You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

From Here To Infinity

From Here To Infinity: An Exploration of Science Fiction Literature is a Modern Scholar lecture course by Professor Micheal D. C. Drout, the same professor who did the lecture on fantasy literature. He presents a wide array of books from very diverse authors. As opposed to fantasy literature, which is heavily centered around J. R. R. Tolkien, there is no central figure in science fiction.

First he traces the roots of science fiction, from Mary Shelley, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells. Then he talks about early twentieth century science fiction, especially the magazines Amazing Stories and Astounding Stories. He talks about the influence of magazine editor Joseph R. Campbell. He also adds H. P. Lovecraft as a science fiction write, which I think is strange. I usually think of him as a horror writer if anything, and more fantasy than science fiction.

Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov have lectures devoted to them. Asimov's biggest contributions are the robot novels and the Foundation series. Heinlein is known for his adolescent novels as well as big novels like Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, both of which I have read and liked. Drout talks about the New Age writers. Here he includes Philip K. Dick, whose novels I have also liked. He mentions Thomas Disch and Samuel R. Delany, whom I haven't read. He also mentions what he calls the surrealists.

Drout devotes a lecture to cyberpunk of the 1980's, including William Gibson. He devotes another lecture to Neal Stephenson, another of my favorite writers. Then he talks about women writers, specifically Ursula K. Leguin and Octavia Butler. The next to last lecture is devoted to more mainstream writers who use science fiction, which includes George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., who are two of my favorite writers. He also touches on Douglas Adams, another favorite writer. The course finishes with a mention of recent writers, including James Patrick Kelly and Greg Egan.

I was thrilled to learn about science fiction authors that I haven't read before. It was good to get an opinion of great science fiction novels by an authority. Drout does a great job of connecting writers through the decades, and linking the trends. Even though there is no central figure in science fiction, they all relate to each other and respond to each other. I'll give the course an A-. I learned about authors I know, and discovered new authors to read.


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