Follow TV Tropes


Encyclopedia Exposita

Go To

"In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitch-Hiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper; and secondly, it has the words DON'T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover."

Quotes from other fictional books being used as an Epigraph or part of the frame of the story. They are not part of the text proper.

These quotes are always apposite and often provide painless exposition, rather than relying on As You Know — style conversations. In Speculative Fiction, fictitious encyclopedias are often used, such as Asimov's Encyclopedia Galactica. Journal entries or biographies can also be used. Can be part of a Scrap Book Story. In Video Games, these tend to be more-or-less random and not immediately relevant to the story and can be used to give the player something to read on a Loading Screen or in a Lore Codex.

Compare Mind Screwdriver.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece brought up such excerpts when presenting Little Garden and a ship falling from the sky.

    Comic Books 
  • A quote from The Herodotus Complex by P'oilgof Livy starts every Buck Godot trade paperback, as well as each issue of the story arc "The Gallimaufry."
    • Relevant excerpts from Fleeztrow's Guide to the Gallimaufry are also part of "The Gallimaufry."
  • "Old jungle sayings" in the classic newspaper comic The Phantom.
  • Son Of Vulcan: The Vulcans and Sons of Vulcan had access to the Encyclopedae Vulcanis, the collected lore of everyone who had ever borne the mantle of Vulcan.
  • The tracts of text ending each issue of Watchmen are usually presented as excerpts from books, reports, etc.
  • Wonder Woman (1987): One of Nol Lapp's revolutionary themed poems is used as the intro to an issue focusing on Wonder Woman leading a revolution against a slave-trading empire.

  • Equestria: A History Revealed: The Lemony Narrator cites an encyclopedia as a reference a few times. In the bibliography, however, that encyclopedia is revealed to be the school filly, Sweetie Belle.
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero: At the start of each chapter, there are extracts of self-help books on being a hero, some poetry, or texts that are implied to be from future documents/books, usually relevant to the chapter.
  • The Lone Traveler: Starting partway through the second story, has each chapter start with an excerpt from Legends & Myths of the Wizarding World by Gertrude Yolanda as an Opening Narration. The very end of the third story introduces a newly created excerpt from Rupert Giles' Watcher's Diaries that becomes the new Opening Narration.
  • Mass Effect: Human Revolution leaves notes at the end of chapters for anything new that shows up in lieu of an Info Dump in story written like an entry in the codex (or in one instance, a report to the Shadow Broker.).
  • Renegade features Codex entries in line with those from Mass Effect, to better explain how the addition of Tiberium to the setting has made things very different.
  • Say It Thrice: A lot of the Worldbuilding and such are delivered in this manner. At the start of chapters are excerpts from sources such as The Handbook for the Recently Deceased, The Living and the Dead, and even the scientific journals of Maddie Fenton.
  • In Short Supply: Each chapter begins with an excerpt from a "factual" document, usually about the Irken species, providing vital information on things from their reproduction to time scales.
  • A Thing of Vikings: Each chapter opens with an Epigraph sourced from a fictional work from the future of the alternate history, talking about some element of foreshadowing, worldbuilding, or exposition, with the framing for each being as varied as textbooks, to a Norse-flavored Wiki, to military dossiers on the dragon breeds.
  • Tiberium Wars likes to begin each chapter with a quote from one of the characters involved, and often ends with a hefty excerpt from military intelligence reports or research papers, making it clear that the author's done his work and knows his way around the Tiberium 'verse.
  • To the Stars is set centuries ahead of the magical girl anime on which it's based, where their existence has become known. Naturally they were militarized by the government; the chapters not only begin with relevant background information by magical girl historians but also excerpts from MG military manuals.
  • Vigilantes' Dawn: Every chapter begins with an excerpt from a book written by one of Oliver and Laurel's descendants, published one hundred years in the future.
  • XCOM: Second Contact has articles in the style of X-COM UFOpeadia. Like Turian autopsy report with plans to weaponize their skin as radiation shielding.

  • 2012: Jackson Curtis's unsuccessful sci-fi novel Farewell Atlantis is symbolically important and is brought up throughout the film. Parts of it are read aloud on two or three occasions.
  • Coherence: The book Hugh's brother left provides the characters with Info Dumps about quantum decoherence which helps to understand the strange phenomena going on.
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1989) opens with a quote warning against making a Deal with the Devil, attributed to a fictitious "St. Jean Vitius of Rouen."

