Eaton Science Fiction Conference Makes Riverside the Center of the Known Universe

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UCR ARTSblock's mission is to provide a cultural presence, educational resource, community center and intellectual meeting ground for the university and the community.

By Tyler Stallings

The 2013 Eaton Science Fiction Conference will be held April 11 to April 14, 2013 at the Riverside Marriott Hotel and UCR Culver Center of the Arts. It is co-sponsored with the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA) and will examine science fiction in multiple media.

The conference is less for the fan and more for the scholar of science fiction and fantasy. It does not exhibit the exuberance of Comic Con International in San Diego or the World Science Fiction Convention that has been going strong for seven decades -- no one dresses as their favorite "Star Wars" or anime character at the Eaton Conference; rather, unkempt clothes and mussed hair are the scholarly fashion. Additionally, it is not a gathering spot for Hollywood's film industry, which is one aspect of Comic Con's metamorphosis. Rather, the Eaton is the serious underbelly to the glitz. It is a place where the true cutting-edge in ideas and writing can be learned.

Logo for The 2013 Eaton Science Fiction Conference. | Photo: Courtesy of University of California, Riverside.

The Eaton Conference perhaps owes some debt to another organization and collector/fan boy.

The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society was founded in 1934 and, according to its website, is this world's oldest continuously active science fiction and fantasy club. It has a well-stocked library and regular member meetings in which serious ideas (and camaraderie) can be had on more intimate level.

And, then, in terms of Los Angeles fandom, there was the collection of the infamous Forrest (Forry) Ackerman, now deceased and whose collection has been dispersed sadly. He was a Los Angeles, California-based magazine editor, science fiction writer and literary agent, and a founder of science fiction fandom. He was the editor and principal writer of the American magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland."

Lastly, there is another major science fiction collection held at the University Archives & Special Collections, Pollak Library, California State University Fullerton, which includes original science fiction manuscripts, books and related materials of several American authors including Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert. As a side note, Dick died in nearby Santa Ana, California. In fact, I made a trek to his last known address once. It is the site where he supposedly received the pink beam of light from God that revealed that the Roman Empire had never ended (see Dick's "Exegesis.")

Logo for Philip K. Dick's "Exegesis." | Photo: Courtesy of the Philip K. Dick Official Website.'

Eaton's Origins

The Eaton Collection originated with the personal library of Dr. J. Lloyd Eaton, an Oakland, California physician and book collector. Eaton's collection consisted of about 7,500 hardback editions of science fiction, fantasy and horror from the Nineteenth to the mid-Twentieth centuries. The collection was acquired in 1969 with the intention of creating an outstanding resource for the research and study of science fiction and fantasy. From 1979 to 2004, George Slusser held a joint position as Eaton curator and professor of comparative literature. During his tenure the collection grew in printed titles and other materials, including the acquisition of the major fanzine collections.

A prolific scholar in the field, Slusser taught the first courses in science fiction studies at UCR and originated the Eaton Conference, which he chaired for more than 20 years. It was Slusser's dream for UCR to become a center of science fiction studies; with the collection he helped build as the nucleus. Courses in science fiction studies are now taught by leading SF scholars Rob Latham and Sherryl Vint, and SF author Nalo Hopkinson. Latham is also co-chair of the biennial Eaton Conference with Melissa Conway, the UCR Libraries' Head of Special Collections & Archives.

Forrest J. Ackerman at the Ackermansion.

The collection begins with the 1517 edition of Thomas More's "Utopia" and includes first editions of many seminal works including Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" (1818), Bram Stoker's "Dracula" (1897) and H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine" (1895). Some of the interesting manuscript collections include:

Gregory Benford Papers
This collection contains original manuscripts of novels and short stories, fanzines, press clippings and correspondence of the University of California, Irvine physicist and science fiction writer. It contains his literary and academic works and his personal collection of fanzines.

David Brin Papers
This collection includes manuscripts, including "Uplift War," "Man-Kzin Wars," "Heart of the Comet," and "Sundiver," personal papers, and other material.

In addition to collections made up of papers and manuscripts of science fiction writers, the Eaton Collection features several other collections that include scripts from multiple authors, newsletters, ephemera and other collectibles.

