Science fiction, science are big in Northwest — especially right now
Science and science fiction are big around the Pacific Northwest — and seem especially so right now.
Seattle Times staff columnist
One of the keys to happiness is finding something that speaks to you and immersing yourself in it.
Another is having strong connections to a community of people.
Around here, a lot of people find those two joys in science-fiction fandom — people like Katrina Marier and her husband, Shawn, who are among the most active members of the community.
I came across Katrina Marier's name when Ray Bradbury died and I was checking around to see what local fans were saying about him.
Marier is the editor of Westwind, the magazine of the Northwest Science Fiction Society. Shawn just finished a multiyear stint as chair of the Northwest's largest science-fiction convention, Norwescon.
"We are lucky to live in an area, the Pacific Northwest, that is blessed not only with a thriving fan community," she said, but with a number of award-winning authors.
Science and science fiction are big around here and seem especially so right now.
The University of Washington scored a coup last week, luring four top computer scientists from other universities to work on stuff that still seems like science fiction.
And it's the 50th anniversary of the World's Fair here, which is about science leavened with more than a dash of science fiction. The exhibit Icons of Science Fiction is running at Experience Music Project.
Thousands were at the annual Norwescon here in April. Westercon, the convention that travels around the West Coast, is in Seattle this year, this week in fact.
And Clarion West, which nurtures science-fiction and fantasy writers through workshops and events, is in the middle of its season of author readings and parties. The next writer up is George R.R. Martin, author of "A Song of Fire and Ice." He speaks Tuesday night at Town Hall Seattle.
Marier thinks people here are attracted to science fiction for a number of reasons.
"This area values education," she said, and, "fans are people who are excited about ideas." They're all taking classes, reading, going to lectures.
"Science fiction is the media that celebrates ideas, the aha moment — what would happen if?" she said.
Fans are excited by science, which a lot of people around here are involved with. Shawn Marier is a software engineer.
Fans, Katrina Marier said, "look at pictures from the Hubble space telescope, and it fills us with awe."
Science fiction is entertaining, too, but going beyond consuming to costuming at a convention adds its own benefits.
"It's a community," Marier said. "People in fandom care about each other. We're excited to get together."
She said when someone gets sick, people visit with casseroles and offers of help just like in any group.
"Humans build community and tend to run around in groups," she said.
The Bellevue couple met through a fandom friend and have been married for 15 years. (Their 7-year-old son "is definitely in geek training.") They're both fans, but as in the larger community, their interests aren't identical.
"My husband is a comic geek," she said. "I'm more into costuming, and we're both into steampunk."
So, do you have a Star Trek uniform? I asked. "I'm not a Trekkie," she said. And she doesn't like zombies.
Fandom is very tolerant of differences, she said. At a convention you'll see someone in a Star Trek uniform walking down the hallway with ladies in ball gowns, going to discuss interstellar travel.
"Some you'll like and some not. Some you'll agree with and some not," she said. "You all can occupy the same space for the course of a weekend. That is very important, and we could use a lot more of that in our national discourse."
That's reason enough to be involved. Besides tolerance, Marier says, fandom has solidified some other good traits.
"Fandom has encouraged my tendencies to both be open to new ideas and to think about them critically, and to ask questions."
That is at the heart of science fiction at its best and people at our best.
Jerry Large's column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Jerry Large
I try to write about the intersections of everyday life and big issues. I like to invite readers to think a little differently. The topics I choose represent the things in which I take an interest, and I try to deal with them the way most folks would, sometimes seriously, sometimes with a sense of humor. My column runs Mondays and Thursdays.
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