This is the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Many of the most commonly-asked questions are answered here. If you have questions about something here, please post your questions on the Community Portal or Moderator noticeboard.
How do I log in to the ISFDB?
On the left side of each ISFDB page is the "navigation bar" or "navbar". Near the top of this is a link that says "Log In" (or "Log Out" if you are already logged in). Click this to log in. On the Log in screen is a link to create an account if you don't already have one. Accounts are free. See Help:Screen:LogIn for more detail.
How do I log in to the ISFDB wiki?
At the upper right of each wiki page is a link that says "login/create account". Follow it to the Log in screen. Note that the ISFDB database and the ISFDB wiki use the same accounts, so your User ID and password will be the same. However, they use separate log in mechanisms, so logging in to (or out of) one has no effect on the other -- you must log in to each separately.
What do I do if I have problems logging in?
If you were able to log in before September 6, 2022 (which is when the ISFDB site was upgraded to HTTPS) and have been unable to log in since, you need to log in to the ISFDB Wiki first. Once you do that, you should be able to log in on the ISFDB side as well.
Other known issues which may prevent ISFDB users from logging in:
- The browser has cookies disabled
- The browser is Safari, which has reportedly caused problems for some users
- The user is trying to access the ISFDB using a URL other than https://www.isfdb.org
- The user is unaware that the user name is case sensitive (although the ISFDB Wiki lets you log in even if you use the wrong case)
- The user is unaware that the user name is automatically changed to have an initial capital letter
If none of the above applies and you still can't log in, post a question on the Community Portal, providing as many details about the problem and about your browser configuration as possible.
Why do browsers say that the connection to ISFDB is not secure or that a Web page has "mixed content"?
There are two primary ways to exchange data on the Internet: HTTP and HTTPS. HTTP was the original, less secure, method. HTTPS was created later and added an additional layer of security.
Starting in September 2022, all bibliographic data and images hosted by the ISFDB are displayed using HTTPS. However, some images displayed by ISFDB actually reside on third party computers which still use HTTP. When an ISFDB Web page contains an image that comes from an HTTP site, some browsers will not display the image. Other browsers may warn you that the page contains "mixed content", i.e. that it has embedded HTTP images, and is therefore "not secure".
What if I don't receive the confirmation email?
Different email servers have different automated rules which may block email coming from certain Web sites, which makes it hard to tell what's preventing ISFDB confirmation email from being delivered to your mailbox.
Note, however, that confirmation emails are optional as far as ISFDB is concerned. As long as you can log in, you have full access to all ISFDB features including Advanced Search, display preferences, submission creation etc.
How do I add or correct data in the ISFDB?
How do I edit wiki pages?
Where is a safe place for me to experiment with editing wikitext?
Your personal User Page (click on your name at the very top of the page) is usually a good place to start. The Wikipedia has a sandbox that includes a guided tutorial, although note that Wikipedia is on a newer version of the Wiki software, so there may be some differences. The ISFDB wiki has its own Sandbox, which anyone may use for tests or experiments, although it lacks the tutorial that the Wikipedia sandbox has. Another good way to learn is to pick a page and click the “Edit” link to see what the existing wikitext looks like.
How do I add publications to the ISFDB database?
On the main page, and many other pages, in the navigation bar on the left hand side is a section titled "Add New Data", which includes the following links:
- Add New Anthology
- Add New Chapbook
- Add New Collection
- Add New Fanzine
- Add New Magazine
- Add New Nonfiction
- Add New Novel
- Add New Omnibus
Follow the appropriate link. A Web page where the data for a new publication of the selected type can be entered will appear. Enter the available information and click the "Submit Data" button at the bottom. A moderator will review the submission. See Help:Screen:NewPub for more details.
When entering a new edition of a publication which is already present in the ISFDB Database, it is typically easier to display the existing publication first and select "Clone This Pub" in the navigation bar. The "Clone" option will let you re-use the existing publication's metadata and Content titles, significantly reducing the number of steps that you will need to take. See Help:Screen:ClonePub for details.
