Science Fiction Los Angeles, STUDENT COHORT
Prompt (500 words or less): Choose one word that most closely aligns with your vision of science fiction.

My first love of science fiction actually came from a piece of horrifically moldy bread.

I can remember clearly when we did an experiment in my Elementary school science class with different types of food in jars, so we could see how populations of mold grew. To most kids it was disgusting, and they didn’t want to have much to do with it. To me, however, it was fascinating. Mold was usually something to wrinkle your nose at and throw away, not something to examine with a magnifying glass, make observational sketches, and record a log about like it was something worth being appreciated. It never occurred to me that mold is really a microcosm, a whole universe of living organisms that we normally try to avoid.

This realization, that something so disgusting could also somehow simultaneously be so wonderful, expanded the way I thought about the world. I think alternative and expansive thinking will always have an important place at the heart of science fiction, therefore I believe the word “expansive” is what most closely aligns with my vision of science fiction.

This word can have a dual meaning: the subject of science fiction itself is as a vast expanse we have yet to fully explore, but science fiction can also expand our minds and the ways we think about our world, like my newfound appreciation for mold colonies.

I’m thankful to have science fiction’s influence in my life. I love to read and watch content that combines what we already understand with things that we can only imagine, and I think without science fiction in my most formative years I wouldn’t be half the creative person that I am today.

Science may have a connotation of being a boring and dry subject, but science fiction has driven our societies forward and has actually gone on to influence reality. It is explained in Afrofuturism that “just as the actions in the present dictate the future, imagining the future can change the present.” Communication, entertainment, space travel, and transportation have all been positively influenced due to the popularity of science fiction. Ursula K. Le Guin similarly explains “The ability and willingness to imagine alternatives to reality as we know it is always the first step toward making different and better realities possible.”

Science fiction challenges viewers to think broadly, expansively, out-of-the-box, and about what our futures might have to offer us. Although I will admit I’m still disgusted when I have to throw away moldy food, our entire planet is similar to billions of years worth of ‘mold’ growth, a consequence to not storing something in a ‘cool, dry place’, right? Could our planet be the equivalent of my bread within a mason jar, with someone else observing us and our growth? With a science fiction mindset, it’s entirely possible!

Science fiction offers a vast expanse of creativity in which we have only just started scratching the surface. While science is about understanding the mechanisms of the world, science fiction asks us to expand our thoughts to create worlds where anything is possible.
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On behalf of Professor William Deverell, director of the ICW and Professor Karin Huebner, academic director of the Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, we would like to welcome Kate Dowd as a student cohort for the conference Science Fiction Los Angeles: Words and World Building to be held Friday Oct 28-Saturday Oct 29, 2016.  
This exciting conference explores the symbiotic relationship between Los Angeles and the vibrant literary and cinematic genres of science fiction.  From a film-screening kickoff on Friday, October 28th at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Linwood Dunn Theater, the conference moves to a full-day investigation of the topic on Saturday, October 29th at the Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study in Doheny Memorial Library at USC.
We are inviting applications for twenty young scholars to attend and contribute to this conference.  Applicants need not be subject matter experts - we are looking for a diverse mix of creative and intellectually curious scholars in their respective disciplines, who will energetically embrace this unique and challenging opportunity. For more information about the event and the application details, please visit SCIFILA.
The Harman Academy is an intellectual space and community where students and faculty, through conversation, explore the interconnectedness of multiple fields of learning.  It promotes student engagement with peers and faculty across disciplinary boundaries and is a place to test run your ideas without academic burden.  Located in its own quarters on the second floor of Doheny Memorial Library, the Harman Academy offers a series of conversational encounters intended to intensify polymathic (integrated interdisciplinary) awareness.