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This archive includes discussions from April 2006 - January 2007.

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Work dates for books first published as serials

For serials that were later published in book form, we give the first book publication as the "work" date, right? E.g.:

The Skylark of Space (1946) with Lee Hawkins Garby

  Magazine/Anthology Appearances:
  The Skylark of Space (Part 1 of 3) (1928) with Lee Hawkins Garby
  The Skylark of Space (Part 2 of 3) (1928) with Lee Hawkins Garby
  The Skylark of Space (Part 3 of 3) (1928) with Lee Hawkins Garby

This looks pretty good, but what happens when we don't have serial information properly linked (or at all), e.g.:

Skylark of Valeron (1949)

? This can be misleading since the original magazine publication was in 1933/1934, but now it looks like the work first appeared in 1949 -- and, as a matter of fact, it has already misled one long term contributor on rasf. Ahasuerus 19:44, 30 Apr 2006 (CDT)

I'm open to whatever reduces confusion User:Alvonruff
After reviewing a few more serial-heavy authors, it looks like there is no hard and fast rule in the current version of ISFDB. In some cases, the first magazine publication is given as the "Work" date, in other cases it's the first book publication. Most encyclopedias try to provide both data elements (see Clute/Nicholls). I suspect that this issue will be discussed some more when we tackle the larger issue of how serials should be displayed within ISFDB. Ahasuerus 14:14, 2 May 2006 (CDT)
I updated the help to say that it should be the book date; the magazine date can be noted in the note field if it differs. It sounds like a serialization enhancement, to connect serials to the novels they serialize, would be a nice-to-have long-term feature. Mike Christie 19:48, 30 Nov 2006 (CST)
Except that this already seems to be in place, as I should have known. Does that work lexically? I see nothing in the data to connect serials to their novels. Mike Christie 06:34, 1 Dec 2006 (CST)
Yes, it's currently done as a lexical match on the Title and Author name. It's not perfect -- variant titles, pseudonyms, etc have been known to confuse it and there are some bugs -- but it's all we have for now. Also, there are many cases when serializations were done after the fact, sometimes decades after the fact. Think of the Verne and Wells serials in Amazing in the late 1920s or the reprint digests of the 1960s/early 1970s. Ahasuerus 13:34, 1 Dec 2006 (CST)
Thanks for the explanation. I'll make some additional notes in the help; I think a variant title in the magazine serialization would be a justification for a title record with no corresponding publication, so I'll mention that too. Mike Christie
Sounds about right, I was thinking about this very issue the other day :) Ahasuerus 15:01, 1 Dec 2006 (CST)

Fixups vs. Collections of linked stories vs. Omnibuses

If a novel was first published as a series of stories and they were later combined to make a novel, it's a "fixup". Easy enough. However, if the stories that comprise the final "novel" were themselves longish, does it make the resulting novel a fixup or an omnibus? Or is the determining factor whether the stories were originally published in magazines or as standalone books?

This is not a high priority issue, but there are some complexities around de Camp/Pratt's Incomplete Enchanter stories and such, so I figured I should mention it here before we forget. Also, Jack Williamson's _Seetee Ship_ is listed as a novel and then as a collection (, which makes you wonder how many "collections" we have that are really "collections of linked stories" and whether some of them are actually fixups. Ahasuerus 23:07, 30 Apr 2006 (CDT)

This will be a long response that will look off-topic at the beginning. I've been thinking about the verification issue, and verification of bibliographic data falls into two distinct camps: objective and subjective. Objective data is easily found and can be verified without argument. Publication data falls into the objective camp; a book has a verifiable ISBN or it doesn't; it has a verifiable title printed on it's cover; it is either unpaginated or has page numbers printed on pages, allowing one to determine page count. Subjective data is more difficult to find, and even when two people agree, a third can argue that it is incorrect (for instance, numerous wars have been fought right here in the ISFDB on the numbering, naming, and ordering of the books by Larry Niven). Often subjective data cannot be found in the text itself (such as series information), or requires some degree of work to calculate (such as whether or not a piece of short fiction is a short story, novelette, or novella).

Oh, absolutely! This is one of the main reasons why librarians traditional stick to "objective data". MARC-21 has weak-ish support for "subjective" data, but it's mostly about describing physical objects, i.e. books, magazines and other holdings. This makes it very hard to track multiple "editions" of what we would call the same "work" since "editions" are really "subjective" links between different physical objects. For example, if two books are identical except that one of them says "second edition" or "second printing", is it really a different "edition"?
OCLC has similar problems, but they have been working on them -- see their recently added support for links between "editions" and their "fiction" project. Ahasuerus 21:31, 1 May 2006 (CDT)

The classification of a work into novels, collections, anthologies, etc at first seems objective, but there are numerous corner cases which make that classification quickly become subjective. If we start with traditional definitions for novels, collections, anthologies, etc, we start to see odd cases, such as:

  • Fixups. Objectively a collection of short fiction; subjectively a novel.
Genre bibliographers often try to distinguish between "true" fixups, i.e. books that read like a single novel, although perhaps awkwardly so, and "collections of linked stories", which don't. I am not sure we want to add support for this notion, it sounds like more trouble than it's worth. Perhaps we should call the latter collections and add a free text note when applicable? Ahasuerus 21:31, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • Collections of novels by different authors. These are popular with certain puplishing houses. If the works were shorter, this would be an anthology. If the works are novel length, is this now an omnibus? What about novella length?
Well, the term "omnibus" is typically reserved for reprints of previously published novel length works between the same covers. The reason for it (IIRC) is that cheap-ish omnibus reprints were quite popular back in the 1930s; you can still find Thorne Smith's "Three Deckers" in used bookstores and it's been 75 years. For our purposes, I would argue that the same basic rule applies and a brand new collection of longish works would be an anthology. "Omnibuses" is what SFBC does and Eric Flint compiles at Baen.
Of course, there are always borderline cases. Sometimes volume 3 will only appear in an omnibus reprint with volumes 1 and 2 or some such. But oh well :) Ahasuerus 21:31, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • A traditional collection, with a novel thrown in. Collection or omnibus?
Using the "reprint" rule above, I would be inclined to call it a collection, unless it has been published earlier -- some Jack Williamson and Keith Laumer reprints that I have been sifting through come to mind -- in which case, um, an omnibus, I suppose. But a reprint collection with no novels in it is just a collection, so I guess a collection has to have at least 1 reprint novel length work to be an omnibus. Except that some of Williamson's early "novels" were really more like novellas. Sigh, where is aspirin in this place? :( Ahasuerus 21:31, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • Peter F. Hamilton - a book is published in one form in the UK. The book is split into two books for publication in the USA. Is the UK book version considered an omnibus now?
As a first edition, I doubt it would count. On the other hand, if we could add support for "1+2" and similar series numbers, then we could call it a series and the UK version would become "1+2" and the US version will be "1" and "2" separately. I am not sure I like it, though, because that would result in a ton of series in Eugene Sue's or even Lafferty's case, which may not be justified. Ahasuerus 21:31, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • Boxed set - Single ISBN. Omnibus? Doesn't feel like one.
This one is interesting since it really adds a whole new layer. We now have a physical object that consists of multiple physical objects. Multiple ISBNs too... Ahasuerus 21:31, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • What is a work like The Mind's Eye which is a series of essays on artificial intelligence, structured with essays on a specific topic, each followed by a work of short fiction as an example? Anthology? Nonfiction?
Any number of SF textbooks that include short stories to illustrate their point would also fall under this category. Normally, I would be inclined to file them under "fiction" (anthology or collection depending on the number of authors), but what if non-fiction is 50-80% of the text? Ahasuerus 21:31, 1 May 2006 (CDT)

Fixups mess us up because we subjectively know that the works have history as shortfiction, even though all we can objectively determine from the fixup itself is that it is a novel.

We presumably want to record that the fixup was based on stories A, B and C somewhere, but I am not sure where this information is best kept. Let me toy with the Seetee series a little and see what I think. Ahasuerus 21:31, 1 May 2006 (CDT)

Since categorization of this sort is going to be subjective, I propose we define definitions for the existing categories (and invent new ones if necessary), and as we find exceptions document them here. I've started the section below, and thrown in some starter definitions. Alvonruff 12:46, 1 May 2006 (CDT)

I've updated the help to reflect the above rules. Mike Christie 05:28, 1 Dec 2006 (CST)

Bibliographic Category Definitions

  • Anthology - A collection of short fiction, by different authors.
  • Collection - A collection of short fiction, with at least one author in common.
  • Interview - An essay in which one person interviews another, and writes up the result. Ranges from verbatim transcriptions to highly-edited musings by the interviewee.
  • Magazine - A publication with an intended regular publication schedule. Typically does not have an ISBN, and is not usually bound in a manner consistent with books.
    • "Hardcover magazines" (e.g. "The Pulphouse") can be a pain since they look like hardcover books :( Ahasuerus 21:56, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • Nonfiction - Any collection of material, either by a single author, or by multiple authors, which would not be considered fiction.
  • Novel - A work of fiction whose length is greater than 40000 words.
    • Keep in mind that these definitions have been known to change and may change again. Ahasuerus 21:56, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • Novella - A work whose length is greater than 17500 words and less than 40000 words.
  • Novelette - A work whose length is greater than 7500 words and less than 17500 words.
  • Omnibus - A collection of novels.
    • See above for my take on omnibuses as reprint artifacts :) Ahasuerus 21:56, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • Poem - Hmmm....
    • Poems are easy, but if we ever decide to segregate "poem collections" into a separate category, things can get pretty tricky since poems are often published together with short stories. Ahasuerus 21:56, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • Review - An essay in which one author provides a critical review of another author's works.
  • Serial - A work of at least two parts, in which a longer work is published serially, typically in a magazine.
    • At least two parts? Don't we currently list some "complete novels" of the 1930s-1950s as serials? By the way, the more I think about it, the more doubts I have about the fact that we display serial information on the Long Works page. Do people really need to know this up front? Especially when the author's bibliography is long and screen real estate is at a premium? Ahasuerus 21:56, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
  • Shortfiction - A work with a length ranging from short story to novella.
  • Short Story - A work whose length is less than 7500 words.

Alternative Approaches to Identifying and Capturing Biblio Data

There are multiple mutually overlapping approaches to capturing biblio data:

  1. Person-centric. Identify a person of interest (author, editor, artist, reviewer, etc) and find all records that are applicable. Use paper bibliographies (Bleiler, Tuck, Clute, Reginald, ect) for older editions, Web bibliographies (Locus, Contento, Oz biblios pre-1993 at, etc) for additional info, and ( for used books) to find everything that is currently for sale, library search engines (OCLC, Bookwhere, Sigla, etc) for library holdings, etc. Watch out for bad data on Amazon, misspellings, etc
  2. Content-centric. Take a series of related books, e.g. Ace Doubles (see WP) or everything by DAW (see Steven H. Silver's Web page) and check multiple overlapping sources. Ditto for shared worlds, single author series, etc.
  3. Source-centric. Take a single source (book, Web page, online bookstore, publishers' online catalogs, etc) and transcribe the data.
  4. Web spiders. Start with a single Web source, e.g. Locus Online, and use the New Arrival/Links sections to identify more sources, and then use these new sources to find more biblio sources, etc.
  5. Anything else?

Different editors will have different priorities, so they will choose different paths. We may want to use this (or similar) categorization scheme to keep track of editors and what they are doing. A matrix, perhaps? Encourage editors to list their interests on their User pages and then build a matrix around it? Ahasuerus 10:04, 1 May 2006 (CDT)

  1. Date-centric. Locate books published within a specific time period (includes forthcoming books).
  2. Series-centric. Some publication series are set within large corporate-owned universes (for instance Star Wars) that cut across multiple authors.
  3. Publisher-centric (subset of Content-centric above). Since ISBN prefixes's are handed out to specific publishers, and some publishers specialize in genre fiction, it is possible to data mine the ISBN address space for missing books. (I've done this..) Alvonruff 12:57, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
On a related note, where do we keep information about our progress in the case of each author/source/series/etc? I suggest we create a Wiki page for each one -- unless (potentially) 50,000+ pages will break somethign in the Wiki software -- and also have a rough template with checkboxes or free text fields for all the regular suspects (Tuck, Clute, etc). That way we can see what has and hasn't been done for each author/source/series/etc. Spam might be a problem, though, we will need some way of protecting it without making it hard for legitimate editors to record what they have done. How does Wikipedia handle all that porn/gambling/drugs spam anyway? Oh yes, and we may need more than one template -- no point in checking Tuck and Reginald if the author wasn't even born in 1974 :)
  • I'm not so worried about breakage as slowly moving Wikipedia articles over to the ISFDB. It would be easy enough to automatically add a link to the author bibliography that would point to a unique page in the Wiki (even though it may not yet exist).
Well, WP articles cover all kinds of non-biblio data that we wouldn't want, e.g. detailed, bio data, "Criticism and interpretations", etc. Riht now I am trying to figure out what the arguments are for and against making this verification information available as part of this Wiki vs. part of the ISFDB itself. The more automation we propose to put in, the more it looks like it would be better suited for the ISFDB proper. Ahasuerus 15:27, 3 May 2006 (CDT)
  • For publications (objective data), the goal is to add a verification checkbox, which means that someone has verified the data with the primary source. We'll know who verified it. We can use some number of checks as a threshold to lock most of the fields in the record (stuff like notes or cover artist might be left unlocked).
Since publications, works and authors do not map onto each other neatly (technically speaking, it's a many-to-many-to-heck-who-knows relationship), I can't think of a way to consolidate these checkboxes in a Wiki matrix that wouldn't break something. Let me create a sample Wiki page or three and see where it takes us. Ahasuerus 15:27, 3 May 2006 (CDT)
  • For titles (subjective data), we add the matrix of secondary sources as you've described. We can score each author using some as-yet-to-be-discovered heuristic that relies on the number of boxes checked, and generate some percent confidence/verified in the bibliography that is displayed on the author's page. Another app can show authors with low confidence scores. Also gives readers a feel for the veracity of a given bibliography, which is needed when Dissembler builds accidental bibliographies over time that have never been touched by human hands.
Sounds like a very useful suite of tools! Ahasuerus 15:27, 3 May 2006 (CDT)
  • Authors should have modification timestamps. Whenever a database change occurs that affects their summary bibliography, the timestamp is modified. That will allow patrols of the database. Alvonruff 06:05, 2 May 2006 (CDT)
As I said above, the more I think about the more it looks like these checkboxes and matrixes would be happier in the ISFDB. But I will still create a few pages in the Wiki first. If nothing else, they will serve as a sandbox where we can do proff of concept stuff. Ahasuerus 15:27, 3 May 2006 (CDT)
Also, some sources can be data mined once (checklists), others twice or even three times (Tuck: 1. extract work data; 2. extract English language publication data; 3. extract foreign language publication data), and then we have dynamic sources like Web sites and online bibliographies, etc that need to be checked periodically, perhaps in an automated fashion.
And speaking of automation, do we have a custom Z39.50 client/spider/aggregator/what have you? There are multiple commercial ones like Bookwhere that we could buy a license for (need to check their prices), then there is a free one at Sigla (have to click on the tiny Union Jack to change the language to English), but it's a little awkward. Anything else? Ahasuerus 21:42, 1 May 2006 (CDT)
We'll have to take care as harvesting data from for-pay resources is probably a violation of Terms and Conditions. Once the ISFDB running smoothly, I'll be spending most of my time on this particular topic. Alvonruff 06:05, 2 May 2006 (CDT)
Well, Sigla is a free service and the data that you access is just public library (all 1,600 of them) holdings, so I don't think that would be an issue. Bookwhere and other commercial software packages might be a problem, but we would need to look it up. Ahasuerus 15:17, 3 May 2006 (CDT)

Proposed Scope of the Project

Note: This is very much a first draft subject to merciless discussion and change.

Let's see if we can describe what we are cataloging and what we are not cataloging.


