Science fiction shindig

I'm a science fiction junkie. There's no hiding it; the last book I read was William Gibson's Pattern Recognition, a futuristic novel about modern consumer culture, a woman with an extreme sensitivity to brands, and a group of Internet obsessives trying to find meaning and patterns within a mysterious collection of video moments called "the footage." Before that? The Year's Best Science Fiction 22nd Annual Collection.

What is it about science fiction that draws me back again and again? I love plunging into entirely unusual alternate worlds, or familiar settings with subtle, unmistakable differences. I'm attracted to the idea of aliens and being part of a universal community. I'm entranced by plausible ideas buried within the more fantastic worm-hole travel scenarios. I enjoy contemplating the fact that we could have evolved differently, that we could gain technology we don't currently have. That the books set the collective subconscious in motion, creating our own reality with each new setting.

If you're as psyched about the genre as I am, USF-Tampa presents "50/50: USF and Science Fiction and Fantasy, Past-Present-Future." A panel of sci-fi writers — John Clute, Elizabeth Hand and Kathleen Goonan — look at the past 50 years and look forward to the next 50, of both the university and the science fiction and fantasy genre in general. In addition, Hand reads from her forthcoming novel, Generation Loss. It should be a lively and enlightening few hours.

50/50, Mon., March 20, 1-3 p.m., Sam and Martha Gibbons Alumni Center, USF-Tampa, 42020 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, free admission, 813-974-4563.