This week I’d like to share a small handful of web sites I’ve found extremely useful over the years. If you haven’t already, “favorite” or “bookmark” these sites—you won’t be sorry.

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB)

Can’t remember the name of the author of The Gods Hate Kansas? Look it up here: it’s Joseph Millard. You’ll also learn that the book was first published in February of 1964 by Monarch Books here in the US and the cover artist was Jack Thurston. You can click on Jack Thurston and find that he also created cover art for Imitations of Eve, Darkness and the Deep, Mission: Third Force, Satan’s Steed, and Chill between 1961 and 1978. If, like me, you have to know more about a book called Satan’s Steed, you can click on that and find that it was written by Jory Sherman and published in 1978 by Pinnacle Books—and even see the cover in question. I could do this all day.

The ISFDB in an amazingly robust collection of information that is a must-see for anyone the slightest bit interested in the history of genre fiction. Here you can search by author, title, or ten other categories to find publication histories for what seems to be every science fiction or fantasy story of novel ever written. Okay, I won’t make that claim for them literally, but I have used it to look up some rather obscure stuff and it’s yet to come up short. They’ve got my info right, at least, and helped immensely with research for my work with Prologue Books years ago.

Okay, you’ve finished that short story, now what? Well, click on over to Ralan and find a massive list of markets for that story. You can sort by Pro markets, markets that Pay, and so on, or just start at the top and work your way down.

A sample listing looks like this—copied today, March 23, 2021, so if any time has passed, go to Ralan to check if this is still good…

THE DARK – monthly e-zine/some podcast; h/dark f (fic/art). Pay: fic=6¢/word; art=not given. Words: 2k-6k (query if longer). RT: <1 week. Reprints: no. E-subs: ONLYSean Wallace, Editor.

So we now know that The Dark publishes horror (h) and dark fantasy (f) stories and artwork and will pay 6¢ a (not bad) word for fiction no shorter than 2000 words or longer than 6000 words. They say they’ll respond in less than a week, which is lightning fast. I left in the links. You don’t submit through Ralan, so make sure you click these links, study each market’s full guidelines carefully to make sure you’re sending them something they might actually publish, and do it in the way that works for them.

Ralan also notes when markets are open or closed, so as of today I know not to bother Zoetrope: All-Story: “MARKET NOTE – 11Mar21: as of this date, still closed to general submissions.” It is a great resource—use it wisely.

Behind the Name

Oh, boy, naming characters can be hard. It’s still one of the questions I get most often, and have tried to answer at least in some way here over the years. The kind people behind Behind the Name can help with their exhaustive lists of real world contemporary and historical names, their variations, and the meanings behind them.

Of course I looked up Philip and their little popularity graphs made me feel bad about myself. Seriously, Australia. What’s up? The photo of the bust of Philip II of Macedon made it all okay, though. And I love the list of characteristics under the heading “People think this name is: classic, mature, formal, upper class, natural, wholesome, strong, refined, simple, serious, nerdy.” I accept all of those except formal and upper class, but I bet those would go away if I searched for Phil.

And yes, my Greek immigrant grandfather used to call me Philippos.’s Glossary of Science Fiction Ideas, Technology and Inventions

This site helped me a great deal in a previous post about common science fiction elements like blasters that started somewhere but have now become such a part of the SF lexicon that they’re free to use by all. But still, we should all strive for maximum originality, so you might want to go here to look up the names of your invented technologies. You may be surprised to see that Edgar Rice Burroughs beat you to the magnetic elevator 103 years ago in The Gods of Mars, the viewplate has been a thing since the 1928 Amazing Stories publication of “Armageddon: 2419 A.D.” by Philip Francis Nowlan (an author known to be classic, mature, formal, upper class, natural, wholesome, strong, refined, simple, serious, and nerdy), and George R.R. Martin camouflaged his characters in chameleon cloth in 1977’s Dying of the Light.

The lengths of these lists is as intimidating as they are impressive.

The very tippy top tip of the Internet iceberg, of course, but for me, these have become essential tools. And I’m always on the lookout for more, so please feel free to share appropriate links in the comments.

—Philip Athans

Follow me on Twitter @PhilAthans

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Or contact me for editing, coaching, ghostwriting, and more at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting.


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. mjtedin says:

    Sadly, the link to isn’t working for me.

  2. Strange–it works for me… but anyway:

  3. Jane Nash says:

    What a great article! Thank you. Of course I had to look at Jane in the names database! But great resources -thank you

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