Renowned science fiction author recalls his inspirations

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New York Times best-selling author Gregory Benford, Ph.D., discusses his science fiction novels. ZEILA EDRIAL / Daily Titan
New York Times best-selling author Gregory Benford, Ph.D., discusses his science fiction novels.
ZEILA EDRIAL / Daily Titan

The Patrons of the Pollak Library hosted bestselling author Gregory Benford, Ph.D., Saturday to discuss his passion for science fiction writing and his award winning novels at Cal State Fullerton.

Benford is a professor emeritus of physics and astronomy from UC Irvine. A recipient of two Nebula awards, he has written over 100 articles in the field of physics, and has served as an advisor to the Department of Energy for NASA and the White House Council on Space Policy.

The son of an army officer in occupied Germany, Benford became a science fiction fan at an early age. He and his identical twin brother James co-founded a fan zine in 1955 at the age of 15.

In 1964, Benford stumbled across an ad in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction announcing a writing contest during his second year of graduate school.

The challenge was to write a short story about a unicorn and a univac, “under the theory that with such a tight constraint, there are probably only one or two decent stories that could be written.”

Benford won the contest and published his first story, “Stand-In,” in 1965.

He went on to earn a Ph.D. from UC San Diego in 1967. Benford combined his experience in physics and lifelong passion for science fiction to pen over 20 novels in the field and over 100 short stories.

“One of the great things about science is the seeking of the new,” Benford said. “And so, it’s the potential of finding something new about the universe that I think motivates most scientists, and certainly that’s true to me.”

His most recent novel, a sequel to his previous work Bowl of Heaven, will be released in April.

The Pollak Library’s Patrons Lecture Series hosts three speakers each year—one in the fall and one in the spring, as well as a featured speaker at their annual end-of-term spring meeting.

Chair of the Activities Committee Howard Seller, Ph.D., said the theme of the Patrons’ meetings emerge from the research or book the speaker has written. The speakers are either people who have written a book or have made some kind of contribution to our culture, Seller said.

“Part of our purpose really is to sort of enhance the intellectual mind of the university and whenever possible to provide speakers, themes that would be of interest to the students,” Seller said.

Joanne Gass, Ph.D., a member of the Patrons governing board, introduced Benford to the committee.

“She had known him at UC Irvine casually, thought he was interesting speaker who had this rather impressive background as a scientist and writer so we invited him and he came,” Seller said.

Gass, an emeritus professor of english and comparative literature at CSUF was pleased with Benford’s presentation.

“He’s a very famous science fiction writer, very well known scientist, and so yes, it was my suggestion,” Gass said. “And thank god he turned out well.”

The next speaker will be Mike Norton, an english professor at CSUF. He will discuss happiness in literature in the 18th century in March.

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