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SciFi Motherlode Donated to Canadian University 194

Freshly Exhumed writes: "SciFan aficionados might soon be lining up to study at the University of Calgary due to an amazing donation: A massive collection of science fiction and pulp magazines spanning the last century has been donated to the University of Calgary which officials say will be a boon for literary and pop culture research. William Gibson had spent many of his 92 years sealing his prized collection in plastic, leaving behind a true motherlode of science fiction writings."
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SciFi Motherlode Donated to Canadian University

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  • by susano_otter ( 123650 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @04:42AM (#3997470) Homepage
    ...when he died, I assume this was the other William Gibson.
    • by RDW ( 41497 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @05:07AM (#3997511)
      They have a freezer full of them in the Gibson orbital villa. The family AI just releases another clone from hibernation as required, and sends him down on the next JAL shuttle. I believe the current Gibson is 3Bill.
    • The William Gibson who wrote Neuromancer was born in 1948 []. Which cheers me up, as I thought Gibson had been working on a book.

      Um, unless of course this is a collection & obituary sent back in time...

    • ...when he died, I assume this was the other William Gibson.

      Maybe he waited until he could read before he started collecting Sci-Fi... *shrug*

    • by EEEthan ( 41747 ) < minus bsd> on Friday August 02, 2002 @10:28AM (#3998489) Homepage
      But who IS this other, older and yet sci-fi loving William Gibson???

      I for one am not ready to count out the idea that time travel was involved and that this is the cyberpunk author William Gibson. I think that the age of some of the pieces in the collection supports that theory as well.

      As we all know, the sci-fi writers of the 20th century are, in the future, remembered as pre-cogs, and for that reason, they are sometimes retrieved by time dredge by interested parties in the distant future. Phil Dick tells us that this happened on one occasion to Poul Andersen. It seems conceivable that this happened to Gibson, but he was returned to a different time, either accidentally or for some purpose -- perhaps to amass this very sci-fi collection.

      But why ??? What forces are at work here ?
  • Some of this stuff will find its way to ibiblio [] or some other online archive..
    • doubtful (Score:2, Informative)

      by Phantros ( 597923 )
      Probably not, since most things published after 1922 aren't in the public domain, and very little science fiction is that old.
      • Re:doubtful (Score:4, Informative)

        by Flamerule ( 467257 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @05:17AM (#3997529)
        The article:
        University staff were stunned by the size of the donation: upwards of 35,000 volumes dating back to the 19th century [...] It ranges from 19th century Jules Verne [...]

        Kyzia said some of it should get to ibiblio [], and since some of it is from the 19th century, that's eminently reasonable. That "very little science fiction" includes authors like Jules Verne [], whose stuff is already available online, courtesy of Project Gutenberg []. And while we're visiting the 19th century, though the article doesn't mention him, also freely available are the works of H.G. Wells [].

      • by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @05:19AM (#3997533) Journal
        Who's responsible for preserving information if the copyright holder doesn't do it? There's a lot of material generated over the past century that's turning to dust, or has been shoveled into landfills (many MGM props/old negatives were THROWN AWAY by the studio in the 70's to save space...)

        With this mania about preventing copies, I can see a day when NOBODY can benefit from when copyright expires on an item, because it's long mouldered away, neglected by it's owner, and locked away from those who would have preserved it. Really, copyright should be shortened to a reasonable period, or else compulsory licensing to libraries and archives should be part of the deal, in order to ensure that the stuff the copyright owner makes money off of today can be enjoyed by the public tommorrow.

        After all, the intent of copyright was to ensure the public had access to creative works, but making sure the creator had an incentive (ie, they got paid) to release their work and profit by it. But the key intent is to make sure that the work is acessible to all, so that the public as a whole can benefit. After all, that's why we have libraries, so that the society as a whole can be enriched.

        Unfortunately, there are some who believe the exact opposite, that money should come before the public good... and they can afford to hire politicians to write laws that enforce that belief, and the lawyers to make it stick. The irony here is that corporations too were created for the public good [].

        And it doesn't look like any concrete reform is going to come out of Enron and Worldcom. We really need to address the issue of corporations divorcing themselves from the rest of society, and acting as if they're above the law. Perhaps we need to go back to chartering corporations with specific aims that can benefit the public, by power of the state legislatures again?

        • and acting as if they're above the law.

          All the rights, and bugger all of the responsibilities... the day that corporations became above the law passed a long long time ago....
        • I've often thought that copyright should last only as long as the holder keeps the original available. For example, a book copyright would expire when it was out of print - i.e. when the publisher stops selling it, it's in the public domain.
  • According to the article, library officials estimated that $250,000 (in Canadian dollars, I'm assuming) would be needed to clean and restore the material. I think this would be a worthy project to contribute to, especially with the favorable exchange rate.

