Malcolm Edwards, John Clute and Peter Nicholls discussing the early days of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
at Loncon 3
The first edition, edited by Peter Nicholls with John Clute, was published by Granada in 1979. It was retitled The Science Fiction Encyclopedia when published by Doubleday in the United States. Accompanying its text were numerous black and white photographs illustrating authors, book and magazine covers, film and TV stills, and examples of artists' work.
A second edition, jointly edited by Nicholls and Clute, was published in 1993 by Orbit in the UK and St. Martin's Press in the US. The second edition contained 1.3 million words, almost twice the 700,000 words of the 1979 edition. The 1995 paperback edition included a sixteen page addendum (dated "7 August 1995"). Unlike the first edition, the print versions did not contain illustrations. There was also a CD-ROM version in 1995, styled variously as The Multimedia Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Grolier Science Fiction. This contained text updates through 1995, hundreds of book covers and author photos, a small number of old film trailers, and author video clips taken from the TVOntario series Prisoners of Gravity.
The companion volume, published after the second print edition and following its format closely, is The Encyclopedia of Fantasy edited by John Clute and John Grant.
All print and CD-ROM editions are currently out of print.
In July 2011, Orion Publishing Group announced that the third edition of the Science Fiction Encyclopedia would be released online later that year by SFE Ltd in association with Victor Gollancz, Orion's science fiction imprint. The "beta text" of the third edition launched online on 2 October 2011, with editors John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls (as Editor Emeritus until his death in 2018) and Graham Sleight. The encyclopedia is updated regularly (usually several times a week) by the editorial team with material written by themselves and contributed by science fiction academics and experts. It received the Hugo Award for Best Related Work in 2012. Though the SFE is a composite work with a considerable number of contributors, the three main editors (Clute, Langford and Nicholls) have themselves written almost two-thirds of the 5.2 million words to date (September 2016), conveying a sense of unity to the whole.