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Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction Paperback – 23 Apr 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; Reprint edition (23 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195387066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195387063
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 2.8 x 15.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 845,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

This is an indispensable work that is certain to delight fans of the genre. (The Guardian)

A mini-history of SF and its subculture that will fascinate anyone curious about the evolution of the language. (Lisa Tuttle, The Times (Books))

About the Author

Jeff Prucher is a former assistant editor at Locus magazine and a contributor to the OED's Science Fiction Research Project.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Iirima on 21 Oct. 2012
Format: Paperback
I bought this book to inform an essay for my english degree, looking into words used in and originating from science-fiction writing, and it was hugely useful, and -if you are into that kind of thing- hugely interesting!

However, there is little in it that is not included in the Oxford English Dictionary as a whole, particularly the online version which is currently (and practically always) being updated, so if you have access to that - not cheap! - then you don't need this book.

The advantages it does have over the OED is that it does collect all these words together without you needing to search through an entire database, and it does have a few dates which need antedating in the OED.
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By Randal on 9 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It arrived this morning. I love it. It's full of references for SF-nal terms which are a tremendous resource for a writer - if only to check out what's been done before so it can be avoided.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ian t gibson on 18 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not what I hoped. Hard to find what you're looking for. Thats it, thats it, thats it, thats it, Stop.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Joys and Jibes: Review of "Brave New Words" 20 July 2007
By Richard M. Collier - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is an impressive reference text and one that can also be read selectively both for erudition and just plain fun. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of BNW, however, is the amount of reading the author Jeff Prucher engaged in to produce the extensive citations contained with the text: a glance at either the Works Cited (281-309) or the Bibliography of SF criticism (310-342) will leave one wondering how Prucher had time for anything in his life over the past decade other than reading.

One of the primary virtues of this book is in fact the Works Cited section which could serve well as a comprehensive reading list for anyone interested in becoming acquainted with SF from its hoary beginnings to a point within a few years of the present; as well, the Bibliography of criticism is an invaluable asset for academics wishing to augment their understanding of specialized niche areas in the SF field. And certainly in regard to these ancillary appendices was, for me at least, the list of author pseudonyms (279-80): who would otherwise know how many alternative names Henry Kuttner had?

Of course the quotations illustrating the various lexical entries in the dictionary are themselves impressive by suggesting through their chronology the length of time a term has been in common use; by the variety of sources for these terms, from novels to short stories to fanzines; and by how well each quotation illustrates a slightly different shading of the meaning of a particular term. I was, however, somewhat disappointed that so few of these citations derived from the Golden Age of SF (essentially pre-1945 and back to the days of Gernsback), but that may be the result of prucher having had difficulty accessing the pulp magazines of this era. It would also have been valuable for the chronological listing of illustrative quotations to have started with the very first instance of each new coinage, although, once again, I realize that such a requirement might have added years to the R & D component of this text. I would also have liked to have seen greater inclusion of some of the newest SF terminology, say, post-2000; sure, we get a gaggle of words coined by the Cyberpunk movement (and even the Steampunks), but very little from the authors writing in the new millennium.

Less forgiveable, however, were the number of typos and (even!) grammatical errors in definitions or the expository discussion sections (I am, of course, not including the quotations in this criticism since one expects them to be reproduced as they first appeared, warts and all). One example will suffice here: "unperson: . . . someone who is treated as if they are less then human" (255). Yikes! Two errors in one small sentence.

I also found the repetition of synonyms annoying: not only do we get a section on 'time travel' but one on 'time traveler', another on 'time-traveling' (as a noun), and yet another on 'time-traveling' (as an adjective). Sure, these are all slightly different uses of the (virtually) identical term, but the overlap is considerable, and I'm not sure the distinctions are either significant or interesting. It strikes me that such, uhm, padding of the material simply gave Prucher an opportunity to cite even more of the quotations he had amassed on his note cards. Similar objections can be raised against the five pages devoted to 'earth' and all its syntactic variations, including the use of hyphens, (43-48) and the eight pages on science fiction/fantasy (170-78).

