The Gibson Anthologies of Speculative Fiction

What are the Gibson Anthologies?

The Gibson anthologies are unique handcrafted booklets that contain speculative works harvested from popular magazines. These periodical-based works were gathered, assembled, bound, categorized, indexed and annotated by Canadian science fiction fan-artist and collector Bob Gibson. Visually striking, these hand-bound anthologies come in many sizes and colours, and feature Gibson’s original artwork. They also contain handwritten tables of contents that provide detailed titles, authors names, and source magazines, as well as handwritten symbols through which Gibson rated the SF content of the works he compiled.

In total, there are some 888 anthologies currently available in Special Collections at the University of Calgary, but we know that Gibson likely made more than 890 anthologies in all, and others were still in progress when he died in 2001. This is a remarkable fan resource by any measure, unmatched in its breadth and scope. Gibson’s anthologies contain more than 13,000 individual works originally published between 1844 and 1992 that were gathered from 570 different popular magazines. Containing a wide range of literary forms (prose and verse, fiction and non-fiction, short stories, comics, and serialized novels) and visual art (illustrations and photographs), the Gibson anthologies are a vast, unusual and precious resource for fans, students, scholars and anyone else interested in one of the most popular and enduring genres of our times.

The Gibson anthologies are part of a much larger collection of approximately 30,000 books, magazines and related materials, known as the University of Calgary’s Bob Gibson Collection of Speculative Fiction. For more information about the Gibson Collection, see the Bob Gibson Collection Overview or visit the University of Calgary’s Archives and Special Collections .

For more information about this and other major SF collections, see “Library Collections and Archives of SF and Related Materials” presented by Rob Latham in Science Fiction Studies 37.2 (July 2010): 161-90.

The Collector Bob Gibson

William Robert (Bob) Gibson was an avid SF fan and well-respected fan-artist and collector. He was also a war veteran, part-time commissionaire, ceramics artist and teacher, and father. Born in the rural community of Springbank, Alberta in 1908, Gibson devoted much of his spare time to reading and collecting. By the time he died in 2001, he had single-handedly amassed one of the largest collections of SF—The Bob Gibson Collection of Speculative Fiction—now housed in Archives and Special Collections at the University of Calgary. Notable for its Canadian, American and European content, the collection also contains Gibson’s original research, including a meticulous bibliography of SF containing thousands of titles—some of which are not included in major bibliographies of the genre.

For more information see Gibson's Biography.

The Stuff of Science Fiction

The Stuff of Science Fiction: An Experiment in Literary History is an interdisciplinary pilot project that studied a subset of the Gibson anthologies. This pilot project was conducted by Stefania Forlini (Associate Professor of English, University of Calgary), Uta Hinrichs (Lecturer and co-director of the SACHI group at the University of St Andrews), Bridget Moynihan (then MA Student of English, University of Calgary, now PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh) and John Brosz (Research Data and Visualization Coordinator at the University of Calgary’s Taylor Family Digital Library). The project ran from 2013-2016 and was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

With the support of the University of Calgary’s Libraries and Cultural Resources we digitized a subset of 50 Gibson anthologies containing the earliest published works and gathered detailed information about their contents. Based on this set of data, we designed and implemented an interactive visualization prototype - The Speculative W@nderverse - that allows the exploration of the anthologies and their little-known contents. We studied this visualization in-use and explored how it can make this unknown and unique collection accessible to general-interest readers while facilitating the investigation of academic research questions raised by the collection and Gibson's collection practices.

This work on the Gibson Anthologies of Speculative Fiction is a collaboration between the University of Calgary, Canada and the University of St Andrews, UK. It was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the University of Calgary's Libraries and Cultural Resources. Images of the Gibson Anthologies reproduced with the kind permission of the University of Calgary's Archives and Special Collections.

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