  • In Stray Cat Strut at the beginning of many chapters, there are quotes from in-universe sources that provide small amounts of worldbuilding. They are often from fictional websites, government documents, or internal company memos.
  • The Encyclopedia of Marvels, Life Forms and Other Phenomena of Zamonia and its Environs in The 13 ˝ Lives of Captain Bluebear.
  • American Gods has quotations from a book being written by one of the characters, Mr Ibis.
  • The introduction to Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain is written as an introduction to some official report of the events of the novel. All his novels after that one followed suit.
  • Several of the novels in the Arrivals from the Dark and Trevelyan's Mission series make use of fictional texts to provide exposition, which doesn't stop the protagonist from repeating some of those facts later. In particular, The Faraway Saikat has every chapter ending with a passage from one of the four or five fictional books on the Kni'lina mentioned early on, describing the race's history, politics, culture, and religion (for example, Analogies between Buddhism and Yezdan'tabi by Pal Bonjipadhal).
  • Cat's Cradle has excerpts from the Books of Bokonon to explain Bokononist philosophy.
  • Pournelle's CoDominium series:
    • In Falkenberg's Legion, it is used sparingly, with about 3-4 entries in the work. Latter novels Go Tell the Spartans and Prince of Sparta have excerpts from a number of sources, including essays, news reports, and even letters, at the beginning of each chapter.
    • In The Mote in God's Eye, excerpts appear when characters decide to look them up on their PDAs, and flow smoothly with the narration.
    • Oddly enough, the sequel to The Mote in God's Eye actually (for the most part) uses real historical quotes.
    • Pournelle's collaborator, Larry Niven, is also very fond of this. His book Destiny's Road is full of quotes from planetary science surveys, local lore regarding the colonization of an alien world and the ultimate fate of some colonists, and quotes regarding local customs. A very early chapter opens rather ominously quoting an excerpt of a military absentee court-martial.
  • Robert E. Howard puts epigraphs of dramatically manly poetry before each chapter of The Phoenix on the Sword, but does not do this for other Conan the Barbarian stories.
  • Brandon Sanderson uses this trope with his longer Cosmere works. Specifically:
    • In the Mistborn Trilogy, each book has epigraphs that are taken from an in-universe text that the characters discover at some point in the story.
    • In The Stormlight Archive, each section of each book follows a theme, from ancient texts to letters to quotations from the dying, all in-universe sources.
  • Carl Sagan's Cosmos presents three extracts from the Encyclopedia Galactica about three intelligent species of the Milky Way, detailing among other things data on its home star and planet, biochemistry, mean mass and lifetime, and survival probability within a determinate amount of time We're the third species detailed there and things look bleak for our future existence.
  • In Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite, each chapter starts with a quote from a fictional historical or religious document of Geta. Many of them are charmingly disturbing.
  • A few sources of the epigraphs in Katherine Kurtz's works are from within the Deryni universe. The first chapter of Deryni Checkmate has an epigraph from a "St. Veneric" which mentions the fickleness of Gwynedd's weather in March, and chapter fifteen of the same book has this from an unknown Deryni monk: "The humans kill what they do not understand."
  • The Secret Book of Cadwallon the Druid, Deverry.
  • Every chapter of The Dinosaur Lords starts with an extract from either The Book of True Names, which speaks about species of dinosaurs and their applications in society, or A Primer to Paradise for the Improvement of Young Minds, which focuses on the Fantasy Pantheon of Paradise.
  • Some Doctor Who Expanded Universe novels have these. Theatre of War has excerpts from its fictional playwright's work and scholarly works about his plays and theatre in general. The Also People quotes fictional pop songs, including regular DWEU unseen background character Johnny Chess, Silurian punk ("Outta My Way, Monkeyboy" by Third Eye), and Cyberman blues ("Tears of Rust" by Cyberblind).
  • Princess Irulan's histories in Dune. All of Frank Herbert's Dune novels make use of this, quoting from fictional (auto)biographies, treatises on religion/politics, journals...
    • Almost every other major work by Herbert.
  • Each of David Eddings' books opens with a short piece of narrative taken from historical records, history books, or religious doctrines within the context of the story. These serve to establish the setting and bring the reader up to speed, sometimes serving as a roundabout recap or providing context for the events. For instance, Domes of Fire, the first book of The Tamuli trilogy, starts with a record from the Tamuli government summarizing the events in the previous trilogy, The Elenium; the fictive author shows a great deal of secularism by dismissing cases of divine or supernatural influence as superstitious exaggeration, and criticizes unfamiliar government practices such as voting or female rulers. The second, The Shining Ones, recaps more events but is explicitly written by a different author while part of the same record and calls into question the previous chapter's take on things.
  • Elemental Logic: Each section of Fire Logic is prefaced by quotes from three imaginary books: Mackapee's Principles for Community, Mabin's Warefare, and Medric's History of My Father's People. Mackapee was an ancient earth witch whose book became the basis of Shaftali culture and ideals. Mabin is a leader of La Résistance who is becoming very like the Sainnite invaders she so hates. And Medric, son of a Sainnite man and a Shaftali woman, is trying to make peace between both peoples because he realizes that the alternative is the destruction of both the Sainnites in Shaftal and much of Shaftali culture. Their views suggest the past, present, and future of the country, and the writing and distribution of Medric's book is a major plot in the sequel.
  • Quotes from various in-universe texts of The Empirium Trilogy appear at the beginning of most chapters. These excerpts are used as a way to expand upon the world of Avitas without disrupting the overall pacing.
  • Orson Scott Card does this in Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead.
  • Isaac Asimov:
    • "Blind Alley": Essays on History, by Ligurn Vier, provides an Epigraph for this story when it was published in The Early Asimov. This Fictional Document and author also appears in some early (1940s) publications of The Foundation Trilogy stories.
      "Only once in Galactic History was an intelligent race of non-Humans discovered—" — Essays on History, by Ligurn Vier
    • Foundation Series:
      • Terminus is founded based on the premise that they will be collecting all of history and science into a single reference volume, an Encyclopedia Galactica. Said volume is used to illustrate certain setting details relevant to the story/chapter it prefaces as an Epigraph. More specifically, the 116th edition, published in 1020 F.E. In "The Encyclopedists", the colonists learn that Hari Seldon had tricked them and that he never expected any volumes to be published. Despite this, they continue to collate information and publish revisions as In-Universe Science Marches On and Technology Marches On. In Foundation's Edge, Golan Trevize mentions the Encyclopedia Galactica is now a continually updated computer archive (an idea predating the establishment of Wikipedia, Microsoft Encarta or Encyclopedia Britannica Online).
