Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How Great Science Fiction Works (The Great Courses), by Gary K. Wolfe (author, narrator)

The Great Courses, January 2016

Gary K. Wolfe is both a reader and a scholar of science fiction, and this is a great, comprehensive look at the history of the field, the ideas it has explored, and the literary influences that have affected it.

He dates the beginning of real science fiction, rather than simply stories that in retrospect somewhat resemble it, to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and Frankenstein, and looks at the social, intellectual, and physical world changes that helped inspire it. Wolfe then follows these themes forward through the next two centuries.

His focus, as he makes clear, is on literary sf, not media sf, which tends to lag forty or fifty years behind literary sf in the type and complexity of the ideas it is willing to explore. His discussion of the ideas, influences, and changes is thoughtful and enlightening. I've noticed myself in my own reading that current sf that for me invokes the feeling of "the good old stuff," the science fiction of the forties, fifties, and sixties, that came readily to hand when I was a pre-teen and young teenager (remember, the golden age of science fiction is twelve), has a really different caste of characters as well as very different social dynamics.

Any knowledgeable science fiction fan will have moments of "but why didn't he talk about..." but also learn things they never knew and gain new perspectives on things they thought they knew well.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.