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Center for Science and the Imagination event puts the science in science fiction

ASU's CSI hosts the Science Fiction TV Dinner twice a semester to discuss the science in popular sci-fi TV shows

Star Wars the Clone Wars.jpg
Dee Bradley Baker voices the clones on Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2018-2019)

Science fiction is often discredited as purely fantasy, but there are elements of science fiction that reflect scientific and technological advances that are researched and developed in the real world.

ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination hosts a Science Fiction TV Dinner two times a semester to discuss these elements, from "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" to "Star Trek" and more. 

Joey Eschrich, editor and program manager for the CSI, was one of the founders of the series and has been involved ever since. 

Eschrich said he hopes that analyzing and discussing elements of science fiction from pop culture will help audience members gain a more intimate understanding of some of the technological advances and research that are present in the real world today, such as genetic engineering and artificial intelligence.

“Looking closely at science fiction can be a way to kind of engage with those issues through story in a way that lets you see those issues through the eyes of characters,” Eschrich said. 

The event series has been a tradition of CSI for the last seven years, with two each semester since fall 2012. The dinners involve watching an episode of a sci-fi TV series and then having an open discussion with event speakers and the audience. 

Eschrich said the inspiration to begin hosting the series came from numerous film events that he attended while getting his undergraduate degree in the ASU film school. 

Eschrich said while the events were fun, they lasted too long and people often left before the Q&A portions. This is why he chose to analyze television shows at the CSI dinners, since their shorter run times allow for longer discussions. 

He said that through talking to people and holding these events he also realized that science fiction TV shows have some of the most devoted fan communities.

Eschrich said he wanted to hold these events to "take things they’re passionate about and have smart conversations about them.”

On April 9, Science Fiction TV Dinner will feature speakers to provide in depth analysis on an episode of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," and discuss the ethical aspects of the scientific elements presented in the show. 

Nina Miller is CSI’s graphic design specialist and is also considered by many at CSI to be the “'Star Wars' expert.” Miller has been involved with making the events happen over the years, but this event will be her first time participating as a speaker. 

Miller said being a “Star Wars” fan since childhood has affected the person she is today in many ways, such as allowing her to think about scientific advancements in an enjoyable way. Miller said the cultural phenomenon that is “Star Wars” also helped her get through hard times in her life and influenced her aesthetically as a designer.

“People have a relationship with ('Star Wars'), whether they like it, or they’re bored by it or whatever,” Miller said. “It’s like it’s a religion in some ways.”

“Star Wars: The Clone Wars," a product of George Lucas and Lucasfilm, began airing on Cartoon Network in 2008 and lasted for five seasons before being picked up by Netflix in 2014 for the series’ sixth and seventh seasons. 

The upcoming Science Fiction TV Dinner will focus on an episode "Clone Wars" titled “Conspiracy.” Miller said the chosen episode is a good representation of a lot of the most common science fiction elements that are often talked about at the Center. 

“The episode features a clone and a droid kind of working together in it, so I think part of it is talking about how clones and droids find their own voice, in a way, and how 'Star Wars' kind of looks at how we relate to droids, or relate to products of research like clones,” Miller said. 

Bob Beard, CSI’s public engagement strategist, said all students should try to attend one of the Science Fiction TV Dinners and meet the speakers, many of who are doing research at ASU.

“I think they’re fascinating opportunities to get to learn about the things that we’re all going to be grappling with, whether now or in the future," Beard said. "And I think the thing that’s amazing for me is to see all the great work that’s happening at ASU."

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