The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy
Themes, Works, and Wonders [3 volumes]
by Gary Westfahl
September 2005, 1612pp, 7x10
3 volumes, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-0-313-32950-0
$321, £247, 280€, A440
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.

Includes 400 alphabetically arranged entries on themes, followed by 200 alphabetically arranged entries on classic works of science fiction and fantasy, including novels, films, and television shows.

Works of science fiction and fantasy are enormously popular among students and general readers. The combined effort of some 150 expert contributors—including Richard Bleiler, John Clute, Ian Nichols, and Darrell Schweitzer—this encyclopedia discusses pervasive themes in science fiction and fantasy and gives detailed attention to selected novels, films, and television series. The first two volumes provide 400 alphabetically arranged entries on individual themes, while the last volume includes alphabetically arranged entries on 200 particular works. Accessible to a wide range of audiences, this encyclopedia is destined to be a favorite resource for anyone interested in fantasy and science fiction. While other references provide relatively brief entries, or offer essays on a limited group of writers, this encyclopedia gives extensive treatment to the most important themes and works of science fiction and fantasy across a range of media.

Gary Westfahl, and internationally recognized authority on science fiction and fantasy, has coordinated the effort of some 150 expert contributors. In addition, the project was shaped by an advisory board of some of the most distinguished names in the field, including: ; Richard Bleiler ; John Clute ; Fiona Kelleghan ; David Langford ; Andy Sawyer ; And Darrell Schweitzer.

Canonical works of science fiction and fantasy are central to the curriculum, while more popular works are being taught with greater frequency and often appear on summer reading lists. The format of this encyclopedia makes it an essential tool for students writing thematic essays, and teachers will also value it as guide for planning lessons. In addition to high school libraries, public libraries supporting student research or book discussion groups will welcome the lucid, thoughtful essays in this encyclopedia.


  • Includes 400 entries on themes.
  • Includes 200 entries on classic works.
  • Covers literature, film, and television.
  • Employs the talents of roughly 150 expert contributors.
  • Overviews canonical and contemporary works.
  • Entries on themes define and discuss the theme, relate it to works of science fiction and fantasy, and cite numerous resources.
  • Entries on works provide critical information and discuss central themes.
  • Provides an alphabetical list of entries.
  • Lists entries grouped in topical categories.
  • Entries are fully cross-referenced.
  • Includes a detailed index.
  • Offers a selected, general bibliography of major works on science fiction and fantasy.
  • Numerous quotations from classic works highlight themes in science fiction and fantasy.
Gary Westfahl is adjunct professor at the University of La Verne, CA. His previous books include No Cure for the Future (2002), Unearthly Visions (2002), Worlds Enough and Time (2002), Science Fiction, Canonization, Marginalization, and the Academy (2002), Science Fiction, Children's Literature, and Popular Culture (2000), Space and Beyond (2000), and Cosmic Engineers (1996), all available from Greenwood Press.


Locus 2005 Recommended Reading List, January 1, 2005


"This fascinating and well-written encyclopedia consists of two parts. The first part (volumes 1 and 2) takes 400 of the most popular themes found in both science fiction and fantasy literature, and puts them into historical and cultural context. The second (volume 3) contains entries for a selected list of classic novels, films, and television series; these include entries for all the different Star Trek series, Dr. Who, Farscape, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Twilight Zone, and The X-Files. The overall value and usefulness of this set is greatly increased by the treatment, within many of the individual entries, of how an individual theme developed over time in a variety of different science fiction and fantasy formats (short stories, novels, films, television series, comics, computer games, etc.), and in material that is outside the mainstream of science fiction and fantasy (fairy tales, folk tales, historical events, operas, classic literary works, etc.). A detailed index and extensive cross-references make this set equally useful for novice readers looking for more material on a particular theme and for professional writers. Recommended. All levels."—Choice, March 1, 2006

