10 thoughts on “Science Fiction: The Literature Of The Technological Imagination

  1. says:

    This is a course on tape I ripped to mp3 remembered it fondly, but couldn t recall the specifics after almost 20 years I d forgotten a LOT He s also written Science Fiction A Historical Anthology which I d like to check out I just finished listening to another Great Course, How Great Science Fiction Works which I gave Wolfe s 4 star review here Rabkin explores the threads meanings behind the SF story eventhan Wolfe At times I think he goes too far I don t always agree with hi This is a course on tape I ripped to mp3 remembered it fondly, but couldn t recall the specifics after almost 20 years I d forgotten a LOT He s also written Science Fiction A Historical Anthology which I d like to check out I just finished listening to another Great Course, How Great Science Fiction Works which I gave Wolfe s 4 star review here Rabkin explores the threads meanings behind the SF story eventhan Wolfe At times I think he goes too far I don t always agree with his interpretations He seems to lose the joy of the story trying to dig for roots he sees Oedipus lurking all over As with Wolfe s lecture, I found the early lectures the best even with all the excursions through history At lecture 5, SF grows too big for him to cover properly he winds up leaving out far too much He does cover films pretty well.Lecture 1 Mary Shelley s Frankenstein and the Emergence of Science Fiction SF emerged from tumultuous times Newton had proved that both the Earthly Heavenly spheres were subject to the same laws, which undercut magic religion Science alienating man from his fellows The world was bursting with colonial expansion, industrialization Huge shifts of population from a primarily agrarian society to an industrial one the rise of literacy This form of literature was an answer to that he traces SF roots through old literature myth through this the next 2 lectures strongly, although it remains a central theme throughout.In April 1926, when Hugo Gernsback published the first issue of Amazing, the SF label is born authors could start to write for the genre No one intentionally wrote SF before then, we re just labeling it as such I was especially interested in his definition s of SF since it s come up in a couple of group discussions.Define SF Purist 1 change extrapolate from there Example Time Machine can travel into future, what do we find using evolutionary principles There are usually many changes he doesn t fully buy it.A thumbnail of his definition 1 The fantastic made plausible not likely, just seems possible FTL possible Not magic, logical explanation.2 High adventure Boy saves universe.3 Intellectual excitement Magic wand just works, but we can t know why don t really explore the basic processes Tachyon drive promotes curiosity, gets reader to think.Rabkin goes into a lot of the literature leading up to SF, even going back to religious writings, Plato s Republic, Oedipus to show various threads Once we start picking out threads, it s hard to know when to stop It s also hard to know what to include, especially when we start applying the label a century back that makes it easy to go further It s tough to pin a label on previous works that weren t written for that genre Wells called his SF science romances Shelley was writing a Gothic novel she moved the expliqu to the beginning used Galvani s experiments to explain the magic Lecture 2 Jules Verne and the Popular Passion for Science Gernsback reprinted Verne s tales in Modern Electronics along with his own Ralph 124C 41 in 1911, 15 years before he started Amazing Verne was heavily influenced by Poe s tales of ratiocination , rational tales which also heavily influenced the modern who dun it detective stories AC Doyle, Agatha Christie, etc Verne wrote voyages extraordinaires was often satirical I hadn t realized that he KNEW his rocket gun wouldn t have worked gee forces Florida water table but he did relied on his reader s knowledge to get the joke The World s Fairs Disney World are future worlds made real.Lecture 3 H.G Wells and Science Fiction Parables of Social Criticism The SF thread is strong in utopian fiction More s Utopia was great for many, but pretty hellish for a lot of others like the slaves, the mercenaries, the people in the way of their ever widening buffer zone That s the same point Ursula K Le Guin made with The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas almost 500 years later More s title, according to Rabkin, was actually a play on words Utopia is a word made up by More out of 2 Greek words He could have use an eu good or or an ou not with topia meaning place Instead he spelled it with a just a u leaving itup to the reader Pretty ingenious Leaves the author a lot of room for thought provoking social messages which was the point.Wells was into social reform Fabian Society along with Shaw Nesbitt most of his writing reflects that The disparity between the Eloi Morlocks was a social statement about how the industrialized world had separated the workers from the rulers Self taught from humble roots, he Henry James were thought to be the 2 greatest writers in English James concentrated on the psychology of individual characters, Wells on world social forces Lecture 4 Pulp Culture, World War II, and the Ascendancy of American Science Fiction grew out of the penny dreadfuls English not mentioned dime novels US thoroughly discussed Cheap, ephemeral, paid by the word, they were adventures for the common folk, not the high brow, thoughtful novels of Europe Verne, Wells House names authors