Science Fiction Magazine Exhibit Explores Culture

University Libraries’ Special Collections hosted the “Amazing and Astounding: Science Fiction Pulp Magazines from 1920 to 1950” exhibit August 20–October 3, 2014. The display featured dozens of pulps, generously lent by collector William Lomax, Ph.D., from his collection of nearly 20,000 volumes of science fiction magazines.

In addition to the magazine covers’ vibrant artwork, the bygone social mores preserved in the publications draw Lomax to these imaginative fictional works. “They have a sense of values that we might identify as Christian values today—justice, honor, courage, exploration, curiosity, passion, and sense of wonder,” he said. “But modern science fiction has rejected all of that.”

“The magazines provide a window into the sociocultural idiosyncrasies of their respective eras,” said Scott Rosen, MLS, exhibit curator. “Racial, ethnic, and gender stereotypes exist in some of the material that might be offensive by today’s standards,” he said, “but it tells us something about the time period in which it was created.”

Two additional events, Lomax’s September 6 lecture and the September 13 “Classic Sci Fi Double Feature,” offered unique opportunities to further engage with the exhibit. The lecture included a discussion of the writers, editors, and artists who shaped modern science fiction, and the double-feature event screened two classic science fiction films, followed by panel discussions with Lomax, Rosen, and Thomas Parham, Ph.D., chair and professor of the Department of Cinematic Arts.

Lomax expressed an interest in giving his collection to the university in the future, a donation that Rosen said could put the university “on the map” as one of the leaders in science fiction study among the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.