"This collection ... is a veritable treasure trove for any reader or writer who has ever wanted to expand their knowledge of Science Fiction and Fantasy in various mediums... Gary Westfahl ... has done a fantastic job of compiling three reading companions on topics far and wide, contributed by some of the best known and relevant writers of our time in the genre... Whether your taste is toward academic discussions or entertainment, the three volumes will entertain and illuminate your way through a genre that has never lost its appeal since it was officially given a shelf of its own. And no matter how well versed you are on the topic, you're sure to learn something new between the collective 2600 pages... I highly recommend The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders. You'd be hard pressed to find anything similar in book form that covers this much ground, and in such fine fashion. The foreword by Neil Gaiman is simply the cherry on the cake."—Simulacrum, January 1, 2006

"[T]his will be a useful inclusion in a library reference section.... Westfahl has done an admirable job..."—English, September 1, 2006

"[T]he first reference work that gathers everything you need right at your side with an overview, all in one place. More reliable than Wikipedia with just enough detail to give you the knowledge you need....Any library with a more than bare bones speculative fiction collection needs this...[a]s does anyone who is more than simply a fan of this literature....Westfahl should be quite proud of this work!"—Green Man Reviews, June 1, 2007

"[A] brave, well-researched and substantial endeavour..."—Reference Reviews, October 1, 2006

"This is an authoritative and extensive survey of themes and classic works of science fiction and fantasy stories, books, and themes. The articles are very accessible as to readability, logical arrangement, and print quality. Recommended."—Library Media Connection, September 1, 2006

"[T]here is plenty here to enjoy and appreciate."—Science Fiction Studies, January 1, 2006

"For readers of science fiction and fantasy, this is a guide to a literary genre that the editor considers the most liberating and expansive....[a] candidate for a shared purchase with the public library."—Reference for Students, January 1, 2005

"This is the wonderful sort of book that one keeps by the bedside, or one's reading chair, dipping into it to read an entry or two (and it's surprising how the hours can slip by as you follow the thread of one entry to another and another...).[i]t's also the sort of book that belongs in the homes of serious readers and writers of the genre, rather than being something you have to make a trip to the library to peruse. But investigate it you should, for it holds a wonderful wealth of information....[t]his is truly an indispensable reference tool."—Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1, 2006

"Science fiction and fantasy literture spark the imagination. This source captures some of that spark by providing a scholarly discussion of themes and classic works in both sci-fi and fantasy literature....Written in a way that will be accessible to both high-school, college, and adult readers, especially fans, it is recommended for public and academic libaries."—Booklist/Reference Books Bulletin, May 15, 2006

"In a field dominated with biographical guides, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy takes a thematic approach. Instead of examining the creative development of individual writers, the editors explore the treatment of 404 motifs and themes in fantastic literature. From demons, elder races and zombies to aliens, cyborgs and robots, a host of imaginary creatures are surveyed. The tour of magical places and settings stretches from lost worlds and visions of hell to black holes and asteroids....[T]he Greenwood Encyclopedia breaks new ground with essays on such broad themes as advertising, economics, evolution, prison, torture and touch. The essays are excellent guides for students seeking research topics, and each essay provides suggestions for further investigation....[s]ets an excellent course for exploring the larger themes of these popular genres of literature."—Lawrence Looks at Books, December 1, 2005

"The pithy and informative entries cover a lot of ground for both film and print formats in about two pages. Each one includes an overview paragraph; a survey of the theme with references to books, films, and possibly television shows; a brief discussion of the topic or classic under consideration; and a bibliography....With its excellent organization and cross-referencing, concise entries, and detailed index, The Greenwood Encyclopedia will be of interest to fans or students of these genres."—School Library Journal, March 1, 2006

"Over 400 entries cover all kinds of science fiction concerns, from literature to film and TV, and enjoys contributions from well over a hundred experts which discuss major genre themes, relates them to modern works, and provides reference material suitable for either browsing by genre fans or study by college-level literature majors. Volume 1 holds the major themes from imaginary worlds to curses, black holes and dragons; the second volume packs in related sub-themes from lost worlds to mad scientists, and Volume 3 provides the detailed reference to over 200 works of science fiction and fantasy by title. The overviews, bibliographies, and discussions are important for any serious student of science fiction and provide details on story variations and versions, major writers and trends, and more."—MBR Bookwatch, December 1, 2005
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