Star Wars

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Fandom
Name: Star Wars
Abbreviation(s): SW, Wars
Creator: George Lucas
Date(s): 1977: Star Wars (Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope)

1978: The Star Wars Holiday Special
1981, 1983, 1996: The Star Wars Radio Shows
1980: The Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back)
1983: Return of the Jedi (Star Wars: Episode VI - Revenge of the Jedi)
1999: The Phantom Menace (Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace)
2002: Attack of the Clones (Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones)
2005:Revenge of the Sith (Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith)

2008: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Medium: Film
Country of Origin: United States
External Links: IMDB


Subpages for Star Wars:
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Contents

Star Wars is a space opera film series with a huge worldwide fandom and a massive impact on pop culture.

Brief Fandom Overview: The Original Trilogy

At the time of the first movie's release in 1977, Star Wars fandom grew rapidly, with fan clubs, zines, and fan-run conventions.

One of the earliest fan clubs was The Royal Order of the Rebel Forces formed in 1977. It was run by Paula Truelove, who was later co-editor of the Harrison Ford fanzine Flip of a Coin. Another club was Forces of the Empire[1], which was established in 1980 and is still in existence today. Clubs were not restricted to the United States: both the Moons of Yavin Fan club in England [2] and Maikel Das's Northern German Star Wars group [3] located in Hamburg [4] sprang into existence and operated for many years, producing both fanzines and art.

cover of an issue of Empire Review, portrait of Our Founder

There was an official Star Wars newsletter that did publish some fan art and meta articles by fans. Bantha Tracks[5] was published from 1978 to 1987 by LucasFilm as part of the Fan Relations department.

The first Star Wars movie came out just as the new Star Trek movie was in early production at Paramount. The success of the Star Wars movie helped persuade Hollywood to move ahead with a Star Trek feature film rather than a revised television series. However, Star Wars was not entirely welcomed by all Star Trek fans. "Not all of Star Trek fandom reacted favorably to Star Wars, however. Two extremes have already formed, one saying that 'Trek is doomed' (a new slogan) citing Star Wars as its killer, and the other faction maintaining a grin-and-bear-it attitude, assuming that the enthusiasm will wane eventually leaving ST fandom intact and Star Wars as 'just another...movie.'" [6]

1978, the editors of the Star Trek fanzine Sol Plus advertised for new submissions, saying: "...and please, Star Trek only, no Star Wars!" This showed that Star Trek fans were increasingly writing Star Wars material, and sending it to Star Trek editors for publication. [7]

By 1979, however, Star Wars was being recognized at fan run conventions and the first FanQ awards were given to Star Wars fans: Maggie Nowakowska for her Star Wars stories the Thousandworlds Collected series, and Martynn, who illustrated Star Wars stories.[8]

In 1980, the annual convention for fanzine producers and readers moved from Michigan to New York for one year. "The name, Mos' Eastly Con, showed the growing influence of Star Wars. Organizers evenly split the panels between Star Trek and Star Wars; the remaining panels covered general topics (such as "the art of editing")." [9]

Star Wars fanzines and other fan works continued to be published through the 1980s and 1990s, with interest in the fandom waxing and waning over the years, often timed to the release of a new movie. For example, in 1993 and again from 2004-2008, there were no Star Wars specific FanQ awards.

