From Beyond the Unknown: Books and magazines from The Jack C. Rae Science Fiction Library

Original cover art by EMSH (Ed Emshwiller) for the August 1952 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories — with text added by the exhibit curator.

The timing of this exhibit, albeit unintentional,  is fitting really, because it was two years ago — almost to the day — that Special Collections was the recipient of a huge and “out of this world” gift of the science fiction library of Oklahoma native, Jack Curnutt Rea (1925-2016).

I must be honest with you — I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a sci-fi aficionado (TV and movies, sometimes; reading, almost never) — but,  it was the artwork that hooked me.  As I perused Mr. Rae’s extensive library (and I do mean extensive, featuring hardback and paperback books and magazines from the 1920’s to the present) looking for titles and dust jackets that I found visually interesting, a larger picture began forming.   What seemed, at first, to be disparate stacks of books and magazines —  a scattering of puzzle pieces — came into focus:  what I had before me was a visual narrative of the transformation of  imagery and graphic styles over the years during the cultural and technological (r)evolutions of the 1920’s through the 1960’s.

We each find our own particular area of fascination — that one thing that excites our neurons.  Here’s how Mr. Rae described how he got hooked on science fiction:

During the time we lived on the farm, we were so poor that I had relatively little reading material other than school books.  I remember that I usually received a book or two as Christmas presents….One year, however, I fell into somewhat of an unexpected jackpot of reading….

One of Jack’s relatives gave him a partially used membership card to the nearby library where Jack read everything he could until the membership ran out.

…Some of the books I read then probably had an effect on my tastes in reading for the remainder of my life…they had…books by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his ‘John Carter of Mars’ series.  I read these and liked them, which probably pointed me in the direction of Science Fiction that has constituted the vast majority of my fiction reading during my lifetime….

Excerpt from “A Chronology of My Life” by Jack C. Rea

We hope you will make the trek to the Department of Special Collections to view the selection of books and magazines from the Rea collection currently on exhibit.  To fully appreciate the scope of the Rea collection, you may also wish to visit McFarlin Library’s online catalog at

Jack Rea’s personal bookplate.


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