Kansas: the SF Collection

Center for the Study of Science Fiction

In my field, when you say Kansas, the reply is “James Gunn and the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.” And I actually got a chance to visit this fascinating repository when I went to Kansas! I was given the guided tour by university professor and SF writer Kij Johnson, and reference librarian Elspeth Healey.

The Center itself is a smallish room crammed to bursting with F and SF. There is just about room to pass between the bookcases, but not much more. Here is Kij and a very bemused me, overwhelmed by the extent of the collection:Science Fiction Book collection

The very first thing Kij urged me to do was to send her all my books, which I shall do. Their goal is to have -all- the books. I suggested she get bigger quarters, ASAP.

Then it was on to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library to view the archive. Of course they have books, these dating back to the 19th century:

Library books

But then Elspeth took us in back and showed us the fun stuff. Here, for instance, is the rejection letter that Gene Roddenberry wrote to Theodore Sturgeon about the script for a Star Trek movie:

Sturgeon letter

There are dozens of treasures like this! The ballots for a Nebula vote!

Nebula Ballots

Or writer Lee Killough’s research for her novels, which she kept carefully bound in volumes. Yes, pages and pages of maps and sketches of imaginary dinosaurs, rendered in markers and colored pencils, and captioned with a manual typewriter:

Killough

This material is a slice of history that shall not come again. You, at this very instant — if you’re writing to someone, you’re sending an email or a text. Your research sketches are up on the cloud. No one will ever see them, unless you print out every now and then, using expensive toner and valuable paper. Who does that any more? All of us with paper materials should be conserving and donating this stuff.

The thrill of seeing the actual piece of paper is incredible. (I have seen J.R.R. Tolkien’s SFWA application! No, he did not fill in the blank about what he had published.) It was an amazing afternoon!

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