At the Birth of the Fandom

By next year, at the very least, a new fandom will spring into existence: Star Wars fandom. But why a whole fandom for just one movie? Why so much excitement just for two hours of fantasy on film?... The mundane reviewers suggest that people are tired of all the disaster films, the film jammed with social commentary, heavy symbolism and heavy meanings. Or maybe there hasn't been a big escapism film in a long time, and Star Wars luckily cased in by appearing at just the right time? Or maybe the special effects just swept everyone up in an identical wave of enthusiasm? Yet, not only has the mundane public turned out in record numbers to see Star Wars. Fandom has gone all out, too, and not Star Trek fandom either. All of the SF-related fandoms are talking about Star Wars: comix fandom, Sword & Sorcery, even Tolkien... Just to look at Star Trek fandom in particular, the popularity can be traced to the fact that Paramount has stalled far too long in bringing out the new series. Star Trek fandom was ripe for Star Wars to find a willing audience. Another thing about Star Wars is the scope of the film. There is an epic quality to Star Wars... It's a grand tale full of adventure and suspense... Star Trek never had that epic quality. The whole of ST might have, but you might have to think a while before you could grasp it all. Star Wars shows that epic tale in the space of two hours, so that you don't have time to lose a single instant of it... A Star Wars fandom seems almost destined. Zine should appear shortly and one can only wonder when the first Star Wars convention will be. As in the case of ST fandom in the late '60's and early '70's, it will probably be a case of Star Wars appearing as part of the programming in regular ST, SF and Comicons, until a large enough cult exists to hold separate Star Wars cons... Many of them have already instituted SW panels, and Star Wars characters now swamp the costume competitions with a multitude of Lukes, Solos, and Wookies. [10]
SW fandom didn't just spring up ready-developed in 1977. There was a short time between the appearance of the movie and the first major fan activities and publications. [This] period between the time when the potential for a fandom exists, but has not yet been realized is known in sf fandom as Eofandom... One of the earliest criticisms of SW fandom I heard was that it never had a chance to develop on its own. SW fandom, critics claimed, was more public relations hype than it was true fandom. While this may be true, fandoms are not formed by corporations. Corporations can encourage the beginnings of a fandom, but they cannot create fandom... Twentieth Centurey could have come up with a prefab fandom for SW unless there was a potential there all along. [11]

For more on this topic, see Who Comes With Summer.

Some Fanwork Firsts

the front cover of Warped Space #26/27, published in July 1977, the artist is Gordon Carleton
front cover of Yandro #241, December 1977, an early example of Star Wars fan art
back cover of Probe #12, by Cecilia Cosentini, dated August 1977, printed in February 1978

Star Wars fannish material began to appear in zines almost immediately. In September 1977, a fan wrote: "I know of at least 4 zineds in ST fandom who are already planning zines..." [12]

The first zines:

  • Hyper Space (fiction and non-fiction) ties with The Force (non-fiction) as the first Star Wars zines published (both June 1977)
  • Warped Space #26/27 (July 1977) cover was a Star Wars one, artist was Gordon Carleton
  • Warped Space #28 published the first Star Wars story in a multimedia zine in July 1977
  • Moonbeam #3 (fiction) [13] [14] and the letterzine, Alderaan, were both published in February 1978
  • Against the Sith (fiction and non-fiction) and Skywalker (fiction) were published in April 1978, though Against the Sith beat Skywalker by a few weeks. [15]

Before the internet, fans kept in contact via regular mail and letterzines, which were small, cheaply produced zines that printed letters from the subscribers, often including new zine announcements, meta discussions and essays, and flame wars as well as friendly chat and news about the movies and the fan community. Some fan club groups also produced their own letterzines, some including members' fan fiction and fan art. Three key letterzines were Alderaan (1978-1981), Jundland Wastes (1981-1983), and Southern Enclave (1984-2000).

Hundreds of zines were published and sold by fans through the mail and at conventions such as MediaWest*Con; some are still in production or available through used zines sales at conventions or on eBay.

For more on zines, see Star Wars Fanzines.

George Lucas' Involvement and Knowledge of Fandom

George Lucas was notoriously controlling, and frequently intolerant of fannish activity.

The Effect of Star Wars on Star Trek

from The Sehlat's Roar #5, Gordon Carleton,

"What do you mean you're all standing in line to see 'Star Wars'?! That's mutiny, mister!"

"Yes, sir -- I guess it is."
Star Wars warning printed in APOTA #55, click to read
Fans often used humor to defuse the tension between Star Wars and Star Trek fandoms. This illustration from Galactic Discourse #4 (1983) showing Kirk explaining that he is the last Jedi is the first of two by Suzan Lovett for the "Scenes We’d Like To See" art portfolio. The second scene shows Spock peering down at Yoda and saying, "Really I don’t see the resemblance, doctor."

The Star Wars fandom enticed many fans away from the Star Trek fandom, something that often created bad feelings between the two.

