A Sci-fi Intervention

Written By: Andy

Star Wars? Stargate? Star Trek? You may not have an answer to which one is best, either because you love them all equally or that you’ve never bothered to look at them. Either way, attending today’s event could save you from a life of utter torment.

Dr. Urbanski of the English department will be hosting a seminar on sci-fi and fantasy writing today at 3:30 – 4:30 in Miller Hall.

It’s (somewhat) common knowledge that these genres are not the same as most others; they revolve heavily around “world building”, the practice of creating a massive universe of lore and history involving the story. Star Wars has a plethora of books and spin-offs beyond the seven main films that delve deep into otherwise unknown facts about Lucas’s world.

For her seminar today, such extensions of a story’s universe will be discussed, specifically sequels.

Dr. Urbanski is halfway through the sequel to her own “space opera” – a story format akin to Star Wars – and this, among other things, got her thinking about how sequels work.

“I was inspired by the conventional wisdom that sequels are bad, that franchises are terrible. People look at sequels and ask “why are they successful”, in a spiteful tone. For me, this was a genuine question.”

The answer, she says, lies partially in the community that the work creates. “There’s a whole area called fandom study, where you study fan behaviour and fan interactions.”

“The first words of my topic [for the seminar] are “joyous disruptions”, because being a fan is about joy.”

Joy, she says, is what separates sci-fi and fantasy from other genres. “It’s not all about prose, it’s much more about the story. When you get wrapped up in a rich, vivid world, you get really happy”.

Dr. Urbanski teaches a course focusing entirely on this concept, which is running this fall. “We read a lot of stuff by current writers in the field. [The course] is all about prepping for a long-term project.” Dr. Urbanski is hoping to make the course permanent.

An English professor teaching science fiction may seem atypical, but Dr. Urbanski explains her passion well.

“It wasn’t where my interest and where my understanding of stories developed. A lot of people get that from books. For me it was from two, very distinct places: soap operas and Star Wars.”

So, if you’re in the mood to learn about how to build your very own universe, chocked full with characters, secrets, and maybe even space ships (or, if you just want to nerd out), head down to Miller Hall, first floor conference room, today at 3:30.

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