Bad SF lexicon

Damien Hall halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Nov 6 22:45:35 UTC 2005

On *terraform*, Wilson said:

> "Bioform" is a new one on me and I have no quarrel with it, but
> "terraform" has been in use in SF for more than a half-century with
> the meaning, transform a non-earth-like planet or similar object so as
> to make it suitable for human life. The "planet" to be terraformed
> referred to in the quote *is* the earth/terra.

and Jeff said one of the two distinct senses of the word that he had come across

'in cases where the Earth's biosphere has been destroyed and people are trying
to make it inhabitable again.  But no references to aliens trying to make the
Earth's environment more like their homeworld [...]'

Just a bit of data for you, Jeff;  if you're doing your SF dictionary from
entirely 'legit' SF sources, this may come from outside your purview.  But,
anyway, here it is:  in his novel *The Taking*, (horror / supernatural writer)
Dean Koontz has his characters use two (contrary, actually) definitions of
*terraform*.  First there's this:


'"In several science fiction novels," Derek said, "I encountered the concept of
terraforming.  Do you know what it is?"

Analyzing the word by its roots, Molly said, "To make earth - or to make a place
like the planet Earth."

"Yes, exactly, yes," said Derek, with the enthusiasm of a *Star Trek* fan
recounting a delicious plot twist in his favorite episode.  "It means altering
the environment of an inhospitable planet to make it capable of supporting
terrestrial life forms. [...]"


"[The enemies are] engaged in reverse terraforming, making Earth's environment
more like that on their home world. [...]"'

Koontz, Dean. 2005 (pbk ed). *The Taking*. New York: Bantam Dell. pp152-3.


Then, later, the same character, Derek, allegedly a SF fan, says that the
as-yet-unseen enemy (don't spoil it for me - this is as far as I've got!) are
"fast-track terraforming" (p167) by apparently attempting to alter the Earth's
environment.  So Koontz is using, or at least acknowledging, both the
etymological literal sense of *terraform* and the metaphorical sense where
*terra* is extended to cover a homeworld, whether it's Earth or explicitly not

Damien Hall
University of Pennsylvania

More information about the Ads-l mailing list