Eaton Geeks

When an earlier generation of wowsers derided that “Crazy Buck Rogers stuff” they weren’t kidding. When today’s journalists pitch into geeks and nerds it’s hard to take offense although they’re writing in an identical tone — in contrast to the teenagers of First Fandom, the targeted group is, if not the majority, at least in the mainstream, so nobody’s self-esteem is likely to be bruised.

And lately, Wired magazine’s choice of the Eaton Collection as a Hotspot on a list of  “Geeky Destinations and Smart Side Trips” has encouraged writers to lovingly lampoon UC Riverside’s as a nerd’s treasure house of science fiction.   

John Weeks supplies an example in his column for the Contra Costa Times, “Geeks of the world trek to Riverside”:

Wow, what site is it? Hold on to your pocket protectors and listen. It’s the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Utopian Literature in the Special Collections Department of the Tomas Rivera Library at UC Riverside.

Even you wonks with thick glasses held together by tape can see the connection, can’t you? Nerds love comic books, which means they love science fiction and fantasy, which means they are bound to make a beeline to the Eaton.

The university itself has gotten into the act with a recent post titled “A haven for the spooky and geeky”. Unlike Weeks’ column, however, it is more than a cute exercise in verbal imagery, and offers substantive insights from an interview with Nalo Hopkinson:

The accolade in Wired recognized the often-overlooked connection between technological innovation and science fiction, said Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born writer of science fiction and fantasy who joined UC Riverside’s creative writing faculty this fall. 

Hopkinson pointed out that Bill Gates and Paul Allen, the co-founders of Microsoft, were science fiction buffs. British newspaper columnist Damien Walter recently reported that Chinese authorities have encouraged the popularity of science fiction, hoping to foster U.S.-style innovation. But the Chinese authorities got more than they bargained for when author Chen Guanzhong came up with a cogent political critique in his novel “The Prosperous Time: China 2013.”

Science fiction has been a powerful tool for social commentary since the days of “Gulliver’s Travels,” according to Hopkinson. 

“Science fiction and fantasy wrestle with the clash of cultures, with the way humans change the world around them, and who does the dirty work,” she said. 

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]