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New ASU newsletter explores futures thinking and the depths of the imagination

ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination published the first edition of 'Imaginary Papers'


"Part of the appeal, echoed by both Zinos-Amaro and Eschrich, is the short accessible pieces." Illustration published on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. 

A newsletter spotlighting futures thinking, science fiction world-building and the depths of the imagination will be published quarterly by ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. 

The newsletter, titled Imaginary Papers, published its inaugural issue on Jan. 17 with pieces about the science fiction world from the novel "Only Forward," which looks into the journalistic undertones of "The Handmaid’s Tale" and an analysis into the unique approach from the First People’s Climate Report. 

The editor of Imaginary Papers, Joey Eschrich, co-founded the publication on Medium but has since shifted to a newsletter format. 

“When we were first starting the channel on Medium, it was an attempt to think in creative and really broad and inclusive ways about the strange and tangled relationships between humans and technology,” Eschrich said. 

Eschrich credits working at Future Tense, a partnership between Slate, New America and ASU that “explores how emerging technologies will change the way we live” for inspiring him to edit more nonfiction. 

Eschrich sees the newsletter as an opportunity to further diversify the Center’s pool of contributors.

“There's such a constant flow of really interesting people and ideas from all over the map and we’re capturing and writing down and distributing such a small percentage of those conversations,” Eschrich said. 

In future issues, audio clips from a new, related podcast called “The Imagination Desk” may be included, which discusses how imagination is utilized in a variety of occupations, Eschrich said.

A contributing writer on the first issue, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, believes the shift to a new format will make it more flexible and accessible to the general public.

The newsletter format will allow “contributors to explore topics around science fiction, culture and society in a way that is smart, accessible to the general reader and also bite-sized,” Zinos-Amaro said. 

Part of the appeal, echoed by both Zinos-Amaro and Eschrich, is the short accessible pieces. 

“I really enjoy stuff that is better sized for those little bites of time where you’re waiting and you are interested in learning something and engaging with some things and thinking about it but you don't have time to pour over a huge report,” Eschrich said. 

Torie Bosch, another contributor, is a writer for Slate and said Imaginary Papers differed from her role at Slate because it allowed her to spend a greater amount of time on each piece and streamline her ideas.

“Imaginary Papers is taking up a much longer and more, sort of, deliberative point of view, which is something I'm a bit jealous of, to be honest,” said Bosch. 

Eschrich’s piece, classified under the title “Imagination Elsewhere” explores the impact and different approach of the recent First People’s Climate Report. 

“It sticks close to the experiences of people who are stewards of their local environment and who are actually having tangible effects of their actions on climate change.”

This was different from the typical approach as it focused on those who are historically marginalized and economically stressed, as well as hearing a plurality of voices that are not always emphasized, Eschrich said.

Zinos-Amaro’s piece explores a past vision of the future, the novel "Only Forward," published in 1994. He urges current writers to create their own space as this novel had.

Bosch’s entry on "The Handmaid’s Tale" shows the impact just a single frame can have on films, TV shows and video games, she said. 

Eschrich hopes that Imaginary Papers will “carve out some space in between really sharp academic and analytical writing and things that are a little more fun and whimsical.” 

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