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Eaton Science Fiction Conference May 16-18


Eaton Science Fiction Conference Returns May 16-18

UC Riverside event will feature authors Ray Bradbury and Frederick Pohl.

(May 9, 2008)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Science fiction icons Ray Bradbury and Frederik Pohl, other science fiction authors and international scholars will explore the role of Mars in science fiction literature in the Eaton Science Fiction Conference May 16-18 at the University of California, Riverside. Other celebrated science fiction authors on the program include Gregory Bear, Gregory Benford, David Brin, Howard Hendrix, Geoffrey Landis, Larry Niven, and Kim Stanley Robinson.

“Chronicling Mars” is the theme of the conference, which is being resumed by the UCR campus after nearly 10 years. The Eaton Conference program will include the presentation of the first Eaton Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction to Bradbury, as well as academic papers and panel discussions, a Science Fiction Poetry Association poetry reading, films about Mars, and exhibitions and receptions. Other events include a donation ceremony of the archives of the Science Fiction Poetry Association to the Eaton Collection, and an award ceremony for the winners of the first University of California Science Fiction Short Story Contest.

Bradbury, author of more than 500 published works including “The Martian Chronicles” and “Fahrenheit 451,” will be honored for his life’s work on Saturday, May 17. He will be introduced by Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Admission to Bradbury's 4 p.m. lecture only is free. Seating is first come, first served.

Conference registration is $125 for all three days, $75 per day, or $25 for students with a valid student ID. Registration information is available on the conference Web site, http://eatonconference.ucr.edu. For information, call 951-827-3233. Space is limited. Special conference rates are available at some downtown Riverside hotels.

A highlight of the conference will be the “Science Fiction Heritage” panel discussion with Bradbury and Pohl, award-winning author of the “Heechee” series, moderated by George Slusser, professor of comparative literature emeritus and curator emeritus of UCR’s Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopian Literature. Mars has figured prominently in the writings of Bradbury and Pohl.

A book-signing opportunity with Bradbury on Saturday, May 17, will be limited to one book per person. Other conference speakers also will be available to sign their books.

Scholars from across the United States, the United Kingdom, Portugal and Australia will present papers in sessions ranging from scientific and mythical uses of Mars to 21st century possibilities for fiction about Mars.

There also will be a tribute to Sir Arthur C. Clarke, author of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” who died in March. Clarke was to have participated in the Eaton Conference via teleconference from Sri Lanka.

The complete program is available online. The conference is being supported by the UCR Libraries, the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Provost.

The idea to focus the conference on Mars originated with Slusser, who served as curator of the Eaton Collection for more than 25 years, said Melissa Conway, conference organizer and head of Special Collections at the UCR Libraries.

“Mars has always been important to science fiction writers, and perhaps even more so today,” she said. “We’ve been to the moon. Mars is the next frontier.”

Science fiction has moved from being regarded as the realm of ephemeral literature to being appreciated as an important literary genre, Conway said.

“There’s great imagination in science fiction literature and respect for the reader,” she said. “The intelligence of the reader is engaged. The more you know about science the more you’re intrigued by science fiction. There’s a flexibility to the minds of these authors. They open vistas to possibilities and what the future can be, good and bad. The confluence between science fiction and reality is exciting.”

The resumption of the Eaton Science Fiction Conference has been a major priority of the UCR Libraries for more than a year, said Ruth M. Jackson, university librarian. Given the world-class reputation of the Eaton Collection, the conference represents a vital component of the Libraries’ commitment to supporting scholarly and popular exploration of science fiction writing, publishing, study, and research as a literary genre, she said.

"In the reality of things, science fiction has often been at the helm of later scientific discovery and exploration," Jackson said.

The College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences is pleased to co-sponsor the Eaton conference, said Dean Stephen Cullenberg.

"The Eaton Collection and the long-standing presence of science fiction studies on campus, led by Professor George Slusser, make UCR the logical choice for the conference," he said. "The fact that National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia will be attending to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Ray Bradbury is testament to the importance and reach of this conference."

Science fiction studies has enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in recent years and is now a respected genre in literature, film and creative writing, Cullenberg said.

"Indeed, our college is making a major investment in science fiction studies this year by hiring Rob Latham from the University of Iowa, who is currently co-editor of Science-Fiction Studies, the leading journal in the field," the dean said. "We will also be hiring two more faculty in science fiction studies next year, hopefully a writer and someone with a film background. So, we are making a major investment in science fiction studies, and we are planning to make UCR the leading university in the world to study science fiction."

UCR Libraries’ Special Collections is the home of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopian Literature, the largest in the world. The collection embraces every branch of science fiction, plus fantasy and horror, and contains the largest holdings of 16th- to 21st-century utopian and dystopian fiction in North America.

The collection, which attracts scholars from around the world, holds more than 100,000 volumes of English-language science fiction, fantasy and horror published in the 20th century and a wide range of works in Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and a dozen other languages.

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The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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