Just don't call it "sci-fi": WikiProject Science Fiction
Modern day Tokyo
has served as inspiration for settings in the cyberpunk
This week, we explored the great unknown with WikiProject Science Fiction. The project was started in December 2006 by former Signpost editor-in-chief Ragesoss "so there would be something broader to tie together editors and articles interested in science fiction, rather than specific franchises or media, and especially sf literature." WikiProject Science Fiction is home to 59 Featured Articles, 3 A-Class Articles, and 219 Good Articles. The project is the parent of a variety of franchise-specific WikiProjects ranging from Star Wars to Heroes to Transformers. We interviewed long-time members Orangemike and Nihonjoe along with new member Someone another.
What motivated you to join WikiProject Science Fiction? What is your favorite science fiction novel/comic/film/series?
- Orangemike: I'm a fairly hardcore SF fan and semi-pro writer, with multiple published reviews and articles to my credit; I've attended over a hundred conventions, been Fan Guest of Honor at two, got married to a fellow fan at one (31 years and still together); still read and collect the stuff.
- Nihonjoe: I've been a fan for many years, and I also help in various fandom-related endeavors (running conventions, etc.), so I enjoy helping improve and add information to Wikipedia to help in the coverage.
- Someone another: I joined the SF project literally days ago. Rather than having any real knowledge of SF, my interest is in the horror video games and films which happen to be in a science fiction setting: films like Event Horizon, The Thing and the Aliens/Predator series; and games like Dino Crisis 3, Dead Space, and Space Gun. I almost exclusively edit video game topics and hope to contribute to the SF project that way.
Are some science fiction authors, eras, or sub-genres better covered than others on Wikipedia? What can be done to improve the breadth of Wikipedia's coverage of science fiction?
- Orangemike: Wikipedia's recentist bias is actually somewhat reversed in the area of written SF, with careful detail being maintained on the classics of the field. However, the reverse is true with regard to film and television, with the most recent crap being obsessed upon, regardless of importance to the genre. Our coverage of the underlying culture of science fiction fandom, which not only shaped the genre professionally but gave birth to all the myriad spinoff fandoms, could be improved: there is a tendency among those unfamiliar with the field to challenge the reality that (as with other minority cultures) SF fandom's history is embodied in our own publications, which means mimeographed fanzines and the like. We do have several Hugo-winning SF editors who are also Wikipedia editors.
- Nihonjoe: There's certainly better coverage on more recent best-selling authors, but I think the coverage on older authors and editors who had an impact is improving, too. It's sometimes very difficult to find information on older topics, especially online topics, so without access to older magazines and other older sources it can be very hard to find enough to make sure an article is able to meet the inclusion standard (as they tend to be very recentism-oriented).
Have you worked with any of WikiProject Science Fiction's franchise-specific child projects? How successful have these child projects been in comparison to WikiProject Science Fiction? How do talk page discussions at WikiProject Science Fiction differ from the child projects?
- Orangemike: They tend to draw the Aspergerish stereotype obsessive specialists, although it's unfair to underestimate the research into detail which such people can achieve.
- Nihonjoe: I haven't done much with specific franchise work, though I wander in and out of them on a regular basis. It really depends on my mood and interests at the time as I have very broad interests. This can be seen in the Speculative fiction portal which I designed, built, and maintain. I try to have it include as broad a range of information as possible.
Has WikiProject Science Fiction had to deal with reining in fancruft for large franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars? Who determines when there is too much trivial information included in a science fiction article? What other avenues are open for editors who want to share their overly-detailed knowledge of a franchise?
- Orangemike: Certainly. There can be a WP:OWN problem, since an article on, say, Farscape, will be most closely watched by those with the deepest interest in Farscape. A great number of these franchises have their own wikis, in some cases multiple wikis.
- Nihonjoe: Absolutely, just like any other project dealing with popular culture. I think we've done a good job with it in general, though. As with everything else, I think we try to get consensus any time there is a dispute over something, though sometimes the information is removed as just too trivial (meaning the link to the article topic is extremely tenuous, at best). As Orange Mike mentioned, a large number of franchise-specific wikis have been established where more fannish information can be included if it can't be included here for whatever reason.
How often do you encounter articles written from an in-universe perspective? Are these in-universe articles salvageable or is it typically easier to start from scratch?
- Orangemike: This is more of a problem in the [broadcast] media (TV and film) than the actual print SF. It can be dealt with, but we have to keep re-educating new editors as to what's appropriate.
- Nihonjoe: It can require a lot of work to rewrite, but I rarely find an article so far gone that nothing in it can be used. And I agree that it's more often a problem in TV and film articles than in articles about print science fiction topics.
The project shares the Speculative fiction Portal with three other projects. What benefits have come from sharing this responsibility? Are there any other ways WikiProject Science Fiction has collaborated with other WikiProjects?
- Nihonjoe: As there is a lot of cross-over between the topics, I think it's good to have one place someone can go for information on all of it, so they can then pursue whichever avenue they wish. Also, the portal has "tabs" for each of the three major topics for those who wish to find information on only that topic.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new member help today?
- Nihonjoe: The project has a list of things to do, and the list of things you can do on the speculative fiction portal. Those should keep anyone busy for years.
- Someone another: Without having any in-depth knowledge of the project, the most visible issues to me are the backlogs in articles needing rating by the project and the list of assessments which are long overdue.
Anything else you'd like to add?
- Orangemike: Just don't call it "sci-fi", okay? Aside from the non-encyclopedic tone, the term itself is regarded as childish and pejorative by a significant element of those who have shaped the field over the past 75 years.
- Nihonjoe: There's a lot to do here, and more hands certainly make the work lighter. I'd love to have help at the portal to keep up the "In the news", "Upcoming releases", and "Bestsellers" sections. Those are the only sections which require regular maintenance, but it is sometimes hard to keep up with all of that and do all the other things I like to help with, so things occasionally get behind. Volunteers are welcome, and I'm happy to train you on what to do.
- Someone another: Even if your interests are narrow within this field you can still help out with what does interest you.
Next week, we'll check out a cold-blooded project with a warm heart. Until then, brush up on biology in the archive.
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