Melissa Conway Retires from the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy

Melissa Conway EI

Melissa Conway

Melissa Conway, the director of the world’s largest collection of science fiction and fantasy, announced her retirement on January 3, 2015. Conway has been at the University of California Riverside for thirteen years, arriving as Head of Special Collections in May 2001. Conway followed her husband to the west coast, having previously worked at the Library of Congress, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Yale’s Beinecke Library, and a private art collection in Washington, DC.

Conway, a specialist in medieval and Renaissance manuscripts with a Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from Yale University, had no scholarly background in science fiction when she came to UCR. “George Slusser was the Eaton Curator when I arrived, so I didn’t have to worry about promoting the Eaton,” explained Conway. But when Slusser retired shortly after she arrived and UCR decided to hire a University Archivist instead of another science fiction specialist, Conway realized she had to learn about science fiction—and quickly! “I didn’t want to be responsible for the decline of the world’s largest science fiction research collection!” she says. Conway took her role seriously, and was particularly pleased when the Eaton was assessed in an independent study as the leading science fiction research collection among Association of Research Libraries in 2006.

Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections & University Archives at UCR, displays a rare first edition of Utopian writer Tommaso Campanella's "Civitas Solis" (City of the Sun), written in Latin in 1623.

Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections & University Archives at UCR, displays a rare first edition of Utopian writer Tommaso Campanella’s “Civitas Solis” (City of the Sun), written in Latin in 1623.

Highlights among Conway’s accomplishments include reviving, in 2008, the Eaton Science Fiction Conference after a nine-year hiatus, making it not only financially self-sustaining but also profitable; establishing the Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction, honoring SF masters Ray Bradbury (2008), Frederik Pohl (2009), Samuel R. Delany (2010) Harlan Ellison (2011), Ursula K. Le Guin (2012), Ray Harryhausen and Stan Lee (2013); increasing the holdings of Eaton by 40%, largely through donations and grant funding; raising more than $5 million dollars in gifts-in-kind and cash donations, including the 1517 Paris edition of Thomas More’s Utopia, the science fiction fanzine collection of Bruce Pelz, the anime and “furry” collections of Fred Patten; the 1623 edition of Tommaso Campanella’s Civitas Solis; the Jane and Howard Frank Collection of the papers of Edwardian horror writer William Hope Hodgson; the papers of Anne McCaffrey; and the photographic archive—and $3.5 million cash endowment—of Jay Kay Klein, the largest cash gift to the UCR Library in its sixty year history.

Conway even found ways to combine her background in medieval studies with science fiction, including having been chosen in 2009 to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar in Florence, Italy on Dante and The Divine Comedy, for her project on Dante’s influence on more than fifty works of SF.

Conway wishes to acknowledge the steadfast support and essential contributions of her colleagues at UCR in the success of the Eaton, in particular Professors Rob Latham, Sherryl Vint, and Nalo Hopkinson; Julia Ree, Eaton Subject Selector; Sarah Allison, former Reading Room Coordinator in Special Collections; Dean Stephen Cullenberg, who established the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Program in the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; former University Librarian Ruth Jackson, who was a steadfast supporter of the Eaton; and the late George Slusser, who fought the good fight for twenty-five years when the Eaton Collection—and science fiction as an academic discipline—were under attack from various quarters. “Without each of them,” Conway notes, “none of these advances would have been possible.”

Conway’s brilliance and diligence as a curator and conference organizer, as well as her graciousness and good humor as a colleague, have earned her the respect and affection of the UCR faculty who have worked with her. Professor of English Rob Latham, co-director of the Science Fiction and Technoculture Studies Program, who has helped to mount two Eaton Conferences alongside Conway, says that “UCR library—and the entire SF community—simply will not be the same without her. She has been an unparalleled champion of archival research in the field, as well as a wonderful collaborator and a very good friend. Her departure is a terrible loss for all of us who love science fiction.”

“Melissa Conway was an ideal colleague: knowledgeable, dedicated and seemingly tireless in her advocacy of the Eaton collection,” says Professor of English Sherryl Vint, who co-directs the SFTS program with Latham. “She is responsible not only for sustaining this world-class collection but also for creating a vibrant and welcoming intellectual community around it. She will be dearly missed and her absence will be a loss felt across the field.”

In the words of Nalo Hopkinson, award-winning SF author and Professor of Creative Writing at UCR: “Dr. Conway’s work championing and increasing the scope of the Eaton Archive built brilliantly on Dr. Slusser’s legacy. She possessed a visionary approach to collection development and fundraising. The results speak for themselves. Under Dr. Conway’s leadership, she and her staff created an unparalleled dynamic of trust, collegiality, and cooperation with faculty in UCR’s science fiction research cluster and with the science fiction community in general. A golden era has ended.”

[From the press release.]