      • "The Psychohistorians": This story expands the role that the Encyclopedia Galactica plays, providing excerpts from the entries for Hari Seldon, Trantor, Psychohistory, and The Commission of Public Safety. It also establishes the book as the objective pursued by everyone sent to Terminus.
      • "The Encyclopedists": When published in Foundation (1951), this story is prefaced by the Encyclopedia Galactica entry for Terminus.
      • "The Mayors": When published in Foundation (1951), this story is prefaced by the Encyclopedia Galactica entry for the Four Kingdoms.
      • "The Traders": When published in Foundation (1951), this story is prefaced by the Encyclopedia Galactica entry for the Traders.
      • "The Merchant Princes": Essays on History, by Ligurn Vier, originally provides an Epigraph for this story when it was published in Astounding Science Fiction.
        "Three Dynasties molded the Beginning: the Encyclopedists, the Mayors, and the Traders—" — Essays on History, by Ligurn Vier
      • "The Merchant Princes": When this story is republished in Foundation (1951), an entry from the Encyclopedia Galactica for the Traders replaces the Essays on History, and the story ends with the entry for Korell.
      • "The General (Foundation)": When published in the original Astounding Science Fiction magazine, chapters 1 & 2 have an italic paragraph to help introduce the setting, describing Trantor's and Terminus's governments. No attribution is given here, but they are replaced with Encyclopedia Galactica entries.
      • "The General (Foundation)": When published in Foundation and Empire, three Encyclopedia Galactica entries were added. Chapter 1 has an entry on Bel Riose, chapter 2 has an entry on the Foundation, and chapter 4 has an entry on Cleon II.
      • "The Mule": When published in Foundation and Empire, two Encyclopedia Galactica entries were added. Chapter 11 (first chapter of "The Mule") has an entry on the Mule, and chapter 22 has an entry on Neotrantor.
      • "Search by the Mule": Essays on History, by Ligurn Vier, originally provides an Epigraph for this story when it was published in Astounding Science Fiction.
        "After the definite break-up of the first Galactic Empire, it was the combination of worlds under the personal role of that strange personality known to his times as 'The Mule' that first presents history with a unified volume of space truly imperial in scope. The earlier commercial empire of the Foundation had been diverse and loosely knit, despite the impalpable backing of the predictions of psychohistory. It was not to be compared with the tightly controlled 'Union of Worlds’ under the Mule, compromising as it did one-tenth the volume of the galaxy and one-fifteenth the population..." — Essays on History, by Ligurn Vier
      • "Search by the Mule": When republished in Second Foundation, this story is prefaced by the Encyclopedia Galactica entry for the Mule instead of Ligurn Vier's text.
      • "Search by the Foundation": When published in Second Foundation, four Encyclopedia Galactica entries were added. Chapter 1, "Arcadia", is prefaced by an entry for Arkady Darell, with details about her career as a novelist in both Fiction and Non-Fiction formats. Chapter 2, "Seldon's Plan", is prefaced by an entry for Mathematics, quoting Seldon's opinion on n-dimensional geometry. Chapter 9, "Through The Grid", is prefaced by an entry for Trantor, as it existed in the middle of the Interregnum. Chapter 13, "End of War", is prefaced by an entry for the Battle of Quoriston, where the Foundation defeats Kalgan's navy.
      • Prelude to Foundation: This novel has an Encyclopedia Galactica entry for each of the nineteen chapters, beginning with Emperor Cleon I and ending with Hari Seldon. Both Trantor (2&5) and the Mycogen sector (7&9) appear twice, and most entries are about someone Seldon meets during that chapter.
      • Forward the Foundation: This novel is broken into four parts ("Eto Demerzel", "Cleon I", "Dors Venabili", and "Wanda Seldon"), with a matching Encyclopedia Galactica entry for each. It also ends the story with sections of the entry for Hari Seldon, giving the official details about his death and burial.
  • Gregory Benford's Foundation's Fear: This novel is broken into 8 parts:
    • "Mathist Minister" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for Hari Seldon.
    • "The Rose Meets the Scalpel" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for Computational Representation.
    • "Body Politics" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for the Early History of Foundation, which describes the early stage of psychohistory.
    • "A Sense of Self" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for simulation spaces, the need to create simulated environments for representations of human/pseudo-human minds.
    • "Panucopia" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for the History of Biogenesis, the creation of worlds set aside for primate experiments, especially for the "pans", short for "pan troglodytes".
    • "Ancient Fogs" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for the Galactic Prehistory, which explains that the lack of records for pre-galactic civilization is due to the multiple eras of warfare, the evidence for which is still extant.
    • "Stars Like Grains of Sand" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for Sociometrics, the general problem of social stability.
    • "The Eternal Equations" begins with an Encyclopedia Galactica excerpt for the General Theory of Psychohistory, describing some of the fundamental mathematics taken from thermodynamic expressions.
  • Baron Bodissey's Life in Jack Vance's Gaean Reach novels: it's a twelve-volume-long philosophical encyclopedia which Vance often quotes, at length, for use as chapter headings. The entries aren't always entirely relevant, but this being Vance, they're always delightful. In The Demon Princes, there is also the criminal psychology manual The Demon Princes by Caril Carphen.
    • Bodissey's omnipresence is later lampshaded; a character guesses that the latest Ice-Cream Koan is from Bodissey since he's said practically everything.
    • Also quoted in The Demon Princes are several reviewers who make very hostile comments about the Baron. One expresses the desire to give Baron Bodissey a severe thrashing — and then buy him a drink.
  • The Grimnoir Chronicles uses quotes from a variety of sources at the beginning of each chapter. Some are from or about characters in the books, but many just fill in details of the world, such as Theodore Roosevelt dying in combat against the Kaiser's zombies in World War I.
  • Heroics for Beginners: Each chapter starts with a quote from The Handbook of Practical Heroics that happens to be relevant to the events of the chapter.
  • The Guide itself, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
    • And sometimes the Encyclopaedia Galactica in the series, although the Guide has the major selling point of being slightly cheaper and having "Don't Panic" printed in large friendly letters on the cover (as well as not taking up a parking lot).
