‘Exciting’ is a term many Eastern New Mexico University faculty used when talking about the upcoming 35th annual Jack Williamson Lectureship and the fourth annual High Plains Film Festival, which will be taking place March 31 through April 2.
This year marks the first time the two events have been combined and the original inspiration for this dynamic duo came from Assistant Professor of Theater and Film Laurel Petty.
“It’s going to benefit the students particularly,” Petty said. “The science fiction-fantasy genre is really growing and they’re seeing a lot of the films and reading a lot of the graphic novels right now. It’s a really popular genre with film students.”
Petty said she has attended the lectureship for the last two years and she felt from the beginning it would make a good addition to the film festival due to the popularity of the science fiction genre.
“I definitely thought it was an interesting arena to explore for the film program,” Petty said. “They (film students) are really excited about meeting and having a workshop with the two guest writers (Michael Cassutt and Melinda Snodgrass) because they are authors in the science fiction genre.”
Executive Director of the Planning and Analysis Department Patrice Caldwell is the chair of the lectureship committee and she and Petty joined forces to plan the combining of the two events.
Caldwell said the lectureship not only honors Williamson and his work but also the humanities and science and the connection between the two.
“He saw that linkage as a very important part of science fiction and the lectureship has explored that over the years,” Caldwell said. “I think most people don’t know how well he’s known in the science fiction world and how critical his work and personality have been to science fiction writing.”
Caldwell said she thinks students are most impressed by the fact that Williamson published his first science fiction story as a freshman at West Texas State College in 1928, before becoming a student at ENMU.
“The most important thing about this lectureship is being able to recognize someone who has been so successful and grew up at this university,” Caldwell said. “He is a local boy.”
Betty Williamson, niece to the late Jack Williamson, said she is honored to attend the event each year and knew her uncle to feel the same. She said he attended every year until his death in 2006.
“He thought it was an immense compliment beyond what he deserved,” Williamson said. “He thought it was a great way to bring friends together and to bring writers together from around the nation.”
She said her family thinks of the lectureship as a family reunion each year, because they are able to spend quality time with the science fiction community here uncle knew and loved so much.
“Jack was really well known for being really encouraging with writers who were first starting out,” Williamson said. “That’s a really important legacy to me for us to continue is supporting young people in their writing and putting it out there.”
Caldwell said part of the lectureship includes a teenager writing workshop with the two guest speakers to encourage and advise young writers in their work.
“Our culture is so permeated by science fiction themes. Technology, science, it’s all around us,” Caldwell said. “If we don’t look to the future, how are we going to understand it and shape it and shape the people we are becoming?”