Monday, July 04, 2005

Photos of the Hub Launch

Left: Brian, Stephen and Ramsey.
Right: Brian Aldiss reading his poem.

An alternative account of the Hub project: all these poets!

Ballad of The SF Hub

Andy Sawyer.
(Who is really, really sorry. He couldn’t help it . . .)

When thinking how to launch the Hub
We thought “How would it go?”
Would anyone be interested?
Would anybody show?
And even if it all went well,
Would anybody know?

Let’s call in Ramsey Campbell,
He knows a trick or three,
On how to work an audience
Convulsed with chills, or glee.
And he has sent his archive
To gather dust with we.

Let’s invite some stellar names,
It only is polite.
They may not even want to come,
But anyway they might.
But don’t neglect the scholars
For they have seen the light.

For sf’s academic!
MAs and Ph.ds
Swarm round the Universities
Like ants or mice or bees,
And bursars smile contentedly
Considering the fees.

And how much wood is hewn and pulped
For books and essays written
By earnest-looking scholars
With fame and tenure smitten
Who stroke their newly-minted tome
As if it were a kitten?

But where can all these scholars find
Intellectual inspiration?
Oh, there can’t be a library
With so much information?
As if by magic summon up
Our own SF Foundation.

Now safely based in Liverpool
Are books and pulps galore
From single-issue fanzines
To all you want and more
Of bio-bibliographies
All spread out on the floor.

But how to let the people know,
And catalogue it well?
Along there comes AHRB
With its financial spell.
(That’s Arts & Humanities Research Board,
As if you couldn’t tell.)

Our archive’s Stapledonian,
A Time and Space romance.
There’s Wyndham’s triffid manuscripts,
His wartime notes from France.
We’ve Lionel Fanthorpe paperbacks!
We have to stand a chance.

The grant is granted, in comes Roy,
With his mighty band
As Heather, Steph, and Elinor
Take manuscripts in hand.
To see it all encoded,
Ah, wouldn’t it be grand!

So here we are, the task is done,
Apart from all that stuff
Falling off of Andy’s desk,
But that is quite enough.
And back again to plan the launch,
And show that we are tough.

Then letters fall upon our desks:
McCready’s and then mine.
“It looks like Stephen Baxter’s coming.”
“Well, wouldn’t that be fine!”
“And Brian Aldiss, he says yes.”
“Go out and buy more wine!”

And now the launch, here Ramsey comes
(And everyone’s on time),
But he refuses speechmaking,
Declaiming forth in rhyme!
His puns excruciating,
His sentiment sublime.

But as our blushes fade away
From cheeks to burning throat,
Another shock to modesty
As Brian waves a note
And confesses that upon the train
An ode was what he wrote.

Oh shall I call on Stephen
To extemporise
Or follow the example
Of Brian’s words so wise?
I think he mentioned “to the pub”?
Well mine’s a double size!

But Baxter steps out to the breach
Extemporising well.
There isn’t any rhyme in it
As far as we can tell.
He’s praised the SF Hub again
So we won’t give him hell.

And now here come the journalists
To talk to me and you
Of why we think the SF Hub
Is something brave and new
So say “Sf’s postmodernist”
And don’t say “Doctor Who”.

So thank you, Horrormeister,
And thank you, Clarke’s Successor!
And thank you, Dean of Brit Sf!
It could have been a mess, or
Something not the maddest monk
Reveals to his confessor.

But thanks to thee, AHRC*,
And thanks to the Foundation,
And thanks to the University
We’re reached our destination.

*Not a typo. The Arts and Humanities Research Board earlier this year became the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Thank goodness the rhyme still fits!

Brian Aldiss's poetical tribute

The SF Hub: an ode

Brian W. Aldiss

(On the Virgin trains Oxford-Lime Street
Tuesday 12 April)

Delivered at the launch of the SF Hub, University of Liverpool, 12th April 2005.

I wondered as my train wound north
What was the SF hub:
A something pedagogic
Or another fannish club?

Would Tubb & Vargo Statten be
On show at SF Hub
Or all of Lionel Fanthorpe’s works
Enshrined here. Crikey, there’s the rub!

Are Heinlein, Blish & Wells all there
With Wyndham, landmark of the Hub,
With Dick & Asimov & Stapledon
Down to the newest writing cub?

Farah might be there of course
While Andy owns the SF Hub –
Ramsey, who speaks, & Clute: maybe
Both God & Beelzebub!

The Queen might come with silver spade
Marking the founding of the Hub
By planting here an English oak
Or else a measly little shrub.

When we’ve got the speeches done with,
We Great Ones of the Hub,
Shall we, in ways traditional,
All clear off to the nearest pub?

