Chester Cuthbert, a 95-year-old Canadian science fiction fan, has donated 60,000 early-twentieth century SF pulps, fanzines, and novels to the University of Alberta, which estimates the collection could be worth as much as $1 million. What makes these piles of dusty paper so valuable is that few people saved SF pulps and fanzines published before 1955. Partly that's because they fell apart so quickly, but mostly it's because nobody thought they were valuable. In the 1920s and 30s, SF was deemed trashy genre crap, about as important as an issue of Cosmo magazine is today. But Cuthbert, who ran a weekly SF fan group at his home in Winnipeg for years, couldn't throw away any of his beloved pulps.
University of Alberta professor Doug Barbour is thrilled:
Science fiction especially has become an academic subject of some importance. You will find that, [when] a huge number of the people who went into science and then ended up at places like NASA or working in scientific careers started, their interest was first formed by reading science fiction. A number of the people who ended up in the 60s as young men working in the aerospace industry were people who all said, 'Well, it all started with reading science fiction.' They were all the ones who said, 'We knew we'd get to the moon.'
The collection is so huge that it may take years to process it all. But the library has already started on some of it, so next time you're up in Banff skiing, take a day off to explore Cuthbert's collection. Image by Pod Bay Door.
Donation helps fuel further sci-fi studies [via The Gateway, University of Alberta's student newspaper]