San Juan College instructor talks science fiction characters in community lecture

Sam Ribakoff
Farmington Daily Times
Instructor of English at San Juan College Travis Wade lectures on characters in works of science fiction at San Juan College in Farmington on Nov. 4, 2019.

“What was your journey that got you here today?” Travis Wade asked a handful of students and community members in a lecture hall at San Juan College on Nov. 4.

Wade, who is an English instructor and head of the Creative Writing program at San Juan College, talked about the playground at Mesa Verde Elementary School in Farmington as one of the most interesting places in the world to him.

Growing up in Farmington, Wade fondly remembers running around in the playground as a child, and having his first kiss in that playground.

“All of those experiences you’ve had, all of that finds its way into the setting, plot, and the characters in science fiction, and everything in sci-fi can change from having to describe the world we all live in,” said Wade, “well, the world in which most of us live in anyway.”

As part of San Juan College’s One Book/One Community series, where events and lectures at the College are based around analyzing one novel, Wade’s lecture revolves around creating characters for literary works of science fiction, as well as analyzing the characters in this semester’s One Book selection, the Hugo and Nebula award winning science fiction novella "Binti" by Nnedi Okorafor.

Wade serves on the committee at San Juan College that chose "Binti" for the One Book/One Community series.     

“Binti touched on a lot of themes that we thought students could relate to,” said Wade, who described "Binti" as a coming of age story about a young person finding themselves struggling with the traditions of their family and the fast paced, technology driven, world of a futuristic university that they enter into.   

“I think "Binti," and the sci-fi genre is a creative way to talk about social justice issues,” said Kyle McKinley, an honors English student at San Juan College, who attended Wade’s lecture.

One of McKinley final projects for a class she’s taking is to create an original superhero character that fights for social justice issues, a cause she’s passionate about, having written a few class papers on Native American representation in films.

She wouldn’t reveal the character she’s working on, but she’s adamant that Wade’s lecture got her thinking about her character, and how the futuristic and fantastic world of science fiction can relate to issues we face here on Earth.

Sam Ribakoff is a visual journalist for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-333-5283 or via email at