‘Maze Runner’ author speaks on book-to-film adaptation, STEM

By Carl Nadig

DeKalb | Students can meet with visiting author James Dashner and discuss his science fiction book, “The Maze Runner,” today.

Beginning at 9 a.m., Friends of the NIU Libraries will sponsor a casual breakfast in the basement of the staff lounge in the Founders Memorial Library. There, students will be able to meet Dashner for a book signing and can ask him questions about the upcoming film adaptation of “The Maze Runner.”

“The Friends of the NIU Libraries have, in previous years, sponsored a speaker or two for the STEM Read program specifically because the Friends are interested in student success,” said Lynne Thomas, curator of Rare Books and Special Collections and faculty liaison to the Friends of the NIU Libraries. “We collect science fiction and fantasy literature, as well as archive the work of over 60 science fiction and fantasy writers. So, we have a special interest in promoting science fiction and fantasy literature on campus because it’s a large part of what we do both academically and research-wise here in the department.”

Dashner will host a public presentation and discussion 1 to 2 p.m. today in the Altgeld Auditorium. The presentation, hosted by the STEM Read program, will touch on the fundamentals of science, technology, engineering and math in Dashner’s young adult book series.

“The STEM Outreach Program seeks to use science fiction as a starting point for exploring STEM concepts and what experts can we bring in to connect with the community and who can shed light on those concepts,” said Debbie Pixton, outreach and engagement communications associate. “For instance, for this book and for this event, we have speakers from the Department of Math, psychologists, two experts from kinesiology and physical education and an engineer all talking what different concepts throughout the book.”

The presentation is part of an off-campus activity for helping high school students connect literature to science, technology, engineering and math. Throughout the academic year, the outreach program looks for volunteers to assist in these events while offering internships to college students interested in the program. In previous years, the program has hosted presentations from science fiction authors Cory Doctorow, Mike Mullin and Ilsa J. Bick.

“We work with publishers to find authors that are interested in having their books highlighted in this way,” said Gillian King-Cargile, outreach and engagement communications coordinator. “We work with librarians throughout the region, especially here in DeKalb, and they were saying ‘A lot of people are checking out these books; we should take a look at them.’ When we looked at them, there were so many interesting aspects of the book that we pull out and turn into games and lessons and a lot of different things that would be very engaging for students.”