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Eaton Science Fiction Conference Returns May 1–3, 2009

Eaton Science Fiction Conference Returns May 1–3, 2009

UC Riverside's annual celebration of sci-fi literature will celebrate Jules Verne.

(July 22, 2008)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Long before the invention of aircraft, automobiles and submarines, 19th century author Jules Verne described those modes of transportation in dozens of novels and short stories. The author of those tales of extraordinary voyages will be the focus of the 2009 Eaton Science Fiction Conference, scheduled May 1–3 at the University of California, Riverside.

"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.

The conference will examine the traditions Verne exploited, the French author's work, and his far-ranging influence in modern fiction and culture.

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."

The UCR Libraries are fully committed to supporting the continuation of the Eaton Science Fiction Conference on the Riverside campus, said Ruth M. Jackson, university librarian. Before 2008, eight previous conferences were held at other locations across the country and around the world.

"We're delighted to be able to move forward and hold the Eaton Science Fiction Conference annually on the UCR campus," said Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections at the UCR Libraries.

Jackson noted that science fiction has evolved rapidly in the past 30 years.

"It is beginning to take its rightful place as a serious literary form, a means of expanding acceptance of diversity, and a potent catalyst in exploring ethics as applied to research," she said. "Science fiction has contributed much to scientific progress in such areas as medicine, robotics, genetic research, and space exploration. Most importantly, it has sparked the imagination and emerged as a great 20th century creative force."

Rob Latham, editor of the international journal Science Fiction Studies, said the revival of the annual Eaton conference is "only the beginning of what promises to be a renaissance for science fiction studies at UC Riverside."

"We will be hosting a number of public talks and other events by major scholars and authors in the field over the coming years," said Latham, who joins the UCR English Department this year as an associate professor. "We will also be hiring two new faculty in the area, with the long-term goal of building an academic program in science fiction and technoculture studies."

The 2009 conference will present the Eaton Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction to Frederik Pohl, award-winning author of the "Heechee" series.

Scholars who wish to present papers at the conference may submit abstracts of 300 to 500 words by Dec. 15 to Conway at For more information about submissions go online to

The second annual science-fiction writing competition for full-time undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the UC system will return. First prize is $500 and second prize is $250. Submissions must by postmarked by Feb. 2, 2009. For entry details, including requirements for submitting entries, visit the conference Web site.

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 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 Spanish, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, German and a dozen other languages.

Conway noted that a crew shooting a documentary for the anniversary edition of the Disney Studios production of "20,000 Leagues under the Sea" — which was released in 2002 — filmed covers and illustrations of several of the rare Jules Verne editions in Special Collections.

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."

The University of California, Riverside ( 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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