writing hundreds Luis Senarens 400 to make a decent living Dime novel Westerns easily made the change to pulp SF, A Princess of Mars.Interesting look at the formula of dime westerns In out groups, civilization survival, hero is best of both worlds saves the day fixes squabble between them The Huge Hunter, Or, the Steam Man of the Prairies 1868 was morphed by Senarens to splitting the hero into 2 young men in Frank Reade, Jr., and His New Steam Man Or, The Young Inventor s Trip to the Far West 1878 This led to the smart boy hero, Tom Swift such.A better look at Gernsback then he goes into John W Campbell Jr. Interesting take on the latter I ve always thought of him as a prejudiced misogynist, but Rabkin paints himas inclusive We all came to the US to be Americans It s a good point, one that is currently out of favor, he does mention that an American was a male WASP Campbell wouldn t accept a 5K story if he thought 3K was right, but he would write 10K telling the author why Both editors thought SF should make people love science.American News Company had pulp printing houses along the RR tracks, so could print distribute pulps quickly cheaply Bought out by Wall Street for real estate values in 1954 Pulps went from 38 to 4 by 1960 Ballentines started paperback sales 1950s, so SF went to themnovels, less SS Rise of SF B movies their BEMs, written SF harder science to compete with real world news, especially with Sputnik in 1957.Lecture 5 And the Winner Is Robert A Heinlein Beloved by Campbell, Libertarian politics, hard SF, most Hugo Awards Rabkin doesn t mention the impact of his juveniles Does discuss his characters, but doesn t mention 1 MC of 3 ages Getsinto his Oedipal complex Calls Stranger in a Strange Land hippie mysticism says his later books were ignored by all but die hard fans Agreed Other subjects like SF hard science predictions far fewer than most think Gernsback had radar in Ralph though He says Clarke was first with geosync satellite in 1945, but put it in tech paper first, SF second Wrong, Herman Poto nik was in 1928 Mentions Cleve Cartmill getting jacked up by the FBI for the title story of Deadline Other Controversial SF Classics which described an atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project.Lecture 6 Ray Bradbury, Ursula K LeGuin, and the Expansion of Science Fiction He calls Bradbury an anti SF writer since his was often fantastic the man was low tech in his own life More like Wells in dealing with social issues The Martian Chronicles a lot like a parable of US westward expansion He says writers in the SF Ghetto Those who made their living writing SF didn t think he was an SF author he didn t consider himself one.Mentions Delany, specifically Babel 17 The Einstein Intersection for dealing with language the mix of real Delany diary entries with fictional tale No mention of classical references or anything else that makes it one of my favorites.Ursula K Le Guin was the daughter of 2 famous anthropologists the Hannish Cycle books are about cultural diffusion, part of her father s work The Left Hand of Darkness initially beloved by feminists for the idea of a society where there were no gender roles, but later she was left behind the movement He also calls it a structural tour de force due to the 5 types of narrative Her mother was about preservation of native cultures, The Word for World is Forest.Wow I m flooredby what was left out than what was included No mention of so many other authors that were so important like Theodore Sturgeon, Frank Herbert, Roger Zelazny, or Harlan Ellison.Lecture 7 Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C Clarke, and the Modern Science Fiction Film Film is the embodiment of SF has always been perfect for the genre First film, the Lumi re brothers 1895 film Arrival of the Train sent people fleeing from the tent Magic in the form of advanced tech Trip to the Moon 1902 playfully pirated Verne 1910, first Frankenstein Metropolis 1927 by Lang best based on his wife s book then he gave us the spaceship countdown 10, 9, 8 in 1929 in Die Frau im Mond.The 1950s B movies were often political showing the horror of Communism It Came From Outer Space Bradbury Invasion of the Body Snatchers Who is the person next to me The Fly shows science going awry the monsters Godzilla, Tarantula, etc show atomic dangers.2001 A Space Odyssey 1968 based on Transience 1949 , The Sentinel 1951 , Expedition to Earth 1953 is the first A list SF movie, Kubrick leveraging Dr Strangelove 1964 Clarke s success for the budget Then A Clockwork Orange 1971 Blade Runner 1982 based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep New Wave is first post modern movie the gritty world of Neuromancer 1984 the first cyberpunk novel.Lecture 8 New Wave, Cyberpunk, and Our Science Fiction World In England, New Wave edited by Carnell later Moorcock Ballard is the poster child US authors also doing it, PKD is the only one mentioned with Ubik, The Man in the High Castle, Do Androids Dream The main point is that SF is now mature well established enough to experiment with various styles the lines are blurring between it main stream literature, like Naked Lunch Expanding boundaries leading to Cyberpunk.Center of SF moving westward Started in Europe, moved to England, pulps were NYC, SF movies were Hollywood Now a lot from Japan Also diversifying he lists a few authors from around the world.This course is no longer available from TGC, although you can get it used on30 on cassettes There is an updated course by Rabkin, Masterpieces Of The Imaginative Mind Literature s Most Fantastic Works 130 audio download


