Gary K. Wolfe

Gary K. Wolfe >

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Mary Shelley and the Birth of Science Fiction
Episode 1 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Kick off your adventure into science fiction by clearly defining what science fiction is, and more importantly, what science fiction is not. Learn how science fiction is distinguished from--yet often confused with--other literary genres such as fantasy and horror. Take…
Science Fiction in the 19th Century
Episode 2 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Look at some of the most important names in 19th-century science fiction, including Poe, Verne, and Wells. From the books and stories they penned, the 20th-century science fiction story emerged. Explore select works from each author, gain the context to…
Science Fiction Treatments of History
Episode 3 of How Great Science Fiction Works
We commonly think of science fiction as dealing with the future, but there is a fascinating subset of science fiction that looks at the past. Learn how science fiction writers often mix real-life history with fiction and invoke mechanisms such…
Utopian Dreams and Dystopian Nightmares
Episode 5 of How Great Science Fiction Works
One intriguing theme presented in science fiction is the concept of utopia and dystopia--and how remarkably similar these two seeming opposites can be. Explore the fundamental questions of "Can our lives be better?" and "Can our lives be worse?" Take…
Cyberpunk and the 1980s
Episode 19 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Gibson's Neuromancer and the movie Blade Runner (based on the Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) together formed a gritty, corporatized view of the future that set the standard for science fiction to come. Throughout the…
The Rise of the Science Fiction Pulps
Episode 6 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Science fiction battled a long-standing bad reputation, born out of the "pulp era" in history. Survey the rise of pulp science fiction through serials, magazines, and short stories at the turn of the 20th century and through the 1950s. You'll…
Gender Questions and Feminist Science Fiction
Episode 18 of How Great Science Fiction Works
One stereotype science fiction still hasn't fully shaken off is that it is a predominantly male genre. Originally, the audience was assumed to be male because science fiction often featured similar themes of exploration, war, and domination that characterized the…
The Golden Age of Science Fiction Stories
Episode 7 of How Great Science Fiction Works
After World War II, science fiction took a turn for the better. Learn how one pivotal magazine called Astounding Science Fiction helped change the tide on science fiction. Review the specific works, writers, and editors who contributed to the resurgence…
The Spaceship as a Science Fiction Icon
Episode 8 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Science fiction is known for distinguishing elements: artificial intelligence, time travel, aliens, outer space, and more. Delve into one of the more iconic components of science fiction--the spaceship. Learn how the spaceship is portrayed in some of the most famous…
The Science Fiction Wasteland
Episode 12 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Not all science fiction predicts technology-driven modern futures. Look at the stories over time that foreshadowed a desolate and bleak future, ravaged by environmental issues, plagues, or cataclysmic events. Examine the five components of apocalyptic stories, the various paradoxes the…
Evolution and Deep Time in Science Fiction
Episode 4 of How Great Science Fiction Works
The concept of alternate histories enables vast possibilities. Discover how many science fiction stories tackle massive timescales, taking us from the very beginning to the very end of the universe, and any time and place in between. Examine the ideas…
The Robot: From Čapek to Asimov
Episode 9 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Robots are a common theme in science fiction, but why? Professor Wolfe introduces you to Karel Capek, who adapted the word "robot" from a Czech word meaning "forced labor." Witness the evolution of this concept in science fiction throughout history--including…
Science Fiction’s New Wave
Episode 15 of How Great Science Fiction Works
In order to truly make a mark on the literary world, science fiction needed to develop a substantial body of work. In the 1950s and 1960s, see how authors such as J. G. Ballard defined and contributed to the New…
The Golden Age of the Science Fiction Novel
Episode 10 of How Great Science Fiction Works
In 1950, the New York Times ran an article claiming that science fiction had graduated from pulp fiction to respectable hardcover books. Learn how this remarkable validation was brought to fruition, and see how television and radio helped propel the…
Religion in Science Fiction
Episode 14 of How Great Science Fiction Works
A number of science fiction stories tackle the concept of religion, which is often at odds with the concepts that define science fiction. Delve into how science fiction approaches religion, from parody, to reimagining familiar biblical stories and characters in…
From Mars to Arrakis: The Planet
Episode 11 of How Great Science Fiction Works
A key differentiator between fantasy and science fiction is that fantasy stories often take place in worlds, while science fiction stories take place on a planet. Thus, the theme of planets is common among some of the great science fiction…
Invasions, Space Wars, and Xenocide
Episode 13 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Science fiction includes war stories--which often respond to real-life wars. Ascertain how authors such as H. G. Wells took the subgenre of invasion tales to a new level by reflecting current anxieties such as annexation through fictional tales of intergalactic…
The Future of Science Fiction
Episode 24 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Speculate with Professor Wolfe to consider how science fiction may be evolving in the future, as this genre is gaining popularity, acknowledgement, and recognition as an art form worthy of literary respect. Science fiction writers are topping the best-seller lists,…
Encounters with the Alien Other
Episode 16 of How Great Science Fiction Works
Aliens are another icon and staple of science fiction. Often depicted as hostile and representing the unknown "other" as well as our fears about ourselves, aliens have been examined (and have examined us) in a variety of stories. Journey through…
The Artifact as a Science Fiction Icon
Episode 21 of How Great Science Fiction Works
The artifact in science fiction is typically a manufactured item with value, power, or mystery, which can be as small as a subatomic particle or as immense as the wormhole from the 2014 film Interstellar. Many science fiction stories grow…