Peter Nicholls (1939-2018)

Author, editor, critic, and historian Peter Nicholls, 78, died March 6, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. Nicholls created (and edited, as long as his health would allow) The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, arguably the single most essential reference work in the field of SF.

Nicholls began working on The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction in the mid-’70s. He was general editor of the first version, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: An Illustrated A to Z (1979), with John Clute as associate editor. That volume won the first Hugo Award for Non-Fiction in 1980. He was co-editor of the second edition, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1993, with updates published on CD-ROM), with Clute, and it won a Nonfiction Hugo as well. Nicholls was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2000, which curtailed (but did not eliminate) his contributions, so he served as editor emeritus of the third edition (2011), which won a Best Related Book Hugo in 2012; that edition is still being expanded in digital form at <>, with editors John Clute and David Langford, and Graham Sleight as managing editor.

Peter Douglas Nicholls was born March 8, 1939 in Melbourne. He was an academic specializing in English literature in the ’60s and ’70s, wrote documentaries, did book and movie reviews for BBC radio beginning in 1974, worked as an editor, and published SF criticism extensively in journals and magazines. He was the first administrator of the Science Fiction Foundation (1971-1977) and edited its magazine Foundation from 1974 to 1978. He edited Science Fiction at Large: A Collection of Essays, by Various Hands, about the Interface between Science Fiction and Reality (1976), collecting essays from a 1975 symposium he organized. With David Langford & Brian M. Stableford he wrote The Science in Science Fiction (1982), and alone wrote Fantastic Cinema: An Illustrated Survey (1984). In 1968 he went to the US on a Harkness fellowship, and he was an expatriate for the next two decades, living in the US and UK before returning to Australia in 1988.

Nicholls won a Pilgrim Award from the SFRA in 1980, an Eaton Award in 1995, and a Peter McNamara Award in 2006, all for his scholarly contributions. He is survived by wife Clare Coney and their children.

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