Worlds of Wonder: Science Fiction in Special Collections

With the solar eclipse earlier this week, many people have spent the last few weeks (or months) researching celestial events and preparing to witness something that, although scientifically predicted, seems almost fictional. While observing the eclipse, I was struck by the strangeness of the light. I was reminded of the many films and television shows that have been set in post-apocalyptic futures. This inspired me to dig into some of the science fiction materials that are held in special collections.

McFarlin Special Collections and Archives has an extensive collection of science fiction material. The majority of these materials consist of science fiction magazines including such titles as Galaxy Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Astounding Science Fiction, and many more. During my quick review of the magazines, it appears that the earliest editions we have date back to 1938 and there are hundreds dating between those publications and the ones from just last year. 

There are other materials related to science fiction in Special Collections as well including books about famous science fiction authors and anthologies of short stories. I took interest in two of these books and had a closer look.  The first of these intriguing books caught my eye because of its title. The Science Fiction Weight-Loss Book is a collection of short stories whose focus is on the main characters’ obsession with weight whether it be trying to slim down or a wife trying to fatten up her husband. The other is a book containing photographs of science fiction authors taken by Patti Perret accompanied by quotes from the authors pictured. In this book, The Faces of Science Fiction, many of the authors discuss their relationship with science fiction. Alfred Bester explains that he loves science fiction because he sees it as “the last frontier of complete creative freedom.”

Bester’s idea that science fiction allows uncontrolled creative freedom can be observed easily through the cover art of the science fiction magazines. These fun covers range from aliens and humans in space to famous creatures such as the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Science fiction allows people to creatively express their interest in space, rapidly changing technologies, and the extraordinary possibilities that people dream up.

Special Collections’ science fiction magazines and books are available for viewing in the reading room from 8-4:30 Monday thru Friday. There are works by well-known authors including Isaac Asimov, George R.R. Martin, and R.A. Lafferty. To find any science fiction material you may be interest in check out the catalog and limit the location to McF Special Coll. Special Collections also has the R.A. Lafferty collection consisting of correspondence, writings, and personal papers from the Tulsa science fiction author.

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