    I've been looking over the UCalagary library site [] but I couldn't find any explicit donation mechanism. Anyone know who to contact to donate funds to preserve this material?
    • if by "preserve" they mean "digitize" for public consumption, then count me in []
    • donations (Score:4, Informative)

      by Barbarian ( 9467 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @05:12AM (#3997517)
      They have a page on donations [] here, nothing specific about the library but I'm sure you could specify that a donation is for the library.

      • AFAIK, if you donate to a public institution, and designate that the donation may only be used for a specific purpose, then that donation may not be used for anything but that purpose.

        Now, that's in the US, I don't know about Canada.
        • I believe the exact opposite is true. If you donate to a charitable organization, they can use the funds any way they want. By law you cannot specify how the funds will be used. Thus the Red Cross/World Trade Center scandal - millions were donated to the Red Cross to support families of victims of 9/11 and the Red Cross decides to build out a call center. If the law were other than I believe then there would be lawsuits and criminal charges against the Red Cross. Instead, the Red Cross merely pledges to do better next time (rather like a politician in an election year).

          I don't know if universities are considered charitable organizations or not, and I don't know how Canadian law works.

          Regardless, if you want to donate, you should contact the library and find out how you can help financially and how you can be assured that your funds will go to help the restoration of this collection. Otherwise, you might be buying knick-knacks to decorate the home of the university's president (or regent, or chancellor, or whatever he's called).
          • Universities in Canada do accept charitable donations, and do issue receipts for income tax purposes, however I don't know how useful such a receipt would be to a foreigner.

            Also, a quick search revealed that in Ontario and BC (at least) if a purpose is specified, they must spend the money on that. Presumably this would be similar in Alberta, but I don't know for sure.
    • Here is the reply I received from the Archives on how to donate $$ for restoration of the collection: Your request for information about donating to restoration of our new collection was passed to me. I must say your offer is really very much appreciated. As you might have read or heard, we are grateful and thrilled to have this important collection, but our work and costs to catalogue and preserve it has just begun. The University can cover some costs, but we depend on donations from concerned and interested people such as yourself in order to do the major work. A donation in any amount will help us ensure that this collection is properly preserved and made accessible for future generations, and you can be proud of contributing to that. You can send a cheque to myself at the address below, and it should be made out to "University of Calgary", then mark on the front somewhere, "Gibson Collection". We will process it and then in due course, we'll send you a tax receipt. If you need any more information, please be sure to contact me at any of the addresses on this email. I will be away for a couple of weeks, but my emails and phone will tell you how to contact my Associate, Lauren Spencer, if you need to. The address for mailing is: Blane Hogue Director of Development, Information Resources Room 750, MacKimmie Library University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W. CALGARY T2N 1N4 Thanks again for your interest. Sincerely, -- Blane Hogue Director of Development, Information Resources University of Calgary
  • digitize? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @04:57AM (#3997493) Homepage Journal
    so um.... they're gonna scan/digitize it all, right? having a hard copy is nice and all, but i'd rather see all of these volumes of sci fi gone to the knife, and scanned in, at say, 600 dpi, and then OCR'd.

    from what it sounds like in the article, they're going to catolouge this and stick it on a shelf for people to read... like the article mentions, pulp fiction sci fi was meant to be thrown away...those books will only last a few precious years of handling before they're lost forever.

    i've seen a few book digitizing devices, but i've never seen them in wide use at libraries....does the library of congress digitize their library? is there anyway to access/query it? a book only lasts forever, as does a digital copy and the means to read the digital copy, but an obscure dusty book on a dusty shelf out of reach halfway across the country from me isn't going to help me much on my college thesis (or 10,000 other people who might need to access exerpts of the book for some reason or another)
    • I really doubt that this will get put onto the general circulation shelves...

      More likely they will keep them in the reserve room, and if you want to look at anything, you might have to stick with copies.
    • Re:digitize? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bartmoss ( 16109 )
      Actually, a paper book can last for centuries, while digital media is degrading very quickly.
      • Re:digitize? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Xtifr ( 1323 )
        A paper book can last for centuries if it's printed on acid-free paper -- but most SF and other pop/pulp literature is not, and you'll be lucky if a 50-year-old paperback is still in one piece, and doesn't fall apart when you try to turn the pages.

        As for digital media, there's no reason in theory why it couldn't be built to last for centuries. In practice, of course, such things would probably be too expensive, but I fully expect to see some longer-lived digital media (at least equivalent to acid-free paper) before the century is out.
        • Equipment (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          The equipment to read digital copies doesn't last for centuries, not even for decades.

          Ask those people who had to pay a tonne of money to have their old Wordstar CP/M disks transferred to MS word.