  1. Speculative fiction is defined to include:
    • science fiction, including works:
      • set in a future that is now in the past
      • that deal with technological advances that were futuristic at the time they were published
    • fantasy fiction
    • alternative history
    • utopian fiction as long as it is recognizably fiction and not a treatise
    • non-genre speculative fiction
    • fabulations
    • magic realism
    • slipstream
    • proto-science fiction, including but not limited to:
      • lost world tales
      • fantastic voyages
      • scientific romances
      • pre-historic romances
      • future war stories
      • the older the book, the more likely we are to include it even if it is borderline eligible. This is caused by the fact that there were relatively few Works published prior to 1800 and by the difficulties with distinguishing between speculative and non-speculative fiction (or even fiction and non-fiction) when you are dealing with pre-1800 Works
    • the supernatural (with an inclusionist bias), including but not limited to:
      • supernatural horror
      • ghost stories
      • gothic novels with supernatural elements
      • occult fiction
  2. Speculative fiction is defined to exclude:
    • techno-thrillers, political thrillers and satires set in a future indistinguishable from the present (?)
    • fairy tales with no known author (?)
    • animal books for very young children (?)
    • comic books, manga, and graphic novels
    • games, game guides and game paraphernalia -- but works of fiction based on games are included
    • philosophical works of speculative nature unless written as a work of fiction (with an inclusionist bias)

Rules of Acquisition

  1. In - Works of speculative fiction originally published in English, including works published within and outside the genre. "Published" is defined as published by:
    • professional publishers
    • small presses
    • prozines
    • semi-prozines
    • unpublished works by established authors, e.g. John Taine's manuscripts? Or do we just mention them in their respective Wikipedia articles? On their ISFDB Wiki page?
    • print on demand??
    • vanity publishers??
    • fanzines??
    • newspaper publications??
    • ?
  2. In - Foreign language translations of speculative fiction works originally published (or written but not published - Bulmer, Dibell, etc) in English. Support for derivative works (sequels-by-other hands, collections and omnibuses that have no direct analogs in English, etc) may need to be enhanced.
  3. In - English language translations of works of speculative fiction originally published in foreign languages. In these cases, we will also provide information about the original foreign language work.
  4. In - Works of speculative fiction published in a foreign language that haven't been translated into English, but whose author's other works have been translated into English. This is done to make it easier for people who are interested in, e.g., Lem or Barbet to see as full a picture of the author's work as possible.
  5. Debatable - Works of speculative fiction published in a foreign language that haven't been translated into English and whose author's other works have not been translated into English. Arguments for exclusion: avoid duplicating the efforts of foreign language bibliographers in a field where we can't realistically compete with them. (True? False? Revisit if/when we have foreign language editors with extensive expertise in the field who would be willing to merge their biblios into the ISFDB?)
    • Debatable - Works by otherwise ineligible foreign language authors that were only published in a foreign language but that are part of an otherwise English language series. For example, there are numerous Russian language sequels to Conan. Also, foreign language sequels-by-other-hands to prominent works of SF that are otherwise ineligible. I am thinking of things like a few German and Czech language sequels to Jules Verne's works here.
  6. In - Works about speculative fiction published in the English language and their foreign language translations.
  7. In - Works (both fiction and non-fiction) that are not related to speculative fiction, but were produced by authors who have otherwise published works either of or about speculative fiction over a certain threshold (see below). This will include short fiction, but exclude non-fiction that was not published as a standalone book. Thus, Poul Anderson's book about thermonuclear weapons will be included, but Benford's and Forward's professionally published scientific articles will be excluded.
  8. Out - Works that are not related to speculative fiction by authors who have not published works either of or about speculative fiction over a certain threshold. This "certain threshold" is hard to define, but we need to draw the line in a way that would exclude Winston Churchill, who published at least one work of borderline speculative fiction. The goal here is to avoid cataloging everything ever published by James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Louis Stevenson, Honore de Balzac and other popular authors. Instead, we would want to catalog their speculative fiction works only.
  9. In - Otherwise unrelated works found in any publication that will be cataloged based on other criteria. This is done to avoid creating incomplete biblio records for magazines, anthologies, etc.
  10. Debatable - Individual letters to the editor published in magazines. Arguments for inclusion: some of the better and more useful print biblios include them; some of the letters were instrisically interesting, e.g. there was a letter exchange between Philip Jose Farmer and Marion Zimmer Bradley in a mid-1950s pulp magazine that provided a significant amount of background information.
  11. Debatable - Convention programs, guides, etc. We definitely want any convention-published "real books", but probably not the ephemera. What about the book length stuff that cons put out that doesn't have any fiction, but has a lot of related information?
  12. Debatable - Academia-produced magazines. Can we realistically compete with, say, the SFRD?

Ahasuerus 14:42, 4 May 2006 (CDT)

Pseudonym Support

I don't know what the latest redesign/beefing up of pseudonym support involves, but it occurs to me that pseudonyms are a perfect example of "subjective vs. objective" data. The objective component is what's on the book's cover and is usually pretty unambiguous except in cases where the cover says something like "Book 2 in the new Lord Tedric series! By Gordon Eklund based on E.E. 'Doc' Smith's work!". The name may be the real author's legal name or a slightly modified form of his legal name (dropping the middle name, "Bill" instead of "William", etc) or a recognizable form of the legal name ("Lawrence Watt-Evans" for "Lawrence Watt Evans") or something else entirely. Sometimes it may be a joke, e.g. the Farmer/Vonnegut episode. Sometimes it is not listed at all. Sometimes it can be ludicrous -- as when the cover lists a long dead person as the author of a new book, e.g. Alex Raymond is credited as the sole author on the covers of some 1970s/1980s Flash Gordon books. But ludicrous or not, the name on the cover is something that we can all agree on and enter into the database.

On the other hand, Title Author data is subjective. Sometimes it's easy to tell that "Robert Heinlein" and "Robert A. Heinlein" are the same person. Sometimes it's not easy at all, like in the case of the two Dominic Greens. Sometimes the pseudonym may not be disclosed for years like in that Mel Odom episode. Sometimes it may never be disclosed since the records of who wrote what as "Victor Appleton" or as "Roy Rockwood" may never be found. Sometimes "Lewis Padgett" meant "Kuttner and Moore" and sometimes it meant "Kuttner". And so on and so forth.

So, with this in mind, do we want to have two completely data elements for the two types of Author data, i.e. Title Author and Publication Author? If so, we may want to keep in mind that ISFDB users do not think in terms of objective vs. subjective data. The questions that they want answered fall on both sides of the fence. Is this book that I have in my hands a first edition? When was the book first published? Is the name on the cover a pseudonym and, if so, who is the real author? What other books/stories has that person written? We may have to be careful to support these types of "mixed type" queries in the search logic.

It looks like the current version of the search engine does a good job of it, but sometimes I am not sure I understand why it does what it does. For example, a search on "Barnett" retrieves both "Lisa A. Barnett" and "Lisa Barnett", but the latter one has no biblio data associated with her. Ahasuerus 15:46, 4 May 2006 (CDT)

Data Acquisition and Verification -- Proof of Concept

Richard Cowper has been created. I will abuse it in various ways to get a feel for what we need. Ahasuerus 15:11, 5 May 2006 (CDT)

I may rename this page so that we don't have potential collisions in the Wiki article namespace (to something like Author:Richard Cowper or Bibliographic Comments:Richard Cowper). If we name them strictly after the author we might have problems later (we don't have one yet, but would if someone used the pseudonym Main Page). I'd like to automagically put a link on each author bibliography that would point to such a bibliographic discussion area (they wouldn't be created automatically though). Alvonruff 15:24, 5 May 2006 (CDT)
Sounds good to me! BTW, Richard Cowper should be a good ginea pig. He was not a very prolific author, therefore he is more manageable than a Silverberg or an Asimov. On the other hand, he wrote both under his legal name and as "Richard Cowper", had a decent cross-section of genre and non-genre novels, series, stories, non-fiction, translations, chapbooks (including one that didn't have an ISBN since it was included in a limited edition as an add-on, see Locus), essays, reviews, interviews, etc. Should be an interesting exercise. Ahasuerus 16:09, 5 May 2006 (CDT)
You should now be able to create new Bibliographic Comments pages in the Wiki by clicking on the Bibliographic Comments link in the author's bibliography. The wiki links are of the form Author:author name. I chose this so that later we could also implement Title:title name if we so desire. Moved Cowper accordingly. Alvonruff 22:20, 5 May 2006 (CDT)
Great! :-) BTW, I am going to remove the Guide to Supernatural Fiction from the checklist. 360ish early authors of supernatural fiction are probably not worth the real estate and navigation issues. We should be able to check their lists manually. Ahasuerus 20:49, 7 May 2006 (CDT)

Data Verification Matrix - Layout

I know you're still experimenting - vertical seems more readable than horizontal. User:Alvonruff

That's what I am thinking as well, but there is no space in the current incarnation of "Vertical" for Publication data :-( I am also wondering if less computer-savvy folks will be able to maintain tables without making a huge mess every other page. Ahasuerus 20:40, 7 May 2006 (CDT)
At worst we'll use these as matrix designs and fold them into the database proper, so that they won't be able to bother with table layouts. Alvonruff 05:38, 8 May 2006 (CDT)
Having played with various ideas overnight, I suspect that we will have to fold "Verification data" into the core ISFDB database for a number of reasons:
  1. There is no reliable way of extracting "confidence level" data out of what is essentially a free text table.
  2. Wiki tables may be a little easier for non-computer savvy people to handle than HTML tables, but they are still significantly harder than checkboxes.
  3. We can capture username/date/time information much more reliably in the database.
  4. The current (Wiki-centric) design makes it hard to handle Works vs. Publications. On the other hand, we could associate verification information directly with Works and Publications in the database -- just add a "Verification information" link to each Work's and Publication's page.
  5. The Wiki-centric design would either necessitate adding all Verification-related Wiki pages to the distribution copy of the ISFDB backup or, barring that, it would result in the distribution version lacking some ISFDB functionality, i.e. "confidence levels".
Here is my Proposed layout for the Data Verification Form:
  1. The screen will be split into two halves.
  2. The top half will contain all previously entered verification informarion, e.g. "Tuck -- verified by User:XYZ on May 01, 2006 with comment: N/A, all work post-1968" or "Reginald 1700-1974 -- verified by User:ABC on June 04, 2006, User:GHF on July 30, 2006 with comment: Series data also checked".
  1. Multiple rows of verification data for the same source will be allowed.
  2. Previously entered Verification information will not be editable by users, i.e. it will be "Write once".
  3. Abbreviated source names like "Tuck" will be hyperlinked to their associated ISFDB Work entries.
  1. The bottom half will be for entering new Verification data:
  1. There will be one dropdown box on the left hand said for the Bibliographic Source, a checkbox in the center and an optional free text field on the right hand side for free text comments.
  2. There will also be a button called "New Bibliographic Source" displayed under the last row of fields, just like there is a "New Author" button for Works. Clicking on it will result in a new row being added.
  3. The dropdown box will contain a list of pre-approved Bibliographic Sources, "Visual Inspection" and "Additional Source" (wording?). The last one will be used for sources that are not pre-listed in the dropdown box.
Does this approach sound more reasonable than the current Wiki layout? Ahasuerus 12:37, 8 May 2006 (CDT)

Where will we put errors found in the references? Like: "Contento anth/coll checked, except it had a bad ISBN (checksum failed)." or "page count of [1] doesn't match that of [5]". User:Alvonruff

That's a good point. Probably in the same checkbox to make them easier to find. BTW, I am not sure I like the four tildes in every box, they gobble up a lot of real estate, but I guess we need a date/time stamp of some kind.
As an aside, even physical possession of a copy doesn't guarantee that you will transcribe the data correctly. There is one notorious issue of Unknown with a Frank Belknap Long story missing in the table of contents. Ahasuerus 20:40, 7 May 2006 (CDT)

Data verification -- Series data

Series data, series order in particular, is probably the most subjective and the most contentious area. The underlying problem appears to be that "Publication order" != "author's intended order" != "internal chronological order" != "reader's preferred order". For example, in the case of Doc Smith's Lensman saga:

  • publication order -- 1,3,4,5,6,2
  • author's intended order -- at first 3,4,5,6, eventually 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • internal chronologocal order -- 1,2,3,4,5,6
  • reader's preferred order (majority opinion) - 3,4,5,6,1,2

Nested series and series entries published differently by different publishers, e.g. Conan, is a whole different headache.

At the very least I think we may want to add a "Series Notes" field to capture these issues. Eventually, we may want to have support for "Series verification". Ahasuerus 11:08, 9 May 2006 (CDT)

Data Verification -- Available Sources

As I was watching (admiringly) Al enter C. S. Lewis' and Arthur Conan Doyle's biblio data from Reginald 1 and Tuck, I began to wonder how many sources different editors/moderators may have ready access to. Is it a safe assumption that everybody has at least Tuck (1-3), Reginald (1-3), and both Clutes? Probably not since I remember Mike mentioning that he didn't have the Reginalds and access to sources will likely get more diverse and unpredictable as we add more editors to the roster. Should we have a little matrix or a checklist of "Who Has What" so that we could ask fellow editors to help with lacunae? Ahasuerus 21:00, 22 May 2006 (CDT)

I was just thinking this morning that a good "interview question" for potential editors would be "how many of the references listed in the Print Bibliographies section of Sources of Bibliographic Information do you own?" (I'm still missing Reginald 3 myself). Otherwise I have everything there, plus Bleiler's original Checklist of Fantastic Literature, as well as Bleiler's Science Fiction: The Gernsback Years for magazine work (totally awesome, with extremely detailed synopsis, as well as a theme/motif index). A matrix would be nice, as it would tell at a glance what the group reference library looks like. Alvonruff 21:19, 22 May 2006 (CDT)
Ah, I see, that explains the lack of Reginald-3 references :) Sure, I can help with that, I have all 3 Reginalds, Tuck, Day, the Clutes and other goodies handy. Plus a few, well, OK, many thousands of SF books/magazines available for "physical" verification once we have the projected Verification tools in place. BTW, I have been reading up on Python in between other projects. "Significant white space" certainly brought back memories :)
Hm, I suppose I should go through the bibliographies that I have here and add the more useful ones to the list. Ah, here is one! Ahasuerus 22:13, 22 May 2006 (CDT)

Lessons Learned

Here are a few things that I think I learned while cleaning up Richard Cowper and Kris Neville (quite thoroughly in the former case and somewhat thouroughly in the latter case) and then doing a first pass ("internal consistency check") on Zelazny, Bear and Benford:

  • A comprehensive review of all biblio data for a Work is even more time consuming than I suspected.
  • Tuck is pretty good pre-1968, as we know, but not perfect.
  • The Reginalds only cover fist editions, don't list ISBNs and stop in 1991.
  • There are some errors in the Locus database - not many, but they need double-checking as well.
  • Contento updated his lists in 2005 and may do so again, so it's a moving target; perhaps we could capture it offline (HHTRACK?) and do some type of comparison once a year to make sure nothing has changed?
  • Sigla is buggy -- and inevitably slow -- but quite useful. The ability to view a dozen copies of the same Publication record is very nice. It also captures a lot of Danish, Swedish, German, Russian, etc translations, which may help down the road once we beef up translation support. It's difficult to use it as a single entity for Data Verification purposes since the subset of library catalogs that respond in any given case may be subtly different. A proprietary Z39.50 search engine would be probably even better. Need to think about this some more.
  • The fiction-oriented version of OCLC is very nice -- similar to Sigla, but faster and better organized since they have local copies of the records that they search/display -- but can be misleading when they try to derive subjective data from objective data and mess up.

The bottom line is that Publication level data entry will be VERY time consuming and, what's worse, require domain knowledge. We may need a an extra level of verification hierarchy, although I am not sure how best to implement it. We will also need to have Data Verification tools before we undertake it on a grand scale or else we will have the same kind of unverifiable mess that WP often has.

It might be more efficient to enter as many Works as we realistically can while improving pseudonym, collection/atnhology and translation support. After all, we had less than half of Cowper's and Neville's Works when I started a few days ago and they are not particularly obscure. As a side benefit, we may be able to attract more knowledgeable editors once the data is clean enough to encourage (rather than discourage) a casual user/visitor.