Ramsey Campbell's "SF Hub" poetic tribute

[The Science Fiction Hub]

(Ramsey Campbell : Delivered at the launch of the SF Hub, University of Liverpool, 12th April 2005).

There’s no payment for joining this club.
Of sf it stands as the hub.
And also of horror,
To some people’s sorrow.
Of fantasy too it’s a nub.

First let Andy Sawyer be fĂȘted.
His work cannot be overrated.
He still stocks the shelves,
Whereas, pleasing themselves,
Public libraries treat books as dated.

Next behold the formidable Brian.
His mastery there’s no descrying.
Stephen Baxter’s no dope:
His inventions have scope.
Both chaps’ talents reward our descrying.

Many others are stored in the files.
There are Wyndham and Russell in piles.
There is Greenland (the man),
The great Olaf to scan,
And Brunner – he goes on for miles.

But the hub’s the achievement of Roy.
It’s very much more than a toy.
Three years in the making
And now ours for the taking –
Altogether a reason for joy.

And now it is launched on the net
With verses you’ll hope to forget.
May it grow on the Web
And its power never ebb
So researchers shall not up be het.

The Launch of the SF Hub: 12th April 2005

Probably the second post ought to be an account of the Hub's launch, and here it is:

With fewer than normal jokes about “going boldly”, The Science Fiction Hub, a new venture into science fiction scholarship developed by the University of Liverpool Library with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Board, was launched on Tuesday April 12th at the Sydney Jones Library, University of Liverpool with an address by Liverpool author Ramsey Campbell.

The Hub ( was developed by project manager Roy McCready as a web-based route into the multi-disciplinary riches of science fiction. It contains several unique features. Building on the Science Fiction Foundation Collection of 30,000 books and over 2,000 magazine and fanzine titles deposited with the University of Liverpool in 1993, the Hub allows search of the catalogue records of this major resource as well as the lists of other archive collections held by the University, including the Olaf Stapledon, Eric Frank Russell, and John Wyndham Archives. During the three-year Hub project, 20,000 journal articles (including many from scarce fanzines) have been indexed and recorded on the University catalogue. The Hub also provides easy links to other major library holdings of science fiction and significant scholarly web resources including, for instance, the largest database of material about sf, Hal Hall’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Database at Texas A & M University.

The Hub was launched with a flurry of thank-yous from Science Fiction Collections Librarian Andy Sawyer, who claimed not to be in training for his Oscar nomination, and a description of the Hub from Roy McCready. Author Ramsey Campbell, who had rushed to deposit an extensive archive when the SFF came to Liverpool, returned and declaimed a poetic tribute to all concerned. Also in attendance were Brian Aldiss and Stephen Baxter, two of the authors who have deposited archive material. Not to be outdone, Brian read a poem he’d written on the train to Liverpool. Faced with a challenge to compose a praise-song in thirty seconds, Stephen Baxter nevertheless uttered a well-chosen impromptu welcome to the Hub.

Although Roy McCready is moving on from the project, there will be a process of tidying-up, cataloguing new material, and adding new links over the next few months. Comments and information are therefore welcome, to Andy Sawyer (

It is hoped that the Hub will be of use not only to researchers in science fiction and fantasy, but also to those many scholars in other disciplines who find sf – the literature of speculation and extrapolation – useful for their research.

Thanks to Ramsay Campbell, Brian Aldiss, and Stephen Baxter for their support. Almost immediately to come: the texts of the poems themselves.

Friday, July 01, 2005

First post (initial whisper)

So here we are. To recapitulate: HUBbub is a look at the sometimes unruly (hence the title) conversation of science fiction. It’s a way of putting out information about the SCIENCE FICTION HUB, an on-line resource for sf researchers (and researchers of anything else who may find science fiction useful) built by the University of Liverpool Library, home of the Science Fiction Foundation Collection, with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. I’ll also be posting reviews and comments about books and journals of sf criticism, and any relevant news which comes my way. Please note, though, that this is a personal blog: the Science Fiction Hub is not a body which expresses opinions, and while the University of Liverpool as a corporate body may well have opinions they will not be expressed here. What I say is what I say and nothing else. Other people are welcome to join in. You can’t have a hubbub without competing voices, true. But I'm quietly inserting this into the babble so I get get used to blogging. I wouldn't be surprised if there were changes made . . .

People who know me may know that I am Reviews Editor of Foundation. This blog is not a sneaky attempt to increase the review coverage of non-fiction in Foundation: what I said above with respect to opinions goes for the Science Fiction Foundation. But if you don’t subscribe to Foundation, why not? BACK ISSUES can be bought from me from me: just ask.

I am just back from the Science Fiction Research Association annual conference in Las Vegas, of which more, probably, anon. I have some links to add to the SF Hub pages, of which the first is going to be a link to this blog so that people can actually know that it exists.