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This page documents various policies on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database site. This includes both the ISFDB database itself as well as the attached wiki (where this page is located).

Privacy Policy

See Privacy Policy.

Conduct Policy


Policy intent: Anything that helps make the ISFDB a more useful and more reliable bibliographic tool is encouraged. Anything that hinders this process is discouraged.

Specific policy guidelines that will be used by ISFDB administrators:

  1. Spamming commercial information (gambling, porn, links, etc) will result in an immediate indefinite blocking of the user
  2. Blatant vandalism (blanking, obscenities, nonsense, etc):
    • 1st offense: an immediate 24 hour block and a canned message posted on the user's Talk page ("chill and come back later")
    • 2nd offense: a block for one week
    • 3rd offense: an indefinite block
  3. Personal attacks that are not obscene:
    • 1st offense - a canned warning on the user's Talk page
    • 2nd offense - a 24 hour block
    • 3rd offense - a week long block
    • 4th offense - an indefinite block
  4. Behavior that is otherwise non-constructive or disruptive will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Note that these are general guidelines. ISFDB Moderators and Bureaucrats may — in particularly egregious cases — deal with issues by skipping warnings, while repentant offenders may be given another chance. Moderators and Bureaucrats are trusted to use their discretion appropriately.

Originally posted by Ahasuerus 12:36, 10 May 2006 (CDT)

Appeals Policy

Decisions made by moderators can be appealed on ISFDB:Moderator noticeboard.

Biography Policy

Shortcut: BIOPOL

ISFDB author records include a Note field. The field can be used to enter a short, neutral, factual biography, professional in tone. See Help:Contents/Purpose#Biographies for more on what is and is not appropriate. Author records can also be linked to third party Web pages which host author biographies (author-maintained pages, Wikipedia, etc), but note that they may not be stable.

Contents/Project Scope Policy

Shortcut: SCOPE


Speculative Fiction

Many of these have been linked to Wikipedia articles about the subject to give the reader a sense of what is covered by each particular genre.


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 and dystopian fiction as long as it is recognizably fiction and not a treatise
  • Fabulation
  • Magic realism
  • Slipstream
  • Proto-science fiction, including but not limited to:
    • Lost world tales
    • Fantastic voyages
    • Scientific romance
    • 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:
  • Psychic and extrasensory abilities, including but not limited to clairvoyance, levitation, precognition, telekinesis, telepathy and teleportation, when presented as if they were real

Speculative fiction is defined to exclude:

  • Techno-thriller, political thriller and satire works set in a future indistinguishable from the present (?)
  • Fairy tales with no known author (?)
  • Animal books for very young children, i.e. books for preschoolers which depict simple scenes from animal life featuring anthropomorphized animals
  • 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)
  • Purely psychological horror works that feature no supernatural or fantastical elements


The ISFDB considers a work "published" if both of the following two conditions have been satisfied:

  • The work was made available to people and/or organizations (e.g. libraries) outside of the publisher
  • The work was made available for reading and not for reviewing or in-house editorial/technical tasks

This definition of "published" includes:

  • limited editions
  • book club editions
  • editions restricted to subscribers, including Patreon/Kickstarter editions
  • Advanced Reader Copies (under the name "e-ARCs" or any other similar name), but only if they were specifically produced for sale by the publisher

This definition of "published" excludes:

  • Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) except for rare cases where they were specifically produced for sale by the publisher

Note that not all works considered "published" are eligible for inclusion in the database. See ISFDB:Policy#Definitions_of_Speculative_Fiction and ISFDB:Policy#Rules_of_Acquisition for details.


Electronic content -- ebooks, audio books and so on -- is considered downloadable if the content provider made it publicly available as a file such as PDF, epub, mobi, MP3, MP4, and similar. It is not considered downloadable if the content needs to be converted to a file using tools such as Web browsers, browser extensions, or third party programs.

