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DAW Catalogs

User talk:A.kesrith just e-mailed me a scan of part of the 1996 DAW Catalog Order Form. This turns out to be amazingly useful in terms of updates for the DAW list. If anyone has DAW catalogs for other years I'd love to see them. I believe the DAW catalogs have three parts. The first couple of pages are the new and reissued books for each month of the year. The second part is three pages long and seems to be all of the currently in-stock books broken down by author and series. The third part is about 20 pages and has descriptions of all the books with photos, etc. At the moment I'm mainly interested in the first part though the second part can be handy too. I don't need the third part. For 1996 A.kesrith sent the pages (first and second part) as 300-dpi scans which works out well for me though if you are really constrained I believe it should still be readable down to 75-dpi. Thank you. Marc Kupper (talk) 18:09, 12 May 2007 (CDT)

New encyclopedia

Hi everyone, maybe I shouldn't, but I'm taking the liberty of posting the following info, which I'm sure at least *some* of you will find of interest:

You've probably already heard about it, but one of the original Wikipedia founders has started a new project: a Wikipedia-like encycl. that has some serious controls on it. Anyone who wants to be an Editor or Author has to submit an application, along with a biography; they are then invited to join or not. Only *real* names can be used, no nicks. And there are "Constables" that can ban people instantly and forever. So, whether the project succeeds or not, at least it won't be plagued by vandals, crazies, and Soup Nazis....

The articles are supposed to be written by, and vetted by, *experts*!

It's still in its infancy: there are hardly any articles. I joined a couple of days ago and have already transferred a couple of major articles from Wiki that I worked on there and that were hacked at by butchers over the years.... Perhaps you would care to take a look at it: at least you would have a virgin field to be working in. I put in a brief article about my friend Dave Alexander -- he's the first science-fiction/mystery writer to be there!

If you do apply to join, a word of warning: it took them about 3 or 4 days to process my application. There was a recent article about CZ in the latest issue of PC Magazine and that may have stirred up a lot of potential applicants. Eventually, however, they'll get around to you.

It's sure a nice feeling to know that some idiot with an agenda (or a screw loose) won't come in and hack away at my edits!Hayford Peirce 15:13, 12 May 2007 (CDT)

As I wrote on rec.arts.sf.written on 2006-10-17:
Larry Sanger, one of WP's co-founders, has some ideas in the area:
We'll see if this Citizendium gets farther than Nupedia did. Once he opens the doors to outside submissions, I'll throw together a few articles and see what happens to them.
I haven't submitted anything to Citizendium yet, in part because they have changed their rules from "real names and credentials are required for moderators only" to "we currently grant pseudonyms only for certain special cases. Privacy concerns that apply to everyone are not a sufficient reason". But the big question is how far they will be able to get using the current model. After all, Nupedia, which used a somewhat similar model, folded when it had 24 completed and 74 partial articles.
On the other tentacle, I haven't done almost any work on Wikipedia (including the SF portal) in almost a year either, in part because I have been so busy here and in part because Wikipedia's model is very time consuming if your areas of interest are even remotely controversial. It's an interesting but somewhat complex subject, so I won't repeat what I said on Usenet last year in [1], [2], [3] and especially [4]. Of course, the question of Wikipedia's reliability has been very much in the news since the Essjay incident.
Back on topic, I am sure we can add a new "Link to Citizendium" field to our Author records if and when they have a critical mass of SFnal articles. Ahasuerus 00:31, 13 May 2007 (CDT)

Nomination statement

I nominate WimLewis (talkcontribs) for moderatorship; he has accepted the nomination. Wim has over 2000 edits to date. After approving hundreds of his submissions, I can attest to the fact that his data entry error rate is very low and that he understands the application as well as most moderators. Wim is also a programmer by day and has a copy of the ISFDB running on his home PC, so he has a deeper level of understanding of the underlying issues involved than most of us. He is also a good communicator -- see his Talk page for examples. Ahasuerus 23:10, 13 May 2007 (CDT)


  1. Support, as nominator. Ahasuerus 23:10, 13 May 2007 (CDT)
  2. Support. I agree, he's been a good editor with some interesting insights into the database. BLongley 12:58, 14 May 2007 (CDT)
  3. Support. Definitely has my support. --Unapersson 13:55, 14 May 2007 (CDT)
  4. Support. Has done much good work and should be brought on board. (Scott Latham 15:02, 14 May 2007 (CDT))
  5. Support. I don't recall ever seeing any bad edits, and Wim's been promptly and clearly responsive to any questions I've asked. And if he can understand the inner workings of the db, he's got something over me! Mhhutchins 17:52, 14 May 2007 (CDT)
  6. Support. Mike Christie (talk) 18:43, 14 May 2007 (CDT)
  7. Support. Cool - we need more vic^h^h^hmoderators! :-O Marc Kupper (talk) 00:14, 15 May 2007 (CDT)
  8. Support per consensus. --JVjr 14:56, 15 May 2007 (CDT)



Just a comment, I'm Positive (as stated above) rather than Neutral over Wim. I'm just a bit concerned that only Mods have voted this time so far. And looking back, the last few votes on Moderators have only come from Moderators or those about to become Moderator. Please go remind Editors that their votes are valued too! And not just from ones that WANT to be Mod themselves soon - a comment from Swfritter, for example, would reassure me that we're not getting too elitist. BLongley 17:25, 15 May 2007 (CDT)
One of the reasons i don't comment is because as an editor i'am unable to see the quality of their submissions, only the verifications when i run across them. Consequently i have very little bases for an opinion.Kraang 19:48, 15 May 2007 (CDT)
Actually, that's a very good point: we are all a bit blind as to what other people are doing, we don't have a lot of links to recent edits or verifications to go check on whether an editor is adding value or not... that probably leads to a few feature requests, when I (or anyone else that feels strongly) have time. I know I did make an effort to look at what I COULD see the hard way (i.e. look at "recent edits" and go copy and paste the "subject text" into search). It's not impossible to go look at another editor's work, but we're not exactly making it easy. And the longer we're left as unchallenged Mods who find it rather easier to look at each other's work, but daren't undermine the "authority" of another Mod, the worse it could get... Aw, I'm getting grumpy again. :-( Ahasuerus, get the blackjack out once more, Kraang is making too much sense! BLongley 16:29, 16 May 2007 (CDT)
Sorry I've not been active recently (lots of reasons) but I wanted to stick my oar in here. I think Kraang's right that it's hard to evaluate the quality of submissions. I think the reason to promote an editor to moderator is not because we need more moderators; it should be enough to see that they know what they're doing and can be trusted to learn the rest without messing up. Good communications skills are part of that of course, but someone who has no intention of ever approving anyone else's edits could still be very useful as a moderator as they will become more productive. So I think the goal is that all active editors who communicate well and seem reliable should be moderators. Then lots more people will be in a position to vote (and nominate). Mike Christie (talk) 14:14, 17 May 2007 (CDT)
Even if a few of the more active experienced Editors were to be allowed to "approve" their won edits, it would alleviate some of the backlog that sometimes appears and would ease the work of the present Mods. Then other "newbies" like me wouldn't feel so bad when we continue to add to our queues of edits "Waiting Verification" when they start backing up to several screens worth. CoachPaul 16:11, 17 May 2007 (CDT)
Hey, NEVER feel bad about submitting good edits! I'd rather deal with a hundred of those than one edit updating every title, author and page number in a big anthology. :-/ So keep editing, CoachPaul, and don't worry about the queue lengths!
There's lots of room for improvements in submissions and approvals - e.g. why does it take a mod to approve a title-merge of absolutely identical titles? Or to approve the addition of page-numbers (and nothing else) to a pub? Those should be automatic. And some things are too easy instead - why does "Duplicate candidates" keep offering the option of merging a Shortfiction title with a Collection under the same name that didn't have an "and other stories" suffix? There's still some SERIOUS dangers in giving Mod capabilities to someone that you really only want to cover their own specialities. But we don't have a "self-approving Editor" level, although one would be nice if the safety-limits were in place: and we don't have a major supply of programmers either. (Well, we do, but not ones that CAN change things here.) In the meantime, we have editors, moderators, bureaucrats and the programmer. I suspect some editors would be upgraded to self-moderators if there was such a level: and some moderators might be down-graded as well, if put to a public vote. But let's work with what we have for now - if we can add some more transparency about what people are doing, GOOD! BLongley 18:44, 17 May 2007 (CDT)
We have Disembler and I have been thinking about her evil twin, Veritas, that would auto-approve things like merges with absolutely identical contents, etc. and maybe even look at pub-adds and auto-merge the contents that match existing records. Before unleashing self-approving editors I'd want to see ISFDB's sanity checking beefed up a lot as what the moderators often catch are typos that the code could detect. Marc Kupper (talk) 00:05, 18 May 2007 (CDT)

Outcome: Nomination has been closed. WimLewis has been made a moderator as per community consensus. The decoder ring and the cape are in the mail. Ahasuerus 01:30, 19 May 2007 (CDT)

Thanks for the votes of support, everyone! I will attempt not to go mad with power (mad, I tell you). --WimLewis 01:15, 21 May 2007 (CDT)
Congratulations! Now go post your availability on the Mod noticeboard! ;-) (And it had better be higher than mine!) BLongley 18:54, 21 May 2007 (CDT)

Nominating Wim Lewis for moderatorship

Ref: Moderator Qualifications#Becoming a moderator for the nomination process.

You have to laugh, or else you cry...

Sometimes I despair at some of the crap we have here (although thanks to all you pooper-scoopers it's getting rarer). Sometimes I laugh though. Look at this pub. Publisher: Ulverscroft Large Print. Binding: audio. Is this the Gumby edition? BLongley 16:54, 23 May 2007 (CDT)

Maybe it's for people who are hard of hearing and they SPEAK VERY LOUDLY! CoachPaul 18:13, 23 May 2007 (CDT)
We still have tons of bad data, but there have been a lot of changes for the better in the last few months. It's a nice feeling when you check a Title's Publications against Worldcat's records and it turns out that we have more data on file than OCLC with their 57,000 participating libraries, 84,000,000 records and 600,000,000 copies! And then you look up some poor neglected Author and are immediately yanked down to Earth :) Ahasuerus 00:57, 24 May 2007 (CDT)
ISFDB's data is fine - Ulverscroft is a UK publisher that specializes in large print books but has also branched out into audio books. I suspect they have ongoing accounts with public libraries that must be used to paying $72 for an audio book. They are at Marc Kupper (talk) 01:57, 24 May 2007 (CDT)
It's not so much the data, it's the fact that it hasn't been massaged into something more meaningful yet - yes, it could be argued it's the right company (maybe - I don't know if Ulverscroft Large Print Books own the Ulverscroft GROUP, or vice versa) - but this surely would look a bit less silly under the "Isis" imprint that I'm pretty sure this was released under? BLongley 13:53, 24 May 2007 (CDT)
Being more serious: the price isn't that unreasonable - they're unabridged audio books and run to many more cassettes or CDs than usual. Although this does suggest that 'audio' is an unreasonably broad category for us to use, as which format was it? And I suppose it's possible that the CD or Cassette COVER is Large Print. Although the few pictures I've found online suggest it's not large enough for us to read the full publication details.... :-/ BLongley 13:53, 24 May 2007 (CDT)

Fanzines available

From Ansible: "_Brian Stableford_ makes room, makes room: `I'm trying to clear some space in the garage in order to displace more books from the house. At the BSFA meeting last night [27 June] I offered 40 years' worth of randomly-accumulated fanzines free to anyone who cared to collect them, but there wasn't a flicker of interest. If you know of anyone who might want to save them from the recycling bin, tell them to get in touch.' Contact via _Ansible_." Email address is Mike Christie (talk) 09:51, 3 Jul 2007 (CDT)