Author records are not entered into ISFDB directly. They are automatically added when Publications by that author are added or edited. Similarly, Author records are automatically created for any cover artists or interior artists listed in the Publication record. See Help: How to enter an author into the database for more detail.
How does the ISFDB deal with . . .
This section covers unusual bibliographic situations and describes how the ISFDB handles them.
How does the ISFDB deal with "split novels"?
Occasionally a novel will be published as a single volume, and then republished (perhaps in another country) as two or more separate volumes. For example, Peter Hamilton's "Night's Dawn" trilogy was republished as six volumes in the US. The first book, "The Reality Dysfunction", was republished as "The Reality Dysfunction, Part One: Emergence", and "The Reality Dysfunction, Part Two: Expansion". The other two volumes were treated similarly. In these situations, the books should be treated as novels, even though they form only part of a work published as a novel. Also note that the original book is still treated as a novel; it does not become an OMNIBUS because it contains two works published as novels. Situations like this should be documented in the notes, and if necessary discussed on the bibliographic comments page for the publications.
How does the ISFDB deal with dos-à-dos books such as Ace Doubles, and Tor Doubles?
Ace published hundreds of “doubles” from 1953 to the early 1970s, as did Tor between 1988 and 1991. These books are often bound "dos-à-dos" which is French for "back-to-back." (The correct term is "tête-bêche", meaning "head-to-toe".) The books have two front covers, each of which is "upside down" with respect to the other, requiring the reader to flip the book in order to read the second title. The more modern Tor books have the ISBN/barcode on one of the covers and that’s usually considered the "back" cover. The title of this cover should be considered the second title when titling the double for the ISFDB record. Later Tor Doubles were published as a standard book with a single cover and both works published in the same direction.
Ace Doubles should be entered into the ISFDB as omnibuses, because these were published as "novels" regardless of their actual word count. Occasionally one (or both) of the titles would be a collection of stories. The book publication record would still be typed as an omnibus.
Tor Doubles, the majority of which were publications of previously published titles, are entered based on the type of their constituent titles. If at least one of the titles was published as a novel (as in the case of The Color of Neanderthal Eyes / And Strange At Ecbatan the Trees), the Tor Double publication should be typed as an omnibus. If both parts of the double were originally published as SHORTFICTION (as Screwtop / The Girl Who Was Plugged In), the publication should be typed as an anthology (a collection of two or more stories by different authors.)
The title of the book publication is the titles of the two constituent parts separated by a slash (with surrounding spaces), like so: "Ill Met in Lankhmar / The Fair in Emyn Macha". Authors for each part are credited in the author field of the double publication. Occasionally both parts are written by the same author, so the author needs to be credited just once.
When entering the book into ISFDB give attention to both sides as the cover artist may not be the same. If two different cover artists are used, the art should be entered with both names, and a note left on the cover art title record explaining which artist did which cover. The contents of the book are then recorded as two novels or novellas, and the individual authors are credited for each story. Interior art, if it exists, can be recorded separately for each half of the book.
If one half of the book is an anthology or collection, the contents of the anthology/collection are also recorded as contents of the omnibus, since the ISFDB is not currently designed to display nested contents. An alternative method for dealing with this is to define a separate publication and to reference that in the dos-à-dos publication record. See Between Two Worlds / Messages Found in an Oxygen Bottle. Note that this method doesn't list contents, requiring the user to follow the link of the collection in order to view its contents. This approach also creates a "false" publication record for each part of the double, and should be the method of last resort.
How does the ISFDB deal with multiple printings of the same edition?
A single edition of a book may have separate "printings", which are usually documented on the so called "number line" (see the "Year" section of this Help page for more details.) The ISFDB creates one record per printing. The reason for this is that although in many cases separate printings can be almost indistinguishable, there are also many cases when they can be different, sometimes drastically so. Consider the two Ace Books printings of Alexei Panshin's Star Well. The first one appeared in October 1968, the catalog ID was G-756, the price was $0.50, the page count was 157 and the cover was done by Frank Kelly Freas. The second one was published in August 1978, it used an ISBN (0-441-78405-4) instead of an old style catalog ID, the price was $1.75, the page count was viii+211 and the cover was done by Vincent Di Fate. So here we have two books that are as different as any two paperbacks can be, yet according to the publisher they are two printings of the same edition!
