As it has every year since 1970, July heralds the arrival in San Diego of the pop culture phenomenon known as Comic-Con International. From its humble beginnings as a single-day comic book convention, Comic-Con has grown into a four-day multimedia extravaganza celebrating all aspects of popular arts – comics, science fiction and fantasy literature, collectibles, gaming, cosplay, movies and television, and more – that attracts 130,000 devoted attendees from around the globe.
You’re probably thinking, “But John, what does a pop culture convention have to do with an academic institution that’s been ranked as the 17th best in the world, according to the Center for World University Rankings?” I was hoping you’d ask. Though it may not be immediately apparent, UC San Diego has long served as a sort of incubator for some of the most respected and provocative writers in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. Authors who claim UC San Diego as their alma mater include David Brin (the Uplift series), Gregory Benford (the Galactic Center Saga), Vernor Vinge (Rainbow’s End), and Kim Stanley Robinson (the Mars trilogy). Since attending UC San Diego several of these alumni have maintained their ties to the University of California by teaching at various UC campuses, and appearing at UC-sponsored academic conferences and symposia.
In addition to UC San Diego, other campuses in the UC system have contributed significantly to science fiction, fantasy, and pop art studies. Most notable is UC Riverside, which houses the world-renowned Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy. The Eaton Collection, featured in our Web series It Came From Riverside, is “the largest publicly accessible collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and utopian and dystopian literature in the world,” and consists of more than 300,000 items. Many of the writers and illustrators associated with UC have donated to the collection, and scholars consider it a unique and indispensible resource.
These and other personalities and topics are featured in UCSD-TV’s omnibus series, Comics, Pop Culture, and Science Fiction. This series gathers together programs on a wide range of subjects related to Comic-Con, including profiles and conversations with industry artists (David Gerrold, Michael Westmore), in-depth analyses of popular films and TV shows (Blade Runner, Lost, The Walking Dead), and discussions of important issues in the science fiction and fantasy genres (Marv Wolfman, David Brin). Whether an aficionado or merely curious, you’re sure to find something that will intrigue, stimulate, and inspire.
Contributed by arts and humanities producer John Menier