I presume that's a manageable trip for me - if Brian can get to London for a single evening meet, I can probably get to his place on a weekend - or in my week off at worst if he was making a (UK-based) holiday of it. I'm not sure how large a collection that is (I'll ask) - but although I don't want to see such a resource destroyed I doubt I'd keep more than a few. I'm willing to collect, sift out my wants, and store others temporarily if anyone else here can make use of them (we can discuss postage costs before any commitment to take them) but as we only have 48 Fanzines here last time I checked, are they something people here are interested in? Would they get entered here? BLongley 16:36, 4 Jul 2007 (CDT)
I am rather surprised that "there wasn't a flicker of interest" at that BSFA meeting. There are (or at least used to be) dedicated fanzine collectors in the field and I would expect them to jump at the offer unless the "randomly-accumulated fanzines" were very common. Ahasuerus 01:22, 5 Jul 2007 (CDT)
I don't know who goes to the BSFA meets - it may be they think they already have them all. Anyway, a Danish fan wants them rescued so I may yet end up with a major chunk of them temporarily. It had BETTER be temporarily. BLongley 15:42, 5 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Mission accomplished. There was a bit more than expected: I was told 10 boxes, there are 11, plus another 10 bags of stuff. I've done a first pass through the bags and dumped some notes on my user page. I'll start looking at the boxes tomorrow, some of which look to be more organised. BLongley 20:22, 14 Jul 2007 (CDT)

McKenna vs. Martin McKenna

Would anybody happen to know anything about "McKenna", who did a number of covers (and some interior illos) for If/Galaxy in the 1960s? I have just finished separating his biblio from Martin McKenna's. The latter is definitely a different person since he was born in 1969. Any additional information about the original "McKenna" would be appreciated since he is not in Tuck/Clute/etc. Artists are not one of my strong suits :(

P.S. The database connection has been very very slow today and now I am getting the dreaded "Cannot connect to the MySQL database" error. Ahasuerus 17:34, 26 May 2007 (CDT)

When I see something like this I look for people with similar names with similar work in that time period. McKenna shows artwork from 1963 to 1968. A Richard McKenna also has a cover in 1964. Richard P. McKenna is uncertain - he has one essay in 1965 and Google did not find any instance where the essay is credited to someone else but several credits just say "McKenna". Are all three of these the same person? Here's a bio [5] [6] on Richard M. McKenna which seems to have a lot of detail, including his death in 1964 which kinda rules him out... One thing that confused me was the Google result for "'Richard McKenna' artist" says "Richard McKenna, author of the Sand Pebbles novel. ... Novel It has been suggested that McKenna (also an artist) created the artwork for the ..." but data must have been edited off the page long ago.
Anyway - I have a headache and am confused as I see references to Richard McKenna as an artist but it's not quite enough yet to see if this is also the "McKenna" who did the magazine covers. Marc Kupper (talk) 22:27, 29 May 2007 (CDT)
Thanks for the legwork, Marc! I am familiar with Richard (Milton) McKenna's work as a writer -- he was one of the promising new voices in the late 50s/early 60s SF before he got sidetracked into writing award winning mimetic fiction -- but it never occurred to me that he may have been responsible for SF art work. One of his online bios claims that "art was one of his favorite hobbies", so it's something to consider.
The big problem with this hypothesis is that covers signed by "McKenna" began appearing in 1963 and continued uninterrupted until mid-1966, with 2 more appearing in 1967 and 1968. Perhaps If had a stack of Richard McKenna's art before he passed away in 1964, but it seems unlikely given the need to keep the cover art in synch with the stories. On the gripping hand, McKenna did leave half a dozen SF stories in his desk that were published posthumously between 1966 and 1971, so anything is possible. At some point I will need to scan my 1964 Ifs to see if there are any hints to be found... Ahasuerus 23:44, 29 May 2007 (CDT)

Nominating Kraang for moderatorship

Ref: Moderator Qualifications#Becoming a moderator for the nomination process.

Nomination statement

I nominate Kraang (talkcontribs) for moderatorship; he has accepted the nomination. After approving hundreds of his nearly 2000 submissions, and seeing the talk-sessions about many others, I can attest to the fact that he is qualified.


  1. Support, as nominator. Marc Kupper (talk) 22:49, 29 May 2007 (CDT)
  2. Support. I haven't been active as a mod recently, but I remember seeing quite a few of Kraang's submissions, and he's clearly active, engaged, and pretty careful. I think giving him the moderator bit will make him even more productive. Mike Christie (talk) 23:09, 29 May 2007 (CDT)
  3. Support. I can attest to the low error rate of Kraang's submissions in the novel/collection arena. As Kraang has indicated on his Talk page, he is less familiar with the magazine side of the process, so caution will need to be exercised there. Kraang is also good at contacting other editors when he encounters errors or potential problems, although I recommend downloading Firefox 2.0, which has a built-in spellchecker :) Ahasuerus 23:52, 29 May 2007 (CDT)
  4. Support. Low error rate, dogged persistence, good communications: what's not to like? I also support the notion that our aim should be to move folks quickly to moderator status, once they've picked up the basics and learned the quirks. (Scott Latham 12:19, 30 May 2007 (CDT))
  5. Support. The more the merrier! His submissions are consistently good, and, unlike a few editors, he ACTUALLY RESPONDS TO INQUIRIES (how bizarre!) Mhhutchins 15:19, 30 May 2007 (CDT)
  6. Support. He's niggled me about my past mistakes enough that he obviously knows and cares about accuracy. If he gets too uppity, I'll just remind him that I've spotted his name against some verified van Vogt titles and he hasn't volunteered yet... ;-) BLongley 16:56, 30 May 2007 (CDT)


Comments/Neutral Just a comment: I got here despite the link taking me to WimLewis's Nomination, so people might want to vary their Nomination Statement posts a little bit more. But that did remind me I was the first to tell people to press-gang him ("Ahasuerus, get the blackjack out once more, Kraang is making too much sense!"), even if I'm late in this thread... ;-) BLongley 16:56, 30 May 2007 (CDT)

Kraang is now a moderator. Mike Christie (talk) 05:27, 4 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Scholastic's number line

I am not sure I understand Scholastic's number line conventions. Could somebody with a clue take a look at this Laurence Yep Publication and clarify what the number line is trying to say? Thanks! Ahasuerus 23:52, 29 May 2007 (CDT)

The pub-notes say "No price or cover artist stated. "Book Club edition RL5 010-012". Copyright 1991. "First Scholastic printing October 1992." Number line: "12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 (spaces) 2 3 4 5 6 7/9"."
  • "RL5 010-012" -> Reading Level 5 (5th grade) or ages 10 to 12
  • "12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1" -> This is the printing # - 1st printing in this case.
  • "2 3 4 5 6 7/9" -> This is the year of printing - 1992 in this case with the "/9" signifying is 199x.
Do we have a help page somewhere with number lines? I know there was a community chat a while back where I documented various number line formats and we might as well add this to the list. Marc Kupper (talk) 14:41, 30 May 2007 (CDT)
That would be great! Ahasuerus 15:10, 30 May 2007 (CDT)
The old discussion is at ISFDB:Community Portal/Archive/Archive06#Printing # Number Line and so I'll see if I can convert that into a help page this weekend. BTW, my most recent convention has been to just state the whatever is in the publication much like what you have at THSTRFSHRL1992 that started this thread. I'm doing this for a couple of reasons. 1) It keeps publication entry objective. 2) There may be something in the wording or number line that means something to others. Marc Kupper (talk) 20:44, 30 May 2007 (CDT)
I realized I did not understand the structure of the help pages and so have started a Site Map and once I have that filled in I'll hopefully see a good place to insert publisher help pages. Of course, like any old-house remodeling project, once I dug in I then saw that help pages were never created for the title-merge pages (Titles and Dup Candidates). Marc Kupper (talk) 03:39, 3 Jun 2007 (CDT)
A new complication: it seems there's now a LETTER-line to consider. :-(
I invite you all to go to this book, go to Copyright Page, and see the "A C E G H F D B" for yourself. Head-Desking and Weeping-in-Frustration may follow. BLongley 15:28, 23 Sep 2007 (CDT)

Some users inadvertently blocked from using the ISFDB Wiki

As some of you know, as of this morning (US time) there is a problem with the ISFDB Wiki software preventing some users from posting because it thinks that that they share the IP address with a known Chinese link spammer who was blocked 5 days ago. I don't know why this problem would rear its ugly head now, but we have seen it in the past, although, thankfully, not recently. I will leave Al a message and see what I can do in the meantime. Sorry about the frustration! Ahasuerus 12:28, 30 May 2007 (CDT)

I have temporarily unblocked the link spammer. If you were having problems with the Wiki, please try again and see if you can post now. Ahasuerus 12:32, 30 May 2007 (CDT)
If you still can't log on, please e-mail me at my user name (ahasuerus) at and I will see what I can do. Thanks! Ahasuerus 12:46, 30 May 2007 (CDT)

Yay! We're back!

What did other people do while we couldn't get here? BLongley 17:34, 31 May 2007 (CDT)

I kept finding reminders of what I was missing. E.g. this news post links back via (see "dystopian future" in the article) to a pub that has coverart from the Jim Gardner that Marc and I want here as an editor. And this pub reminds me that we're actually quite lucky in what we have to look at day-to-day. (Please don't tell me that talking, smoking, whiskey-drinking horses makes it count as speculative fiction... if "Sylvia Scott Gibson" ever gets into this database, I will seriously consider quitting editing!) Can we ban ISBN '0-533-09102-0' just in case? BLongley 17:34, 31 May 2007 (CDT)

I mostly worked on non-ISFDB stuff plus verified books into a spreadsheet. I don't think Gardner will show up here. He's a tiny bit annoyed at ISFDB because he offered his magazine database to someone years ago and was ignored... The database (and his computer) was munched by a virus recently. As he noted, backups are for losers. As awards seem to be a thing to do in spec-fict I guess we will need to have a Sylvia Scott Gibson award. Marc Kupper (talk) 17:51, 31 May 2007 (CDT)
It would make a nice change from Bulwer-Lytton, for sure... but I don't want to read stuff like that too often! Let's make it an occasional award from those editors that have been forced, or felt it necessary, to read something awful, in the interests of the ISFDB. (And no posting a Verification request for "B*ttle-Field E*rth" to make the newbies try it!) ;-) BLongley 18:23, 31 May 2007 (CDT)
Well, we have Harry Stephen Keeler's John Jones's Dollar, which foreshadows the glories (some would say "horrors") to be found in his later works. A few of them were somewhat SFnal, so some (un)lucky editor may end up scanning all 70ish novels for specfic contents yet.
As far as Jim Gardner goes, unfortunately, he was not the only person to try to contact somebody at the ISFDB in the early 2000s, when Al was effectively unavailable and there was no backup, and fail to get a reply :(
To answer Bill's original question, I decided to double check the date of the original magazine publication of Prisoners of Power as part of the Series:Macmillan's Best of Soviet Science Fiction Series project that Marc and CoachPoul are working on. I looked it up in an Israeli book about the Strugatsky brothers and ended up reading the whole thing. It wasn't bad.
I spent the rest of the time cleaning and reinforcing the secure undisclosed location where my collection is stored. You can never have too many Bolos guarding the first issue of Amazing Stories! Ahasuerus 20:36, 31 May 2007 (CDT)

SFBC question

I have a number of hardcover books that say "DAW" on the back and appear to be DAW book club editions. They already were in ISFDB but with the publisher listed as SFBC. The Catalog # matches what's on the backs of my books. Is there a way someone can tell by inspecting a book if it's an "SFBC" publication as opposed to some other book club line? I'm not a member meaning I can't see all of the site but I don't think has records of their older books or at least they are not showing up via the search function. Marc Kupper (talk) 17:51, 31 May 2007 (CDT)

