Fan-Favorite Science Fiction Novels: A Six Part Course with William Bernhardt

Fan-Favorite Science Fiction Novels: A Six Part Course with William Bernhardt


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Science fiction, or speculative fiction, has often been called the literature of the imagination. In science fiction, there are no restraints. The endless possibilities and the sense of wonder brought by the genre's best writers perhaps account for its enormous popularity. 

During our conversations, William Bernhardt will discuss how science fiction journeyed from a small disrespected niche in the back of the bookstore to the most popular eBook genre and the springboard for the biggest blockbuster films and television series. Participants will come away with an increased appreciation for science fiction and its many forms and subgenera. Together we will travel from the earliest fantastic stories from ancient Greece to the most famous popularizers, Jules Verne with his "fantastifiction," and H.G. Wells with his "scientific romances." 

This course will particularly focus on the twentieth-century rise of popular "sci-fi." Together we will explore the birth of fandom, pulp magazines, legit science-fiction periodicals, and a small but talented group of writers who eventually earned literary respect: Asimov, Clarke, Herbert, Heinlein, and science fiction's poet laureate, Ray Bradbury. Bernhardt will also discuss the most recent expansions of the genre, cyberpunk, steampunk, virtual realities, metaverses, parallel universes, and artificial intelligence. During our time together we will also consider film and television adaptations, including George Méliès' "A Trip to the Moon", Flash Gordon, drive-in movies, Star Trek, Star Wars, the Mandalorian, and Stranger Things. Though science fiction was once almost entirely absent from the screen, today it provides the most successful and expensive blockbusters, revealing an unprecedented appreciation of the genre.

Lecture One – The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
This lecture will cover the early origins of fantastic fiction, traveling from ancient Greece to the Arabian Nights and considering many ancient myths and legends, finally arriving at the early twentieth century and the "scientific romances" of H.G. Wells.

Lecture Two –  Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke
This lecture will cover the birth of "scientifiction" in early pulp magazines, the turn from space opera to science-based stories, and the "Big Three" sci-fi writers of the era, Asimov, Bradbury, and Clarke.

Lecture Three –  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This lecture will discuss the New Wave of science fiction and the poet and most beloved sci-fi writer of the era, Ray Bradbury.

Lecture Four – Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
This lecture will discuss how science fiction was used to comment on contemporary society, not only in books but on the screen (Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, and others), and will also discuss the increasingly popular use of sci-fi tropes by so-called "mainstream" writers such as Kurt Vonnegut.

Lecture Five – Neuromancer By William Gibson
This lecture will cover the evolution of science fiction in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century and emerging themes and subgenera, such as the cyberpunk genre introduced by Gibson in Neuromancer.

Lecture Six – Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
The final session will consider where science fiction is today and where it might go in the future, discuss some of the best contemporary works, and the impact of Snow Crash and its satire, including its troubling examination of the impact of computers on society.

William Bernhardt is a scholar, teacher, author of more than fifty published works, including several New York Times-bestselling novels. In addition to his many crime and mystery novels, Bernhardt has written plays, a musical (book and music), nonfiction, children's books, poetry, and created jig-saw puzzles. He was also a Champion on Season 30 of the game show Jeopardy! He is the founder and President of the Red Sneaker Writing Center which provides resources to support upcoming writers. The Center hosts the annual WriterCon in Oklahoma City and small-group seminars across the US, as well as a free monthly e-newsletter and a biweekly podcast — reaching more than 20,000 subscribers. Bernhardt has received many accolades for his writing, including an induction into the Oklahoma Writers’ Hall of Fame. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law and currently lives in Oklahoma with his wife and their children.

How does it work?
This is a six-part course held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule above for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

When will I receive the Zoom link?
The link used to enter your Zoom room will be the same for each lecture in the course. It will be sent to the email address that was used to place your order 30 minutes prior to each session's start time.

Is there a reading list?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, we do suggest reading each of the 6 books which this course will overview, at your convenience. The lectures are spaced in such a way that ideally participants will be able to enjoy each book in advance of the corresponding discussion.

How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time included for Q&A.

How much is the course?
The course is $210 USD for six lectures.

Is a recording available?
Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording within 48 hours of each event's conclusion.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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