META: Superhero Dewey Decimal Classification

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at
Wed Nov 14 19:20:28 PST 2007

Back last week of 9 Nov 2007 Tom asked:
> Where in the Jolt City Library, for example, would _you_ put
> Superheroes For Dummies?
Quick answer: Depending on the exact scheme used (see below), I'd stick 
it under 308.8 or 308.9.
*Much* longer answer:

I did a quick perusal of the ed.22 Dewey Decimal Cataloguing schedules 
yesterday arvo and last night, and I'll just make a few more comments 
on my previous post before I have to leave for a big family reunion 
this weekend (where I'll no doubt have to put effort into being 
sociable for an extended period of time).
I still like the idea of taking over the currently unused 308, but upon 
reflection this may be because of my bias towards superheros is making 
it seem more important that cataloguers would consider it, even in 
a world where superheroes actually existed.  No matter. As fiction 
writers we can handwave it for a quick'n'dirty fix that looks pretty 
(because the cutter numbers wouldn't be too intimidatingly long).
In any case, further thought on the matter of where 'superheroes' would 
go in Dewey Decimal reinforces my belief that it ultimately is going 
to be whether it's treated as an activity (superheroing) or a group 
(superheroes).  I will continue to go with group as the main facet of 
classification, because that in turn means that superheroes and 
supervillains would be subdivisions of superhumanity, and that 
method seems like a very Dewey Decimal approach to me.  However, 
classification *is* multifaceted and interdisciplinary, so there's 
every reason to have 'see also' references leading numbers that more 
aptly describe actions.
A hypothetical classification scheme IMO would have 'superhumanity' at 
the top, then various subdivisions of stuff relating to superhumanity 
(which I don't have time to ponder on right now), with superheroes and 
supervillains as some of the last subdivisions of the first decimal 
place.  This reflects the fact that super criminals and supercrime 
fighters are only a small proportion of the total superhuman 
population.  This is something I know to be the case in the Eightfold 
universe (the superpulmmer from _Speak!_ again) as well as the ASH and 
LNH universes, and of course also something that Grant Morrison has 
touched on in both the DC and Marvel universes (eg, the superhero 
convention in _Bulleteer_ and the mutant subculture in _X-Men_).
Therefore the 308 section looks something like this:
   308       (superhumanity)
   308.1-.7   (various aspects of superhumanity)
   308.8      (superheroes)
   308.9      (supervillains)
Or possibly superheroes and supervillains would be lumped together 
under superconflict at the end, so that as subjects superheroes and 
villains go to subdivisons at the second decimal place:
   308.9     (superconflict)
   308.91     (superheroes)
   308.92     (supervillains)
Following on much the same lines, the 'superhumanity' division could 
also be placed under the existing 306 (cultures & institutions) or 305 
(social groups) - although almost certainly the cutter numbers would 
have to be carefully constructed in order not to use up numbers that 
already exist within those subdivisions and in any case there's already 
a lot of crowding under 305.  So then, while recognising that these 
examples are almost certainly wrong, here is what it might like:
   306        (cultures & institutions)
   306.1       (subcultures)
   306.19      (superhumanity)
   306.191-198  (various aspects of superhumanity)
   306.199      (superconflict)
   306.1998      (superheroes)
   306.1999      (supervillains)
   305        (social groups)
   305.9       (occupational & miscellaneous groups)
   305.19       (superhumanity)
   305.191-198   (various aspects of superhumanity)
   305.199       (superconflict)
   305.1998       (superheroes)
   305.1999       (supervillains)
(My statement in the previous post about using 307 (communities) 
turned out to be wrong, BTW, because in the context of Dewey Decimal 
"communities" is as much about the physical location as the society 
that lives there.)
Meanwhile, on an interdisciplinary level of treating superheroing as an 
*action*, costumed villains are most directly analogous to terrorists, 
at least on a conceptual level of wearing easy-to-recognise costumes 
that strike fear into the public.  So:
   303     (social processes)
   303.1    (conflict and conflict resolution)
   303.625  (terrorism)  [for which I'd include costumed supervillainy]
   303.69   (conflict resolution)
The 'see also'/'classify as' notes under 306.69 say that resolution of 
a type of conflict should be included under the of conflict, so that 
for our pruposes superheroes fighting supervillains would go under 
303.625.  A 'see also' at this number also leads to 363.32 for 
prevention of terrorism, which leads us to:
   363.3   (other aspects of public safety)
   363.32   (control of violece and terrorism)
   363.34   (disasters) (with various subdivisions on kinds of diasters 
                         and of rescue operations).
However, while the conflict of good vs evil is archetypal to comic 
books, it is by no means the only things that superheroes do, since 
even under the 'protecting society' rubric there are also natural 
disasters to overcome; and then there's all that exploring/discovery of 
weird stuff that makes superhumans part of the 'Populatuion of Wonder'. 
Protecting society would probably fit:
   361   (social problems & social welfare in general)
   361.7  (private action)
   361.79  (superhumans/superheroes)
Saxon Brenton

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