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.
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Deserves a Hugo of Its Own
Great, But Not What I Expected . . .
The 5-star reviewers are right. This is an excellent series. For what it is. However, it wasn't at all what I was expecting.
I feel the title for this lecture series is misleading. The series is less of an analysis of how great science fiction works and more of a history of the genre and exploration of notable themes. A more appropriate title would have been, "A History of Science Fiction: Notable Writers, Works, and Themes."
This series a great resource for identifying important writers and novels that any science fiction fan or writer would or should know about. But science fiction is a broad genre, and this series covers the breadth of the field, so it isn't able to dig very deep and really explain "how great science fiction works;" at least not how I was hoping.
I was expecting a more nuts-and-bolts sort of thing. As a writer, I was hoping this series would focus more on how to write great science fiction. Or at least how it works so I could glean insight for writing. That's the whole reason I came to this series. I wanted something akin to "How to Write Great Science Fiction" and the title gave me the impression that that was more or less what I was getting myself into, but that's not really what this series is about at all.
Each lecture is an exploration of a handful of notable works in the science fiction genre, usually around a theme and selected works that explore it (e.g., "Robots" and "The Golden Age of Science Fiction"). The lectures contain a huge collection of high-level stuff you might find in science fiction, but they don't really explain how these things work or how you can use them in your own writing. It more or less highlights of where they have been used in the genre.
That said, there are a handful of useful nuggets for the science fiction writer in here. I found the lecture on "The Artifact" quite useful. But on the whole, this is more of a history lesson of science fiction through the ages.
A minor annoyance: the musical intro to each lecture. It's only a couple of notes from brass horns with a cymbal crash, but it gets old fast. The Great Courses always has some sort of musical interlude, but I kind of wish they would just stop doing them altogether. Most of them aren't great.
A final minor note: I was pleasantly surprised to see how many movies, TV shows, and video games are mentioned. They don't get much air time, but they do come up. However, I was disappointed that Mass Effect is never mentioned. Video games are barely discussed at all (I think Halo is mentioned once), but I feel like Mass Effect is an important enough work in science fiction (regardless of the fact that it's a video game) to have warranted discussion. Oh well.