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Fanzines from the Hevelin Collection (courtesy of UI Libraries and Special Collections)

To increase access to the fan culture that was integral to the rise of science fiction in the 20th century, the University of Iowa Libraries is digitizing 10,000 fanzines. The project, announced last month, will focus on materials from the James L. “Rusty” Hevelin Collection, from elaborately hand-illustrated titles to some of the first writing by authors of the genre.

Cover of a 1940 issue of The Science Fiction Fan from the Hevelin Collection (courtesy of UI Libraries and Special Collections) (click to view larger)

The collection was acquired by the library in 2012 following the death of Hevelin in 2011. A lifelong sci-fi fan, Hevelin hitchhiked in 1941 to his first science fiction convention and was immersed in the culture, collecting fanzines, creating his own, and helping to organize conventions. Fanzines like the Futurian War Digest from the 1940s made in Leeds, England, and The Phantagraph published in the 1930s and 40s in New York were DIY materials imagined for a growing sci-fi community and often distributed by hand. They also provided an accessible platform for writers including Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clark who would go from fanzines to the icons of the genre. As Curator of Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections Peter Balestrieri explains in the announcement: “Some of the earliest works by these writers can be found in Rusty’s collection of fanzines, along with important writing from all of the major fans who created this new form of popular culture.”

The digital database is just part of the University of Iowa’s concentration on fan-generated cultural history, and its libraries have an extensive holding of fandom-related collections, such as fanzines for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek. As the Hevelin Collection materials are digitized they’ll be added to the UI Libraries’ DIY History interface, which already includes transcription projects like the correspondence of railroad baron Thomas C. Durant on building the transcontinental railroad, and culinary manuscripts dating back to the 1600s. And in true fandom form, a select group of aficionados will have direct access to the transcribing and annotation of the sci-fi fanzines as part of the project.

You can follow the digitization of the fanzines at the Hevelin Collection Tumblr, where they’ll be posting progress updates.

Phantasy Press zine with a photographic print of a space diorama from the Hevelin Collection (courtesy of UI Libraries and Special Collections)

Read more about the Hevilin Collection digitization at the UI Libraries blog

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Allison Meier

Allison C. Meier is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Oklahoma, she has been covering visual culture and overlooked history for print...