Collection of "Alien Nation" television scripts

This collection consists of scripts and storyboards of the television series "Alien Nation," created by Kenneth Johnson.

Michael Brennan Collection on Science Fiction And Fantasy
This expansive collection from a long-time Los Angeles SF fan comprises thousands of items including books, serials, fanzines, posters, media, convention materials, action figures, and comic books.

Randall Freeman Collection on "Star Trek"
This is an outstanding collection of rare and unusual "Star Trek" collectibles, including a "Vulcan Salute" cookie jar and a scale model of the USS Enterprise.

Fred Patten Collection on Science Fiction and Animation
This collection of more than 500,000 items from historian of animation and SF fan Fred Patten includes books, serials, fanzines, posters, convention materials, action figures, plush toys, comic books, manga," furry" fandom materials, and the largest collection of Japanese anime outside of Japan.

Mari Ruíz-Torres Collection On "The X-Files
This collection consists of scripts, books, serials, posters, photographs, fan club materials, and action figures from the popular television series "The X-Files."

George Slusser standing among the stacks of the Eaton Collection at the UCR Libraries' Special Collections & Archives and in display cases at the library. | Photo: Courtesy of University of California, Riverside.]

The Eaton Science Fiction Conference

From the outset, the intention of UCR Libraries was to make the Eaton Collection an outstanding resource for research and study. As part of its scholarly mission, the Eaton Collection began hosting an Eaton Conference in 1979. The conference has produced more than 20 volumes of critical essays, published by various university presses.

Over the years, the Eaton Conference has attracted a number of famous writers, including Brian Aldiss, Gregory Benford, Ray Bradbury, David Brin, Samuel R. Delany, Harlan Ellison, Frederik Pohl, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon and Roger Zelazny. It has attracted an equally distinguished group of critics and scientists including Harold Bloom, Leslie Fiedler, Fredric Jameson, Harry Levin, Marvin Minsky and Robert Scholes.

Some highlights from the schedule for the upcoming 2013 conference:

Creature Features: Science Fictional Cinematic Approaches to Animals

• Formaldehyde Fish and Drivable Ducks: SF Forms and Environmental Themes in a Global Speculative Fiction Course
, Bridgitte Barclay, Aurora University

• SWARMS! And the Spatial Subversion of Utopia
Nicole de Fee, Louisiana Tech University

Apocalypse and Social Change

• The Limits of Creative Self-Destruction, 
Carl Gutierrez-Jones, University of California, Santa Barbara

• Science Fiction: For the Treatment of Depression, Kathleen McHugh, University of California, Los Angeles

Gender Roles and Masquerade

• To Boldly 'Not' Go Where No Woman Has Gone Before: Traditional Gender Roles in the Hard Science Fiction Series, "Planetes"
Paul Price, Independent Scholar

• Apparatuses of Capture: Producing a New Regime of Accumulation Through a New Community of Men
 - Robert Wood, University of California, Irvine

Exterior view of The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society club house. | Photo: Courtesy of The Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society.

The 2013 Eaton Science Fiction Conference will be held April 11 to April 14, 2013 at the Riverside Marriott Hotel. The 2013 Eaton Science Fiction Conference--co-sponsored with the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA)--will examine science fiction in multiple media. For more information, http://eatonconference.ucr.edu

The Eaton Collection of Science Fiction & Fantasy is the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror and utopian literature in the world. It is housed in the UC Riverside Libraries' Special Collections & Archives in the Tomás Rivera Library. The collection is a major resource for research and is visited by scholars from around the world for both its American and international holdings. It features over 300,000 holdings including: over 100,000 hardback and paperback books; full runs of many pulp magazines; nearly 100,000 fanzines; film and visual material, including 500 shooting scripts from science fiction films; comic books, anime and manga; collectible ephemera and regalia, including cards, posters, pins and action figures.

Panel discussion from previous Eaton Science Fiction Conference. | Photo: Courtesy of University of California, Riverside.

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Top Image: Installation view of Kitsou Dubois' "Bulle" in "Free Enterprise: The Art of Citizen Space Exploration" at UCR ARTSblock. | Photo: Nikolay Maslov and Courtesy of UCR ARTSblock.

About the Author

Tyler Stallings is the artistic director at Culver Center of the Arts and director of Sweeney Art Gallery at University of California, Riverside.
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