Adjectives in Science Fiction

It’s long been a source of humor: SF magazines used eye-grabbing adjectives in their titles early on – the first two were “Weird” and “Amazing”, quickly followed by “Wonder(ful)”, Astounding, Startling, Astonishing, Fantastic, Thrilling.

Not too long after the genre had become established, the fanzines and authors were poking fun at this affectation, using other, slightly less appropriate adjectives to make their point – “Stupendous”, and “Stupifying” among them.

I got curious about this dynamic (another adjective used for the title of an SF mag), so the first thing I did was to take a look at all of the magazine titles that have been offered in the English language, to see what the actual extent was:

In generally chronological order of initial publication, we get:

Miracle (Miraculous)
Out of This World (an adjectival phrase)
Beyond (adverb really)

That’s 30 words. There are some 10,000 adjectives in the English language.

Clearly, there’s a lot more available for new titles,

But first.  I was a bit surprised to discover (after all this time of studying this stuff) that the vast majority of titles for SF & F magazines do not use an adjective in their title.  There are far more titles that use nouns – Galaxy, Universe, Planet, Cosmos, Infinity, World, Treasury, Future, Nova, Comet, Cosmic, Yankee, Venture, Adventure, Tales, Orbit, Rocket, Saturn, Space, Dream, Vanguard, Spacemen;  or people’s names – Vargo Statten, Isaac Asimov, A. Merritt, Flash Gordon, Rod Serling; or simply some variation on Science Fiction and/or Fantasy.

It seems that the adjectival affectation has impressed fans and readers far beyond its actual usage.

I found a list of 4,800 adjectives on the web (approximately half of all of them) and have been going through the list to see if there aren’t any that are available, and perhaps ought to be used for an SFF magazine:

We’ll go in alphabetical order.

Abandoned.  Abandoned Science Fiction. Great title for a mag publishing unfinished stories.

Abhorrent.  Abhorrent Fantasy.   A magazine publishing fantasy rejected by every other magazine in the field

Abrasive.  I think someone from the “piss them off” school of marketing has already used this

Absurd Science Fiction.  SF in which all of the science is dreadfully wrong

Achievable Science Fantasy.  (Note the deliberate contradiction).  A magazine produced by the Mundane branch of the field

Acoustic Fantasy.  Either publishes stories only written on a typewriter, or a magazine shaped like a seashell.

Adorable Science Fiction.  Features stories with plush toys

Adversarial Fantasy.  Produced by the law firm of Baggins & Baggins

Agonizing Science Fiction.  Published only in the Star Trek mirrorverse

Ambiguous Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Publishes all of the stories publishing firms can’t fit into a category

Antagonistic SF.  Two editions are published for each issue, one for conservatives and one for liberals, with (belaboring the obvious) the conservative edition publishing liberal stories and the liberal edition publishing conservative stories.  Printed with the byline “stories guaranteed to make you lose your shit”

Appetizing Fantasy Fiction.  Cookbook.  Obvious.  Edible paper.

Ashamed Science Fiction and Fantasy.  All pseudonyms, every issue!

…and that’s only a portion of the ‘A’s.

Clearly there is a lot to be mined.  But don’t worry, we’re not changing Amazing’s name any time soon.

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