The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Duke University has acquired the archives of the Locus Science Fiction Foundation, publisher of Locus, the preeminent trade magazine for the science fiction and fantasy publishing field.
The massive collection—which arrived in almost a thousand boxes—includes first editions of numerous landmarks of science fiction and fantasy, along with correspondence from some of the genre’s best-known practitioners, including Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Octavia E. Butler, William Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon), Dean Koontz, Robert A. Heinlein, and hundreds more.
Over the course of five decades in print, the magazine’s editors and staff have collected and saved correspondence, clippings, and books by and about science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. What emerges from this trove of material is a tapestry of a diverse and thriving community of writers, publishers, and editors, all working to create new and modern genres of speculative literature.
Of the magazine’s original three co-founders—Charles N. Brown, Ed Meskys, and Dave Vanderwerf—only Brown remained after the magazine’s first year. He would continue to edit the publication until his death in 2009, earning the magazine some thirty Hugo Awards in the process and becoming a colorful and influential figure in the publishing world. A tireless advocate for speculative fiction, Brown was also a voluminous correspondent and friend to many of the writers featured in the magazine. Many of them wrote to him over the years to share personal and professional news, or to quibble about inaccuracies and suggest corrections. The letters are often friendly, personal, humorous, and occasionally sassy.
Reacting to a recent issue of Locus that featured one of her short stories, the science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler wrote, “I am Octavia E. Butler in all my stories, novels, and letters. How is it that I’ve lost my E in three places in Locus #292? Three places! You owe me three E’s. That’s a scream, isn’t it?”
One also finds frequent remembrances and retrospectives of departed members of the Locus community, such as Ursula K. Le Guin’s poignant reflections on the passing of Philip K. Dick. After Brown’s own death, the magazine continued publication under the auspices of the Locus Science Fiction Foundation, a registered nonprofit. The magazine launched a digital edition in January 2011 and has published both in print and online ever since.
In addition to the correspondence, story drafts, and other manuscript material, the collection includes some 16,000 rare and noteworthy monuments of science fiction and fantasy from Brown’s extensive personal library, such as first editions of Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian, J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frank Herbert’s Dune, and hundreds more.
The collection is already being used in courses at Duke. This semester, English professor Michael D’Alessandro brought his class on utopias and dystopias in American literature to the Rubenstein Library to examine some of the Locus materials first-hand.
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