          In a century or more most of what we produced digitally will be gone forever.
          • Re:Equipment (Score:4, Insightful)

            by WNight ( 23683 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:27AM (#3998984) Homepage
            This is often brought up and is quite misleading.

            Sure, your CD-ROM drive won't last the 100 years they claim the disks will, but it's a documented format and people could easily build a reader if they felt the need. Hell, with a really high-resolution scan you could read the data directly. And that's with CDs, something hard to preserve.

            Xerox (and others) have been working on a printed storage medium, where data is represented by little left or right leaning slashes and encoded with enough error-checking and redundancy that you can recover the data from any piece of paper large enough to hold it. (Put 1/8th of a page of data together and any 1/8th of a page contains all of it.)

            The Xerox method was actually intended for digital watermarks, so that links to the original document would allow people to find it from an old printed copy, and so embed author info, etc, in every page of the document and have it look, to the naked eye, like a uniform light-gray background.

            You could do something like this fairly easily with the intent being to save the data. The storage was fairly impressive, 15k per page or something, and you could use a simple self-documenting compression to cram a lot onto each page. Print these out as your "fall of technology" backup and store properly. Any self-respecting geek could write a reader in very little time. For extra insurance, print a few pages of human-readable text describing the procedure and offering psuedo-code for decompressing the data.

            On the computer, store everything in text-based formats and store it with the appropriate RFCs for the formats for the non-text based data. Even if people forget what XML or HTML are they can still see the original text in there and figure out how to strip that out easily if need be.

            This is assuming that people don't copy the data to a new storage medium when updating their computers, and that the whole world forgets how to access common formats.

            And yes, I do know of which I speak. I've reverse engineered disk-storage formats from old PCs to allow disk-images to be used as file systems on modern PCs, to extract old files, or for high-level emulators to use.
        • I think giving them 98 years is a little generous ;o)
        • Re:digitize? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by torpor ( 458 ) <<ibisum> <at> <>> on Friday August 02, 2002 @08:42AM (#3997903) Homepage Journal
          The Church of Scientology has some pretty impressive technology which they developed for preservation of L. Ron Hubbards materials - too bad they don't commercialize their techniques, because they're quite advanced.

          All of the audio material is stamped on titanium records guaranteed to last 1,000's of years, for example, and they even developed a paper for their printed material which is fireproof, acidproof, bugproof, and supposed to last 10's of thousands of years. Some sort of blend of Irish linen or something - very high quality stuff.

          Say what you will about CoS, but Author Services has been doing a pretty good job of preserving the stuff they want to preserve.

          They could commercialize their techniques and make a fortune.
          • They could commercialize their techniques and make a fortune.

            You aren't suggesting that the Church of Scientology is out to make a profit are you?
          • Re:digitize? (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Reziac ( 43301 )
            Then again, since CoS's Author Services doesn't *share* their document preservation methodology, how do you know it's not just more CoS hype? My guess is that it doesn't really exist, outside of a few examples to use as lures.

            And Irish linen burns quite nicely, thank you.

      • Actually, a paper book can last for centuries, while digital media is degrading very quickly.

        In practice, that is true; however, you can easily copy the partially-degraded (but still readable, due to error correction) copy onto the latest media format, without loss of fidelity or information, as long as you don't wait too long.
        • Yes, as long as you don't wait too long. Granted, it has slowed down a bit, but there was this story about nasa losing data faster than they were able to copy it to modern media. (I'm too lazy to look, you do it.)

          That said I agree that an electronic archive would be great. If nothing else, it makes the collection so much more accessible. But don't ruin the originals for it.
    • Re:digitize? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Nick Barnes ( 11927 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @05:41AM (#3997584)
      those books will only last a few precious years of handling before they're lost forever.

      This is almost certainly not the case. The idea that books turn to dust on the shelves is largely false. Even books printed on quite acidic paper will probably last for centuries (with typical research library handling frequency) if they are well looked after. If they are cut up and fed into scanners, they will then be thrown away. Experience suggests that the scans will be of mediocre quality (missing some pages, missing parts of other pages, frequently having insufficient contrast to be legible, and losing any colour or greyscale information present in the originals). Also lost would be all the historical value inherent in the books as physical objects and in the collection as a whole.

      The "slow fires" were invented by technocrat library managers as propaganda to generate funds for "preservation" projects. These huge projects have given the managers much power and prestige while destroying millions of volumes of irreplaceable books and newspapers. Read Double Fold (Nicholson Baker, Amazon []) for much more on this subject.

      • Re:digitize? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Adrian ( 4029 )
        Agree completely. Books (even on acidic paper) are a lot more robust than many people make out. The much maligned librarian profession have been doing this for many years and are *very* good at it.

