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At the heart of David Thomson's brilliant A Biographical Dictionary of Film (now in its third edition) are two key insights. First, despite the collaborative nature of the enterprise, filmmaking remains the product of distinguishable individual talents, and one may properly evaluate films by focusing on the people, in front of and behind the camera, who demonstrably contribute to their success or failure. Second, the process of evaluating films must also involve individual talent; and, despite the impulse to play it safe and evenly distribute bland praise when commenting on films and filmmakers, critics should instead convey their personal judgments boldly and clearly, even when these contradict consensus opinion or risk the wrath of aficionados.
This project was undertaken in frank imitation of Thomson, but it was also necessary both because no comparable book on science fiction film existed and because, regardless of his other virtues, Thomson happens to be consistently wrongheaded on those rare occasions when he considers science fiction films (I mean, the man prefers Metropolis to 2001: A Space Odyssey, for heaven's sake.) On and off for the past three years, I have compiled credits on 400 individuals and have drafted some fifty entries for this envisioned reference. Fourteen entries appeared in the sixty-fourth issue of Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction; two additional entries appeared in the program of the 1997 Science Fiction Research Association/Eaton Conference; this online version of the work in progress will include both previously published entries and previously unseen entries. An earlier attempt to find a publisher for this volume failed, but if I am encouraged by the response to the online version, I may try again.
Each entry begins with the subject's name, given name (if different) and years of birth and death in parentheses, and brief identification (nationality and principal avocation—actor, director, producer, writer, special effects artist, composer, other). Next, there are complete lists of all films and television programs that are relevant in some way to the topic of science fiction film—including works of fantasy, horror, suspense, and science fact. If the subject's credits are not numerous, they are presented in a single paragraph; if the subject has a large number of credits, or credits in several disparate areas, the credits are divided into several labelled paragraphs. All italicized titles not otherwise identified are feature-length films. Alternate titles are given afterwards in brackets. Following each title, there may be, in parentheses, a statement about shared credit or special information about the credit; there may also be, in separate parentheses, a statement about the special nature of the title (short, animated, documentary, tv movie, etc.). All film titles end with the director's name and year of release in parentheses. If the subject was only involved in one part of an episodic film, that part is described as a "segment," with the term "episode" reserved for individual episodes of television series. If the subject was involved only in one titled episode of a television series, the title is given in quotation marks, followed by the year of original airdate in parentheses, followed by the phrase "episode of" and series title.
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