    • Also subverted; sometimes the Guide's entries are full of non-sequiturs and gags completely irrelevant to the story. Sometimes these are never mentioned again, and sometimes they become plot-critical brick jokes as a double-subversion.
  • House of Leaves. Either half of it, or all of it, or if you're really brave, none of it.
  • Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell did this frequently; the characters often debated the relative merits of the books.
  • The title and chapter pages of Stephen King's more epic novels quote anything and everything from T.S. Eliot and Thomas Wolfe to Blue Oyster Cult and King's own fictional characters.
  • Dean Koontz:
    • The Book of Counted Sorrows, repeatedly.
    • The Book of Counted Joys, not quite as often.
  • Cantra yos'Phelium's logbook in the Liaden series.
  • Juliet McKenna likes them even more; she prefaces nearly every chapter with a fictional document, some of them only tangentially relevant.
  • The Mirage has The Library of Alexandria, their version of The Other Wiki, which provides details on this world's Alternate History.
  • The Myth Adventures humorous fantasy novels written by Robert Lynn Asprin. Each chapter has a fictitious quote. An example might be something like, "Violence is never the right thing to do" - Attila the Hun.
    • Asprin has commented that he bitterly came to regret doing this, as making up all the quotes proved to be the hardest part of writing the novels. The later books in the series drop the practice.
  • Terry Pratchett's Nomes Trilogy features epigraphs from The Book of Nome (a Cargo Cult religious text) in the first two books and A Scientific Encyclopedia For The Enquiring Young Nome (which misunderstands things almost as much, but in a different way) in the third.
    • A Hat Full of Sky starts with an excerpt from Fairies and How to Avoid Them. It also contains part of a text on capturing hivers, although that stops when the writer goes crazy and, it's implied, gets more or less vaporized.
  • Every chapter in the Nursery Crime series begins this way. The first book uses quotes from various local newspapers, while the second book draws exclusively from The Bumper Book of Berkshire Records.
  • The Prince Roger series follows in Eddings' footsteps by having the book open with commentary from a biographer who is writing from a much later point after the events in the books. Some of the things the biographer says are quite important, especially the bits that show that Roger never really shakes the reputation the Big Bad planted that he killed his family and drove his mother mad in order to force her to abdicate so that he could take over the Empire.
  • The Priscilla Hutchins series uses journal entries, newspaper clippings, and the like to give you some perspective on the story, with two unusual features: one, the entries appear at the end of a chapter, to give you some perspective on what you just read, and two, you occasionally get a whole list of newspaper headlines, which not only gives you a broader perspective on the setting, but lets you see how far up the list of top stories the story you're following has gotten.
  • Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar from Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson.
  • Robert Rankin has The Suburban Book of the Dead, the rewritten Suburban Book of the Dead, works by the guru's guru Hugo Rune, and works about Hugo Rune by Sir John Rimmer. And that's just for starters.
  • Played with in Keith Laumer's Retief series. Many of the stories start with an excerpt from the official records of the CDT, explaining the story you're about to read. The official version never comes close to describing what actually happened, and Retief is rarely mentioned, let alone given credit for saving the day.
  • Jack McKinney's Robotech Tie-In Novels use quotes from various in-universe sources to comment on the events of each chapter.
  • Every chapter in the Second Apocalypse series opens with one or two quotes from In-Universe works, many of which are philosophical or historical in nature. One notable such work is a history of the events of the first trilogy, written after the fact by Drusas Achamian, one of the main characters, which makes the first trilogy also a mild case of Direct Line to the Author.
  • Serwa Boateng: Every chapter starts with a quote from the Nwoma, a handbook for the Abomofuo, often giving advice that contradicts whatever Serwa does in the chapter.
  • Star Wars Legends: Every chapter of books in the Republic Commando series is preceded by an excerpt from an in-universe document. One book even had a Mandalorian-to-English dictionary as an appendix.
  • The Stone Dance of the Chameleon prefaces all its chapters with excerpts from in-universe documents, most often the writings of the Wise.
  • Charles Sheffield's Summertide (book 1 of the Heritage Universe) has excerpts from Lang's Catalogue of Builder Artifacts to explain the mysterious structures mentioned throughout the book. Extra points to the fact that the author of the catalogue is a main character.
  • Tortall Universe: The Trickster's Duet has quotes of useful bits of advice Aly got at the start of each chapter — stuff from books, people she knows, etc. One example is Daine telling her that the Gods can sense lies, but if you don't make them suspicious enough to read your mind, they won't know if you left something out.
  • Diana Wynne Jones:
    • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones has quotes of a book named "Gnomic utterances" from "Ka'a Orto'o" head up every chapter (which are lampshaded as being wholly unrelated to their content), poking fun at many fantasy books' having these without always putting a lot of thought into what use they should serve outside of looking fancy.
    • Fire and Hemlock uses quotes from the ballads "Tam Lin" and "Thomas the Rhymer" in this way.
  • The War Against the Chtorr. "A Season for Slaughter" heads each chapter with extensive quotes from the "Red Book", a guide to the alien invaders to which the protagonist has contributed heavily.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The novel-length Ciaphas Cain stories contain "excerpts" from various fictional sources—often Jenit Sulla's unreadable biography—in-between chapters.
  • The Wheel of Time: In-universe books are often quoted before the prologue or after the epilogue of a book. Typically, the quotations are from history books written after the end of the series, or prophecies written long before.
  • Young Wizards:
    • The prologue of So You Want to Be a Wizard quotes extensively from the wizard's manual in order establish what wizards are and how wizardry works.
    • The series in general contains a few quotes from the Book of Night with Moon.
  • Natural Law inlcudes excerpts from the Natural Law, a body of laws governing the society of future New America.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda prefaces its episodes with quotes from all manner of things, including famous philosophers, poets and commanders (some real, some fictional), battle-hymns of some of the setting's militaries, and on one memorable occasion an Argosy Special Operations requisition form.
    Requested: One Mark V ECM unit, 1000km of Fullerene cable, one low-yield nuclear warhead.

