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In the original introduction to this encyclopedia, I announced its two goals, both derived from the example of David Thomson's brilliant A Biographical Dictionary of Film (now in its fourth edition as The New Biographical Dictionary of Film): first, to examine science fiction film through the prism of the individual talents that, even in an era of increasingly collaborative filmmaking, have continued to make distinctive contributions to the genre; and second, to offer frank, and sometimes critical, assessments of the merits of these people's work, avoiding the common tendency to play it safe and blandly praise everybody. A third, unannounced goal was to further emulate Thomson by eventually transforming the project into a profitable publication, though it became increasingly clear that that was never going to happen. I began by drafting fourteen entries that were repackaged as an article for a 1994 issue of the journal Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction; published two more entries in the program of the 1997 Science Fiction Research Association/Eaton Conference; and launched the online version, originally as part of the website of the British science fiction magazine Interzone, about two years late, adding new entries and updating existing entries whenever I could.
At the time this encyclopedia first became available, the internet was a very different place. First, thorough and accurate information was hard to find, and compiling the credits for each individual required extensive research using several print and online sources. There also was not an overabundance of good reading material online. For these reasons, it initially seemed that many people were eagerly consulting the encyclopedia, regularly sending me email messages requesting information about some performer or director, or praising or criticizing the judgments expressed in certain entries. Over the years, however, those messages came less and less often, as crowdsourced sites like Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database evolved into reliable references, and as growing numbers of websites were providing ample amounts of stimulating reading on every subject. Compiling my film credits became a process of transcribing and reformatting the credits in the Internet Movie Database (raising the question of why I was bothering to copy data from one readily accessible website to another), and readers interested in filmmakers could find numerous websites that were intelligently discussing their accomplishments. Thus, there seemed increasingly little reason for anyone to look at my encyclopedia; and I was also paying less and less attention to it, for as I approached retirement age, I understandably wanted to focus my energies on writing books, articles, and reviews that could generate some income. I further came to recognize that maintaining a constantly updated encyclopedia was an endless task—but I was not an endless person, and unlike a multiple-author reference like the online Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, my own encyclopedia seemed a project that could never be passed on to successors.
Still, though there were good reasons to stop working on this encyclopedia, I did not want to simply abandon it; and the only alternative was to devise some way to finish it. Thus, I have made the following decisions:
First, I am officially rechristening this project as the Biographical Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film, 1901-2016. This does not mean that I will cease my labors on January 1, 2017, as I will continue to make additions and improvements, but I will undertake to solely examine the achievements of individuals within the stated time period, ignoring the new talents that will emerge in 2017 and thereafter, and ignoring the additional work of living individuals who have already distinguished themselves during that era.
Second, I am developing a list of all of the inarguably important men and women who contributed to science fiction film during that period, ranging from Georges MELIES to Jennifer LAWRENCE, and I will endeavor to produce entries for all of them. Some lesser figures who arguably merit a place in this encyclopedia may forever be excluded, but I trust that the completed encyclopedia will be addressing the contributions of all of the genre's giants.
Third, beginning with Forrest J ACKERMAN and proceeding all the way to George ZUCCO, I will be revising and updating all of the current entries as needed, to cover their entire careers during the announced time period. While doing so, I will remove the existing lists of credits (which have frequently proved to be incomplete anyway) and replace them with links to the individual's film credits in the Internet Movie Database.
Fourth, when I have finished these tasks to my satisfaction, I will officially announce that the encyclopedia is complete, and I will plan no further modifications except, perhaps, to correct errors or make additions that belatedly seem essential.
I should finally thank all of the individuals who, over the years, have sent me their questions and comments (an effort to individually recognize all of them was long ago abandoned), and I hope that this encyclopedia will long continue to attract interested readers, and occasionally inspire a few of them to contact me with their thoughts and reactions.
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