Rules of Acquisition


  1. Published works of speculative fiction, where "published" and "speculative fiction" are defined above:
    • paper books published by:
    • paper periodicals of the following types:
      • professionally published magazines (prozines)
      • semi-professionally published magazines (semi-prozines)
      • paper-based fanzines
      • newspapers
    • electronic publications of the following types:
      • e-books with a unique identifier such as an ISBN, ASIN, EAN, or catalog number
      • downloadable e-zines
      • Internet-based publications which are downloadable as electronic files in any number of ebook formats (ePub, Mobi, PDF, etc).
      • Webzines, which are defined as online periodicals with distinct issues (note that online periodicals without distinct issues are not considered webzines).
      • One time speculative fiction anthologies published on the Web
      • Online publications available exclusively as a Web page, but only if:
        • published by a market which makes the author eligible for SFWA membership (listed here), OR
        • shortlisted for a major award
    • audio books, which are defined to include readings and to exclude dramatizations, of the following types:
      • all physical audio formats such as audio disks, MP3 disks, audio players, cassettes and so on
      • digital audio books which are downloadable in any file format (Audible, MP3, MP4 and so on)
      • internet-based audio publications (such as podcasts, etc.) which are downloadable as electronic files in any number of formats (MP3, MP4, etc).
  2. Unpublished works of speculative fiction which have been:
    • announced as forthcoming within the next 90 days
    • announced but never published (entered as "unpublished")
    • published only in translation (the original should be entered as "unpublished")
  3. Published non-fiction works about speculative fiction which can be plausibly linked to published (as defined above) speculative fiction. This rule allows the inclusion of secondary bibliographies, i.e. bibliographies of bibliographies, which are two steps removed from published speculative fiction. It also allows the inclusion of non-fiction works about shared cross-media universes like "Doctor Who" and "Star Wars", but only as long as there is a plausible connection to the universe's published component. Thus a book about "Star Trek physics" can be included (because it applies to all types of media including novels) while a book about Star Trek movie outtakes and bloopers should be excluded.
  4. Works (both fiction and non-fiction) which 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 includes any non-genre works published as standalone books as well as non-genre short fiction, but excludes non-fiction which was not published as a standalone book. Thus, Poul Anderson's mysteries and his non-fiction book about thermonuclear weapons will be included, but Gregory Benford's professionally published scientific articles will be excluded.


  1. 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?
  2. Academia-produced magazines. Can we realistically compete with, say, the SFRD?


  1. Unpublished works of speculative fiction unless they fall within one of the categories explicitly listed in the "Included" section
  2. Works published in a web-based publication and available exclusively as a Web page -- such as blogs, author-run sites, fan fiction, web serials, etc -- unless listed in the Included section
  3. 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, Honoré de Balzac and other popular authors. Instead, we want to catalog their speculative fiction works only.
  4. Works unrelated to speculative fiction that are found in primarily non-genre publication that will be cataloged based on other criteria, e.g. a Norton anthology of 19 century literature or a Playboy issue that include a single speculative story. This is done to avoid having to catalog huge amounts of non-SF data.
  5. Dissertations

(Originally compiled by Ahasuerus on 2006-05-04. Updated by MHHutchins on 2014-08-05, based on the current practice. Further updated by MHHutchins on 2014-10-08, based on a Rules & Standards discussion.) For a list of changes since 2016 see Rules and standards changelog.

What to Include

This section will help editors to determine whether a contained work should be entered as a separate content record in a ISFDB publication record.

Contents always included

  • Fiction: All forms of fiction are always included.
  • Essays: Shorter works of nonfiction (other than reviews and interviews; see below) contained in a larger work, i.e. book or magazine, are entered as ESSAY type in the "Regular Titles" section of the data entry form. These include, but are not limited to:
    • Forewords, introductions, prefaces, afterwords, endnotes, etc.: These should all be included. Occasionally some pieces will be set in the fictional world of the novel; these do not get indexed separately as they are regarded as part of the novel's text.
    • Editorials: These are entered as ESSAY type, not EDITOR.
    • Science fact articles: Restricted to those published in a speculative fiction publication.
    • Letter columns. Letter columns should be included as a separate content record. Entered as ESSAY type.
    • Individual letters to the editor published in magazines: Entries may be restricted to significant letters by well-known speculative fiction personalities. Editors have the option to include other letters. All letters should be entered using the following format: "Letter (Title of Magazine, Date)". If the letter has a title, append a colon, a space, and the text of the title: "Letter (Title of Magazine, Date): Letter Title".
  • Reviews: Reviews of books and short fiction that are eligible for inclusion in the database based on the Rules of Acquisition should be entered into the "Reviews" section of the data entry form. A title in this section is automatically typed as REVIEW.
    • Reviews of media products (films, TV shows, games, music and dramatized recordings), stage productions, magazines and fanzines (regardless of their genre), and books that are not eligible for inclusion in the database (graphic novels, nongenre novels by authors that are below the threshold, nonassociational nonfiction works), should not be entered into the "Reviews" section of the data entry form. A record should be created in the "Regular Titles" section typed as ESSAY. If the review is not titled, this title format is suggested: Review of "Work" by Responsible Person(s). Descriptions of the type of work are also encouraged. For example: Review of the graphic novel "Agatha Heterodyne and the Clockwork Princess" by Phil & Kaja Foglio.
  • Interviews: These are entered into the "Interview" section of the data entry form, crediting both the interviewee and the interviewer. A title in this section is automatically typed as INTERVIEW. An author profile, which is usually entered as ESSAY, may contain substantial direct quotes from the author, and may also be entered as INTERVIEW.
  • Interior artwork: Works of art published inside the publication are entered into the "Regular Titles" section of the data entry form and typed as INTERIORART. For more information, see INTERIORART. Note: Cover art credit is entered into its own separate section of the data entry form. If there is a significant reproduction of the cover art inside the publication, it can also be entered as a separate INTERIORART record.

