UI Libraries acquires sci-fi fanzine collection; includes ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Star Wars’ pieces

The University of Iowa Libraries has announced the acquisition of the Mariellen (Ming) Wathne Fanzine Archive Collection. This large collection of some 3,000 science fiction fanzines is an important accumulation of fan-created work and a significant addition to the fanzine holdings of the University Libraries.

The Fanzine Archive Collection contains thousands of fanzines focused on popular media properties such as “Star Trek” and “Star Wars.” Those related to “Star Wars” were originally collected by Lucasfilm Ltd., producer of the Star Wars series. This collection was offered back to fans in the 1990s, and a California fan named Mariellen Wathne accepted it and began a lending library to distribute ‘zines among fans. In addition to “Star Wars” fanzines, there are also many fanzines related to “Star Trek,” including some of the most important early pieces.

Since the 1960s, when television series such as “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Star Trek” cultivated large followings, fans have produced their own publications developing stories involving their favorite characters. These fanzines provide a unique perspective on participatory culture—rather than passively consuming media, fans actively interacted with it and developed complex spin-off works that were distributed at conventions and through the mail, says Greg Prickman, assistant head of Special Collections at the UI Libraries.

“In many ways, fan culture pre-dates and anticipates our modern remix mash-up internet culture,” said Prickman. “And there is a great deal of scholarly interest in this type of activity today. “

The collection was acquired with the help of the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to preserving and protecting works created by media science fiction fans. As part of a concerted effort to collect fanzines and other artifacts of fandom, the University Libraries has established a joint effort with the OTW called the Fan Culture Preservation Project. The Libraries and the OTW will work together to identify important collections and bring them to the UI.

These fanzine collections help make the UI Libraries one of the country’s leading research centers for the study of 20th-century popular culture, adding to important collections documenting filmmaking, vaudeville and theatre, underground art, independent music, and science fiction fandom.