Help:How to record a variant title


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This page is a help or manual page for the ISFDB database. It describes standards or methods for entering or maintaining data in the ISFDB database, or otherwise working with the database. Other help pages may be found via the category below. To discuss what should go on this page, use the talk page.

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Two Existing Entries

It often happens that the ISFDB lists a single work under two different titles, or under the same title but with different versions of the author's name. For example, Andre Norton's "Sargasso of Space" was originally published under the pseudonym "Andrew North". Another example, showing a difference in title, would be Arthur C. Clarke's "The Longest Science Fiction Story Ever Told", which was originally published under the title "A Recursion in Metastories". Each of these is regarded by the ISFDB as a "variant title", and should be recorded as such.

  1. First, check that what you are looking at really is a variant title. Are the titles identical? Is the author's name spelled identically on both publications? If so, you just need to merge the titles, as they are not variants at all, but duplicates. See How to merge titles for help on how to merge them.
  2. Next, do whatever you can to be sure that the variation is real. For example, you might notice that the original Ballantine paperback of "Night's Black Agents" is listed as being by "Fritz Lieber", which is a mis-spelling of "Fritz Leiber". Is this really how the book was published? Or is it a typographical error on the part of the person entering the data? If it's the latter, you don't want to record it as a variant title. If it's the former--an error or variation printed in the book--then the publication should have a note against it saying why the spelling is different. You can also look on the "Bibliographic Comments" page for that publication to see whether there's been any discussion of the error. There may be Sources of Bibliographic Information that you can check which will tell you about misprints and pseudonyms and retitlings.
  3. You should also make sure that the variation in titles or author's name is not just because one of them is entered in a non-standard way. The ISFDB doesn't care about minor differences in capitalization or punctuation, for example. So if one story is entered as "Code Blue - Emergency!" and the other as "Code Blue--Emergency!", these are not really variants; likewise, "Invasion From Mars" and "Invasion from Mars" are the same. The ISFDB does have rules for how to regularize a title; the right thing to do here is to merge the two titles, making sure to select the version of the title that is correctly capitalized and punctuated.
  4. Once you know that the two titles are really variants, make sure they're not already recorded that way. For example, Isaac Asimov's "Foundation and Empire" was published by Ace under the title "The Man Who Upset the Universe". If you do a title search for "Man Who Upset" you'll see this appear in the results. Click on the title, and the title record will tell you that this title is a "Variant Title of Foundation and Empire". Clicking that title shows "The Man Who Upset the Universe" as a variant title. So the work has already been done in this case.
  5. If your two titles have not yet been linked as variants, you now have to decide which one is going to be the parent, and which one is the child. This is referred to as the "canonical title" of the work. For the Asimov example, "Foundation and Empire" is clearly the canonical title: not only is it much better known under that title than as "The Man Who Upset the Universe", but the first book publication was as "Foundation and Empire". It won't always be clear which is the canonical title, but it's a choice that can be reversed later, so it's not absolutely critical to get right first time. When in doubt, pick the title used on the first published version of the story; but if there is any question at all, make a note on the author's project page on the Wiki as to why you selected one title as canonical. If the titles match, but there is a pseudonym on one of them, use the one that is the canonical author name by preference. If neither do, then use the earlier one.
  6. Now you know which title is the canonical one, you need to find the title id. This is easy; just display the title record (for the version with the canonical title), and look at the URL in your browser. It will end in a string like this: " . . ./title.cgi?17331" Those last few digits are the title id. Make a note of them, or just copy them onto your clipboard.
  7. Now display the other title -- the non-canonical one, or the one that's going to be the child (as "The Man Who Upset the Universe" was the child in the example above. Click on the navbar link that says: "Make This Title a Variant Title or Pseudonymous Work".
  8. Under the prompt "If the parent title already exists, enter the record number of the title below" there is a field labeled "Parent #". Enter the parent title ID, from the URL (see above), in this field, and click "Submit Data". Note that the second half of the screen allows you to enter a new title; the use of this function is deprecated because it's always better to get title data directly from actual publications, but it does permit the creation of a parent title if you know it.
  9. Once you have submitted the data, it will be approved or rejected by a moderator. Once approved, you'll see the two titles are linked together.

A Single Entry Under a Pseudonym

Sometimes the only entry (or all the entries) for a title are under a version of the author's name that is not the canonical name (a Pseudonym or variant form of the name). To make such titles show up on the proper author page:

  1. display the title record (bibliography).
  2. Then click "Make This Title a Variant Title or Pseudonymous Work".
  3. On the resulting "Make Variant Title" screen, scroll to the lowest section (below two horizontal lines).
  4. Edit the author field to the canonical author name (you may want to copy it from the proper author page if there is any chance of a spelling or typing error). If the work has joint authors, be sure each is shown in the canonical form. Edit or add author names as needed.
  5. If the title is not the canonical title, edit the title field to the canonical title.
  6. Click the "Create New Parent Title" button.

Once a moderator has approved the edit, the work will display under the proper canonical author page(s)

Note: old variant format

Note: The old (ISFDB1) format indicated variant titles by including all of the titles in the title field, separated by carets, like so: "The Book of Poul Anderson^The Many Worlds of Poul Anderson". This is no longer supported for display. New data should not be entered in this format. To record variant titles, use the method described above; and please convert records in the old format as you come across them.

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