When an editor is entering a later printing of an edition that we don't have on file, the recommendation is to create two separate Publication records. The first record is for the actual (i.e. later) printing that you are verifying and it should be dated 0000-00-00 if you don't know that printing's publication date. The second record is for the first printing of that edition and is created based on the publication information found in the later printing, with the source of information clearly stated in the Notes field and the record left unverified. That way we capture as much information as possible and our users can get a pretty good idea of the history of that edition. Unfortunately, this approach doesn't work too well when the imprint was changed in between printings, so it's not a rule but rather a guideline of limited applicability.
How does the ISFDB deal with "Portions of this story originally appeared in..."?
In some cases, a novel is expanded from a short or created as a fixup of several shorts. When this happens, we take a closer look at the resulting novel. If it is truly a novel and not a collection of linked stories, then we enter it a "Novel" and list the stories that it is based on in the Notes section. If it is a collection of linked stories and the stories are essentially the same as they originally appeared, then we enter the book as a "Collection" and list the stories in the Contents section.
If an individual story is rewritten or revised, then we create a Variant Title for it and add the nature of the changes, e.g. "expanded", "abridged" or "restored", in the Notes section. Please note that these conventions are likely to change in the foreseeable future as we beef up our software in this area.
How does the ISFDB deal with duplicate record names?
How does the ISFDB deal with Unicode and accented characters?
The ISFDB software supports all Unicode characters. Non-Latin characters are generally entered "as is" and do not present problems. Some ISFDB fields -- title, author name, legal name, publisher name, etc -- also have complementary "transliterated" fields which let editors enter one or more Romanized forms of Unicode titles/names.
However, due to technical limitations, the ISFDB software distinguishes between two types of letters derived from the original Latin alphabet:
- English letters and other Latin-1 (aka ISO 8859-1) letters, which include non-English characters used in many European languages like German, Danish, Swedish, Spanish and French (except for œ) -- see the bottom part of this table for a complete list of covered characters.
- Other Latin-derived letters used by Polish, Czech, Romanian, Hungarian, and other languages.
This distinction is important because the ISFDB software treats these types of characters differently when running searches and entering data. Let's compare Philip José Farmer and the Russian author Аркадий Стругацкий. They both have non-English characters in their names. If you enter "philip jose farmer" (note the use of the English "e" instead of the accented "é") in the regular Search box and click "Go", you will be redirected to Farmer's Summary page. If, on the other hand, you enter "аркадий стругацкий", the lower case form of Аркадий Стругацкий's name, your search won't find anything.
The reason for this difference is that the database "knows" that "p", "j" and "f" are the lowercase counterparts of "P", "J" and "F". Since "é" is part of Latin-1, the database also "knows" that "é" should be treated as the letter "e" for search purposes. On the other hand, Russian letters are not part of Latin-1, so the database doesn't "know" that the Russian letters "а" and "с" (which are not the same characters as the almost identically looking Latin letters "a" and "c") should be treated as "А" and "С" during searches.
This distinction also affects the way data is entered into the database. During the data entry process, the ISFDB software checks the entered field values for authors, publishers, series, and publication series against what's already on file. If it finds a match, then the software will use the record that is already on file. For example, if you enter "MARY shelley", the software will use "Mary Shelley" instead since the latter is already on file. If you enter "philip jose farmer", it will use "Philip José Farmer" because the latter is already on file. However, if you enter "аркадий стругацкий", it will treat it as a new name because it has no way of telling that it's the same name as "Аркадий Стругацкий".
A title's author name(s) are entered into the ISFDB database the way they appear on the publication's title page -- see Template:PublicationFields:Author for details. If another version of a publication credits the author(s) differently, then we create a separate publication record for it.