How many SFBCs do we have anyway? E.g. I have a "Visions and Venturers" pub (Sturgeon, of course) by SFBC, a.k.a. "The Reader's Union Group of Book Clubs". It credits Gollancz, but I have no idea if it's the same club. BLongley 18:29, 31 May 2007 (CDT)
Since there is no standard about book club editions here on the ISFDB, I pretty much established one by which I enter my book club editions. (And when I refer to SFBC, I mean the book club ran by Doubleday for more than 50 years.) I will give the name of the publisher as that name which is on the dustjacket's spine and the title page, followed by a slash then "SFBC", as in "DAW Books / SFBC". If the book is a first edition (usually omnibuses, new anthologies, or first hardcovers), Doubleday had used the Nelson Doubleday imprint (lately they use "Guild America", but I can't tell you when this started, probably when the Germans took over in the late 80s.)
Now, to answer your question, how can you tell if it's a book club edition? It used to be pretty easy. They were all the same size, and printed on the same presses as Doubleday's trade editions. There is NO ISBN on the copyright page (this started changing sometime in the late 90s/early 00s, when they'd occasionally use the ISBN of the trade edition, or created a new one for their first editions.) Until the early to mid-80s the club's identifying catalog number was on the back flap of the dustjacket, usually four digits (five digits later). I've never been able to figure out a rhyme or reason as to how these numbers were assigned. They seemed to pretty random. After the mid-80s they were printed on the back. Another identifying feature is that on one of the last pages, there is another code, usually a letter and a two-digit number. This code will be at the bottom, near the inside binding. Some of the early book club editions (in the 50s) were identical to Doubleday's trade editions with cloth-covered boards. Later editions were paper-covered boards, which seems to be industry standard now.
Now here's something I just discovered a few weeks ago. A gentleman named James Nicholls has posted on rec.arts.sf.written listings of publications from the SFBC, by year, starting from 1953 up through the present. I've found his lists useful when trying to get the month of publication. Unfortunately, he doesn't give price or catalog #, but for later years, he reprints info from Locus. Give it a try if you're wondering if a particular book was reprinted by the SFBC (before Locus's lists beginning in 1984). Mhhutchins 19:38, 31 May 2007 (CDT)
To answer Bill's question, the US SFBC and the UK (Reader's Union) SFBC are two separate entities and have historically used very different formats. There is an overview of the current structure of the Bookspan family of book clubs in the US/Canada on Wikipedia. Ahasuerus 20:52, 31 May 2007 (CDT)
And here's a great page for the UK SFBC. I've used it to enter a few titles, and expect to go back for more. Mhhutchins 20:56, 31 May 2007 (CDT)
Thank you for the information but I think I need to rephrase my question. I know it's a book club edition but how can I tell that the "SFBC" printed it? For example, I have Darkover Landfall by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It days "Book Club Edition" on the front flyleaf, has the code on the back, and the book itself looks exactly like a standard DAW books publication except for the lower quality paper and that the copyright page does not have any printing history. I see nothing about "SFBC" on the jacket or the book. ISFDB has DRKVRLF1984 where the Catalog # matches my copy but also provides information that's not stated in my copy such as that the publisher is SFBC, a publication date (the copyright is 1972 and so the date given is not that), and even a price all of which are not stated in my copy. As the Catalog # matches I'd say they have this book nailed. I'll go ahead with verifying the book and adding a note much like I did with BKTG23088 but if ISFDB did not already have a record I would have added this as a "DAW Books / Book Club Edition" publication. Marc Kupper (talk) 02:04, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)
For the most part, ISFDB's SFBC publication data comes from the Locus Index, in this case this record. Ahasuerus 10:30, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)
I personally know of no book that actually designates itself as being published by the "SFBC", only the "Book Club Edition" designation on the inside front flap. Before their merger as Bookspan, the only two US book clubs were Doubleday and Book-of-the-Month. Doubleday had many specialty divisions (including the SFBC) and I only know of one spin-off of BOMC, it's trade paperback division Quality Paperback Book Club (designated as QPB in the Locus listings.) BOMC never used the "Book Club Edition" designation, instead using a tiny impression on the back of the actual book. Their books were of comparable quality to the trade editions, and, because of this, their prices were higher than Doubleday. I know of no instance where a book was published by both. They must have bid for reprint rights from the trade publishers. So if your book has the "Book Club Edition" designation it was published by Doubleday for one of their divisions (not necessarily the SFBC.) Another thing: their books were often interchangeably sold by several of these divisions, and not always at the same price. The Literary Guild was the upscale division and their prices for the exact same book would be higher. Mhhutchins 15:28, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)
One remarkable piece of trivia I heard today: "Bertelsmann, the German media giant, is shedding 280 employees (about 15% of staff) at its Bookspan book club operation. Although the US SF Book Club will continue, its chief editor Ellen Asher took early retirement, ending a 34-year career that outdid John W. Campbell's previous record time in a single sf editorial position". And all she gets here is one lousy interview.... BLongley 14:24, 5 Jun 2007 (CDT)
That's what you get for working for an SF book club -- no awards and almost no recognition... Too bad about Andy Wheeler losing his job too. Ahasuerus 16:09, 5 Jun 2007 (CDT)
Andy who? No sign of him here AT ALL... :-/ BLongley
He had been with SFBC for over 10 years and was doing a lot of interesting things there, sometimes with rec.arts.sf.written's help, but it's only recently that his name began appearing on some SFBC titles. For example, he put together a big collection of Heinlein's non-Future History stories that they did in 2005. I have added a stub to the database, but we still need to add all 27 stories... Ahasuerus 18:45, 5 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Other sites using a version of the ISFDB

Does Al know that Diverse Books is using a version of the ISFDB? Do that have to get permission? It's a commercial site so it appears to be profiting from the work of others. Should we be upset, or am I being too proprietary? Mhhutchins 20:07, 31 May 2007 (CDT)

Well, they are using ISFDB-1, which is at least 3 years out of date: note the copyright/"last updated" dates and the fact that an April 2004 publication is listed as "forthcoming". Also, keep in mind that the ISFDB, as the front page states, is built around the Creative Commons license, which gives anybody the right to:
  • Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work; and
  • Remix — to adapt the work
as long as they add appropriate attributions, which the Diverse Books folks did.
I know that there have been some discussions of legal issues over the years, but Al would know more about them. Ahasuerus 21:01, 31 May 2007 (CDT)
I've used that copy of ISFDB a lot as a reference when looking up something here in that it let me know if something that looks strange is, or is not, a carryover from ISFDB-1. Marc Kupper (talk) 01:44, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Nominating Swfritter

I nominate Swfritter (talkcontribs) for moderatorship; he has accepted the nomination (after some persuasion). After approving many of his 1100+ submissions, and through talking to him, I believe that he is moderator qualified.


  1. Support, as nominator. BLongley 14:52, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  2. Support strongly and with no reservations. His submissions are amazing, so much so that with just a casual once-over, I rarely hesitate before approving them. And the man knows magazines better than anyone I'm familiar with here on the ISFDB. Mhhutchins 15:17, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  3. Support per recommendations above and my own experience with moderating his edits. Mike Christie (talk) 17:04, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  4. Support as one of his co-editors, I have nothing but great things to say about the man. Always a pleasure to converse with through the talk pages. CoachPaul 19:45, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  5. Support. Very detail-oriented; extensive knowledge of the magazine/pseudonym area; good communications skills; programming background; and he even reads the documentation! Ahasuerus 21:45, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  6. Support. --JVjr 09:41, 2 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  7. Support. Wow, step away for a morning and look what happens! Fine for the job and more experienced than I at many ISFDB tasks. (Scott Latham 20:17, 2 Jun 2007 (CDT))
  8. Support. I had to look back at the talk-page as his batting average is so near perfect that I could not recall the last time I'd needed to hold/query one of his submissions. Marc Kupper (talk) 02:06, 4 Jun 2007 (CDT)



Swfritter is now a moderator. Mike Christie (talk) 22:16, 6 Jun 2007 (CDT)
Thanks. This should make life easier for the other moderators. Please don't hesitate to question anything that I might do.--swfritter 12:07, 7 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Bibliographies on Wikipedia

I don't have time to deal with it but I just ran across wikipedia:Wikipedia talk:Manual of Style (lists of works)#Proposal this where there's discussion of creating author bibliographies on Wikipedia. So far no one has mentioned ISFDB,, etc. Marc Kupper (talk) 02:04, 24 May 2007 (CDT)

The Perils of "Author Merge"

I have run into a few author bibliographies that had multiple "Title X [as by Author]" titles even though the "Author" was the same as the main author. As far as I could tell, they had all fallen victim to somebody's well-meaning but misguided "Author Merge" operation on the canonical Author nam and one of more of its variants. I am beginning to wonder whether this potentially dangerous functionality is something that we really want to have enabled. Think what would happen if somebody merged, e.g. "Brian Aldiss" and "Brian W. Aldiss"!

Are there cases when the ability to merge Author records is really useful? I am trying to recall a single major Author merge that I have performed in the last 6 months and I am drawing a blank. Should we disable the option or am I missing some of its uses? Ahasuerus 22:38, 1 Jun 2007 (CDT)

I do minor author merges when I spot a misspelled author name that looks like a data entry error and not something stated in a publication. I agree that major author merges are rare and things like the proposed Chesney merge should be handled via pseudonyms until someone can prove the publications only use one form of his name. It's not used that often - here's the merges for May
Marc_Kupper Marc Kupper J. M. Morgan/J.M. Morgan
Marc_Kupper Marc Kupper David B. Silva/David P. Silva
Mhhutchins Mhhutchins Walter M. Miller, Jr./Walter M. Miller,
BLongley BLongley E. F. Benson/E.F. Benson
WimLewis Ahasuerus Frank Hibbs/Frank Hibbs
WimLewis Ahasuerus Robert Lowndes/Robert Lowndes
WimLewis Ahasuerus Laura Vaccaro Seeger/Laura Vaccaro Seeg
WimLewis Ahasuerus Rosa Irene Warner/Rosa Irene Warner
WimLewis Ahasuerus Mark Alan Shaffer/Mark Alan Shaffer
WimLewis Ahasuerus Brian M. Stableford/Brian M. Stableford
Marc_Kupper Marc Kupper Arthur C. Clarke/Arthur C.Clarke
Marc_Kupper Marc Kupper Arthur C Clarke/Arthur C. Clarke
WimLewis Mhhutchins Laura J Underwood/Laura J. Underwood
JVjr JVjr Lisa S. Silverthorne/Lisa S. Sliverthorn
JVjr JVjr Keith R. A. DeCandido/R. A. DeCandido
JVjr JVjr Levi Crow/Levi Crow
JVjr WimLewis Russell Griffen/Russell Griffin
Mhhutchins Mhhutchins Chuck Daar/Chuck Daar
Mhhutchins Mhhutchins Chuck Daar/Chuck Daar (I guess there were 3 records)
Mhhutchins Mhhutchins Arsen Darnay/Arsen Darney
Marc_Kupper Marc Kupper Julia Darling/Julia Darling
Marc_Kupper Marc Kupper Sheri S, Tepper/Sheri S. Tepper
Marc_Kupper Marc Kupper James Lowder/James Lowder, Editor
Marc_Kupper Marc Kupper Algis Budrys/Algis Budrys, editor
Marc_Kupper Marc Kupper Th. Metzger/Th. Metzger
Mhhutchins Mhhutchins Suzy Charnas McKee/Suzy McKee Charnas
Do you remember which authors have the "Title X [as by Author]"? Marc Kupper (talk) 04:01, 2 Jun 2007 (CDT)
The point about using Author Merge to quickly zap misspellings and extra spaces is a good one, I should have thought of that. I don't remember which authors have been erroneously merged and ended up with the "Title X [as by Author]" problem, but I can run a quick database search on Sunday night when I have access to my database tools. Ahasuerus 11:43, 2 Jun 2007 (CDT)
I've only used it for "quick zapping" and "regularis(z)ation" of names. I really do try to avoid these merges, many authors have got messy anyway (e.g. Robert no 'A' Heinlein' is a double pseudonym that I won't understand without access to the raw data. BLongley 18:46, 2 Jun 2007 (CDT)
The double pseudonym happens because the "Make This Author a Pseudonym" was run twice and at the moment there is no way to remove these. I believe I understand why it's run twice. The line that says "Pseudonym. See: Robert A. Heinlein" is only visible when all of the titles on that page have been mapped over to the canonical name. If someone adds a new work for Robert Heinlein they see their title, do the make-variant, and also look for the nice bold-font "Pseudonym. See: Robert A. Heinlein." As it's not there (the make-variant is not approved yet) they go ahead with "Make This Author a Pseudonym" and when that gets approved you now have two pseudonym links. Note that the "Pseudonym. See: Robert A. Heinlein" line is redundant as the first line of the header says "Used As Alternate Name By: Robert A. Heinlein." The reason for the extra line at the bottom is the page used to look a little strange when all of the titles had been mapped via variant titles in that you would see the header and then "nothing." Rather than have "nothing" Al added the line about "Pseudonym. See: Robert A. Heinlein" so that people better understand the reason the page is blank is because this is a page for a pseudonym and you click on the link to see the bibliography. Marc Kupper (talk) 03:33, 3 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Magazine Mess

