By Вen Li
William Robert Gibson passed away last year, but his life-long hobby will benefit scholars for years to come. U of C Alumni Andrew Gibson donated his father’s collection of both common and rare science fiction works to the University of Calgary Library on Thu., Aug. 1, 2002.
"This is definitely one of the largest collections of material of this genre anywhere," said Blane Hogue, U of C Library Director of Development. "Donations such as this is how we acquire many things at the university."
Hogue estimates the 35,000-item collection will take a year to process, and will cost about $20 per item. While Gibson carefully protected and logged most of the items, articles prone to degradation such as pulp magazines will require special treatment before becoming available to scholars. The collection will also need to be catalogued using the library’s system.
"Our next challenge is to find the necessary funding to clean, preserve, catalogue and house the Gibson Collection," said Hogue who hopes to raise $500,000 from public and private sources.
Andrew Gibson remembered his father’s hobby fondly.
"Science fiction collecting and general science were all interests of my father’s," he said. "He was also very interested in space science and marine biology."
William Gibson spent many of his 92 years collecting books, magazines, comics and other speculative fiction. In addition to frequenting local used book vendors, William Gibson gathered works from around the world, all of which he carefully preserved in boxes in the attic and garage of the Gibson home.
"It’s sort of funny getting thanks from the university for the collection," said Gibson. "After he died, we were concerned with what to do with the collection. It’s very good to find such a good home for it."
Gibson said the collection will now become much more accessible to both his family and everyone else in its new home, as the collection will be better organized and occupy a controlled environment.
Dr. Susan Stratton from the Department of English said the addition of the Gibson Collection will benefit scholars both by being an available resource, and by attracting other donations of similar works.
"Why would a twenty-first century library want 35,000 science fiction books?" said Stratton. "It is important as a university that any of our collections are available for research and study. [The Gibson Collection] will be a magnet for people all over the world to come to do this."
Stratton said the collection will be more than just a literary resource.
"Science fiction is the literature of change," she said.
"Speculative fiction imagines possible futures, alternate realities," she continued. "Its imaginative reach is a large part of what makes it important."
Stratton added that the collection will also enable scholars to study how perceptions of change and progress have changed over time.
"Speculative fiction scholars study what science fiction writers write about as a kind of microscope on societies and its impact on human beings," she said. "Science fiction is no longer escapist reading for teenage boys."
The Gibson Collection includes titles such as Amazing Stories, Captain Future, and Fantastic Stories and will become a part of the library’s non-circulating collection.