Help:How to separate two authors with the same name

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This page is a help or manual page for the ISFDB database. It describes standards or methods for entering or maintaining data in the ISFDB database, or otherwise working with the database. Other help pages may be found via the category below. To discuss what should go on this page, use the talk page.

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Occasionally an author's name is identical to the name of another, different author. Although this is rare, it causes problems for the ISFDB if care is not taken to distinguish the authors.

For any data entered where the "author" field exactly matches an existing author, the ISFDB assumes that the newly entered author is the same as the existing author. The data is connected to that author, behind the scenes, without any intervention on the part of the editor.

In almost every case this is what is needed. However, there are some authors, such as Robert Frazier, for whom it is not correct. There are (at least) two different Robert Fraziers who have written works that appear in the ISFDB. One is a poet, born in 1951. The other wrote book reviews for Fantastic Universe in the mid-1950s. These are clearly two different people.

What to Do

To distinguish between two (or more) people with the same name, the names must be made unique. This is done by appending parenthetical "disambiguating" information to the end of some or all of the names involved:

  1. If one person is significantly more prominent/widely known in the Spec-Fic world than the others, e.g., Stephen King, that person's name should be left as-is, with no disambiguation appended. Otherwise, the names of all people of the same profession should be disambiguated. If you are unsure of a person's prominence in the Spec-Fic field, ask on the Community Portal or Moderator noticeboard.
  2. If the people have different professions -- for example, one is an author, the other an artist -- append the profession in parentheses. If none is particularly prominent, add the disambiguation only to the non-author(s). For example, Chris Lynch the author and Chris Lynch (artist) the artist.
  3. Otherwise, use a range of birth-death years: "(1910-1990)". If the person is still living, omit the second year: "(1990-)". If the birth year is unknown, use a question mark: "(?-1990)" or "(?-)". For example, Colin Harvey (1960-2011) and Colin Harvey (1971-).
  4. If no disambiguating profession or birth date is known, or these are still ambiguous, other unique text should be used. Some widely-employed differentiators include:
  • Country (in English) -- If each author worked exclusively out of one country, and those respective countries are different. For example, Chris Lynch and Chris Lynch (Australia).
  • Decade of work ("1990s") -- The decade(s) during which the person produced works. For example, James Cooper and James Cooper (1950s).
  • Roman numerals (I, II, and so on) -- Consider this especially if the person has an IMDB entry using a roman numeral differentiator, and then use the same one.
    In general, attempt to follow existing precedent. If in doubt, ask on the Community Portal or Moderator noticeboard.

How to Do It

To separate works by multiple people credited to a single, ambiguous name, choose one new unique name according to the guidelines above, and go to each title and publication (if applicable) that should be credited to that new name and change the author name accordingly. The ISFDB will automatically create an author bibliography using that new name. If more than two people are involved, repeat this process for any others.

When the original ambiguous name remains with only one person's works credited to it, that name can be changed if it, too, should be disambiguated. A moderator can do this in a single step by Edit Author Data and modifying the author's Canonical Name. (Note that only moderators can change canonical names.)