        That said, it is also possible to do non-destructive scans of material at a very high quality. There are some nice examples at the British Library (the actual place, no idea if it's online). However this, of course, expensive --- so is unlikely to be done in this case. Pity.
      • Experience suggests that the scans will be of mediocre quality (missing some pages, missing parts of other pages, frequently having insufficient contrast to be legible, and losing any colour or greyscale information present in the originals).

        Oh. I see your point.

        Or - no - wait! Why not (get this) do the scanning right? D'ya think that might work? Huh? Do ya? Do ya?

      • Re:digitize? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dvdeug ( 5033 ) <dvdeug@em[ ].ro ['ail' in gap]> on Friday August 02, 2002 @06:54AM (#3997684)
        Experience suggests that the scans will be of mediocre quality (missing some pages, missing parts of other pages, frequently having insufficient contrast to be legible, and losing any colour or greyscale information present in the originals).

        What type of experiance? The quality of the scans is of course dependent on how carefully they are done. Notice that the National Yiddish Book Center/Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library [http] did just that to a lot of the books, and produced high enough quality scans to make new books from them.

        Also, I sometimes scan public-domain books into the computer. I just sent scans of several books to someone with webspace and a preexisting site. If you look at those scans, you may get the impression that the contrast and grayscale was lost. What you probably don't realize, is that those are scaled for the web, at 90 KB for two pages. It's not feasible to put up the original 4 MB scans, and few really care about the difference. I would assume that other projects would be similar; you can get excellent scans if you talk to the person, but they aren't going to waste webspace and bandwidth offering huge high-detail scans to everyone who wanders by.
        • Re:digitize? (Score:3, Informative)

          by topham ( 32406 )
          There is a compression/file format called MrSID. It is very impressive. My mother access a website which has scanned copies of Census data from the 1800's, etc. These are huge archives, but the files are only about 150K per page (or less!). These are high-resolution scans. I was very impressed.

          Now the GPS/mapping software I use supports it, but I have no way to create MrSID files, or I would.
        • What type of experiance?

          As I said in the comment to which you are responding, read Double Fold for much more on this. I don't have the time or inclination to repeat the details of all the hugely expensive and disastrously destructive "preservation" projects that Baker documents there. Yes, it is possible to scan (or photograph) books non-destructively, and to get good results. For all I know, the Yiddish project you identify is an example of such good practice, which I fully support. But the great majority of the books, newspapers, and journals "preserved" in the last fifty years have in fact been destroyed in the process, replaced at great cost by a shoddy partial copy with a shorter shelf-life.

          Baker's remarks about contrast, colour, and greyscale are mostly for microfilm results, for which it is the normal deliberate decision to use very high-contrast film, hugely compressing the dynamic range of the original. Digital scans also usually lose much of the dynamic range, but are often not as appalling as microfilm. It has a lot to do with the technology chosen for scanning, and less to do with the size of the resulting images. Digital preservation projects usually scan in 8-bit greyscale at 600dpi, which is woefully inadequate, of course. And the results are often kept in proprietary formats in proprietary Document Management Systems.

          That's all I'm going to say on the subject. Read the book.

          • Sad thing is, people who do the HQ Manga scans for fan translations and pirating have excellent experience in the field and touch up each image individually, often times spending weeks or months on each issue.

            The results are fabulous looking originals that are then mangled by idiots who recompress them to 30KB JPEGs so they can shove them on their Geocities account. . . .

            Good pirated books are simular too, there are a fair number of groups of people who translate books into PDF formate illegaly, and the better groups do a darn good job at it. Of course the lower quality groups, err, suck. A lot. :(
        • Instead of destroying books in the process of scanning them, why not use a high-end digital camera? Surely it could be automated to some degree, so all that's needed is someone to carefully turn the pages and push the "Next" button.

          I have books over 100 years old, including some fairly rare first editions, and the idea of cutting them up to scan them gives me great pain. I'd rather make the extra effort to process 'em one page at a time, tedious as that would be compared to despining 'em and running 'em thru a sheetfed scanner.

          Remember, too, that given the relatively ephemeral nature of even the best digital media, and the problems of accessing outdated media and file formats, a digital copy is of no real archival value if it doesn't have a hardcopy backup.

          • Instead of destroying books in the process of scanning them, why not use a high-end digital camera?

            There are high end scanners. They are incredibly expensive (~$10,000) and, since the page isn't pressed flat, it can be hard to get a good scan. But even given only a flatbed scanner, it's a lot easier to get good scans without destroying the book than a lot of people seem to think.
            • Thank goodness. Yes, I know these scanners exist, but from what people were saying, it sounds like more often than not, an ordinary flatbed and the despinery approach is taken instead. :(

              Tho $10k isn't a very large investment compared to a library full of irreplaceable books.