Therefore I propose that we first concentrate our data entry efforts on:

  • Internal consistency cleanup
  • Adding missing Works
  • Improving software support for content editing/pseudonyms/translators as well as single author collection editors
  • Adding missing series information, currently a major weakness

Of course, if somebody is just dying to enter every edition of Dune into the database, more power to him :) Ahasuerus 19:55, 15 May 2006 (CDT)

I found xISBN to be a really valuable tool for finding alternate editions. It frequently picks up translations. (And speaking of Dune, here's an xISBN list for one version.) grendel|khan 02:52, 26 May 2006 (CDT)
This is awesome. I just added xISBN support to Dissembler. And its first test case... Dune. Alvonruff 20:57, 26 May 2006 (CDT)

Translators (moved from Ahasuerus' Talk page)

There's a method to deal with translators on a per-title basis, but usually translated editions aren't added as new titles. See the other publications for Starman Jones, which are sometimes translations. grendel|khan 17:48, 16 May 2006 (CDT)

You could argue that translations are really derived works and constitute a separate layer between titles (Works) and Publications. However, in most cases, as you note above, they are currently handled as just another edition of the Work in question. Unfortunately, Publications don't have built-in support for translators' names, so you have to do it via Notes, at least for now. Ahasuerus 18:48, 16 May 2006 (CDT)

The Czech edition I just found (which apparently doesn't have a translated title, according to WorldCat)

FYI, OCLC links are session-specific, so they don't mean anything outside of your current session :) But yes, I found the title and then looked it up in the National Library of the Czech Republic. Here is the underlying MARC-21 code:

001 cpk19980296848 005 19971208000000.0 010 ## $a 80-85782-63-4 $b brož. 100 ## $a 19980525d1996^^^^m^^^0czey0103^^^^|| 101 0# $a cze 102 ## $a CZ 105 ## $a yyyy^^^^000ay 106 ## $a z 200 1# $a Starman Jones $f Robert A. Heinlein $g [z angličtiny přeložil Tomáš Kokoška] 210 ## $a Praha $c Classic And $d 1996 215 ## $a 233 s. $d 19 cm 225 2# $a Science fiction 410 #0 $1 2001 $a Science fiction 454 #0 $1 2001 $a Starman Jones 608 ## $a vědecko-fantastické romány 675 ## $a 820(73)-31 $9 undef 700 #1 $a Heinlein $b Robert A. $g Robert Anson $f 1907-1988 $3 jn19990003337 $4 070 702 #1 $a Kokoška $b Tomáš $4 730 801 #0 $b OLA001 801 #2 $b ABA001 801 #2 $b OLA001 901 ## $o 19980609 $a 80-85782-63-4 $f [1. vyd.] $g Na rubu titulního listu uvedeno chybně: ISBN: 80-85782-63-4 909 ## $a 000296848

Interestingly enough, the publisher is listed as "Classic And". Also, you entered the city as "Praha", which is the Czech name for Prague. That's what I have been doing with German language translations as well, but I suppose we will need a standard at some point. By the way, "brož." is short for "brožovaný", which means "paperback" -- see
D'oh! I thought that was a publisher name. That'll teach me to just copy in the first word that looks like a proper noun. grendel|khan 19:07, 16 May 2006 (CDT)
Yup, foreign languages can be treacherous. I can (sort of) help with Romance and Slavic languages, but my German is extremely rusty and forget about the Finno-Ugric subfamily. Ahasuerus 19:27, 16 May 2006 (CDT)

see publication record STRMNJNSBV1996) has a translator noted in the notes for now; let me know if that sort of thing should be split off into separate title records--that doesn't seem like the right thing to do. grendel|khan 17:48, 16 May 2006 (CDT)

It's something to discuss with Al when he has a little bit of free time :) Ahasuerus 18:48, 16 May 2006 (CDT)
Ah, "support for translator annotations" is scheduled for June 4 or so. Spiffy. I really should check before leaving these notes... grendel|khan 19:19, 16 May 2006 (CDT)

Cyrillic support

To quote User:Grendelkhan's last addition to the bugs page:

I'm having some trouble with a Russian-language version of Starman Jones, publication HHHPWLVGLD2002, "Астронавт Джонс". (I think it transliterates to "Astronavt Dzhons"),

FYI, there are automatic Cyrillic coverters on the net. Try it on "Астронавт Джонс" and you will see that it does indeed transliterate as "Astronavt Dzhons".

I entered the publisher as "Центрполиграф", and it appears that was in the submission confirmation screen, but it shows up as "Центрполи&". See the submission confirmation page for Publication Update #38462.

I don't think there is anything terribly special about Cyrillic via a vis other non-English characters aside from a somewhat bewildering variety of encodings (over two dozen, last I checked) that have been used over the last twentysomething years. I would guess that Al is using Unicode while the record that you were trying to enter was using an older encoding and some encoding transformation went awry. Al has indicated that there are still some problems with Unicode support in the code, e.g. there are problems with distinguishing between different types of apostrophes. Ahasuerus 18:57, 16 May 2006 (CDT)

Ace paperbacks (copied from Grendelkhan's Talk page)

Post-1968 Ace paperbacks are tricky since, as Mike Christie wrote in the relevant Wikipedia article just a couple of weeks ago:

In January 1969, Ace switched to a numeric coding system. The code depended on the title of the book; or specifically on the first significant word in the title. For example, Tom Purdom's The Barons of Behavior was published by Ace in about 1972 as serial number 04760. The first letter of "Barons" is "B", so the code assigned is fairly early in the numeric range 00000 to 99999. This procedure for assigning numeric codes was in use at Ace at least into the early 1990's, and may still be in use today. For Ace doubles, one of the titles was selected and used to determine what serial number should be used. For example, 11560 is the Ace double The Communipaths by Suzette Haden Elgin, backed with Louis Trimble's The Noblest Experiment in the Galaxy. The serial number here is derived from The Communipaths; a serial number derived from the Trimble would have been about 58000.
For the later numeric series titles, the number is also part of the ISBN. To form the ISBN (if it exists) for one of these books one prefixes "0" for English language/US, and "441" (Ace's publisher number), to the serial number. The last digit can then be calculated with an ISBN check digit calculator. For example, Christopher Stasheff's Escape Velocity has serial number 21599; the ISBN is 0-441-21599-8.

Having said that, Pandora's Books, Ltd., a well established genre bookstore, claims that this edition was published in 1970. I suggest that regardless of whether we put "1970" in the Year field or the Note field, we add a comment to the effect that the exact date is not known at this time. Ahasuerus 08:20, 17 May 2006 (CDT)

Web publications

Gutenberg (and similar) scans of previously published Works can be easily handled with a URL or two, as Al indicates elsewhere. However, what are we going to do about previously published Works that are available for download for a fee, especially if there are multiple competing vendors out there? On the one hand, you can get increasingly obscure SF online if you are willing to pay $3-10, and the information may be valuable to the users ("I finally get to re-read that "Astonishing Stories" short-short that I have been looking for since 1951!"). And it's not like we don't have links to B&N, Amazon, etc already. On the other hand, links to commercial resources can present additional challenges.

And while we are on the subject, what are we going to do about Authors the bulk of whose work has been published online, e.g. Paul Marlowe, but not on paper? Marlowe's site is linked to by a number of (traditionally) published Authors and he seems to be reasonably well respected, but are we really equipped to support massive linkage to Web sites, free and otherwise? Ahasuerus 19:16, 17 May 2006 (CDT)

Would it be a terrible perversion of the database design to enter Project Gutenberg etexts as just more publications? So they'd be dated the date of the PG release, their ID would be the etext number, and their publisher would be "Project Gutenberg"? They sort of are a publishing outfit. Could that be integrated with some little sprinkle of magic that would make "Project Gutenberg"-published titles clickable? grendel|khan 22:15, 17 May 2006 (CDT)
It's the easiest from a tools point of view - we'd just be adding 1 column to the pubs table, and adding support for an elink to the etext location in the editing tools. We would need to lock down how we want to treat chapter books, since some popular etexts have been short fiction. And there is the issue of what we do with entries that used to point to something, but have since met their demise. Alvonruff 05:04, 18 May 2006 (CDT)
Yes, that could very easily get out of hand. Unlike paper editions, e-texts are notorious URL-hoppers and do we really want to keep a dozen dead links per title? OTOH, if we don't, then will we end up with a Dead Link Spider constantly trawling for broken links and maintaining a list of "last time accessed" hits etc? There may be some freeware spiders that could be impressed into service if we decide to go down that path. Ahasuerus 18:02, 19 May 2006 (CDT)


Here is a good example of potentially confusing vaporware. Does the "Notes"-centric approach look reasonable? Do we want to come up with a standard disclaimer that we could cut-and-paste into all of these "Last Dangerous Visions" wannabes' entries? Ahasuerus 18:02, 19 May 2006 (CDT)

Something like?:
   This book has been announced, but never published. Please do not submit further
   publication information on this title unless you have sighted a physical copy of
   the book.
Alvonruff 18:29, 19 May 2006 (CDT)
Sure, that should work. Do we want to make it a checkbox on the Edit Work page that only a Moderator can modify? And that would be greyed out when a non-privileged user is in the Edit Work screen? Ahasuerus 18:39, 19 May 2006 (CDT)
I just added a vaporware note for whirlwind and its publication but don't know if there is also a vaporware flag to inform the Dissembler that it need not add new publications or is adding a note sufficient? Also, should I source the vaporware note as I confirmed the publications status with the author? Marc Kupper 03:16, 18 Nov 2006 (CST)
Al and I have discussed ways of letting Dissembler know not to add certain things to the database. So far he has added a list of publishers to ignore (mostly RPGs and comics), but anything more complicated, e.g. see the tale of two Dominic Greens is curently done by hand. Al may be adding more smarts to the algorithm shortly, though, so it may be worth asking him directly. Ahasuerus 12:53, 18 Nov 2006 (CST)

Pre-ISBN serial numbers

Some of the pre-ISBN serial numbers in the database have a "#" prefixed to them. I think the rule should be that the serial number (e.g. 256 for the Ballantine first of Blish's "A Case of Conscience") should be entered as is, without a "#" sign. Mike Christie 22:20, 23 May 2006 (CDT)

I can go with that. The "#" symbol denoted that it was a catalog number and not an ISBN - the only place it's used anymore is in supressing the "Buy This Book At" links, which don't work well with catalog numbers. Alvonruff 04:57, 24 May 2006 (CDT)
Could that be handled by checking for at least ten characters in the string? I doubt there are many ten character serial numbers out there. Mike Christie 08:30, 24 May 2006 (CDT)
That's exactly how I'm going to do it, although we have to match on a length of 13 as well for the upcoming ISBN-13 switch at the end of the year. There's the question of matching *exactly* on 10 and 13, or greater than 9. In the early 70's, Ace created some catalog numbers which look like ISBNs, but were of the form <PublisherId>-<CatalogNumber>-<Price>. These didn't have the mandatory checksum, so they look like ISBNs but actually have a variable length based on the price. Alvonruff 12:47, 24 May 2006 (CDT)
Keep in mind, folks, that these are really two different data elements. Many, if not most, books have both an ISBN and a catalog number. Some people, especially collectors, may be interested in this information and, besides, sometimes it may help to distinguish between different printings or even editions. See, for example, the way DAW changed their catalog numbers for different printings a while back.
As a general rule of thumb, using the same field to store different data elements is asking for trouble. You wouldn't believe the kinds of problems we ran into the last time I decided to store ISBN numbers and ICBM launch codes in the same bucket :( Ahasuerus 16:33, 30 May 2006 (CDT)

Changing the priority of the Award linking task?

Awards are currently linked to Works lexically, so whenever a Work's Title is changed (which happens often, what with subtitles, "the", etc), the Award link is lost. As we ramp up our editing/cleanup effort, a lot of Award links will likely be lost and have to be rebuilt manually at some point. Would it be possible to bump up the fix for this problem within the list of priorities? Or, barring that, allow editors to modify Award records to update Title names so that they would match? Ahasuerus 08:45, 24 May 2006 (CDT)

Serials display in Long Works Bibliography

To quote what I wrote above a few weeks ago:

the more I think about it, the more doubts I have about the fact that we display serial information on the Long Works page. Do people really need to know this up front? Especially when the author's bibliography is long and screen real estate is at a premium?

After playing with the data some more, I see even more problems with the current approach as expemplified by Jack_Williamson's Long List Bibliography. First, there is the real estate problem mentioned above. In Williamson's case, serial data takes up over 70 lines of screen space, which makes the data harder to absorb. Second, the current algorithm matches serials agains both novels and collections, which leads to problems -- see Williamson's "The Alien Intelligence", which is listed once as a novel and once as a collection, both times wiht the matching Serial list. Finally, are we really supplying useful information to the users by displaying half the Publication-level record (no magazine title, just the part number and the year) up front? After all, the data is readily available from the Work's page, where the user can also view other Publications for this Work. Is there some extra benefit to the current way of doing Serials that I am missing? Ahasuerus 16:45, 30 May 2006 (CDT)

Clarifying the purpose of the ISFDB Wiki to new users

Some of our users may not be quite sure what the ISFDB Wiki will be used for, namely its "data collection and verification" aspect -- see this note left on my Talk page. Do you think we should have a canned message automatically displayed on each empty Wiki page that belongs to the "Author" namespace to avoid confusion? Update: I have posted a response on the user's Talk page. Ahasuerus 19:51, 1 Jun 2006 (CDT)

P.S. Also note this User page, this Author page and this Author page. Ahasuerus 19:53, 1 Jun 2006 (CDT)
I also think similar text could appear on the Main Page; something derived from the note Ahasuerus just wrote would work well. It certainly seems to be a common misapprehension. Mike Christie 20:36, 1 Jun 2006 (CDT)

The fine line between information and self-promotion

Where should we draw the line between bibliographic information in "Synopsis"/"Notes" and self-promotion? Would you say that this Synopsis is OK? Ahasuerus 15:47, 17 Jun 2006 (CDT)

Translations Redux

Reviewing the discussion above, I note that the issue of handling translations appears to be still open. Do we list them as "Works" or as "Publications" under their parent Work?

The best argument (that I can think of) for listing translations as Publications is to avoid cluttering Work level bibliographies with dozens of unreadable (to most people) titles. Think of the mess we would have on our hands if we listed every translation of Heinlein's Works as Variant Titles!

The best argument (that I can think of) for listing translations as Works is the fact that there are foreign language omnibuses and collections that have no English language analogs (no pun intended!)

Or do we split the difference and enter translations as Publications if there is a parent Work and as Works if there is none? If so, then how do we handle translators? Ahasuerus 14:04, 19 Jun 2006 (CDT)

How about saying that the Title/Work is the canonical name, usually the first edition? If that's in a foreign language, that's the work.
Actually, that opens yet another can of worms. Say you have a Work by an English language Author that was published in a foreign language first, e.g. Charles Sheffield's Convergence. Should we use the foreign language title as the canonical name when it's first published? And do we then change the canonical name to the English language version when it comes out in English? What about the books that were originally written in English, but have only been published in other languages, e.g. volumes 4 and 5 of "Ansen Dibell"'s The King of Kantmorie series or the last three "cycles" of Ken Bulmer's Prescot books? Ahasuerus 14:50, 19 Jun 2006 (CDT)
So a German Asimov collection that has no corresponding English language version is a Title (and a Publication); a German translation of The Rest of the Robots is just a publication with a variant title. Mike Christie 14:12, 19 Jun 2006 (CDT)
One possible problem with this approach is that it's not always easy to tell whether a foreign language collection is based on an existing English language one or a brand new compilation. For example, OCLC Fiction Finder lists "Il Twonk, Il Tempo E la Follia: Racconti Di Fantascienza" as an Italian Kuttner/Moore collection. Since we don't know which stories are collected in this book, how can we be sure that it's a new Work and not a Publication? Granted, we may have the same problem with obscure English language variant titles, but it is likely to be much more pronounced with translations.
The other possible problem is that sometimes foreign publishers will drop a few stories from a collection for space or cost reasons. For example, German language translations are always longer than English language originals because German words are on average longer than English words. (Robert Jordan's books that were barely publishable as a single paperback in the US had to be split in 2 in Germany). You can see how German publishers may be inclined to drop a story or three from some collections. Do we call this abridged collection a Variant Title and add "(abridged)" in parentheses the way we would handle a partial English language reprint? Ahasuerus 14:50, 19 Jun 2006 (CDT)

Translations: Foreign language originals

A forthcoming book (see Rotten Tomatoes for a discussion of the recent movie based on the novel) by Sergei_Lukyanenko presents a related problem. Dissembler entered a slightly garbled version of its English language title, Night Watch, as the Work title. However, if we follow Mike's suggestion above, we would want to change the canonical Work title to the Russian language original, Nochnoi Dozor. Then, if we follow the precedent set by Jules_Verne et al, we would make Night Watch a Variant title while other, non-English language, translations will become mere Publications.

However, since Night Watch is book one in Lukyanenko's Watch series, what should we do with the other volumes? The second volume is easy since it's already listed on as a projected 2007 title. The canonical title will be Dnevnoi Dozor and Day Watch will become a Variant title. We can always zap the latter if the book turns out to be vaporware just like we can zap other announced-but-never-published books. But what about volumes 3 and 4, Sumerechnyi Dozor and Posledni Dozor respectively, which are yet to be announced in English? Their Russian titles will become the canonical titles, but do we want to list the titles' literal translations, Dusk Watch and Last Watch, as variant titles until and unless they get changed by Lukyanenko's American publisher(s)? As a general rule, I am leery of "working titles" which can change 3 times by the time the book comes out, but I can see how a translated title could be useful. Or do we enter these translated titles in the Notes field and hope that our users find them? Ahasuerus 18:17, 29 Jun 2006 (CDT)

Expansions by other hands

Jim Kjelgaard was a notable YA author some 50 years ago. One of his books , Fire-Hunter, is about "a Paleolithic youth, who's expelled from his tribe for innovation". Standard issue YA pre-historic adventures follow. The book is listed in Reginald1 and I entered it earlier today since our provisional rules (see above) explicitly include pre-historic fiction. So far so good.

However, it turns out that Fire-Hunter was one of Jim Baen's favorite books and when his publishing house became big/stable/profitable enough to allow risking personal favorites, he decided to bring it back in print. Since the original text was only 40,000 words, he hired David Drake to expand it to 65,000 words to bring it in line with the expectations of his readers circa 1990. (As an aside, one wonders how much wordage would have been added 15 years later.) The end result was The Hunter Returns as by Kjelgaard and Drake.

The question then is how do we enter this new Work so that it makes sense to the users? The way I currently have it listed, it looks OK on Kjelgaard's Long Works page, but it doesn't appear on David Drake's Long Works page. Interestingly enough, it does appear on Drake's alphabetical and chronological pages. Is this a bug in the Long Works algorithm or is there more to it? And does my overall approach, i.e. making it a Variant Title and marking it as "expanded", make sense? Ahasuerus 16:53, 2 Jul 2006 (CDT)

Author-specific Notes

Once upon a time, in a database far far away, there was support for Author Notes. The records are still there, but they are no longer displayed by the sofware since the idea is to move all free text data to Wikipedia. Although it sounds like a perfectly reasonable idea in theory, what will we do about Authors biblios that could really use a free text comment? For example, David_Mack the Star Trek guy is not the same person as David (W.) Mack the comic book guy, which causes no end of confusion. There are other "[2]"s in the database as well. Shouldn't we have something in the Author section of the Long Works biblio that would alert our users to these kinds of issues? Ahasuerus 16:10, 12 Jul 2006 (CDT)

And to make matters worse, I have just discovered that David (W.) Mack is doing the cover art for David (A.) Mack's upcoming (10/06) Wolverine novel. That's just plain evil :( Ahasuerus 17:06, 12 Jul 2006 (CDT)
That is beyond kismet - that's a downright conspiracy. Well, it's easy enough to revive the field... a bibliographic note in the wiki is too oblique? Alvonruff
I added a note to David (A.) Mack's Wiki article, but I suspect that it will be seen only by our editors and not by regular users. Ahasuerus 19:35, 12 Jul 2006 (CDT)

Serial Data Display

It looks like Serial records that are not associated with book Titles are not displayed as part of Long Works or Short Works listings, to use Arthur H. Landis' Let There Be Magick! (which was revised as A World Called Camelot, btw) as an example. The serial is displayed on the Alphabetical and Chronological pages, though. Is this by design or happenstance? Ahasuerus 20:38, 20 Aug 2006 (CDT)

Non-linear Series Numbering

Take a look at the way Tony Abbott and his publisher number his popular YA series, The Secrets of Droon. To quote the relevant part:

  • 16. The Knights of Silversnow. [description follows]
  • Special Edition #1. The Magic Escapes. This first ever Special Edition picks up right where The Knights of Silversnow left off and is a Droon adventure like never before, pitting Eric, Julie, Keeah, and Neal against a brand new and particularly mysterious villain. [...]
  • 17. [...]
  • 18. [...]


Then we have Special Edition #2 between 21 and 22, Special Edition #3 between 25 and 26 and Special Edition #4 between 28 and 29.

I suppose the logical thing to do would be to call Special Edition #1 volume 17 in the series; the book that is labeled Volume 17 would then become volume 18 according to our numbering scheme, etc. Of course, it would also confuse the heck out of everybody :-(

I guess the question is what is the least painful way to catalog this weirdness that wouldn't break the display logic? Do we (or can we) support "16a" or anything along those lines? Ahasuerus 18:55, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)

Number them both 16 and since the display code seems to sort by Series # and then publication date it'll at least get the specials in the correct spots in your list. I don't think there's an easy solution other than hidden ordinals or some other mechanism for explicitly defining the order. For example, I had suggested earlier to sort unnumbered items by date in the middle of the list but that may not get the specials in the correct spot. 21:15, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)Marc Kupper
I just tried that and it seems to work. I actually tried "16+" as the second one, but it stripped off the "+". Mike Christie (talk) 21:21, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)
Apparently, it doesn't like decimals either :( Al, do you think we could allow "16.1" or would it be abusable? I would really prefer the relationship to be immediately obvious (in part so that helpful editors wouldn't try to correct it), but I am not sure how to accomplish it. We could have a separate Secrets Of Droon Special Edition subseries, but that would obscure the link between the four "special edition" books and the main series. Ahasuerus 22:21, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)
A hack that comes to mind is to display the series numbers modulo 1000 with 0 being displayed as blank. You could then number them
  • 6 The Sleeping Giant of Goll (2000) with Tim Jessell
  • 7 Into the Land of the Lost (2000)
  • 14 Voyage of the Jaffa Wind (2002) with David Merrell and Tim Jessell
  • 15 The Moon Scroll (2002) with Tim Jessell
  • 16 The Knights Of Silversnow (2002)
  • 1000 The Magic Escapes (2002)
  • 1017 Dream Thief (2003)
  • 1019 The Coiled Viper (2003)
  • 1021 Flight of the Genie (2004)
  • 2000 Wizard or Witch?
  • 2022 The Isle of Mists
  • 2023 The Fortress of the Treasure Queen
  • 2024 The Race To Doobesh (2005)
  • 2025 The Riddle Of Zorfendorf Castle (2005)
  • 3000 Voyagers of the Silver Sand
  • 3026 Moon Dragon
  • 3027 The Chariot of Queen Zara
A low tech but still somewhat user friendly way to manage this is to an edit-series-order page that looks like the following. Up/down would be links pointing at the cgi that would get passed the series, item, and direction which would then recalculate the 1000x numbering and repaint. Or, you could use radio buttons. Marc Kupper 00:06, 19 Dec 2006 (CST)
Control Series order
Move# Title
down</td>6The Sleeping Giant of Goll (2000) with Tim Jessell
up/down</td>7 Into the Land of the Lost (2000)
up/down</td>14 Voyage of the Jaffa Wind (2002) with David Merrell and Tim Jessell
up/down</td>15 The Moon Scroll (2002) with Tim Jessell
up/down</td>16 The Knights Of Silversnow (2002)
up/down</td>  The Magic Escapes (2002)
up/down</td>17 Dream Thief (2003)
up/down</td>19 The Coiled Viper (2003)
up/down</td>21 Flight of the Genie (2004)
up/down</td>  Wizard or Witch?
up/down</td>22 The Isle of Mists
up/down</td>23 The Fortress of the Treasure Queen
up/down</td>24 The Race To Doobesh (2005)
up/down</td>25 The Riddle Of Zorfendorf Castle (2005)
up/down</td>  Voyagers of the Silver Sand
up/down</td>26 Moon Dragon
up</td>27 The Chariot of Queen Zara

(unindent) Playing with the series numbers won't help too much as the data types are integers, so the database won't accept strings, or "1A", or "1.5", or anything other than "1". The fundamental problem is that there needs to be an ordinal that describes the order the series items are printed in, and a label that describes the title's series number. At present ordinal=label.

Ordinals are pretty much perfect for determining the printing order, as MySQL can then do the ordering without any postprocessing. An easier change than trying to sort floating point or strings would be to add a label field. From the original example, the ordinals would not be displayed (shown here in parenthesis), but would control the ordering. The labels would be displayed:

  • (16) 16. The Knights of Silversnow. [description follows]
  • (17) Special Edition #1. The Magic Escapes. This first ever Special Edition picks up right where The Knights of Silversnow left off and is a Droon adventure like never before, pitting Eric, Julie, Keeah, and Neal against a brand new and particularly mysterious villain. [...]
  • (18) 17. [...]
  • (19) 18. [...]

This would require some additional tools to perform inserts between to adjacent ordinals. Alvonruff 06:33, 19 Dec 2006 (CST)

If we pursue this approach (which seems to reflect reality better than any previously proposed alternative), then we will need to make very clear to the editors why we have two fields for Series Number. We will also need to have a standard for when this mechanism can and can't be used to insert sub-series into the main series. I can see how it could be very tempting to stuff everything into the main series under certain circumstances. Ahasuerus 15:53, 21 Dec 2006 (CST)
I would not show people the second set of ordinals but rather would let them move items in the series up/down. Sub-series are an interesting problem and hmm – it almost seems like we may need hidden anchors in the series list to allow people to position sub-series. This is getting messy – the existing mechanism is defined in the title records and the only title-to-title ordering is the Series # ordinal and title_copyright (first-pub-date). The desire seems to be able to create external lists that have any structure/order and numbering method (decimal, Roman numerals, etc.) plus there is a second desire that a title can be a member of more than one series. With that in mind it seems a case could be made for an entirely external series mechanism that references title records. Marc Kupper 01:09, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)
Series ordering and series numbering have been a messy area for a long time. For example, there is (a) publication order, (b) internal chronological order and (c) preferred reading order; it can be argued that all three have value to ISFDB users and should be displayed independently if they differ. Also, note Feature request 90001 and Bug 30014. I am sure we will revisit this area post-beta, but for now we probably want to save this discussion on some Help template's Talk page or some such. Ahasuerus 11:14, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)
I agree on the revisit and have cut/pasted the entire thread to the Archive and also into Feature:90001. Marc Kupper 16:40, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)

Multiple Authors with Identical Names

We have raised the issue of multiple separate Authors with identical names before, but I don't think we have a "final solution" yet. At this point we have "John Smith", "John Smith [2]", etc, but the software doesn't like square brackets in Author names (and URLs), although i's slowly improving. It might be better to have the author's year of birth in parentheses like encyclopedias do, e.g. "John Smith (1944)" vs. "John Smith (1969)", except for the fact that we don't always know the year of birth. Of the 3 "Steve Miller"s currently in the database, we know the DOB of the Liaden author (currently "Steve Miller") and can probably find the DOB of the Dragonlance guy (currently "Steve Miller (RPG)"), but the college student from Britain ("Steve Miller (UK)") appears to be deliberately vague about his age :( And then, of course, there are people who have only published a story or two 60 years and we may never know the year when they were born. Any other ideas? Ahasuerus 23:51, 29 Nov 2006 (CST)

How about e.g. "Robert Frazier (active 1955-1957)"? Since the other Robert Frazier is b. 1951, this looks like a different guy to me; I need to figure out how to split him out -- presumably just by changing the name in the content records.
That's right, just change all Publication and Title records to the new name and everything else should happen automagically : ) Ahasuerus 09:12, 30 Nov 2006 (CST)
Anyway, activity period seems a reasonable approach, though it may not cover every case. Mike Christie 05:45, 30 Nov 2006 (CST)

Procedure for identifying and then deleting a non-SF author

I noticed ISFDB has a few works by the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon who was “responsible” for the Hardy Boy’s mysteries. I suspect nothing in the series qualifies as “Speculative Fiction” but am wondering if there is a formal procedure for asking “is there a reason to keep this guy?” For example, it can be brought up on the Bibliographic Comments page but then who would notice and then decide (and write up in the Bibliographic Comments) – yep, let’s delete, or no – keep the author because …? Marc Kupper 05:12, 1 Dec 2006 (CST)

I think we're going to need something analogous to the Wikipedia Articles for Deletion process, though presumably it will be much simpler. I think we'll need a page where we can nominate material for deletion, and have a discussion about it leading to consensus. There are certainly cases where no discussion is needed, such as comics and RPG material, but borderline cases should have a discussion. If there's not a critical mass of people with expertise, then I think reasonable due diligence in research is enough to justify deleting. Mike Christie 05:34, 1 Dec 2006 (CST)
I suspect that we will run into two big questions. First, "Is this Title a work of Speculative Fiction?", and second, "Is this Author someone whose non-SF we want to include?" The Policy page tries to answer these questions, but there will always be grey areas and we will need to have some kind of arbitration committee or a Benevolent Dictator for Life to make Final Decisions (tm).
The Bibliographic Comments page (and the associated Talk page) in the Wiki are actually a good place to discuss these issues since it will stay around for a long time and thus preserve prior discussions. And that's important since the same questions tend to come up with enviable regularity. What we need is a way to point people to the appropriate pages. Post notices that a discussion is in progress on the Community Portal or some other general purpose page, perhaps? A few weeks ago, I set up a Monitored Wiki Pages section under ISFDB:Operations thinking that we needed a place for moderators to monitor flame wars and revert wars, but it's a little out of the way. Ahasuerus 19:40, 1 Dec 2006 (CST)
I just added a note about deleting Michael Connelly and while doing that was thinking it would be a good idea to create an ISFDB:Authors Proposed for Deletion page that would give a basic boilerplate on how to propose someone get deleted and also to have a list of authors under review. Any thoughts on this? Marc Kupper 17:05, 20 Dec 2006 (CST)
I came across another Manga author/artist Rumiko Takahshi according to Policy page Manga isn't allowed. This author as a large set of entries. Seems like some work was put into organizing them. Ray 09:54, 28 Mar 2007 (CDT)

Criteria for inclusion: Proofs and titles that were changed prior to publication

Do we want to catalog the stuff that existed as proofs (or in other pre-publication form), but was dropped by the publisher before it could be printed (some magazine issues come to mind)? And do we want to list any pre-publication titles which may have been advertised and even ISBN'd only to be changed prior to publication, which is what the IMDB does? The answer is likely "no" in both cases, but we may want to discuss it and make the decision, whatever it may end up being, explicit. Ahasuerus 19:30, 1 Dec 2006 (CST)

My first thought when I read this was this sort of thing could go on biography/wiki pages. But, titles are more of a bibliographic, meaning ISFDB, rather than biographic thing, not every author has a biography, etc. meaning it seems to make sense to add these to ISFDB along with plenty of notes. I have a number of “uncorrected proof” and “Advanced Reading Copy / Not For Sale” publications though have no idea if there were any changes/corrections between my editions and what was later sold. I’d be comfortable with adding these to ISFDB under the regular titles (with notes) as the intent of the story should be the same. I don’t care if a word here and there got changed/corrected – it’s still the same story. Marc Kupper 02:38, 2 Dec 2006 (CST)
I'd suggest we don't add proofs and vaporware as bibliographic entries, at least not with some yet-to-be-designed support in the database. I think these things should not show up in most bibliography views, for example, and will need an additional publication type or two. I see no harm in adding notes to the author project page. Mike Christie 06:30, 2 Dec 2006 (CST)

Robert B. Parker as a test case

The ISFDB includes a near-complete bibliography of Robert_B._Parker's Long Works. I suggest that we move all biblio data to Wikipedia and delete it from the ISFDB unless we can find speculative content somewhere. It's a really nice and extensive bibliography, so in a way it's a shame, but if we can agree that it needs to go, then it will create a precedent for similar action in the future. Ahasuerus 14:39, 3 Dec 2006 (CST)

This is an interesting question, since we can't be sure there's no relevant content, and it involves the deletion of a lot of material. A couple of things occur to me. First, would it be wiser to wait on deletion till we have more participants? Ideally what we want is a Robert Parker fan to show up and say "Sure, delete it, I know all these and they're not sf at all." Of course we can't wait forever, but data deletion does make me nervous. Second, is there any kind of archive/extract/reload format? I.e. does the ISFDB have scripts that extract data and write it out as insert statements that would then, if executed, reinsert the data? I know there are dangers in this approach, having done it myself in the past, but for borderline deletions it would be a nice feature to have in case of reversals. Third, would one option in cases like this be to post a note to the relevant Wikipedia talk page asking if any fans want to extract anything of interest before we delete the data? Mike Christie 08:51, 4 Dec 2006 (CST)
I haven't read all of Parker, but I sure haven't encountered anything that's speculative yet. dd-b 21:03, 22 Dec 2006 (CST)
Good points, Mike. I have similar concerns about massive data deletion projects, but let me provide a little background information first. There was a time when the ISFDB1 project scope was stealthily expanded from "speculative fiction" to "all fiction". The driving force behind this project scope creep, AFAICT, was the author community. SF writers wanted to have their non-SF cataloged so that ISFDB users could see the totality of their work; that was understandable and readily handled by the "nongenre" tag. However, non-SF writers also wanted to be cataloged for no other reason -- as far as I could tell -- but the desire to have their work listed in as many places as possible. Some of these writers are/were "struggling artists" (for various values of both terms) and were after any publicity they could get. Naturally, this didn't include popular and successful writers like Parker, but it could include their fans, who wanted to "spread the word".
However, as one can readily imagine, trying to catalog all fiction out there (a direction that Fantastic Fiction seems to be moving in) would very quickly exhaust our limited resources. Things are a little tighter now, so we no longer try to go outside of the original scope, but we now have a fair amount of baggage from a previous, looser, era, and we need to decide what to do with it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that much (well, almost all) of the data entered in 2002-2005 was added by Dissembler. Dissembler's heuristics have been significantly improved lately, but there was a time when it was happily sucking in comic books, RPG accessories and Cthulhu knows what else. We are still trying to clean up after it. A related complication is that there has been an increasing amount of crossover material in the last few years: thinly fictionalized RPG sourcebooks; novels with so much graphics that they approach "graphic novels"; authors who started out in the RPG or comic book world, but have since branched out into fiction (although sometimes their books were ghosted); etc. Ahasuerus 09:18, 4 Dec 2006 (CST)
Then I'd say you're good to go on killing this data. It wouldn't hurt to post a note to the WP talk page and see if anyone wants to trawl for info, but if you've looked at that page and can see they've already got everything we have, I don't think even that is necessary.
I still feel that data deletion is lower priority than some of our other tasks, but the reason for having a large community of editors is so that we can make progress in multiple directions at once. Mike Christie 09:36, 4 Dec 2006 (CST)
Something I see in ISFDB is that a good core is being built to support fiction literature and much like how Wikimedia is the core behind numerous specialized wiki sites, including this one. Is the ISFDB core software available in case someone wanted to create a site that would include Robert_B._Parker within their scope? It does seem like someone put a lot of effort into cleaning up that’s author’s bibliography and it should get parked in such a way that it’s not part of ISFDB but also can be kept up to date as new publications are issued. An alternative idea is and if people want to volunteer as moderators they can deal with the maintenance of the nongenre sub-domain. Marc Kupper 19:06, 4 Dec 2006 (CST)
This is an issue I'd like to see the community resolve, so my comments here should be taken as just another voice from the community, rather than "This is how Al wants it". My concern is about authors who are predominately nongenre in nature, but do a single book that warrants inclusion in the ISFDB, and then we're left with a bibliography that's woefully incomplete, and thereby makes the ISFDB appear nonauthoritative (I have seen such comments already online). Alvonruff 07:59, 5 Dec 2006 (CST)
If was my understanding (correct me if I misunderstood at the time, Al) that these kinds of comments mostly came from "primarily non-genre writers" who wanted to have all of their works listed in the ISFDB, which is certainly understandable from their POV (all self-serving arguments are :-), but that's not a standard that has even been applied to genre bibliographies. Are Contento, Reginald, Clute/Nicholls/Grant, Bleieler, etc not authoritative because they concentrated on SF/F/H to the exclusion of everything else? If anything, the ISFDB goes farther in this areas than most other genre bibliographies and includes nongenre works by "primarily genre writers", which are usually not included in standard print references.
What makes a source authoritative is not that it aims to cover everything remotely relevant, but that it clearly states what it aims to do -- e.g. "pre-Gernsback SF" -- and then does it well. The reason why the ISFDB is currently not authoritative is not that we don't have every edition of every book by Shakespeare, Kipling, Oppenheim, Pushkin, de Balzac, etc, but rather that what we do have is unreliable. And even when it is reliable, it is often so messy (see Robert_Louis_Stevenson) as to be unusable. Similarly, the reason that Wikipedia is currently not authoritative is not that it doesn't cover every subject known to Man (not to mentions Jovians), but that its quality varies tremendously. Present WP contributors excluded, of course :) Ahasuerus 21:08, 5 Dec 2006 (CST)
I'd rather see genre keywords on titles (sf, horror, fantasy, western, romance, thriller, etc) and let the user set a genre preference, such that they would only see titles that fit with their preferences. If each genre builds their own database, then the user experience for someone trying to find the bibliography of an author who dabbled across multiple genres will be like the experience one gets from the current Locus index - they will have to check multiple sources, and a particular book will be listed in only one of them, and they won't see a unified bibliography for that author anywhere. Alvonruff 07:59, 5 Dec 2006 (CST)
True, lack of "unified bibliographies" across genres has been an issue in the past. Typically, paper-based bibliographic projects concentrated either on a single genre (subgenre, etc) or on a single author. Thus, you wouldn't find a list of Simak's westerns or Silverberg's porn in a standard SF reference work, but you would find them in a monograph dedicated specifically to Simak or to Silverberg. If you wanted a true "unified bibliography" of all writers across all genres, you had to use one of the 800 gorillas in the business like "Books in Print" or, more recently, the OCLC catalog (now available on the Web). The reason for that was that only the big boys had the resources needed to do someting that major. Things may be different on the Internet -- look where Wikipedia is after only a few years -- but it is still an enourmous amount of work and unless the ISFDB project manages to attract an unexpectedly high number of volunteers from other genres, we will quite likely drown in nongenre data, burn out and/or give up :( Ahasuerus 21:08, 5 Dec 2006 (CST)
In general, I'm in inclusionist at heart, although I can see why people want to focus on a particular genre. Alvonruff 07:59, 5 Dec 2006 (CST)
Nothing wrong with inclusionism, but I believe that it is very important to state what we are doing up front and define the scope of the project accordingly. Project scope creep kills projects every day. Ahasuerus 21:08, 5 Dec 2006 (CST)
I think the only danger would be if quitely letting nongenre titles into the database would eventually take over the database. Alvonruff 07:59, 5 Dec 2006 (CST)
I suspect for now the focus should be making the user interface/experience as good as possible but also to add support for Genre so that as the Robert_B._Parkers or Franklin_W._Dixons show up they can at least get tagged with something better than “non-genre” or deleted outright. It seems this would take very little time/bandwidth away from the existing SF centric people. Non-genre creep gets dealt with in that the editor/moderators would reject updates that are outside of their scope. If editor/monitors show up that are interested in a non-genre subject then they would start accepting the updates and yes, ISFDB would expand into non-genre subjects but at little cost to the SF people. Marc Kupper 16:26, 5 Dec 2006 (CST)
I don't think we can have editors submitting data randomly and moderators approving or rejecting it based on their own preferences without any guidance or policy. That way lies confusion and frustration.
Having said that, we certainly need to beef up software support for "nongenre" (and non-fiction) titles even if we don't expand the scope of the project. For example, there is no support for nongenre series display at this time; the software doesn't distinguish between Long and Short nongenre works; no distinction is being made between non-fiction monographs and non-fiction anthologies; etc.
However, adding support for more specific genre keywords -- "sf, horror, fantasy, western, romance, thriller" -- as Al proposed above, although fairly easy technically, opens up a whole different can of worms. To use a speculative fiction example, is The Anubis Gates sf, fantasy or horror? We already have paragraphs upon paragraphs of text in the Policy statement just to explain where we draw the line between speculative fiction and non-SF. Think how much more convoluted (and flame-inducing) it will get if we have support for multiple genres. Ahasuerus 10:39, 6 Dec 2006 (CST)

Allowing use of multiple keywords may settle this nicely; mostly in these discussions people are more vehement about what something must be than what something must NOT be, in my experience, so letting it be both will quiet things down enough to preserve western civilization. dd-b 21:03, 22 Dec 2006 (CST)

How do you record split publications?

I’m not sure if this belongs in “Bibliographic Rules” but I’ll ask away. How do you record a large publication that gets reprinted as a pair or more of smaller publications? In 1993 Tad Williams wrote an 1100+ page hardcover, To Green Angel Tower (Book #3 of the Memory, Sorrow & Thorn series) that was then published as a pair of paperbacks, To Green Angel Tower, Part 1 & To Green Angel Tower, Part 2 (USA editions) which are also known as To Green Angel Tower: Siege & To Green Angel Tower: Storm (UK editions). Originally ISFDB had the hardcover recorded as an unnumbered omnibus of books 3 and 4 in the series with book #3 being part 1 and book #4 being an invention to get part 2 in the series.

As I did not know how to properly record a split publication I did the following.

  • Create a sub-series called “To Green Angel Tower” and moved the part 1 & 2 publications into this sub-series.
  • Changed the original title record for “To Green Angel Tower” so that it’s book #3 in the main series and also dropped the omnibus indicator though the individual publications can still be omnibuses that link to the title records for part 1 & 2.

The results look ok but I’m wondering if there’s a better way and also a way that would work if the original work is not part of a series as I did abuse the sub-series logic to deal with this title. Marc Kupper 19:29, 9 Dec 2006 (CST)

I think what you did was fine, but is above and beyond what's necessary. In general if I see a situation like this I'm going to just record it as a separate novel and make a note in the notes section. There are always going to be grey areas in relating one text to another -- for example there are fixups, published as novels, which contain, verbatim, the text of short stories published independently. I don't think the ISFDB has or necessarily should have any facility for recording this link. I think this is a similar case. However, what you did is creative and effective and I think works well. Mike Christie (talk) 21:16, 9 Dec 2006 (CST)
This issue has been a pain in the neck for quite some time :( There is another twist here, which makes it even more difficult to address. Consider translations. Currently, if a translated work is a direct translation of an English language Title, we list it as yet another Publication under that Title, although in the past we discussed making it a variant title. On the other hand, if the translated work is effectively an original Title, e.g. a German language Asimov collection that has no English language analog, then we list it as a regular Title.
Now, what happens if an English language title gets split into 2+ volumes when it is published in German or in French? This happens all the time in Germany because a 1,100 page English paperback (Robert Jordan comes to mind for some reason) would become a 1,400 page German paperback since German words are longer than English words. And that would push the current mass market paperback technology beyond its limits. On top of that, European publishers have been known to split American YA titles (e.g. Brian Jacques') into 2-3 books either because they think they can make more money that way or because they don't trust children to stick with a 400 page book. Be that as it may, the question is how do we enter these books? I have been turning them into Publications under their parent English titles, e.g., but only because I couldn't think of a better way to handle them. Ahasuerus 22:55, 9 Dec 2006 (CST)
Is there a test/sandbox author that you have been using? Searching for “test” finds Lou Volpentesta and “ignore” is not found. I would like to play with some ideas such as handling these as “variant titles” vs. as publications. Ahasuerus, you wrote “Currently, if a translated work is a direct translation of an English language Title, we list it as yet another Publication under that Title, although in the past we discussed making it a variant title.” The main thing that bothers me about filing them as publications is that they won’t show up on the author’s page and you instead need to drill down into the titles. People hear of a work being attributed to a particular author and are likely to look on that author’s page for it. I am wondering why making them variant titles did not get past the discussion phase. --Marc Kupper 12:43, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)
The main problem with recording translations as variant titles is convenience. A popular writer like Verne, Heinlein, Vance, Dick, Wells or Farmer has been translated into dozens of languages. Even a midlist writer like Lawrence Watt-Evans has been published in over a dozen languages. And there can be easily 2-4 versions of each title for each language because foreign publishers won't leave things alone any more than American publishers will. For example, here are Jack Vance's Dutch translations. Therefore, if we were to list all trnalsations as variant titles, ISFDB Web pages would become anywhere from 1.x to 20-40 times as big as they are now and correspondingly less manageable.
Having said that, I share your concern. It'e easy to figure out that Rhialto le merveilleux presumably corresponds to Rhialto the Marvellous, but what the heck is Sárkányurak or Satsuriku Kikai? And how do you find out if the ISFDB has this Publication cataloged short of using Advanced Search and looking for that Publication title (which takes forever)? Worse, how do you look for Publication titles that use non-Latin characters? Basically, the current scheme makes it easy to look up foreign language translations for a given English language work, but it makes it hard to find the English language original if you have a translated work in your hands. Of course, English language translations of foreign language works are currently listed as variant titles since we treat English as a privileged language.
I don't have a good answer to any of these questions except perhaps that idea that we had a while back, namely a button that would let you expand an Author's page to list all Publications for each Title. It would have to warn the user that it may take a few seconds to compile, though. Ahasuerus 16:20, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)
I agree that the translations could really clutter things up and so how about not showing them by default? Add a Language field and by default only show the English titles/publications. Marc Kupper 22:47, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)
I am thinking along the lines that the authors write stories and publisher/editors may change the title, translate the works, split it into two or more publications, combine them into collections or omnibuses, etc. They are all derived from the original author’s work and seem to qualify as “variant titles” with the main gotcha being translations where the translator often gets his/her own copyright meaning the translation is considered a work in itself.
That said – there also seems to be a need to be able to control/organize how variant titles are displayed. For example, when “To Green Angel Tower” was split into two paperback publications, each of which also has a vt, then it seems the following display should be clear though I’d also put notes in each title so that people unfamiliar with the works can learn/understand what the “vt” relationships are. For testing I invented and added a German translation where I first added a placeholder vt and under that are three sub-vt for the translated works.
  • To Green Angel Tower
    • [vt] To Green Angel Tower, Part 1
      • [vt] Siege: To Green Angel Tower, Part 1
    • [vt] To Green Angel Tower, Part 2
      • [vt] Storm: To Green Angel Tower, Part 2
    • [vt] Grün Engel Turm (German translation, published in three parts)
      • [vt] Belagerung: Grün Engel Turm, Abschnitt Eins
      • [vt] Sturm: Grün Engel Turm, Abschnitt Zwei
      • [vt] Ende: Grün Engel Turm, Abschnitt Drei --Marc Kupper 12:43, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)
Another test vehicle would be Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy, in which three really large UK books were broken up into six US publications. Alvonruff 14:24, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)
The Night's Dawn Trilogy looks like it would be fun to get organized. :-) I did a test with nested variant titles and while the system let me add the second level vt it is not shown on the Long Works page nor the original novel’s title page. It is visible on the first level vt’s title page though not as a clickable link meaning the second vt is only reachable via the Alphabetical and Chronological title lists or via search.
It looks like for now the options for recording a multi-part publication are 1) variant titles (nested to one level), 2) publications (they won’t show up on the author’s bibliography), 3) that nested series thing I did, or 4) set up a dummy magazine and then enter the story parts as serialized magazine articles... Marc Kupper 22:47, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)

(unindent) I think it's worth bearing in mind that everything except publications can be reorganized after entry. If we enter the publications accurately, and record information in associated notes, then future changes in approach can be implemented without deleting data. Hence I don't think the decision on this is super-important; we can change our mind on this fairly harmlessly. The most important decisions relate to what we capture from publications, and how we record it. That data will become our "primary data" for bibliographers. Mike Christie (talk) 21:43, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)

That’s an excellent point and perhaps should get stated clearly as part of ISFDB policy so that people are aware that the publication records are the current focus though methods are being added to help arrange the publications in useful/relevant ways. Marc Kupper 22:47, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)
By the way, Marc, you asked about the "Test" publications I was using -- I just create them on the fly and delete them when I'm done. I always use the word "Test" at the start of the author and title fields, so they're easy to find and delete. Mike Christie (talk) 06:30, 11 Dec 2006 (CST)
Well, it is certainly true that solid data is the sine qua non of any database. OTOH, I think it's only one half of the story. You can have the best data in the world, but it will still be useless if your users can't find it. To use the same Robert_Louis_Stevenson bibliography as an example, I would guess that a vast majority of the editions on that page were correctly captured, but they are so poorly organized as to be unusable. If any of you used the Library of Congress catalog before the Internet, you may recall that although it contained a lot of very useful biblio data, the interface was so obscure that it presented an almost insurmountable obstacle to the casual user.
The good news is that we have made a lot of progress in the area of making the data in the ISFDB readily accessible to our users. The data model has been really beefed up over the years and Al has done a very impressive job of coding 80%+ of what I suspect the final product will contain. There are very few areas of data loss remaining and there are only a couple of relationships left that are maintained via the infamous lexical match. The areas that still need to be made more user-friendly include that pseudonym editor that Al is working on as well as propagating the more advanced display logic that is used by Long Works to Series/Short Works/etc.
Back to the issue at hand, I agree that we should try to impress on our editors that Publication level accuracy is paramount in their work. If they are interested in the presentation aspect of the project, they are more than welcome to join the ongoing Wiki discussion(s), but the important thing from the editors' perspective is to enter the data as correctly and as comprehensively as possible. My only concern is that the kind of thorough data entry/verification that Mike and Al have been doing can be apparently quite time consuming, but I am not sure what, if anything, can be done to speed it up. Ahasuerus 09:14, 11 Dec 2006 (CST)

Unindent again– Something I’m still missing is a sense of a clear cut ISFDB standard on how to deal with split publications today that can be documented. For example.

