SCIENCE FICTION IN THE FULLERTON LIBRARY

by Dr. Willis E. McNelly
Professor of English, Emeritus

Within the last three decades, the science fiction holdings not only in the main stacks of the CSUF Library, but particularly in Special Collections, have grown from literally nothing to a position where today the entire SF collection is one of the finest of its kind in the country.

This spectacular growth was no accident, and it has been largely due to both the cooperation and foresight of several librarians and faculty members: University Librarian Ernest Toy, then Special Collections librarian, Linda Herman, current Special Collections librarian Sharon Perry, her assistant Jane Olsen, Dr. Robert Spenger of Chemistry and this writer, henceforth to be known as "I." All of them, particularly those librarians involved with the Collection on a day to day basis, deserve much credit for helping the library build and maintain its national and international reputation. Its growth has been a genuine cooperative venture.

In 1961 when I joined the faculty of what was then Orange County State College, I had accumulated hundreds of SF books over the years of a not-quite miss-spent youth. My father, after all, was one of the charter subscribers to the old "Amazing Stories" magazine back in the mid-twenties, so the garish, lurid covers and stilted but imaginative prose of Hugo Gernsback's seminar magazine formed part of my adolescent reading, together with scads of Dickens and Twain. Bob Spenger had become a SF addict even before finishing his Ph.D. in Chemistry. And when founding University President William B. Langsdorf learned of our strong interests, he revealed his own passion for escape literature, particularly SF, and kept asking us to recommend books for him to read. We had a good start with such support!

The mature visions of writers like H.G. Wells or Olaf Stapledon were read without discrimination either before or after the pulp fiction exemplified by the Barsoom stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs. In those early days nearly fifty years ago SF books and magazines were hard to acquire--and keep, for that matter. Consequently all of us early SF fans cherished them, preserved them, traded them, and kept them safely--we hoped. Yet the garish covers angered many a mother who discovered that the illustrators pandered to male teen age fantasies with their all--too frequent pictures of space women, clad only in a brass brassiere and loin cloth being carried into some Venusian jungle by an early version of King Kong-- and took them from under mattresses and tossed them out.

When the carefully-hoarded magazines and books were preserved into adulthood, another question arose to us as adults: What should we do with hundreds of books and virtually complete runs of, say, "Astounding Science Fiction?" An obvious answer to some faculty members was this: Donate them to the Patrons of the library, of course, and perhaps be eligible for an income tax deduction at the same time. Bob Spenger got the periodicals collection off to a good start by donating an almost complete run of "Astounding" and "Galaxy." After consultation with Mr. Toy and the University Library Committee and deciding that hardbacks would be shelved in the main collection, paperbacks in the reserve book room, and periodicals in Special Collections, I added my own books--hundreds of them--and thus the SF collection began.

B. K. Goree of the Patrons added extremely valuable runs of "Amazing Stories," "Astounding" (before it became "Analog Science Fact/Science Fiction"), "Galaxy," and "Fantasy and Science Fiction," among others. Soon the Patrons themselves bought a complete run, including the very rare volume one, number one, of "Weird Tales." Even in the very early days, the periodical collection was extensive, boasting such titles as "Planet Stories," "Startling Stories," and "Thrilling Wonder Stories." One of the prizes Mr. Goree gave us was a complete run of the very rare pre-World War II fantasy magazine "Unknown," later called "Unknown Worlds." Edited by John W. Campbell, known more of his making "Astounding" the most important SF magazine of the so-called Golden Age of SF in the 40s and 50s, the copies of Unknown showed many a neophyte writer how to combine hard-core SF with magical fantasy. Some present day critics maintain that the tenor of the stories published in Unknown provided contemporary writers with a style for the currently popular "Sword and Sorcery" genre.

Members of the community or my students eventually heard of the collection and soon began donating their files of various magazines or their long- hoarded paperbacks. As a member of both SFWA and SFRA, I donated copies of all of the publications of these two organizations' house organs themselves, as well as long runs of the scholarly journals Extrapolation, Science Fiction Studies, and Foundation, published in Britain.

