Summary

Robots, spaceships, futuristic megacities, planets orbiting distant stars. These icons of science fiction are now in our daily news. Science fiction, once maligned as mere pulp, has motivated cutting-edge scientific research, inspired new technologies, and changed how we view everyday life - and its themes and questions permeate popular culture. Take an unparalleled look at the influence, history, and greatest works of science fiction with illuminating insights and fascinating facts about this wide-ranging genre. If you think science fiction doesn't have anything to do with you, this course deserves your attention. And if you love science fiction, you can't miss this opportunity to trace the arc of science fiction's evolution, understand the hallmarks of great science fiction, and delve deeply into classics while finding some new favorites.
These 24 captivating lectures reveal the qualities that make science fiction an enduring phenomenon that has been steadily gaining popularity. You'll grasp the context and achievements of authors like Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. LeGuin, and many more. You'll experience the wonder, horror, and incredible imagination of works like Frankenstein, the Foundation series, Stranger in a Strange Land, and dozens of more recent stories as well. You'll also see this genre's influence in movies like Star Wars and TV shows like The Twilight Zone.
Science fiction can take us places in time and space where no other form of fiction can - outer space, the far future, alternate universes, unfathomable civilizations. The best science fiction expands our imaginations and makes its mark on our reality. And while few writers would ever claim to predict the future, sometimes authors get it almost eerily right: Gernsback describing radar in 1911, Bradbury describing giant flatscreen TVs in 1951, Gibson inventing "cyberspace" in 1984, and so on.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By barbara on 11-01-16

Informative and enjoyable

If you could sum up How Great Science Fiction Works in three words, what would they be?

Informative and enjoyable

What other book might you compare How Great Science Fiction Works to, and why?

I haven't read anything similar

What does Professor Gary K. Wolfe bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He is very passionate about the topic. He provides a great deal more detail in the lectures than in the accompanying notes

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

I found the lecture on gender and feminism in science fiction fascinating

Any additional comments?

My to read list has substantially increased as a consequence of listening to this series of lectures.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Shaun Taylor on 22-03-16

Excellent

What does Professor Gary K. Wolfe bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

He reads it very engagingly and naturally with passion and personal involvement.

Any additional comments?

A very well thought-out and thorough coverage of science fiction covering history, major themes and movements comprehensively. I feel like I am well equipped to read science fiction with a sense of context now. If I had been writing down names of authors and stories I would have a long reading list of the major science fiction stories worth reading.

It is also very entertaining. I never read things more than once but in this case I may make an exception.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Carol on 01-02-16

Deserves a Hugo of Its Own

After listening to these 24 lectures by Professor Gary Wolfe, I think the Hugo Awards for outstanding achievement in science fiction writing needs a new category. This course should win Most Interesting History and Best Argument for the Literary Value of the Genre.

The overview starts with the19th century European and American roots of science fiction, through the American-dominated pulp magazine and early novel years, the transformative 80s and 90s, and into the new millennium. The chronological presentation is interspersed with lectures on the different icons and tropes of science fiction: space ships, robots, aliens, apocolypses, and dystopias all get thorough coverage. How sci fi has dealt with religion, history, ecology, and gender also get their own lectures.

There is all kinds of interesting stuff here. There are digressions about the difference between fantasy and science fiction (my favorite distinction was the premise that science fiction has planets--Mars, Arrakis, Barrayar--while fantasy has worlds--Middle Earth, Westeros, Chalion). Dr. Wolfe returns frequently to the paradox that the audience for sci fi books and short stories has always been a fairly small one compared to that for, say, mystery, romance, or even fantasy, whereas science fiction movies have huge audiences and have dominated the box office for decades--think 2001 Space Odyssey, Star Wars, Alien, Independence Day, and Avatar, to name just a few.

In both print and cinematic form, however, Wolfe notes that, in the eyes of Those Who Decree What Shall Be Considered Art (and those who give out the National Book and Academy Awards), science fiction "don't get no respect." His final two lectures are among the best, covering, respectively, the wide range of international and culturally diverse authors and their contributions that have appeared in the last 20 years; and what he considers hopeful signs of increasing recognition that the best science fiction is as good as the best "literary" fiction. He quotes author China Meiville's observation that, while the latter may bring readers moments of "Oh. Yes," good science fiction brings readers moments of, "Oh, wow!"

Dr. Wolfe is very obviously an expert, immersed in and enthusiastic about his subject. There's no dreary droning, no pedantic pomposity here. I suppose if you *really* hate being lectured to, this college-level course will not change your mind. But if you're at all interested in science fiction--or even in literature in general--I can't recommend this course highly enough.

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87 of 89 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Annie on 15-03-16

The lecture science fiction deserves

An in depth look at science fiction from many angles, how it got started, throughout the years, the different trends, and where it is now.
As someone passionate about science fiction, I really enjoyed learning more about the genre from someone who both clearly takes it seriously and knows what they are talking about.

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14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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