After Hours

75 words every sci-fi fan should know

Textbook barons Houghton Mifflin have of late proclaimed <em>100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know</em>. But if you're going to learn obscure words and concepts, it may as well be terms you're actually likely to use. Thus, we present <u><strong>75 Words Every Science Fiction Fan Should Know</strong></u>!

sfstack.jpgTextbook barons Houghton Mifflin have of late proclaimed 100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know, probably in an attempt to shame and terrify the average student into purchasing an appropriate SAT study guide. For those of us who grew up reading science fiction and/or comic books, the list reads like the margin notes of every classic supervillain's world-domination handbook. For some actual enlightenment, I recommend a different guide, Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction, the polished dead-tree version of the OED's Science Fiction Citations Web site (found via SFSignal).

From the latter resource, with the addition of some personal selections from Wikipedia, I have gathered a list of 75 Words Every Science Fiction Fan Should Know. Because if you're going to learn obscure words and concepts, it may as well be terms you're actually likely to use.

  1. Alderson disk (n.)
  2. arcology (n.)
  3. areography (n.)
  4. astrogate (v.)
  5. avatar (n.)
  6. Bernal sphere (n.)
  7. chrononaut (n.)
  8. Clarke ring (n.)
  9. Clarke's First Law (n.)
  10. Clarke's Second Law (n.)
  11. Clarke's Third Law (n.)
  12. computronium (n.)
  13. contraterrene (adj.)
  14. Dyson sphere (n.)
  15. elsewhen (adv.)
  16. esper (n.)
  17. Faraday cage (n.)
  18. FTL (adj.)
  19. geas (n.)
  20. grey goo (n.)
  21. grok (v.)
  22. Jovian (adj.)
  23. kiloyear (n.)
  24. light cone (n.)
  25. light sail (n.)
  26. light-second (n.)
  27. Lofstrom loop (n.)
  28. mass-driver (n.)
  29. Matrioshka brain (n.)
  30. meatspace (n.)
  31. megastructure (n.)
  32. megayear (n.)
  33. mindfood (n.)
  34. nanotech (adj.)
  35. needler (n.)
  36. neutronium (n.)
  37. Niven ring (n.)
  38. O'Neill cylinder (n.)
  39. parking orbit (n.)
  40. precog (n.)
  41. pocket universe (n.)
  42. positronic (adj.)
  43. posthuman (n.)
  44. psi (n.)
  45. psychohistory (n.)
  46. quine (n.)
  47. ramscoop (n.)
  48. replicant (n.)
  49. rimworld (n.)
  50. ringwall (n.)
  51. Santa Claus machine (n.)
  52. sapient (n.)
  53. sentience (n.)
  54. Shkadov thruster (n.)
  55. Singularity (n.)
  56. skyhook (n.)
  57. sophont (n.)
  58. space elevator (n.)
  59. space fountain (n.)
  60. Stanford torus (n.)
  61. starwisp (n.)
  62. stellar engine (n.)
  63. superluminal (adj.)
  64. TANSTAAFL (n.)
  65. Tellurian (n.)
  66. terraform (v.)
  67. topopolis (n.)
  68. transhuman (n.)
  69. universal constructor (n.)
  70. uplift (n.)
  71. Von Neumann probe (n.)
  72. waldo (n.)
  73. wetware (n.)
  74. Whuffie (n.)
  75. xenology (n.)


Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...


Where did Asimov's laws of robotics go?


What SciFi does well is its diversity, a SF writer can write anything from crime fiction to fantasy


I've been reading/watching science fiction now for roughly 35 years and I think I know about 39 of these terms. A few more common ones that do not rely on having read/seen a specific series: visiplate screen/shields escape pod shape shifter generation ship anti-grav gestalt - Group mind Most are self explanitory which is more than can be said for the likes of Starwisp or Whuffie.


How could that have not made the list?


How can one even have the the top ten science fiction words (much less the top 75) without slan? But then one must make allowances for those ignorants who use the despised skiffy neologism


(because the good SF makes it into the realm of literature...) robot Czech playwright Karel ??apek wrote R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots) and coined the term from the czech "robit" meaning "work". Productions staged in Prague in 1920 and NYC in 1922. ??apek b. 1890, d.1930. The plot is pretty scary revolutionary for a time when you had the hot technology if you drove your Model T home to listen to a radio. Robots are created, do work, take over, exterminate humans. There oughta be a law! Oh, there was one 22 years later when Asimov wrote 'I, Robot'. [info on ??apek & R.U.R. from my 1960s college textbook, 'Contemporary Drama; 9 plays'] Claudia


A few extra, some primary ones - Cyber, Cyborg, Assembler, Hyperspace, Subspace, Hyperdrive, Jump Drive, Warp drive !!, hologram !!! There are loads of different names just for assemblers- assemblers, nanites, constructors, universal constructors, nanorobots, Von Neumann replicators, magic dust, grey goo - plus ripper bots, nano surgeons, etc. A few defs upgraded "Cyborg" - In scifi a cyborg is traditionally a part human part machine construct. In reality it is anything that uses cybernetic feed back - including all humans and all really advanced robots. "Positronic" - electronics uses electrons, positronics would use protons as well, mostly as gasses or plasmas "Hyperspace" - contradictory definitions, either the ftl regions of space (inc trad SF or pre80's Relativity), or space with more than 3 dimensions (modern screwy physics lk m-theory) "Subspace" - at least four or five closely related definitions - the inverse of space, the inverse of hyperspace, regions separated by light cone or Schrodinger box, a sibilant resonant wave in space ie ripples in space time. The Star Trek definition basically follows most of these to.


Damn post editor! - Sorry!!


The Santa Claus Machine sounds a lot like a Schmoo from Li'l Abner. Look it up.


Forgot some more: TARDIS dimensionally transcendental

For the purists... One thing the author should definitely know: it's spelled "skiffy" (pronounced like the peanut butter). Sci-Fi was a term invented by Forrest J. Ackerman as homage to early SF editor Hugo Gernsback, who was also into radio. It was a variation on "Hi-Fi". Hard-core science fiction enthusiasts tend to dismiss the phrase "sci-fi" as demeaning. Also, for those that attend the conventions (of which there seem to be waaaaay to many these days), one word (an acronym, actually) conspicuously absent: SMOF (Secret Master of Fandom). There actually is a SMOFcon (held in Boston late last year), which seems to obviate the S part of the word, but what the hey...


obviously, the compiler of this list is not particularly well read: Hyperspace Chronosynclastic Infundibulum Spindizzy Blaster Humanx CoDominium Cyan (usually as an adj describing blaster fire) Forerunners Esper Starport To pose just a few.


At 7:00 AM EST you managed to 'digg' the link site 'Jessewords' to unresponsiveness. Science fact not fiction, the magic of internet exposure. A linked list is only as strong as the site with the 'least' bandwidth. Links to photos often go from the picture to a notice for the owner to contact billing for exceeding their limits.

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