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Vol 1, Issue #8
"Stand By For Mars!"
August 2006

Deep Thought: Editorials by Caroline Miniscule
2. Science Fiction Out of the Mists of Time

There are over 18,000 out-of-copyright works (books and magazine articles) in the Project Gutenberg archives, and of these it appears that less than 100 are science fiction! Scandalous!

In 1971, just 35 years ago, the Internet was just a-borning, but University of Illinois student Michael Hart envisioned the future and wanted to “make works of literature available in electronic form for free.” He therefore founded Project Gutenberg, which took out-of-copyright texts and put them on the web for anyone to read.

Project Gutenberg's website

Project Gutenberg has grown in the last 35 years, so that at this time there are a little over 18,000 books in the archives. Unfortunately, these books are not indexed so that someone can find something easily. You can search by author or title.

You can search the index yesterday by subject, for example “science fiction” - but when I did this I came up with 33 titles. I know this is inaccurate, because in doing other searches on the site by author, I found that there are at least two Tom Corbetts, several Tom Swifts, and a couple of books by Murray Leinster on offer, which were not on the list of 33 titles!

  • List of Public Domain science fiction material available at Project Gutenberg

  • A few weeks ago I learned (through ) that E.E. "Doc" Smith's Skylark of Space was being readied for Gutenberg, through a website called Distributed Proofreaders. This was formed in 2000, an all-volunteer organization whose task it is to proof all the books and magazines scanned into the system using OCR software. Anyone can join, and anyone can proofread – no special software is necessary.

    So I decided to join...and I did manage to proof a few pages of Skylark, but there are over a thousand volunteers and I didn't get a chance to do too many pages. All was not lost, however. I also worked on Banzai, a book written in 1909 by a German author which dealt with a successful Japanese surprise invasion of the United States. (Whether it was first published in German and then translated into English, or he wrote it in English, I do not know.)

    I haven't seen any science fiction for a while, but I still keep my hand in, proofing a few pages a day, because it's interesting work. There's religous texts if you're in to that sort of thing, science, lists of post offices in Canada in the 1800s, Warren Commission transcripts, travel tales from Englishmen visiting France after the Revolution...all sorts of things.

    Distributed Proofreaders needs volunteers. Project Gutenberg needs out-of-copyright science fiction content. One way or the other, help ‘em out!

    External sites

  • Project Gutenberg home page
  • Distributed Proofreaders Activity Hub. How to join and what to do

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