In September 1977, a Star Trek fan writes about Star Wars and Star Trek:

Not all of Star Trek fandom has reacted favorably to Star wars however. Two extremes have already formed, one saying that 'Trek is Dead.' citing Star Wars as its killer; and the other faction maintains a grin-and-bear it attitude, assuming that the enthusiasm will eventually wane, leaving ST fandom intact, and that Star Wars 'is just another rerun movie.' Actually, both groups in those extremes are in a few disappointments. For the people that maintain Trek is dead, there are still those die-hard Trek fen who consider ST the ultimate show of all time. Those types of fans will always hold on to whatever they see in Star Trek to the exclusion of what any competition may offer. Some people are also just too hooked on ST fandom to ever give it up for something else, and others may stay with ST fandom simply to avoid the effort and hassles of 'making it' in another fandom. [16]
In October 1977, the Star Trek Welcommittee printed a prominent warning to fans who may be interested in writing Star Wars (which had just been released a few months earlier) fiction. This warning doesn't appear to have any basis in example, something the notice mentions. It may be an attempt to keep fans within the Star Trek fandom and an example of the early tensions between the fandoms. It may be a brag by ST fans, pointing out that Roddenberry had been a benign PTB. Or it may have been much more a friendly warning, one with no hidden motives. The text of the warning:
IMPORTANT! Please take note: If you are a zine editor, writer, etc., who is planning to publish/contribute to a fanzine based on STAR WARS...be advised 20th Century Fox may not be quite as understanding as Paramount has been for years about Star Trek. YOU ARE IN VIOLATION OF BOTH 20th CENTURY FOX'S & BALLANTINE BOOKS' EXCLUSIVE LITERARY RIGHTS IF YOU ARE PUBLISHING STAR WARS FICTION. BOTH of these prestigious corporations/companies have the legal right to SUE TO THE FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW anyone publishing SW-based fan fiction (or spin-off fiction). As APOTA has been informed., there have been no known cases of Ballantine taking such action, but do you want to be their test case? [17]
For some fans, the change in fannish interests was due to what they perceived of as a lack fresh ideas and boredom. A fan writes:
Many of us are 'graduates' of ST fandom, and it seemed to me that after a while every other ST story was about 'Kirk dies and Spock goes off his logical rocker,' or 'Spock dies and Kirk just can't bear to live anymore,'... continual variations on one very narrow theme. The 'overkill' on this kind of Relationship story (I'm talking here about the Friendship relationship, not K/S) got to be 'way too much... One reason I left ST for SW was because SW themes were fresh, not the same old relationship hash. [18]

There were a number of con panels at Media West in the early 1980s that addressed fans' divided loyalties. One example was the 1982 panel titled: "Fan Wars or the ST-SW 'Feud.'"

In a flyer for Combining Forces, a Star Wars zine, the editors promise a certain context: "In the continuing search for our roots, we'll have a Star Trek story or two, by our resident Trekophiles..."

Fans Debate the Differences Between Star Trek and Star Wars

Star Trek was the first major media fandom and set up a series of expectations and templates that Star Wars, the second major media fandom, used. Some of these assumptions were positive, some not so much.

The Differences Between George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry's Roles: Fans coming from the Star Wars fandom had many expectations that Lucas would be the same sort of TPTB that Roddenberry had been, and in that, they were often disappointed with Lucas' lack of playfulness with his fandom and in his often seemingly outright hostility.

I suspect that may of SW fandom's problems with Lucasfilm over the years, whether the problems, have been real or in fandom's own mind, have stemmed from the lack of inside understanding of media fandom at Lucasfilm. Maureen Garrett is the first fan liaison to have made a real effort to understand media fandom, though her background, I believe, was as an SF fan. On the other hand, the problems have not all been on Lucasfilm's side. Organized SW fandom has wanted a special place in the spectrum of SW fandom, as organized ST fandom had in ST. Trouble is, the situations are not comparable. ST fandom spoiled many of us, in a way. ST fans were courted for a long time, since it became obvious that a dedicated and devoted fandom existed even after the show's cancellation. Organized ST fandom was never very large -- though larger than SW fandom, even at the latter's heyday but t was vocal and it wrote letters. And for a decade, it was the mechanism that kept ST alive... ST fans were integral to that resurrection -- at the left hand of God, so to speak... SW fandom has never been in that position. Organized SW fans were not, and are not, necessary to the original success and continued viability of SW... The viability of any future SW movies will be based on the success of the first three and George Lucas' overall reputation as a producer of megahits, not the devotion and vocal partisanship of a small group of fans. [19]

