“Science Fiction is for Everyone” Panel at LA Harbor College a success

An Initial Report by Bryan Thao Worra, SFPA President

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On April 25th, the Cultural Equity Workgroup invited five science fiction authors and fans to LA Harbor College to discuss the subject “Science Fiction Is For Everyone,” for a room that was at times standing room only.

Held in Tech 110, I was presenting with Stephanie Brown, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Jaymee Goh, Gregg Castro and Steven Barnes. It was a great line-up with some touching comments that drew on diverse fields of knowledge and experience, from the work and influence of Nnedi Okorafor and Octavia Butler, to the way readers and writers have been brought into the world of science fiction not only in the US but around the world. There was a strong highlight on the appeal of steampunk and afrofuturism.

During my portion of the panel, I focused on a discussion of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, and had the honor of previous SFPA president Deborah Kolodji in attendance as well as fellow SFPA member and community builder Denise Dumars facilitating the conversation. Overall, our audience was very engaged with our varied approaches to the speculative arts. I demonstrated that speculative poetry draws on a very extensive tradition back to the very roots of poetry itself. The work of Edgar Allan Poe was cited as one of the key efforts to develop a distinctive American voice in poetry that was distinct from what was found in Europe at the time.

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During the course of my presentation, I drew attention to Eye to the Telescope and Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.

To demonstrate the potential of what speculative poetry can do, I read two examples from our international membership for the audience: “How to Train your Velociraptors” by Rohinton Daruwala and “El superhéroe se ha ahorcado” by Campos Ricardo Burgos Lopez, translated by Fred W. Bergmann. These poems were definitely well received, based on feedback from audience members after the discussion.

My thanks to everyone who made this wonderful afternoon possible, and it is my hope that we will continue to see educators working together with local poets and the community to introduce speculative poetry to their students as a positive avenue for creative expression.

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