Contents included with exceptions

  • Story introductions: In some cases, anthologies or collections include introductions (or, less often, afterwords) to individual works. If these are short and amount to blurbs, they should not be indexed separately. When they amount to critical essays or otherwise have significant content, they should be included. This is always a judgment call. Such story introductions are often unsigned and untitled. If they occur in a single-author collection without a separate editor, they can usually be safely attributed to the author. If they occur in a collection or anthology with a single editor, they can usually be safely attributed to the editor. In an anthology (or collection) with multiple editors, such introductions (if they are being entered into the database) should be attributed to "uncredited" if there is no clear indication of who actually wrote them. If untitled, such items should be listed as "Story (Introduction)" (where "Story" represents the title of the story being introduced) or some similar form. In borderline cases, signed intros are more worthy of inclusion than ones which would need to be attributed to "uncredited".
  • "About the Author" and other biographical sketches: Include these when they are separate entries in the publication and are of substantial length or quality. Don't include them when they are part of a blurb or lead-in, or otherwise insignificant. Eligible works should be entered as ESSAYs.
  • Forthcoming announcements: Notes about what will be in future issues can be included if they are significant; for example, a single filler line at the bottom of a page doesn't get indexed, but an article, e.g. "In Times to Come", describing future issues, should be indexed. Other pieces may fall into this category; for example, a notice that the editorship is changing, or that a key figure associated with the magazine has died. The boundary between inclusion and non-inclusion is a judgement call here, and depends on length and significance.
  • Calendars: Calendar pages, such as "The Analog Calendar of Upcoming Events", should be indexed. Insubstantial listings should not.
  • Acknowledgments: Generally do not include. Occasionally an acknowledgments may contain more than a simple listing of copyright dates and thank-yous to friends and researchers; if it contains material such as reminiscences, opinionation or anything else likely to interest a reader or researcher, consider including it.
  • Reader polls: A clip-out coupon (or something similar) for readers to send in to vote on their favorite stories should not be included. A significant amount of text accompanying the poll coupon may be worth indexing, per the other rules. For example, a listing in the table of contents. The results of reader polls are likely to be worth recording, however; they will be entered as ESSAYs.
  • Dedicatory material: Dedications, as a rule, are never included, with one exception: when work from other authors is used as dedicatory or other introductory material. For example, Denise Levertov's poem "Come into Animal Presence" appears in introductory section of Ursula Le Guin's collection Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences. It is also included in the table of contents. Such an exception warrants that the work be indexed in the publication record.
  • Inserts: An item inserted into a book or magazine should be indexed under the same rules as if it were included in the main body. For example, some David Weber books include an Honorverse CD; this has its own ISBN and should be indexed as a separate title, with a note in the record that the CD is included. A poster insert in a magazine should be indexed as INTERIORART, with a mention in the Note field of the publication record that it was an insert.
  • Photography: As a general rule, photographs are not indexed. But, if the photograph illustrates a work, it should be entered as INTERIORART. Author photographs are usually not indexed. This determination is left to the record's primary verifiers.
  • Cartoons. Signed or significant cartoons are included; enter as INTERIORART. At the editor's discretion, incidental works may be omitted.

Contents never included

  • Tables of content: Do not create a separate content record for a table of contents. The contents shown in the table are included if they meet the individual criteria as explained in other areas of this help section.
  • Blurbs: Review quotes and author blurbs presented either on the back covers or dustjackets of books, or on the pages before the title page should not be indexed. Magazines often include lead-ins, or blurbs, before a story and these are also not included.
  • Advertising: No advertising of any kind is indexed, including calls for subscriptions, back issues, and plugs for conventions.
  • Quotations and other filler material: These are not included unless they fall within some other category, such as the table of contents rule mentioned above. For example, Analog periodically places quotes of interest to its readers in filler positions. This rule also applies to uncredited spot illustrations whose only purpose is to fill the last page of a story or essay.
  • Statements of ownership: Statutory statements of ownership and circulation are not included; nor are colophons, lists of editorial positions, and similar material. Information from this statement, such as circulation figures, may optionally be included in the Note field in a record's "Metadata" section.

Image linking policy

See ISFDB:Image linking permissions.

Moderator policy

See Moderator Qualifications. Moderators who have been inactive for over 12 months lose moderator privileges.


The ISFDB is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license. See Creative Commons License for details.

Data Deletion Policy

Like other major bibliographic sites, the ISFDB doesn't delete publications/titles that are known to have been published.

To the extent that the ISFDB collects biographical data, only publicly available sources are used. This means, among other things:

  • The ISFDB does not identify publicly undisclosed pseudonyms even if individual editors are aware of them
  • The ISFDB does not record e-mail addresses if they are intentionally obscured or spam-protected

If a living author (or their authorized representative) requests that the ISFDB remove the author's detailed biographical information, the ISFDB will comply after confirming the requester's identity. The ISFDB will remove as much biographical data as needed in order to accommodate legitimate privacy concerns while preserving, to the extent possible, the work of the editors who have compiled the data. A note will be added to the author's record explaining what type of information has been removed and why.