How much cosmic imagination and speculative social history can fit in a pulp-adventure framework? Why do science fiction and modernism emerge at the same literary-historical moment? Does the future belong to giant crabs?
The Sometime Seminar discusses the work of H.G. Wells, with a focus on The Time Machine (1895).
Note on e-texts: the Project Gutenberg text, on which most free e-texts of The Time Machine are based, is corrupt and error-ridden. We recommend instead the Penguin Classics edition, which comes with an excellent introduction by Marina Warner.
Does utopia begin with extinction? Can gene-splicing aliens save humanity from itself?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Lilith’s Brood (also known as Xenogenesis), a trilogy of science-fiction novels by Octavia Butler: Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988), and Imago (1989).
In a large bag, combine shady financiers, dissolute aristocrats and marriageable heiresses; spice with lower-class stereotypes and brash Americans to taste; add one improbable paragon of old-fashioned virtue; shake vigorously for 800 pages; serve with comic relish, sentimental syrup and a pinch of melancholy.
The Sometime Seminar discusses Anthony Trollope’s The Way We Live Now (1875), a sprawling novel of finance and marriage.
Supplemental link: John Lanchester argues the novel’s relevance to a 2010s audience for NPR
Note on e-texts: the Penguin Classics edition is terrible, riddled with errors and typos.
What happens when the “modern woman” of the late 19th century takes a lead role in one of the oldest plots on the planet? How does social history finds its way into romantic psychology, and vice versa?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Alien Hearts (Notre coeur, 1890) by Guy de Maupassant (trans. Richard Howard, 2009).
Valuables vanish, comic/gothic stereotypes abound, the plot twists and the repressed returns as The Sometime Seminar discusses The Moonstone (1868) by Wilkie Collins, which is by some accounts the first detective novel.
Whiz-bang pulp exuberance + witty, inventive style + just the right amount of psychological depth and moral/political seriousness = ???.
The Sometime Seminar discusses the midcentury science-fiction stories of Cordwainer Smith, the best of which are selected — along with the novel Norstrilia — in We the Underpeople. (Many other collections of Smith’s work are available.)
What’s so scary about trees, shrubs and untamed landscapes? How come so many turn-of-the-20th-century weird fiction writers were reactionary bigots? And why are they now being summoned from the crypts of genre history and niche publication to walk the earth in the likeness of Penguin Classics?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories, a collection of short fiction by Algernon Blackwood.
Emotional intensity: plenty. Haunting and evocative symbolist/surrealist imagery: in spades. Conceptual organization of the footnotable, explicatable variety: who needs it?
The Sometime Seminar discusses Concerning the Angels (Sobre los angeles, 1929), a book of poems by the Spanish poet Rafael Alberti.
Tormented interiority squares off against dumb luck, in prose as sparkling as the stream of consciousness is muddy. The Sometime Seminar discusses Omensetter’s Luck (1966), William Gass’s first novel.
It’s the end of the world as we know it! It’s the end of good writing as even the 1820s knew it! But we feel fine: it’s the beginning of science fiction. The Sometime Seminar discusses The Last Man (1826), a lesser-known apocalyptic novel by Mary Shelley.