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Eaton Science Fiction Conference to Focus on Jules Verne

The annual celebration of sci-fi literature will feature scholars and authors at UC Riverside May 1-3.

(April 3, 2009)

Jules VerneEnlarge

Jules Verne

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Dozens of international scholars of science fiction and popular authors will discuss the impact of Jules Verne, the 19th century French author of “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” at the 2009 Eaton Science Fiction Conference at the University of California, Riverside May 1-3.

“Extraordinary Voyages: Jules Verne and Beyond” will be presented by the UCR Libraries’ Eaton Science Fiction Collection and the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in coordination with the North American Jules Verne Society. Conference events will be held at the UCR Extension Center, 1200 University Ave.

A symposium, “The Histories of Science Fiction,” will precede the conference on campus on Thursday, April 30.

A highlight of the three-day conference will be the presentation of the second Eaton Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction, in-absentia, to Frederik Pohl, author of “The Space Merchants,” “Gateway” and other science fiction classics.

The conference includes presentations of academic papers and panel discussions, a Science Fiction Poetry Association poetry reading, and an award ceremony for winners of the second University of California Science Fiction Short Story Contest. The program is available online at http://eatonconference.ucr.edu/index.php.

Plenary speakers are John Rieder, professor of English at the University of Hawaii and author of “Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction”; Walter James Miller, professor of English at New York University and founder of modern American Verne studies; and Marie-Hélené Huet, professor of French at Princeton University and author of “The History of the ‘Extraordinary Voyages.’ ”

“We are really delighted to be able to host an Eaton conference with this emphasis on Jules Verne,” said Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections and Archives at UCR. “Verne’s influence – right up to the present day – cannot be underestimated. In the United States – largely as the result of inept translations – he has been perceived as an author of adventure books for children. I hope this conference will help in correcting that unfortunate misperception.”

Registration for the conference is required. The cost is $125 for three days, $55 per day, or $25 for students with a valid student ID. Parking costs $5 per day. Register online at http://eatonconference.ucr.edu/reg.php. For information, call 951-827-3233. Space is limited.

Books by conference authors will be available for sale, as will items from various vendors, including New Zealand’s Weta Workshop, which designs and manufactures special props, costumes and models for films such as the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “King Kong” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Conference registration is not necessary to visit the vendor displays.

In 1863, Jules Verne published the first of the 64 novels and short-story collections that would become known as the “Extraordinary Voyages.”

“Verne’s influence on the hardware and the locales of modern science fiction – the center of the earth, the bottom of the seas, outer space – is widely recognized,” said George Slusser, professor emeritus of comparative literature and curator emeritus of the Eaton Collection. “More significant is his influence on the shape of modern science fiction: the extraordinary voyage has become a foundational motif by which scientific knowledge is linked to the exploration of richly imagined worlds.”

Verne is best known as the author of novels such as “Five Weeks in a Balloon,” “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” “From the Earth to the Moon,” “20,000 Leagues under the Sea,” “Around the World in Eighty Days” and “The Mysterious Island.”

A science-fiction symposium will precede the conference on April 30 from 2 to 4:30 p.m. in the Special Collections Reading Room of the Rivera Library. The symposium is free and open to the public. Parking on campus costs $6.

Symposium speakers include:

Roger Luckhurst, professor of modern literature at Birkbeck College, University of London – “Science Fiction and Cultural History: Lines, Pyramids, Networks, Rhizomes.” Luckhurst is working on a cultural history of Victorian and Edwardian mummy curses and editing a new Oxford World’s Classics edition of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.”

De Witt Douglas Kilgore, associate professor of English and American Studies at Indiana Univeristy – “Aliens, Robots and Other Racial Matters in the History of Science Fiction.” Kilgore’s current research includes work on popular narratives emerging from the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI).

Veronica Hollinger, professor of cultural studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario – “A History of the Future.” Hollinger has published many articles on science fiction, with particular attention to feminist science fiction, postmodernism, queer theory and technoculture studies.

UCR is the home of the J. Lloyd 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 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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