            • What we need is a 'prism scanner' :)
              Just a vertical wedge that you can open the boot and drape over the narrow edge of the wedge, scan, flip the page, and repeat. So the spine of the book is totally unstressed.
              OK you MIT students, get to work :)
      • Well, the only thing I would be worried about is the freakin' idiots that could get their hands on the original documents and vandalize them in some fashion. I've got some original print Peanuts (Charlie Brown / Snoopy, for those who can't make the connection) from the 50's, and they've survived all these years just fine. However, I wouldn't dare let any family member below the age of 13 touch them in fear that their brown pages might get harmed.
      • Experience suggests that the scans will be of mediocre quality (missing some pages, missing parts of other pages, frequently having insufficient contrast to be legible, and losing any colour or greyscale information present in the originals).

        Really? I think most astronomers would disagree, the ADS [] has scanned a significant fraction of the back catlogue of astronomical journals. While most of the journals now publish electronic editions as well as paper most of these only go back to the mid to late 90's, online access to the back catalogue is amazingly useful for research. A full list of back catalogue of journals they provide access to is here [] as you can see they've scanned some of them all the way back to the 1880's or 90's. Scan quality is uniformly good, I've yet to find a badly scanned journal article and I' use this service every day.

      • I know! We'll go with the best of both worlds!

        We'll set up this shop where someone in the front reads from the book and everyone else copies down the words into -new- books. Heck, you could even add caligraphy to the words to spice it up some.

        I'm going to be rich!
      • I have access to a small collection that is rapidly degrading. 'Pulp' publications from the 40s are falling apart. Once the process starts it is quite rapid. I doubt most of it will last another 50 years.
      • "This is almost certainly not the case. The idea that books turn to dust on the shelves is largely false. Even books printed on quite acidic paper will probably last for centuries (with typical research library handling frequency) if they are well looked after."

        They are not book as a rule. They are PULPS. Magazines printed on paper that would be considered low quality even by newspaper publishers. Add to that the fact that they may have color artwork that used unstable inks/dyes. Add to that that they are already old, 75+ for many. Maybe some were pH buffered by Mr. Gibson as he collected them, maybe not - the treatments are not cheap and add up fast. They will already be fragile. They are not going to take much additional handling.

        They shouldn't be cut up to scan, but they need to be scanned ASAP. On the plus side, they don't have book style binding. They should tolerate a fair amount of flattening for a good scan.

        They should be more broadly available to be read than these could possibly tolerate. A lot of that old stuff has never been reprinted (some quite desevedly :-} )and may exist only in those copies at this date.
    • but an obscure dusty book on a dusty shelf out of reach halfway across the country from me isn't going to help me much on my college thesis

      You can get pretty much any book from pretty much any university in North America through Document Delivery or similar dept. at your library. They check out OCLC (IIRC), and as long as the book isn't in a special collection (and sometimes even then) they'll get it for you. Special Collections books will even be photocopied for you, usually for a small fee, by the other library.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Imagine if this was a porn collection.
    • Actually of all the universities, Cal State Northridge [] has the largest porn collection in the nation, mainly due to its location near the porn capital of the USA - Chadsworth, CA. Most of their stuff comes from the Vern and Bonnie Bullough Collection [], which was donated a while back.

      Be forewarned, these are part of a special collection on "Human Sexuality" and can't be checked out the library. I don't think you can even browse the collection without requesting permission, but it's nice to know there's a larger collection of porn in comparison to what's under your bed.

      -Mr. Fusion

    • one can only dream, my ass would move to Canada overnight!
  • role of women... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jukal ( 523582 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @04:58AM (#3997500) Journal
    I wonder what material can NOT be used to study the role of women [] in society and whether the studies already cover enough. Odd that this is what the interviewed professor first thought about. Well, it must be utterly interesting ;)
    • Re:role of women... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by silentbozo ( 542534 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @05:32AM (#3997563) Journal
      Well, you can take a look at how trends in society have affected literature. I remember picking up a copy of The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle [] and finding that this newer edition had totally removed all references to the word "negro", since the original text might offend some younger readers (the Gutenberg linked above has the original, I think.)

      I recently read a book by Ben Bova (The Watchmen []), a re-release of a pair of novels originally written in the 60's, where he specifically says in the 1994 foreword that he did NOT alter the original text, and hence you would find women referred to generically as "girls".
    • Of interest:

      role of women [] produces 2,780,000 hits.

      role of men [] produces 2,590,000 hits.

      It would seem men are the under-studied gender by google-counting.
  • elderly (Score:1, Redundant)

    by kipple ( 244681 )
    William Gibson had spent many of his 92 years...

    ....pardon me?

