Science fiction anthology sparks national conversation
The Center for Science and the Imagination's Project Hieroglyph is a network of science fiction authors, scientists, engineers, artists and other creative people who collaborate on ambitious, optimistic visions of the near future grounded in real science and technology. The project published its first anthology of science fiction stories, "Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future," (William Morrow/HarperCollins) in September. In a recent New York Times article, contributors discussed how science fiction visions function as a blueprint for transformative innovation and shape our shared future.
"I got into a little bit of a rut thinking that the way to be cool was to be cynical and dark," said Neal Stephenson, a bestselling novelist and founder of Project Hieroglyph. "Now I have a license to go out and try something with a different tone." The idea for Project Hieroglyph dates back to a conversation between Stephenson and ASU President Michael Crow in 2011 about science fiction's role in inspiring scientists and engineers to "Do Big Stuff" and create audacious moonshot solutions to grand challenges.
As Project Hieroglyph has developed, its focus has broadened beyond labs and research institutes: its aim is to establish iconic visions of possible futures that our entire society can work toward collectively.
“What we want to do is to use stories to get people more invested in a future that we can all believe in – something that we actually want to see happen. That is what we call ‘thoughtful optimism,’” said Ed Finn, co-editor of the "Hieroglyph" anthology, in an interview with BBC News about the project. “If we want better futures, then we need better dreams.” Finn is the director of ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination and an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English.
"Sci-fi stories have helped shape technology at crucial points," said Kathryn Cramer, Finn’s co-editor. The article points to examples ranging from solar power, radar and flat-screen TVs to mobile phones and atomic bombs. "But a lot of the past was dystopian. We're hoping to show that there are a lot of things we can do better."
The project has also generated recent attention from The Wall Street Journal, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Huffington Post, public radio's Science Friday, Slate, Symmetry, The Guardian and Nature, among others.