When I get back next weekend, I can drop my other projects for the time being and help with the magazine mess since I'm pretty fluent in them after working on the Dragons. I don't have very many of them, so I can't do much about contents, but I surely can make them neater, more accessable, and fairly presentable. That will make make it easier for anyone who does have them to verify and edit any contents. I can start by fixing what mess there is of Dragon Magazine and can move on from there. Once that we get the magazines into some sort of good order, I can go back to my other projects. Just let me know what magazines you want me to start on. CoachPaul 21:01, 2 Jun 2007 (CDT)

I brought my laptop with me on my vacation and may be able to squeeze in an hour or two of editing each night as a wind-down. Anybody want to tell me where to start? I don't want to step on anyone elses toes who's working on the magazines. CoachPaul 17:04, 3 Jun 2007 (CDT)
Whenever I am not sure where to start, I see if the letter "A" is a good candidate :) Our Amazing Stories EDITOR series has a number of gaps and may be a good place to start. Ahasuerus 23:00, 3 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Pseudonym Mess

I just entered a couple of E.E. "Doc" Smith books. For amusement, here's part of a pub-note "The author name is stated as E.E. “Doc” Smith on the front cover, E.E. Smith on the spine, E.E. Smith, Ph.D. on the title page, and as Edward E. Smith, Ph.D. on the copyright page." As you can imagine, the existing publications are all over the map and many of them also included multiple links to type Novel title entries. Second Stage Lensman and Children of the Lens have been cleaned up as far as getting the publications filed under title records (further complicated by that my copy of Second Stage Lensman is titled Second Stage Lensmen).

Anyway, I started thinking about ways to reduce the odds of a mess like this reoccurring. These would fall into feature requests but I'm posting the ideas here for feedback before adding them to the feature request queue.

  1. Have a way to display the parent title record so that just it's publications are visible and/or that the publication lists get divided into sections for each child variant title.
  2. When a publication has multiple potential parent reference records (title type matches) then make sure all of them are displayed and that it's possible to remove-title one of them.
  3. Get away from this "edit the raw database" model and always ensure that a publication's author names match what's in its parent-reference title. For example, when a publication is updated and the author's name gets changed to re-file the publication under the correct title record. If a title record does not exist then create one and if the name is flagged as a pseudonym then check for a title record under the parent name and either link to it or create one as needed. The code would need to know about house names (has multiple pseudonym records) and at least alert the editor that a house name was used and to select which real name(s) to use.
  4. It would be more complicated but the same matching could also be done with publication titles. It may be better to have a title and then edition field with the edition normally being blank and used to select which edition of a title to link to.

Marc Kupper (talk) 12:37, 4 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Yeah, Doc was one of my earlier nightmares: almost all my copies are E. E. "Doc" Smith and there were very few if any pubs here under that variant. (And now you mention "Second Stage Lensmen" I think I'd better go re-check mine... that rings a bell.) Anyway, re (1): yes, we'll need some way of cutting the display down when the pub lists get too long - we might already have needed that if I'd created stubs for the other 27 Cat's Cradles I know of, or if we all put our Harry Potter's in. Re (2), yes it would be nice to select the title for a new pub from a shortlist rather than be forced to add it to the title you're cloning from - particularly for the non-mods who will have to wait for the unmerge etc. We need a better Novel/Collection separation as well, or to allow these two types to be considered as one for the moment: I'm SURE some people are calling collections novels just so they don't have to enter all the contents. :-/ (Still, if we get the 'copy contents' function done we can clear those up fairly fast.) Re (3) remember the multiple author titles, in every conceivable order, and things like "E. Mayne Hull" to "A. E. van Vogt", sometimes via a Hull and van Vogt but sometimes not - it's not just pseudonyms, collaborators would be useful too (Kuttner and Moore come to mind as well) . And re (4), don't forget that titles may actually be unrelated but similar e.g. "The Best of A. E. van Vogt (UK)" (1974) and "The Best of A. E. van Vogt" (1976) - they'll appear close together but neither are revised or expanded editions of the other and should be considered unrelated. (I would have labelled the US title as well but there's a review linking to it.) BLongley 13:43, 4 Jun 2007 (CDT)
Actually, if you ever have a good idea for a feature, looking at van Vogt usually shows you what the problems will be. :-/ Try it sometime - but look at Icshi first. (When do WE get our 'Encyclopaedia Britannica Internet Guide Award'? BLongley 13:43, 4 Jun 2007 (CDT)
I was right - I messed up on Second Stage. :-/ Spelt "Lensmen" front cover, spine, introduction, title page, start of novel: "Lensman" for "Panther Titles by E E Doc Smith", "The Worlds Greatest Science Fiction Authors now in Panther Books" and on back cover. Not mentioned on "By the same author" or on copyright page. I won't go into all the author permutations, but suffice to say we have another variant... BLongley
Well, it seems like there's no lack of things to work on. I'll take a whack at Python and see how it goes. Marc Kupper (talk) 00:22, 5 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Another Pretty Site

I stumbled across this site while doing some more van Vogt research, but it seems it's much more than that. So if you don't actually own "Air Wonder Stories, August 1929" or if the 1911 "A Columbus of Space" predates you a little, go have a look! (Don't steal the art please - I've asked for link permissions but have no response yet.) There's not much English text but with scans like that, who cares? There's eleven links from that page, all good: "John Russell Fearns" and "Doubleday" and "Ballantine" and "A. Merritt" and "Galaxy Novels" and "Stanley Meltzoff" and "Paul Lehr" seem to be involved. OK, I'm off now, to see if the picture sheds any more light on the question of "What secret compulsion made this lovely girl handmaiden to unnatural horrors?".... BLongley 17:02, 4 Jun 2007 (CDT)

I just got a nice email back from Yutaka, thanking me for my interest, and saying "You may link my pictures to anywhere you like, but I'll be glad if you would let me know where you use them." - so drop him an email it you see something you really want to use. BLongley 13:56, 5 Jun 2007 (CDT)

1950's/1960's Magazines Needed to Enter

On my talk page is a list of 1950's/1960's magazines that are not in ISFDB. I have marked the issues that I own and intend to enter. If you are working in the same area or own some of the missing issues and want to enter them please check out my talk page. Once we get these done we will have just about all the significant issues from this era. --swfritter 14:53, 11 Jun 2007 (CDT)


While waiting for Al to reappear and to help with upgrading the Wiki I'm going to play with protecting ISFDB wiki pages that seem hit often by the vandalbots. It seems there are at least two, possibly three, separate waves of bots making attacks and they seem to be hitting the same pages with the same vandalism meaning if we protect those pages the bots may move on. Page protection means that only moderators can make changes and for the moderators it's transparent (in the tabs at the top you will see "Unprotect" for the protected pages. I don't think the bots are hitting talk pages and so if it becomes necessary to protect pages editors often use we could add a message that the editors can instead use the talk pages.

MediaWiki does not seem to have a way to display a list of the currently protected pages. Special:Log/protect is a log of pages being protected or unprotected that can be reviewed to give you an idea of which pages are protected. Marc Kupper (talk) 02:07, 19 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Unfortunately, the malbots do hit User Talk pages, e.g. they recently attacked Chris J's Talk page and Thomas conneelly's Talk page. They also attack Magazine pages, User pages, Template pages, etc. There is no harm in protecting some key pages that only Moderators should be editing anyway, but I don't think we will be done with the whack-a-mole game until we upgrade the software to 1.6 and implement captchas. Ahasuerus 11:21, 19 Jun 2007 (CDT)
Well the vandalbots seem to be a serious new threat to the stability and usability of the site, so I'll make a MediaWiki upgrade a priority. There are other more serious issues for me to deal with (see [7]), but I'll start looking at it this week. Alvonruff 19:43, 19 Jun 2007 (CDT)
Ouch! Apparently there are worse things in life than having to perform unspeakable managerial acts :( Take your time, the bots are a nuisance, but at this rate we can handle them manually indefinitely Ahasuerus 19:53, 19 Jun 2007 (CDT)
I'll personally be okay, but survival entails moving to Austin - a process which tends to consume large quantities of time. Alvonruff 20:52, 19 Jun 2007 (CDT)
Good luck Al. FWIW - the bots only attacked Ahasuerus today (and his page was one that was left unprotected). They were mainly a large nuisance as Recent Changes was getting hard to use. The attack patterns seem very predictable for this generation of bots and so I believe we're ok for now. (says Marc as he snugs up the aluminum foil helmet) Marc Kupper (talk) 23:08, 19 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Locus giveaway

About 30 years worth of Locus issues may be available for the asking. Please see this Usenet post for details. You may get preferential treatment if you mention that you will use them to help populate the ISFDB :) Ahasuerus 02:10, 22 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Thank you for the heads up - I sent an e-mail and will see what happens. Marc Kupper (talk) 03:36, 22 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Weirdest thing you've found in a book

(Just a random thread thrown in to remind people that it's OK to chat a bit and get to know each other by OTHER means than questioning edits or verifications.)

I attended a Car Boot sale today, and came back with the usual bag of bargains. A couple of complete trilogies for £1.50 each set, an extra novel for another £0.50, a Pratchett Omnibus for £1.50, and 4 X-Files books for £0.50. So £5.50 in total (about $11 US currently). And the first X-Files book I opened contained a cheque for £10. Not payable to me, unfortunately, and expired anyway (dated 1998!), but I now know someone lost out on a tenner in the past while selling me a book for £0.12.5 (dividing down the four books to that one).

I'm used to bus-ticket bookmarks and such-like, but acquiring Mrs. Al-Samarraie's signature and bank account details was a bit unusual! So what's the weirdest thing YOU have found? BLongley 16:55, 24 Jun 2007 (CDT)

I got a 20 year old ticket for the Maryland Lottery in a book recently. CoachPaul 17:47, 24 Jun 2007 (CDT)
To quote an old post of mine, "As an aside, I found a folded piece of paper within the 1932 Strange Tales issue. It turned out to be a handwritten budget for a 1936 Oklahoma fanzine co-edited by Jack Speer. I don't think he will mind if I disclose that at that point their total expenses (paper, hecto fluid, etc) were $1.00 and their total income from subscriptions and advertising was $1.05. Who says you can't get rich by publishing fanzines?! Ahasuerus 12:41, 23 Dec 2006 (CST)" Ahasuerus 17:57, 24 Jun 2007 (CDT)
Was that a monthly or quarterly pub? Maybe I should start a fanzine, I could use a few extra, cents. CoachPaul 18:23, 24 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  • Probably the coolest thing found to date was a ticket stub for the from the 1930s. I usually leave the things exactly where they were in the books so they can be discovered again later. Of course, there have been many receipts for bookstores which often promote nostalgia trips when they are for stores long out of business. Marc Kupper (talk) 00:48, 25 Jun 2007 (CDT)
Ah yes: I often get a little teary-eyed when I find a reminder of "Dark they Were and Golden-Eyed" - the London Book and Comic Shop, not the Bradbury story. BLongley 13:12, 25 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  • I've found dollar bills (presumably used as book marks) several times and once hit the jackpot with a $20US note. Not bad for a used book. I've found airline tickets, laundry receipts, deposit slips, credit card slips and other pieces of paper of sundry types too numerous to list.