    Purpose: Surprise party for a foreign dignitary.
  • Star Trek: The Captain's Log often functions as a spoken-aloud variant of this one.
  • Grimm: Episodes generally begin with a quote from the fairy story or legend on which the episode is (sometimes very loosely) based.

  • The booklets of Dragonland's album The Battle Of The Ivory Plains, Holy War, and Under The Grey Banner feature extracts from fictional books of the setting shared by the three albums.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Sarpadian Empires, which provides much of the flavor text to the "Fallen Empires" expansion of Magic: The Gathering. Much of Magic's flavor text counts as this, actually, but this is the most iconic example. Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII appears as an actual card in the Time Spiral set.
    • Many Kamigawa block cards quoted extensively from fictional sources, as flavorwise the texts represent a retrospective historical view of the Kami War. The most common source to be quoted from is The History of Kamigawa, including a card of the original autho- err, tome.
  • Too many to count in the margins of Nobilis, most notably the works of Emily Chen (Doorknobs, Viridian, A Small Detour To Altair and others), Kneader Guy (Earth Stories, Air Stories, Fire Stories, Water Stories and Void Stories), Luc Ginnes (On Serving the Nobilis, Legends of the Nobilis and Void Stories), Jackie Robinson (Parables for Our Modern Age and Small Gods), Merriweather James (Principals of The Dark), and Agusta Valentina (A Philosophy of Treason). So extensive was the collection of works with "excerpts" in the book that many readers were surprised to learn that none of them were real.
    • Third edition introduces The Voice of Morrowen Hollow, a book created specifically for the character creation section of Antithesis 1i, which deals with...well...the Voice of Morrowen Hollow.
  • A variation appears in many Shadowrun sourcebooks, where a running discussion of the main text, in electronic discussion forum format and complete with the occasional off-topic digression, will appear in the margins or along the bottoms of a book's pages.
  • White Wolf loves these, especially in both versions of The World Of Darkness.
  • Paranoia: XP Service Pack 1 has numerous examples. Early in the book, one of the pages is duplicated with text messages from hackers covering it, and the first letter of every sentence supposedly spelling out a secret message: "MIKE-U LIVES".
  • The Van Richten's Guide series of Ravenloft supplements use this device constantly, both as in-character 'citations' by in-character "author" Van Richten, and as flavor-text sidebars. Such references come from personal journals, ship's logs, letters, and other written testimony from individuals who have encountered dangerous monsters; hence, the Undead Author trope often comes into play. Sometimes literally.
  • Warhammer 40,000's Codices and rulebooks are littered with character quotes or extracts from top-secret Inquisitorial reports, to provide an extra bit of background and flavor while giving certain elements of the fanbase something to argue about.
  • The third edition Freedom City book opens with a draft copy of an in-universe guidebook to the city, extensively annnotated by Mayor Summers. Since this guidebook has to give an overview of what the players would find interesting about Freedom, many of these notes are Callie asking why the writers seem determined to tell the tourists how bad the crime is.