SF&F Translation Awards Ended

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards series has come to an end. Cheryl Morgan, a director of the Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation (ARESFFT) which administered the award, announced October 29 the organization is being dissolved.

There are many reasons for this, but mostly they are to do with the time and effort required to run the awards on an amateur basis. It has become increasingly difficult to find people willing to act as jurors. Several of the existing Directors have had major changes in their lives that have left them with far less free time than they had previously. And all attempts to find new Directors have failed to produce any volunteers.

The members of the Board of Directors were Gary K. Wolfe, President, Kevin Standlee, Secretary-Treasurer, Melissa Conway, Rob Latham, Cheryl Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson.

The SF&F Translation Awards were given from 2011-2013.

How Healthy Is the Eaton Collection?

The estate of Jay Kay Klein has donated $3.5 million to the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy announced UC Riverside officials on August 28. It is the largest gift ever received by the UCR library and ranks among the top 25 donations campuswide.

Klein contributed his photo collection of 66,000 images of sf fandom and authors to the Eaton Collection prior to his death in 2012. The photo collection was valued at $1.4 million.

Two Eaton archivists studying a Klein shipment.

Two Eaton archivists studying photos in a shipment from Jay Kay Klein. Photo by John Hertz.

These gifts are credited to the relationship he established with Melissa Conway, the library’s special collections director.

A cash donation of such magnitude might have appeared one more step in the triumphal march of the Eaton Collection’s development were it not just three weeks ago that Nalo Hopkinson, sf writer and teacher of creative writing at UC Riverside, fired off this SOS:

I’m sad to have to report that new library administration doesn’t seem to appreciate the value of the Eaton Collection or the expertise that goes into it. Since spring of this year, their accomplishments have included driving out staff members and pushing changes to collection policies that would reduce the Eaton’s holdings, its value to researchers and as a repository of our community’s history, and its standing as a world-class archive. Meetings with the staff of the Eaton have been productive, collegial gatherings. Meetings to negotiate with the new library administration, not so much. It’s putting the faculty of the research cluster in the alarming position of having to protect the very collection we’re charged with fostering. We’re dealing with the new library admins’ efforts to split up the collection and change priorities for what to collect (eg, e-text over print) without consulting scholars in the field, and with what we’d characterize as harassment of staff, who’ve demonstrated extreme competence over the years.

But Hopkinson followed that warning with this provisional good news just one week later:

We three profs in the science fiction research cluster at UCR met with Dr. Stephen Cullenberg, the Dean of Humanities. He’s the person who had the vision a few years ago to create a faculty research cluster to promote the Eaton. (I should be clear that the profs in the research cluster are not employees of the Eaton. Drs. Vint and Latham are in the English Department and I — not a Dr — am in Creative Writing.) Dr. Cullenberg told us that he’s had a message from the new UCR library administrators. They’re beginning to work on a few proposals aimed at addressing our concerns about the way they’re managing the collection. There will be negotiations and resolutions mediated through a committee that will provide a trackable log of the decisions and actions upon which we’ve all agreed. Of course, this is all a couple of theoretical birds in the bush. The time for rejoicing is when you have actual birds in hand. For, me, this isn’t so much cautious optimism as it is “wait and see.”

She also reports that Eaton’s Dr. Rob Latham wrote on Facebook:

“At this meeting we were apprised of recent, potentially positive news emanating from the library dean involving plans to establish a “focused Eaton unit” with two full-time staff positions. There has also been movement toward creating an advisory body composed of faculty and administrators from both our college and the library whose charge would be to oversee the Eaton. We are cautiously optimistic about these initiatives and hope that they will lead to an enhancement, rather than a diminishment, of the value of the Collection.

Hopkinson and Latham wrote their comments before Klein’s bequest was announced. One can only speculate whether it helped thaw the attitudes they’ve been contending against.

[Thanks to Michael Walsh for the story.]

Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award Winners

Ursula K. Le Guin, Ray Harryhausen and Stan Lee will receive the J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award in Science Fiction next April at the 2013 Eaton Science Fiction Conference.

“Science Fiction Media” will be the 2013 conference theme, chosen to reflect the “increasingly diverse forms of expression of science fiction.”

“The past several decades have witnessed an explosion in science fiction texts across the media landscape, from film and TV to comics and digital games,” said Dr. Melissa Conway, a conference co-organizer.

Scholarly papers presented at the conference will explore science fiction as a multimedia phenomenon, whether focusing on popular mass media, such as Hollywood blockbusters, or on niche and subcultural forms of expression, such as multiplayer Internet games based on genres such as fantasy and science fiction and the production of fan-made music videos that pair scenes from TV shows and movies with a particular piece of music. Information about submissions is available here.

A science-fiction writing competition for full-time undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the UC system will offer a first prize of $500 and a second prize of $250. See details at .

[Via Locus Online.]

Hertz: Of Drinks and Doors

Selina Phanara's art on the APA-L room door. Photo by Karl Lembke.

By John Hertz: (Reprinted from Vanamonde 952) When I saw an empty Moxie bottle at the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society’s first meeting in our new Clubhouse, I should have guessed someone had been to Galco’s, a shop so much more famous for carrying five hundred kinds of soft drink than for its Blockbuster sandwiches that it’s less known as Galco’s Old World Grocery than as the Soda Pop Stop.  Galco’s has as many beers, six dozen kinds of bottled water, a hundred candies including Clark Bars, Nik-L-Nips, and Sen-Sen, but soft drinks are its fame, almost any so long as bottled in glass.  After guessing someone had been there, I should have guessed it was Marc Schirmeister.  Both guesses would have been correct.  But neither of those afterthoughts was a double-take – unlike understanding the empty bottle.

Among the points upon which I concur with Marv Wolfman is the assessment of this drink.  Galco’s owner John Nese once told a visiting couple who’d driven sixty miles “Try a Moxie, then try a Coke.  The taste is so pronounced, it just pops out.”  That’s very true.  Lloyd Penney says Klingons used to arrive from Montréal with cases of it.  Moxie = courage may come from what’s needed to drink it; or may be like Old Infuriator, the Algerian wine which the British Navy supposedly served because it was so bad it would make men fight anyone, see e.g. I. Fleming, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service p. 145 (1963).

Someone must have actually consumed a bottle of Moxie.  Well, astounding things happen at the LASFS.

This Clubhouse is roomy.  It has space for our 20,000-book library.  No patio; we left our home-grown lemon tree behind.  Also the Star Wars wallpaper Marjii Ellers hung neatly in one of our bathrooms.  The new painted-concrete walls are “live”, i.e. in the acoustic sense.  Quiet is not a fannish virtue; we’re talkative; I’d not have it another way; maybe we’ll hang arras.  Given our new neighbor across the street, we can tell people “Come to the LASFS and be close to power.”

Among the attenders was Dr. Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections at the Library of the Riverside campus of the University of California; among her six, with the Tuskegee Airmen and fifteen printing presses, is the Eaton Collection, world’s largest publicly accessible collection of SF, including the Terry Carr and Bruce Pelz and Rick Sneary fanzines.  I introduced her to Karl Lembke, Chairman of the LASFS Board of Directors.  During the meeting I sat next to Selina Phanara, who thanked me.  “Why?” I asked.  “Because I did something about your door?”  In 1999 this talented artist painted the APA-L collating-room door (Amateur Press Ass’n – LASFS) with a space ship and suns.  When I learned the Club was relocating I asked Dr. Conway if Eaton wanted the door.  She said “Yes, please.”  Lembke with a little help from his friends dismounted it and put in a plain one; he now arranged to get the Phanara door to Riverside.

In the festivities I brought greetings from Paul Turner and Tim Kirk.  Kirk often drew APA-L covers in the years he won five Hugos as Best Fanartist.  Turner had asked me to be sure and credit Pelz, who fanned Turner’s building-fund spark into flame.  Jerry Pournelle said “Don’t forget to credit Chuck Crayne.”  We all cheered Pelz’ widow Elayne, the LASFS Treasurer, who’d done more than anyone else to negotiate, close, and consummate the transactions that disposed of our second Clubhouse and brought us into this our third.

Freehafer Hall in the old LASFS clubhouse on Burbank Blvd. Selina Phanara's door art is visible to the right of the pillar. Photo by Taral Wayne.

SFL Supports SF&F Translation Awards

The Speculative Literature Foundation has pledged $250 annually to help fund the SF&F Translation Awards. The awards recognize the work of those who translate science fiction and fantasy into English and promote the fiction of non English-speaking authors.

The current plan is for the award to be given for the first time to work published in 2010. The presentation is expected to be at the Eaton Conference. There are two award categories, long form (40,000 words and above) and short form. The winning translator and author will both receive a trophy and cash prize.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards are administered by the Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization whose directors are Gary K. Wolfe, Kevin Standlee, Melissa Conway, Rob Latham and Cheryl Morgan.

The full press release follows the jump.

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Roots of Dragon*Con?

Ned Brooks

With Dragon*Con approaching you’d naturally expect Access Atlanta to run a feature about this major hometown event. But would you expect it to be devoted to a veteran fanzine fan?

More than 40,000 Klingons, Jedi knights and devotees of science fiction and fantasy are expected to descend on downtown Atlanta starting Friday for the 24th annual DragonCon festival.

Where do these people come from? An answer lies in a nondescript house in a Lilburn subdivision, stuffed with typewriters and mimeograph machines, staplers and faded amateur anthologies.

Welcome to the home of Cuyler “Ned” Brooks, fanzine publisher.

The reporter also quotes Toni Weisskopf of Baen Books and Melissa Conway, curator of the special collection of fanzines at UC Riverside.