Author: Sam Robinson
Back in February one of the Unsettling Scientific Stories project’s co-PIs Prof. Iwan Morus got an email from Pam Stansfield, an alumni of University College Wales, Aberystwyth (now the University of Aberystwyth), with an amazing offer. She asked if her late husband Rog’s Science Fiction collection be of any use to the Unsettling Scientific Stories team. After a rapid exchange of emails it was agreed that the only answer to this would be a enthusiastic YES! Iwan’s dad likely taught some of Rog’s maths modules when he studied as an undergraduate at Aberystwyth and gives the collection a link to the project, universities, and people involved.
Part of the ambition of the project is to look at how prolonged engagement with Science Fiction has shaped wider societal perceptions of the technological present and future, so a complete lifetime collection of a committed SF fan is a spectacular resource.
Roger Alan Stansfield, or Rog to those who knew him, started reading SF as a teenager in Carshalton, Surrey in the 1960s. After attending Purley County Grammar School, Rog went to Aberystwyth to study applied mathematics. For Rog university life was about more than studying, and he threw himself at the basketball team, often opting for training rather than attending lectures. Eventually becoming team captain he led the team to winning the Welsh University Championships. After gaining his BSc in 1972 Rog returned to complete a PGCE in Maths and P.E. the following year.
Spotting a job advertised at Newquay Tretherras School, Pam persuaded Rog to apply, or rather sign the form whilst reading the sports’ pages in the newspaper! Moving to Cornwall Rog rose to be head of department at Tretherras before moving to a Maths lecturing post at Truro College. Throughout this time Rog continued his passion for SF that had only grown during his time at university, using the works of Frank Herbert, Arthur C. Clarke, and others to keep an eye on possible future developments in science.
The collection itself is fascinating. It consists of about 350 novels, mostly British but with a sizeable contingent of US SF. Accompanying these are around 50 anthologies, which offers the research team a huge volume of short stories that are often out of print or difficult to get hold of in their original format.
There are complete extensive series’, where the first book has clearly been heavily read, the next less so, and so on through multiple sequels. Suggesting what we have always really known but don’t like to admit ourselves, namely that for most fans sustaining interest in a large multi-volume work requires stamina that only wanes overtime. Loyalty to the work and its author sees us buying every instalment even if it is only destined for the “to be read” pile… (my own future reading pile is rather extensive), Although every single book from Rog’s collection has clearly been well-read, well-loved and well-cared for.
The anthologies are particularly interesting. Rog’s range over a variety of genres and authors whose work seldom appears amongst the novels. Suggesting that although we might think of anthologies as gateways to new ideas and authors, the impact, at least in Rog’s case, seems minimal. The SF he stuck to was the SF of his youth in Surrey and Aberystwyth. Therefore, it is seems appropriate that the collection has returned to his alma Mata where he spent such happy times.
The Unsettling Scientific Stories would like to thank Pam Stansfield for her kind donation to the AHRC-funded Unsettling Scientific Stories project.