Some books have arrived at the Speculator household in the last couple of days that I am treating more as resources than reading material. The first is Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher. It really is a dictionary of terms whose use is founded in the tradition of science fiction. As the title says, this book comes from Oxford University Press, which would indicate some scholarly ambition for the book. Being the word geek I am, I am delighted that it treats its entries as does the Oxford English Dictionary; a definition, and then a chronological listing of the important appearances of the term. Prucher has done some remarkable research for those entries--most of them come from novels or short stories, but he uses genre magazines, mainstream newspapers, scripts of TV shows and movies, and even articles on Usenet newsgroups as his sources. A quick skim of the book uncovered several references to something called The Adventures of Luke Skykiller by George Lucas, for example. Of course the real joy is these listings, but the writer of the foreword, Gene Wolfe, also points out a use I had not considered--they provide some solid examples of the style and content of some things I have never read (and surely even more for someone newly come to speculative fiction) and those help to make a reading list. Like I need the help....
The one drawback of this book for me was the number of typographical errors and layout mistakes. If the book is trying to be reference material, the author and editor are going to have to be far more scrupulous about editing. Otherwise, I did an entire skim of the book, reading through definitions and first uses, and then deeper in to the examples if it was an interesting term. I recommend this book most heartily to either the fan of words or the fan of science fiction. And if you're a fan of both, this book is just a delight.
The second book that has arrived is The Rediscovery of Man, the complete set of short stories by Cordwainer Smith. I already owned The Best of Cordwainer Smith (thanks Mark!) and thoroughly enjoyed what is recognized as the top 12 or so pieces of short fiction by Smith (the nom de plume for Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger). I enjoyed them so much, however, that I decided I wanted to get them all. This is a lovely 600+ page volume that I may not actually get to for some time. I like short stories, but I tend to read collections as filler, a story at a time when I have a few minutes to spare. I am looking forward to this collection however, and I might just end up putting it in the growing reading stack.
I also bought Hominids by Robert Sawyer and Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson in my quest to catch up on the Nebula- and Hugo-award winning novels. Actually, I was looking for The Time Machine in the local used book stores but came up empty on that quest. But since I carry the list of the missing award-winners with me, I was able to pick those two up.