This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

December 14, 2016

Science Fiction Shapes the Future

Sponsored by ARAMCO, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, last week the science fiction author Yasser Bahjatt spoke at a meeting of the citizen diplomacy organization, Global Austin. There, we interviewed Bahjatt about the relationship between science fiction and the future. The title of his presentation was "Legend of the Imaginary: Science Fiction as a Starting Point for Reality".

Science fiction promotes having a free mind
Bahjatt began by explaining that science fiction encourages us to think freely about many possibilities, including new technologies and to contemplate the use of current technologies to new applications.

Science fiction creates the future
Moreover, science fiction typically involves multiple cultures and perspectives, science fiction expands our capability to have compassion. And by expanding our capability to imagine, science fiction creates increased possibilities for humanity.

"Nothing comes from nowhere"
Bahjatt challenged his audience to name any technology that was not first envisioned in science fiction. We couldn't. The link between human imagination and scientific development is obvious. Virtually all our technologies were first envisioned by science fiction authors.

Creating a market in the 21st century
Before Bahjatt and his friend began publishing science fiction in The Middle East, the science fiction industry was almost non-existent in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arabian Nations, in general. Arabian publishers refused to publish his novel with the claim that no one would read this genre. Boy, were they wrong!

Publishing and branding successes
Their first book HWJN was almost an overnight success; with hundreds of thousands of books sold number one book for months and a bestseller for years. By now, the book has had over one million traceable illegal downloads, an impressive statistic. Understanding the value of multimedia, Bahjatt created a trailer for the book, as if it were a movie---a brilliant idea. The success of this and subsequent books may be because nobody else before them filled the void of books for young adults. A popular Middle Eastern rapper even made a rap video about the book.

The goal: build an Arabic science fiction culture and community
Their success has led them to create "The League of Arabic SciFiers" and even to establish a prize for the best science fiction idea that led to a technological breakthrough, SF2R: SciFi to Reality Prize. When they first started their publishing venture about five years ago, there were effectively no science fiction books published in Saudi Arabia; this year, 17 books were published in the field.

How will this change the world in 20 years?
Imagine a world in which every country on the planet had its own science fiction culture? Can you envision how we could promote technological advancement through science fiction? We look forward to such a future.

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