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Sharjah: Many modern inventions such as mobile phones and automatic sliding doors were first featured in science fiction novels, authors said at Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Friday.

Speaking at the ‘Futuristic writing’ session, the writers spoke about how some novelists’ imagination has turned into reality.

Maryam Rashed Al Zaabi, Emirati author of children’s book The Little Astronaut, and Michael Anderle, author of the Kurtherian Gambit series, discussed whether writers could “predict” the future accurately.

The panel was moderated by Emirati writer Eman Al Yousuf, who has published seven books, including the novel Sun Guard.

(L to R) Michael Anderle, Maryam Rashed Al Zaabi, and Eman Al Yousuf at SIBF 2021 session at Expo Centre Sharjah on Friday Image Credit: Supplied

Internet predicted in 1800s?

Al Yousuf pointed out how inventions we take for granted now – such as smartphones and sliding doors – had once been a figment of a writer’s imagination. She was of the opinion that authors could in fact foresee the future and even predict pandemics like COVID-19. She also referred to Mark Twain’s predictions in the late 1800s about the internet.

Can imagination drive progress?

Al Zaabi noted how books and cartoons of the 1980s had depicted situations that are a reality now. Remote learning for schoolchildren, prompted by the pandemic, is one such development.

She said: “The books I read as a child spoke about astronauts and exploring space. Now, my country [the UAE] is doing that. Even flying cars and self-manned cars may soon become a reality.”

Pointing out the younger generation’s fascination with gaming, Anderle wondered why nobody was attempting to create a “fun” gaming world that would solve real problems.

He said: “We live in times in which much of what was science fiction in the past has become a reality. Countries like the UAE are creating amazing facilities to desalinate water, while solving the problem of water scarcity, for instance. Thus, imagination leads to progress.”

Books vs movies

Another SIBF session held at Expo Centre Sharjah on ‘Screenwriting’ debated whether books or their film adaptations create more impact.

Panellists tackled questions such as: Was Mario Puzo – who wrote the iconic The Godfather in the 1960’s – more impactful as a novelist or as a screenwriter? Was the Nobel Prize winning Naguib Mahfouz – who published 35 novels, over 350 short stories and 26 movie scripts – a better author or a superior movie writer?

The discussion was led by Dr Hasan Al Ni’mi, a Saudi storyteller, academic and critic; and Gabi Martínez, Spanish travel writer and journalist. The session was moderated by media personality Dr Lamya Tawfik.

(L to R) Lamya Tawfik, Gabi Martínez, and Dr Hasan Al Ni’mi during their session at SIBF 2021 Image Credit: Supplied

Wider reach

Martínez said: “In the past, there was little room for screen writers to experiment, but today the cinema market is huge, and possibilities abound for writers. Stories by many authors that were once considered marginal have wider recognition now because of how they have been reproduced for the screen.”

New tactics

Dr Al-Ni’mi, who spent years analysing the works of Mahfouz – Arab world’s first literary Nobel laureate – said: “A screenwriter will use flashback, montages and cinematic techniques to get to the action straight away. This is something today’s novelists are realising and adapting to, as opposed to the earlier days when the tone of a story would be set by first describing a backdrop or a character.”