Once it has been confirmed that two or more author names refer to the same person and that the connections are publicly known, one name is selected as the author's "canonical" name and the rest are designated "alternate names". The name chosen to be the canonical name is the most recognized name for the author within the SF genre.
Note that the canonical name need not be the same as any of the author's legal names or socially used names. For example, Alice Bradley Sheldon's most recognized in-genre name is James Tiptree, Jr. and Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger's most recognized in-genre name is Cordwainer Smith -- see Template:AuthorFields:CanonicalName for details. All of the author's names are then linked within the ISFDB software to display the author's bibliography on the canonical name page -- see Help:How to record an alternate name for details. If the most recognized in-genre name changes, the software connection is changed to use the new name as the canonical name.
What are the different kinds of series available in the ISFDB?
A Title series or a Content series is a series with related stories, characters, or settings, such as the Harry Potter series or the Star Trek books. It may consist of works of fiction, non-fiction or a mix of the two.
All publications of a work belong to the same title series, and no work can be in two different title series at the same time. The ISFDB supports an arbitrary complex hierarchy of subseries for title series.
A publication series is a set of similarly packaged books designated by the publisher (or publishers), often related only in theme or marketing. They may share an editor, or a presenter, or merely be grouped by the publisher. For example, the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series or the Millennium / Gollancz SF Masterworks series are publication series.
Different publications of the same work may belong to different publication series. The ISFDB does not support subseries for publication series.
See Help: How to work with series for more details on both kinds of series.
All ISFDB records can be linked to directly. The URL format hasn't changed since the early 2010s, so it's fairly stable. Some of the more popular link types are:
- ea.cgi - This displays the ISFDB bibliography for one author. The URL takes the ID of an author in the database as its argument. Author IDs are stable as long as the author record remains in the database. You can also use the author's name as the argument.
- title.cgi - This displays bibliographic information for one title. The URL takes the ID of a title record as its argument. Title IDs are stable as long as the record remains in the database. A title ID may disappear if the title is deleted or merged with another title.
- pe.cgi - This displays all titles associated with a particular series. The URL takes the ID of a series record as its argument. A series can only deleted from the database if all of its titles have been removed from the series or deleted.
- pl.cgi - This displays bibliographic information for one publication. The URL takes the ID of a publication as its argument. In the past you could also use "publication tags" to link to publications, but this functionality has been deprecated and is no longer supported.
- publisher.cgi - This displays bibliographic information for one publisher. The URL takes the ID of a publisher as its argument. A publisher record is automatically deleted from the database if all of its publication records have been moved to another publisher or deleted.
- pubseries.cgi - This displays bibliographic information for one publication series. The URL takes the ID of a publication series as its argument. A publication series record is automatically deleted from the database if all of its publication records have been moved to another publication series or deleted.
Note that the only way for database IDs to change is for a record to be deleted from the database and then to be re-added.
Four Wikipedia templates have been created for linking from Wikipedia articles to ISFDB author bibliographies, titles, publications, and series. Extensive usage information is provided, at least on each template's page at English Wikipedia:
Every such template works only for the Wikipedia language it was designed for. The "Languages" block in the margin of a template page provides links to versions of the same template that are available for other Wikipedia languages --numerous other languages for the Author and Title link templates.
How do I know that an ISFDB record is accurate?
We have attempted to include only accurate data. However, initial data comes from various sources, including older bibliographic databases, advance publisher information, and vendor information. Some of these contain inaccuracies. In some cases errors have been made in the process of entering data into the ISFDB. Verified records have greater assurance of accuracy.
What is Primary Verification?
Many publication records have been Primary verified. This means that at least one ISFDB user has compared the record with the actual book, magazine, ebook or other document, and stated on record that the information recorded was correct. More recently, verifiers are also expected to make sure that a record is complete as well as accurate. The User ID and timestamp of the primary verifier(s) are recorded and displayed with the publication record.