  • Should the parent title be changed to be an omnibus? I’m thinking “no” as it was not written/published as omnibus.
  • Should the parent publication be changed to be an omnibus? I’m thinking “no” as testing finds that this makes no useful changes (where the display screens would illustrate the linkages) and actually served to make a time consuming mess of things.
  • Should the child titles (the split works) be recorded as variant titles of the original? At first I thought “yes” as that would illustrate the linkage plus logically nest the child works underneath the parent. The bibliographic displays look good but the “gotcha” is in the title display for the parent title where it shows the child publications. This is misleading as the child publications do not contain the entire work.

Thus – for now it seems that split titles should be recorded as standalone novels with no linkage to the parent title other than in the notes. The next best alternative is to make them variant titles of the parent though it will add misleading data to the parent’s publication list.

Moving forwards it seems like a design change to ISFDB would be needed but that’s a separate conversation as I’m trying to understand what today’s “best practices” are. Marc Kupper 14:30, 12 Dec 2006 (CST)

I agree with your conclusions. I think perhaps a FAQ question on how to deal with the situation might be worthwhile. I'll have a go at writing that at some point, unless you want to take what you've written above and turn it into a FAQ entry. We should also update the help templates to discuss this situation. Mike Christie (talk) 23:33, 12 Dec 2006 (CST)
Mike, what you added to the templates looks good and I suspect the FAQ answer about split publications would be a copy of what you wrote at the bottom of Template:PublicationFields:PubType. I did add a couple of FAQ questions (and answers) about safe places to experiment with editing that were brought up as part of this thread. Marc Kupper 03:11, 13 Dec 2006 (CST)
I agree that these Titles and Publication should not be Omnibuses, but I am not so sure about not linking them to their parent Titles. It's true that the resulting Variant Titles can be misleading, but keep in mind that we already have significant flexibility in how we form our titles. Unlike Publications, which are supposed to be as close to what the title page says as possible, Titles can be modified with, e.g., "(abridged)", "(revised)", "(+2 stories)", etc. Similarly, we could add ("Part N)" to the children's Titles if they don't already contain a clear indication that they are only partial reprints of an earlier Title. This could be quite useful as it would immediately indicate the nature of the parent-child relationship on both biblio pages.
The other thing that I think we have left unanswered is what to do about partial/split foreign language editions. Do we leave them as Publications under the English language parent title? Ahasuerus 19:29, 13 Dec 2006 (CST)
Something about this approach (adding parenthetical comments to the titles) bothers me. I'm not sure I have yet put my finger on it, but I think it's that it steps too far away from the source information. If I see a "Title" of a work, I would expect that the work was published under that title at least once. The current implementation doesn't quite adhere to this in at least one respect -- if a work is published only under a pseudonym, then you have to tell the ISFDB that it's a variant of a never-published version that uses the author's real name. I understand why we do this, but it seems less than ideal.
In the case you raise, I don't want the title to be "The Genetic General (abridged)" for the cut version published as an Ace Double. In this case I think there was an Ace single version, which may or may not have had the text restored, but if it didn't, I don't believe there was ever an uncut version of the book with that title. It was later republished as "Dorsai!", uncut. Or you could say, as Currey does, that the later version is "expanded". The fact that this is a judgment call bothers me and makes me unwilling to go that route.
Serials are another area where this occurs. I see no better way to handle them than the " (Part 1 of 3)" addendum to the title, but it bothers me. I quoted a troublesome example in the help files; Pohl's "Jem" was originally meant to be a four part serialization but ended up as five parts, so the serialization titles don't match the magazine.
I know it's not a good answer, but I must say I'm biased towards the use of notes in areas like this. Mike Christie (talk) 21:51, 13 Dec 2006 (CST)
This is certainly understandable and I think at one point we briefly discussed the addition of a "Variant Title Type" field. In our current parlance, we would have another dropdown box on the "Make a Title into a Variant Title" page with a list of "Variant Title Types", e.g. "abridgment", "expansion", "revision" and perhaps "pseudonymous title". They could then be used in the page display logic to do whatever we want without contaminating Title data. I don't recall why we decided against it at the time, but I suspect that it was either due to the fact that there were too many possible permutations (I guess we could also allow free text) or perhaps it would have been too painful to do within the confines of ISFDB1. Do you happen to remember any details, Al?
Now that I am thinking about it, it may not be a bad way to go and would help the Web page display logic to correctly show various parent-child title associations (which are again broken for pseudonyms after the last push :-( ). It may even help us with the "split publications" problem that we have been discussing. What do you think? Ahasuerus 22:06, 13 Dec 2006 (CST)
I believe it’s pretty widely understood that (stuff in the parentheses) is generally not part of a title and in my personal book list I use this quite routinely for both titles, authors, and other fields. The first thing any logic that works with those fields does is to truncate the string at the first “ (” to strip off my comments/notes. Thus I believe that people would be ok with Clive Cussler's “Iceberg” and “Iceberg (adapted for young fans)” as titles as that’s exactly what Pocket Books did when they created the abridged/YA edition of the book.
Regarding foreign language translations - it seems that ISFDB has very little support for them. There’s no language field, using the “translator” field causes Python errors, Marc Kupper 00:12, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
I think Al removed the Translator field a couple of days ago since it's no longer showing up in the form. Ahasuerus 14:29, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
etc. meaning for now we’re stuck with overloading variant titles again or filing the translations as publications. Marc Kupper 00:12, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
It's true that foreign language support is currently minimal at best. Al does have adding translator support listed on the ISFDB Feature List, but I don't know what it will entail. Ahasuerus 14:29, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
I personally found Pierre Barbet’s page interesting but am not sure if it’s “helpful” that the page showed the original French titles. Marc Kupper 00:12, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
I assume you haven't seen Jules_Verne's page yet? :-) Ahasuerus 14:29, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
I suspect if I had been making this page from scratch I would have used the English titles for the root titles and title notes would say something like “Originally published in French as L'empire du Baphomet (1971).”
We had this discussion a while back and decided that using translated titles as primary titles for foreign language works would open up too many cans of worms. What do we do when there are multiple English language versions of the title, e.g. see the Verne example above? What do we do when some books in a series have not been translated, e.g. the Barbet example? In the end, we decided to make the original title our primary Title and then list the English language title (when available) as a Variant Title. That's why I said that English is a "privileged" language the other day -- no other language gets the same treatment at this time. Ahasuerus 14:29, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
Going the other way, English titles translated into foreign languages, it seems adding them as publications will do for now. A thought is to create a series named “French Translations” and to file titles translated to French in that series. The title-notes would be used to link the works back to the English title. The bad part is it puts the translations at the top of the bibliographic pages, the good part is it reduces clutter in either the title or publication lists. Marc Kupper 00:12, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
If I understand the proposal correctly, it would remove the current software-enforced link between primary titles and translated titles and replace it with a free text note linking the two, right? If so, I think it's by far too valuable a connection to lose. Also, Author biblio pages are our primary tools for organizing data and greatly increasing their size (up to 20+ times as mentioned above) and navigational complexity (one extra "series" per language) would be counterproductive. Moreover, I don't think that listing foreign language translations of a Title on that Title's page is clutter -- it seems to be the logical place for this information to be found. Ahasuerus 14:29, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
As ISFDB does not have a language field I would suggest that a standard get set for the notes to have something like “Language: French” so that later if this field gets added then a pass can be done to extract those title/publication records and to populate the language field. Marc Kupper 00:12, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
I don't know what Al has planned for the "translator annotations" task that he has listed. Perhaps he already has a language field (a dropdown box using the MARC-21 standard?) added to his home version of the ISFDB software. Ahasuerus 14:29, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)

Magazine reprints

At one point there were quite a few Canadian and British magazines reprinting American SF pulps and later digests starting with _Astounding_. Unfortunately, they often dropped stories, combined issues, and generally made life difficult for bibliographers. I think we discussed this problem some years ago, but I don't recall if we ever agreed on a solution. Ideas? Suggestions? Ahasuerus 12:26, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)

Anything that would have different fields in the publication record (or contents) should have a different publication record. I think that's a reasonable rule. We will probably need a naming convention for them, but theoretically we don't even need that -- we can set up a Canadian and US "Startling Stories" page and link to the right version of each magazine, if we want to. I think the titles should most likely be kept separate, per the same rules we have discussed for anthologies -- that different fiction contents imply a different title. Mike Christie (talk) 21:48, 10 Dec 2006 (CST)
That's a good point -- the current Wiki-centric magazine model makes it easier to handle "child" magazines. We didn't have this ability the last time we discussed it, so I never thought about it that way. We could probably start by adding a note to each baseline magazine page (i.e. the US versions of _Astounding_, _Startling_, etc) and then change these notes to Wiki links and add full blown Wiki pages for each child version. Ahasuerus 08:41, 11 Dec 2006 (CST)

Magazine dates

I had written the help for pubdate to say that a magazine should quote year but not month and day. I don't recall where I got the idea that this was the rule, but I see now that Al is putting in the month for the recent Analogs he is entering, starting with March of 2002. The justification I give in the help text is that magazines are often out earlier than their cover date, but this is also true for books. I think it might be better to go with the month. I also think that bimonthly issues should use the earlier month, and a bimonthly Dec/Jan issue should use Dec of the earlier year. A "Fall" or "Spring" etc. issue won't show a month, though. Any comments? If that sounds right I'll make the appropriate updates to the help files. Mike Christie (talk) 22:34, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)

The Year field is presumably used by the software in various calculations, e.g. to determine display order. I would first ask Al to see how any Year change may affect ISFDB behavior. <adds cheese to the Al-trap in the corner> Ahasuerus 23:16, 14 Dec 2006 (CST)
When I saw that thing about the magazine date conventions a couple of months ago I thought it was the oddest thing but forgot to ask why that convention exists. I have a magazine that says July 1953 on the cover and I believe at this point very few people would care that it was published prior to July. The same is true for books. A book may state August 2006 but the publisher’s “On Sale By” date that they report to Amazon, etc. will almost always be a date somewhere in the middle of July implying the books may well have been manufactured in June and shipped in early July. Marc Kupper 02:38, 15 Dec 2006 (CST)
The only reason I put the month on magazines is to spruce up the editor's bibliography. After entering a year's worth of a particular magazine, there will be one entry per issue on the editor's bibliography. This is not very useful for an editor like John W. Campbell, who will then have about 35 years (or over 400 issues) listed in his bibliography. So I merge the individual editing entries for a particular year under one of the editor citations, and then change the title of the remaining editor record from "Astounding, Jan 1943" to "Astounding - 1943". Now there is one editor cite per year, and if the user clicks on the citation, they see a listing of all the magazines Campbell edited that year. When no month is used, these are shown in in the order the magazines we entered into the database, which may be non-chronological based on the holes in a particular individual's magazine collection. It is nonetheless annoying to see the months in the magazine titles, and have them presented out of order. Putting in the month (if there is one), fixes that. I don't have a problem with the entered month not matching the actual publication date for magazines, as the year doesn't always match either (at a minimum, the January and February issues come out in the previous year). Alvonruff 04:49, 15 Dec 2006 (CST)

Attribution question

I just ran across an odd situation. The January 1960 issue of Fantastic Universe has an article entitled "The Detroit Convention". Both the table of contents and the article heading give the authorship as "Forrest J. Ackerman, Belle C. Dietz, John Magnus, Burnett R. Toskey, and Ted E. White". What follows is five separate conreps, one by each of the five, with a byline at the end of each one but no other division, and no headings.

I've entered this as a collaboration, though I think you could justify entering as five ESSAYs, all with the same title, one by each of the five. Any suggestions for a better way to handle it? Whatever the outcome, I ought to codify it and capture it in the help. Mike Christie (talk) 18:22, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)

An interesting case. I can readily see how it could be argued either way. I would guess that the key question is whether you would expect that a constituent work could be reprinted separately without adding something like "(excerpt)" to it? In round robin and related cases, the answer is clearly "no", so they are single collaborative pieces rather than an amalgamation of individial pieces, but I am not so sure about convention "co-reports". Ahasuerus 20:10, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)

Fanzine reviews

I'm assuming we don't index fanzine reviews as reviews, since we are not recording fanzines in the ISFDB. I'll add a note to that effect to the help files. Mike Christie (talk) 19:21, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)

I am also inclined to think that they are ESSAYs as opposed to REVIEWs. However, I should point out that whether we are indexing a certain type of publications in the ISFDB or not need not be the determining factor when deciding whether something is a REVIEW or an ESSAY. After all, we are indexing reviews of popular science books as REVIEWs even though we do not intend to add these books to the ISFDB -- unless they qualify based on other criteria (e.g. the author was a bona fide SF author), of course. Ahasuerus 19:59, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)
Yes, they're going in as ESSAYs, of course; I made that mistake early on, and Al corrected me. I also agree about non-sf not being a marker; take a look at the help update I did on this and see if you agree. Mike Christie (talk) 20:17, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)
Sounds reasonable, although we may want to spell out that columns reviewing fanzines should be entered as ESSAYs. You can never be too explicit when writing documentation :) Ahasuerus 20:29, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)
Here's where that's covered right now -- at the head of the section I just updated. It's the first thing stated under the reviews heading; does it also need reinforcing lower down? Mike Christie (talk) 20:48, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)
I think we could expand "if the column reviews fanzines, you don't need to enter the review records for these" to something like "if the column reviews fanzines, you don't need to enter the review records for these, only the Essay record", it would provide us with an extra layer of assurance. Never underestimate the ability of other people to misunderstand you and vice versa :-) Ahasuerus 21:01, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)
Wise words. I've made the change; tweak away if you can improve it further. Mike Christie (talk) 22:02, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)

NONGENRE -- a palliative solution

Since it sounds like there is no consensus re: the issue of including NONGENRE works in the ISFDB -- or at least re: the extent to which we want to include them -- how about the following bandaid to be implemented prior to beta or at least prior to the end of beta?

My main concern is that the NONGENRE entries that we currently have are poorly documented/supported and can confuse casual users into thinking that some Titles are SF when they are anything but. The most obvious example of this limited support for NONGENRE items is lack of NONGENRE series within the ISFDB. You can specify that a NONGENRE work belongs to a Series and it will be duly displayed for that NONGENRE Title, e.g. [1], but it won't show up in the Author's Long Works or other biblio pages. Thus the unpalatable choice that editors often face is whether to sacrifice series information or NONGENRE information.

