How to Help

This site is meant to be a communal effort, and there are many ways in which it is possible to help. We particularly need someone with good web design/UX skills to help with the site itself. On the content side, we need moderators who will actively edit the site’s contents. Moderators should be knowledgeable about science fiction, and exceptionally detail oriented; we can work with you on the lexicographical training!

This project began as an effort to crowdsource research for the Oxford English Dictionary. This is still part of the goal, even as increasing amounts of material becomes available in searchable form. The history of this process, and indications of what we’re looking for, may be found at the ‘Quotation History’ element at the bottom of every entry. We are always looking for comments, of any kind, on individual entries.

Many tasks need to be done, and they mainly involve gathering verifiable evidence. Traditionally in lexicography, this takes the form of quotations from printed sources; more recently, other kinds of evidence are increasingly common, though the most important thing remains that the quotation be trustworthily dateable, and preferably from a source that will be able to be checked in the future. While a reliance on edited, printed texts raises a host of legitimate questions about gatekeeping and privileging, there are also practical reasons why random examples from ‘the Internet’ are not the best source for research.

Some possible tasks for volunteers include:

  1. Web design/UX: improve the visual appearance of the site and the way the information is presented
  2. Bibliographic checking: add links to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database to entries that don't currently have them
  3. Citation linking: look up quotations for pulp magazines in the Internet Archives, and add links to the page image; check the bibliography and add links to the ISFDB
  4. Antedating research: look for earlier examples of existing entries (especially in the Internet Archive, or, for fan-related terms, in the zines archived at
  5. Postdating research: there are very few post-2010 quotations; find more of these to bring entries up to date and to be more inclusive of current writers
  6. Quotations review: the quotations that appear with each entry were originally generated automatically from the OED database, and many of them were out of place; we've reviewed entries, but there will still be some that are out of place; in other cases, there are simply too many. The goal of quotations in a historical dictionary is to be representative rather than exhaustive; the inclusion of several dozen quotations tires the reader without providing useful information
  7. Entry completion: we have lists of potential entries; many of them are probably not worthy of entry (too marginal), but many just need to be researched and edited before we can move them to the main site (these will typically require a not-inconsiderable amount of work)
  8. Entry drafting: draft completely new entries (which will include researching citations)
  9. Writing subject summaries: the subject pages could use brief essays
  10. New subjects: a targeted effort to cover new subfields; this will be a major task, because of the need for original research
  11. Fixing mistakes: there are errors of various kinds in this dictionary, unfortunately; if you see any, please send them in, we’ll get them fixed ASAP

If you are interested in participating, or have any comments, whether about the site as a whole, individual entries, or anything else, please get in touch with Jesse Sheidlower by email at

If you want to use any site materials for research purposes, please contact us. We ask that you not crawl the site for reasons other than search indexing.