Third Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium

Poster for Science Fiction Symposium 3Post by Jason Ellis

Following the successes of our previous symposia—the first announcing City Tech’s newly acquired Science Fiction Collection and the second featuring an invited talk by the celebrated SF writer Samuel R. Delany, the Third Annual City Tech Science Fiction Symposium focused on the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and its enduring influence. The event welcomed over 100 attendees, and it featured speakers from City College of New York, City Tech, Fordham University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, LaGuardia Community College, and the University of Pennsylvania. Highlights include an interesting panel discussion led by Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Justin Vazquez-Poritz and featuring City Tech faculty from Biological Sciences, Computer Systems Technology, Emerging Media Technologies, and Philosophy talking about the relationship between their work and SF. Another popular session was Professor A. Lavelle Porter’s student round table discussion of Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.

The annual symposium is organized around two guiding principles. First, Science Fiction is an interdisciplinary literary and cultural art form that bridges STEM and the humanities to explore the effects of science and technology on society and the individual. A symposium about SF at City Tech is seen as another way to explore how our individual disciplines are informed by and support one another. Second, the City Tech Science Fiction Symposium should be inclusive and representative of our community on campus and the larger community of which City Tech is a part. We want each symposium to include as many faculty and student voices as possible from within City Tech, which we have aimed to do with paper presentations and panel discussions. Also, we deeply value the ideas offered from scholars and professionals who present papers and engage in dialog during each session. This adds much more to the day’s conversations, and it permits us to share our work and ideas with our colleagues elsewhere. Finally, we invite the public to join us for learning from the sessions and sharing their ideas and questions during the on-going conversation.

Panel on Frankenstein

Interdisciplinary Panel discussing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Robert MacDougall (Philosophy), Ashwin Satyanarayana (CST), Heidi Boisvert (Emerging Media), Jeremy Seto (Biology) and Dean Justin Vazquez-Poritz (Arts & Sciences). Photo: Jason Ellis

The third symposium was organized by Jill Belli, Jason W. Ellis, Leigh Gold, Lucas Kwong, Robert Lestón, and A. Lavelle Porter. We coordinated with Dean Justin Vazquez-Poritz and Office Assistant Iva Williams to reserve space (in the new Academic Building) and order catering. Julia Jordan and Faculty Commons provided help with posters (designed by Design Intern Julie Bradford), promotion, and symposium materials. We reached out to Editor Trevor Quachri and Associate Editor Emily Hockaday at Analog Science Fiction and Fact, who agreed to donate copies of the magazine, and Nicole Leist, Manager of Education Programs at The Morgan Library & Museum, who agreed to donate passes to their It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200 exhibit.

Looking toward the future, we hope to continue building bridges between the humanities and STEM through each new symposium. Symposium topics might include SF and Race, Gender, Sexuality, Place/Space/City, Philosophy, Ethics, History, Technoscience, Digital Culture, and Language/Linguistics. We welcome others to join us in planning, participating, and sharing ideas.

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