And a related article:https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-cul ... 180977224/A Dictionary of Science Fiction Runs From Afrofuturism to Zero-G
In the summer of 1987, movie audiences first met Robocop in the science fiction classic about violence and corrupt corporate power in a future, dystopian Detroit. But the title word is much older than that, going back at least to a 1957 short story by writer Harlan Ellison, in which a tentacled “robocop” pursues a character. The prefix “robo-,” in turn, dates at least to 1945, when Astounding Science Fiction published a story by A.E. van Vogt mentioning “roboplanes” flying through the sky. “Robo-,” of course, comes from “robot,” a word created by Czech author Karel Čapek in his 1920 play R.U.R.: Rossum's Universal Robots, about synthetic humans created to perform drudge work who eventually rebel, destroying humanity.
This is the kind of rabbit hole a reader can go down in the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction, a resource decades in the making that is now available to the public in an accessible form. Lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower started the project years ago, when he was an editor at the Oxford English Dictionary.
The OED is the best-known historical dictionary in the English-speaking world, and Sheidlower notes that it was also a crowdsourcing project long before the internet made it easy. When it was just starting out in the 19th century, he says, the OED put ads in literary magazines looking for volunteers to hunt around old books in search of particular words and their usage.
“People would mark up books, send in the notes,” he says. “To this day, it’s still how the system works to an extent.”
When the internet did arrive, the dictionary’s editors quickly took advantage. For example, Sheidlower says, at one point they were looking for early uses of the word “mutant” in the sense of a genetically mutated being with unusual characteristics or abilities. The earliest they’d found was from 1954, but they were sure earlier examples must be out there. So a freelance editor posted a query on Usenet newsgroups and quickly received an example of a use of the word from 1938.
Soon, the editors started looking for other online projects.
“This was at a time, around 2000, when there was the internet… and people were online, but it wasn’t universal like it is now,” Sheidlower says. “We wanted to do a project where people devoted to a particular field, fans, could make contributions.”
Not only were science fiction fans particularly likely to be online, but they were a valuable source of material. The world’s most prestigious libraries, where OED researchers did much of their work, generally didn’t carry back issues of pulp magazines of the mid-20th century, such as If or Amazing Stories. But many fans, it turns out had cartons full of them.