  • by djshiawase ( 570864 ) <{slashdot} {at} {}> on Friday August 02, 2002 @05:31AM (#3997560) Homepage
    When I first saw this, was I the only one who panicked and thought, "No, not him!" I'm referring, of course, to cyberpunk founder William Gibson. But a quick look at the article tells me it isn't him - anyway I know he's been around a while now, but certainly not 92 years of age!

    I've been looking forward to the first book of his 'noughties trilogy'. As well as the slow progression (but certainly inevitable!) of Neuromancer [] and the Zen Differential [], based on Count Zero, to the silver screen.

    A big sigh of relief, and what a big boon to our understanding of the past's view of the future, it's now when hindsight truly makes the hopes and fears of past people known.

    • Actually, even according to William Gibson, the credit of the first cyberpunk story belongs to John Shirley, who wrote both the vastly superior 'City Come A'Walkin' and the short story 'Tricentennial'. Even Sterling has done forwards for Shirley's books. Shirley also has the credits for doing the screenplay to the Crow.

      Then again, I suppose most people are used to Gibson, someone who wrote 'Neuromancer' out of his fear of computers, as the 'father' of Cyberpunk.

      For more information on John Shirley []
    • I had the same experience you did. Then I thought that maybe they meant '92 as in 1992. Oddly enough, what got me turned onto cyberpunk was Neuromancer, the game for the C64 (with soundtrack by Devo!). After playing that, I stopped reading Golden Age SF and went almost entirely mainstream cyberpunk.

      Golden Age seems to have a very rosy outlook on life. Even Asimov's bleakest cloud had the silver lining of the Foundation saving the day. CJ Cherryh wrote "Life, it goes on, you know?" (erm, pardon, dont remember the name of the book, but can describe the cover)
      Golden Age SF seemed to say "Tech (eventually) conquers all!" but cyberpunk states "Life, even with my Fujitsu eyeballs and Sony GreyMatter upgrades, still sucks."
      • Neuromancer, the game for the C64 (with soundtrack by Devo!)

        Didn't that have a sticker on the package announcing "Soon to be a major motion picture - with soundtrack by Devo!"

        I'm glad I didn't go down to the theater and camp out waiting for tickets to go on sale...
        • Didn't that have a sticker on the package announcing "Soon to be a major motion picture - with soundtrack by Devo!"

          Yeah! I remember now! When the game loaded, there was a 30secondish Devo snippet from the alleged soundtrack to the movie. I remember playing the game and thinking how totally badass a move based on the game would be. I guess Matrix fulfilled that desire for me (even though, arguably, it *should* have been Johnny Mnemonic).
      • CJ Cherryh wrote "Life, it goes on, you know?" (erm, pardon, dont remember the name of the book, but can describe the cover)

        Please do. I find a lot of the union-allience "worlds" that CJ Cherryh writes at least as depressing as the Cypherpunk stuff. Or maybe that is just her skill at putting her charactors up against such pressure.

        Of corse cypherpunk tends to be "life, it goes on" too, I mean it sucks, but it drags on. don't they normally steal the vaccene, or uncover the memories, or....I mean very very few cypherpunk books are entirely soul crushing.

    • I'm referring, of course, to cyberpunk founder William Gibson.

      Vernor Vinge has more rights to that claim than Gibson. True Names [] was published in 1981, 3 years ahead of Neuromancer.

      The True Names reference above is for the re-release of a 20th anniversary edition, that includes 11 essays, one by RMS.

    • John Shirley this, Vernor Vinge that, William Gibson the other... I say the first cyberpunk story is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. []
  • I hope they scan them all and put up a web-library.
  • by _J_ ( 30559 ) <jasonlives@g m a i l . c om> on Friday August 02, 2002 @06:19AM (#3997631) Journal
    A similar donation was made in 1970 by Judith Merril [] to the Toronto Public Library. It's a reference library [] so they don't lend books(bastards).

    A contemporary of Asimov, Leiber, Pohl and others she donated around 5000 items. The collection is now about 57000 items; Novels, Anthologies, Essays and more. What's really neat about the whole thing is that it's housed in a standard Toronto public library and anyone can use their services.

    • When I was at the University of Toronto, 1977-1982, the Merrill Collection was known as the Spaced-Out Library. It was housed in Boys and Girls House, the central children's library - right in the middle of the U of T campus.

      We called it the "Engineering Reading Room" and spent many study and a good few class hours there.

  • No Amazing Fantasy #15 :(
    • Amazing Fantasy #15 was comic book (which contains the first appearence of Spider-man and is worth a bunch of cash in even half decent condition). Therefore I doubt most people would count it as a pulp science fiction magazine, and instead call it like it is.

  • I wonder if this collector had any particular interest in cyberpunk? William Gibson owning a massive collection of Science Fiction publications. What an irony if it didn't include one of the pioneers of a significant genre of SF - the cyberpunk worlds of William Gibson.
  • Hopefully (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Hopefully American libraries are better in preserving modern pop culture magazines and comics than European counterparts where they are considered semi-interesting, un-cultural, crap.

