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They Will Be Assimilated

Eaton Collection will absorb two more large hoards of science fiction.

by: Laurie Williams   (December 2005)

In the universes of science fiction, assimilation of other entities is a demanding proposition. Ask the Borg of “Star Trek,” or “The Puppet Masters” of Robert A. Heinlein’s 1951 novel.

Or ask Special Collections staffers at UCR’s Tomás Rivera Library, who are adding two very large accumulations of science fiction materials to the already enormous J. Lloyd Eaton Science Fiction Collection.

Collector Fred Patten donated his 25- year accumulation after he suffered a stroke in March and had to give up his apartment.What worried him most, he said, was what would happen to his collection.

“I was afraid someone would load it all up and throw everything in the trash,” said Patten, an expert on Japanese animé cartoons and manga comics.

But Patten saw hope in the careful treatment that another large collection – one belonging to his late friend and fellow Los Angeles-area science fiction fan, Bruce Pelz – was getting as part of UC Riverside’s J. Lloyd Eaton Science Fiction Collection. In April, crews of science fiction fans packed Patten’s collection into 900 boxes and delivered it to UCR.

“It’s a huge job, all right,” said Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections, standing amid stacks of packing boxes and peering at the contents: colorful comics, Japanese animé and manga, fanzines, souvenirs from decades of science fiction conventions, early stories by budding writers and more.

“We’re still figuring out what’s here, and we will be for some time. But we’re finding some fabulous things,” said Conway.

Since then, box by box, Tomás Rivera Library staffers, student workers and volunteers have been cataloging Patten’s and Pelz’s donations. The process will take a year or more, Conway said.

Pelz, a librarian at UCLA, died in 2002, having already begun to send his collection of fanzines and other papers, hundreds of boxes and 20 file cabinets, to UCR.

Conway said that these collections bring an invaluable 70-year historical perspective to scholars and the public – a window on a developing literary genre and the culture in which it grew.

Composed of fragile, older paper items – including Pelz’s hundreds of thousands of amateur-published fanzines – these collections will receive painstaking treatment from conservation specialists in Special Collections, said Conway.

“Science fiction is one of the most interesting developments of the 20th century,” said John Hertz, a Los Angeles attorney and science fiction fan who has visited UCR several times to help catalog the new acquisitions. “Because Conway and George Slusser, the collection’s curator emeritus, saw value where others might not have, UC Riverside can provide researchers with a great resource.”

For Patten, now living in a nursing home in North Hollywood, the Eaton Collection has another virtue:

“It’s close enough that when I get better I can go for visits.”

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