Features — November 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

A big year for the Eaton Science Fiction Special Collections

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While it only happens about twice in the average undergraduate’s career, the time has come once again for Science Fiction and Fantasy writers and enthusiasts to submit their short stories to the bi-annual Science Fiction Shorty Story Contest. Every two years, the Eaton Science Fiction Conference is held at UC Riverside and is the host of the short story contest. The conference is named after the special collection of science fiction at UCR, and will be held April 11-14.

To kick off the collection’s first event of the year, a Science Fiction Collective Lecture was held on Thursday, Nov. 15 to introduce graduate students to the concepts of working with primary materials and making them aware of the opportunities to be held in doing so. Those interested in the Eaton Collection or pursuing archival research were encouraged to attend. Three panelists participated in the event: Dr. Sherryl Vint, a professor in the English Department at UCR; Jess Nevins an archival librarian at Lonestar College, who is also best known for his published annotations of the graphic novels of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; Greg Prickman, who is the head of special collections at the University of Iowa and whose collections include extensive Science Fiction and graphic novels. After the panel was held, registered participants were invited to meet the participant scholars.

Melissa Conway, who is a science fiction enthusiast, received her Ph.D in Medieval Studies from Yale University, and realized that there was a surprising connection between the two. She was the opening speaker of the Science Fiction Collective Lecture and head of Special Collections and Archives at UCR, co-organizer of the Eaton Conference, published author, and recipient of literary and scholastic awards since 1985.
“Maybe I was always vaguely aware of how medievalism and fantasy have incredible areas of overlap. What I didn’t expect to find was how much Dante shows up in science fiction and that has been a real treat. I can name over 50 works where Dante is in some way referenced,” said Conway.

Conway, who has always been a self-proclaimed science fiction enthusiast, spoke in an interview with the Highlander and shared a quote by Jules Verne that captures the role of science fiction writers: “What one person can imagine, another person can create.”

“I think it’s a really creative, imaginative and far reaching field. I think it influences us in so many ways that we’re not even aware of. I look at an iPad, I talk on an iPhone; those things were imagined in science fiction before engineering could really do it. Engineers brought these ideas to the floor out of people’s imagination, making science fiction into fact; it’s really exciting to see,” continued Conway.

In medieval times, people truly did believe in fairies and elves, science was still very
primitive. Despite our current knowledge, fantasy authors are still fascinated with
those archaic days. Take the “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy for example. The
costumes, weapons and mannerisms can be very much associated with medieval
times. Discussions and comparisons like these can be made in almost every science
fiction work, and since fantasy is an acceptable genre for the upcoming short story
contest stories taking place in medieval settings can be expected.

The Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy is the largest publicly-accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and utopian literature in the world. The massive collection is available on the fourth floor of UCR’s very own Tomás Rivera Library. According to the editor at Wired magazine, the Eation Collection is one of the top 12 “Geeky Destinations and Smart Side Trips.”

UC Riverside’s Eaton Science Fiction Conference is a premier academic conference devoted to the study of all aspects of science fiction as a literary genre and social phenomenon. At the conference, the genre of science fiction as well as fantasy are discussed by prominent academics coming from fields like film and culture to literature and illustration. Both genres are known for their number of dedicated followers, fairs held and culture in general.

The conference was first held in 1979 by George Slusser, a former professor at UCR who became the longtime curator of the Eaton Collection. The conference is an important international event and has been held all over the world in the decades since its initiation. UCR has co-sponsored the conference at London Polytechnic University, Texas A&M as well as in The Université de Neuchâtel.

The last conference was held on May 16-18 of this year, and was the first to call for student submissions in a competitive environment. First place went to Edward A. Laag, a graduate student at the UCR Department of Earth Sciences; Second place was awarded to Andrew Warren a graduate student at UC Irvine Department of English.

With literally the sky is the limit, there is no feasible barrier on science fiction and
fantasy except to not write about reality. This genre has commented on society and
inspired generations of invention, so who knows what can be found in this next
batch of 6000 word short stories from the creative minds of the educated writers.

The short story contest will be chaired by Nalo Hopkinson, an associate professor of creative writing at UCR, and a recipient of the World Fantasy Award, the John W. Campbell Award and author the recently published novel “The Chaos” which was released this past spring. The deadline is Dec. 7 and first prize winners will receive $750 while second prize winners will receive $500. The flyer states that “Stories must be recognizable as Speculative Fiction, which can include science fiction, fantasy, horror, or utopian/dystopian literature.” Stories cannot exceed 6,000 words and must be submitted to eatonconference@ucr.edu with the subject line “2013 Student Science Fiction Short Story Contest”.

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