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The Modern Scholar: From Here to Infinity: An Exploration of Science Fiction Literature | [Michael D. C. Drout]

The Modern Scholar: From Here to Infinity: An Exploration of Science Fiction Literature

The best science fiction asks essential questions: What does it mean to be human? Are we alone in the universe, and what does it mean if we're not? Esteemed professor Michael D. C. Drout traces the history of science fiction in this series of stimulating lectures. From Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to today's cutting- edge authors, Drout offers a compelling analysis of the genre, including a look at the golden age of science fiction, New Wave writers, and contemporary trends in the field.
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Publisher's Summary

Science fiction literature and films have contributed indelible images to the popular imagination, from H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds to Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles to the fiction of "cyberpunks". In addition to enthralling readers with breathtaking narratives and dazzling the imagination with mind-bending glimpses of possible futures, the best science fiction asks essential questions: What does it mean to be human? Are we alone in the universe, and what does it mean if we're not?

Esteemed professor Michael D. C. Drout traces the history of science fiction in this series of stimulating lectures. From Mary Shelley's Frankenstein to today's cutting- edge authors, Drout offers a compelling analysis of the genre, including a look at hard-boiled science fiction, the golden age of science fiction, New Wave writers, and contemporary trends in the field.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2006 Michael D. C. Drout; (P)2006 Recorded Books, LLC

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  •  
    Timothy 08-27-09
    Timothy 08-27-09
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    "Nerdy? Probably... Enjoyable? Yes"

    I sometimes listen to audiobooks as I try to fall asleep. The books drown out other noises, and are something I can use to relax at night without leaving lights on. Lectures often work well for this since they are calm, studious rather than enrapturing, and since there is no plot, I can nod off and wake up later without spoiling the story. However, "From Here to Eternity" is a terrible nighttime book. It was so interesting, and Prof Drout was so enthusiastic that it significantly disrupted my sleep over the course of a several (actually very few; I went through it pretty quickly) days.

    I am a casual science fiction fan, but "From Here to Eternity" raised my opinion of the genre. It also provided numerous book suggestions; aiding in my continuing quest to use my Audible credits efficiently.

    "From Here to Eternity" probably will not appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy science fiction and wouldn't mind a little litterary education, I highly recommend "From Here to Eternity."

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jens VechtaGermany 12-15-08
    Jens VechtaGermany 12-15-08
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    "Really interesting, engaging lecture"

    As an avid Science Fiction reader, I am already pretty excited about the genre, but professor Drout got me even more excited. Although the lecture is rather concise and a few things could have been explored in more detail (I personally missed more information about Arthur C. Clarke, as I do not know that much about him), no major writer is missing and the whole lecture follows a well thought-out plan. What makes this audiobook better than any other recording of a lecture I have listened to, is a) that it obviously was conceived as an audio book and not a lecture and b) professor Drout is actually a very good narrator. He seems to improvise some times, adds some jokes here and there, but most importantly for a recorded lecture, you can hear his enthusiasm all the time.
    I will definitely get his Fantasy lecture next month and I recommend this Science Fiction lecture to anyone who does have at least a slight interest in the genre or literature in general.

    15 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 01-30-09
    Tim Fremont, NE, United States 01-30-09 Member Since 2004

    Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.

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    "Excellent Scope and Excellent Analysis!"

    This is my second lecture series by Dr. Drout. His pleasant personality comes through in the way he communicates with you. He is knowledgeable and articulate, but yet brings things down to a level everyone can understand.

    This is a great overview of Science Fiction literature. He hits all the biggies (Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Lovecraft, Bradbury) and some lesser knowns as well.

    His analysis of some of the underlying themes and the effect of culture on the genre (and vice versa) was really insightful. I also appreciate that he appears to have read a boatload of science fiction, but yet is also a student of the classics, which gives him a broader perspective when offering literary criticism and stylistic observatiions.

    The only authors I was suprised to see missing were Ben Bova and Michael Crichton. However, even so, this is a great primer for those just getting their feet wet in Science Fiction, and those who have been reading for years! I even picked up 10-12 new books that I'd like to read.

    Great job Dr. Drout!

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bradford Omaha, NE, United States 03-25-11
    Bradford Omaha, NE, United States 03-25-11 Member Since 2001
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    "An Amazing Introduction to Science Fiction!"

