Whether or not you’re into science fiction movies or books or shows, you know the influence the genre’s had on the rest of popular culture.

Our world has definitely been shaped by these imagined worlds, and some of what they’ve imagined has actually happened.

A new website is now taking us back through the words that have made sci-fi what it is and how they did it.


It’s called the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, and the emphasis here is on historical.

It’s not as if you need a site that just lists, say, all the creatures in the Star Wars universe. (Wookiee is in there, but Jar-Jar Binks is not. I checked.)

This site looks at the recurring concepts that have defined sci-fi.

Take robots, for example.

The entry here says the word dates back to 1920, in a play by Karel Čapek in which a factory makes artificial people out of synthetic living tissue to work for humans.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t go well.

But in just over a century, we not only have all kinds of creative works about robots, we have actual robots of a kind!

The project is less of a robot than a zombie: it was in the works for years, with the creators collecting word submissions and background information from sci-fi fans before eventually grinding to a halt.

But over the past year, the creators used their time at home to bring it back to life and scour through old magazines and anthologies.

You might say they were bringing past versions of the future into the present.


About 450 light years from Earth is a planet that might make a good sci-fi story someday.

As far as we can tell, it’s orbiting a brown dwarf, which is not quite a star, and the planet is only barely orbiting.

It’s about as far away as Neptune is from the Sun, and if an actual star passes close enough, it’ll probably be enough to yank the two apart.

So who wants to work on the screenplay with me?

A New Way to Trace the History of Sci-Fi’s Made-Up Words (WIRED)

The Weirdest Binary: Planet and Not-a-Star Barely Orbit Each Other (Bad Astronomy)

Space is the place for us and our backers on Patreon, join us!

Photo: Replica of Gort from “The Day The Earth Stood Still” at the Robot Hall of Fame. By Jiuguang Wang from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons