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Larry McCaffery Papers

Identifier: MS-0498

Scope and Contents

The Larry McCaffery Papers (1919-2009) document four decades of McCaffery’s distinguished career as a literary critic and professor of English at San Diego State University. The collection includes manuscripts of McCaffery’s literary interviews with well-known contemporary American and postmodern writers; correspondence; research files; lecture notes; clippings; book objects; and more. The majority of materials date from the 1980s and 1990s and focus primarily on McCaffery’s literary criticism and scholarship. The collection is divided into six series: Literary Files (1919-2009), Teaching Files (1979-2006), Research Files (1974-2009), Personal Files (1977-2007), Book Objects (1989-1996), and Zines and Underground Publications.

The Literary Files (1919-2007) is the largest series in the collection and center around McCaffery’s relationships with writers as well as his scholarship about their work. These files include correspondence, manuscripts, interviews, research files, publishing contracts, and more. Of particular note are the Interview Files, which capture every phase of McCaffery’s unique interview process. The Literary Files are divided into six subseries: Author Files, Interview Files, Published Works, Unpublished Works, Editor Files, and Correspondence. The Author Files contain manuscripts and correspondence from numerous writers. Many of the manuscripts include notes and edits from the writers themselves as well as McCaffery. While much of the correspondence is personal, many letters also discuss individual writing processes, current and future writing projects, and current events. This subseries is arranged alphabetically by author last name. Highlights include a manuscript of Mark Danielewski’s Fifty Year Sword, complete with color key for the publisher. The Interview Files, also arranged alphabetically by interviewee last name, include audio recordings of McCaffery’s literary interviews, interview transcripts, drafts with edits, correspondence, research files, and final interview manuscripts. McCaffery interviewed more than 75 writers during his career including Kathy Acker, Samuel Delany, David Foster Wallace, Tom Robbins, Joanna Russ, Mark Danielewski, and Ursula LeGuin. These files document the evolution of an interview--from the taped recording to the final manuscript, and include edits and comments made by McCaffery and the interviewee. Also included are McCaffery’s extensive research files for each interviewee with include other interviews, criticism, and essays, short stories, and other writings by or about the interviewee. This series is divided into subseries: Manuscript and Research Files and Audio Recordings. Please note that the majority of the audio recordings are currently unavailable for research for preservation reasons.

Published Works includes manuscript drafts, galleys, prospectus’, correspondence, reviews, and promotional materials for McCaffery’s numerous publications, which are further divided into three subseries: Fiction Anthologies, Interview Collections, and Scholarly Works. Within these subseries materials are arranged in reverse chronological order by publication date. Fiction Anthologies include materials for After Yesterday’s Crash: the Avant-Pop Anthology (1997), Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation (1993), and Storming the Reality Studio (1991). Interview Anthologies include Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors (1995), Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Authors (1990), Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s (1987), and Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists (1983). The largest subseries, Scholarly Works, contains manuscripts, correspondence and extensive research files for his two major casebooks, Expelled from Eden: A William T. Vollmann Reader (2004) and Federman from A to X-X-X-X - A Recyclopedic Narrative which he co-edited with Tom Hartl and Doug Rice in 1998, as well as files for Metaphysical Muse: the Work of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, and William H. Gass (1982), Postmodern Fiction: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide, and several published essays and interviews.

Unpublished Works is the smallest subseries in The Literary Files with manuscript drafts and correspondence for a few essays and a casebook. These materials date from the mid- to late 1970s and the early 1990s. The Editor Files document McCaffery’s extensive work as editor or special guest editor at various literary journals and publishers including Black Ice Books, Fictional International, the American Book Review, Review of Contemporary Fiction, and others. Materials include correspondence with contributors as well as other editors, manuscripts, reviews, and promotional materials; and are arranged alphabetically by publisher or journal title with general correspondence included at the end. Finally, the Correspondence subseries contains folders of correspondence to various publishers and covers a range of topics--from prospective projects to McCaffery’s thoughts on various various writers and subjects.

The Teaching Files document McCaffery’s 30-year teaching career as professor of English at San Diego State University, and include syllabi, lecture notes, readings, research, handouts, bibliographies and reading lists. The series is divided into three subseries: Course / Subject Files, Author Files, and Rock Music Files. The Course / Subject Files are arranged alphabetically by course title, followed by alphabetical subject files. Materials in this subseries include syllabi, reading lists, lecture notes, assignments, study guides, and more. The Author Files are arranged alphabetically by last name and include notes, articles, and handouts on various writers and their literary works. Lastly, the Rock Music Files document McCaffery’s research and interest in numerous musical groups and artists, which he frequently used in classes. These files are arranged alphabetically by artist/band name.

The Research Files document two major research projects that McCaffery never completed. Each project is divided into its own subseries: the OJ Simpson Project Files, and the Bruce Springsteen Project Files. The OJ Simpson Project Files document McCaffery’s interest in and fascination with the OJ Simpson trial, and how contemporary writers were responding to the rise of media, digital technologies, and the impact of “information overload.” Although McCaffery had contacted various publishers and contributors for the intended volume, he never finished the project. The subseries contains correspondence with editors as well as potential contributors, news clippings including entire issues from various tabloids like The National Enquirer and The Globe, various trial-related ephemera, and even “Squeeze the Juice” a board game about the OJ murder trial. McCaffery gathered the majority of materials in the Bruce Springsteen Project Files for a potential comprehensive on Springsteen. Some of the materials were also used for McCaffery’s classes on Springsteen and Rock Poetry. This subseries contains news clippings, criticism, essays, correspondence, album and tour information, and class materials related to Springsteen and the E Street Band. Materials are divided into five subseries: Class Materials / Notes; General Files; Clippings, Articles and Essays; Tours / Album Coverage; and Fanzines and Underground Publications.

