Handlist of the Eric Frank Russell Collection 1937-1984

Author: G P Collis, Assistant Librarian, Science Fiction Foundation Collection and Sharon Maxwell, Library Assistant, Special Collections and Archives
Held at: University of Liverpool Special Collections and Archives
Reference and contact details: GB 0141 EFR
Title: The Eric Frank Russell Collection
Dates of creation: 1937-1984
Extent: 20 boxes of archive material and the personal library of Eric Frank Russell comprising of 23 boxes of magazines and fanzines and circa 324 books
Name of Creator: Russell, Eric Frank (1905-1978)
Level of Description: fonds
Language of Material: eng


Administrative/Biographical History

Eric Frank Russell (EFR) was born in June 1905 in Sandhurst, Surrey, where his father was an instructor at the military academy. The Russell family moved around a great deal and EFR grew up in Egypt, Sudan and different parts of England. At college, EFR concentrated on science and technology and was later employed at various stages as a telephone operator, quantity surveyor and a government draughtsman. He served in the King's Regiment from 1922 to 1926 and in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. EFR came to Liverpool in the 1930s to act as a representative and trouble-shooter for the engineering firm Frederick Braby & Co., where he continued to work whilst establishing his literary career.

Possessing a lifelong interest in science fiction, Eric Frank Russell published his first story, The Saga of Pelican West in Astounding in 1937, becoming the first British writer to regularly contribute to the magazine. He particularly admired Charles Fort (1874-1932), the American journalist, author and chronicler of scientific anomalies whose influence on Russell is reflected in the recurrent theme of humans as helpless victims of external forces in his fiction. For many years, Russell was the British representative of the Fortean Society and was later invited to produce a biography of Fort, which was written instead by Russell's friend, the American author and editor Damon Knight.

EFR was also a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and a founding member of the British Interplanetary Society (BIS), collaborating with the BIS Secretary, Leslie J. Johnson, to write one of his earliest stories, Seeker of Tomorrow (1937), for Astounding. The BIS also brought Russell into contact with other science fiction writers, such as Olaf Stapledon and Arthur C. Clarke. It was Russell who introduced Stapledon to science fiction 'pulp' magazines in 1937 and provided Clarke with his first income from science fiction after selling a story based on some of Clarke's ideas.

EFR's first novel Sinister Barrier was published in 1943, followed by Metamorphosite (1946), Hobbyist (1947) and Dear Devil (1950). These novels were followed by a number of anti-war stories, including Late Night Final (1948), ... And Then There Were None (1951) and I am Nothing (1952). Yet, it is humour that is the most distinctive feature of Eric Frank Russell's writing and it was for the satirical short story Allamagoosa (1955) that he gained the distinction of being the first British writer to receive a Hugo Award. Eric Frank Russell's later fiction is regarded as less colourful but remains characteristically humanitarian. He also used the pseudonyms Webster Craig and Duncan H. Munro for several short stories.

Scope and Content

The Archive contains 21 typescripts of Eric Frank Russell's fiction and non-fiction, plus offprints from various periodicals of some of his work. There is a large amount of papers relating to his literary career, including correspondence with agents, editors and publishers a nd a group of royalty statements and copyright agreements. The Archive also contains a large number of letters from family, friends, fans and fellow authors, as well as correspondence relating to Russell's role as British representative of the Fortean Society. Eric Frank Russell's personal library of books, magazines and fanzines and his Hugo Award are also contained in the archive.

System of Arrangement

The Collection is divided into six groups:

  • Literary Work
  • Papers Relating to the Career of Eric Frank Russell
  • General Correspondence
  • Fortean Society papers
  • Miscellaneous items
  • Personal Library

Administrative Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Collection was donated to the University of Liverpool in November 1993 by Erica Metcalfe, daughter of Eric Frank Russell, received on behalf of the University by Dr David Seed.

Accruals

There are no anticipated accruals.

Processing Information

The finding aid was created in 1999 by Sharon Maxwell and G P Collis. This collection level description was revised in October 2003 by Roy McCready and Roy Lumb and the finding aid was edited for inclusion on the Archives Hub in July 2004 by Roy Lumb.

Access Conditions

Access is open to bona fide researchers. Permission is required from the family of John W. Campbell prior to access to correspondence with EFR. Please contact the archivist for further details.

Copyright/Reproduction

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request .

Further Information

Related Collections at the University

The University of Liverpool Department of Special Collections and Archives (http://sca.lib.liv.ac.uk/collections/index.html) also holds several other collections which contain relevant material

  • The British Interplanetary Society Collection; Earliest members included EFR, Arthur C Clarke and Olaf Stapledon; John Carnelll was guest editor of the December 1973 issue of the Society's journal
  • Olaf Stapledon Collection
  • The John Wyndham Archive
  • I O Evans manuscripts
  • Science Fiction Foundation Collection
    ncluding: Stephen Baxter Archive
  • John Brunner Archive

Related Collections held outside the University

Tiffany Thayer Papers, ca. 1914-1956. Held at Manuscripts and Archives Section, New York Public Library, 5th Avenue & 42nd Street, New York, NY 10018, USA (http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/rbk/mss.html)

Publication Note

Moskowitz, Sam Seekers of tomorrow; masters of modern science fiction Westport, Conn., Hyperion Press, 1974. see Chapter 8, pp133-150
Stephenson-Payne, Phil and Gordon Benson, jr Eric Frank Russell: A Working Bibliography Leeds : Galactic Central 1996

Finding Aids

An electronic and hard copy finding aid is available in the reading room.