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: Five Classic Novels 1956–1958: Double Star / The Stars My Destination / A Case of Conscience / Who? / The Big Time, American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature, Known and Unknown, Bearings: Reviews 1997 2001, David Lindsay, Sightings: Reviews 2002-2006, Science Fiction Dialogues
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.
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.
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.
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.