Dave Bradley attended a panel of Eastern thinkers, writers and filmmakers
The Director’s Suite at London’s world famous Science Museum is a handsome two- tiered library with space for about 100 seats, a big screen and a panel area. And it was this venue that played host to a discussion, subtitled From Imagination To Innovation, organised by Sindbad Sci- Fi as part of Kensington and Chelsea’s Nour Festival. Broadcaster Samira Ahmed hosted an informal chat between scientist and playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak; author and co- founder of Yatakhayaloon ( The League Of Arab Sci- Fiers) Yasser Bahjatt; science writer and editor of Research Fortnight Ehsan Masood; and artist and filmmaker Larissa Sansour. There were story readings and a short film entitled Nation Estate.
The event aimed to unite many things: science and the arts, East and West, academia and popular culture. It may not have solved the perennial puzzler of world peace, but the evening did remind us that while modern SF tends to be regarded as a Western phenomena, there are important precursors from the Middle East including the fantastic legends of Sindbad the sailor. And there’s a thriving interest in genre literature there today, despite censorship in places like Saudi Arabia, as revealed by Yasser Bahjatt. He contends that there’s an important correlation between the sales of sci- fi in a country and the overall level of scientific advancement. “This year’s theme [ was] science fiction as an important link between the creative imagination and technological innovation,” explains Sindbad Sci- Fi’s coordinator Yasmin Khan. Samira Ahmed says: “Even SF can get bogged down in its own traditions. So exploring SF through the prism of the Arab imagination is fascinating. It’s a great chance to listen to some powerful literary voices and rethink what SF is about and what it can do.” The event included a prize draw and a pleasant, comfortable environment in which to sip orange juice and chat. More information about the annual Nour Festival at www. rbkc. gov. uk/ subsites/ nour. aspx