A Discussion Of Arab Sci-Fi At London's Science Museum

BBC broadcaster Samira Ahmed leads a discussion about art, science and innovation on Saturday 15 November

Star Wars depicted as an Ottoman miniature

Could science fiction help envision an alternative future of the Middle East? What is the link between technological innovation and artistic imagination? Can inventive forms of art, film and literature help to inspire new waves of scientific development around the world? These questions will be at the heart of a unique panel taking place on Saturday 15 November, from 7pm at the Science Museum, London .

BBC broadcaster, Samira Ahmed, will chair a discussion between visionary thinkers who offer new perspectives on whether nurturing creativity through science fiction could be more crucial to our global progress than we might realise. It's called Arab Science Fiction: From Imagination To Innovation and "in true geek spirit" the event will invite dialogue between different spheres; science and the arts, "East" and "West", academia and popular culture. Participants will include writers, authors, literary critics, cultural commentators, social scientists, artists, academics and sci-fi fans. SFX will be there. Will you? Tickets are available now !

This event is produced in partnership with the Nour Festival as a sequel to the salon held at the Dana Centre in 2013. The event is being run by Sindbad Sci-Fi , an initiative for spurring the discovery of and engagement with Arab science fiction. The British Film Institute has embraced this event as part of the BFI Sci-Fi season , of which SFX and Total Film are the media partners.

Journalist and broadcaster Samira Ahmed, who'll be chairing, says, "Even SF can get bogged down in its own traditions. So exploring SF through the prism of the Arab imagination is fascinating. From historical reassessment to watching history unfold in Syria I think this event is a great chance to listen to some powerful literary voices and re-think what SF is about and what it can do." She'll introduce scientist and playwright, Hassan Abdulrazzak ; author and co-founder of Yatakhayaloon (The League Of Arab Sci-Fiers) Yasser Bahjatt ; science writer, and editor of Research Fortnight , Ehsan Masood ; and artist and filmmaker Larissa Sansour .

Organiser Yasmin Khan says, " Sindbad Sci-Fi is an initiative for spurring the discovery of and engagement with Arab Science Fiction. The aim is to sustain a growing community of interest through brokering group dialogue and online discussion, building new partnerships and project collaborations along the way whilst as acting as a flagship for content mapping and research into the genre. The concept for Sindbad Sci-Fi gradually dawned on me while working on the British Library’s landmark exhibition Out Of This World. The exhibition themes spanned the geographic breadth and historical evolution of science fiction which got me wondering about the contribution from the Arab world, both past and present."

Trip To The Heavens

SF as we now know it has come to be regarded as a Western phenomena but earlier precursor works from other parts of the world are less well known. Epic writers from across the Middle East, such as Ibn al-Nafis, explored new ideas about the world in his 13th century treatise Theologus Autodidactus , a work of proto-science fiction. Al-Farabi‘s 9th century Opinions Of The Residents Of A Splendid City , was ahead of its time in envisioning a Utopian society. Al-Qazwini‘s 13th century futuristic tale of Awaj bin Anfaq, about a man travelling to Earth from a distant planet, is thought to be early speculative work. Sindbad the sailor, after which Sindbad Sci-Fi is named, is the fictional sailor from the Arabian book of One Thousand And One Nights , considered an early composite work of proto-science fiction and fantasy.

"This year’s theme will explore science fiction as an important link between the creative imagination and technological innovation and a stellar panel will debate what this could mean in the Middle East and beyond. We often think of science fiction as a bridge between the arts and sciences which offers a realm where new ideas can be tested or explored," explains Yasmin Khan. "As a prism for expressing contemporary fears and fascinations about repressive regimes and alien cultures, Science fiction offers readers and writers a different perspective and a safe platform to envision a future beyond the Arab uprisings that transcends the margins of the media’s geopolitical narrative. I'm positive that Arab science fiction has the potential to help revive the imagination, play an instrumental part in stimulating scientific and technological progress as well as acting as a pressure valve in society and even help to foster stability in the region. But don’t just take my word for it, come and have your say too!"

Arab Science Fiction: From Imagination To Innovation
Science Museum IMAX theatre
Saturday 15 November, 7-9pm
Panel: Samira Ahmed, Hassan Abdulrazzak, Yasser Bahjatt, Ehsan Masood, Larissa Sansour


Adults: £10
Concessions: £8
5-9 people: 10% off total amount (call 0870 870 4868 and quote SINDBAD10)
10+ people: 20% off total amount (call 0870 870 4868 and quote SINDBAD20)

If you're planning to go along, let us know in the comments below and look out for us there!