The Differences in the Topic of the Fandom Itself: Opinions about differences between the two fandoms include the claims that

ST’s characters are all heroes while SW’s characters are more complex in ambitions, goals, attitude. And SW characters are at point of choice in their lives, whereas ST characters know where they are going if not all the details of the trip. How would you react to this situation? [20]
The debate over the legitimacy of the Empire and the hero status of Darth Vader was the first Big Controversy in SW fandom. Those who supported the Empire were articulate writers, well-versed in history; more than one came from a military background and could argue the expediency of battle and politics with aplomb. Their letters and articles [in zines] shocked many fans. Responses to the radical notion that the Empire was legitimate came close to crossing the line between discourse and personal attack. Echoing in the disbelief that anyone could not simply accept the Alliance as the good guys was the dawning realization that the assumption of ological unity that existed in ST fandom did not apply to SW fandom. Political opinions had begun to color fannish reactions, a development for which there were no established etiquette. While there had always been ST fans who felt the Klingons and especially the Romulans received bad press, the presumption that the Federation represented humanity at its best so far was fact or most fans. The Prime Directive as a good idea was accepted without too much question. Now, however, fandom was presented with a universe where human strove against human, allowing equal species time for radically different ideas. Added to that was the real time release of SW: after the end of the Vietnam War and its attendant protests; after the Watergate scandal that eventually force Richard Nixon out of the presidency; many years after the riotous days of the late 1960 and early 1970s. The idealism that had nurtured the popularity of ST was growing lean as American entered the Reagan years. The country, and even fandom, grew more conservative and more cynical. The argument of 'the end justifies the mean,' which barely existed in ST fandom, began to appear in discussion of the Empire and the Alliance. [21]

The Luke and Han Wars

cartoon from Jundland Wastes #3 by an unknown artist that shows some fan's dissatisfaction with Han "getting the girl" in the end

There was much tension among some fans regarding who was the "real hero" of Star Wars, a subject that became more complicated with each movie installment.

Star Wars Was Constantly Jossed

Because of the long lapses between the first three films (to say nothing of the last three), fans and their creative works were constantly jossed. The revelation that Darth Vader was Luke's father in the second film threw fans for a loop, as did the second reveal in the third movie, that Luke and Leia were sister and brother.

Women In Star Wars Fandom

Star Wars has traditionally been seen as a primarily male-dominated fandom. As a result, the role that women have played in the development of the fandom has been often overlooked.

In 1982, Pat Nussman published an article in Comlink #9, a Star Wars letterzine entitled: "Where the Boys Are." In the article she explored the gender make-up of media fandom at the time and argued that it was skewed towards greater female participation, specifically in Star Wars fandom. The existence of such an article suggests that Star Wars fandom, like other areas of life, is not so much dominated by one gender or another as it is (or was) sex-segregated. See also Where are the women bloggers? at the Geek Feminism Wiki.

In 1995, the AOL Star Wars fan club began hosting Tuesday "Ladies Night" online chats. "Star Wars Ladies Night in private room 'Star Ladies'. The Star Wars Ladies Night is a free form discussion group that provides an opportunity for SW fans to discuss issues of interest to women. Join us as we discuss the Star Wars trilogy and its legacy from a woman's point of view. E-mail Ghislaine or LdyTempus for more info." [22]

There was also The Women of Star Wars Home Page, a resource site active from 1997 to 2000, and the Leia-centric archive Organa-Zation. Both of these were on Geocities.

"Princess Leia and the Warrior Woman" by lazypadawan examines Leia's role in Star Wars.

Some Difficult Times

After Return of the Jedi was released, Star Wars fandom entered a trying period. There were no new movies on the horizon, and the last one had been somewhat of a letdown, anyway. The wounds opened by debate, much of it pointed and painful, in Jundland Wastes caused many fans to lick their wounds and back off.

