Searching the SFE

The search box above has more options than are immediately obvious.

Searching for a phrase reports all the entries that contain the words you enter, with priority given to actual SF Encyclopedia headwords (entry titles). A search for Jules Verne finds a long list of entries, beginning with Verne's own and others with his name in the headword.

Searching for a phrase in quotes reports only entries where the words appear together in the given order, just as in Google searches. Searching for Star Fox without quotes gives many hits for such entries as Star Wars movies from Twentieth Century Fox. Searching for "star fox" narrows down the results to the two (at the time of writing) entries that mention Poul Anderson's book The Star Fox.

To find the author of a particular title, it's useful to select Author from the pulldown menu at the left of the search box, and then search for the title in quotes. This narrows the search to Author entries only, eliminating theme entries that discuss the story in question. Or you can focus on these theme entries by selecting Theme from the same menu.

Wildcard searches are also allowed within search terms, with ? standing for a single character and * for any number of characters (including none). If you can't remember how to spell Cryptonomicon, a search for crypton* will find the title. See below for a particular use of the ? wildcard.

Known Search Problems

Occasionally a search for some commonplace name or phrase which is most definitely in the text will draw a blank: "Your search didn't return any results." This happens when the search index is rebuilding after a site update. Simply wait a minute or two and try again.

The search engine recognizes plain-text versions of most accented and other special characters. That is, searches for "Benet" and "Daniken" without accents will find the accented names Stephen Vincent Benét and Erich von D?niken. Unfortunately this fails for some less common characters: searching for Hoeg, for example, wouldn't find Peter H?eg. A search for H?eg works, but the ? character isn't easily typed on English-language keyboards. The slashed L in Stanis?aw Lem's first name was equally awkward.

To fix this, we cheated. The headwords for H?eg, Lem and several others now appear without the diacriticals that the search engine can't handle, so searches for "Peter Hoeg" and "Stanislaw Lem" produce the relevant headwords as top hits. At the beginning of each affected entry we note "More correctly given as Peter H?eg" (or whatever the properly accented name may be)

A suggested workaround for problem characters within names was to use the ? wildcard, e.g. H?eg or Stanis?aw Lem. However, this fails for target terms beginning with such a character. For some reason Alien? fails to find Alien3, although Alien* does the trick. Our current list of headwords that fall through the meshes of searching is now short:

If magazine is a special case: no diacriticals, but we suspect some hidden filter removes "unimportant" parts of speech from search strings and prevents an "If" search from working at all.

Some other problem characters that don't appear in headwords are known: lower-case ?, for example, as in S?vius Nicanor. This name occurs in a Checklist title within the James Branch Cabell entry. Searching for S?vius works.

Former Search Problems

Below is the list of headwords whose search problems have been finessed as above. Searching for AE wouldn't find the ? entry, so we changed the headword to AE ... and so on. Headwords starting with awkward characters such as ? -- these are marked ? below -- also failed to appear in the SFE headword lists but have been restored by the workaround. 

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