Skip to main content

Damon Knight papers

Identifier: Coll 340

Scope and Contents

The collection contains personal and business correspondence, manuscripts, documents, photos and memorabilia dating from Damon Knight’s grandparents’ era, the Spanish American war, to his death in 2002.

The correspondence between his paternal grandmother and his father offers a picture of life in the Forest Grove area of Oregon between 1901 and 1916. There are letters and photographs of his father’s service as a high school teacher in the Philippines in 1912-1913; photographs of trips to the Oregon Coast and also to the Fort Rock area of eastern Oregon with his family during the 1920's. There is correspondence between Damon and each of his parents from the time he left home in 1940 until the death of his father in 1945 and mother in 1948.

The papers include early handwritten Damon Knight stories and sketches. His drafts of manuscripts are peppered with his drawings and illustrations of background material for his stories – giving them a coherence physically, socially, and scientifically even when the material wasn’t written up as part of the story.

The correspondence associated with the Orbit series and the Clarion workshops shows Damon Knight’s efforts as a teacher of writers: how to write, where to submit a story type, the importance of a contract and how to negotiate and retain rights to stories. His letters of rejection to authors usually suggested how to change the story to make it acceptable and/or where it might be submitted for more likely acceptance. Letters show that many of these people did make changes or write new stories incorporating his suggestions and were eventually successful in having him include their stories in the Orbit series or other collections. Many of them have become very successful writers.

There are many letters in the Orbit correspondence containing material of personal interest. Among them: Gene Wolfe, Vonda McIntyre, Gardner Dozois, James Sallis, Norman Spinrad, Kim Stanley Robinson, James Tiptree (aka Alice Sheldon), Joanna Russ, George Alec Effinger.


  • 1912-2002
  • Majority of material found within 1940-2002


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Damon Francis Knight (1922-2002) was born in Baker City, Oregon. His family moved to Hood River where Damon attended grade school and high school. Both of his parents, Frederick and Leola Knight, were teachers. His father later became the high school principal and ran a printing press. Damon became a science fiction fan at an early age and received his first check on December 15th, 1939 for the publication of a cartoon drawing in the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. Upon graduating from high school in 1940, Damon spent a year at the WPA Art Center in Salem. There he published two issues of a fanzine, “Snide“, which included a story by Ray Bradbury. By this time he was in correspondence with the group of struggling writers and science fiction fans in New York who became known as “The Futurians”. With their encouragement, he joined them, eking out a living with some financial help from his parents. His early literary jobs included proofing and copy-editing for “Popular Publications”, then writing comments for aspiring authors’ stories for Meredith, followed by a stint at Hillman Publications. Interspersed were publications of occasional short stories and book reviews. In 1955, Knight moved to Milford, Pennsylvania with his second wife Helen. Along with James Blish, Knight set up the Milford Science Fiction Writers’ Conference in 1956. That was also the year he won the Hugo Award for “In Search of Wonder. Knight founded the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1965; its annual Nebula Award has become one of the most prestigious awards for science fiction.

Knight published about 17 novels and edited over 30 individual anthologies, in addition to 21 volumes of the Orbit anthology, from 1966-1980. TheOrbit anthology helped launch the careers of many new writers, including Gene Wolfe, RA Lafferty, and Knight's third wife, Kate Wilhelm, whom he married in 1963.

Knight and Kate Wilhelm were involved in establishing the Clarion Writers Workshops in 1968. They continued teaching there until 1996. Damon’s last publication (2000) was the online art history work “Will the Real Hieronymus Bosch Please Stand Up.”

Damon Knight died in Eugene, Oregon on April 15, 2002 at the age of 79. In 2003, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.


76.5 linear feet (55 Containers) : 38 record storage boxes, 14 flat manuscript boxes, 3 manuscript boxes

Language of Materials



Damon Francis Knight (1922-2002) was a well-known editor, author, and critic in the field of science fiction. He was instrumental in establishing the Milford writers’ conference and the Clarion writers’ workshops. His book on creative writing, first published in 1981 is still in print. But, he also wrote puns, poems, television and radio scripts, western and detective fiction, biographical and autobiographical works, and an analysis of the artwork of Hieronymus Bosch. The collection contains personal and business correspondence, manuscripts, documents, photos and memorabilia dating from Damon Knight’s grandparents’ era, the Spanish American war, to his death in 2002.


Series I, Publications, editing, manuscripts, and proposals: deals with Damon Knight’s publications, editing jobs, and publication proposals. These items are sorted alphabetically by publication title. This section contains all of the correspondence, manuscript drafts, background materials, galleys, artwork, publication reviews, and miscellaneous items associated with each title.

In order to provide a picture of the evolution of a series, the writers, and the relationships, correspondence is filed with the publication it concerns in date order. In the case of the Orbit series, issues sometimes overlap dates and some stories were initially accepted for one issue but appeared in a later issue. They are filed with the issue where they actually appeared.

Series II, Organizations, Workshops, Conventions and Symposia: sorts the materials related to Damon Knight’s participation in an organization, workshop, convention, or symposium alphabetically by organization or event name. This series contains related correspondence, fliers, speeches, photos, and newsletters.

Series III, Copyright law, legal disputes: contains correspondence and reference materials on copyright law, and depositions and other legal proceedings in the Harper Row lawsuit.

Series IV, Correspondence: contains the correspondence not specifically related to the above topics. These letters are filed by name and date. They include fan letters and his answers, non-publication business, letters to editor for the local paper, and letters of friends and family. crapSIG correspondence is included at the end of this section as is a file of correspondence with “The Five” from the first Milford meeting. Note that a person may have correspondence in all of the sections.

Series V, General Reference and Research Materials: contains materials used for general reference or research and publications sent to him where he was not the publishing editor.

Series VI, Biographical: contains materials about Damon Knight that are biographical in nature, such as a birth certificate, information on the Anchorage, interviews, drawings of and by Damon Knight, Michigan State University Honorary Degree, and miscellaneous mementos.

Series VII, Book and Periodical Collection: consists of a collection of science fiction books and periodicals from the 1950’s through the end of the 1970’s.

Series VIII, Notebooks: contains over 90 spiral note books and note pads with idea sketches, story review information, notes made while attending meetings, to do lists, appointments, miscellaneous covering the time from 1950 to 2000.

Series IX, Photographs: of Damon Knight, family, and science fiction community.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Kate Wilhelm.

Related Materials

Other collections relating to Damon Knight at Special Collections and University Archives include: Kate Wilhelm papers, Coll 464.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Joyce Griffith.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Damon Knight papers
Revise Description
Joyce Griffith and Stephanie Kays
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA