Including a glossary for a fantasy or science fiction epic is standard practice. Tucked away at the end of a book, they are useful references if you have set a book aside for a while and need to re-familiarize yourself with the language and culture of a story.
Lord of the Glossary
My first copy of the Lord of the Rings was a massive, hard-bound copy I checked out from the Public Library. It included all three books, a biography of Tolkien, and a glossary that rivaled the Silmarillion. I had a special bookmark for the glossary and often lost myself tracing entries while assembling Middle Earth in my head.
Another epic that included a glossary at end of each book was The Wheel of Time. Here, though, the glossary tried to contain itself to the book at hand. Occasionally there was a term I was unfamiliar with. If it was not in the current book’s glossary, I would have to dig out an older book to find it, or read on, hoping the story would remind of the term’s meaning.
Nothing compares to Frank Herbert’s effort in his galaxy spanning epic of Dune. His Terminology of the Imperium is the head of all glossaries. A unique aspect of Frank Herbert’s effort in Dune is how familiar many of the words feel when you read them for the first time. Stillsuit, for example seems obvious. Saying Bene Gesserit aloud calls forth an image of an old witch, or high priestess in an expensive gown. Cutterray, crysknife, fremen, fanmetal, all feel familiar, as if you knew them before you saw in them in print for the first time.
Tolkien was a master of languages. His world and his writing existed to express his creativity with language. Jordon was not as clever. Glossary entries feel reserved for places, people, and magic. In The Fundamentals Universe I have multiple species, from diverse planets, my goal is to make them feel unique, without making it up. I hope to find a path where the terms do not seem forced into the story for the sake of having something fantastical. I wish I were as clever as Frank Herbert.
A Glossary for my Sci-Fi Universe
I wrestled with including a glossary with The Fundamentals and decided against it. The world is a different place since Jordan and Tolkien published their novels on paper. As I write this, I am reading The Handmaid’s Tail in paperback and am surprised how different the dynamics are from reading on my Kindle. My earliest outlines of The Walking Circle website included a glossary section for Martial Art terms, and I have carried that forward with my fictional writing. This gives me a lot more flexibility over including the terms in a book. Without further ado, here is the initial pass at my fictional glossary.