    As a lifetime SF fan and writer, I was amazed to learn there was so much more out there and where all the sf stories I love came from. Professor Drout has a very engaging voice and speaking style and seems to have read every SF story ever published! The structure of his lectures and the broad canvas of his topics make me want to listen to this lecture many times. He single-handedly tripled the size of my to-read book list. Well worth the listen for anyone interested in learning more about the history of SF literature and how it has developed over the past 200 years.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Damian Portland, OR, United States 07-14-09
    Damian Portland, OR, United States 07-14-09
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    "Mostly accurate history of science fiction"

    This lecture series was a lot of fun to listen to, and gives a good sense of the importance of science fiction as literature. It's not a perfect intro to SF, but has lots of good stuff. There are some mis-steps and mis-statements along the way, such as listing Ray Bradbury as a new wave author, or veering away from Campbell's golden age Astounding SF to spend too much time on HP Lovecraft, etc.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RKR Georgia 09-27-12
    RKR Georgia 09-27-12 Member Since 2007

    Drama teacher and Sci-Fi/Fantasy fan

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    "Get your reading list ready!"

    My go-to genre for literature as a teen was fantasy. Escaping into fantastical worlds was my way of coping with middle school and high school life. It wasn't until high school, however, that I began to get into science fiction as well. I've always enjoyed sci-fi as a genre for movies and television. Star Trek and Doctor Who were my usual entertainment. But it wasn't until I realized that some science fiction could not only transport me into other realms, but it could make me THINK as well. Science fiction so many more questions other than "What if..." that I believe it is the richest genre of literature on bookshelves. I started with some of the classics like ENDER'S GAME and STARSHIP TROOPERS. But had I not listened to this lecture, I might have missed several incredible novels.

    Listening to Dr. Drout is an easy task. His lectures are well researched, his delivery is conversational, and the content is full of great suggestions for reading. I discovered so many authors from this lecture that I am still working through the stack next to my bed. I even teach a couple of the short stories mentioned in my literature classes because of this lecture. He breaks science fiction down into sub-genres, focuses on the early days, and even throws some new names into the pot.

    Available along with the download is the .pdf file for the course. This is a great way to keep a checklist of books to find after listening.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alberto Dominguez 06-22-10 Member Since 2014
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    "Awesome!"

    Professor Drout is informative and entertaining. I have listened to a number of lecture series - both from Modern Scholar and other vendors. This one is the best one I've heard to date.

    The overall course outline is very well thought out (although of course I might have done things slightly differently - e.g., less Lovecraft), the individual lectures are well-organized and packed with information as well as entertainment, and most important of all his enthusiasm is contagious.

    Clearly Prof. Drout loves the subject, and this results in an immensely enjoyable presentation. I highly recommend this course to anybody with even a passing interest in science fiction.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thad Durham, NC, USA 10-27-09
    Thad Durham, NC, USA 10-27-09
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    "Lively, interesting"

    Drout delivers his lecture in a lively and interesting manner. I found myself writing down the names of Science Fiction books I wanted to check out. I am buying his fantasy lecture next.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 09-20-12
    Robert Yamhill, OR, United States 09-20-12 Member Since 2009

    Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.

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    "All Things SF... Outstanding"

    This is another wonderful installment in The Modern Scholar series in general, and another great installment by Michael Drout. I have read / listened to several of Professor Drout’s contributions now and all have been exceptional. Michael D.C. Drout is the William and Elsie Prentice Professor of English at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, where he teaches courses in Old and Middle English, medieval literature, Chaucer, fantasy, and science fiction (SF) .

    It always seemed strange to me that science fiction and fantasy were often considered within a common genre: science fiction / fantasy. After all, one seemed to be connected with an imaginary past and the other an imaginary future; one with magic and the other technology. Fair enough, unless one sees the connection in Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

    Unlike his book on fantasy literature which focuses primarily on a single work with little more than references to comparing and contrasting with other books in the genre, Drout examines the chronology of nearly the entire pantheon of major contributors to SF literature from Mary Shelley, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells to Frank Herbert, Neal Stephenson and Philip K. Dick. I was amazed that not only was Drout able to talk about a rather large group of authors, he was able to summarize most of their major works and many of their minor ones too within the covers of this one selection. Aside from speaking fast, which he definitely does, he narrates all of his books rather rapid-fire, his narration here is as clear, exciting and engaging as always.

    Drout posits that SF asks some rather essential questions: “What does it mean to be human? What are the consequences of human progress? Are we alone in the universe, and what does it mean if we’re not?” He illustrates how each of the SF authors answers these question. He offers an analysis of hard-boiled science fiction, the golden age of science fiction, New Wave writers, and contemporary trends in the field. It might be helpful to provide an outline for how Drout categorizes the various masters of SF and the works he analyzes:

    The Roots: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, and H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.

    The 1930’s: L. Sprague de Camp’s Divide and Rule; H.P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories and The Lurking Fear and Other Stories; and Kim Mohan’s (ed.) More Amazing Stories.

    The 1940’s: Isaac Asimov’s The Big and the Little and I, Robot; John W. Campbell’s Who Goes There? and (as editor) The First Astounding Science Fiction Anthology; Lester del Rey’s Nerves; and Theodore Sturgeon’s Killdozer!

    The 1950’s: Robert A. Heinlein’s The Past Through Tomorrow, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, The Rolling Stones, Starship Troopers (and other “juvenile” novels), and Stranger in a Strange Land. Also in this decade: Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz; Cordwainer Smith’s The Rediscovery of Man: The Complete Short Science Fiction of Cordwainer Smith; and The Majesty of Kindness: The Dialectic of Cordwainer Smith.

    The “New Wave” of the 1960’s and 70’s: Samuel R. Delaney’s Babel-17; Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?; Thomas Disch’s Camp Concentration; and Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds: An Anthology.

    The World Builder: Frank Herbert’s Dune and Dune Messiah.

    The Surrealists: J.G. Ballard’s The Best Short Stories of J.G. Ballard and Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles.

    Cyberpunk and the 1980’s: William Gibson’s Burning Chrome, Count Zero, and Neuromancer and Rudy Rucker’s Software.

    Post-Punk: Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon, The Diamond Age, and Snow Crash.

    The Satirists: Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.

    I offer this list to give some idea of the span of great SF literature and its contributors that this book covers. And yet there are some who are, at least for me, conspicuously absent such as two of my favorites: Dan Simmons and Peter F. Hamilton. So this is not an exhaustively complete treatise on SF literature but it is much more than just an introduction.

    The Story, the Narration and the Production are all top notch. I read a lot of SF but I learned a huge amount from Professor Drout’s book and got lots of great ideas for future reading.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Reno, NV, United States 09-01-12
    Mark Reno, NV, United States 09-01-12 Member Since 2006
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    "Interesting anecdotes, plot summaries, ideas"
    Any additional comments?

    Thoroughly loved this and listened quickly to it over two days. He added depth to books I knew well and gave me tons of new recommendations to try out. I also liked that he described books he thinks are great well enough that I could tell which ones I'd hate ("Dune," and much of Greg Egan's and JG Ballard's works, for example).

    If there's a fault, it's that the lecture could've been twice as long to cover twice as many authors.

    I found myself jotting down ideas every few minutes such as the lecturer's theory that much of Frank Herbert's work is about the idea that the definition of human is "like me."

    Another part of what made it so good is that even though I'm not a big science fiction fan, he talks about how the plots help us examine our current world — and then explains how the ideas and even technology have indeed come to play out in reality.

    Oh, and the PDF download is very helpful because it contains all of the names and works mentioned so I didn't have to keep stopping to write them down myself.

    Now if only Audible would finally get Ursula K. Le Guin's classic "The Left Hand of Darkness."

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
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  • Steven
    Hilton, United Kingdom
    7/7/14
    Overall
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    "Excellent but a little US centred"
    Where does From Here to Infinity rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    One of the best no lecture based books Drout is clear and to the point


    Any additional comments?

    This account of a history of science fiction was excellent covers the main writers but falls short for the more recent works.Much emphasis on modern US writers, but does not really look at British writers, Arthur C Clarke for example, while mentioned does not get the credit I feel he should, maybe I am biased but equally no mention of writers such as Alistair Reynolds, or Iain M Bank. Any selection will show a preference as does my idea that they should be included but a pity as otherwise an excellent history.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Olivier
    thouare sur loire, France
    1/29/13
    Overall
    "Excellent Until Halfway"

    There is a lot to commend in Professor Drout's lectures on Science Fiction Literature.

    The speaker's delivery is impeccable; no pause or hesitation, for almost 8 hours. It is also clear that Professor Drout knows a lot about the Science Fiction genre (although his area of specialization is Fantasy, most specifically J.R. Tolkien).



    Until the end of the lecture on Heinlein, I really enjoyed the contents. But, afterwards, the lectures ceased to be on Science Fiction and became English Litterature, focusing on Surrealism and weird avant-garde authors, whose books often could not be classified as Science Fiction, and are extremely hard to read, by the lecturer's own admission. The last few lectures also got more and more politically correct, with the lecturer choice of "the best ever Science Fiction story" being just over the top (hint, to use PC-parlance, it was not written by a DWM).

    If, like me, Science Fiction is entertainment for you, then you'll also disconnect when the lectures start covering the 1970's and 1980's (though I did listen to the very end). If, however, you are an English Litterature scholar, then you may enjoy learning about Science Fiction from a fellow scholar.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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