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December 06, 2011

NIU Libraries acquires papers of Chicago-born sci-fi writer Fred Saberhagen

NIU's Lynne M. Thomas with the first installment of author Fred Saberhagen's papers.
Lynne Thomas with the first installment of Fred Saberhagen's papers.

Fred Saberhagen
Fred Saberhagen

DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University Libraries has received an early Christmas gift.

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has acquired the first installment of the papers of Chicago-born author Fred Saberhagen, a best-selling science fiction writer whose works broke new ground in the genre.

The Saberhagen papers, with several more installments to come, are a gift to the university from the author’s widow, Joan Spicci Saberhagen.

“Fred Saberhagen is very well known in the field of science fiction and fantasy literature,” said Lynne M. Thomas, curator of Rare Books and Special Collections for NIU Libraries.

“He is perhaps best known for the Berserker novels, a series of books about interstellar ruthless killer machines that predate the ‘Terminator’ films by 20 years,” Thomas added. “His Dracula sequence of novels, beginning with ‘The Vampire Tape,’ tells Bram Stoker’s Dracula from the vampire’s point of view and was published a year before Anne Rice’s ‘Interview with the Vampire.’ ”

An author’s papers generally include materials that document his or her life as a writer and include anything from drafts of short stories and novels to critiqued manuscripts and final submissions.

“I’m quite pleased knowing Fred’s papers will be valued and well cared for at NIU,” Joan Spicci Saberhagen said, noting that many of her husband’s works were set in the Chicago area. She spent more than a year communicating with University Libraries staff before selecting NIU for the donation.

“The campus visit sealed the deal,” she said. “The archival staff impressed me with their professionalism, congeniality and knowledge of the science fiction field. You have a treasure in Lynne Thomas.”

Fred Saberhagen was born in Chicago, graduated from Lane Technical High School, served in the Air Force and worked for Motorola Corporation and Encyclopedia Britannica before moving in the mid-1970s to Albuquerque, N.M., where he worked as a full-time freelance writer. He died in 2007 after a prolific writing career, publishing 60 novels and numerous short stories, in addition to editing anthologies and collections.

His extensive fiction career began with publishing his first short stories in “If” and “Galaxy” magazines in the early 1960s. Those magazines, along with other science fiction and fantasy pulp magazines dating back to the 1920s, are included in the University Libraries’ collection.

Thomas said Saberhagen’s papers consist of more than 20 boxes of materials and will be the “crown jewel” of the library’s science fiction and fantasy collection. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a professional organization for authors, designated NIU as a depository in 1979. Collecting archival papers began in earnest in 2005.

“The latest gift provides a core representation of science fiction and fantasy literature in the 1960s through the 1990s, from a truly popular and groundbreaking author,” Thomas said. “Our collection is relatively new, and he becomes our earliest published author. Many of the other writers in our archives are still active and were influenced by Saberhagen’s work, so it’s deeply satisfying to have their collective contributions to the field housed together.”

NIU’s science fiction and fantasy writers collection includes the papers of more than 50 authors, many of them award-winning.

The list includes Alma Alexander, Eleanor Arnason, Robert Asprin, Kage Baker, Elizabeth Bear, Donald J. Bingle, Alex Bledsoe, Tobias Buckell, Richard Chwedyk, Pamela Dean, Lori Devoti, L. Timmel Duchamp, Carol Emshwiller, Philip Jose Farmer, Eric Flint, Merrie Haskell, Jim C. Hines, Douglas Hulick, John Klima, Mary Robinette Kowal, E.E. Knight, Ted Kosmatka, Naomi Kritzer, Catherine Lundoff, Elise Matthesen, Kelly McCullough, Jack McDevitt, Sarah Monette, Lyda Morehouse, Jaime Lee Moyer, Pat Murphy, Sean Michael Murphy, Nnedi Okorafor, Rebecca Ore, Jody Lynn Nye, Tamora Pierce, Tim Pratt, Cherie Priest, Sarah Prineas, Cat Rambo, Mark Rich, Margaret Ronald, Heather Shaw, Nisi Shawl, Will Shetterly, Sharon Shinn, Steven H Silver, Kristine Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Jennifer Stevenson, Caroline Stevermer, Catherynne Valente, David Weber and Patricia Wrede.

The library’s Rare Books and Special Collections department also holds the 20th World Science Fiction Convention Collection, a collection of correspondence related to the 1962 WorldCon. Many of these collections are fully processed and available to researchers. Once processed, the Saberhagen papers will also be made available.

In all, Rare Books and Special Collections holds more than 125,000 volumes. This includes research-level collections of popular literature and culture in the United States from the 19th century forward, emphasizing dime novels, comic books and children’s fiction, as well as the science fiction and fantasy genre.

The extensive teaching collections promote exploration from the beginnings of the technology of writing to the present. Materials held in RBSC are available to members of the NIU community and the general public for consultation from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Classes routinely meet in RBSC for hands-on practical learning.

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Media Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Media & Public Relations
Phone: 815-753-3635
Email: tparisi@niu.edu