In the early 1960s and first academic SF class was taught at Cornell--and many scholars throughout the country, who (in the words of Anthony Boucher) wondered aloud if professors were science fiction fans trying to infiltrate the academy or academicians trying to infiltrate SF fandom, joined to form the workshop on SF at the Modern Language Association, and later the Science Fiction Research Association. Inspired by their example, I created the SF course at CSUF in the mid-1960s, one that proved so popular that eventually three and four sections were being taught each semester by English department colleagues such as Jane Hipolito, who later collaborated with me in editing Mars, We Love You! for Doubleday.

I joined the Science Fiction Writers of America and even spoke at one of their meetings at Berkeley in 1967 about the relationship of SF and the academy. Among the suggestions made for closer cooperation between the writing and academic communities was that writers try to preserve the manuscripts of their work in some place other than closet floors or basement shelves, thus making them accessible for scholars. At that Berkeley SFWA meeting, I was introduced to writers such as Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Brad bury, Frank Herbert, Poul Anderson, Harry Harrison, Tony Boucher, and many others, many of whom become close friends. Harrison and Herbert in particular were concerned about preserving their manuscripts. A few weeks later I discussed the matter with Mr. Toy and the University Library Committee, of which I was then chair, and at their suggestion and with their approval, I wrote to every member of the SFWA urging that they donate their manuscripts to the Patrons of the Library at CSUF. We could preserve them for scholarly access and usage, the letter said, indicating also that the writers' tax accountants might look with approval upon such donations from an Income Tax point of view.

We had manuscripts flooding in within weeks. Long-time pulp and popular writer Robert Moore Williams not only cleared out his closets, but his basement and attic as well. He personally brought in to the SC the complete records of a lifetime of professional writing. These many many boxes comprised not only manuscripts and proofs, but final printed copies as well. Included also were Williams' own meticulous records: each story, article, or longer work had a detailed history: where he submitted his stories and novel; how long they were kept before acceptance or rejection; and how much he was paid for them. Examining them today, we are somewhat surprised to learn how little writers were paid several decades ago, sometimes as little as half a cent a word per short story! His entire professional writing career, now available for study in the SC, provides any aspiring writer with the example of the thorough professionalism necessary for success.Williams may never have been, say, a Bradbury or a Herbert, but he made his living by writing throughout his entire life. Examining his papers can show younger writers how such an accomplishment was done yesterday, or, for that matter, today. Ray Bradbury, by this time a close friend, soon contributed the manuscript of Fahrenheit 451, together with various drafts of the short story "The Fireman" from which the novel sprang. He also sent along other unpublished longer versions, novella or novelette length, of his great statement praising freedom to read, versions tentatively entitled "Fire Burn, Fire Burn!" and "The Hearth and the Salamander." From an aspiring writer's viewpoint, manuscripts such as these are invaluable: for example, the manuscripts of Fahrenheit 451 reveals some last minute corrections done in Bradbury's bold hand as he strengthened a verb, deleted an adjective, or sharpened a noun.

Frank Herbert's Dune was a new book in the late 1960s. Already a major popular success, it was beginning to attract readers from the mainstream who were interested in the ecological precepts Herbert championed. During our first meeting in 1967, he asked if we were interested in acquiring the various manuscripts of Dune, the novel which eventually became the first in what Herbert later termed "The Dune Chronicles." Interested? I fairly jumped at the opportunity. Thus a few months later I visited Herbert in the Bay area where he was then living, spent several days with him and his wife Beverly, and returned to Cal State with a car trunk full of manuscripts. I was exultant. We had the complete original manuscript of Dune and a carbon copy of his typescript of the then unpublished "Dune II," later called Dune Messiah.

Most notable among the many boxes of his papers which I brought back to Fullerton was not only the first draft of Dune, that fine novel, but the second, third, and fourth drafts as well. Originally typewritten on yellow 8x14 foolscap, the first draft was complete with typed strikeovers, bold x's deleting entire paragraphs, penciled notations, marginalia of all kinds--questions marks, notes to himself in various colored inks--suggestions for change, expansion or emendation, and so on. It would be invaluable to scholars. (A close examination of his planning notes revealed that early in the planning stages of the book, Herbert intended that the hero of the novel be Liet-Kynes, the planetary ecologist of Arrakis, the planet known as Dune. Only later did he change Paul Atreides from the relatively minor role of a 12-year-old boy to the off-world messiah-hero of the novel). We were given setting copies, galley proofs, page proofs--all the notes and plans of what many critics consider to be the best SF novel ever written. In addition, Herbert gave us the carefully preserved manuscripts of all of his fiction and much of his non-fiction writing from the beginning of his career. Altogether, it was a magnificent contribution.

