By Tony Parra
They came to discuss science-fiction and they also came to honor one of the genre’s most enduring masters, Jack Williamson, at the 30th annual Jack Williamson Lectureship at Eastern New Mexico University Thursday.
Williamson, a Portales resident, who has been writing for 77 years, turns 98 in April.
Friends and family said this week they weren’t too sure Jack would be able to attend because of health reasons. But Williamson was present for the lectureship in the Campus Union Ballroom on Thursday and spoke to the crowd.
“This is lectureship 30th,” Williamson said on Thursday. “I want to thank President (Steven) Gamble, Patrice (Caldwell) and all of my friends. I’m happy to be here now.”
Betty Williamson, Jack’s niece, and the other people in attendance said they were happy to see Williamson at the lectureship. Williamson arrived around noon and as he entered, he was greeted by a standing ovation. As the lectureship ended, crowd members gave him another standing ovation.
“I think it was great,” Betty Williamson said. “It was so delightful he was able to participate. We weren’t sure until this morning if he would be able to attend because of his health. It was great to see all of his friends like Fred Pohl. Portales has been really great to Jack.”
Frederik Pohl, a science-fiction writer and editor, has been friends with Williamson for more than 60 years.
Williamson’s family members attended the lectureship and some of them helped host the science-fiction writers for a visit to the Williamson ranch and the original shack in which he used to live.
Connie Willis, a science-fiction author, was the MC for the lectureship and has attended previous lectureships.
“It is one of my favorite things to do (attend lectureships) of all of the things I do every year,” Willis said. “Science-fiction writers are always making predictions. I predicted tourists will be visiting Portales by the truckloads. They came because Jack invented the future he predicted.”
Kim Stanley Robinson was the guest speaker for the lectureship. Robinson has specialized in writing about Mars and environmental issues. Robinson spoke at the panel discussion about the “Ecological Apocalypse” on Thursday evening at the Buchanan Hall of the Music Building.
“We need to take care of the world like you would take care of your body,” Robinson said during the lectureship.
Robinson complemented Williamson on his writing and coming up with the term, “terraforming”.
Terraforming is the process of modifying a planet, moon or other body to a more habitable atmosphere, temperature or ecology. Mars is a planet written about in science-fiction novels with the possibility of terraforming.
Nina and Ron Else are two of the people from around the United States who flocked to Portales to attend the lectureship.
“His writing dates back to the 20s,” Ron Else of Denver said. “He just finishing publishing “Stonehenge” last year and his mind is still in great shape. He has set the benchmark in science-fiction writing. He is an icon, a place to judge what is great.”