--Dsorgen 21:30, 28 Jun 2007 (CDT)

Nominating CoachPaul for moderatorship

Ref: Moderator Qualifications#Becoming a moderator for the nomination process.

Nomination statement

I nominate CoachPaul (talkcontribs) for moderatorship; he has accepted the nomination. Paul has 2,036 edits as of today and has contributed to dozens of discussions in the last few months, demonstrating strong communications skill and ability to work with other editors. His areas of expertise include magazines and collections/anthologies. On balance, I believe that he is qualified.


  1. Support, as nominator. Ahasuerus 18:38, 26 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  2. Support, From what i've seen and read Paul has a good knowledge of the db and has my support.Kraang 19:08, 26 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  3. Support, I haven't approved any of his edits because I assumed he already was one.--swfritter 19:52, 26 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  4. Support, He's communicative, knowledgeable, and active in many aspects of the db. Mhhutchins 16:27, 27 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  5. Support, A definite Yes from me - he even leaves notes to Mods on his edits when he's a little unsure, which has saved me lots of time trying to second-guess intentions. (Don't stop doing that when you're Modded Paul, it's a GOOD habit.) BLongley 16:46, 27 Jun 2007 (CDT)
  6. Support, Keep up the good work! Marc Kupper (talk) 18:00, 30 Jun 2007 (CDT)



  1. Just a note to the effect that Marc Kupper is on vacation and will be back on Sunday, so he won't be able to comment until then. Ahasuerus 19:34, 27 Jun 2007 (CDT)


User:CoachPaul is now a moderator. Congratulations! :) Ahasuerus 23:16, 1 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Ace Double - Campbell's The Planeteers and The Ultimate Weapon

This pub is a bit messy. I'm somewhat at a loss as to how to correct it. Any suggestions?
--Dsorgen 22:39, 1 Jul 2007 (CDT)

We had The Ultimate Weapon listed twice in that publication, once as a novel and once as a novella. You can't merge titles that are filed as published in the same Publication (well, you can, but then Bad Things will happen), so I used the "Remove Titles From This Pub" option on the novella Title first, then merged the two. The publication is feeling better now, but it's an Ace Double and we still haven't decided whether they need to have a separate Omnibus Title. Ahasuerus 13:52, 2 Jul 2007 (CDT)
I got curious as I have, and had verified, the standalone version of The Ultimate Weapon. Oddly, although I had a pub-note about the author being credited as John W. Campbell (without the Jr.) both the publication and it's parent title used "Jr." I fixed this.
One complication with the THPLNTRS3C1966 The Planeteers / The Ultimate Weapon publication is that it's a type collection and thus it sucked up The Planeteers as a title reference. I generally try to have a title record that would be named The Planeteers / The Ultimate Weapon meaning the options are:
  1. Make the pub an omnibus and add a new title, The Planeteers / The Ultimate Weapon, of type omnibus. One messy aspect to this is that there's only one other type omnibus title on Campbell's bio, The Moon Is Hell, and even there one of the publications has a note saying it's a tossup on whether the book should be classified as an omnibus or collection. It looks like this work contains two stories that were never published as standalone works (at least per ISFDB) though one publication adds a complication in that for one of the stories it credits a co-author (who is also a pseudonym) while the other two publications don't credit this co-author.
  2. Make the pub a collection and change the existing The Planeteers record to be The Planeteers / The Ultimate Weapon. Not perfect as we then loose the fact that The Planeteers is there but can't add it. FWIW though, it does not look like The Planeteers was ever published separately (per ISFDB, Locus, Contento). I do like this as it gets the double up in the collections section of the bibliography and it would fit in with Campbell's other collections.
  3. Do #2 and also fix up The Moon Is Hell so that it's also a collection. This will require some careful title merges. I like this as it gets rid of the omnibus section from the John W. Campbell, Jr. bibliography entirely. Marc Kupper (talk) 22:49, 2 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Well, one "The Moon is Hell" publication was a duplicate so I got rid of that, and I own the other, so that's now back as a collection. It's still arguable as to what length to credit the contents as, and the variants assume the pseudonymous collaboration is correct - so technically "Arthur J. Burks" has been published as "Don A. Stuart" AND "John W. Campbell, Jr." AND "John W. Campbell". Too much of a headache for me for the moment, I'm going to just verify my pub and leave notes as to the mess (noting that Wikipedia is wrong, "all later editions dropped this short story" is patently untrue.) BLongley 14:20, 4 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Editing re-enabled

We had a problem with vandal blocking overnight. The Wiki software interpreted one of the blocks as a "block by IP address", which is bad news since it blocks all users. I have reverted the block and we should be back to normal now. BTW, I believe any moderator should be able to fix this type of problem even when he can't edit. Just go to Special:Ipblocklist, check if there is a recent block by number (as opposed to by user name) and click on Unblock on that line. If you are not a moderator, you can post a heads up on our backup discussion board at . You may want to register first since messages from unregistered users are held until approved by the board owner (me) and I only check it a few times a day.

Hopefully, the whole mess will be straightened out as soon as we can upgrade our software -- see What's New for details. If our hosts can't help us with the required PHP upgrade in a reasonable time frame, then it may be time to consider another host that would have more robust support and better uptime. Ahasuerus 13:00, 4 Jul 2007 (CDT)

I got locked out of editing and had to unblock 22:44, 6 Jul 2007, Alvonruff blocked #629 (expires 22:44, 7 Jul 2007) (unblock) (Autoblocked because you share an IP address with "MwrGdw". Reason "Vandalism".) Unfortunately, I did not save the page that noted what "my" IP address was (the one from squid). Marc Kupper (talk) 04:27, 7 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Omnibus vs Collection (again)

Just picked a signet double out of my stack to add here. The book in question contains reprints of Zelazny's novels Today We Choose Faces and Bridge of Ashes. My inclination is to create a new omnibus listing the above as the contents. The question being posed: am I leaning the right direction?

--Dsorgen 19:57, 4 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Yes, enter the book as an omnibus. Here's another Zelazny two-novel omnibus to use as a guide. Mhhutchins 20:56, 4 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Tags Lookup Page

So how about having an organized Tags lookup page? This might be a way to find data that can't be found that easily in the database. Judith Merril's S-F the Year's Greatest #1 Honorable Mentions leads to a tag lookup page which lists the stories that received honorable mention in Judith Merril's first Greatest Annual. This also might be a great way to organize Project Gutenberg and Creative Commons works (like Accelerando by Charles Stross, a Creative Commons work). It is my intent to tag all the science fiction that can be found at Science Fiction and add new titles as they become available. Manybooks has multiple format downloadable Project Gutenberg and Creative Commons works. And it's all free (although you can donate money to the site). Maybe we could even consider a partnership agreement with manybooks that would allow users to link directly to the books and stories from the ISFDB database. That might be good for both sites but it would require some planning.--swfritter 09:32, 6 Jul 2007 (CDT)

I'm not sure what you mean by a "tags lookup page." Would this be any different than what's visible when you are in edit-tag mode? I thought I had put some tag related feature requests in the queue but something I'd been thinking about is a way to add explanatory text to the tags as many of the current tags have little meaning to me.
Indexing creative commons work is something we have tried to avoid so far as it's falling into eZine and other hard to physically verify territory. Originally the plan was to only include books by established publishers. The editors for those publishers acted as gatekeepers and presumably kept the quality standards up. With print-on-demand and vanity presses it became harder to distinguish between "real" publishers with gatekeepers and individuals writing and selling works direct to the public. We thus changed the line and will index any dead-tree work. There's a couple of eZines that have quality standards similar to the original dead-tree publishers but we are not indexing those yet as we are not ready (mentally) to set the line to indexing these while also refusing to index other electronic media unless we can somehow establish a quality standard for them and to establish a way to physically verify the stories. I'd personally like to see a method where ISFDB would archive a copy of the story but for copyright reasons it's not available to the public. This would allow us to handle shifting URLs and to detect if a story either is revised or "reprinted" on another site. Marc Kupper (talk) 17:44, 6 Jul 2007 (CDT)
The beauty of Tags is that they are user-defined which means that the user who creates them is responsible for them. If users access tags created by others they will not blame the ISFDB if they do not find the tags useful or accurate. The method I used above allows the purpose of tags to be documented and links to the data placed in a central location. A tag like "Judith Merril's best SF Honorable Mentions for The Best of SF Vol 1" is a little bit unwieldy. I can put my documented tag links on my own user page but I thought it would be nice if there was a centrally located page where it would be easier to access documented tags. If we do so there should be a disclaimer stating that the ISFDB does not guarantee the accuracy of the user-defined tags.--swfritter 08:04, 7 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Is there anyone else who reads downloadable ebooks on a regular basis?--swfritter 11:07, 7 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Yes. In fact I think I read more that way then on paper currently. Dana Carson 03:17, 8 Jul 2007 (CDT)
I'd need new optical receptors first :) Ahasuerus 11:56, 9 Jul 2007 (CDT)
I have a few books on my PDA/phone, but now I'm commuting by car rather than train I never find time to read them. I did demonstrate them today, to a colleague that wanted to know what the ISFDB was about, in a conversation that wandered all over the place. And yes, I'd need new optical receptors before I was willing to try it on a MODERN phone - the clunker I have has a screen the size of a cigarette packet, the phones they're trying to sell for such purposes now would fit inside such a packet four or five at a time and have screens smaller than the health warnings. BLongley 14:42, 10 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Clone bug

Tried to clone this and it truncated the title at the quotes. I think this is already reported but figured it wouldn't hurt. Dana Carson 03:17, 8 Jul 2007 (CDT)

This is a known bug. Something to do with the quotation marks. Mhhutchins 11:57, 8 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Quotation marks are interpreted as special characters with special meaning by Python, the language that the ISFDB application is written in, and MySQL, the database that we use. Any time there is a chance that a user can enter quotes, you need to have special logic to process them correctly. Al has added this logic to some input forms, but there are still a few that don't have it. See, e.g., EditBug 10098. Ahasuerus 12:00, 9 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Wiki editing re-enabled again

We had another one of those "Block by number" problems this morning which locked everybody out of the Wiki. The problem has been fixed as per the instructions above and editing has been re-enabled. Ahasuerus 10:17, 10 Jul 2007 (CDT)

And another this evening (afternoon to the US crew):
Your user name or IP address has been blocked by Marc Kupper.
The reason given is this:
Autoblocked because you share an IP address with "FyyG5n". Reason "vandalbot".
You may contact Marc Kupper or one of the other administrators to discuss the block. Note that you may not use the "email this user"
feature unless you have a valid email address registered in your user preferences. Your IP address is 
Please include this address in any queries you make.

And from the Block Log:

19:24, 10 Jul 2007, Marc Kupper blocked #945 (expires 19:24, 11 Jul 2007) (unblock) (Autoblocked because you share an IP address with "FyyG5n". Reason "vandalbot".) 

