By ERIN MARTIN
BYU is hosting the 17th annual science fiction and fantasy symposium Thursday through Saturday in the Ernest L. Wilkinson Student Center. “Life, the Universe, and Everything” is free and open to the public.
The opening ceremony is today at 9 a.m. in the Varsity Theatre. Registration is in 3211 WSC at 10 a.m. Each day’s activities begin around 11 a.m. and run throughout the day until approximately 7 p.m.
Matthew Hamby, chair of this year’s symposium, said this is an academic symposium, not a convention where people dress up in green makeup or with pointy ears.
“There is so much going on that is not science fiction; there are a variety of topics that will interest a wide range of people,” he said.
Hamby said the symposium will especially benefit writers. They will hear different authors speak and learn how to write outside their own experiences.
“People will learn how to write a character of another gender or why certain metals are dangerous,” he said. “It will help people to be realistic in their writing.”
Some of the speakers at the symposium will be different popular science fiction authors such as husband and wife Kevin Anderson and Rebecca Moesta who worked together on several young adult novels in the Young Jedi Knights series.
Other special guests will discuss subjects relating to film, songwriting, television, costuming, art, language, fencing, mythology and folklore. Guest speaker Marty Brenneis worked on films such as “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi,” “E.T.,” “Cocoon,” and some of the “Star Trek” movies.
Marion Smith, associate professor of English and faculty adviser for the symposium, said the symposium is a good general education experience.
“Science fiction cuts across all disciplines,” he said.
Smith said science fiction is highly religious and theological. Different aspects of science fiction may deal with the good vs. evil people deal with constantly or with an orderly universe governed by a higher intelligence.
Science fiction is also like a laboratory to check out real problems before dealing with them, Smith said.
“It is the only literature that deals with the future, and that’s where everybody plans on spending life,” Smith said.
Steve Setzer, editor of the proceedings volume and past member of the symposium committee, said science fiction is the literature of choices. Even a bad world like that of the novel ‘1984’ is the result of choices, he said.
“By placing stories in the future, science fiction implicitly says that those worlds are the results of our present choices,” he said. “For Mormons, above any other group, this is a powerful message.”
Activities include panels, presentations and special events. After the main events, interested people may attend a cabaret featuring belly dancing Thursday night, a reception with presenters Friday night and a banquet at Courtyard Marriott for $15.
For more information, contact the “Life, The Universe and Everything” Web page at http://humanities.byu.edu/ltue.html.