Most interesting of all was the file of rejection letters from publishers who though Dune too long, too complicated, or too intricately plotted to publish. Indeed, one publisher, who must remain nameless, was quite correct when he wrote to Herbert, "I may be making a serious mistake, perhaps the mistake of the decade, but . . ." and then rejected the book. One wonders what he feels today. In contrast, editor John W. Campbell's eight or ten page single-spaced acceptance letter of Dune for "Analog" is remarkable for its insights into the problems faced by Herbert in creating a teen-age superhero. Such fascinating tidbits abound in the boxes of papers we acquired.

The reception, organization, classification, and preservation of this vast mass of material fell on the shoulders of Special Collections Librarian Linda Herman and her assistants, Jane Olsen, Lucille Stratton, and Kay Heil. Reams of paper housed in shoe boxes or grocery cartons had to be inventoried, sorted (some writers included everything from laundry lists to telephone bills), and catalogued. Shortly after we received the Herbert, Williams, and Bradbury donations, other writers also gave us their manuscripts. These included Boyd Upchurch, Harry Harrison, Norman Spinrad, and Zenna Henderson. We also acquired donations from adventure writer Joe Poyer, Professors Eric Temple Bell of Cal Tech, Leon Stover of Illinois Tech, and Gregory Benford of UC Irvine; screenwriters David Gerrold and Harlan Ellison, fantasy specialist Avram Davidson, and many others. Brian Aldiss even sent some of his manuscripts from England.

Let me give one example of the kind of hard work required in writing, taken from the donations from Harry Harrison. A close examination of the manuscript of Harrison's hilarious novel The Technicolor Time Machine, revealed not only Harrison's correspondence with various Icelandic language scholars, together with newspaper stories about the "Vinland Map" which provided him with the germinal idea for the book, but also a 3x5 card giving the wordage Harrison wrote each day. While the preparation and research went on for many months, the actual writing of the book's 65,000 words took him less than a month! But even that averages about 2,000 words a day, no simple task.

All of the writing from the nearly 50 authors whose work we had acquired had to be preserved. Some of it was in precarious condition and certainly none of it had been written on acid-free paper. Even the 8 x 14 yellowed pages of the first draft of Dune had been crumpled and folded to fit an 8 1/2 x 11 folder. The problem of preservation was eventually solved, at least temporarily, with acid-proof document boxes. Even pulp paper kept in one of these boxes would last for many decades, perhaps for centuries. However, using plastic envelopes to safeguard each individual issue of each pulp magazine can be only a temporary expedient. In other words, the question of microfilming the entire very extensive SF collection must still be addressed.

In order to solve one of the problems--overall classification--connected with the Herbert collection, Frank's wife, Beverly Herbert (who died in 1984) worked with Linda Herman to catalog and classify this marvelous donation. Together they decided to assign Opus numbers for ready reference and access, as well as making easier the question of their contents. Thus, Dune is Opus 25, for example, and the total extends to Opus 82.

In later years, before his untimely death in 1986, Frank Herbert continued sending Special Collections similar material for all of his later writings, working closely with Sharon Perry, now head of Special Collections. It is an extraordinary collection, and recent major donations by his widow, Theresa Shackleford, have amplified it considerably. For example, not only did she send us all of Herbert's personal copies of his books, both hardback and paperback, including The Dune Chronicles in every language in which they have been published, but in early 1991 she shipped to Fullerton 34 large boxes which contain, among many valuable items, Herbert's business correspondence, as well as his research for and copies of the many essays he wrote for "California Living" when he was a working journalist in the Bay area.

It can safely be said that no scholar will ever be able to write anything substantive about Herbert's career without consulting the Herbert Archives. Two books about Herbert utilizing the materials in Special Collections have already been published, and more are on the way. One of The Dune Encyclopedia which I compiled for Berkeley/Putnam in 1983, and the other was William Touponce's Frank Herbert written for the Twayne American Authors Series and published in 1988. Touponce spent considerable time in Fullerton working with the Archives. One young man came all the way from Singapore to consult the Herbert collection in preparation for writing his Ph.D. dissertation. With copies of the screenplay of the filmed version of the novel now safely in the vault, together with dozens of audio tapes of interviews and lectures, the Herbert Archives can now accurately be termed definitive.

