Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Color Our Collections: St. Patrick’s Day Edition

March 17th, 2020

We hope that you are all at home and safe and practicing good social distancing this St. Patrick’s Day. To help, we’re sharing four images from our Irish Collections for you to print out and color in shades of green (or really any color of the rainbow). Click here for the printable PDF file. The first two images are from the Supplement to The Irish Fireside from July of 1885, and feature “Heroines from Irish History.”

Picture of "Aideen Rescuing the Body of Oscar at the Battle of Gabhra" (Aideen on horseback with shield and Spear), converted to black and white drawing
“Heroines of Irish History–I: Aideen Rescuing the Body of Oscar at the Battle of Gabhra.” Supplement to The Irish Fireside (July 8, 1885). Call #: DK17:5b, Item 1. Click image to enlarge, click here to see what the original color version of the illustration looks like, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.
Illustration of from "Heroines of Irish History--III: The Rescue of Connor O'Byrne by Emmeline Talbot," showing Emmeline Talbot holding a torch pointing the way out to O'Byrne, converted to black and white.
“Heroines of Irish History–III: The Rescue of Connor O’Byrne by Emmeline Talbot.” Supplement to The Irish Fireside (July 22, 1885). Call #: DK17:5b, Item 3. Click image to enlarge, click here to see what the original color version of the illustration looks like, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.

The next two images are from Young Ireland: An Irish Magazine of Entertainment and Instruction, founded by the Irish Nationalist Alexander Martin Sullivan, and continued by his brother, T. D. Sullivan.

Cover of 1877 St. Patrick's Day issue of Young Ireland, featuring four men holding up clovers to "Erin" with her harp and Irish Wolf Hound, with St. Patrick above in the sky
Cover of St. Patrick’s Day issue of Young Ireland. Vol. III, No. 11 (March 17, 1877). Call #: O’Hegarty E144. Click image to enlarge, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.
Illustration for "Castle Daly" on the cover of the 28 July, 1877 issue of Young Ireland
Cover of the 28 July, 1877 issue of Young Ireland. Vol. III, No. 30 (28 July 1877). Call #: O’Hegarty E144. Click image to enlarge, and click here to download a printable PDF of all four images.

Looking for other things to do at home this St. Patrick’s Day? Browse some of our past St. Patrick’s day blog posts and posts featuring our Irish Collections. Want more coloring? Look at our recent blog post on Spencer Research Library’s contributions to this year’s #ColorOurCollections (hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine).

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Throwback Thursday: Snyder Book Collecting Contest Edition, Part III

February 20th, 2020

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

So what is this group (semi-)smiling about? The Snyder Book Collecting Contest, of course! In case you can’t tell by the hair and the clothes, the year was 1973, but you don’t have to travel back in time to join in the book-related fun because the 64th Annual Snyder Book Collecting Contest is now open and accepting entries. KU undergrads and grad students, scan your shelves and submit your collections by March 22, 2020, 11:59 p.m. to win cash prizes as well as a gift card from contest co-sponsor Jayhawk Ink!

Photograph of judges and contestants at the 1973 Snyder Book Collecting Contest
Judges and contestants at the 1973 Snyder Book Collecting Contest, including contest founder and sponsor, Elizabeth Morrison Snyder (seated, left). University Archives Photos. Call Number: RG 32/40 1973: University of Kansas Libraries: Book Contests (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

The contest offers the following awards in both Graduate and Undergraduate divisions:

  • First Prize: $500
  • Second Prize: $350
  • Honorable Mention: $100

Each winner will also receive a gift card in the following amounts from contest co-sponsor Jayhawk Ink, a division of KU Bookstore:

  • First Prize: $100
  • Second Prize: $50
  • Honorable Mention: $25

The first place winners in each division are eligible for the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest, which awards a top prize of $2,500.

In fact, the student representative on this year’s judging panel, History graduate student Paul T. Schwennesen, first won the graduate division of the 2018 Snyder Book Collecting Contest with his collection “Borderlands — A Manifesto on Overlap,” and then went on to take second place at the national contest in Washington, DC. Since 2014, KU students have won prizes at the national level three (!) times.