  • In the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the protagonist repeatedly turns to an advice book of the same name.
    • Which actually exists: Shepherd Mead wrote a series of cartoon books in the 1950s which were parodies of then-current how-to books, one of which provided the title and inspiration for the musical. The book was republished in 1995 with the revival of the musical.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect: The Codex is an in-universe document and therefore limited to what is public knowledge, not what the player finds out. It is also occasionally made deliberately wrong by its in-universe makers; one shining example is in ME2 when you look up "Sovereign" — apparently, Mr. Vanguard-of-Our-Destruction was a geth ship that just happened to look like a Reaper. In the Expanded Universe novel Mass Effect: Ascension, the character Gillian Grayson starts reciting a page from a textbook. Said textbook's text is taken word-for-word from the Codex.
  • Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri: Played with. Every single technological advance, facility, and secret project is accompanied by a quote from a book, interview, memo, or famous work, real or fictional.
    • In the Designer's Notes of Alpha Centauri, Brian Reynolds said that Frank Herbert was his favorite science fiction author and cited The Jesus Incident as "the most important influence on the story of Planet".
    • The Alien Crossfire expansion pack adds Progenitor quotes in their strange syntax.
      Humans: there is no space inside rocket. Progenitor: space exists around all things with mass. Space: "here". Inside rocket: "there". Secret: bring here to there.
  • Pokémon: The Pokédex, which is devoted to providing information about Pokémon, such as appearance, attributes, and locations. However, it's vague whether or not the entries read in-game are meant to be excerpts or the full thing. Also, some of the entries are likely made on the spot by the device in-universe, such as with Legendaries, whose abilities are not exactly common knowledge among Poké-experts except as folklore.
  • In Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne, there's no formal encyclopedia, but a sufficient collection of items can serve the same purpose through item descriptions, encouraging players to collect everything that's not nailed down for the insight it gives into the setting, even if it's not compatible with their build or just plain useless gameplay-wise.
  • Aliens vs. Predator 2: When the player accesses the mission objectives screen, they are also presented with short excerpts from the "incident report" compiled by Weyland-Yutani after the end of the game. It is both used as an atmospheric framing device, and a way of including subtle foreshadowing — for example, in the mission where the Predator first appears, the report excerpt categorically states that despite the insistence of certain parties, there was no physical evidence of the involvement of a third species. Also, each level in the game begins with a timestamp, such as "Incident minus two days," "Incident plus three weeks," or the ominous "Incident Start."
  • Tech Infantry: Each "act" has an epigraph quote either from a real or in-universe fictional work of literature, poem, song lyric, or a pithy quote from an in-universe fictional character. The title of each "episode" (four acts) is taken from the epigraph to the last act of that episode. Which means the episode title, and by extension, the fourth-act epigraph, is chosen before anything beyond act one of that episode is written.
  • Operation Flashpoint: The quotations on the death screen, such as "War is not nice — Barbara Bush".
  • Netstorm has an extensive manual with in-universe quotes used as epigraphs.
  • Total War: The loading screens of the later games (Rome and Medieval II) have these. Plus in Shogun there's a philosopher in the throne room, who if clicked on gives you random quotes from The Art of War.
  • BioShock has quotations by its own characters during loading screens, nearly all of which you can find a recording of in their original context at some point in the game.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time and Star Ocean: The Last Hope feature an in-game Dictionary, which is updated with new entries as the story progresses and terms are brought to light. They are even categorized by topic, such as "Planets", "Technology", "Species", and so forth. In the former's case, you know you are in for a serious Mind Fuck when you open the dictionary before electing to talk to anyone and it contains entries on quantum physics.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII: The Compilation has the play Loveless which is incredibly popular in-game. Crisis Core references it most often though it makes less sense than it had in the original game.
    • Vagrant Story opens with a quote from famed historian Alazlam Durai, author of The Durai Papers: 400 Years of Truth.
    • Several characters in Final Fantasy IX are theater buffs. One particular fictional play, I Want To Be Your Canary, has particular symbolic importance to the plot, and a few characters quote it during plot sequences.
    • Final Fantasy XII has an expansive bestiary which holds theories and information about the various monsters, people, and Espers the party defeat in their travels. In addition, killing enough of the specific types of wild encounter uncovers additional information about the places in Ivalice, and sometimes about rare items that certain enemies randomly drop.
    • Final Fantasy XIII takes this a step further—the datalog mixes entries like this in with All There in the Manual.
  • The Church Of The New Epoch's mission briefings in Syndicate Wars include quotes from their religious text.
  • inFAMOUS: the major story divisions through the game come with quotations from various historical figures.
  • The whole Warcraft oeuvre, especially the trading card game, uses fictional quotes from various plot-important characters to tie the whole expanded universe together.
  • Both playable races in O.R.B: Off-World Resource Base consider an ancient document called the Torumin their Bible, some parts of which are quotes in the game.
