Leisurely pursuits “behind the stacks”.
by Mark D. Puterbaugh
Information Services Librarian
I’m excited. The previews have been enticing. I fell in love with the adventures of the Skywalkers during my years at seminary, around 1977. Indeed, science fiction and fantasy are mainstays of my leisure time pursuits. Early on I was exposed to the wonderful worlds of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells through the Classics Illustrated comic books. The beautifully imaged stories of science and adventure led me to read the full-length adult versions of the great classics. My junior high and high school teachers read many of my stellar revelries in the book reports that they assigned.
Of course, during my wonder years, there were the classic B-movies. They were created on the fears and hopes of the 1950s and early 1960s. Ishirō Honda’s The Mysterians, Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still and Howard Hawkes’ The Thing from Another Planet were awesome. My brother and I would wait with great anticipation to see what adventure Dr. Shock’s Saturday night flick would unveil.
Science Fiction: A 46-Year Love Affair
One book and one film stood out from the rest, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Stanley Kubrick’s film is considered by many to be the greatest science fiction adventure. It hits all the big issues upon which the genre thrives, the origins of life, humanity’s’ place in the universe, the need to explore and the mysteries of the cosmos. However, Arthur C. Clarke’s novel allowed my imagination to soar. It is a well-written journey from the origins of humankind to one possible future. Clarke’s descriptions of David Bowman’s journey were inspiring. I was 14 years old when I consumed both and became hooked on the genre. Over the years I have read all most all of Clarke’s writings. But, as I went along I picked up Frank Herbert and Isaac Asimov among others. Recently, Stephen Baxter’s writings have been a major form of escape.
Treasures in Cyber-Space
The genre has a long and interesting history. With the digitizing of out of copyright books and pulp magazines by Google Books, the Internet Archive and the audio book site Librivox much of the long hidden history of science fiction has been brought to the light. In the public domain you will find the works of better-known authors such as Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.P. Lovecraft. You can even read E. M. Forster’s The Machine Stops an eerie look.at a possible future world dominated by a single computer system and something akin to social media. There are also works of authors less familiar to the casual sci-fi reader whose works are the true progenitors to the likes of Star Wars and Star Trek. You can find great space opera written by E. E. “Doc” Smith, H. Beam Piper, Murray Leinster, Edmond Hamilton and Andre (Alice) Norton.
If you’re interested in listening to high adventure, be sure to check out Librivox.org. Mark Nelson’s reading of Hamilton’s The City at World’s End is excellent as is his rendering of Andre Norton’s Storm Over Warlock and Piper’s Omnilingual. Mark F. Smith has a fine reading of Norton’s Star Born and Doc Smith’s Triplanetary.
Interested in More
If you are interested in this genre of film and literature you can start an exploration of your own. To begin, check out Credo Reference’s and Britannica Academic’s articles concerning science fiction. Eastern University Libraries’ catalog carries a collection of books in various formats on the history and criticism of the genre. There are numerous articles, scholarly and popular, in our databases to help you to a deeper understanding of the literature of science fiction. Look at the 2,000 plus articles in Academic Search Elite or the interesting citations in the MLA International Bibliography.
Don’t forget our excellent collection of science fiction movies !
Need more? Don’t rely on the force. Make an appointment with a librarian for a research consultation.