Writing a New World Into Existence: Lessons from Literary FuturismSunday, October 4 | 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
- Current Affairs
- Science Fiction & Fantasy
It’s been demonstrated that reading fiction increases empathy. Can it also unlock a blueprint for our future, at a moment when we need new ways of defining what’s possible? Four of Berkeley’s most visionary novelists, known for their ability to conjure exciting “future histories” with words, come together to discuss how literature and the imagination can light a bold path to progress.
Aya de Leon teaches creative writing at UC Berkeley, where she directs the Poetry for the People program founded by the legendary June Jordan. She first came to national attention as a slam poetry champion, and went on to attract a following with her Justice Hustlers feminist heist novels, which have won first place International Latino Book Awards and Independent Publisher Awards. Her 2019 novel Side Chick Nation was the first novel to be published about Puerto Rico’s devastating Hurricane Maria. Her work, which she describes as “fiction of empathy,” hits a sweet (and subversive) spot where forward-thinking consciousness and breathtaking suspense collide. Full bio.
Annalee Newitz has a lot to say about the future. A science journalist and lecturer in American studies at UC Berkeley, Newitz is an award-winning author of speculative and science fiction, praised by actor and sci-fi tastemaker Wil Wheaton as “leading the vanguard” of a new revolution in the genre. The New York Times called A Future of Another Timeline, Newitz’s feminist time-travel novel, “breathtakingly brilliant.” Their newest book, Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age, animates the erased inhabitants of four ancient settlements from Europe to Asia to the American Midwest, in a past-to-future journey that, according to N.K. Jemison, “sees to the heart of complex systems and breaks them down with poetic ferocity.” Newitz also founded io9, a website that covers the sci-fi world. Full bio.
One of America’s most significant literary figures, Ishmael Reed has created an indelible legacy with more than thirty books of poetry, prose, essays, and plays marked by surrealism, satire, and razor-sharp political commentary. His work, raved about by cultural icons from Tupac Shakur to Thomas Pynchon, has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, among other honors, and he has received a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award. His before-its-time satire Mumbo Jumbo, reissued in 2017 as a Penguin Modern Classic, is hailed for its prescient vision of race in America. Reed’s creative futurism finds expression not only in his formidable body of work, but in his long history championing the full spectrum of American literary voices, including those traditionally marginalized, as evidenced by his founding of the Before Columbus Foundation. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley, for 35 years. Full bio.
Shanthi Sekaran is a celebrated writer and educator based in Berkeley. Her work, which takes a subversive, gripping approach to exploring motherhood, class, immigration, and privilege, has appeared in venues such as The New York Times, Huffington Post, and Los Angeles Review of Books. Most recently, she’s joined the writers’ room of the NBC drama New Amsterdam. Her latest novel, Lucky Boy, was named an NPR Best Book of 2017, and her debut middle grade book, The Samosa Rebellion, is forthcoming. Full bio.
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