Friday, October 19, 2007

Klingons at Temple

I'll begin this post with the caveat that I'm not a big science fiction fan and what I don't know about Star Trek and Cons and so on could fill a decent sized library. That being said, one of the sci-fi collections that we surveyed recently at Temple University has really stuck with me. (Temple has a great science fiction collection, by the way, if you're interested. Check out their page describing the Paskow Science Fiction Collection.) The one we looked at the other day is the Sue Frank Klingon/Star Trek collection of fanzines and organizational newsletters. These were assembled by Dr. Frank from groups within and outside of the U.S. -- fan groups are to be found in Britain, New Zealand, and Italy, among other places. The titles include "Klingon Assault Group Force Recon," "The Pillage Voice," "Engage!," "Disruptor," and "Something Else." The newsletters reflect the range of Klingon-related activities afoot in the terran world. They contain drawings, photos, recipes, letters, poems, stories, technical information, and analyses of many aspects of Klingon language and culture. And lots of pearls of information; did you know, for example, that the species of cocoa bean grown on earth is inferior to that grown by the Klingons?

The collection consists of about six linear feet of material, so I'm sure it's just a drop in the bucket of the total Star Trek fan literature that exists in the world. Even so, when you see it all together, it seems like a great resource, both for those looking for the facts and the flavor of Klingon life and for those interested in the phenomenon of Star Trek fandom. What the collection as a whole conveys is the extent to which this piece of popular culture has worked its way into people's everyday lives. It's impossible to tell from the fanzines what proportion of their lives the fans spend as Klingons; I assume that for at least some of the fans, the Klingon identity is pretty central.

At any rate, the production of all this Klingon-related material is a nice illustration of the theme of the "dedicated collector" that crops up again and again in our surveying. (With this collection, I think both Sue Frank and the creators of the fanzines count as dedicated collectors). The collections we see that were created by this kind of devoted, focused person are almost always compelling, if not always as obviously interesting as the Klingon stuff. When a collection is visibly a labor of love, it inspires a certain respect, regardless of the research value of the information contained within.

And for a summary of science fiction collections around the country (including plenty of Star Trek materials), see the Research Resources at AboutSF.

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