Thanks to a new donation of 17,500 novels, fanzines, and magazines, Iowa will soon boast one of the world’s greatest collections of science fiction literature. The decimal system’s worth of material will be relocated onto a campus that also host the Iowa Writing Workshop, the most prestigious writing program in America and the example par excellence of MFA program prose factories. The haul may seem like a strange fit in a program run by realists, but Sioux Falls resident Allen Lewis, the 73-year-old many who did the donating, has something to say about that.
“Fantasy or science fiction writers explore certain problems or areas within our society today and then expand them and put them in another location,” he said. “I’m going to see what they did with it and hope I don’t cry.”
Lewis’s materials will be added to a library that is already robust, thanks to a similar donation in 2012. Still, the Workshop has no permanent faculty who write science fiction — most of them do almost precisely the opposite. Whether or not this new donation will force the program to reconsider its staff (or get some more guest speakers), these books will almost certainly give some young novelists something very different to think about.