The speaker for this year’s awards ceremony on April 14 is also a Snyder Contest alumnus: Danny Caine. Since placing second in the graduate division of the 2016 Snyder competition, Danny has made a life in books. Not only is he a poet whose books include Continental Breakfast (2019) and El Dorado Freddy’s (with Tara Wray, 2020), but he owns and runs Lawrence’s Raven Book Store. In 2019, he was selected as the Midwest Bookseller of the Year.

Danny Caine with his collection "Rust Belt Splendor: Hustle, Music, and Identity in the Post-Industrial Midwest" at the 2016 Snyder Book Collecting Contest
Bonus throwback to the not-so-distant past: Danny Caine with his collection “Rust Belt Splendor: Hustle, Music, and Identity in the Post-Industrial Midwest,” which placed second in the Graduate Division of the 2016 Snyder Book Collecting Contest. Image courtesy of KU Libraries. For an album of images from the 2016 competition, click here!

To learn more about the Snyder Book Collecting Contest and how to enter, please visit the contest page on the KU Libraries website. There you will find the contest rules, a handy FAQ, as well as selected essays, bibliographies, and a sample collection to help you on your way.

Whether the subject of your collecting passion is Writings from the Black Revolution, Susan Sontag, Contemporary Theatre of the Southern Cone, or Vintage Textbooks of the Natural and Physical Sciences, start thinking (and writing!) about your collection. Contest entries are due by 11:59pm on Sunday, March 22, 2020.

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian

Visit “Imagined Worlds: Writers and the Process of Speculative Fiction”

February 12th, 2020

Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, Octavia E. Butler, Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ray Bradbury, Joanna Russ, William F. Wu, John Kessel, Mary Shelley, and KU’s own James E. Gunn and Kij Johnson are just a few of the writers featured in Spencer Research Library’s new exhibit, Imagined Worlds: Writers and the Process of Speculative Fiction.

Imagined Worlds: visible in this central case are a notebook of Kij Johnson’s containing story drafts (left), Theodore Sturgeon’s Royal Quiet De Luxe typewriter (center), and a letter from and a typescript by Octavia E. Butler (right).

While it’s true that all fiction is imagined (at least in part), writers working in the genres of science fiction and fantasy achieve their dramatic interest, pose their philosophic and scientific inquiries, and address social and political issues by playing with and re-configuring the confines of reality. In writing of other worlds, different times, alternate societies, new technologies, and fantastical circumstances, these writers can transfix readers and, in the words of Ursula K. Le Guin, offer a “convincing picture of alternative ways of doing and being, which can shake readers out of fixed mindsets, knock the blinkers off them.”

But how do they do it?

Imagined Worlds offers a peek behind the scenes to explore the messy, impassioned, deliberative, contentious, and inventive processes of speculative fiction (an umbrella term for those genres–including science fiction, fantasy, and horror–that diverge from reality and realism). Materials drawn from Spencer’s collections offer various points of entry into the writer’s experience. There are cases dedicated to:

  • conversations on the page (correspondence between authors)
  • influence and inspiration
  • from idea to book: the process of writing
  • page to screen (adaptation and writing for film and television)
  • the business of speculative fiction

There are also additional cases devoted to awards in speculative fiction and reading recommendations from KU faculty members, addressing SF books that have been significant to them. There are also paintings by two of the best-known science fiction and fantasy artists of the 1950s and 1960s, Ed Emshwiller and Frank Kelly Freas.

Imagined Worlds: a long view down the gallery space.
One of two cases containing faculty discussions of books that have been significant to them. From left to right: Vitaly Chernetsky (Slavic Languages and Literatures) on Stanisław Lem’s The Cyberiad, Anna Neill (English) on Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland, Giselle Anatol (English) on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, and Paul Scott (French, Francophone, and Italian Studies) on Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.
Worlds to visit: One of two exhibition cases containing faculty discussions of books that have been significant to them. Left to right: Vitaly Chernetsky (Slavic Languages and Literatures) on Stanisław Lem’s The Cyberiad, Anna Neill (English) on Edwin Abbott’s Flatland, Giselle Anatol (English) on Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, and Paul Scott (French, Francophone, and Italian Studies) on Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.