I would feel much better about adding, say, Ron Goulart's numerous NONGENRE series to the ISFDB if they could be clearly marked as NONGENRE so that we wouldn't have users merrily ordering a dozen books only to find out that they have nothing to do with speculative fiction. Ahasuerus 20:26, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)

I don't think I follow you. It sounds like NONGENRE works don't show on the author's long works. Are you saying they should show, but in a separate "Non-genre" section? Re Series, if a series could be marked NONGENRE, how would that change the display - would it just include "(non-genre)" after the series name in every display? Mike Christie (talk) 06:15, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)
Sorry, I may not have been very clear :( NONGENRE works do show on authors' Long Works page, but they are not grouped by Series. For example, the Sherlock Holmes series is currently displayed correctly on Sir Arthur's page, but only because its constituent Titles are currently entered as NOVELs and not as NONGENRE. If we were to change these Titles to NONGENRE, then they would be displayed in the NONGENRE section with no regard to the Series. The Series and Series Number field would still be visible in each individual Title's record, but that would be of little use to casual browsers.
For an example of what it would look like if the Title type was changed, see Lloyd Biggle, Jr.'s Long Works page, which lists no Series data within the Nongenre section even though he wrote 2 Sherlock Holmes books, which are properly entered as such and visible under the Sherlock Holmes series listing. At the moment, the only way to make this series information readily available to our users is to change these two books' Title type from NONGENRE to NOVEL, but that would be misleading since it would imply that they are SF. Ahasuerus 19:12, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)
That makes sense, and I agree it's a desirable feature. However, I would much rather not wait for this to be implemented before going live with the beta. I think we should go live as soon as we can, with as much of Al's free time in the future rather than the past when we do so, so we can whack any bugs that pop up. The only thing I think we need is some way to look at history; e.g. some version of feature 90044. I'd rather Al worked on the other stuff after we had some editors trickling in.
So I'd suggest you enter it as a feature; I'd also agree that it would be good to have prior to the end of the beta. That's actually another list we need to put together -- bugs to be fixed before exiting the beta. We can start on that once we're live. Or do you feel it's a must-have? Mike Christie (talk) 19:20, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)
Oh no, I don't think it's something that we need for the beta phase. I simply see this as a medium term compromise solution to the NONGENRE problem that we haven't reached consensus on. Once we have this fix in place, we will have a way to move NONGENRE work to their rightful place without losing information, which is a Good Thing (tm).
Wrt going to beta sooner rather than later, I am somewhat torn at the moment. On the one hand, if we don't do it soon, we may have to wait for another semi-extended period when Al is available to fix bugs. Going to beta when your lead designer/programmer is unavailable is a surefire way to make life... interesting. OTOH, even if we no longer have "data loss" bugs, the remaining display and data entry bugs/quirks may be numerous enough to make our beta volunteers confused and frustrated. Confused and frustrated volunteers are not only unproductive, but also have been known to wander off, never to return. And we are no Microsoft, which can afford to release buggy version 1.0 and not worry (too much) about its user base. On the gripping hand, the holiday season may not be the best time to start any kind of beta since many potential volunteers are presumably preoccupied elsewhere. Decisions, decisions... Ahasuerus 22:39, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)
Good points, all. I think the most important thing for volunteer retention is likely to be rapid response to editor questions and rapid and effective moderation. Of course, higher reliability means less requests for help, which means this standard is easier to achieve.Mike Christie (talk) 07:32, 19 Dec 2006 (CST)

Truncated serialization

Another oddity. I just entered the last issue of Fantastic Universe, which contains the first part of a projected serialization of Fredric Brown's "The Mind Thing". The text was revised for the book, but it's a little less than a third the length of the final book. However, since that was the last issue, and the magazine doesn't say how many parts were projected, what do I put for serial title? I settled on "The Mind Thing (Part 1 of ?)", but am open to better ideas. Mike Christie (talk) 20:29, 16 Dec 2006 (CST)

I have seen plenty of truncated serials due to magazine terminations, but I don't recall one where the projected number of installments was unknown. Hmmm. I don't suppose the format should have impact on anything else, so whatever Al says is the easiest to implement in the software should work. "(Part 1 of ?)" will probably do as long as we document the facts surrounding the case in the Note field. Ahasuerus 23:51, 17 Dec 2006 (CST)

New Ace Double approach

Some time ago we discussed Ace Doubles, and the consensus was that an omnibus was the sensible way to treat them. I have now entered two that way. THMNWHLVDF1956 is a pair of novels, and DVNTRSNTHF1954 is a pair of anthologies, which was the problematic case. Take a look and let me know if you see a problem with this way of doing things. Mike Christie (talk) 22:09, 17 Dec 2006 (CST)

The novels Pub looks just like any other omnibus out there, which is perfectly fine by me. The anthological publication, OTOH, doesn't seem to reflect which story was published as part of which anthology. Would it be better to have the Omnibus publication include two Anthology Titles only and then have the contents of each anthology listed under each Anthology Title? Or does it improve the hierarchical structure at the cost of excessive complexity? Ahasuerus 00:12, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)
That approach requires three publication records, unless I am misunderstanding what you're suggesting. That's why I didn't do that. I think it would work OK on screen - the anthology title links would lead you to a title display showing both the Ace Double and the separate pub record for the anthology. Do you think that would be preferable? Pro: you can tell which story was published which side; con: you have bogus pub records. Mike Christie (talk) 05:26, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)

Stories published in non-genre magazines

A few weeks ago we agreed that we will not do a full biblio for non-genre publications. Instead, we will list the basics (title, publisher, date, price, etc) and any works of genre interest that appeared in that publication. Given this decision, do we want to enter non-genre magazines, e.g. Playboy, as "magazines" or as "anthologies". And if it we go with the "magazine" approach, do we want to create entries in the ISFDB Wiki for these magazines? I suppose there is value to creating a "SFnal view" of non-genre magazines, but I am not sure it's worth the amount of work that it would add to the plate. Ahasuerus 02:30, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)

I don't see a reason to create the index view for these. As you say, not worth the work. The stories are findable via the search mechanisms, so there is little value lost, unless you are a Playboy collector. Mike Christie (talk) 05:19, 18 Dec 2006 (CST)

Non-linear Series Numbering


Series ordering and series numbering have been a messy area for a long time. For example, there is (a) publication order, (b) internal chronological order and (c) preferred reading order; it can be argued that all three have value to ISFDB users and should be displayed independently if they differ. Also, note Feature request 90001 and Bug 30014. I am sure we will revisit this area post-beta, but for now we probably want to save this discussion on some Help template's Talk page or some such. Ahasuerus 11:14, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)
I agree on the revisit and have cut/pasted the entire thread to the Archive and also into Feature:90001. Marc Kupper 16:42, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)

ISBN formatting again

With reference to the prior discussion on Al's talk page, I would like to suggest that for data entry of older books, at least, we drop the requirement to strip ISBNs of their formatting. I agree with Marc that it makes it harder to read and verify them. I understand the need to give Dissembler access to the unformatted ISBNs. Can we say that anything older than three years is OK to enter formatted ISBNs? Mike Christie (talk) 22:13, 19 Dec 2006 (CST)

What's the older than three years rule for? Also, when moderators approve a publication the ISBN field is silently truncated to 16 characters. That's ok for an ISBN-10 but will truncate the last character off a hyphenated ISBN-13. As for Dissembler, it can strip the hyphens out. My own Dissembler like thing strips the hyphens out and if the result looks like an ISBN (10 characters with the first 9 being digits and the last being a digit or X) then it's assumed to be an ISBN though it means the code can mistake a phone number for an ISBN. I have not coded the change yet but the fix I have in mind is that for hyphenated values there must be a hyphen in the second to last position (just before the checksum) which will solve the phone # issue as it's rare to see those unhyphenated. Marc Kupper 23:11, 19 Dec 2006 (CST)
I gave three years grace since Dissembler (I believe) only processes new releases, so it wouldn't care about a 1983 Bantam edition of something. Mike Christie (talk) 23:14, 19 Dec 2006 (CST)
It's not so much a dissembler problem as a search problem. If we put hyphens in the ISBN, and someone does an isbn search using an ISBN they got from amazon, MySQL isn't going to find the book (and hence, neither will dissembler). As far as dissembler goes, you only need to worry about books during the current month and forward. Alvonruff 04:24, 20 Dec 2006 (CST)
I see it as a human interface issue. I just did an ISBN search for what's in my book, 0-425-05026-2, got an empty list, and needed to remove the hyphens (meaning it's hard for me to verify that what I'm entering is the same as what's in the book) to find the record. When entering data into non-human friendly systems that requirethefullunformattedstring I often enter the number with formatting, verify it visually, remove the formatting, and then hit [submit]. It's irritating though and with ISFDB it still does not solve that verifying an ISBN is a PITA as it’s both hard to read and does not have the same format as what’s stated in the book. Marc Kupper 01:46, 21 Dec 2006 (CST)
I agree with Marc on this one. It's important to have good search capability, but it's at least as valuable to have accurate and complete data, and I'd rather keep the data accurate now and record a feature request for enabling ISBN searching that is robust against varying formats. Mike Christie (talk) 08:13, 21 Dec 2006 (CST)

(outdent) I propose an alternative:

  • That ISBNs be stored in the database without any spaces or hyphens.
  • If the data stored in the isbn field is a valid ISBN, then it will always be displayed according to the official ISBN hypenation standard [2] - even if the publisher fails to follow that standard.
  • When editing, the user will see hyphens, and can input hyphens, but they will be striped prior to storage.
  • This means that the user might type in the hyphens one way (the bogus way), and see them displayed a different way (the way specified by the standard). It also means that if the ISBN was improperly formatted by the publisher, you would not be able to record the isbn improperly.

The only solution that allows for the isbn field to be completely free form and still allow searching is to bring back the isbn shadow field (which was jettisoned last year due to maintenance issues). The free-form version would be in the ISBN field, and a hidden shadow field would contain the hyphen free version. If the user searches on the isbn field, the search app would have to determine if the input term is a valid isbn, and if so strip the term and search on the shadow field for an exact match. If it's not a valid isbn (isbn fragment or catalog number), it would search on the free-form isbn field for a partial match. Partial matches on isbn fragments won't be guaranteed to succeed if the formatting doesn't match. Alvonruff 09:19, 21 Dec 2006 (CST)

That's exactly what I was going to propose this morning! No fair stealing my thoughts while I sleep :( Ahasuerus 11:00, 21 Dec 2006 (CST)
Ahasuerus, I suspect you are keeping those tubes warm with a little standby current as you sleep. There's enough leakage that your thoughts can get stolen. Perhaps I can interest you in a modern digital unit with instant-on but also crashes a few times per day? Anyway, that ISBN idea sounds great and we can use the notes field to deal with cases where the hyphenation does not match the standard. Probably the biggest pain will be TOR / Tom Doherty Associates who always uses “0-812-5####-x” when they should be using “0-8125-####-x” (or the hyphenation tables can have a row added just for TOR…). Marc Kupper 15:23, 21 Dec 2006
All I need is some good old tin foil and I will be all set! Ahasuerus 15:45, 21 Dec 2006 (CST)

Corner cases on what to include

There's a "what to include" section in the new publication help, which I've recently expanded again. I have been going through my Le Guin collection, and ran into some test cases in "The Language of the Night", her collection of essays.

Here's a listing of some of what's in there.

  • p.1: "Introduction by Susan Wood"
  • p.9: section heading: "Le Guin introduces Le Guin"
  • p.11: "Introduction": uncredited, but not by Le Guin. Presumably by Wood.
  • p.15: "A Citizen of Mondath": uncredited, but known to be by Le Guin.
  • p.21: section heading: "On Fantasy and Science Fiction"
  • p.23: "Introduction": uncredited, not by Le Guin; presumably by Wood.

and so forth. There are several of these introductions by Wood. I am inclined to list all of them with the title "Introduction" and put a title note in each one to say what section it introduces. They will all have separate page numbers in the publication contents, so they are differentiable that way too. The alternative is to include the parenthetical "(to section foo)" in the title, which I don't like doing. (There was some discussion about this a while back, and it was suggested that a biblio listing of standard names such as "Introduction" could easily append "(in Title XXX)" to the listing; that would be my preferred solution.)

I'll go ahead and make this update, but it does seem a bit of a corner case, so I thought I'd post a note here and let folks know what I'm doing. Mike Christie (talk) 07:40, 20 Dec 2006 (CST)

Inclusion of "Acknowledgements" sections?

I made the assertion recently in the "What to include" section that "Acknowledgements" sections should not (usually) be indexed. "The Language of the Night" has a Le Guin bibliography as an appendix, and it does index the acknowledgements sections. Any thoughts on whether they should be indexed or not? Mike Christie (talk) 07:40, 20 Dec 2006 (CST)

I would agree with not indexing acknowledgements unless for some reason it was written by another person. For example, after James Blish died his wife (J. A. Lawrence) filled in some of the final details of projects he had on the burners and for those I'd credit J. A. Lawrence if it seemed she wrote the acknowledgement. Marc Kupper 01:17, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)
I'd leave them out too. I have found those sections useful (e.g. the acknowledgement section in Cats in Space mentions some first publications we didn't have before) but I tend to use them and forget them. Mentioning that there is a Bibliography in a book could be handy (e.g. I've used three of Larry Niven's books with bibliographies in before, but I couldn't record all three off-hand) but mere "Acknowledgements" rarely have as much useful info and I wouldn't think of searching for them. BLongley 15:56, 24 Mar 2007 (CDT)

Heading for grouping of stories

In the September 1954 Beyond, Fredric Brown has two vignettes, "Naturally", and "Voodoo". They're published together on pp 78-80, under the joint title of "Double Whammy", and they're listed in the ToC as "Double Whammy". I think the only way to handle this is to list each of the three titles as "SHORTFICTION", and add a note explaining the situation. Currently "Double Whammy" is listed as an ESSAY but that definitely seems wrong. Mike Christie (talk) 11:34, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)

Sounds reasonable. Unfortunately, publishers were known to engage in all kinds of "creative" adveritsement in the table of contents (which is how they view it) at the time, so TOCs are not particularly reliable. Ahasuerus 11:58, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)


I was entering the first issue of Magazine:Bizarre Fantasy Tales and ran into a Readers' Preference Page, which is essentially a two page poll/coupon. I don't think we were going to list polls, but I can't find a definitive statement in Help:Screen:NewPub. Also, does anyone else have these Lowndes digests (aside from the already indexed The Magazine of Horror)? If so, I'll skip them and concentrate on the more obscure stuff. Ahasuerus 14:22, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)

I think we can skip polls, though poll results are worth recording. I'll update the help. Of the Lowndes digests, all I have are both issues of Bizarre Fantasy Tales and half a dozen issues of Startling Mystery Stories. I'd say these are skippable, though, since they're not that hard to find - though if you have issue #6 of SMS you might want to enter that. It's quite scarce now as it has Stephen King's first story. (I used to have it but gave my copy to a King collector years ago.)
Judging by what you've told me you have, I'd say Marvel Stories and Astonishing would be good ones to enter. I only have a couple of Astonishings and no Marvels. I do have all of Stirring and Cosmic. Or do you have Air Wonder, or Science Wonder? I've got almost none of those. Or do you have any Miracles or Dynamics? Mike Christie (talk) 14:41, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)
Let's see. My records indicate that I have all SMSs, including #6, but I haven't looked at them in years, so I'll have to check. I do have the Dynamics (both versions), all Marvel Stories (all versions) and all Astonishings. As for Miracle, are we talking about Miracle Science and Fantasy? If so, I have #1 (April 1931), but not #2. Individual issues can be a little hard to find, though, since things are piling up a bit. That's why I just grabbed a stack and started entering the more obscure looking ones. If I tried to get organized first, it would take all of my 9 days :)
Ah, here are the Dynamics, let me see if I can enter them next. Oh, and do you have Bizarre! Mystery Magazine? It says "mystery", but it was more of a fantasy mag, reprinting Lovecraft etc. Ahasuerus 15:16, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)

State of current magazine data

So I pulled out the Dynamics and was about to enter them when I ran a search on the word "Dynamic" and found a couple of covert art pieces for the two magazines but not the magazines themsleves. Turns out that they were entered as Publications, but not as Titles. I may have missed this discussion -- is this how we decided to handle magazines?

Anyway, since I had the mags out, I decided to do physical verification of the first issue. The results were not very encouraging. One author name was misspelled; a title was missing "The"; and a known pseudonym was missing. Not a very good batting average for a 5 story magazine. I went ahead and added two essays, interior artwork, the missing pseudonym and notes and set the Verification flag. Just goes to show that we need to be extra careful when doing physical Verification. Ahasuerus 19:20, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)

Semi-fictions strike again!

