At the symposium, several speakers said some stuff that I either didn’t know before or never thought of it in the way they presented it. I found it easier and more interesting to understand the speakers’ thoughts when they made comparisons between science fiction and various kinds of texts.
For example, a woman made a point about creating a sustainable Earth. Her name was Marleen S. Barr, an author, editor, and a CUNY professor of English. Barr described Eleanor Cameron’s The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, a book that she had read as a child. In that book, mushrooms and other organic materials are used for construction of cities. Barr argued that if we fail to utilize biological resources, there will be dire consequences for all of the planet. She reminds the audience that organic matter matters.
Adam Heidebrink-Bruno, a graduate student from Lehigh University’s Literature and Social Justice program, discussed capitalism and perception of corporate America in Dave Eggers’ novel, The Circle. However, the way Bruno talked about it reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. He described how the protagonist of The Circle, Mae, is living in a world that’s beyond her control and feels awry. Similar to Offred, the main character in Atwood’s novel, Mae is in a society where public sentiment is manipulated and resistance is marginalized. Both characters live in dystopian worlds where according to Bruno, “if you control the flow of information, you have the power to control everything” (Bruno). He tied together the themes of modern work ethic and ideology. He also made a great point in saying that innocuous human actions are linked to the political economy.
Another speaker that caught my attention was Peter Spillane, a Chemistry professor at City Tech. He talked about whether or not robots truly have singularity, creativity, and a conscience. He made comparisons to movies like The Martian and Big Hero 6. Professor Spillane spoke of carbon nanotubes and how a painter, Harold Cohen’s AI, AARON, creates original images.
Sharon Packer, an author, psychiatrist, physician, editor, and Assistant Clinical Professor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, talked about the fictional superhero, Luke Cage. Packer summarized how Cage became who he is through experimentation while in prison. She said that “by breaking out of jail, Cage symbolically breaks barriers” (Packer) for African Americans. Packer compared what happens in Luke Cage comics to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the Attica Prison Riot. She said that the story of Luke Cage reflects existing controversies with prison studies. It “reopens dialogue between medical researcher and practitioners” (Packer).
The discussions during the symposium remind me that science fiction combines both facts and fiction. No matter how “crazy” certain concepts seem to be, sci-fi has more truth to it than certain individuals see it as. Science fiction goes to show that there are endless possibilities for how things unravel in what we want to consider as due time. However, sci-fi applies what I’ve known for a long time. The only things certain in life are the mysterious uncertainties that nobody is meant to figure out. Doing so will drive those, who dare to try, “crazy”. Doing so will upset the standards and the balance of the universe, throwing all that dwell within into disarray because it only takes at least one to affect the rest.