There were some dark years ahead as SW fandom came to terms with the irreconcilable differences that exist among its members. Differences of opinion seemed to automatically transform into accusations. Sarcastic “how could you possibly believe that…” comments escalated into personal attacks on the opposing fan’s moral judgments. The word “fascist” had been used before to deride arguments in favor of the Imperials, but now fans were accused of such attitudes simply because they disagreed with another fan’s opinion. As mentioned earlier, fandom finally got angry enough to engage its most powerful defense: shunning. The instigators of the worst hostility found their letters were ignored; received and printed, yes, but no one responded. The topics and conversations flowed on around them without the slightest indication that their hostility mattered to anyone. And, eventually, those hateful letters stopped coming to the editor. Unfortunately, people were already well-burned. The legacy of the bad days muted lively discourse for years. The assumption that an unconventional opinion would automatically inspire a return to arms seemed accepted by many fans. People couched opinions with self-abasing modifiers, or simply waited for someone else to speak up. And, often, no one did — in print. There were some dry periods amongst the LoCs. Slowly, SW fans found their way back to a livelier conversational exchange. Articles began to reappear. The Pro SW novels began to appear, rekindling interest in younger fans. Rumors of new movies became facts and everyone wanted to share their speculations. And then came The Web. [23]

Move To The Internet

In the mid to late 90s, Star Wars fanfiction began to appear online in multi-fandom mailing lists, archives, and personal author sites, and finally in new Star Wars-centric archives. At first, much of the new fanfiction available online was drawn from the new Star Wars novel series, such as The Jedi Academy Trilogy (first published in 1994) and the X-Wing Series (beginning in 1996). The Corellian Embassy started up in 1998, with the goal of getting movie fanfiction from the older fanzines of the 70s and 80s online where new fans could find it. It was followed by sites like the Organa-Zation, SWA-L, The Sith Academy, The Force.Net's fanfiction section, Elusive Lover, and many others. Many of the early sites were on free services like GeoCities or AngelFire, and have since been lost. A few of the Geocities websites have been archived and are listed List of GeoCities Fansites#Star_Wars here. A comprehensive list of websites featuring Star Wars fan fiction and fan art, mailing lists and resource websites can be found on Stay On Target.

Impact of Star Wars Prequel Movies

This article or section needs expansion.

See The Phantom Menace.

Adult/Slash Themes

In 1982, Maureen Garrett, president of the official Star Wars Fan Club sent a 'warning' to Star Wars fanzines that were publishing adult themed fiction. This reflected the uneasy relationship that Star Wars fans had with Lucasfilm.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, Lucasfilm remained closely tied to Star Wars fan clubs and fanzine publishers, even asking fans to submit their fanzines to the studio for 'archiving' purposes. Some fans believed that Lucasfilm was using this as a pretext to monitor their fan works to ensure compliance with Lucasfilm's vision of a franchise with "no pornography, vulgarity, or explicit gore and violence." (See Lucasfilm for more). Ironically, the warning was over a het story that even by then standards would have garnered an R rating. For some fans, this was a welcomed attempt to curb what they felt was an unacceptable proliferation of adult themed fan fiction. In fact, some Star Trek fans, unhappy with the K/S slash fiction that was popular in their fandom, became more open to the Star Wars fandom. [24]

For much more about this issue see Open Letter to Star Wars Zine Publishers.

Nonetheless, most fans, particularly female fans, did not take to the new message:
Lucasfilm is saying "you must enjoy the characters of the Star Wars universe for male reasons. Your sexuality must be correct and proper by my (male) definition, I am not male. I do not want to be. I refuse to be a poor imitation, or worse, someone's idiotic ideal of femininity. Lucasfilm has said in essence, "this is what we see in the Star Wars films and we are telling you this is what you will see." [25]

In 1991, Barbara T perhaps put the fan response most succinctly: "Fans mental play is no business of producers and nether are their private communications, however lengthy." [26]

In spite of Lucasfilm's attempt to maintain control over fan creations, fans continued to produce fanzines. Adult het and slash zines were however fewer in number, but the fan fiction continued to circulate privately as part of an informal circuit. In fact one such story involved an S/M encounter between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, was xeroxed and passed around in fandom at only slightly less than internet speed.[27] The notable exceptions were (1) the Organia fanzine published in 1982 which contained adult het fan fic well as original science fiction and feminist articles and poetry and (2) Imperial Entanglements published in 1982 with both gen and slash stories.

By the late 1990s, slash zines were being publicly published and when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, adult themes became widespread. However, the battle over websites, fan vids and fan films continues to the present. See Lucasfilm for more.

