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“From Verne to Vonnegut” Exhibition

Illustration derived from an illustration by Robert Fuqua in Amazing Stories, April 1939, copyright status unknown. Special Collections, University of Delaware Library.

    The University of Delaware Library announces the forthcoming exhibition entitled “From Verne to Vonnegut: A Century of Science Fiction” which will be on view in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery in the Morris Library, University of Delaware, Newark from Tuesday, August 22, 2006, through Friday, December, 15, 2006.

    Science fiction has been popular for readers of all ages for over one hundred years.  The genre has thrived because its flexibility has allowed writers to speculate on human’s place in our world and infinite other worlds, relationships between the sexes, religion, ecology, politics, and censorship.  The curator of “From Verne to Vonnegut” is Iris Snyder, Associate Librarian, Special Collections Department.

    There is no clear starting date for science fiction.  Some scholars cite Sir Thomas More’s sixteenth century Utopia or Jonathan Swift’s early eighteenth century Gulliver’s Travels as examples of science or speculative fiction.  Most scholars tend to mark the beginning of the genre as the late 1920s when science fiction stories began to appear in pulp magazines.  The growing availability of cheap paperback novels in the 1930s led to a flourishing market for space adventures novels.  This so-called “golden age” lasted until the 1950s.  Since that time the genre has strayed from pure adventure stories or “space operas” to tackle more serious psychological and societal issues.  Writing styles also have become more sophisticated, blurring the lines between “genre” and “literary” fiction.

    The science fiction collection of Special Collections at the University of Delaware includes over 25,000 items.  These include the recent acquisition of the extensive collection of Roland Bounds, the well-known Delaware collector.  This collection includes a substantial number of vintage paperbacks (pre-1965) and pulp magazines (pre-1953), as well as hardcover trade fiction from the 1970s to the 1990s, including many first editions.  Completing the Bounds Collection is a fascinating collection of science fiction ephemera, movie memorabilia, and reference materials.

    Special Collections also holds comprehensive collections of the works of Samuel Delany, Kurt Vonnegut and Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The collection pertaining to Delany, an African-American science fiction writer, includes multiple editions of his novels, short stories and critical essays, as well as manuscripts of several of his works.  The collection pertaining to Vonnegut, the American novelist and satirist, includes over eighty editions of his work in English and translations, and manuscripts and correspondence.  Special Collections also holds over a hundred titles by Burroughs, an early twentieth-century science fiction and fantasy writer.

    The focus of the exhibition will be on material published between 1880 and 1980 and earlier works that led to the development of the genre will be included.  The exhibition is arranged thematically by topics such as utopias/dystopias, feminist science fiction, gender issues, and alternative histories. 

    Artwork from book jackets and magazine covers will add a colorful and sometimes amusing element to the exhibition.  Bug-eyed monsters, damsels in distress, and homemade rocket ships were commonly found on covers from the 1930s and 1940s.  Movie posters and ephemeral fantasy art also will brighten the gallery walls.


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