DESIGN PROGRAM: PALESTINIAN SCIENCE FICTION WRITINGannelys
“Science Fiction is an opportunity to understand ourselves, our hopes and our fears, and imagine a world radically different than the one we are presented with today – free from the restraints of time. It is a place where we can create exciting new futures and explore how we might get there tomorrow.”
From January – April 2019, writer Callum Copley undertook a residency at Hosh Jalsa, for Disarming Design from Palestine. He hosted multiple workshop series exploring Science Fiction and how to write it. He invited artists, writers, students, and other imaginative minds to join Disarming Design from Palestine for eight weekly workshops focused on Science Fiction writing; exploring the genres potentials in a Palestinian context.
How does the future meet us halfway? Can we think of freedom beyond a logic of progress? How can we envision a political horizon beyond the realities around us? What are the limitations of raising questions about the future in this way? These are the types of questions underpinning the workshops in which consisted of drawing tasks, readings, discussions, and movie screenings that ultimately concluded in the development of their own stories.
Palestinian Worldbuilding Workshop
Part 1: Research (Session 1-3)
27 january, 3+10 february 2019
The course began with an introduction to Sci-Fi, exploring its historical connections to social and political movements across the world. In the opening lecture participants learnt about the various histories and sub-genres of the Sci-Fi and how they interconnected. From Afrofuturism to Russian Cosmism, the variety of ways the future has been imagined by writers across the globe and through time was highlighted. Using the works of Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler, amongst others, the group explored how speculative fiction can be used as a productive tool to imagine other ways of being. The first session ended with a collaborative map-drawing exercise called “A Quiet Year” where players are asked to imagine a community of people rebuilding their homeland after a prolonged occupation.
In the second session, focus was given to the construction of believable imaginary worlds. In another presentation, Callum gave an overview of a variety of techniques used in science fiction worldbuilding, as well as many of the pitfalls. After some small writing tasks, the group undertook another collaborative task titles ‘backcasting’. Here the groups were presented with fictional scenarios 100 years in the future. Their task we to then create a plausible timeline from the present day to this given point. Working backwards and forwards along the timeline they had to come up with a logical series of events that might reach their goal. In the final research session the group examined what was involved in creating unique characters, as well as some of the stereotypes and archetypes that have traditionally been deployed.
Part 2: Story Development (Session 4-8)
17, 24 February , 3 + 10 + 17 March 2019
In the second part of the workshop series, participants focused on developing their own ideas for a short science fiction story. These sessions consisted of many short writing exercises to spark concepts and to develop different writing techniques. Many exercises involved experimenting with futurity and exploring the use of past and future tenses in relation to fiction. Through one-to-one tuition and feedback each individual worked on completing a story of their own to be published in a group publication.
In addition to the main 8 week workshop Callum also hosted a number of other workshops with organizations across Palestine. The first was a two part workshop in collaboration with The Fiction Council, a youth club in East Jerusalem exploring the basics of Science Fiction.
REWORLDING PALESTINE: A collection of Palestinian Science-Fiction Short Stories
The outcome of the 8 week workshop at Hosh Jalsa is a collection of short stories by the Participants. ‘Reworlding’ is a concerted effort to reimagine the places and spaces we inhabit by generating a multiplicity of futures with which to affect the present positively. Reworlding takes the notion of worldbuilding beyond any ostensible purpose as art or entertainment and deploys aspects of it as a radical tool to instigate change in the world. It not only operates as an opportunity to experiment with new ways of existing in the world; imaging different, economic and social structures, but facilitates a critical perspective on the familiar. With a hope that as Kwodo Eshun states, “social reality and science fiction create a feedback between each other”.
The contributions in the collection vary in form, length and style but all attempt to address the ostensibly western genre of science fiction through a uniquely Palestinian lense. From Mysterious Weapons of Mass Destruction, to Fortune Tellers and Telepathic Conspiracies; the stories explore an rapidly growing but comparatively small niche of middle eastern speculative fiction. The book is currently in the editing and design phase and will be launched later in the year.
Contributors: Adele Jarrar, Callum Copley (editor), Fakhry Taha, Hiba Isleem, Jamila Ewais, Lama Altakruri, Qusai Al Saify Shada Mustafa and Shayma Nader
Fiction Council Workshop
Session 1, 8 february 2019
In the first session, The Fiction Council visited Hosh Jalsa and received a tour of the space. They then received a crash course in the basics of Science Fiction and began to play another collaborative world building game called ‘Planet Home’, designed by Callum.
Session 2, 14 february 19
The second session was hosted by the Fiction Council in their space in Beit Safafa and revolved around concluding the game which was started in the first session. At the end of the workshop, the participants presented their completed worlds, complete with alien species, histories and architecture. Using this material, the group have decided to develop their ideas further into another project with DDFP to be announced soon.
Science Studio (Qattan Foundation) Workshop
(Session 1-3) 1, 3, 9 march 2019
In addition to the two previous workshops, Callum also hosted a small series of workshops in collaboration with the Qattan foundation aimed at teaching the basics of Science Fiction to a group of local school teachers. Through a series of similar presentations and games, the teachers learnt about the genre so that they could pass on some of the knowledge to their own students.
“Science fiction is a place where we can create exciting new futures and explore how we might get there tomorrow and for this very reason it is of such importance when faced with violence of the occupation at present.”