    I once searched for old issues of a pop [yes, music] magazine only to be told there are no copies left in any of the national libraries. All had been stolen. And, the ones I received were torn and had centerfold posters missing, etc.

    Hopefully, Los Americanos can preserve the Donald Duck mentality present in the Western world post-WWII era bewtter than the hopelessly traditional/conventional institutions in Europe like The Vatican, Louvre, etc.
  • by Comrade Pikachu ( 467844 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @08:13AM (#3997826) Homepage
    It may be off topic, but Forrest J. Ackerman's marvellous collection of books, artwork, and movie memorabilia is currently being auctioned to bits on Ebay [].

    Apparently Forrey needs some cash to retire. Sure would be nice if a benefactor could step in and preserve the collection intact. Visit the Ackermansion [] here.
  • ... just so i can be closer to this incredible collection. i'm an avid reader of many genres, but i do admit to enjoying sci-fi more than most. i wonder if i can convince anyone here that i need a sabbatical for, oh say, three or four years to explore the impact of sci-fi literature on the dawn of the 21st century. the amazing stories archive alone will take a couple of months ... what the hell, i'm going to try!
  • Edit that? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nmnilsson ( 549442 )
    Don't you think you should mention he wasn't William Gibson [] ?

    The article could be about a japanese brain surgeon.
    Half of us would go "What? The father of cyberpunk got a new job in Japan? Cool
    anyway... :-)
  • Up here at the University of New Brunswick one of our libraries ( has a pretty big collection of sci-fi already. It also has a ton of beat lit. -- apparently, both collections are due to the efforts of one English prof in particular who uses the stuff in his classes, but I don't know what kind of pressure he had to exert to get our library admin to buy "non-academic" ... of course, the library in question is at the satellite campus an hour and a half away :(
  • For the most part, the copywrite is owned by the author for his lifespan plus another 70 years after his death. This guarantees that his heirs will also benefit from his work. After that period, the copywrited work is considered public domain.

    If the work was created as work-for-hire (in other words, a publisher/corporation paid the writer to write that piece) then the copywrite can last for a duration of up to 120 years from the publish date.

    So a work-for-hire piece will become public domain sooner than a freelanced piece. Knowing that one's children will benefit from one's hard work and creativity is certainly an incentive to try and create something for the public to enjoy. The more they enjoy it, the more income your family will receive.

    I have a lot of old sci-fi paperbacks that I've collected over the past 30 years. Not that I was collecting them, but I was reading them and then sticking them on my bookshelves. Most of the older ones crumble now when I pull them out to read them. So I'm all for digitizing this collection to preserve it! Using proper storage techniques, yes these paper goods can last for centuries. Thank heavens that Mr. Gibson made some effert to do this! But with today's technology, digitizing would be a more permanent solution.

    I would recommend digitizing at 4000 dpi (optical) to maximize the image quality. 600 dpi would not be adequate for high end printing, should some publisher wish to print some of the collection. I would think that on a university, there would be enough students who are deep afficianados of science fiction who would be quite dedicated to working towards copying this collection with great care.

    Yes, magnetic media fades, but optical media does not. Well, so long as you don't scratch the disk...

    All of the works with a publishing date prior to 1923 could be immediately posted to the internet for access. Works after 1923, permission would be needed from the copywrite holders to be posted digitally, depending on the state of the copywrite. Chances are, with a lot of the older works, permission could be had fairly easily. There are times when the children of the artist are sufficiently well off that they don't need the income, or they would like to see their parent's name become known again, and release some or all of the works to public domain.

    Last, I'd like to point out the shear volume of work and dedication that Mr. Gibson had put into his collection! Finding periodicals that have gone out of print (comic books and the like) is NOT easy! In the article, the brief mention of the traveling Mr. Gibson did should give one an idea of what was involved with this. On top of that, he loved the genre enough to preserve it as best he could. Condsider how we are going to benefit from his work! A nod should also go to his son, Andrew Gibson for making the donation. Just as his father preserved the hard work of many writers and artists, Andrew Gibson has preserved the hard work of his father.

    To the both of you, I'd like to say thank you. To my fellow /.-ers who are fans of science fiction (bet that's most of us), I'd urge you all to make some sort of contribution to continue the preservation of all this hard work. I certainly intend to!
    • Optical media are great until the vendor decides to kill the product line and you can't get new disks, device drivers or replacement parts for the drives. This has happened to data archives I've worked with. You better hope that someone can find the funding to buy a new system and move all the data from the old system before it dies.
    • For the most part, the copywrite is owned by the author for his lifespan plus another 70 years after his death. This guarantees that his heirs will also benefit from his work. After that period, the copywrited work is considered public domain.

