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Gary K. Wolfe - book author

Gary K. Wolfe is Emeritus Professor of Humanities at Roosevelt University and the author, most recently, of Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature and Sightings: Reviews 2002–2006. He writes regular review columns for Locus magazine and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts with Jonathan Strahan the Hugo-nominated Coode Street Podcast.

Gary K. Wolfe is the author of books: How Great Science Fiction Works, American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1953–1956: The Space Merchants / More Than Human / The Long Tomorrow / The Shrinking Man, American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, American Science Fiction: Five Classic Novels 1956–1958: Double Star / The Stars My Destination / A Case of Conscience / Who? / The Big Time, Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature, Known and Unknown, American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1960-1966: The High Crusade / Way Station / Flowers for Algernon / . . . And Call Me Conrad, Bearings: Reviews 1997 2001, David Lindsay, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy: A Glossary and Guide to Scholarship

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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.
Modern science fiction came of age in the 1950s, and it was in America that the genre broke most exuberantly free from convention. Moving beyond the pulp magazines, science fiction writers stretched their imaginations at novel length, ushering in an era of stylistic experiment and freewheeling speculation that responded in wildly inventive ways to the challenges and perplexities of an era of global threat and rapid technological change. Long unnoticed or dismissed by the literary establishment, these “outsider” novels are now recognized as American classics.

This, the first of two volumes surveying the decade’s peaks, presents four very different visions of uncertain futures and malleable selves. Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants (1953), acclaimed in its day by Kingsley Amis as “the best science fiction novel so far,” brought a ferocious, satiric edge to its depiction of a future world dominated by multinational advertising agencies. In Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human (1953), a group of damaged individuals finds a strange new fulfillment in what may be the next stage of evolution.

Leigh Brackett was one of the first women to make her mark as a science fiction novelist. In The Long Tomorrow (1955), she pits anti-urban technophobes against the remnants of a civilization that destroyed itself through nuclear war. The hero of Richard Matheson’s fable-like The Shrinking Man (1956), condemned to grow ever smaller by a mysterious cloud, moves through humiliations and perils toward what Peter Straub calls “a real surprise . . . a fresh, wide-eyed step into a world both beautiful and new.”

Here are four classic novels that, each in a different way, open fresh territory, broaching untried possibilities and brimming with the energies of an age fearfully conscious of standing on the brink of the unknown.
American Science Fiction: Four Classic Novels 1953—1956
Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth / The Space Merchants
Theodore Sturgeon / More Than Human
Leigh Brackett / The Long Tomorrow
Richard Matheson / The Shrinking Man

American Science Fiction: Five Classic Novels 1956—1958
Robert Heinlein / Double Star
Alfred Bester / The Stars My Destination
James Blish / A Case of Conscience
Algis Budrys / Who?
Fritz Leiber / The Big Time

Following its acclaimed three-volume edition of the novels of science fiction master Philip K. Dick, The Library of America now presents a two-volume anthology of nine groundbreaking works from the golden age of the modern science fiction novel. Long unnoticed or dismissed by the literary establishment, these “outsider” novels have gradually been recognized as American classics. Here are genre-defining works by such masters as Robert Heinlein, Richard Matheson, James Blish, and Alfred Bester. The themes range from time travel (Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time) to post-apocalyptic survival (Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow), from the prospect of a future dominated by multinational advertising agencies (Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants) to the very nature of human identity in a technological age (Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human and Algis Budrys’s Who?). The range of styles is equally diverse, by turns satiric, adventurous, incisive, and hauntingly lyrical. Grappling in fresh ways with a world in rapid transformation, these visionary novels opened new imaginative territory in American writing.
This second of two volumes surveying the best science fiction novels of the 1950s presents works by five of the field’s most admired and influential practitioners. In Robert A. Heinlein’s Double Star (1956), an actor forced to impersonate a twenty-second-century political leader intent on forging bonds between Earthlings and Martians learns hard lessons about the nature of power. Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination (1956), which Neil Gaiman has called “the perfect cyberpunk novel,” is a classic revenge tale set in a nightmarish future dominated by corporations.

In James Blish’s A Case of Conscience (1958), space voyagers on the remote planet Lithia find themselves challenged by the values of an alien civilization. Algis Budrys’s Who? (1958) unleashes Cold War anxieties about technology and human identity with its story of a scientist rebuilt beyond recognition after a devastating accident. Set in “the Place,” a bar and bordello in the backwater of time’s stream, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time (1958) explores the implications of the “Change War,” an endless cosmic struggle in which shadowy antagonists dart in and out of history in a contest to control destiny.

The range of styles—by turns adventurous, satiric, incisive—is as varied as the themes addressed by these novels, all now acknowledged as American classics. Together they mark an explosively entertaining era in modern fiction.
In this wide-ranging series of essays, an award-winning science fiction critic explores how the related genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror evolve, merge, and finally "evaporate" into new and more dynamic forms. Beginning with a discussion of how literary readers "unlearned" how to read the fantastic during the heyday of realistic fiction, Gary K. Wolfe goes on to show how the fantastic reasserted itself in popular genre literature, and how these genres themselves grew increasingly unstable in terms of both narrative form and the worlds they portray. More detailed discussions of how specific contemporary writers have promoted this evolution are followed by a final essay examining how the competing discourses have led toward an emerging synthesis of critical approaches and vocabularies. The essays cover a vast range of authors and texts, and include substantial discussions of very current fiction published within the last few years.
The tumultuous 1960s was a watershed decade for American science fiction. While acknowledged masters from the genre’s golden age reached the height of their powers, a new wave of brilliant young voices emerged, upending the genre’s pulp conventions with newfound literary sophistication. SF writers experimented and crossed boundaries, questioning their predecessors’ often utopian faith in technological progress and boldly imagining new possibilities of human existence in novels that continue to astonish today.

Here, in the first volume of a two-volume collector’s set, editor Gary K. Wolfe gathers four trailblazing novels that reveal the full range of the decade’s creative intensities. In The High Crusade (1960), Poul Anderson celebrates the space operas of the pulp era, but with a madcap twist: when technologically advanced aliens touch down among the seeming primitives of medieval England, they find they have met their match. Clifford D. Simak’s Hugo Award–winning Way Station (1963) follows the progress of an unassuming Civil War veteran whose rural Wisconsin homestead has, unbeknownst to his neighbors, become an unlikely nexus of intergalactic battle.

Daniel Keyes’s much-loved best seller Flowers for Algernon (1966) imagines a near-future in which intelligence can be enhanced artificially—but Keyes downplays the speculative and technical possibilities of his premise in favor of intimate character study, taking the SF novel in daring new directions. In the postapocalyptic thriller This Immortal (1966)—published here under the author’s preferred title . . . And Call Me Conrad—Roger Zelazny weaves a skein of ancient myth and legend into his tale of mutant humans and blue aliens with the allusive daring and stylistic virtuosity that exemplify the New Wave at its best.
Gary K Wolfe has been a long-time reviewer for Locus magazine, and 1992 was his first full year with the magazine. This book collects most of his review columns (nearly 200 books) from the beginning of 1997 up to the end of 2001. Gary Wolfe is one of speculative fiction's smartest observers and wisest critics.
Gary K. Wolfe examines the life and work of British author David Lindsay, most famous for his novels "A Voyage to Arcturus," "The Haunted Woman," and "The Devil's Tor." Starmont Reader's Guide 9.