Science fiction lovers at the University of New Mexico are in for a treat as University Libraries start SciFi Blast Off, a series of virtual science fiction-related events throughout the spring semester.

Upcoming events for the series include team trivia on Jan. 26, a movie watch party featuring the film “Prospect” on Feb. 10 and a book discussion on Sarah Pinsker’s “Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea” (specifically on the included short stories “Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea,” “Our Lady of the Open Road” and “And Then There Were (N-One)") on Feb. 26.

“Basically, the idea is just to kick off the spring semester with some fun activities that will let people connect even though we’re in this socially distanced time,” co-organizer Holly Surbaugh said.



The series was inspired by co-organizer Glenn Koelling’s idea for a book discussion and Surbaugh’s yearning to host a movie watch party. The two then combined their ideas and added a trivia night to top off the series.

“Holly is like a walking encyclopedia of (science fiction) and I’m more of a dabbler, you know,” Koelling said. “I know a lot of it, but I don’t have a good memory, so between the two of us we made a good pair.”

Koelling said another source of inspiration was the $400,000 endowment from the Linda K. Lewis Endowment for Science Fiction and Women’s Studies, which financially supported the Summer of Sci Fi event series last year. The endowment “honors UNM professor emerita Linda K. Lewis, who served as a collections librarian from 1969-2010,” according to UNM Newsroom, and inspired the Pinsker book selection.

Koelling said she hopes that the event brings joy to students even “in these dark days of winter.”

The series had a trial run in the summer, but due to the pandemic and most students being off campus, participation was difficult. Koelling said students are more likely to participate this semester.

“Because the library buildings were closed, we really still wanted to put out a little sign post that said that the libraries are still here, and we still care about you and we still want you to engage with this community,” Surbaugh said.

Some students have already signed up for the trivia and movie nights, and Koelling encouraged those who have time to read even one of the three short stories that will be the focus of the book discussion in February to sign up.

“It‘s all stuff we like to do, so we’re hoping that other people like to do it with us,” Koelling said.

Students interested in cosplaying can tag @unmlibraries on Twitter or Instagram with #unmscifi to show off their creative outfits.

Surbaugh encouraged students interested in the sci-fi genre to look at the library’s science fiction collections, which include various physical and digital collections.

Megan Gleason is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @fabflutist2716