Jack Williamson Lectureship to feature ‘Avatar’ panel

Freedom New Mexico: Clarence Plank Debbie Lang of the Golden Library looks through the shared universe series “Wild Cards” on Tuesday at the Eastern New Mexico University Golden Library’s Special Collections area. Physicist and science friction writer Ian Tregillis published some short stories in the book series and is a guest speaker for the 34th Jack Williamson Lectureship this week.

By Clarence Plank: Freedom New Mexico

The animated movie “Avatar” and a professional physicist who writes science fiction are set to play a part at the 34th annual Jack Williamson Lectureship at Eastern New Mexico University.

The event runs Thursday and Friday, with a Thursday young writers panel at the Portales Public Library and an evening reading by science fiction and fantasy writers at the ENMU Jack Williamson Liberal Arts Building.

Friday features a luncheon and panel with Sean Shepherd of the university’s Golden Library and science fiction author and Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist Ian Tregillis.

“Sean is a self-proclaimed non-scientist who came up with a cost-effective and an environmentally friendly solution to a major problem for NASA,” lectureship Coordinator Patrice Caldwell said. “I think that’s a really interesting person to speak at the Williamson Lectureship.”

Shepherd, who went to a NASA conference in Virginia to discuss cleaning up space debris, said this is the first time he will attend the lectureship.

“I think this invite is an opportunity to get involved,” Shepherd said. “I’m honored to speak because I’ve never attended and it’s something I’ve wanted to do.”

Tregillis writes with other authors in a shared-universe series called “Wild Cards,” and his solo book is “Bitter Seeds.” His upcoming book, “The Coldest War,” is in the process of being released.

“(Tregillis) is an intriguing hybrid of science and fiction,” Caldwell said. “I don’t think it is quite common to have a working scientist writing science fiction.”

Panel discussions follow the luncheon.

“This year we have a panel on ‘Avatar,’ and I think blood will flow,” Caldwell said.

Everyone has an opinion about an animation film, and part of the draw is to see what people have to say about the movie, she said.

Caldwell said the lectureship is a great way to expose people to the science fiction community.

The lectureship honors science fiction author Jack Williamson, a longtime Portales resident and ENMU professor, who died in 2006. It started in 1977, when Williamson retired from the university.

Caldwell said the lectureship is a part of Williamson’s legacy to Eastern and to the region.