Is there anyway to make the "Block by Username" actually ONLY block by Username? BLongley 14:31, 10 Jul 2007 (CDT)

I cleared one earlier today at 1:30 PM EDT too. CoachPaul 14:37, 10 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Yes, I noticed. If we're on top of such things, and it's a minor inconvenience cleared quickly, then I'm FOR blocking - it does seem to reduce the number of edits we have to fix from the same vandal/spambot. If it's turning people away from editing here, I'm against it. (And yes, I know I've been one of the more active blockers.) But surely there's a MediaWiki setting that can be tweaked?
Any other opinions welcome - I'll stop wasting my time on blocks if people feel it does more harm than good. BLongley 14:48, 10 Jul 2007 (CDT)
As far as I can tell, it's another bug in our (ancient) version of the Wiki software. Sometimes it converts a legitimate user name into a numeric string in the list of blocked names. Something to do with the phases of the moon, I believe... Ahasuerus 14:50, 10 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Your user name or IP address has been blocked by Marc Kupper.
The reason given is this:
Autoblocked because you share an IP address with "Mf1M0e". Reason "vandalbot".
You may contact Marc Kupper or one of the other administrators to discuss the block. Note that you may not use the "email this user"
feature unless you have a valid email address registered in your user preferences. Your IP address is Please include 
this address in any queries you make.
Marc Kupper blocked #949 (expires 20:06, 11 Jul 2007) (unblock) (Autoblocked because you share an IP address with "Mf1M0e". Reason "vandalbot".)
Must be a full moon tonight, on whatever my home planet actually is... BLongley 15:12, 10 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Google finds the MediaWiki:Autoblocker message is pretty common these days because of the vandalbot attacks.

Wikipedia:Autoblock says there are ways for admins to disable autoblock when adding a block but I can't see anywhere how to do it.

newer versions of mediawiki have MediaWiki:Autoblock whitelist and I see that the talk page has a section dated Nov-2006 that says "While Andrew Garrett recently made it possible to disable autoblocks explicitly when blocking a user, it is typically impossible for a blocking admin to know whether a user's IP address is shared or not."

Summary - it looks like we are forced to live with autoblocking until there's a mediawiki upgrade and that all of the existing blocks should be removed. Another option, other than a full upgrade, is to look for the specific code related to these autoblocks and to disable that. Marc Kupper (talk) 00:24, 13 Jul 2007 (CDT)

I started to unblock but am wondering which can of worms is worse - that we are randomly blocking edits - or that we are potentially opening the system again to the vandalbots. Marc Kupper (talk) 00:30, 13 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Well, the comment "Equally important is for admins to check Special:Ipblocklist regularly" looks good advice. ("List of blocked IP addresses and usernames" under "Special Pages" here.) BLongley 12:47, 13 Jul 2007 (CDT)
That helps but users will still see the blocks and then need to wait for an admin to clear them. For example, I just got an e-mail from Herzbube that he had been blocked. Sure enough, one of those numbered entries had been auto-added to the Special:Ipblocklist which I unblocked. If someone patrolled Special:Ipblocklist every minute and cleared the numbered blocks it means users would see the block messages though a minute later (if we were fast) they would be able to edit. With that in mind, I've removed all of the blocks I added. Marc Kupper (talk) 11:55, 14 Jul 2007 (CDT)
On the block thing it looks like with the current MediaWiki that when we add a block by user the MW software also silently makes note of the IP addresses used by that user. If someone else comes along that wants to edit using one of those addresses then an "autoblock" gets added to the block list. If the ISFDB server was exposed to the Internet instead of being behind the Squid then this would work out fine in that it's very unlikely any of the regular people would be sharing an IP address with a vandalbot. With the Squid "very unlikely" turns into "likely" but I don't know what the percentages are. Note that "very unlikely" is not "impossible" because, for example, my own DSL connection changes it's IP address from time to time (I think once a day) out of a very large pool (at least 100,000 addresses and possibly millions). If a vandalbot is also using SBC DSL then the odds are remote, but still possible that the two of us could use the same IP address though it would be on different days.
Moving forwards - AL says he's found a copy of the MW code that seems to match our version. We could edit this code to add specific checks to block the vandalbots and would not be as pressed to to upgrade MW to a version that has better vandal handling. Marc Kupper (talk) 17:10, 14 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Here is the block strategy of the day... I noticed that a single spammer account tends to hit the same page over and over, spaced a few days to a month apart. The algorithm used to pick pages for spamming seems to pick the same pages and sometimes a random page gets added. With this in mind the block strategy de jour is:

  • I used to first check the queue but now it's Special:Ipblocklist to look for auto-blocks and Special:Recentchanges to look for spammers.
  • If a spammer is hitting a user's talk page I block the spammer account with the comment "Spams page-name". See Special:Ipblocklist for examples of this.
  • If a spammer is hitting a page with no content I delete the page and then add a page a message about it being a spam target, and protect the page. See Talk:What's New for an example of a page that's protected like this.
  • If a spammer is hitting something other than a user's talk page that has content I protect the page. I am thinking of adding a {{Protected}} template that displays a message advising people to use the community portal and also to add the page to something like [[category:Protected]] so that we can do the clean up once the wiki-software gets upgraded.

In summary - user talk pages get protected by blocking the spammer account. There is some risk to this in that it randomly blocks editing by users. All other pages get protected using the page protection mechanism - there's no risk with this but it means that editors can't update those pages and will need to ask a moderator to unprotect it or to do the edit. Marc Kupper (talk) 20:19, 20 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Did the ISFDB server get moved from one big state to another?

They used to be on Texas time and now seem to be an hour after Pacific Time (Alaska?). Marc Kupper (talk) 02:51, 17 Jul 2007 (CDT)

I see what confused me. The Recent Changes list says
  • 23:51 ISFDB:Community Portal (diff; hist) . . Marc Kupper (Talk | block) (→Did the ISFDB server get moved from one big state to another?)
for the comment I just added above. I just fixed the time-zone setting in preferences... Marc Kupper (talk) 02:53, 17 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Grumble - so much for including images when I verify books

Less than a month ago I verified The Alton Gift and as my usual practice I linked the image. I finished the book and figured I'd recheck things before returning it to the library. Imagine my surprise that the image had changed! I'm assuming someone at DAW did not like the first cover [8] which I just scanned/uploaded and so they switched to [9] less than a month after the book was released. Marc Kupper (talk) 04:12, 17 Jul 2007 (CDT)

If you want to fear cover-art changes, see this. :-/ BLongley 15:06, 2 Aug 2007 (CDT)
And it's caught me out now too. :-( They've replaced the cover I verified with this junk. I'm switching to the 'http://g-ecSOMETHING' format pictures only from now on, preferably only from MY image library. BLongley 14:26, 5 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I suspect I can do some code to cache images without waiting for Al to resurface. You start with the submission queue, pull the XML blobs, look for pub updates with images, cache the images, and then periodically check to see if the images have changed. Marc Kupper (talk) 02:06, 6 Aug 2007 (CDT)
A step in the right direction, but not enough. I'm not going to monitor my verified pubs for changes to linked artwork - I'm not even going to monitor changes to Wikipedia links, although I suspect those might be more stable. (Yes, I did a load more Star Trek verifications and Episode links after acquiring a shoe-box-full of pubs at a Car-Boot sale this weekend at the quarter of the price of ONE new pub - but those are mostly already on the discard pile.) I may have a paltry physical collection compared to some here, but I'm not going to keep double-checking 2000 or so books for changes to the links - I want them verified and done with, then I can go back to bibliographical work, normal moderating, and just add the few new books[1] I acquire as and when they arrive.
[1] OK, I say "few" - it's easy to acquire a hundred new SF pubs in a weekend, and I do occasionally when they're so cheap that I can exchange them at a specialist store for 2 or 3 times what I paid for them, towards pubs that are going for 10 to 50 times those prices. Unfortunately those specialists are getting rarer. :-( They're not extinct though - after picking up four bags of Cheap SF at Car-Boot sales for around 15 quid in total, I dropped 40 quid at a book-store on the way back that I knew about but hadn't expected to be open on a Sunday. I do need to plan for getting rid of my spares though, and we need to establish a way of me NOT getting bothered about books I verified but have no intention of keeping. BLongley 17:02, 6 Aug 2007 (CDT)

Wiki template help

Does anyone know wiki templates well? I want [[Template:Protected]] to be able to add pages to the [[Category:Protected]] category without using subst to invoke the template. Right now if I put [[Category:Protected]] in the template it adds the template to the category and not the page that's referencing it. The challenge is increase by that we are using MediaWiki 1.4.5 meaning things like <noinclude> are not available. I'm assuming this category thing can be done by using a bunch of nested braces but I could not figure out the wiki-help for that at all. I know this could be done with subst but the template and category are temporary until we can get MediaWiki upgraded and when that happens we can just make [[Template:Protected]] an empty page and then delete references to the template plus unprotect pages at our leisure. Thank you. Marc Kupper (talk) 00:19, 21 Jul 2007 (CDT)

ISFDB Hosting

Given our recent server stability problems, some of us have been thinking about exploring other hosting options for ISFDB. We discussed the issue on the backup discussion board ( the last time the servers went down and here is what we wrote (brainos corrected):

Anybody have experience with any of the sites listed at ? (Ahasuerus)
No, but the site needs a server that will support MySql and Python and typically neither is available on the really cheap hosts. (Marc Kupper)
Well, Lunar Pages' basic plan ( includes an unlimited number of MySQL databases and Python support. (Ahasuerus)
Most of the time the people I have worked with run their own servers. One place where I've done some web work for about five years uses which is $9.95/mo for the "silver" plan that adds MySql to the mix (Python is in the base package). has been fine though the site I'm doing there is just simple HTML (no cgi). (Marc Kupper)
Also worth looking at is; I don't recall the rates but I host there and they have a reputation for being very technically capable and good to work with. I have access to a Unix shell there, which is one reason I use them. (Mike Christie)
I don't think $6.95 vs. $9.95 vs. $29.95 will be a problem. I'll be happy to pre-pay for the account for the next 2 years if need be. The things that I think we should consider first and foremost are bandwidth (is 3,000-3,500Gb/mo enough?) and support. Given TAMU's less than stellar history of uptime and software support, I doubt we could do significantly worse with a commercial provider, but safety first. (Ahasuerus)
What are the numbers for ISFDB? I've been tempted to offer hosting on one of my own servers for a while with the intent of
1) Documenting better how to set up ISFDB on a new server.
2) Gathering statistics on the disk space, bandwidth, and CPU utilization. If my own ISFDB installation is any indication, the disk space is minimal with 18 megabytes for the CGI and related stuff and 110 mb for the database though ISFDB's database will be little but larger as it has a bunch of MediaWiki pages that I don't have.
3) I feel there's a memory/resource leak that under the current load causes the system to blow up once a week. I don't know if the leak is with ISFDB or some other TAMU system.
The main problems for me are:
1) Available time.
2) I'm much more familiar with Windows tools for dealing with 1, 2, and 3 above. The copy of ISFDB I'm running uses Apache, MySql, Python, and MediaWiki on a Windows-2003 server. That copy is broken at the moment pending time to go through the code and fix it to work with the current version of MediaWiki. (Marc Kupper)
The last time I asked Al about it, he said that he didn't have that number (presumably because it was a drop in the bucket for TAMU), but he knew that MySQL was serving 10 million queries per month. Assuming 1 query = 1 Web page (a very conservative assumption) and given that:
1. Asimov's Summary page is 245Kb;
2. Zelazny's Summary page is 45Kb;
3. Title pages are less than 10Kb on average (e.g. this, a large page, is 10Kb) and not less than 6Kb;
4. Publication pages are at least 6Kb
it's probably quite safe to assume that our average served page is well under 50Kb. Multiply it by 10 million and we are up to 500 Gb/mo, still much less than the 3,000+Gb/mo limit that Lunar Pages and similar companies offer as part of their entry level packages. Keep in mind that they expect their customers to serve at least some graphical files, which we don't have. (Ahasuerus)
I'm in favour of a move, I'm getting fed up with "cannot connect to database" and "max users exceeded" messages, as well as long pauses. It never goes away QUITE long enough for me to get a local copy up and running (not that the backups are recent enough for me to do much with such at the moment), but it is a frequent nuisance. But if we DO move, we need to move everyone else, so we have to take the TAMU site down too. Is that going to go down well? BLongley 21:54, 23 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Anyway, if we do move, I'd like to suggest a few other useful features we could have: e.g. a test copy of the database (refreshed daily maybe?) where we can try out queries not yet available but the more knowledgeable can construct ourselves, such as "What pubs have I verified?" and "Who has reviewed titles by Michael Bishop?" and "Which magazines have missing and/or multiple editor records?" (and all those magazine queries that seem to start with you knowing who EDITED the issues, whereas you don't actually care if it was Ben Bova or Bob the Builder). BLongley 21:54, 23 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Even if we don't add features for the techies that are frustrated, how about reconsidering the "graphical files, which we don't have" (apart from things like our banner, of course). A directory of Cover Artists signatures would be good. And I know I get frustrated when I have a good cover scan to use but nowhere on Amazon to place it - I'm fine with using other sources first, but I'm sure you could spare a few Mb for my spares? And if you can spare more, then I will start scanning magazines and fanzines too. BLongley 21:54, 23 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Any Authors you're particularly interested in?