And, at risk of being slagged by SF fans, I must admit to having grown weary of the space devoted to fandom coinages; I am just not sure how valuable it is to those who might buy this book to examine at length and provide citations from fanzines and electronic media of terms only a fraction of those reading SF are aware of or care about. A few illustrative examples -- or better yet, a whole section on terms from fandom -- might have sufficed. But do I really care about the etymology of 'groggle'? Do I need four pages on the various combos of 'fan' (faan, faanish, fafia, fafiate, fakefan, fanac, faned, fanfic, fan fiction, fanmag, fanne, fanning, fannish, fannishness, fanspeak)? I think not.

However, aside from these minor objections, this is a valuable text, one that should join the library of any serious student of science fiction.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Must have for sci-fi fans and an interesting read for everyone 2 May 2007
By Claire Epperly - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a great reference for Science Fiction fans and I think it will be of interest to all sorts of non-SF fans too. It's well written and surprisingly readable for a dictionary - there are sidebars scattered among the definitions on topics such as Time Travel, Expletives & Profanity, and of course Star Trek. The definitions are fascinating - for example, who knew that the word robot is derived from the Czech word for forced labor? I certainly didn't, and I've been reading books about robots practically since I learned to read. I also learned, among many useful pieces of information, that I am a passifan (as opposed to an actifan) - that is, I read SF, but don't actively participate in fan culture, and these two words have been used since the '40s. The author's blog (jeffprucher.com) is also interesting - especially the section on words that didn't make it into the dictionary and why. I recommend this dictionary for all sci-fi fans (acti and passi alike) and for anyone who's interested in language and pop culture.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
who knew? 5 Aug. 2007
By Kerry K. Novick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have been reading science fiction since I was a child, but never in an organized fashion, nor with the exclusive focus of fans or fanatics. This book, which I approached with the idea that it might be too specialized or dry, turns out to be fascinating! It reads like the best histories, with curiosities and discoveries on each page. It is a delight to learn the origins of terms, not least because it illuminates the creativity of sci-fi authors in mining their own knowledge bases for new locutions. Buy this book! You will read it more than you imagine.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fabulous book, a must-have reference title for sci-fi writers 8 Sept. 2008
By J. Roberts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This review is going to be short simply because nothing I can say could be as helpful in your decision-making as Gene Wolfe's very excellent introduction. I'll give you a minute to read it.

. . .

See? Wasn't kidding was I? Very well done.

Anyway, if you want the opinion of this unpublished non-science ficiton writer, I think that if you're interested in science fiction and if you're interested in language, then you ought to own this book.

This isn't like most of the Oxford Dictionaries I've seen. The definitions are scanty and the etymologies are long - but consider the subject matter. Most of the words in here are either rather common in modern parlance ("android," "spaceship") or highly idiosyncratic ("grok"), neither of which lend themselves well to wordy definitions. And, moreso than in most other subjects, the definitions of the words shift and change over time.

Also entertaining are the short essays between letters. They're entertaining and well-written, but also highly informative and on-point.

This isn't a book to sit down and read cover to cover for most people, but it's an excellent book to scan through and a helpful reference for those sci-fi words you've always wanted to know a bit more about. And, for someone like me who only participates in sci-fi fandom at the very edges, it's a handy glossary for a lot of industry terms as well.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Interesting, but could be a LOT better 11 Sept. 2009
By R. Matthew Sailors - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to echo a previous reviewer's comments about typographical and grammatical errors and the maddening lists of synonyms--just add them as additional "related words" in the main entry.

I'm also disappointed in the depth and breadth of coverage. While many of the individual entries are fine, many only cite examples from the first decade of a word or concept's use rather than including a broad spectrum of examples include some which might be recognizable to non-SF fans / family who want to understand what in the heck their SF-fan relative is raving about. Is it really necessary to have 8 examples of a concept's use from publications in 1920s and 1930s, when it has been better used in stories in the past decade?
The breadth of coverage is also lacking. Many important SF terms (yes, some author or story specific, but often still very important culturally) are omitted, even as specific examples within a more general entry.

I was expecting something more along the breadth of Nicholls and Clute's New Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and this is not it. It is still an interesting reference, but not at the list price.
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