Symposium to discuss religion’s affect on sci-fi

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    By NATHAN MELANDER

    The annual science fiction and fantasy symposium, “Life the Universe and Everything,” is returning to campus Thursday with special guests Orson Scott Card and Judith Moffett.

    Steve Setzer, academic director of the symposium, said Robert Jordan could not come because of health and financial issues. The organizers hope he will be able to come in the future.

    “The symposium consists of students and local writers who have won or were nominated for several important awards, such as Writers of the Future winners. BYU students are in charge of setting up the symposium,” said Marion Smith, professor of English.

    Joe Monson, symposium publicist, said, “The symposium started 15 years ago with students of a science-fiction class getting together for a day when a famous writer came to visit the BYU campus. Now there is a core group of about 200 people who attend.”

    The symposium consists of three main activities — presentations, games and movie videos.

    Paper presentations and workshops are the center of the symposium. They contain many topics of science-fiction interest. This year some topics are based on the subject of African-American and LDS relationships to speculative fiction.

    “The closest to a theme this year is the impact religion has on speculative fiction, with topics on good, evil and morality,” Setzer said. “The symposium will focus more on the church than in the past, though not exclusively.”

    The workshops discuss a writer’s view of science-fiction. They try to explain how a writer can learn how to write sci-fi, with time to work on a personal project.

    “Many who attend the symposium are writers or want to be writers,”Monson said.

    There will also be role-playing games, card games, board games and computer games to play. Subjects of the games include anything from Star Trek to the fantasy world of Dungeons and Dragons. Many of the games hold tournaments during the symposium.

    Included in the video line-up is “Anime,” a favorite of science-fiction fans. It is Japanese animation that is usually geared toward an adult audience. The art can be more realistic than is expected in American cartoons.

    Other popular movies will be shown on video. This includes the letter-box presentation of Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and the more recent popular film “Independence Day.”

    The symposium was located in the Wilkinson Center in previous years, but this year the bulk of the activities will be in the Harris Fine Arts Center because of the heavy construction.

    “This year we will charge for admission, with full-event and day passes sold at the ticket office in the HFAC. The charge is to raise money without having to ask for it from on-campus departments,” Monson said.

    Setzer said, “A great deal of the symposium will be interesting to those who aren’t into sci-fi, because of the academic slant with topics like what it means to be a Mormon artist.”

    The science-fiction and fantasy symposium will continue until Saturday.

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