The J. Francis McComas Science Fiction Collection is a reference collection of science fiction and fantasy books and magazines under the purview of the General Collections and Humanities Center on the 3rd floor of the Main Library. It was donated to the library in the mid-1960s by American science fiction editor and short story writer Jesse Francis McComas (better known as J. Francis McComas, or Mick McComas to his friends). The original collection contained 3,000+ science fiction books and 92 series of magazines dating from the 1920s to the 1960s. Over the years materials have been added, most significantly a donation of vintage science fiction paperback novels and magazines by a former librarian who maintained the collection for many years. And unfortunately part of the collection was destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake when the collection was housed in the “old Main” library (now the Asian Art Museum).
All the materials in the collection are kept in storage but titles can be browsed in the library’s online catalog and requested at the 3rd floor page desk for use in the library. (McComas titles are retrieved three times a day, at 10:00 AM, 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM.) Due to the special nature of the collection and the rarity of many of the titles, items are not available for checkout. Librarians on the 3rd floor can help locate titles in the collection, but here are a few ways you can conduct searches yourself…
If you are looking for a specific title or author, you can do a title search or author search in the catalog. If the title is part of the McComas collection, you’ll see the location listed as MAIN - 3rd Floor - Page Desk/McComas.
Jesse Francis McComas
Jesse Francis McComas was the founder and co-editor, along with Anthony Boucher, of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, first published in 1949. He also co-edited with Boucher three anthologies of stories from the magazine. McComas edited several other anthologies of science fiction and mystery stories, including Special Wonder: The Anthony Boucher Memorial Anthology of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and wrote stories under his own name and under the pseudonym Webb Marlowe.
McComas was born on June 19, 1910 in Kansas City, Missouri, but came to California at an early age, and later attended U.C. Berkeley, where he met his future wife Annette Peltz and fellow science fiction enthusiast A.P. White (who would later use Anthony Boucher as his nom de plume). McComas, Peltz, Boucher, and Boucher’s wife Phyllis all relocated to Los Angeles in the late 1930s and became members of the Mañana Literary Society, a science fiction discussion group founded by Robert Heinlein, which included such sci-fi luminaries as L. Sprague De Camp, Jack Williamson, and L. Ron Hubbard. Through this literary group McComas formed many connections in the flourishing Los Angeles science fiction community which would help him and Boucher fill the pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which they launched in 1949.
In 1954, McComas resigned as co-editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but remained in the role of advisory editor until 1962. He later returned to the Bay Area, but died of a stroke on April 19, 1978, in Fremont, California. The magazine he and Boucher founded changed ownership and names a number times, but it continues to be published to this day as Fantasy and Science Fiction. The magazine has won a number of awards over the years and is the original publisher of such science fiction classics as Stephen King's Dark Tower, Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon, and Walter M. Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz.