WSU Common Reading presents Roger Whitson lecture Sept. 18 on “the future has always been female”

Pullman, Wash. — The Washington State University Common Reading Program hosts “The Future has Always Been Female: Mary Shelley, Ada Lovelace, and the Origins of Science Fiction and Computing,” a lecture by Roger Whitson on Sept. 18 at 4:30 p.m. in CUE 203. The lecture is free and open to the public.

This year’s common reading book, Ready Player One, is set in a virtual world full of 80s references, geek culture, and science fiction metaphors.  Whitson, assistant professor of English, will discuss the origins of science fiction and computing that began in the nineteenth century.

Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace, two female pioneers of the future in the 1900s, will be the focus of the talk. Shelley wrote Frankenstein, depicting the creation of life by a human being and The Last Man featuring the destruction of all life on Earth by an unnamed plague. Lovelace wrote the first computer program. She worked with Charles Babbage on the designs for the analytical engine, the first general-purpose computing machine.

With the recent struggles in science fiction and video gaming industries to recognize the contributions of women, it is important to remember that the future has always been female, said Whitson.

The WSU-wide common reading program has started a theme for 2017-2019 of “frontiers of technology, health, and society.” Ready Player One highlights applications of technology in a variety of fields but also encourages exploration into ethical dilemmas and changing senses of identity that arise in an increasingly digital world.

The Common Reading Program began in Pullman in 2006-2007 to help students, their teachers, and the community better engage in academically centered critical thinking, communication, research and learning around a body of shared information presented in a single, specially selected book.

The Common Reading program is currently accepting book nominations for the 2018-19 academic year. For more information about the Common Reading program, nominating a book, this year’s book, and upcoming events visit

MEDIA: Karen Weathermon, WSU Common Reading Program co-director, WSU Undergraduate Education, 509-335-5488,

Emma Epperly, Communications and Marketing Associate, WSU Undergraduate Education, 509-335-9458,