The Personal Files consist of materials about McCaffery and include four small subseries: General Files; China Fulbright; and Conferences. The General Files contain articles, blurbs, and clippings about McCaffery; awards and accolades; and correspondence from students and admirers of his work. The China Files document McCaffery’s Fulbright in China in 1989 and include his final report, correspondence, and various tourist brochures and programs. Conferences documents various symposiums and conferences that McCaffery either attended and/or organized including the Science Fiction Research Association’s 1986 annual conference held at San Diego State University. Highlights include correspondence with conference speakers, including Harlan Ellison.

The Book Objects series consists of works by Norman Conquest (also known as Derek Pell). These objects are typically texts that have been manipulated or reworked to convey a specific message or idea. Highlights include Baudrillard’s Simulacrum Cake and Foucault’s Tamponnoir.

The last series, Zines and Underground Publications includes various poetry, fiction, creative writing and pop culture underground publications. Most are DIY publications or published by small, independent presses. This series documents McCaffery’s penchant for innovative and experimental fiction. Titles are arranged alphabetically.


  • Creation: 1919-2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1976-2005


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. Due to preservation concerns, some analog audiovisual materials are currently unavailable for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Biographical Note

Dr. Lawrence F. McCaffery, better known as Larry McCaffery, was born in Dallas, Texas on May 13, 1946. He received his BA from Notre Dame in 1968, and his doctorate from the University of Illinois in 1975. His dissertation focused on Robert Coover.

In 1976, McCaffery began his more than 30-year career as professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University. During this time he taught classes on Postmodern Literature, Contemporary American Literature, Bruce Springsteen, Japanese Postmodernism, Punk Aesthetics and much more. He also helped to found the English Department’s Living Writers Series, which invites important writers to speak on campus. McCaffery was awarded two Fulbrights and served as a visiting professor at the University of Nice in 1984, and at the Beijing Foreign Studies University in China between 1988 and 1989, where he witnessed the student protests, including the tragic events at Tiananmen Square. He participated in several other visiting professorships at the University of California, San Diego, Deep Springs College, and Seikei University in Japan.

In addition to teaching, McCaffery built a reputation as an important postmodern and contemporary American literary critic known for identifying influential and innovative writers. In 1982, he published Metafictional Muse: the Work of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme and William H. Gass. A year later, he and Tom LeClair co-authored Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists. This work identified important postmodern writers and served as McCaffery’s first foray into the literary interview. His unique interview process consisted of recording the initial interview, then loosely transcribing the conversation into a textual draft. This ‘transcript’ was then heavily edited by both himself and the interviewee. The result was a collaborative text based on the original conversation. McCaffery’s informal style and close relationships with many of the interviewees generated personal and important insights into each interviewee’s works and influences. In 1986, McCaffery published a second collection of literary interviews with his wife, Sinda Gregory titled Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s. He continued identifying and interviewing important writers, completing a third interview collection--Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Authors--in 1990. Five years later, he published Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors. Many of his interviews were also published in prominent literary journals, including the Paris Review. Several were nominated for the Pushcart Prize, which honors small press publications.

During the 1990s, McCaffery compiled several fiction anthologies. He is perhaps best known for his seminal cyberpunk anthology Storming the Reality Studio (1991), which featured fiction and criticism that situated cyberpunk in the postmodern paradigm. McCaffery’s focus on science fiction helped elevate it as a legitimate literary genre worthy of serious scholarship. In the words of Brooks Landon, McCaffery was “science fiction’s Friend in the High Castle.” His other two fiction anthologies, Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation (1993) and After Yesterday’s Crash: the Avant-Pop Anthology (1997), focused on radical and innovative writers working influenced by postmodernism, the avant-garde, and popular culture and media.

McCaffery also published several scholarly casebooks, including Expelled from Eden: A William T. Vollmann Reader (2004) and Federman from A to X-X-X-X a Recyclopedic Narrative (1998). Both works required extensive research and ongoing conversations with both writers.

Throughout his career, McCaffery served as editor for numerous literary publications. In 1983, he became co-editor alongside Harold Jaffe of Fiction International, a literary magazine dedicated to innovative and experimental fiction, which had just relocated from New York to San Diego State University. He also served as editor for American Book Review, and as executive editor for Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction. McCaffery guest edited several special issues including Postmodern literature issue, Review of Contemporary Fiction’s Young Authors issue, and the Mississippi Review’s seminal Cyberpunk issue. In addition, McCaffery was an editor for Black Ice Books, which published controversial and provocative literature, including Samuel Delany’s Hogg.

McCaffery retired from SDSU in 2010. He and his wife Sinda live in Borrego Springs.


55.33 Linear Feet

Language of Materials





Source of Acquisition

Larry McCaffery

Accruals and Additions

2009-034, 2009-049, 2010-029, 2011-022

Related Materials

Elizabeth Chater Manuscript Collection

Jefferson Sutton Science Fiction Collection

Related Publications

Books from the McCaffery Collection are availabe in the [url=,contains,%22Larry%20McCaffery%20Collection%22&tab=everything&search_scope=EVERYTHING&vid=01CALS_SDL&lang=en_US&offset=0]Library's catalog[/url].

Larry McCaffery Papers
Amanda Lanthorne
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US