How Long 'Til GooglePern?

That's PERN. Not the other thing you think you might've read.

Encyclopedia Week II continues with me heralding my love of books about fictional places. I know, I know... It's a big, beautiful world out there, but genre fiction makes such a big point of world-building, you can't help but be charmed by the detailed worlds created by writers and the enthusiasts who were allowed to fill in the blanks. Not everybody's a Tolkien, after all. Not every writer has the time to create their world's alphabets, folk songs and fashions through the ages.

When I was a pup, at the height of my science fiction and fantasy reading, I was lucky enough to be in the Science Fiction Book Club with my poor old mum paying the bills. The Club offered some great fake atlases and encyclopedias and I tried to get them when the price was right. One of these is the Atlas of Pern, and this despite the fact that I have yet to read any of Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders stories! Back then, I was a sucker for any map in any book, and this had a whole planet of locations to picture!Another precious piece of my collection is the Dune Encyclopedia, authorized by Frank Herbert (yay!) and totally contradicted by his son, Brian Herbert (boo!), filled with essays by Dr. Willis E. McNelly and others, in an alphabetical, encyclopedic manner. Though completely readable from cover to cover as a sort of chronicle, there is some insane detail in this book. How the Great Houses voted on important issues, just what religions influenced the Orange Catholic Bible, poetry and song à la Tolkien, linguistics (Fremen looks Arabic of course), and more. You've got biographies for characters that were never developped, illustations, and more fake footnotes than a Borges short story. It's what the book of Tlon would have been like, and as Herbert himself says, both amusing and fascinating.

In this age of wikis, the fan encyclopedia has gone the way of the internet, I suppose. Nothing like a real book in your hands to make a place seem real. After all, who creates history books and atlases about fake places? Wikis still stick very much to the "canon" though, and never really reach the level of the Dune Encyclopedia. And what about atlases? We have GoogleEarth technology! Why isn't it put to use mapping other planets? Where's our GooglePern, GoogleWorldofGreyhawk, GoogleRiverworld?

Seed sown. I'll be waiting.


De said...

Wikis still stick very much to the "canon" though, and never really reach the level of the Dune Encyclopedia.

There is Memory Beta for Star Trek's licensed material, which isn't as concerned with the canon given the works involved. However, you're right in that even if it were printed, it wouldn't be the same as having a magnificent tome like the Dune or Star Wars Encyclopedia in your hands.

I'd love to see a GoogleVulcan.

cardboardjudas said...

Strangely the first thing i though of was GooglePerm.

Siskoid said...

De: And still Memory Beta doesn't go the extra mile and invent stuff.

Judas: Like I said, "Not the other thing you think you might've read." ;)

Austin Gorton said...

No Wiki will ever rise above a good old fashioned, thick encyclopedia or atlas for me.

Wikis are great for quick look up, bet-settling, and whatnot, but there's nothing like paging through an enormous tome of facts about fictional worlds.

Sea-of-Green said...

I'm still waiting for a Dragonriders movie.

The technology exists to do a film like that now.

Dragons and fire lizards (which might as well be flying cats) everywhere! Hoorah! :-)

Doc_Loki said...

I want to see GoogleTrantor.

cardboardjudas said...

Ha! i thought the "other thing" YOU were referring to was the more internet fitting GooglePorn

Jack Norris said...

I also have a (rather tattered)copy of the Dune Encyclopedia that I treasure.
Even the stuff that is created from only the merest mention in the books (or even made up almost from scratch) shows more consistency with the spirit of Frank's novels than the godawful crap produced by Junior in collaboration with The World's Shittiest SF Author. Authorized or not, their "work" does a greater disservice to the "real" Dune than the crappiest possible movie adaptation.


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