  2. says:

    It s a great shame this isn t available any, because Eric Rabkin s lectures are tighly crafted, densely packed, and wonderfully insightful I ve revisited them again and again, and I always take away something new.They are as follows Lecture 1 Mary Shelley s Frankenstein and the Emergence of Science FictionLecture 2 Jules Verne and the Popular Passion for ScienceLecture 3 H.G Wells and Science Fiction Parables of Social CriticismLecture 4 Pulp Culture, World War II, and the Ascendancy o It s a great shame this isn t available any, because Eric Rabkin s lectures are tighly crafted, densely packed, and wonderfully insightful I ve revisited them again and again, and I always take away something new.They are as follows Lecture 1 Mary Shelley s Frankenstein and the Emergence of Science FictionLecture 2 Jules Verne and the Popular Passion for ScienceLecture 3 H.G Wells and Science Fiction Parables of Social CriticismLecture 4 Pulp Culture, World War II, and the Ascendancy of American Science FictionLecture 5 And the Winner Is Robert A HeinleinLecture 6 Ray Bradbury, Ursula K LeGuin, and the Expansion of Science FictionLecture 7 Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C Clarke, and the Modern Science Fiction FilmLecture 8 New Wave, Cyberpunk, and Our Science Fiction WorldRabkin s newer offering, Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind Literature s Most Fantastic Works, is a pale and disappointing substitute Of course this is dated, due its publication date recent movements such as the re emergence of steampunk aren t covered Nonetheless, the foundation is there and very well done I highly recommend The Literature of the Technological Imagination to anyone interested in the history and evolution of the genre


  3. says:

    This lecture series is OK for what it is, but it isn t much I credit Rabkin with knowing that many types of books and stories branched off from sci fi writers that are not longer considered sci fi, that puts him one up on many historians of the genre, but he, like all the rest, does not understand the importance of travelogues in the creation of sci fi and has a fannish esteem for some overrated writers Two and a half stars, but I feel generous today.


  4. says:

    Lecturer wasn t as good as most of the Teaching Company lecturers, but this book was still an interesting take on Science Fiction A very good course for someone who reads lots of science fiction


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