Ed Finn: Why sci-fi is important to innovation

Ed Fin, posted to ASU News October 16th:

This initial book project was a great way to explore different ways to build and foster collaborations between authors, artists and researchers. One huge factor here was working with Kathryn Cramer, my co-editor on the project, who has wrote or edited almost 30 science fiction and fantasy books and anthologies, and has deep roots in the science fiction world. She helped us find and work with really talented writers who were fired up about this idea, and came in ready to try new things and collaborate.

Some of these collaborations, notably the one between Neal Stephenson and Keith Hjelmstad, a professor of structural engineering at ASU who helped Neal design the 20 kilometer tall steel tower at the center of his story, involved face-to-face meetings, email exchanges, phone calls and other traditional methods. Some of the authors used our digital community to share their ideas, collaborate with experts and seek feedback and input from community members. Video conferencing tools like Skype were invaluable for some of the other teams.

I was pleasantly surprised at how motivated everyone was to truly collaborate and open up their creative and thought process. One big concern for us was making sure that the science fiction writers didn't employ the researchers and experts as just fact checkers or technical consultants, and that the researchers didn't see the writers as narrative illustrators for ideas that were already fully baked.

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