Private: Mars and science fiction

For the paper of record, Kim Stanley Robinson discusses the prominence of Mars in the imagination and history of science fiction stories and considers the feedback loop between science and science fiction.

Coincidentally, late last week, Mr. Maud mentioned a scientific article about the possibility of terraforming Mars. He said there have been plenty of novels written on the subject, including a trilogy by Mr. Robinson. We started to wonder how many SF terms eventually work their way into science.

Maybe the Oxford English Dictionary keeps statistics on that sort of thing. In any event, Language Hat notes that the dictionary is searching for the earliest citations of SF words. Here’s an excerpt from the OED site:

This page is a pilot effort for the Oxford English Dictionary, in which the words associated with a special field of interest are collected so that knowledgeable aficionados can help the OED find useful examples of these words. This, our first project, is science fiction literature.

The OED aims to include all words that are frequently used in any field, and attempts to find the earliest example of every sense of every word it includes. For SF the OED needs earlier examples of terms it already includes, early examples of terms that have been slated for future inclusion, and any examples of terms that have not yet caught the editors’ attention but are common in SF. Words used infrequently, words associated chiefly with a single author, or words so specialized that they are found only in a single subgenre, are not high priorities for inclusion.