Notable Adult & Slash Themed Fan Works:

[Note: online fan fic? notable Phantom Menace fic?]

Star Wars Conventions

A young fan at a 1981 convention shows off his Yoda puppet -- the photo illustrates the large range of ages that participated in fan-run masquerade contests and activities and how many costumes were hand-made while also incorporating pre-made items. [28]

Star Wars conventions never took off the way Star Trek ones did. First, George Lucas forbid any major Star Wars actors from appearing at cons where unlicensed goods, such as fanzines and other fannish goods were sold. And Lucas himself, except for one exception (Starlog Salutes Star Trek) did not appear at cons. There was, of course, much interest in the movies, and fan-run cons often had Star Wars programming.

four convention flyers

Archives

Online fan fiction archives can be found as follows:

Other fan fiction resource links:

Mailing Lists/Forums

Other FanWorks: SongVids, Artwork, Costumes & Filking

Notable SongVids:

Sections to Add

Sections to add. Anyone with any knowledge is welcome to pitch in: First fan-run Star Wars convention? Fleshing out Star Wars fanzine history with more firsts. What about Star Wars costuming and filking? Star Wars artists? Star Wars vids? "Notable clubs?" Star Wars entry into the Internet? Early mailing lists/newsgroups. The move to graphical websites. Fan's creating their own websites. Fan Fiction archives. Impact the prequels movies had on reviving fandom. How did the movies impact the growth of the fandom and fan's output/interest.''

External References

References

  1. Forces of the Empire Chronology
  2. Moons of Yavin fan club website
  3. Northern German Star Wars group website
  4. Hamburg, Germany fan club website
  5. Bantha Tracks History on Wookiepedia
  6. from Boldly Writing
  7. from Boldly Writing
  8. data pulled from the MediaWest [[FanQ awards website]
  9. from Boldly Writing
  10. from Spectrum #34
  11. from Jeff Johnston as quoted in Comlink #30; the original quotation was from Alderaan #5
  12. from Spectrum #34
  13. The editor of "Moonbeam" says: "I believed for almost 30 years that it was in fact the first primarily Star Wars fiction fanzine, but I recently learned that Skywalker, the exceptional Star Wars zine edited by Bev Clark, was in fact first by a couple of weeks. Ah well. I was still one of the first, and probably the first on the East Coast.."Main Moonbeam Page; WebCite.
  14. Actually, according to the dates on the zines themselves, "Moonbeam" was first; perhaps there was an understood wiggle-room with the distribution?
  15. From Bev Clark in Southern Enclave #10: "AGAINST THE SITH came out a few weeks before SKYWALKER, no more than six. Neither was the first SW fanzine, exactly. The very first fanzine was a small, poorly produced effort out of Long Beach, called THE FORCE; it was more like a traditional 5F fanzine in that it didn't have much fiction. It was also what is bluntly called in SF fandom, a crudzine. The first fanzine to print all SW fiction, though admittedly as a single issue of a fanzine that was not devoted to SW to the exclusion of all else, was MOONBEAM 3, which came out in the late fall of 1977 or the early spring of 1978 before either AGAINST THE SITH or SKYWALKER, at any rate. SKYWALKER was certainly in preparation by then, however, it began in September, 1977."
  16. from Spectrum #34
  17. from A Piece of the Action #55
  18. from the Star Wars letterzine Jundland Wastes #2
  19. from a letter in Comlink #23
  20. from Jundland Wastes #2 (1981) via Maggie Nowakowska
  21. Maggie Nowakowska: "The Incomparable Jundland Wastes", accessed 3.10.2011
  22. AOL Star Wars Trivia
  23. Maggie Nowakowska
  24. from Boldly Writing, pg. 54
  25. from SLAYSU, Catherine Siebert, 1982, pg 44.
  26. from Textual Poachers, pg 31-32.
  27. Kathy Resch, 2002.
  28. photo is from the Forrest J. Ackerman Collection, sold on eBay in 2012 after his death, photographer and photo subject unknown. Ackerman spent a lifetime amassing the world's largest personal collection of science-fiction and fantasy memorabilia and who coined the term ‘sci-fi’ in the 1950s.
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