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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

The Future Is Here: A Festival Celebrating Science and Science Fiction

By Phil Plait

Are you a) a science enthusiast, 2) a science-fiction fan, and γ) live near Washington, D.C.?

Then you’re going to love this weekend: Smithsonian magazine is holding a festival called “The Future Is Here,” from Friday to Sunday, April 22–24. It’s a celebration of science and science fiction and how they interact. It’ll be a lot of fun.

Most of the events are free, but some require tickets (which are on sale now). The speakers range from NASA scientists to actors, writers, and producers of television sci-fi. For example, one speaker is a guy named William Shatner, of whom you may have heard. Also speaking is Chris Carter (creator of The X-Files), NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, explorers Céline and Alexandra Cousteau, Arc Attack (Tesla coils playing music!), and seriously a much longer list of very cool people.*

Also, me. I’ll be there in two capacities. On Friday night I’ll be moderating the 12 Monkeys panel, with co-creator Terry Matalas and stars Amanda Schull, Aaron Stanford, and Emily Hampshire. 12 Monkeys is a new series on Syfy, a part of the network’s notable and in my not-so-humble opinion highly successful campaign to put out some seriously high-quality television shows (like The Expanse).

12 Monkeys is loosely based on the movie of the same name, about a group of scientists from the future who use time travel to try to prevent a global plague that wipes out nearly all of humanity. The first season has already aired, and the second started this past week. It’s a really good show, atmospheric and clever, and I dig it. On the panel we’ll be discussing the mechanics and philosophy of time travel, how the writers keep up with alternate timelines, and how the actors and crew keep up with what must be a bonkers filming situation. Multiple timelines and multiple time eras can’t be easy to track.

In my second role at the event, I’m very pleased to be interviewing Dava Newman on stage, one on one, about NASA: where it’s going, how it’ll do it, what their plans are. I’ll also be giving a very brief presentation on what NASA means to me, introducing several other NASA speakers, and then also bringing in, via Skype, Andy Weir, the author of the best-selling novel The Martian, which you also may have heard of. I hear a pretty good movie was made about it.

I am very much looking forward to the festivities! I’ve been a science-fiction fan my whole life, and (obviously) also a science aficionado. The two are inextricably linked for me, each urging on and inspiring the other. The recognition this symbiosis gets now warms my heart and makes me hope for the future.

In many ways, that’s what both are about.

So please join me and all these fantastic guests for a weekend of looking up, looking out, and looking forward.

*Correction, April 20, 2016: This post originally misspelled Chris Carter’s last name.

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