While the Herbert Archives at Fullerton are the "star of the show," so to speak, they are followed in importance by the Philip K. Dick collection. I first met Phil Dick in 1972 at and academic gathering at the College of San Rafael. He introduced himself to me as "the world's greatest science fiction writer," a description I would not have then disputed. When I interviewed him at his sparsely furnished tract house a few days later, we discovered that we shared Beethoven's birthday. From such little coincidences are lives changed, because as a result of that simple fact, he came to believe that he could trust Cal State Fullerton, which I represented. His ransacked house had been sold; he was on his way to Vancouver to deliver a speech that later became "The Android and the Human," one of his most famous pieces of writing--we have the original--and during that initial interview I suggested to him that we safeguard what manuscripts had not been lost in various moves by sending them to Fullerton. He expressed interest, but because of his obligations in Vancouver, he had no time then to send anything back to Fullerton with me.

Later, after he recovered from a breakdown in Vancouver and needed a place to stay--in his own strange way he was homeless--I was able to arrange housing for him in Fullerton. In one sense CSUF became a virtual home base for him. In fact, he was awarded the status of "honorary student" by the student government, he attended many of the music and dramatic activities on campus. In a few months his career which had been almost moribund, rapidly came alive once more as he regained his stride as "the most brilliant science fiction mind on earth . . ." as Dick's biographer and literary executor, Paul Williams, phrased it. After moving to Fullerton, Dick wrote and published the award-winning "Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said," "Confessions of a Crap Artist," "A Scanner Darkly," "The Transmigration of Timothy Archer," and "The Divine Invasions," all rated by most authorities as among his very best work.

Because of a change in the law which had occurred in the early 1970s, the IRS regrettably no longer permitted artists to deduct donations of their work to non-profit organizations. So I suggested to both Herbert and Dick that they give us their manuscripts on a "permanent loan" basis until such time as the law might again be changed. They both thought it was an excellent idea, and Dick gave us an enormous collection of books, manuscripts, personal copies of his writings in all forms, and much unpublished material including several novels. Because of our reputation in the SF field, a few years ago we were able to secure a photocopy of the manuscript of The Man in the High Castle rated by some critics as the single best novel Dick ever wrote.

The ambiguity of the phrase "permanent loan" came under considerable discussion in the years after Dick's death in 1982. His estate made demands for the return of everything he had donated to the library; in defense, the CSUF system insisted that Dick intended that they be a part of the CSUF collection, an intention he had expressed to me several times, particularly on the day I helped him carry boxes containing his "archives" into the library. We were not interested in publishing any of the material, only in preserving the "paper" on which they were written for the use of future scholars.

Despite the threat of litigation, in the years after Dick's death his estate published several posthumous works while we retained the manuscripts themselves. Eventually the statute of limitations for the suit expired with no action taken. Consequently, all the papers now repose safely, and permanently, in Special Collections. Several scholarly books and monographs, including biographies, have already been written about Dick, their authors utilizing the materials in the collection. A number of scholars from as far away as Australia and France have spent months poring over the collection, examining the manuscripts, making extensive notes, and reading some of Dick's own handwritten outlines. A recent (Fall 1991) critical study of two of Dick's novels was written by Professor Christopher Palmer from LaTrob University in Melbourne, Australia, who spent several months in Special Collections.

Fortunately, we had no similar problems with the extensive Herbert papers also sent to us on the same "permanent loan" basis. Shortly before his untimely death, Herbert assured me that he had made provisions in his will that we could keep The Herbert Archives, and in fact, his son Brian Herbert, also a writer, has expressed a desire to visit Fullerton to learn something of their extent and contents, assuring me that the estate is pleased that they are being preserved so well for posterity.

It is impossible, of course, to estimate the number of volumes of SF contained on the open shelves of the library. Part of the difficulty is inherent in the definition of SF itself. Should classic fantasy be included? Or books by such so-called "mainstream" authors as Kingsley Amis, John Hersey, Herman Wouk, or Thomas Pynchon to say nothing of H. G. Wells? No matter: Suffice it to say that the total is in the thousands, perhaps even in the tens of thousands. And as for paperbacks, the count is several thousands and still climbing.

Willis E. McNelly


Copyright © by Willis E. McNelly
All rights reserved.

Reprinted with permission.