By Tony Parra
Science fiction writers and readers gathered in Portales to celebrate the work of Jack Williamson and to ponder what exactly post-humanity evolution is on Thursday.
Williamson has devoted 76 years of his life to science fiction writing. Patrice Caldwell, an organizer of the lectureship, said Williamson was ahead of his time with some of his books.
Connie Willis, the mistress of the ceremonies, said Williamson coined phrases such as terraforming, androids and genetic engineering.
“There are certain principles in the world today from Williamson,” Walter Jon Williams, an author of 20 novels and short stories, said. Williams was one of the two guest speakers of the lectureship.
“Science fiction writers will provide the vision, other people will make the money off of it,” Williams joked. “Jack Williamson was sent to us from the future to show us the way.”
Williamson has received awards in science fiction writing for his books, “Darker Than You Think” and received accolades for “Humanoids,” a book he wrote in 1949 about the concept of robots controlling humans.
“I appreciate enormously the lectureship,” the 96-year-old Williamson said. “I’m amazed how many people are here. I’m amazed to be here, myself. I’ve always enjoyed the lectureship. I hope other people do.”
Science fiction readers from New York, Colorado and Chicago traveled to be at the lectureship.
“This is one of my favorite events to travel to,” Richard Kaminsky of Chicago said. “I’m a big fan of Jack Williamson. My favorite book is, ‘Darker Than You Think.’”
Kaminsky said he has traveled to Portales to attend lectureships in five of the last six years.
Gregory 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).
“There have been a lot of science fiction writers from small farming communities,” said Benford, who grew up in a small town in Alabama. “It’s a great community (of science fiction writers) to be a part of. More than any others, science fiction writers stick together and are instant comrades.”
Joe Holland, who now lives in Los Alamos, used to live in Portales and graduated from Portales High School. Holland, who left Portales in 1976, said he enjoys science fiction books and attending the lectureships.
“I met him when I was in the seventh grade,” Holland said about Williamson. “He is a very gracious man. He’s a great man and very generous. He’s incredibly imaginative and he’s a good friend of mine.”
The Post-Humanity Evolution panel discussion on Thursday night was part of the Jack Williamson Lectureship in Buchanan Hall of the Music Building on the ENMU campus.