  • In the Dragon Age series, the player finds parchments with fictional poems, stories, and legends scattered throughout Thedas. All of these are logged into the respective game's Encyclopedia Exposita along with game-relevant information.
    • Bioware's earlier game Jade Empire does something similar.
  • Snatcher does this with a supercomputer that contains a lot of information about the game world.
  • In Deus Ex, there are several books and newspapers that the player can read.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, the entire game is set up like a history book that is divided with tabs that contain the main story and recorded entries about characters and weapons.
  • Diablo III contains a wealth of lore on monsters and the world that can be discovered in-game through lore entries. The two most frequent authors of such are Deckard Cain who dies early in-game at the hands of Maghda and Abd Al-Hazir who it's implied met a similar fate at the hands of Magdha's coven in Caldeum after witnessing a particularly gruesome ritual.
  • The Witcher features a codex similar to Mass Effect and Dragon Age, tailored to the needs of a professional monster hunter. It gives geopolitical and historical details, how to kill monsters and what components can be harvested from them, and a list of major characters Geralt meets in his travels.
  • The X-Universe games have an in-game encyclopedia of game objects, corporations, governments, trade goods, and the like. Almost everything in the game has a little bit of history behind it - viewing the info for the Dragon corvette will talk about the Dragon Incident that nearly destroyed the prototype and the station it was housed in, for example.
  • Syndicate (2012) has an infobank, which gets updated every time you encounter a relevant item.
  • X-COM has the UFO-pedia, which updates whenever your research of your enemy's units and technology (and your units and technology) makes an advance. For the most part, it is fluff, but some information is tactically (and story-wise) relevant. Some other X-Com clone games (UFO Extraterrestrials, Xenonauts, UFO After Blank) sometimes provide additional info about the setting on their UFO/whatever-pedias as well.
    • XCOM: Enemy Unknown and XCOM 2, however, do not have an official in-game encyclopedia, meaning there's no information on the basic XCOM equipment like there is in the original games from the '90s. However, every time a research project is finished, you're given a report on the project, which usually includes information that is not specific to the game mechanics (for example, Cyberdisks are stated to include a small amount of conventional biological material, but mostly seem to somehow be a silicon-based lifeform), fleshing out the lore and providing some Foreshadowing on the motivations of the alien invaders. The reports are lost in the destruction of XCOM headquarters at the canonical end of the first game, though XCOM rebuilds and improves on their knowledge in the second game.
    • XCOM 2 has a weird version. Whenever the aliens make a move on the world map, each Dark Event they play has an accompanying quote... from one of your own teammates. Subverted in that they provide little actual exposition and just exist for flavor, and sometimes the quotes have little to do with the Dark Event on-screen, so the flavor part is debatable.
    • The UFO After Blank series deserves special mention for literally having the encyclopedia written as reports given to a commanding officer. In the first game in particular, the entry for the alien weapons specifically include "you hold it here, and pull the trigger here, and the energy beam is emitted here" in a text-only report.
  • The Crystal Caves story section consists of "entry # 981,231,783,813,651" from the "Galactic Encyclopedia", which briefly describes the protagonist and his quest for riches.
  • Nosferatu: The Wrath of Malachi: Father Aville's Encyclopedia Of The Undead.
  • Victor Vran has the Codex, which is mostly an in-game manual (it describes the different weapons' attacks, the crafting recipes, etc.), but it also includes descriptions of monsters (including bosses) written as they were notes from Victor's diary; those entries appear when Victor kills one for the first time.
  • In Rising Angels, short database entries on various basic elements of the setting (countries and species, mainly) are available.
  • In Sierra Ops, all of the Codex entries are presented as excerpts from in-universe documents. These include textbooks, news articles, emails, tourism pamphlets, and transcripts of conversations, amongst other things.
  • Flower, Sun and Rain has a guidebook given to Sumio Mondo for Lospass Island, the game's fictional setting, which also features several articles featuring in-universe celebrities and other elements. Besides being able to be consulted at the player's leisure, it also features vital clues for some of the game's puzzles.
  • Supergiant Games is fond of this trope; Bastion, Transistor, Pyre and Hades all have one. All of the games' codexes are written by an in-game character or characters: The one from Bastion is written by Rucks and contains tales of old Caelondia, the Transistor codex is made up of news clips and encyclopedia entries from the City, in Pyre it is the Book of Rites by the Eight Scribes that The Reader of each team reads, and the Codex in Hades was written by Achilles to aid Zagreus.
  • Warhammer: Dark Omen: The games provide them through your paymaster Dietrich's books. The in-game encyclopedias provide a lot of valuable information on various topics as well as give a good flavouring of what the Warhammer Fantasy Battle world is about.
  • In Othercide, the Codex gives information about the characters, memories, and events of the game as you unlock the entries. Articles in the Codex include insights and accounts from the Mother and the Child (eg. The Child mentions that the Plague Butchers were once benign volunteers who had the ugly task of breaking down infected corpses but have either come to like it or the process had unlocked the darkness within them).

