Sci-fi legend lectures locally

By Tony Parra

PORTALES — Space, the final frontier: An everyday cliche for Star Trek fans, a creative compartment in the mind of Jack Williamson.
Space exploration will be in the minds of those participating in the Jack Williamson Lectureship luncheon, titled “Space Opera — Then and Now,” which takes place today in the ballroom of the Campus Union Building at Eastern New Mexico University.
Williamson is well known for his work in the science-fiction writing field and teaches a science-fiction class at ENMU during the spring, according to Patrice Caldwell, executive director of planning and analysis for ENMU. Caldwell also helps in the instruction of the class.
“A lot of people have no idea how big this is,” Caldwell said. “People from Colorado and New York come down just for the lecture. They’ve (science-fiction writers) been all over the genre. We had humanity scholars as well but the science-fiction theme was more interesting for the science fans. The authors were coming down to listen to Mr. Williamson and it was a more natural fit.”
“To me ‘Space Opera’ is the dream of expansion of earth and other planets,” Williamson said. “The exploration and discovery of space. I try to teach students about the future and prepare them for future shock.”
There will be three grand masters in science-fiction writing in the panel discussion during the luncheon. Members of the Science Fiction Writers of America must make a consensus vote for a grand master. The designation is made to those who have made a substantial contribution and have literally changed the field of science fiction.
“I didn’t used to read sci-fi, but reading his (Williamson) books I realized there are more to his stories,” said Vicky Medley, a graduate student at ENMU writing a thesis on Williamson. “There is a lot of emotion in his stories. His brilliance, imagination and creativity come out in his books.”
ENMU named its liberal arts building after Williamson, who has received lifetime citations from The World Fantasy Convention and The Horror Writers of America.
“I write about what concerns me at the time,” Williamson said. “Exploring space and the possibilities of the future. When I was first writing, television and computer were yet to come. I was the first person to write about anti-matter before it was being used in Star Trek to propel people from one place to another. I wrote about genetic engineering before it was studied in the laboratory.”
The Oxford English Dictionary credited Williamson with inventing the word “genetic engineering,” which is the manipulation of an organism’s genetic material to modify the proteins it produces. He also is credited with the word “terraforming,” which is the process of modifying a planet, moon or other body to a more habitable atmosphere, temperature or ecology.
Williamson’s latest novel, “The Stonehenge Gate,” is due for release in 2005.

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Science fiction facts
Jack Williamson Lectureship
When: 11:45 a.m. today
Where: Campus Union Building at Eastern New Mexico University
Cost: $7 per person.