For those that don't read every Wiki update, it may not have been clear that I currently, and temporarily, have a VAST stack of Magazines and Fanzines to go through. Well, several stacks as they wouldn't all fit in the room otherwise. See a small sample of titles found so far. I will be skimming the suspectedly least-interesting titles for stuff that interests me before I send them onto Denmark for preservation and eventual cataloging. If there's any sort of content you want me to look out for, please DO let me know ASAP as I'm not going to go through them all a second time: and no, I'm not going to read every single-letters page but I will at least read every contents list first. So please give me any key names you want me to look out for. I think I've already established there's about two feet of Goth/Music/Horror zines of no interest at all, and about four feet of BSFA-related material that's pretty much already catalogued online already here that I'll pass on unless you're interested in the actual CONTENT of particular issues, but that still leaves ten feet or so of stuff that I'll be skimming or reading over the next few weeks/months/years, depending on how interested I am. Review magazines, particularly Fantasy, are the first target: Science Fiction content is probably the last to go. Anything bibliographically useful will probably never go. But I do need to clear some space, so please make your desires clear or brush up on your Danish. ;-) BLongley 21:28, 24 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Evelyn E. Smith, Daniel F. Galouye, Milton Lesser. Galouye was active in 50's and 60's. Lesser stopped writing SF about 1960 and Smith's last work was a novel in the mid 1980's. You might even find some of my letters from the early 70's. The stuff you have seems to be of a later period.--swfritter 08:13, 25 Jul 2007 (CDT)
Yes, almost all of the items are still younger than I am. That doesn't mean they don't contain anything of interest about earlier authors: it does mean that items of interest are more likely to be obituaries or "conclusive" bibliographies though. :-/ BLongley 18:09, 25 Jul 2007 (CDT)

Lack of Changes, or Are We at a Crisis Point?

As per our discussions over on Ron Kihara's Talk page, I am moving Bill's last post here and adding a comment. Ahasuerus 19:43, 23 Aug 2007 (CDT)

We're acquiring some Frequently Asked Questions from new editors, and probably should pull a few past discussions out of the archives to either a) explain why things aren't going to change, b) why they can't change just yet, c) they could change but not enough people really want it, judging on current discussions (which is why I particularly want to pull out some archives which show there IS enough support) or even d) why some people should be silenced. :-/ We're at a crisis point, IMHO: the Bureaucrats aren't enforcing the original "Laws" (Good!), discussions are encouraged (Good!), but although Moderators and Editors are talking, things aren't changing and I can foresee people quitting when they've done their "acceptable" edits. I'm looking to the new editors to save us from eventual total stagnation. BLongley 17:40, 23 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I am all for reviving semi-buried discussions (and may even be able to participate in them since I have more ISFDB time at the moment) and creating additional FAQs as needed. On the other hand, I don't quite see a crisis developing or people quitting over lack of changes. The current hosting situation with its occasional outages, lack of spamguards and various server quirks is certainly frustrating, but I think we are generally willing to wait for Al, who will be in a better position to re-evaluate our hosting options once he is done with his move to Austin. Ditto re: other issues that would be hard to address without Al, e.g. native image hosting.
On the policy front, there are issues that have been up in the air for a long time, e.g. "dateless reprints", "spoilers in tags", "foreign language publications". Some of them could be addressed in the software, e.g. by beefing up our foreign language support or by adding new type of tag (or summary field) the way the IMDB does it. Others could be -- but haven't been -- addressed by an executive decision. I see the lack of progress on policy issues as unfortunate (and blame myself for much of it since I am not an executive type), but I wouldn't characterize it as a crisis.
So, do I need new glasses, preferably of the not-quite-so-rosy variety? :-) Ahasuerus 19:43, 23 Aug 2007 (CDT)
Magazine editors don't seem to be staying around but I'm not sure why. Size of collection? Complexity of the editing process? Lack of guidance? Disagreement with consensus decisions made by others? Bibliography becomes boring? They would rather read the magazines? As for the book side, "dateless reprints" come close to being a deal-killer for me and I do not moderate books because of them. Creating a separate pub for each printing of a book with the same ISBN and identical data (except perhaps for price) makes absolutely no sense to me.--swfritter 08:19, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I agree the "every edition" is probably over the top, especially when some books printed three times in one month will almost certainly prove to be identical in price, date, and appearance and the only difference will be in the printing history itself. However, at the moment it does encourage people to stick around a bit rather than try looking at a few pubs, discovering the title has been done already, and concluding that they're not needed. We also need quite a few editions to spot if and when a title changed content: pricing isn't of too much interest to me but it might help people date editions. We WILL need to consider how to display the popular titles in the long run, once you've got more than a handful of practically identical publications people will want to show only distinct prices, or distinct covers, or some kind of summary-level data. I don't mind the underlying data being more complete but the displays need to be kept usable. The "dateless reprints" issue for me was not that it's too low a level of detail, it's that such pubs being represented as 0000-00-00 is LOSING information about what exactly it's a reprint of. BLongley 13:01, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I hadn't realised you were actively avoiding books, Swfritter: I know I mostly avoid magazines for reasons of too much detail. I'm mostly only interested in the fiction, and the essays and letters and interior-art are stuff I'd never bother recording in my own database. Even reviews I only look at to see if they reference a pub we haven't got yet: it's just a sanity check really. Otherwise I personally can't see the point of recording a review if we don't even record if it was a POSITIVE review or not! Still, maybe we've found a resolution to our disagreements with policies by avoiding things that we disagree with? If so, this could be a way forward, pointing out that a specialism is fine with everyone else. Or is it? I've dipped into magazines a few times and yet don't know if I've messed them up by some other people's views. The "What's being verified" question probably covers annoyances like me only entering the stuff I want to see and leaving the rest to someone else though. BLongley 13:01, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
Back to the "Crisis point" issue: it might only be me that feels that, but we do seem to lose editors fairly easily, and I don't think it's just because of accidental Wiki-blocking. I can foresee ME giving up, or at least cutting down on my time here, when it gets less enjoyable. Yes, some database changes would revive interest, but partly because they might make me go over my collection again: which might DIScourage people that just want the data to be there and don't want to check everything they've entered again. More general access to the raw data would help too - I like the fresh backups, I can go find lots of useful things to do when they're fresh but a stale backup just points me at problems that might already have been fixed since the backup. "Multiple Verifications" and quick access to "what have I verified so far?" would make this site VERY useful to me when buying books. As would search options designed for very small screens - so I can actually use it on my mobile phone without paying 20 times as much in data charges as I need to. But some simple changes to policies, or even just the help advice, that require no coding would, I think, help retain people that won't do certain things on principle ir aren't allowed to do what they want. I can't guess which as we don't conduct exit interviews on our editors ;-) but I suspect things like leaving the Jim Baen's Universe submissions on hold for months isn't exactly making us flavour of the month in certain circles. BLongley 13:18, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
As for the Jim Baen's Universe submissions, why don't we just give them permission to enter them. I'll approve them. CoachPaul 13:45, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
So many things happen on this page that I only have seen the most recent changes on the watchlist and did not realize this discussion had continued. Point 1 - I think there is confusion over the meaning of Edition and Printing. A new edition is one that has been re-edited, given a new cover, etc. A printing is merely the production of new copies of an edition because the book has sold out - the only changes are commonly the price (any changes of which could be documented in the notes) and the advertising. Point 2 - I usually research books (Amazon, Abebooks, etc.) that I am not familiar with so it takes me anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes to process a book submission and I get frustrated when I realize that a book with the same ISBN is already in the database. Point 3 - Now that I am more confident in my knowledge of the ISFDB I have been spending more one on one time with a couple of promising magazine editors. I hope they have large collections that will keep on growing. Point 4 - Baen's Universe. A good example of a simple issue on which way too much energy was expended. I don't have time today but tomorrow but I am going to make a concise entry on the subject matter tomorrow.--swfritter 13:59, 19 Sep 2007 (CDT)
Point 1: Well yes, "Edition" and "Printing" could be clarified but we don't really have support for either. "Printing" is closest to what we have, but this points out a publication that doesn't fit into the "printing number" solutions proposed so far. And we don't have support for magazines that do have multiple printings (e.g. "New Destinies") or that should be cloneable to make foreign editions simple, etc... BLongley 16:29, 19 Sep 2007 (CDT)
"Edition" would be nice to have, but how much needs to change before it's considered a new edition? Most of my books with a printing history that distinguishes "New editions" don't vary the text at all between them, or even the pagination. They might just move from one imprint to another without even the coverart changing. I can see "Edition" meaning "text has changed" or "ISBN has changed" or "cover has changed" or "price has changed" or "imprint has changed" or "Logo on spine has changed".... Yes, there is some point at which the difference becomes important but that point probably varies for all of us. I can see why "every publication" is the current granularity but I know I'd hate to see the displays a complete set of an early Harry Potter title would lead to. Or even a Terry Pratchett: I'd be quite interested in seeing "The Color of Magic" and "The Colour of Magic" with all their variant cover-art, but don't want to see every single cover with a slight price-difference on: or even different editions where the art changes between full-wrap-around or front-cover only or restricted to a band across the front-cover, if it's the same picture: just show me the most complete. But as we can't even be sure of a stable cover-art URL at the moment we can't even begin to tackle that - we daren't even merge cover-art records at the moment! (Which apparently DOES put off new users here, judging by some demonstrations I've given where one Novel is lost among a dozen cover-art entries and reviews...) BLongley 16:29, 19 Sep 2007 (CDT)
Point 2: I find the link "Automerge with title XXXX" quite useful for checking whether we already have a publication, but yes, other links would help. As would knowing whether it's the Verifier that's altering a Verified pub, or knowing whether anything involved in a title merge has already been verified, or whether an update to contents will affect more than one pub, etc. Some feature requests can be usefully made there. But it's only one or two minutes tops for me to see if a simple book addition is likely to improve or reduce the quality of data: to FIX a bad one, yes, it could take ages but that's when you hold/reject and talk to the submitter. I don't feel the need to turn every submission into a perfect one.
Point 3: Yes, if you find you can spend one-on-one time with a new, useful, editor go for it! We need more of them! I know I leave the "mentored" editors alone when I see their submissions, should we have a more official mentoring process? One Mod that just approves or rejects stuff to "clear the queue" could damage such a relationship very fast.
Point 4: I'll wait and see your response. There are MANY simple things we haven't moved on, and I'd like to encourage a bit more " do it, and sort out the consequences later" from the Moderators that presumably know what sort of impact it could have on the database. E.g. I added a new Verification type so I could dispose of some books at last: if Al decides that's a bad move, fine, it's gone and I've lost some of my entries. I'm still quite wary of making changes to things as harmless as help guides, but am now down to "well, if ONE of you think it's a good idea, and nobody else objects, let's try it", so more opinions on anything we propose might save us from shooting ourselves in the foot. But the more we add, the more exceptions we find, and the more we need people to actually have and EXPRESS an opinion! BLongley 16:29, 19 Sep 2007 (CDT)
I can see now that the books are a little more involved than I realized. Books with the same ISBN can have different artists and who knows what other variations. I thought new content required a new ISBN but apparently the cover is not considered content. And without having data on every printing there is not way of knowing when a new edition starts. It would be nice if a secondary merge could be done on all titles with the same ISBN/Catalog # but I cannot imagine that happening soon.--swfritter 09:18, 23 Sep 2007 (CDT)
Unfortunately, the publishing business has few standards. Either that or they like standards so much that they have lots and lots of them! :-)
For example, a few months ago I was entering an obscure novel from my collection. It was published by a minor CA-based publisher in the early 19700s and claimed that it was a third printing. After poking around on the internet for 15 minutes, I discovered that the first two "printings" had been published by two completely different imprints. I didn't dig deep enough to find out whether the publishing house (a one man operation, most likely) changed hands or just changed names, but it was a good example of why you don't want to trust "printing" information. And then there are UK publishers, who change imprints apparently at will, but I suspect that they do it on purpose just to drive Bill up the wall :) Ahasuerus 16:15, 23 Sep 2007 (CDT)
Oh, UK imprints mostly no longer worry me: I'm quite happy with most of my Grafton, Granada, Panther, Sphere, Orbit, Unicorn, Unwin, Mayflower, NEL, Four Square, Gollancz, etc publications, just to name a few that I've encountered recently. It's the International ones that really mess things up, and particularly the recent ones: Pocket and Doubleday and Harper(Collins(something)) for instance. But the Bantam/Corgi problems go back to the early 70s at least. What I thought was a UK-Internal problem with Wyndham/Universal/Tandem/Universal-Tandem may become a new problem as I checked the last few "Worlds of If" at Visco after accidentally acquiring the last British one and started adding details to the ones we have here - I found Mike verifying 1973 US publications based on Visco, but as Visco uses the BRITISH publications of the later titles I hope that we can stop stomping over the "foreign" versions and get Al to permit cloning of magazines. BLongley 16:55, 23 Sep 2007 (CDT)
I keep meaning to stop and post some details about British publisher's habits, I'm just not sure quite WHERE to do so. And they've got more difficult in recent years: I used to be able to say that a Gollancz book would be a hardback, an Orbit one would be a paperback: but that's no longer true. But I'm pretty sure of some 60s, 70s and even some 80s stuff if people are interested. BLongley 16:55, 23 Sep 2007 (CDT)