What is Secondary Verification?
Many Publication records have been Secondary Verified. This means that the record has been compared against a specified "secondary source" (one of a limited approved set of such sources). Either all information in the record agrees with the record in the source, or else any differences have been mentioned in the notes. Note that not all secondary sources include all the kinds of data that the ISFDB records. Only those data that the secondary source includes are checked. See Help:How to verify data#Verification sources for a list of sources that the ISFDB uses for secondary verification.
A publication may be secondary verified against multiple verification sources. A record may be both primary and secondary verified.
What if I want to make a change in a verified publication record?
If you are adding data to a primary verified publication record, you should normally notify the verifier on his or her talk page. (Some users have constructed special pages for this purpose, please read and follow any special requests such users place at the tops of their talk or user pages.) If you want to change or remove information, please ask the verifier first. If the verifier doesn't respond in a week or so, post a note on the Moderator noticeboard and someone will help you.
What if I want to ask the verifier a question?
Post a note on his or her talk page. Check that page until the verifier responds.
How do I find the verifier's talk page?
The publication record displays the User ID(s) of the verifier(s), along with the verification timestamp. Each User ID links to the verifier's User Page. Click the "Discussion" tab on that page to find that user's talk page. Check for any special instructions at the top of the page. Click the "+" tab to create a new section (thread) on the page.
I have a copy of a book listed in the ISFDB. How do I verify it?
Follow the steps described at Help:How to verify data. If the current record is incorrect or incomplete, first use the "Edit This Pub" function to update it, correcting any errors and adding any missing information. After the submission to update the record has been accepted by a moderator, you may then verify it. Note that you must be logged in to edit or verify publications.
How do I identify an artist's signature?
How do I submit bug reports and feature requests?
ISFDB administrators may post announcements on this Blogspot Web page in case of extended unscheduled downtime or connectivity problems. There are no other official or ISFDB-endorsed Web sites, Web pages or social media accounts. Non-ISFDB Web sites and social media accounts maintained by individual ISFDB contributors (editors, moderators and administrators) are independent of the ISFDB and are not endorsed by it.
How do I use the ISFDB to find the most popular/acclaimed SF works?
While viewing any ISFDB page, find the "Statistics/Top Lists" link in the navigation bar on the left and click it. It will take you to the ISFDB Statistics and Top Lists page, which includes the following relevant sections:
- Authors/Editors Ranked by Awards and Nominations, which lists separate links for novels, short fiction, etc, which are further broken down by decade
- Titles Ranked by Awards and Nominations, which lists separate links for for novels, short fiction, etc, which are further broken down by decade and by year
- Most-Reviewed Titles (in genre publications), which are also broken down by decade and by year
The "Most-Viewed Titles" section, the "Most-Viewed Authors" page, and the "Top Novels/Short Fiction as Voted by ISFDB Users" pages may also be of interest.
The ISFDB database includes well over 60,000 individual award and nomination records which can be used to identify popular and/or critically acclaimed works and their authors. They can be found by accessing the ISFDB Award Directory, which is linked from the navigation bar. Note that some awards are country-, language-, subgenre-, theme- or audience age-specific.
In addition to awards given to titles, some genre organizations give lifetime awards. For example, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America gives "Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Awards" and "Special Author Emeritus" awards while First Fandom gives "First Fandom Hall of Fame Awards".
Another ways to find works considered "best" or "classic" is to select "Publication Series" in the drop-down list within the "Search the database" box on the left and search for a relevant keyword. For example, a search on "Master" finds "Masters of Fantasy", "Masters of Science Fiction" (by 2 different publishers), "Modern Masters of Science Fiction", "Millennium / Gollancz Fantasy Masterworks", etc. A search on "Classic" finds "Ballantine's Classic Library of Science Fiction", "British Library Science Fiction Classics" and many other publication series.
I need help finding a book
You can always ask at the ISFDB:Community Portal as many editors here are very knowledgeable about speculative fiction books. In addition, these sites have proved useful in finding books: