibuses and other publication types.
- Canonical title. The canonical title is the title under which all publications of a particular work are listed. For stories or novels that appeared under more than one title, the canonical title is usually the first title for that work, but may be a later title if that title is much better known.
- Canonical name. The canonical name is the name under which a particular author's bibliography is organized. For authors who publish under multiple names, the canonical name is the most recognized name for that author. The canonical name may be what other sources call a pseudonym, for instance Cordwainer Smith is the canonical name in the ISFDB, although his legal name was Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger. Similarly, Mark Twain is the canonical name, not Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Other sources would usually list "Twain" and "Smith" as pseudonyms of Clemens and Linebarger.
- Pseudonym. A pseudonym in the ISFDB is a version of an author's name which is different from the canonical version of the author's name. Within the ISFDB, this means that "Robert Heinlein" is a pseudonym for "Robert A. Heinlein". Note that some confusing situations can arise; a story by "Henry Kuttner" might in fact be a collaboration between Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, in which case it is technically a pseudonym.
- Editor. This is used in more than one sense.
- Within the ISFDB, every user can edit the data, and so is an editor; not everyone is a moderator.
- A magazine, and in many cases an anthology, has an editor, who is credited in the publication and title records.
- The term "editor" is also used on the publication record of an omnibus. Here the author or authors of the separate contents of the omnibus should be entered. If the omnibus has a separate editor, the name of that editor can also be entreed.
- Submission. When an editor changes data within the ISFDB, a "submission" is created. This is a record in a submission queue that needs to be approved or rejected by a moderator. As a result, if you make an edit, it will not take immediate effect. There will be no apparent change until a moderator approves it. A submission starts in the "pending" state and is moved to either "approved" or "rejected" by a moderator. A rejected record is filed but has no effect on the ISFDB data; an approved record immediately updates the database.
- Moderator. Certain editors within the ISFDB have "moderator" authority. They can approve or reject pending submissions. See Moderator Qualifications for more information about moderators.
- Variant. Works are often published under slightly differing titles, and with different apparent authors. For example, Isaac Asimov's "The Big Sun of Mercury" was originally published as "Lucky Starr and the Big Sun of Mercury", as by Paul French. These are variant titles. The ISFDB has the ability to record that two variants are really the same underlying work.
- Series. It is possible to tag a title as being part of a series. A series can, in turn, be made a part of another series, e.g. a series of Star Wars books may be defined as a sub-series of the "Star Wars Universe" super-series. However, a title can only belong to one series at a time. See the series help page for more details.
- Award. The ISFDB tracks winners and nominees in many awards, and this information can be recorded against each title.
- Review. Review columns can be recorded in the ISFDB, including the names of the books reviewed. These are then matched against the ISFDB itself, so that when looking up a title, the ISFDB can also return a list of reviews of that title. This lookup is done initially by matching the title and author, but when no match (or an incorrect match) is found (often due to variant titles or pseudonyms), an editor can manually specify the exact title record that the review should be linked to.
- Art. Two kinds of artwork are recorded in the ISFDB: cover art, and interior art. Cover artists are recorded on the publication record, but both cover and interior art can be recorded as contents of a publication.
- Split Novel A novel published both as a whole and (often later) in independant parts. Both the whole and the parts are usually considered novels.
- Bibliographic comments. Each publication listing has a link to a "bibliographic comments" page. For example, RHNNSBKFVT2006 has a link to this page. These pages are the place for bibliographic discussions about the publication. Conclusions from the discussion should usually be recorded on the notes field of the publication, but the discussion itself can have value as a record of research done, and should be preserved in such cases.
- Project. A "project" within the ISFDB Wiki is an organized attempt to improve the data. The most common projects are organized around individual writers, but they can also be organized around a series, such as Star Trek; a collaboration, such as Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore; an Award, such as the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, or a magazine, such as Amazing Stories. See also Bibliographic_Projects_in_Progress.