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Dartmouth Design Project Combines Fact & Fiction to Imagine Possible Futures
Apr 06, 2023 | by Catha Mayor
The Design Initiative at Dartmouth (DIAD) has launched The Dartmouth Speculative Fiction Project, co-led by Associate Professor of Engineering and DIAD Co-Director Sol Diamond, Department of English Lecturer Rebecca Clark, and writer and artist Sharang Biswas '12 Th'13. The project aims to create a collection of human-centered fiction that draws on faculty research to illustrate what our future could realistically look, sound, feel, and even taste like.
"Interdisciplinary collaboration is a core value of DIAD that we believe is necessary to co-create a better future," says Diamond. "Putting this value into action takes much more than getting diverse thinkers into the same room. True collaboration requires deep listening and engagement to the point where we can tell each other's stories and envision the future together. The Dartmouth Speculative Fiction Project is designed to do this in a way that we hope will lead to broad engagement with scholarly and creative ideas about possible futures."
The project brings together six Dartmouth organizations—the Irving Institute for Energy and Society, the Department of English and Creative Writing, the Ethics Institute, the Leslie Center for Humanities, the Neukom Institute for Computational Science, and the Society of Fellows—as well as three external partners: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, Sawtooth Kitchen, and Still North Books & Bar.
"My undergraduate time at Dartmouth really showed me how valuable an interdisciplinary, liberal arts perspective can be," says Biswas. "When people ask me, 'What made you think about bringing together artists and researchers?' I challenge them to instead ask, 'Why wouldn't we bring together artists and researchers? Why aren't artists further incentivized to seek inspiration from scientists and scholars? Why aren't researchers encouraged to engage with the visions of the world that artists disseminate, or to leverage the communicative power of the arts?'"
Along with Biswas, the project involves seven additional celebrated science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers who will collaborate with Dartmouth faculty to create an anthology of short stories that ask the tough questions and explore the future of humanity. The anthology will be published by Lightspeed Magazine.
"Speculative fiction is one of the most exciting, rapidly evolving, and increasingly omnipresent literary genres today," says Clark. "At a time of volatile changes and uncertain futures on both micro and macro scales, we clearly yearn to read, watch, play, and talk about how the world could be different. Change has to be imagined first before it can happen. Speculative fiction is less about prophecy than imaginative problem solving, immersing us in possible futures that make our present seem ripe for change."
The project begins on April 13–16 when the authors visit campus. Author/faculty pairs will use design methods and mindsets to stimulate cross-disciplinary explorations of the professors' research, and participate in public readings and panel-discussions. Following the April visit, authors will continue to work closely with faculty to write and refine their stories. Finally, the authors will return for a Dartmouth symposium in June to share their works.
Dartmouth students will also be invited to submit stories, with up to four student works selected for inclusion in the anthology. Final publication of the anthology is expected in 2024.
For more information, to join the project listserv, or to preorder the anthology contact DIAD at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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