There is another "semi-fiction" in the second (and last) Dynamic Science Stories. This time I entered it as a short story - see this explanation for details. It's a reasonably long story too, 3.8 pulp pages, so I think this is the right thing to do, but I can see it being a pain in the neck for years to come. Ahasuerus 20:13, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)

Template:Magazine created

I have created Template:Magazine after playing with the Bibliographic Tasks table on the Fantastic Universe page. Corrections and improvements welcome! Ahasuerus 20:16, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)

The New Voting System

Now that Al has put a voting subsystem in place (good job, Al!), I tried to test it a bit. A couple of comments:

  • I gave Tunnel in the Sky a 9 and went back to see what it looked like. It looked reasonable -- "1 user has given an average vote of 9.00 / 10" -- and I verified that entering new values (10, then 9 again) resulted in the old value getting replaces, which is as it should be. However, the page didn't tell me how I had voted and I know from my years of rating movies at the IMDB that after a couple of years and a few thousand titles you forget your exact ratings, especially if the scale is very granular (1-10). I then went to the Title page and found a new choice in the navbar, My Votes, which duly told me that I had given Tunnel in the Sky a 9. Given the fact that we already have the current user's voting history available, should we follow the IMDB's example and tell the user what his or her voting history for the currently viewed Title is? Ahasuerus 20:51, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)
  • Should we have the title's author(s) displayed in the "My Votes" screen? Ahasuerus 20:51, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)
  • Should we have the titles sorted alphabetically within each rating value? Ahasuerus 20:51, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)
  • When writing the Help page for this screen, should we tell the users to use an absolute scale or a relative one? For example, when rating a 19th century utopia, should it be compared to its brethren or to Bujold and Heinlein? Ahasuerus 20:51, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)

P.S. This could prove a huge draw for new users. Humans like few things more than informing the world about their opinions and preferences. Ahasuerus 20:53, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)

Well, I had to work on something this morning while the site was down. I couple of answers:
  1. If you click on [Vote], your old answer is preselected in the pulldown menu. Perhaps too subtle. Alvonruff 21:06, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)
Way, way too subtle :) Ahasuerus 21:35, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)
  1. There should be at least the authors and the title type in the "My Votes"; the current app is a bit of a place holder.
  2. Sorted titles within a rating value: I was thinking the same thing.
  3. Help screen: the only objectivity I was shooting for was in what a 1 means as opposed to what a 10 means. I went through a few anthologies and punched in numerous ratings that I write in the TOCs, and then picked up Adventures in Space and Time, and wondered how harsh my numbers were with respect to their age. I don't think I can pretend to have lived back then, and not have seen or read the things I have, so it's hard for me to make the adjustment. Perhaps if someone reads only 19th century works for a bit, and gets a feel for the era, then they can make a better assessment. At any rate, feel free to put down any guidelines you see fit, and we'll wear it for a while. Alvonruff 21:06, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)
The more I think about it, the more I doubt that we will be able to come up with meaningful guidelines. Different people will use it slightly differently and there is not much we can do, it's just too subjective. Have you thought about displaying the standard deviation of the recorded votes or some other measure of statistical dispersion? A 5 that is computed by averaging out ten 4s, 5s, and 6s is quite different from a 5 computed by averaging five 1s and five 9/10s (e.g. Ballard or some other New Wavey writer). Ahasuerus 21:35, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)
For an individual title, you can display the voting fairly easily: just show the number of 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s etc. The "Love it or hate it" votes become quite clear then. When trying to compare an overall value, it might be better to compute TWO averages - one for the positives and one for the negatives. I've seen many poll results that have the same film/company/brand listed as "Best" and "Worst" in the same category. BLongley 16:26, 24 Mar 2007 (CDT)
As an example of differing standards, I encountered a wonderful example recently. The new (American) boss at T-Mobile UK polled his staff to see how many would recommend T-Mobile, on a 1-10 level. He didn't seem to like the results, as he made a video trying to explain how "Net Promoter Score" would be calculated: 1-6 are detractors, 7 and 8 neutral, and only 9 and 10 are positive. My original view was that 10 should be for people promoting T-Mobile to strangers all the time, 9 for those that promote it when it comes up in conversation, 8 for those that don't push it on strangers but will give honest advice, etc. Apparently my 7 score is no good (I do think they're the best network, but as I actually have little need for a mobile phone I don't push anyone to get one). But most staff thought "WTF? Is he trying to tell us that the average of a 1-10 scale isn't 5.5 anymore?" BLongley 16:26, 24 Mar 2007 (CDT)
He was using corporatespeak and corporatemath. You just needed a translator, is all :) More seriously, I do like the proposal to "show the number of 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s etc" like the IMDB folks do. Ahasuerus 16:36, 24 Mar 2007 (CDT)
After we build up some votes (I don't think we have 5 votes for any title as yet), I'll put together a top 250 (and perhaps a bottom 250). The main difference with the IMDB is that we can have a list for novels, shortfiction, anthologies, collections, etc... Alvonruff 21:06, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)
I was wondering just how useful it is to have votes for Omnibuses, but I suppose they are too close to Anthologies (which we presumably want to be able to vote on) to make a clear distinction difficult. Ahasuerus 21:35, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)

Foreign Language Sequels by Other Hands

I promised to enter some oddballs while I have access to my collection and here are a couple. Our Rules of Acquisition currently state:

In - Foreign language translations of speculative fiction works originally published (or written but not published - Bulmer, Dibell, etc) in English. Support for derivative works (sequels-by-other hands, collections and omnibuses that have no direct analogs in English, etc) may need to be enhanced.

(bolding added to emphasize the last 5 words). What I have in my hands are three Russian language books that are billed as sequels to popular (well, once popular) English language series.

The first one is an omnibus edition of two novels about Edmond Hamilton's Starwolf. Apparently, it's volume 2 in a 4 volume series of omnibuses (1998-2001) collecting 9 novels about this character. The title page boldly states that the novels are "by Edmond Hamilton and Sergei Sukhinov", but the copyright statement simply says "@ S. S. Sukhinov", where "S. S." stands for "Sergei Stefanovich". I suggest we enter this Publication as by Hamilton and Sukhinov and then change the resulting Title into a Variant Title whose parent will be a Title by Sukhinov alone. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the sequels. We could then either list these novels as volumes 4-12 in the series or create a subseries for them.

BTW, Sukhinov is primarily a YA writer who apparently specializes in sequels to other folks' books. He has written at least 12 sequels to Alexander Volkov's YA series about the Wizard of the Emerald City, which was in turn a sequel (of sorts) to Baum's Oz. We definitely want Volkov's books since they have been published in English. To quote Library of Congress Online Catalog:

Volkov, A. (Aleksandr Melent'evich). The wizard of the Emerald City : adapted from L. Frank Baum’s The wizard of Oz ; and, Urfin Jus and his wooden soldiers / by Alexander Melentyevich Volkov ; translated from the Russian by Peter L. Blystone. Staten Island, N.Y. : Red Branch Press, 1991, 342 p. ; 23 cm. ISBN: 187894116X (pbk.) 1878941151


Volkov, A. (Aleksandr Melent'evich). The seven underground kings ; and, The fiery god of the Marrans / by Alexander Melentyevich Volkov ; translated from the Russian by Peter L. Blystone. Staten Island, NY : Red Branch Press, 1993. 371 p. ; 23 cm. ISBN: 1878941186 (pbk.) 1878941178 (hardcover)

However, do we want Sukhinov's 12 books? I guess we do: although they have never been translated, they are sequels to Oz twice removed or something like that.

The second and third books that I have here are even more interesting. They are billed as volumes 4 and 6 in Harry Harrison's Deathword series. The copyright pages say "Deathworld 4: Return to Deathworld by Harry Harrison and Ant Skalandis Copyright 1997 @ Harry Harrison and Projex International, Ltd." and "Deathworld 6: The Creatures from Hell by Harry Harrison and Ant Skalandis Copyright 1998 @ Harry Harrison and Projex International, Ltd." respectively. Note that the copyright notices are the only things in English in these books, the rest is in Russian. None of these novels ever appeared in English and a bit of googling suggests that Harrison blessed the project and perhaps the plot outline(s) remotely, but wasn't involved otherwise. Still, since he is listed as a coauthor and since we can't tell just how much work he did on the project, I suggest that we list him as a full co-author. I am not sure whether the English language or the Russian language Title should be the parent one, though.

Whoever said the life of a genre bibliographer was boring? :) Ahasuerus 22:22, 24 Dec 2006 (CST)

I have added the two Deathowrld sequels to Harry_Harrison's bibliography. Take a look when you have a chance. I ended up going with the Russian language title as the parent for two reasons:
  1. That's what it says on the cover, on the title page, etc
  2. It makes it immediately clear that the book was published in a foreign language. If we had the English title listed as the parent and the Russian title listed as a Variant Title, then it would look like the book was published in English and possibly cause confusion.
I should add that the software complained audibly as I was entering Unicode characters and many edit/moderator fields were messed up in various interesting ways, but the end result looks right.
Ahasuerus 17:48, 28 Dec 2006 (CST)

Interior Art Titles

The Help text currently states:

Artwork. Interior art should have the same title as the fiction or essay it is associated with. If it is independent of other content, and has no apparent title, give it the title "Untitled".

However, when T. Jackson King was entering the 15th issue of The Silver Web (which you currently can't access from its Title page, but that's a separate issue), he used what I assume are the "real" titles, e.g.:

56 • The Comedian • (1997) • shortstory by Stepan Chapman 
56 • Rebecca In Transition, for The Comedian • interior artwork by David Walters 

Isn't this kind of information something that we would want to capture? And if so, how would we go about identifying these "real titles"? Ahasuerus 11:57, 25 Dec 2006 (CST)

I’d title the illustration itself with the story it’s illustrating so that ISFDB will list it was “interior artwork for storyname” but then add a note to the title record to explain that the illustration is captioned or titled. Marc Kupper 13:51, 25 Dec 2006 (CST)
Sounds good to me. I'll make the change if there are no objections by tomorrow. Ahasuerus 14:09, 25 Dec 2006 (CST)

Currey as a bibliographic source

What would everyone think about adding Currey as one of the "Verification" sources? It's a pretty thorough biblio; it only does first editions, and only for selected authors, but it's quite detailed and has very few mistakes that I know of. Mike Christie (talk) 16:12, 31 Dec 2006 (CST)

Sounds reasonable. Also, I have been thinking that there is not all that much overlap between magazine biblios and book biblios, just Tuck and post-1998 Locus. Perhaps we may want to have two (?) separate "Verification Sources" tables, one for magazines (Day, Cockcroft, Helo Pulps, Contento-zines, etc) and one for books (Reginald, Locus, Contento, Currey)? Also, we list Clute/Nicholls and Clute/Grant as Verification Sources, but can we really use them to verify Publications since they function at the Title level? Ahasuerus 16:28, 31 Dec 2006 (CST)
That sounds sensible. For magazines, there's also "Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines" by Marshall Tymn and Mike Ashley; I haven't seen a copy but it has an excellent reputation and I'll probably pick one up sooner or later. There are also the NESFA followups to Day; I have Day but don't have the followups. And I agree that Clute/etc. has limited value for pubs and can probably be dropped, though it could still be used to source missing titles, perhaps. Mike Christie (talk) 16:38, 31 Dec 2006 (CST)
I think I'm in favour of dropping Clute/Nicholls and Clute/Grant as verification sources, whenever I see them quoted it's usually at a higher level than pub, e.g. see here and here for examples. Sometimes they're useful and sometimes they ADD confusion. In the long term, I suspect those of us here will collectively be able to tell Clute and Grant and Nicholls where they went wrong: in the meantime I'm happy with letting them tell us where we should question things a bit more. BLongley 18:10, 11 Apr 2007 (CDT)
Belatedly chiming in, I strongly support adding Currey to the Verification list: I use it a lot, since I concentrate on first editions. (Scott Latham 11:08, 12 Apr 2007 (CDT))
Just a note to point out that moderators can add to our list of references, but we can't (or rather shouldn't) delete entries from it. Removing, say, Clute/Nicholls and Clute/Grant (currently #2 and #3 on the list) would result in IDs #4-10 changed to #2-8. Since these IDs are hardcoded in the database, we would need a database conversion to get everything re-pointed properly.
If there are no objections in the next 24 hours, I will add Currey as #11. Ahasuerus 11:35, 12 Apr 2007 (CDT)
One thought: is it possible (when Al becomes available) to see how many verifications have been done against Clute/Nicholls and Clute/Grant? I suspect there are few, and we wouldn't miss them. So at some point in the future we could set all the #2 verifications to null, and move Currey to #2, and then set the #2 verifications to match the #11 verifications and then delete #11. Something similar could be done to eliminate #3. I don't think this needs to delay adding Currey though. Mike Christie (talk) 05:13, 13 Apr 2007 (CDT)
As of last backup:
                  | reference_id | count(*) |
                  |            1 |     4375 |
                  |            2 |      642 |
                  |            3 |      628 |
                  |            4 |      698 |
                  |            5 |      965 |
                  |            6 |      636 |
                  |            7 |      616 |
                  |            8 |      701 |
                  |            9 |      504 |
                  |           10 |      407 |
It's perfectly possible to reshuffle the verifications programmatically: I wouldn't delete any, maybe shuffle them down the list if another reference is proving more reliable. BLongley 05:33, 13 Apr 2007 (CDT)
Wow. Lots more than I expected. You're right, we should leave them there; maybe reshuffle. I think Locus should be nearer the top, and the two Nicholls Encyclopaedias should be at the bottom. Mike Christie (talk) 10:37, 13 Apr 2007 (CDT)

(unindent) Currey has been added to list of sources. Ahasuerus 02:01, 15 Apr 2007 (CDT)

Supernatural Stories

I've been entering the copies I have of the John Spencer "Badger" books. The SF ones pose few problems; the SN ones (supernatural and weird fiction) include a series of paperback magazines. Tuck lists them as a magazine; Nicholls treats them as a series of books. The masthead solicited manuscripts, and it said "Supernatural Stories is published monthly/bi-monthly . . . " just like a regular magazine. However, in addition to looking just like a paperback, the stories were almost all written by R.L. Fanthorpe, under various pseudonyms. Does anyone have a strong feeling about how these should be listed? I'm going to go ahead and treat them as anthologies, I think, which is more or less what Nicholls does. I can change it to magazines easily enough if someone changes my mind. Mike Christie (talk) 21:18, 1 Jan 2007 (CST)

I have run into this problem a few times, e.g. with Quark, which some sources treat as a magazine while others handle it as an anthology series. I think it's somewhat more convenient to treat borderline series as magazines because then we can have an easy-ti-find Wiki page dedicated to them and explain all the gory details there. Not a huge deal either way though. Ahasuerus 21:35, 1 Jan 2007 (CST)

Format for doubles

I have started to use "dos" as the format for Ace and Tor doubles, instead of "pb". This is the term that Nicholls/Clute uses, and I think it would be a useful search term in its own right. If there's a reason not to, say so and I'll revert them, but I think this is a good way to go.

If we are going to start using "dos" as a publication type -- which I have no objection to -- we will need to decide whether it only applies to the "upside down" format of the classic doubles, or whether any Publication that advertizes two Titles on its cover qualifies. Ahasuerus 22:29, 6 Jan 2007 (CST)

Defining this field's contents more rigorously is probably something we want to do in the future. Maybe we could start with a SQL extract of what's there now -- count the occurrences of each entry in that field. Mike Christie (talk) 08:51, 6 Jan 2007 (CST)

We discussed it briefly a week or two ago. Let me see if I can find the discussion and paste into a more formal feature request. I think we really need to have some kind of "disposition" field for our Community Portal and other discussions, otherwise things sink without a trace. Ahasuerus 22:29, 6 Jan 2007 (CST)

This page is for discussions about the rules and standards, such as whether certain kinds of publications belong in the ISFDB, or whether the help text defining capitalization should be modified. It also includes questions about interpretation, such as whether a SERIAL type can be used for sequences of short stories subsequently republished as a novel.

Rewritten stories

In the Aldiss collection I'm working on, he mentions in the introduction that one of the stories, "Blighted Profile", was "completely rewritten". I think we've had this discussion before, but I can't find it -- I think that we should not make new titles for these rewritten stories. It's just too difficult for us to identify the extent of the differences between versions, even if one editor had both versions in hand to check. However, where we know about a rewrite, a comment at the appropriate location (the pub note, in this case) should be recorded.

I will update "how to merge titles" with this comment, unless I hear disagreement. Mike Christie (talk) 14:05, 6 Jan 2007 (CST)

The discussion that you mention, Mike, had to do with possibly adding a new field to clarify the nature of "variant titles", i.e. "abridged", "text restored", "expanded", "revised", etc. I don't think Al ever responded re: the amount of work it would take or what else it may involve and we never reached a conclusion one way or another. Now that you have reminded me about it, I will review our list of requested features and add this feature request if it's not already there. Even if it doesn't get implemented in the foreseeable future (or ever), it's better to have it documented.
For now, I just use variant titles to reflect any significant changes and indicate the nature of the change in parenthesis ("abridged" etc) just like we sometimes do with UK/US variant titles. Ahasuerus 22:16, 6 Jan 2007 (CST)
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