By Tony Parra
Jack Williamson, who turns 97 in March, still works to pique sci-fi readers’ interests.
While he usually does this through his writing, Williamson also is part of a lectureship series in its 29th year at Eastern New Mexico University.
“I enjoy the lectureship,” Williamson said. “It gives me a chance to visit with my friends at Eastern. Dr. (Patrice) Caldwell does a great job of setting it up and making it successful.”
This year’s lectureship, set for Thursday, is entitled, “Post-humanity Evolving.”
Patrice Caldwell, an organizer of the event, said the lectureship will explore what impact science fiction has had on today’s technology and the future of technology, under the name of a writer who has had influence on the science fiction community for nearly 80 years.
“He still has an understanding of readers,” Caldwell said of Williamson. “He’s been writing since 1928 and he still knows what the readers want. He’s the favorite son of the community and the university.”
A “Post-humanity Evolving” panel discussion will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Buchanan Hall of the Music Building.
Science fiction author Connie Willis will host a luncheon at 11:45 a.m. on Thursday in the Campus Union Ballroom to start off the lectureship. Williamson will be attending the luncheon while Gregory Benford and Walter Jon Williams are scheduled to be the guest speakers.
“It’s nice to have contact with other people,” Williamson said. “It helps keep me alive. Science fiction is not to predict the future, but to explore the possibilities … prepare people for the shock of the future.”
The luncheon in the CUB ballroom is $7 at the door while the panel discussion in the Music Building is free. People can call 562-2315 to make reservations for the luncheon.
Caldwell instructs a creative science fiction writing class along with Williamson at ENMU each spring semester. Caldwell said there are 14 ENMU students in this year’s class.
Williamson has devoted 76 years of his life to science fiction writing and has earned grand master status — an honor voted on by members of Science Fiction Writers of America, Inc.
“The number one purpose of the lectureship is to honor his many years of science fiction work,” said Rick Hauptmann, a friend of Williamson and a collector of his works. “It’s going to be really interesting, especially when you have three of the top-notch science fiction writers in their field.”
Hauptmann is credited with creating the most extensive Williamson bibliography known, which includes:
• “Terraforming Earth,” a 2001 book about a group of clones on the moon who preserve mankind through the millennia.
• “Darker Than You Think,” a 1999 work that is one of Caldwell and Hauptmann’s favorites. “Darker Than You Think” is about werewolves and about a man who is drawn into investigating a rash of grisly deaths, he soon finds himself embroiled in something far beyond mortal understanding.
• “The Humanoids,” a 1949 book about robots controlling the earth and keeping humans from any harmful activity.
“He was way ahead of his time,” Caldwell said. “We are now to the point of using artificial intelligence.”
Williamson’s next book, “The Stonehenge Gate,” is expected to be in publication in August, according to Williamson. Hauptmann said he has already read a manuscript of the book, but said the book still has to go through revisions before it is published.
Benford is a physicist and astronomer at the University of California-Irvine and a NASA consultant. He has written novels such as “Timescape” (1980), “In The Ocean of Night” (1977) and “Across the Sea of Suns” (1984).
Williams is the author of 20 novels and several short story collections. His works include “Hardwired” (1986) and “Voice of the Whirlwind” (1987). His novel, “City on Fire” (1996), is a Hugo and Nebula award nominee.