I just returned from attending the Jack Williamson Lectureship, which I’ve gone to for over fifteen years. It’s a wonderful two-day conference–like a mini-science-fiction convention, with great guests of honor, speeches, readings, panels, great conversations, and wonderful food.
This year’s Lectureship featured Albuquerque author Vic Milan, the author of The Dragon Lords series, and other guests included Laura Mixon, Walter Jon Williams, Emily Mah, and Joan Saberhagen. There was a reading of Jack Williamson-inspired works, panels on “The Perennial Appeal of Dinosaurs” and “CAUTION: Writers at Work,” a student SF film competition, and, as always, a tour of the Jack Williamson Science Fiction Collection.
Each time I go, I am struck all over again by how wonderful this collection is, and how surprised people passing through the little town of Portales would be to know that ENMU houses one of the finest collections in the country, or the circumstances under which it came to be there.
Jack Williamson was one of the forefathers of science fiction and its dean, writing groundbreaking work like “Seetee Ship”, Darker Than You Think, “With Folded Hands,” The Humanoids, The Legion of Time, and the award-winning autobiography, Wonder’s Child; publishing from 1928 into the next century (and the next millennium); and shaping the field in extraordinary ways. Readers of today might not recognize the names of his stories–but they would definitely recognize the words and concepts he invented while writing them: androids, genetic engineering, terraforming, and artificial intelligence.
He pioneered the study of science fiction as a serious form of literature, and the teaching of it as a discipline, served as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and traveled all over the world, from Europe to China, as an ambassador of science fiction.
He won the Hugo and Nebula Awards (the Oscars of science fiction), was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, was named a SFWA Grand Master of Science Fiction, was invited to watch a shsuttle launch at NASA, and had an asteroid named after him.
He also endowed the university and established the Lectureship, an annual gathering of science fiction and fantasy writers, fans, and readers, which has had as guests such luminaries as Greg Bear, George R.R. Martin, Michael Swanwick, Nalo Hopkinson, and Nancy Kress, Hollywood screenwriters Melinda Snodgrass and Michael Cassutt, editors Gardner Dozois and Stephen Haffner, and a record six SFWA Grand Masters: Frederik Pohl, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Connie Willis, Joe Haldeman, and James Gunn–seven counting Jack.
And he donated his personal collection of manuscripts, correspondence, awards, and other memorabilia to the university, which became the foundation for the “Special Collections” section of the campus library.
The collection is the third largest SF collection in the United States which is available to the public. Visitors can see his awards, original typed manuscripts of his stories, photographs, his correspondence with editors, agents, and publishers, first editions of his books, the SF pulp magazines which inspired him, the original drawings of his syndicated Sunday-funnies comic strip, Beyond Mars, and letters from Isaac Asimov, Algis Budrys, Leigh Brackett, and Ray Bradbury.
The collection also has signed books by a large number of other authors and the Duane and Kathryn Elms collection of first editions, signed editions, collectible publications, and SF memorabilia.
Gene Bundy, his staff, Golden Library’s librarians, and ENMU have worked to make this collection into a first-class archive and research resource. It’s a true treasure and an invaluable collection.
But collections and libraries are only as stable as the social and political climate around them, and they’re always in danger of being downsized, co-opted, or squeezed out.
I know this from personal experience. There’ve been at least two attempts to close the Lincoln Park branch of our public library here in Greeley since I moved here, and at one point a president of our university decided that the university’s library, Michener Library, (which incidentally contains many of the manuscripts and private effects of James Michener) wasn’t necessary at all. After all, CSU and CU were less than 60 miles away; the students could be bused there. And there was always Interlibrary Loan, wasn’t there?
This isn’t new. When Andrew Carnegie set out on his ambitious project to build public libraries in every town in America, he made them sign a contract which would ensure that the libraries wouldn’t instantly be coopted for something else the minute he left town. He knew full well that mayors and city councils would be eager to get their hands on his libraries and turn them, say, into a larger office for the mayor.
Even when things are relatively stable, funding is always a problem and libraries constantly have to fight for space and resources and against the idea that libraries are outdated and unnecessary.
The Jack Williamson Collection is no exception. Right now Golden Library is undergoing a major renovation and restructuring, with the very real possibility that the collection will not be allowed to grow and might even have the space available to it reduced in the future.
Because of this, I’ve written a letter to the president of ENMU, to the head of the New Mexico State Department of Education, to Gene Bundy, and to the head of Golden Library, telling them how much the collection means to me as a science fiction writer and reader.
And Laura Mixon and I are putting out the word, requesting people to send respectful letters and e-mails in support of the SFF Special Collections library and the Lectureship.
The collection is in no immediate danger of shrinking and/or disappearing, but I want to make sure people know now how important the collection is, not after it’s too late. And Andrew Carnegie was right. There’s always somebody who can think of a much better use for that space. It’s up to the people who care about something like the collection to make sure nothing happens to it.
Here are the addresses and e-mail addresses for telling them what the Jack Williamson Collection and the Lectureship mean to you:

Steven Gamble, President
Eastern New Mexico University
ADM 102
1500 S. Ave. K
Portales, NM 88130
Phone: 575-562-2121

Dr. Barbara Damron
Cabinet Secretary, Department of Higher Education
2048 Galisteo St.
Santa Fe, NM 87505-2100

Melveta Walker
Director of Library Services
LIB 111
Golden Library
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, NM 88130

Gene Bundy, Special Collections Librarian, Golden Library
Eastern New Mexico University
LIB 227D
Portales, NM 88130

Thanks for your help. Connie Willis

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