Short Stories vs. Novels

This is an adjunct of the discussion directly above, but is a sort of different point, so I've put it into it's own header.

We talk and talk, but then don't come up with any sort of a consensus and the talk peters away and nothing gets changed. The "Verification" discussion we had in late June or early July was like that. We seemed to be split into two distinct camps then and if you go back and read the thread again, it was sort of split along the lines of those who worked mostly on Short Stories vs those who worked mostly on Novels, with a smattering of those who did both on both sides of the issue. As a first step, let's do something constructive in "fixing" what may be construed as a problem. Let's start by forming two committees to work on the Verification issue. One will come up with rules on how we verify Novels, and the other how we verify pubs with short stories in them (Anthologies, Collections, and Magazines). Then we bring what we come up with back to the group as a whole, go over what we've come up with and why, and then add them to the Help Section for everyone to follow. About 90% of my editing work here has been in the Short Story end of things, so I would be happy to help with the rules for those, and I hope that SWFRITTER would join me there with one or two other mods joining in too. I would also welcome any Editiors who like to join in too, it's your ISFDB too. Those who work mostly on Novels, please come forth and speak up for your side of things. CoachPaul 13:43, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
This is Great - Activity! Decisions! Keep it up!
I'm not sure the split is as you see it though - there ARE problems with Short Fiction getting classified as "Complete Novel", then getting merged with the "Real" novel later which was actually hugely different. Or First publication dates. Or Fix-ups versus collections. "Magazine versus Book" seems to be one major issue - I like the Short Fiction details too, so like to know when the first appearance really was. But making sure that a title gets a "correct" first publication date means that sometimes the book publications with a YEAR only appears before the MONTH the magazine first printing was in. Or the Collection-Editors adjust a Magazine date - we Book-Editors seem to have forced the Magazine-Editors into Month-level detail, and the Magazine-Editors want to know when books differ from the Magazine entries... still, if we can actually express the problems each of us have with certain policies, the rest can respond. And if it's an ORGANISED debate, maybe we can be sure that a lack of response CAN be taken as consensus. Where do the arguments^W discussions start? ;-) BLongley 14:57, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
(Oh, and I'm "Book" rather than "Magazine", but have a soft spot for "Short Story" collections over "This is Book 1 of 10 that will cover my mortgage and let me retire before I have to finish this rubbish".) BLongley 14:57, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)

Some thoughts on formatting the magazine "Content" listing

I feel there is a problem with how the "Contents" are formatted. For instance, the story and interior artwork take the same title, but is differentiated only by category. They also end up listed together which is visually confusing. Likewise, essays and stories are tossed into the mix too. The end result is that it takes a lot of mental effort to find you're looking for. I would like to suggest that subcategories are created for the "Contents." These would be "Stories," "Essays," "Book Reviews," "Interior Art," and possibly "Letters." Each type would appear under its subheading, which would greatly reduce the visual complexity. The contents are already tagged on entry, so this would only require re-arranging the data, and a new "Contents" frame. I'm not a programmer, so maybe this is not as easy as I think it is.--Rkihara 14:39, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)

I AM a programmer, but not on the ISFDB, so this is just my opinion on what COULD be done. "Stories", "Essays", "Book Reviews", and "Interior Art" could be displayed or suppressed at will with some software changes. (I've already talked today about capturing more data than some people want to see, and presenting it better.) "Letters" requires DATA changes as they're currently counted as "essays", and someone would have to go back and separate "essays" from "letters" (and maybe "editorials", "forewords", "bibliographies", "afterwords" and all the other stuff that we've counted as "essay"). It's not impossible, particularly if people have been using some sort of convention with the titles - it wouldn't be perfect, and any sort of mass update leads to a discussion of whether such an update makes a pub unverified, for instance. "Verification" is very appealing, making people re-verify stuff is a bit controversial - e.g. if we separated "Song" from "Poem" I'd like to know WHICH pubs I need to re-verify for a start, but a lot are still "Essay" type so I wouldn't mind too much. BLongley 15:20, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
It's a very good question though, keep it up! BLongley 15:20, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I was thinking of an outline view with everything visible, but it would improve user friendliness if each user could set up a preference file to suppress what he or she didn't want to see. Other listings that could be improved are the Author/Artist listings. If an Author/Artist is especially prolific, the list runs for several feet of small text. Maybe they could be linked to tables, like the magazines, though not down to the month.--Rkihara 16:13, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I'm not a programmer at all and don't know what would be involved with doing it, but I really like Rkihaara's idea of the outline format, and think it's one of the best ideas I've heard yet. For instance much of my collection of Collections/Anthologies are edited by Isaac Asimov. If opening his page were to open an outline with options for opening just short stories, or just anthologies, it would save bandwidth for the db. When I'm actively working on my collection, barely a day goes by when I'm not opening/refreshing Isaac's page several times at least, and sometimes many times. Also having a choice to open the entire page should be an option in the outline too. CoachPaul 16:25, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I find that the Concise Listing button on the Publication Listing button comes in very handy if I want to exclude artwork and book reviews from being displayed. Different colored fonts could be used for different types. Sometimes artwork entries are sorted before the stories they illustrate and I find that annoying.--swfritter 16:52, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)

<Unindent> With Isaac Asimov as an example, and having just waited for the entire page to download and feeling frustrated even with a broadband connection, I think I'd be happy if it just started with something like:
(+) Fiction Series
(+) Novels
(+) Collections
(+) Omnibus
(+) Serials
(+) Anthology Series
(+) Anthologies
(+) Nonfiction Series
(+) Nonfiction
(+) Nongenre
(+) Shortfiction
(+) Poems
(+) Essay Series
(+) Essays
With more detail available when clicking on a "(+)". Shortfiction and Essays are still overwhelming though, so using the Series sub-categories next would look better, IMO. All this requires programming though. BLongley 17:08, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)

The bottom line is, as long as Al is the only one able to do any programming...and Al isn't available...maybe we can clone Al like Lucy? CoachPaul 17:44, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)
Love the idea of separating things. I am trying to catch up on magazine entries and because the system hangs up on me occasionally and I lose work, I usually put in all of something (Page numbers and missing stories/articles, Illustrations, Reviews), save it, wait for it to be approved and put back into play, then start with the next round. Have also had trouble in that something can be buried in the long list, I reenter it, then realize it is a duplicate and remove it before I save. Lose some work over that. rbh 23:04, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)

ISFDB Programming

A question on the side: When you say "able to do any programming", do you refer to Al being the "benevolent dictator" of the project, i.e. no one else is allowed to implement changes. Or is he the only person with sufficient Python and/or architecture knowledge to implement changes? The reason why I am asking this off-topic question is because a) my first language is not English and your wording is not entirely clear to me; and b) I have been toying with the idea of looking deeper into to ISFDB project, but if there's no way to contribute software I will limit myself to "merely" get a better understanding of how the DB works. Herzbube 20:32, 24 Aug 2007 (CDT)

I believe it means that only Al has the Access Levels to apply the changes? I'm sure several others are skilled enough to make changes, but I suspect Al would at least want to test any such suggested changes first. BLongley 12:16, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)
Al is quite willing to share the programming duties and set up an open source site for ISFDB earlier this year, but he is the only one who has administrative access to the actual server hosted by TAMU. Hopefully he will be able to comment further once he completes his move to Austin. Ahasuerus 21:42, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)

Wiki troubles

I'm getting the error message "Sorry! The wiki is experiencing some technical difficulties, and cannot contact the database server. Unknown MySQL server host 'virt-mysql.vpr' (1)" after every edit, but the changes seem to take. Is anyone else getting this? BLongley 12:16, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)

May be a related problem. I am having a problem adding biblio pages for authors. Error: "Sorry! The wiki is experiencing some technical difficulties, and cannot contact the database server. Unknown MySQL server host 'virt-mysql.vpr' (1)".--swfritter 12:46, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I just got the same thing. After I hit save I was kicked into the "This page cannot display" with this message at the bottom "HTTP 500 - Internal server error Internet Explorer". The changes take for me to.Kraang 17:21, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I'm getting this too though the saves seem to be working. Marc Kupper (talk) 19:34, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)
We get the error when we try to access the site using If you use then it works. is configured somewhere in the wiki software and each time you edit a page it kicks you over to that site name. This seems like a TAMU issue rather than ISFDB. Marc Kupper (talk) 19:36, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)
I'am accessing the site from there but i'am still getting random access to the wiki. If I try to link into Chris J or anyone else from the Moderator page I get the "This page cannot display" message. If I link in from the recent edits i'am ok. From the Top Contributers page some link into the wiki and some don't. Once i'am on the wiki side i've been able to link to everything i've tried. From the ISFDB side its hit and miss.Kraang 20:18, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)
Discovered three things. 1-If the persons URL has "%20" imbedded in their name I can't link in. 2-Any URL beginning with "" I can't link in. 3-When I save this page I still get kickout.Kraang 20:41, 27 Aug 2007 (CDT)

(Unindent) Well, it's still happening. Obviously some of us still know how to work round it, but I presume it might be putting some new people off using the Wiki. Should be warning/advising new people? Do our Templates link to the "wrong" site? Any news of a fix? BLongley 17:05, 30 Aug 2007 (CDT)

On the plus side, the template links are to the "right" site, but on the flip side Al is still unavailable for most practical purposes. He is having his internet connection set up, installing surface-to-surface anti-Moorcock missiles, working on his Texas twang and taking care of other things that recent immigrants to the Lone Star state have to take care of. Ahasuerus 10:27, 31 Aug 2007 (CDT)