A Glossary of SF and Fantasy Terms

David Lubar

Perplexed by the jargon of speculative fiction? There's good reason for that. We make it up as we go along. No grixling. But with the explosive growth of interest in fantasy and sf, it's important for every librarian to become familiar with some basic definitions. In an effort to help, we've compiled a glossary of the most important terms. So strap on a pair of pointy ears, grab yourself a nice cold glass of lagniff juice, and dive right in.

Sub Genres:

High fantasy—any book written during the late sixties.

Epic fantasy—a fantasy novel that takes five years to read.

Quest Fantasy—the book you've been looking for all week but can't find. It was on the coffee table just the other day, right under the cordless phone, and now it's gone.

Sword and Sorcery—two things that aren't allowed in to school.

Hard Science Fiction—an SF novel with lots of big words.

Soft Science Fiction—SF with a buxom wench on the cover.

Alternate History Story—any attempt made by a student to explain why he returned the soft science fiction novel without its cover.

Space opera—a musical performance so bad there are plenty of available seats.

Cyberpunk—high-tech incense burned to keep small insects and palm pilots from invading a room.

Splatterpunk—you don't want to know.

Gothic Horror—the feeling you get when your daughter decides to dress like an undertaker.

Magical realism—might just be a trendy, oxymoronic term for fantasy, but let me go ask the angel in my closet whether he has any thoughts on the matter.

Other Useful Terms:

Klingon—an alien race whose evil disposition is further aggravated by the realization that their name is so well suited to bathroom humor.

Conan—a talk show host played by Arnold Schwartzenegger.

Tolkien integration—the attempt to introduce students to fantasy through the use of only the best-known books in the genre. Also called "Pottering around."

Hyperspace—the section of the classroom where the overactive kids are sent for their timeouts.

Warp speed—the rate at which that incredibly expensive new anthology develops a curved cover.

Starfleet—special brand of enema endorsed by the Baldwin brothers.

Jedi—a comedic glance perfected by Buddy Ebsen.

Dr. Who—most common question uttered by anyone belonging to an HMO.

Necromancer—a vampire who gives hickies.

Cthulhu—what Kirk calls his helmsman after he's had oral surgery.

Hyperborean—Adjective used to describe the level of tedium reached in most scholarly analyses of fantasy.

H. P. Lovecraft—nickname for Hewlett Packard's corporate yacht.

"A Glossary of SF and Fantasy Terms" Copyright © 2002 by David Lubar

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