      Ok, i don't care what they told congress at the time, what the lifespan + 70 (or whatever it si now) guarantees is that Mickey Mouse [] doesn't fall into the public domain.

  • "William Gibson had spent many of his 92 years sealing his prized collection in plastic" Wow! Now THATS dedication!
  • % Suddenly, the Comic Book Guy crashes through the skylight on the
    % type of electromagnet you might see suspended from a crane. He is
    % dressed as ... the Collector.

    Collector: Behold, I am the Collector, and I have come to add
    you to my collection.
    [turns on a magnet, which attracts Lucy's
    breastplate. She sails up to the magnet, where she
    is trapped]
    Lawless: Must ... remove ... my ... breastplate!
    [unties the straps holding it on. Below, everyone
    in the audience produces a camera]
    Maybe later. [reties straps]
    -- "Treehouse of Horror X"

    From BABF01 []

  • by patiwat ( 126496 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @09:56AM (#3998305)
    At 35,000 volumes, that donation certainly makes the Calgary collection larger than the MIT Science Fiction Society's [] collection. The MITSFS Collection has approximately 25,000 volumes [], and is growing. I guess when the Gibson Donation is processed and shelved, it would take away the MITSFS's status as the world's largest open-shelved science fiction collection.

    The size of the Gibson Donation is quite astonishing. The MITSFS Collection supposedly has 90% of all english-language science fiction ever published, and we have deals with the publishing companies to get a copy of every new SF book that comes out - often before the bookstores get them. I guess the Calgary donation has a lot of stuff that we totally overlooked (the Saturday Evening Post stuff), or else a lot of foreign language stuff (MITSFS isn't so strong on Japanese science fiction manga, for instance). If anybody is ever up in Cambridge, check the opening times [], and stop by.

    Patiwat Panurach
    • Is it just me or does everyone from MIT come off sounding like a braggart? No offense intended, of course...
      • Well, you should see how humble those guys at Harvard are... :)

        But when you put large numbers of like minded geeks together, its sorta natural that they accumulate large collections of geek hardware. For that matter, MIT also has the US's largest circulating anime video collection (you don't have to be a student to borrow) as well as the world's largest model railroad.
    • MITSFS has a very limited amount of space.
      If you want their collection to grow, so
      would they. Enough students asking and they
      might get better office space.
  • by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @10:20AM (#3998443)
    It would be wonderful if all of the out-of-print items could be scanned and ORDed as they are catalogued, and make available to the public that way, perhaps put online at some point.I don't know what Canadian copyright laws are like, but hopefully they haven't been hit with a Mickey-Mouse-Protection act like America's leaders sold us out with.
  • by MarvinMouse ( 323641 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @10:41AM (#3998604) Homepage Journal
    U of Calgary has a great press release @

    with photos of the collection and more. it's really cool, actually.
  • by vaxer ( 91962 ) <sylvar.vaxer@net> on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:04AM (#3998804) Homepage

    I've been helping to research science fiction terms like 'little green men' for the OED [], and I can only gasp and drool and wait for UCalgary's army of cataloging librarians to make the collection accessible to the public.

    This will be a great source of information on how and when science fiction words came into use in English, and if I had a sabbatical-type job, I'd have just found what I wanted to do with my next sabbatical.

    We still need help, by the way, so please help the Oxford English Dictionary [] learn more about science fiction and fandom.

  • by 6 ( 22657 ) on Friday August 02, 2002 @11:18AM (#3998913)
    Donations like this really make me worry about the coming of the e-book. With e-books there is no ability to give your long horded collection to posterity after death. In fact of the few e-books I have purchased over time I have lost the keys to two of them rendering them inaccessible.

    My chief worry is that once a work becomes economically uninteresting to a major publisher it will vanish from the public's ability to read it. True there may be a copy stored in an ill backed up database in a dark room under the stairs but this does little to enhance our culture or enrich the lifes of the average reader unwilling to brave the, "beware of the leopard", signs.

    Perhaps we need to resurrect the idea of key escrow only this time implementing it for the citizen's benefit. Perhaps as a condition of selling a copyrighted work the publisher should be forced to deposit the work, along with any appropriate keys with an escrow agency. As copyrights lapse the agency would release the works to the public via a website or whatever miraculous technology replaces the web.

    If the government is going to be involved in the guardianship of corporate profits via DMCA etc I would like to see it at least attempt the guardianship of fair use of the cultural heritage we are creating now.
  • by fm6 ( 162816 )
    I just hope they take better care of Gibson's collection than UCSC took of the stuff Heinlen donated to them. Last time I looked, they still had his pre-Campbell Astoundings in the open stacks!

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger