- Audible Audiobook
- Listening Length: 12 hours and 31 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Original recording
- Publisher: The Great Courses
- Audible.com Release Date: January 8, 2016
- Language: English, English
- ASIN: B01A1F86QS
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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How Great Science Fiction Works Audible Audiobook – Original recording
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Gary Wolfe sees in Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN as the precursor of modern science fiction in its abandon of all supernaturalism. This emphasis on naturalistic explanation is associated with another contemporary theme, that of the divorce between science and conscience. He ends with a discussion of FLOWERS OF ALGERNON as an example of how a work can unite both science fictional and literary worlds, both speculation and aethetics, and so open up new possibilities for thought and feeling.
While the title of the course is "How Great Science Fiction Works", it feels more like an overview of the history of the field, a survey course which attempts to cover as much territory as possible in its 12+ hours of running time. But it's not just a history of the field, it's an exploration of the themes and subject matter that have intrigued readers and critics for centuries. It begins with what is generally considered to be the very first science fiction novel, Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN, which Wolfe uses as an example of what defines science fiction: that which is possible (well, yes, there's more to it than that, but for the purposes of FRANKENSTEIN let's go with it). Previous stories about monsters were considered fantasy because typically the monsters were created by magic or they occurred in myth and legend. Frankenstein's monster was created by science - and that's the difference.
As the listener - or viewer, if you want to actually see the lectures - proceeds through the course, what becomes apparent is just how large the field is in terms of breadth and scope, in terms of how it explores the affects of science and technologies on the societies it explores. Take a look at some of the topics that are covered in the 24 lectures: Evolution and Deep Time in Science Fiction, Utopian Dreams and Dystopian Nightmares, Environmentalism in Science Fiction, Gender Questions and Feminist Science Fiction, Religion in Science Fiction, Science Fiction Treatments of History, and Encounters with the Alien Other, just to name a few. It becomes obvious as Wolfe proceeds through the course that the field that we all know and love is vast, ever changing, and influential. It explores the relationship between science, man, and society, and tells us more about ourselves than we thought it would.
As I said earlier, the course demonstrates the wealth of knowledge Wolfe has of the field, and he does a marvelous job of not only presenting that knowledge to the listener, but also in relating the subject matter to our society and our everyday lives. He presents the subject matter in a clear and concise manner and in an engaging style. It's clear that he knows his stuff.
How Great Science Fiction Works is a great course for longtime fans of the field, newcomers who want to learn about the history of the field, and really anyone who wants to find out more about science fiction. I can tell you that I enjoyed the science fiction course I took in college, but this is the one I really would have wanted to take back in those days. I'm glad I got to experience it now.