The books and manuscripts on display reflect Spencer Research Library’s historic strength in the science fiction of the 1930s-1960s, with the addition of materials from more recent collections of writers’ papers. Since the exhibition focuses primarily on correspondence and manuscripts, a slideshow in the exhibition gallery also shares over 50 covers of speculative fiction volumes from Spencer’s collections.

Cover of paperback edition of Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End (New York: Ballantine Books, ©1953). Call #: ASF B294, which features a man an an eye in a cosmos.   Cover of paperback UK edition of Nnedi Okorafor's Lagoon (2014), which features a figure in a wildlife filled ocean under a cityscape

Left: Clarke, Arthur C. Childhood’s End. New York: Ballantine Books, ©1953. Call #: ASF B294; Right: Okorafor, Nnedi. Lagoon. London: Hodder, 2014. Call #: ASF C1260

To give a sense of the exhibit, we share something we had we couldn’t quite fit, a memo from Star Trek creator and producer Gene Roddenberry to writer Theodore Sturgeon about Sturgeon’s script draft for “Shore Leave.” One of the more surreal episodes in Star Trek‘s original TV run (1966-1969), “Shore Leave” sees the thoughts of crew members come to life when they beam down to a planet for some rest and relaxation. Roddenberry’s memo suggests the collaborative process involved in making the episode, and it reveals the mix of frankness, humor, and knowing cynicism he employed in guiding his writers.

Image of the beginning of a Memo from Gene Roddenberry to Theodore Sturgeon regarding the Shore Leave episode of Star Trek
Beginning of a memo from Gene Roddenberry to Theodore Sturgeon regarding Sturgeon’s draft of the first act of the “Shore Leave” episode of Star Trek, June 8, 1966. Theodore Sturgeon Papers. Call #: MS 303, Box 5, folder 10

He balances praising Sturgeon for his successes, with addressing logistical matters—such as the necessity of breaking down the script shot by shot for the sake of the costume, casting, and special effects departments—and then pushes Sturgeon toward what he judges will connect best with viewers. “Wouldn’t your teaser be richer if just one person saw Alice and the rabbit, say McCoy?” Roddenberry asks, “When two people see it, you’ve got a witness. But the poor devil who sees it alone, he’s got trouble.”

Of course, writers like Sturgeon might also push back regarding script changes. During the shooting of “Shore Leave,” Sturgeon would complain about a scene in which the resurrected Dr. McCoy enters with a woman on each arm. This is a “first order vulgarism,” Sturgeon wrote to Roddenberry, arguing that it undercut the emotional development of McCoy’s relationship with the character of Tonia. Roddenberry’s own memo to Sturgeon ends with a serio-comic sign-off that highlights the blend of art and business that television entails: “You’re lovely, inventive, wonderful. Now be commercial.”

Image of the closing line of Gene Roddenberry's memo to Theodore Sturgeon, "You're lovely, inventive, wonderful. Now be commercial."
The closing line of a memo from Gene Roddenberry to Theodore Sturgeon concerning his script for the “Shore Leave” episode of Star Trek, June 8, 1966. Theodore Sturgeon Papers. Call #: MS 303, Box 5, folder 10

Founded in 1969 by a financial gift from a student who thought KU should be collecting science fiction, Spencer Research Library’s SF collections continue to be built largely by donation. Over the decades, they have grown appreciably thanks to the support of James E. Gunn (writer, critic, Professor Emeritus, and founder of KU’s Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction). He has not only donated books and periodicals, but has encouraged others to make gifts as well, including fellow writers, whose papers now reside at KU. These efforts have been continued in recent years by writers Chris McKitterick and Kij Johnson (the current Director and Associate Director of the Gunn Center, respectively). We hope to continue to grow our science fiction and fantasy collections to better reflect the diversity of voices writing in the field.

Imagined Worlds: Writers and the Process of Speculative Fiction is free and open to the public and will be on display in Spencer’s Gallery through July 31st, 2020. We invite you to visit and explore the forces at work as writers imagine worlds!

Elspeth Healey
Special Collections Librarian