“When I think of cross-pollinating (Art and STEM), writing Science fiction (Sci Fi) comes to my mind particularly in the early years. Sci Fi (SF) is a genre of literature based on alternate histories and/ or imagined futures. It presents an interdisciplinary approach to learning, rich with scientific and technological advances which shape social construct, the environment and more. It negates the question of prioritizing maths and science education over arts and instead celebrates an integration. It’s a fun way to build future thinking into curriculums in a way that takes advantage of the natural curiosity of young children, their rather wild imaginations, and risk-taking and can set a foundation upon which they prepare for current and future challenges.
Sci Fi suggests an interdisciplinary approach which might begin in a literature class with learners tasked with writing a sci-fi piece; critical thinking classes could expound on the possibilities; in design and technology, the blueprints of ideas could become computer-based models or simulations to demonstrate the associated laws of science. All these could be presented at dedicated ‘debate’ sessions where perspectives ‘for and against’ can be heard.”
Science Fiction is one of the fascinating sub-genres of fiction. The capacity of a science fiction storyteller’s mind to open up portals to new, unimagined worlds, characters and parallels are immense. SciFi creates a subconscious breakdown of impossibilities, leading us into paths of living metaphors. Some of my favourite shows, books and characters are born of science fiction. For example, I love the way the concept of Time in fictionalized technicalities is displayed and played out in Legends of Tomorrow; I’m crazy about The Flash not because of Barry and Iris, but because of the way the concept of Light, Speed, and Physics, in general, are made into comely, fantastic life situations. The books I read growing up are parts of the things that shaped my mind and I grew up as a staunch Art student.
The introduction of SciFi into my life and intellect have opened my mind to a totally new way of thinking about Art, while opening me up to embracing Engineering as a wider, more wholistic field, rather than a field that, growing up was seen as a divisive topic of discussion.
Octavia Butler, one of the foremost African American women who wrote in the science fiction genre, and was the author of twelve books and the recipient of an esteemed MacArthur Fellowship grant in 1995, in an interview with InMotion Magazine described the interesting amazing way SciFi pulls you into two worlds (storytelling & science) “There isn’t any subject you can’t tackle by way of science fiction. And probably there isn’t any subject that somebody hasn’t tackled at one time or another. You don’t have the formulas that you might have for a mystery, or even a romance. It’s completely wide open. If you’re going to write science fiction, that means you’re using science and you’ll need to use it accurately. At least speculate in ways that make sense, you know. If you’re not using science, what you’re probably writing is fantasy”
In another panel discussion at UCLA in 2002, moderated by Arthur Cover, Octavia Butler covers a range of Science based discussions from her Storytelling perspective, showing how much SciFi is needed.
Nnedi Okorafor, who is a contemporary legend takes the rich African culture and melds into Science Fiction positing that “Science fiction is the only genre that enables African writers to envision a future from our African perspective.”
Her first published novel was Zahrah the Windseeker, which takes place in a world like Nigeria, except it also has super advanced biotechnology. A couple of years later Editor, John Joseph Adams came to her and asked her to write a story for his environmental science fiction anthology Seeds of Change.
We know that one of the first steps of building up individuals is to have them see stories and models that they can relate to. Storytelling is the mental bloodstream with which we humans grow, live and stay alive on. The power of storytelling is crucial to us now more than ever, it has always been crucial to our non-biological reproductive cycle as stories are handed down from one generation to the other.
So, think about it. What happens when we make science fiction a very important part of the stories we create and share? Will the campaign for STEM not be easier to diffuse, when STEM is made an integral aspect of the stories we make and share? Won’t Art and Science be easily intertwined without the difficulty of polarities? As one of my favourite writers, Janna Levin, who is also a Cosmologist says, “There’s a falseness about the division between the ability for science and the ability for art. We’re born capable of doing both, and then we slowly unlearn—a gradual loss of curiosity. And we don’t have to give that up.”