Symposium opens up new worlds


    By Bonni Ferguson

    Star Wars fans and Trekkies are anticipating BYU”s 21st annual Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy that will take place Wednesday through Saturday in the Wilkinson Student Center.

    Organizers of “Life, The Universe, and Everything XXI: The Marion K. ”Doc” Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy” invite all BYU students and community members to participate in free seminars, book signings and dancing.

    Award-winning authors Orson Scott Card, Patricia C. Wrede and Esther Freisner are guests at the symposium. Wrede and Freisner will host discussions and sign books throughout the weekend, but Card will only be at the convention on Thursday.

    Symposium Chairwoman April Hennis, 23, a senior majoring in visual arts from Houston, said she expects about 500 to attend the long line-up of activities.

    The event will kick-off at Barnes and Noble on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. where participants will meet and greet authors. The following days” activities include panel discussions, an English Contra dance and a medieval feast.

    The academic symposium on science fiction and fantasy was designed to help artists, editors and writers improve in the science fiction field, said symposium advisor Jennifer Eatough, 24, a senior from Provo, majoring in international politics.

    “I always see the symposium as being in place to increase the awareness about the genre of science fiction and fantasy as well as to, in our own small way, try and help improve it,” said Josh Peltier, 23, a senior studying chemistry from Henderson, Nev. “By making the genre better and stronger it makes it so (society) can advance more.”

    Hennis said the symposium”s goal was to promote science fiction awareness among students and residents of the area.

    “It”s a chance for the sci-fi community to get together and get people who might not normally be aware of sci-fi and fantasy understand it and the role it plays,” Hennis said. “(The symposium will also help) people in their creative endeavors.”

    Hennis also said “Life, The Universe and Everything XXI” will provide opportunities for students to gain knowledge and make connections.

    “It”s a great chance to come and learn if you like to learn,” Hennis said. “It can lead to networking with people who have published their stuff.”

    The student-run convention will satisfy a wide range of interests, Peltier said.

    “The symposium is literally about life, the universe and everything,” Peltier said. “There”s something that anyone or everyone will be interested in.”

    According to the convention”s Web site,, the symposium will feature six tracks: writing, art, media, academic, create your own world and special events.

    “My panels are all about things dealing with this world. … (and) teaching writers how to create believable worlds,” said Peltier, the head of the create your own world track. “There are academic panels where papers will be presented and a writing track where they teach people how to sell stories.”

    The media track will allow students to participate in panel discussions about fantasy and science fiction in the media, said media track advisor April Randall, 19, a sophomore majoring in technical teaching education from Provo.

    “There”s going to be fun panels about fun subjects,” Randall said. “We”ll have some panels on ”Star Wars,” ”Lord of the Rings,” and different subjects about television, movies and science fiction.”

    For those interested more in watching movies than discussing them, the symposium will provide a video room playing science fiction and fantasy movies and a game demonstration room for people who like role-playing activities.

    Students should not feel obligated to attend the entire event, said Randall.

    “(Students) can come for the hour, or they can come for the whole three days,” Randall said. “I”m, excited, so those days (for me) are going to be devoted to the symposium.”

    For some, the symposium is something they look forward to all year.

    “I love coming to it every year,” Eatough said. “That”s why I”ve been coming since elementary school.”

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