Thursday, 21 March 2013

Futures Past: SF History in Leeds, P.3 David I. Masson

The University of Leeds Library's Science Fiction collection largely orginated from two sources. The first was Professor Cyril Leslie Oakley, who began in 1971 to present his own extensive collection of science fiction literature to the Brotherton Library (he will be the subject of a future post). The second, a major source of the collection's printed books, was David I. Masson, Curator of the Brotherton Collection between 1955/56 and 1979. Prior to that he had worked at the University as an Assistant Librarian, and been the Curator of Special Collections at the University of Liverpool, which now holds Europe's largest catalogued collection of SF material

David I. Masson (1915-2007)
However, Masson was also a published science fiction writer. In his 23 years at Leeds he wrote some of his most well known short stories, including ‘A Two-Timer’, the tale of a seventeenth-century man’s revulsion at the twentieth-century world he finds himself in and ‘Traveller's Rest’, originally published in 1965 in New Worlds magazine. Set on an alternate Earth where time varies with latitude, the story can be read as an allegory for the futility of war, and was probably influenced by Masson's own experiences serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War. These, along with five other stories, were collected in The Caltraps of Time, published in 1968. All reflect his deep personal interest in linguistics and literature; ‘A Two-Timer’ is told entirely in 17th century English, and another story, ‘Not So Certain’, is about a linguist's exploration of alien phonology.

Masson came from a distinguished family of academics and thinkers. His father, Sir Irvine Masson, was a Professor of Chemistry at Durham and Vice-Chancellor at Sheffield, while his great-grandfather David M. Masson was Professor of English Literature at Edinburgh. A friend of Thomas Carlyle and John Stuart Mill, he wrote and published a 6-volume biography of John Milton.

David Masson died in Leeds in 2007.

This post adapts text from the booklet Visions of the Future: The Art of Science Fiction by Paul Whittle and Liz Stainforth.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Free Issues of Astounding Stories Online

Astounding Stories of Super-Science,
January 1930. From Project Gutenberg.
I've mentioned before my interest in preserving and promoting the Science Fiction collection at the University of Leeds. Photographing the cover artwork of SF periodicals (Amazing Stories and Wonder Stories so far), published between 1927 and 1936, has formed part of this work. These are soon to be made available online - watch this space - but in the meantime Project Gutenberg have gone one step further, recently making 20 whole issues of Astounding Stories of Super-Science free to download from their site. First founded in 1930,  Astounding Stories, latterly Analogue Science Fiction and Fact, would go on to become one of the most popular (and longest running) science fiction magazines, considered by many enthusiasts as the best of its genre.

The new additions, published between January 1930 and August 1931, are among a growing number of vintage sci-fi publications available from Project Gutenberg. These magazines are listed as out of copyright because for the first two years they were published in the USA without a copyright notice. However, for each of the covers I've digitised at Leeds, I've had to seek permission from the artist's estate.
You can access e-versions here, posted by Piotr Kowalczyk on the Ebook Friendly site, which as you might guess have also been formatted for Kindle and Tablets. Alternatively, you can access directly from Project Gutenberg here. Enjoy!