This is an impressive reference text and one that can also be read selectively both for erudition and just plain fun. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of BNW, however, is the amount of reading the author Jeff Prucher engaged in to produce the extensive citations contained with the text: a glance at either the Works Cited (281-309) or the Bibliography of SF criticism (310-342) will leave one wondering how Prucher had time for anything in his life over the past decade other than reading.
One of the primary virtues of this book is in fact the Works Cited section which could serve well as a comprehensive reading list for anyone interested in becoming acquainted with SF from its hoary beginnings to a point within a few years of the present; as well, the Bibliography of criticism is an invaluable asset for academics wishing to augment their understanding of specialized niche areas in the SF field. And certainly in regard to these ancillary appendices was, for me at least, the list of author pseudonyms (279-80): who would otherwise know how many alternative names Henry Kuttner had?
Of course the quotations illustrating the various lexical entries in the dictionary are themselves impressive by suggesting through their chronology the length of time a term has been in common use; by the variety of sources for these terms, from novels to short stories to fanzines; and by how well each quotation illustrates a slightly different shading of the meaning of a particular term. I was, however, somewhat disappointed that so few of these citations derived from the Golden Age of SF (essentially pre-1945 and back to the days of Gernsback), but that may be the result of prucher having had difficulty accessing the pulp magazines of this era. It would also have been valuable for the chronological listing of illustrative quotations to have started with the very first instance of each new coinage, although, once again, I realize that such a requirement might have added years to the R & D component of this text. I would also have liked to have seen greater inclusion of some of the newest SF terminology, say, post-2000; sure, we get a gaggle of words coined by the Cyberpunk movement (and even the Steampunks), but very little from the authors writing in the new millennium.
Less forgiveable, however, were the number of typos and (even!) grammatical errors in definitions or the expository discussion sections (I am, of course, not including the quotations in this criticism since one expects them to be reproduced as they first appeared, warts and all). One example will suffice here: "unperson: . . . someone who is treated as if they are less then human" (255). Yikes! Two errors in one small sentence.
I also found the repetition of synonyms annoying: not only do we get a section on 'time travel' but one on 'time traveler', another on 'time-traveling' (as a noun), and yet another on 'time-traveling' (as an adjective). Sure, these are all slightly different uses of the (virtually) identical term, but the overlap is considerable, and I'm not sure the distinctions are either significant or interesting. It strikes me that such, uhm, padding of the material simply gave Prucher an opportunity to cite even more of the quotations he had amassed on his note cards. Similar objections can be raised against the five pages devoted to 'earth' and all its syntactic variations, including the use of hyphens, (43-48) and the eight pages on science fiction/fantasy (170-78).
And, at risk of being slagged by SF fans, I must admit to having grown weary of the space devoted to fandom coinages; I am just not sure how valuable it is to those who might buy this book to examine at length and provide citations from fanzines and electronic media of terms only a fraction of those reading SF are aware of or care about. A few illustrative examples -- or better yet, a whole section on terms from fandom -- might have sufficed. But do I really care about the etymology of 'groggle'? Do I need four pages on the various combos of 'fan' (faan, faanish, fafia, fafiate, fakefan, fanac, faned, fanfic, fan fiction, fanmag, fanne, fanning, fannish, fannishness, fanspeak)? I think not.
However, aside from these minor objections, this is a valuable text, one that should join the library of any serious student of science fiction.