  • Hardwick and Little's Bestiary, Gunnerkrigg Court, Chapter 3.
  • Parallels has Encyclopeida Unversalis.
  • Most of Marauder Shields strips come with one or two Codex entries deliberately styled after the original Mass Effect 3.
  • Drive (Dave Kellett) has the Enciclopedia Xenobiologia, written from the human perspective and thus occasionally lacking in detail or subtly wrong.
  • Used sometimes as filler in S.S.D.D., giving information of the setting and sometimes explaining minor Fridge Logic. Among the quotes used are quotes from various characters including (future)Norman Gates, excerpts from A Rough Guide to The Anarchist and the Collective from Eric King, excerpts from MIT lectures, magazines, etc. All of them fictional.
  • Between and halfway through the chapters of Stand Still, Stay Silent author always puts some documents from in-universe, such as maps, Cleansers' recruitment poster, writing of the various nationalities of the world, and so on. It's very helpful, as the story itself rarely drops an Info Dump.
  • Foundation - The Psychohistorians: This adaptation expands the details given by some of the Encyclopedia Galactica entries since they're displayed as a computer window with extremely plain graphics, like what you might find in the 1980s instead of paragraphs that can start/end with ellipses.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: The author of the Phase novels often quotes from rock songs as lead-ins for chapters. But the quotes are usually from the fictional band Brass Monkey, so they can be as relevant as the author wants.
  • Used in Look to the West, which generally has the structure of an initial quote which may or may not be relevant to the rest of each chapter, and then the main text also supposedly extracted from in-timeline books. Occasionally inverted with the starting quote being taken from our own world's history.
  • In Guild of the Cowry Catchers, the quotes beginning each episode are from a pair of books by the Hero Antagonist and leader of the titular La Résistance.
  • Go type about:mozilla in the URL box in any Mozilla browser from Netscape Navigator 1 all the way up to the current version of Firefox. (Original Web? Not exactly, but close enough.) Or just google "Book of Mozilla".


Video Example(s):


The Encyclopedia Does Not Lie!

When a Thanksgiving turkey Mr. Bumpy and Squishy are chasing is seen flying, Squishy calls out the impossibility of what it's doing.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / FlyingFlightlessBird

Media sources: