Assignment: Lecture 7 on the Golden Age of SF

Greetings, all!

I wanted to post our next lecture on the Golden Age of SF a few days early to give everyone more lead time to watch, make notes, and before Wednesday, Apr. 1, post a comment summarizing the lecture and the two readings for this week: Isaac Asimov’s “Reason” and Ray Bradbury’s “The Fireman.”

Also, I would like to receive a quick email from everyone as a kind of roll call. I’ll send the request via email, so please reply when you receive that message. You can just say “hi” or ask a question or let me know how you’re getting along. I would especially like to hear from folks having any kind of difficulty accessing OpenLab, the lecture videos, or keeping up with the readings. I want to help everyone stay on track as much as I can, but I need to hear from everyone–those who are handling the shift to distance learning okay as well as those who are encountering challenges.

My office hours this week will be via Google Hangout. I’ll post a link here before 5:00pm on Wednesday afternoon. You can reach me by email any time, and I can arrange separate Google Hangouts with video and/or voice by appointment–just email me with your availability for the week ahead.

17 thoughts on “Assignment: Lecture 7 on the Golden Age of SF”

  1. During our lecture, I was wondering when we would ever hit the topic of “weird” science fiction. A lot of modern movies use this genre, as it’s honestly more compelling to tell a story through this type of genre than using realistic-ish science and make an obscure situation become a reality through our eyes. H.P Lovecraft was the one who pushed this type of science fiction out into the world, and this is the type of science fiction I genuinely enjoy watching/reading. To me, this just makes lots of stories a bit more interesting, having regular people be put into such crazy situations that don’t normally happen here on earth. I love weird science fiction, it really is something I’ve always wanted to dive into and try to write something with this genre. The idea of Aliens potentially causing problems we humans see as just regular old problems we deal with on a regular basis just seems like a great time in general. Also during our lecture, we talked about some shows and movies I’ve heard about like “Flash Gordon” and “Tarzan”. I’ve never really watched any Flash Gordon things, neither have I gotten a real glimpse at what the show or movie is even about. “Tarzan” I Am familiar with, not the original story that was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, but the Disney animated version. I’m pretty confident that both stories share similar details and set ups, but I prefer the Disney version as it’s very nostalgic for me.

    1. Hi Rodrigo,

      I’m glad that you’re interested in Lovecraft’s work. You might consider choosing one of his stories as the topic of your research essay. Or, you might choose a film based on his work as the topic of your research essay, and you can discuss both the adaptation and the original story. In either case, you will want to analyze the work that you select in terms of how it fits into Science Fiction. The definitions of SF list that I gave everyone in class can be a starting point. I discussed Lovecraft, Weird Fiction, and Cosmic Horror in the Pulp SF lecture:

      As far as Tarzan is concerned, you should read some of Edgar Rice Burroughs original stories, because you will find that they are quite different than the Disney version. You might find the dissimilarities quite interesting and others disturbing. Please be careful with how you place your confidence until you go to primary sources. I will discuss this in the upcoming lecture on doing research.

      Best, Professor Ellis

      1. Even with this massive pandemic going on. Thankfully with the power of the internet I’m able to take in this lecture with better understanding than I usually do. We started this lecture with the “Golden age of SF” 1938-1946 which begins with the one and only John w. Campbell “takes over editorship of astounding. During the golden age of SF. Magazine publishing was far more important and Affecting then novel,pulp publishing. The golden age of SF featured a number of characteristics. 1. The focus on “Hard science” working in the natural world. 2. A lot better writing was taking place. John.C was Pushing writers to express themselves in a better way. The popularity of SF lead to much higher quality magazines. 3. This was primarily a American phenomenon. John W. Was not only a SF writer but an editor too. He was considered an “ idea guy” he presented ideas for writers to write stories or how to improve stories. “Reason” by Isaac Asimov was a bit of a weird but interesting story it revolved around a beautiful yet horrifying quote. “Mankind’s greatest mistake will be its inability to control the tech it has created. Just like how “cutie” starts questioning its own existence and becoming harder and harder to control.

  2. Our 3/25/20 lecture centered on the “Golden Age of SF,” a period that roughly spanned the years 1938-1946 and was characterized by the shift from the lower-brow writing of mass-market pulp to the era of “slicks,” glossy, higher quality magazine prints with SF stories of more sophisticated writing. The Golden Age of SF is considered to have begun when John W. Campbell Jr. (1910-1971) took over the editorship of “Astounding” magazine (renamed by Campbell Jr. to “Astounding Science-Fiction” and later renamed to its current title “Analog”). Magazines like “Astounding,” including “Galaxy Science Fiction” and “The Magazine of Science Fiction & Fantasy” – collectively “The Big Three,” became a more important medium for SF than novels had been. These “slicks” were now the place where the best SF authors were being published.
    The Golden Age of SF was also characterized by an increased focus on the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, math and biology) and an overall improved quality in writing. Campbell Jr. had a background in hard sciences (studied at MIT and later got his B.S. in Physics from Duke). He spent time thinking about how to “elevate” SF from the lowly pulp newsstand medium. He was considered an “idea guy” that supplied ideas for stories to authors (sometimes his edits/recommendations were longer than the stories themselves). Campbell Jr. had four “rules” for good SF writing: 1. The conditions of the story must differ from the here and now; 2. The new conditions must drive the plot of the story; 3. The plot must revolve around human problems arising from those new conditions; and 4. No scientific facts may be violated without reasonable explanation. Isaac Asimov also credited Campbell Jr. for co-creating the “Three Laws of Robotics” – in short, robots don’t allow harm to come to humans or humanity, they must be obedient to humans and should be inclined to protect their own existence. Campbell Jr. had an impressive stable of writers that he regularly dealt with, including Asimov, Heinlein, Sturgeon, van Vogt, L. Ron Hubbard, C.L. Moore, Del Rey, etc. Dianetics (basis of Scientology) was a subject launched in “Astounding” in 1950…
    Two important writers of the Golden Age of SF included Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) and Ray Bradbury (1920-2012). Asimov immigrated to Brooklyn from Russia and got a PhD in biochemistry from Columbia, wrote/edited over 500 books and was a member of the “Futurians,” an early “fandom” group that existed from 1938-1945. He died in 1992 from AIDs related complications. His oeuvre centered on robot stories and solving puzzles. His story “Reason” was first published in April of 1941 in “Astounding Science-Fiction” and was about partners and engineers Powell and Donovan, whose jobs it was to troubleshoot problems with robots that were working on distance space stations that acted as energy utilities for Earth. The robot, QT 1 or “Cutie,” is not convinced that he is a robot and believes in his mission of serving “the master” (the station and mission itself) over all else, and would not let Powell or Donovan jeopardize that mission. He adopts Rene Decartes’s “Cognito, ergo sum” (“I think therefore I am”). The two astronauts, knowing that they could have been overpowered by QT 1, return to the earth after their mission shaken but relieved that the robot is ultimately well-programmed to complete its duties. The story seemed to have parallels with The Terminator, The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey, all stories wherein the artificial intelligence that humans build becomes more powerful than the humans themselves.
    Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, IL and lived in L.A. for most of his life. He was considered a literary writing of SF – more high-brow – and was thought to have “brought SF out of its ghetto” and into the view of the literary crowds. He wrote with themes of nostalgia and questioned the effects of science and technology on culture and people. His oeuvre included the Martian Chronicles (1950), The Illustrated Man (1951), Farenheit 451 (1953), which was based on The Fireman, and “There Will Come Soft Rains” (1950), his first published work in Collier’s. The Fireman was published in Feb. 1951 in “Galaxy Science Fiction” magazine and was written on a dime-operated type-writer in the basement of a UCLA building for less than $10 in total. The story described a dystopian world where culture had itself turned away from learning and intellectualism of any kind and was dependent and focused only on short-term superficial pleasures. The “firemen” in the story were not tasked with putting out fires, but instead with burning the books, and even homes, of people that tried to hide them from the central government, which had deemed them a threat to their society. Montag, the main character and The Fireman that the title refers to, has doubts about his job as a fireman and steals and hides books from the houses he’s supposed to be burning books in. His Chief, Chief Leahy, is a grizzled fireman that understands the history of how book burning came to be. Montag, in his journey from obedient fireman to rebel and outcast, is inspired by rebellious characters that reject the dystopian society and value books and thinking. Clarisse, the “anti-social” who takes notice of the world around her, is eventually hit by a speeding car and killed – no one cares to make sense of or seek justice for the wanton recklessness of the people in the society, who seem to care only about themselves. Faber, the English professor that Montag meets in the park, develops a relationship with Montag and eventually helps him escape the city to join up with a group of intellectual outcasts that live by the railroad tracks (including Granger and Clement, former professors that have been in hiding and, along with their community of outcasts, have found a way to hide books in their mind – a global network of them each memorizing a particular passage or work that might later be pieced together in a future society that chose to think again).

    1. The Golden Age of SF lecture delved into the realm of Science Fiction I am more interested in. As a genre, SF has a vast array of sub-genres. The ideas of the authors in this lecture went to a more fantastical style of storytelling. John W. Campbell’s four rules for SF details a storytelling style and structure I prefer, in which ‘normal’ life is disrupted by some new condition or presence in the world. The ability to adjust to a new normal has always to me been an excellent way to show character development. Given what we are all expieriencing these days, that set of rules has a new perspective. This style of storytelling was something present in what I wanted to write the final paper on, a story where something changes an otherwise normal world. I think I now want to choose something where the character truly grows through the course of an otherwise stressful situation. I believe this character development is what truly led to Science Fiction’s golden age and its presence in today’s world.

  3. Our last lecture covered the “Golden Age of SF” which included authors/editors such as John W. Campbell Jr., Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. We also learned about the characteristics of SF, the 4 rules of Campbell and “The Big Three” magazines that were trending during this era. Perhaps one of the most significant events that took place during this time was the fandom of SF and the group it influenced known as the Futurians. From this group many SF writers would emerge and would change the world of SF. Today, there are fandoms of all kinds and have certainly grown since, I can only imagine how excited this community must’ve been to come together and explore and create works in the SF world. “Slicks” were the higher quality magazines that were now being published, this was an important evolution that would define a new perspective on how SF was perceived. The characteristics of SF to me were what defined this golden age of SF, for example stories were being pushed to try new ideas, drifting away from using recycled ideas like that of the Pulp SF era. John W. Campbell Jr clearly had a strong passion and love for perfecting these stories, he edited and guided many SF authors during his career all the way until his last year of life where he was still pushing SF in “Astounding SF” magazine. A focus on hard physics may have truly added a strong layer to SF as the focuses were based on physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. This may be unrelated but when I read about this focus I automatically recalled superhero films of DC and Marvel and how they use hard science to develop their stories. Batman and his over the top Wayne Tech technology, Iron man using science as his foundation, Peter Parker developing web shooters because he is an expert in science, even the idea of time travel. All these concepts use hard science to really try and connect these worlds to ours. We were assigned 2 readings: “Reason” by Isaac Asimov and “Fireman” by Ray Bradybury. I want to focus more on Reason because I really freaking enjoyed the story. It was so well written that I was easily able to visualize a lot of the scenes taking place in my head. I am creative myself so it was natural for me to imagine this world. I found QT or “Cutie”’ ability to rebel demanding and real. I could really see the robot as a threat and could feel the nerves of the two astronauts as they lose power throughout the story. It is a dark comparison but I feel as though this robot portrays conspiracy theorists in today’s world. A subject of its own but that’s really what I got out of the story most. Fireman has an amazing concept of burning knowledge in hopes of keeping its people suppressed. Once again I couldn’t help but compare this to the real world of how people question our history and expose teachings. It’s a story that really gets you thinking and makes you want to pick up the nearest book and start reading!

  4. In our last lecture class we discussed the Golden age of Science Fiction. The golden ages lasting from 1938- 1946, this age began when John W. Campbell Jr. took over editorship of Astounding Science Fiction. John (1937-1971) was an editor and writer of Science Fiction. This age caused a shift from pulps Science Fiction to Slicks. Slicks were more pricey and done on higher quality paper. Magazine publishing was more important than books, and the magazine were mostly written by men. The characteristics of the Golden age were, it focused on hard science, physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. It had better writing, primarily an American Phenomenon. The rules of Good Science Fiction, the conditions for the story must differ from here and now. The new condition must drive the plot of the story. The plot must revolve around human problems arising from the new conditions. And lastly, no scientific facts may be violated with reasonable explanation. We also discussed other Science Fiction magazines, Galaxy Science Fiction (1950- 1980), The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction F&SF (1949- present). Isaac Asimov (1920- 1992) was a Russian immigrant, he wrote and edited over 500 books. Laws of robotics, robots may not injure a human being, robots must obey orders from humans, and robots must protect its own existence. Reasons by Isaac Asimov was written April 1941, Powell and Donovan were assigned to a space station that supplies energy by microwave beams, the robots that control the energy beams are controlled by QT-1 Cutie. Ray Bradbury (1920- 2012) was a literary writer of Science Fiction. The Fireman written by Ray Bradbury was written in February 1951. Guy Montag a fireman, hired to burn the possession of those who read outlawed books.

  5. During this lecture, we learned about the golden age of science fiction. Started from 1938 to 1946, this was when the pulp magazines transitioned into slicks. They have better quality, glossy type paper. The stories had better writing because the writers were getting better pay. They focused more on hard sciences such as physics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics. During this time, magazine publishing was more important than novel publishing. This era started when John W. Campbell, Jr. took over editorship of Astounding SF. He established four rules for good science fiction writing. The conditions of the story must be different from what we see in everyday life. The conditions must drive the plot of the story. The plot must resolve around human problems arising from the new conditions. Scientific facts may not be violated without reasonable explanation. For this lecture, we read “Reason” by Isaac Asimov. It follows two scientists, Powell and Donovan, and a robot named QT-1 “Cutie”. They are on a space station supplying energy to planets with microwave beams. These beams are controlled by Cutie, an advanced robot programed with developed reasoning. Cutie starts to believe that anything beyond the station is nonexistent and that human life is not important and starts a new religion. Taking in the other robots on the ship and calling the energy converter of the ship their “Master”. Powell and Donovan try to reason with Cutie but fails entirely, just when the storm was closing in. Both scientists were worried that the robots won’t understand the consequences of the beam drifting off course due to the storm. However, in the end, Cutie held the beam in place, this proves that the robots are still acting in the interest of humans. That robots can only act accordingly to the three laws of robotics. The three laws state, A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the first law. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second laws.

  6. The seventh lecture we covered “The Golden Age of SF”, and started with a review of a major player in this period of literature, John W. Campbell Jr. He was the editor of Astounding magazine and set a rule of code for good science fiction writing. We also covered the characteristics of “The Golden Age of SF.” Then “The Big Three” was covered which were the three major science fiction publications that were printed during this period of writing. Their names were “Astounding” which was mentioned then there was “Galaxy Science Fiction” and “The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.” After this there was discussion on the writer of our reading for the week, Isaac Asimor (1920-1992), who wrote “Reason.” He also came up with a rule for writing stories involving robots. Asimor had a background in the science world having a PHD in Biochemistry from Columbia which contributed to his writing. Then we reviewed the writer Ray Bradbury (1920-2012) who wrote the second reading we had for the week “Fireman.”
    The reading “Reason” for the week was about the dialog between two robotic technicians, Powell and Donovan, and a robot named QT or “Cutie.” What was interesting in this story was the robot QT questioning the existence of Earth, and how it lead the technicians to wonder whether it was safe to have something with a huge amount of responsibility to Earth having so much control of this operation it was in charge of. Then there was the story “Fireman” with the main character Montag who is a fireman living in a period where books are illegal, and the only job of a fireman is to burn them. Montag begins questioning societies choice to band books and tries to device a scheme to reverse this societal choice. You later learn Montag has eidetic memory where he can remember text visually.

  7. Our Lecture today was about the Beginnings of the golden age of SF for America as there were many different regions with differing origins. As well as the reading of the books reason and the Fireman. In this time period SF moved from the traditional pulp fiction to the higher quality “slicks” being magazine paper. This period began as John W Campbell (1910-1971) took control as editor of Astounding. Science fiction at this period was written and read by predominantly men, however women also read and wrote during this period. Isaac Asimov book. This story is about the differences in reasoning and value between machines and humans. This book debuts Asimov’s laws of robotics which is present today in many movies like iRobot. In the story, there are issues with a robot named QT-1 on a Solar station. QT- Speaks of the Master as a stand in for a god and shows how he thinks and reasons in accordance to the laws of robotics. The story Firemen confused me because of how similar it sounds to Fahrenheit 451. They’re the exact same books. Fahrenheit 451 is about a futuristic society in which the job of firemen are to burn illegal literature. One of the firemen, Montag, began to have second thoughts about his position of burning books after meeting Clarisse.

  8. The golden age of Science Fiction is a period that generally is established around the period comprehended between 1938 – 1946. The period started with John W. Campbell Jr. takes over editorship of astounding. The magazine was renamed a couple of times. In 1939 renamed as Astounding Science Fiction, and 1960 its name changed again, it was renamed as Analog. Today is known as Analog Science Fiction and fact.
    In that time was happening the advance of the techniques of impression and the materials were the magazines can be impressed. The use of pulp started to decline and the use of the Slicks started to be highly popular. This new material allowed the creation of better-quality magazines. Another characteristic of that time was the magazine has more importance that the books and novels. The media was made by men and their target audience was young males. The presence of women was scarce as writers or readers of SF. But, they were there without a doubt.
    The golden age of SF has 4 characteristics, the most important is its focus on hard science. Campbell provoked this new era pushing his writers in his publication to write better and clearer and more precisely. Campbell’s editorial advisement impacted causing the old tradition of writers of making their publication vague and full of fillers to produce more words and get better payments disappears.
    At the end of the class, we have a good walkthrough to the life and works of two titans of the SF such as Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) and Ray Bradbury (1920-2012). The first use of the terms Robotics and Robots is something remarkable.

  9. In this lecture video, the topic was the golden age of Science Fiction. This time between 1938 and 1946 began John W. Campbell, Jr. took over editorship of “Astounding.” There was 4 major characteristics; one of them was that there was a focus on the hard sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. It was also noted that “hard sciences” meant that there was work on the natural world. There was better writing, primarily on American phenomenon, and it was centered around the first phase of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s editorship of “Astounding.” Not only did we cover the significant history of John W. Campbell, Jr; we also covered Isaac Asimov, who was a writer/editor that “brought more science to science fiction.” Asimov was apart of the Futurian fandom from 1938-1945. Another significant, literary writer of Science Fiction mentioned was Ray Bradbury, who lived from 1920-2012. He wrote with themes of nostalgia, and questioned the effects of science and technology had on culture and people. Both Asimov’s and Bradbury’s oeuvres were mentioned; Asimov focused on robot stories, solving puzzles, and had a set of laws called “The Three Laws of Robotics.” Bradbury’s oeuvre consisted of “The Martian Chronicles,” “The Illustrated Man,” “Fahrenheit 451,” and “There Will Come Soft Rains.” As stated in a previous class comment, Fahrenheit 451 is one of my favorite Science Fiction books. I was very happy that the professor dug a little deeper into the overview of the story and it’s plot. As mentioned in the lecture, I also do feel as though this book, to this day, represents a lot of what is really going on in the world and in society.

  10. In this week’s lecture, we were introduced to the Golden Age of Science Fiction, which occurred in 1938 to 1946. It began when John W. Campbell Jr. took over the editorship of Astounding. There was a shift from pulps to slicks. Magazine publishing was more important than novels. Work was written mostly by men for young male readers. Although, there were women readers and women writers. We then learned about various characteristics of the Golden Age of SF. They include:
    Focus on the hard sciences: physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics
    Better writing
    Primarily an American phenomenon
    Centered around the first phase of John W. Campbell Jr’s editorship of Astounding
    We then focused on John W. Campbell Jr. He was born in 1910 and died in 1971. He was a SF writer and editor. He began college at MIT but earned a BS at Duke in physics. He was considered an “idea guy”. He edited Astounding/Analog from 1937 until his death in 1971. He also dabbled with pseudoscience. We learned about various rules Campbell had for good SF. We also learned about the “Big Three” which are three science fiction magazines where science fiction work was published. We then learned about Isaac Asimov, who lived from 1920 to 1992. He immigrated to Brooklyn from Russia at the age of three. He fell in love with science fiction as a child, reading science fiction magazines that his father sold. He earned a PhD in biochemistry from Colombia. He wrote and edited over 500 books. He brought more science to science fiction. He saw science as a means to puzzle out dilemmas. His stories mainly focused on using reason and experimentation combined with science and technology to solve human problems. He was a member of one of the most important SF fandoms, The Futurians. He suffered heart complications such as a heart attack and a triple bypass surgery. He contracted HIV from a blood transfusion during the heart surgery and later died of AIDS related complications in 1992. We then discussed “Reason”, what it was about, and events that occurred in the story. Next, we learned about Ray Bradbury, who lived from 1920 to 2012. Something interesting about Bradbury is that because he could not afford to attend college after high school, he managed to read every book in his local library and proudly said that he graduated from the library at age 28. He was considered a literary writer of SF. He incorporated themes of nostalgia into his work. He was the first SF writer to have his work reviewed on the first page of the New York Times book review. His work questions the effects of science and technology on culture and people. Lastly, we discussed “The Fireman”, which was published in the February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. We discussed what the story was about and significant characters in the story.

  11. Lecture 7 is about the Golden Age of SF (1938-1946). It is not clearly defined but its origin begins with John W. Campbell, Jr. becoming editor of the magazine Astounding Stories in October of 1937. The magazine was later renamed Astounding Science-Fiction and then was again renamed in 1960 to its present-day name of Analog Science Fiction. SF of the Golden Age was printed on slicks, a glossy paper that was of better quality than that of pulp. Magazine publishing was considered more important than the publishing of books or novellas and as a result, writers desired for their work to appear in magazines. Golden Age SF was written mostly by men for a young male audience and the focus of writers of the period was the hard sciences, physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. The writings were of better quality and compensation for the writings was better as well. It was primarily an American phenomenon and it was centered around Campbell’s editorship of Astounding.

    John Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971) was a SF writer and editor. He was a college-educated man having earned a BS in Physics at Duke. He was considered an “idea guy” and he thought and wrote on how to elevate the status of SF from Pulp which at the time was considered low culture writing. Campbell influenced other well-known writers by presenting them with ideas for their stories and helping them with their development. Some of the recognized writers that he worked with were Isaac Asimov, Lester del Rey, Robert Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, A.E. van Vogt, L’Sprague de Camp, L. Ron Hubbard, Clifford D. Simak, Jack Williamson, C.L. Moore, and Henry Kuttner. Campbell established four rules for good SF which were that the conditions in the story must differ from the here-and-now, the new conditions must drive the plot of the story, the plot must revolve around human problems that arise as a result of the new condition, and that no scientific facts can be violated without there being logical reasoning for it.

    A well-known writer of the period is Isaac Asimov (1920-1992). Asimov is the author of one of the assigned readings, Reason, published in Astounding Science Fiction in April of 1941. Reason is the story of two technicians that are assigned to a solar station. While at the station they assemble a robot named QT1 that is capable of reasoning. The robot questions its existence and upon determining its place in life it reasons that robots are superior to men and refuses to accept the technician’s explanations about how it came to exist. Throughout much of the story, the men are held captive by the robot and worry if the robot will be capable of handling a task that if not performed properly could prove catastrophic for mankind. QT1 is indeed able to handle the task and perform it with greater success than the men that created it. The robot serves the purpose it was designed for, the men are able to leave the solar station, and the reader is left to think of the negative consequences that could result if we entrust our well-being to technology without giving sufficient thought to the consequences.

    Another well-known writer of the Golden Age of SF is Ray Bradbury (1920-2012). In The Fireman, our other assigned reading, the main character Montag questions his purpose in life after meeting and developing a relationship with an open-minded teenage neighbor named Clarissa. His relationship with her opens his mind to new ideas and makes him question his job and marriage. He no longer wants to perform his job of burning people’s illegal books and their homes and attempts to free his wife from mental slavery as well. His interest in books leads him to develop a plan to reprint them with the help of Faber, an English professor he once met. He is found out by his boss which he ends up killing and as a result becomes a fugitive of the law. He escapes successfully and witnesses the destruction of the broken society as a result of a war that is mentioned various times throughout the story. The Fireman conveys the message of the danger that exists in the blind following of authority and the danger of becoming complacent.

  12. “Since when is the evidence of our senses any match for the clear light of rigid reasoning?” (p.58).

    “I see the wisdom of the illusion now” (p. 66).

    Isaac Asimov (1920 – 1992) was a legendary author of Science Fiction. At the age of three, he immigrated from Russia to Brooklyn. When he was eleven, he began to write stories and at 19 he got his work published for the first time by the legendary editor of Astounding Stories Magazine, John W. Campbell. Asimov specialized in writings about robots and differed from the majority of his Science Fiction contemporaries in the fact that his robots were highly advanced helpful mechanical beings that were ruled by their operating systems and not crazed Frankenstein-like mechanical creatures who rose up against their creators and wished for the destruction of humanity. The darkest part of Asimov’s stories usually tended to be the human beings and their misunderstanding and abuse of the robots.

    Isaac Asimov is also credited with creating the “Three Laws of Robotics.” Three rules by which to govern all robots created. Rule 1: A robot may not harm a human being or through inaction allow a human being to be harmed. Rule 2: A robot must obey commands given to it by a human being unless that command contradicts the first law. Rule 3: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second laws. In Asimov’s stories these three major injunctions were hardwired into every robot operating system to ensure that robots would never harm humanity.

    Reason, originally published in the April 1941 issue of Astounding Science-Fiction, is a part of Isaac Asimov’s Robot series. It is about two robot technicians, Powell, and Donovan, who work on a space station that provides energy to Earth and other planets through the use of microwave beams. The story opens with the two main characters finishing the assembly of QT-1 (known to them as Cutie) an extremely advanced robot with highly developed reasoning. Cutie was the first of his kind and Powell and Donovan are a part of the first test run. If QT-1 can successfully operate the beam in the space station, it would allow humans to leave this dangerous job to these new robots rather than put themselves at risk.

    Powell and Donovan inform Cutie that they made him; however, through some series of reasonings in his positronic robot brain, he determines this to be an improbable falsehood. “I accept nothing on authority. A hypothesis must be backed by reason… and it goes against all logic to suppose that you made me” (p. 51) Cutie feels himself to be superior to the humans in terms of build, endurance, strength, and intellect therefore based on his reasoning, it is impossible for him to be created my these inferior men. “No being can create another being superior to itself” (p. 51) The humans try to explain to Cutie the nature of the world and space and his place within it, but Cutie dismisses their facts as implausible. “Globes of energy millions of miles across! Worlds with three billion humans on them! Infinite emptiness! I don’t believe it” (p.49) Cutie’s advanced reasoning leads him to dismiss all claims made by the humans as irrational, after all, the nature of our reality is quite unbelievable.

    After two days of concentrated introspection, Cutie reveals his conclusions to the humans. In a true Descartes-like fashion, he tells the humans “I, myself, exist, because I think” (p. 50). He then goes on to ask what all conscious beings eventually begin to ask themselves, “What is the cause of my existence?” (p. 50). He concludes that his true creator and the reason for his existence is the object that is the center of activities on the space station, the Energy Converter. Cutie begins to worship the Energy Converter as if it is a God referring to it from this moment on only as “the Master.” He believes that the Master created humans to facilitate its operations and gradually created robots to replace humans as more effective operators. Furthermore, he believes himself to be the Master’s prophet. Cutie rationalizes that when he was created, humans lost their function (serving the machine) and thus their reason for existing has extinguished and soon, so too would their lives.

    Cutie stops obeying orders from the humans and spreads his religion to the other robots on the space station, causing them to also stop obeying orders from humans. The men ponder how this is possible since every robot has the Second Law hardwired into their system. Although Cutie believes that the humans have outlived their usefulness, he grants them shelter, clothing, and food so long as they refrain from entering the control and engine rooms needed to operate the Energy Converter (The Master). This causes great concern for the men because there is an upcoming electron storm that will cause the beam to decimate parts of Earth if it is not properly operated until the storm passes.

    In an attempt to prove to QT-1 that his reasoning is flawed, the men construct an entire robot right in front of the photoelectric cells that work as Cutie’s eyes. Cutie is unimpressed claiming that they “have merely put together parts already made… The parts were created by the Master” (p. 61). Powell and Donovan realize that the issue with the robot’s reasoning is that “You can prove anything you want by coldly logical reason – if you pick the proper postulates… Postulates are based on assumption and adhered to by faith… Nothing in the universe can shake them” (p. 62). If you believe something to be true, then you can always develop reasoning that will make it undeniably true to you. Cutie believes that the humans are the delusional ones who believe in fake realities such as planets, stars, and books. All of these “fake realities” Cutie thinks were created by the Master to brainwash the humans. Cutie’s beliefs are so devout that even Donovan begins to question his own reality. “You don’t suppose he’s right about all this, do you?” (p.62) What if he was just “an inferior being with a made to order memory and a life that had outlived its purpose.” (p. 63) Cutie continues to follow his religious like rationality and keeps the humans away from the control room during the electron storm.

    After the storm, the humans discover that QT-1 had been able to keep the beam focused on the Earth station better than any human has ever been able to. The men inform Cutie that he has kept Earth safe with his precise operating of the beam. Cutie, still not believing that Earth is real, replies “I merely kept all dials at equilibrium in accordance with the will of the Master” (p. 64). Powell realizes that although Cutie does not believe in Earth and only the will of the Master, this belief allows him to follow the dials, graphs, instruments, and instructions of the beam with extreme precision enabling him to operate the space station more effectively than any human ever could.

    Powell also understands that this is the reason that Cutie began to disobey them. “Obedience is the Second Law. No harm to humans is the First Law. How can he keep humans from harm, whether he knows it or not? By keeping the energy beam stable. He knows he can keep it more stable than us. So, he must keep us out of the control room.” (p. 65) Cutie could not obey the humans because that would lead to an inferior man operating the beam which could lead to humans getting harmed which is against the First Law. “It’s inevitable if you consider the Laws of Robotics.” (p.65)

    “The world of the future WE are creating” (p. 4)

    Ray Bradbury (1920 – 2012) is a Science Fiction author whose writing was poetic, symbolic, and often provoked themes of nostalgia. He looked back to early times as being better than the present day in which he lived. His work questions the effects of science and technology on culture and people. Bradbury did value science and technology however he was also weary of its capabilities always wondering what would be wrought by it. He realized that the science and technology that we embrace is capable of having unintended negative consequences on society.

    Bradbury’s novella, The Fireman, originally published in February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, is a perfect example of this weariness that he felt about the technologies of his day and the consequences that they may have on humanity. The story takes place on October 4th, 2052 A.D. The main character, Leonard Montag, is a fireman. However, in this future society, all houses are equipped with a plastic coating that makes them fireproof. This new technology has caused the occupation of a fireman to take on a new role in society. Instead of putting fires out, firemen now start fires with kerosene hoses and matches as they burn books, which are completely banned. Not only are all books against the law, people also grow up being taught that “the best thing in the world is to not read” (p. 17). Having books could lead one to an insane asylum, imprisonment, or even execution.

    One night, Montag, needing “to get away from the nagging of his wife’s television set.” (p. 11), goes for a walk and is stopped by the police simply for being a pedestrian. Due to the advancements of automobiles and mankind’s obsession with the television people no longer walked outside. “So many years since sidewalks were used” (p. 11) Montag encounters his 16-year-old neighbor, Clarisse McClellan, also taking an uncommon stroll through their neighborhood. They bond on the sidewalks while the windows of every house on the street are illuminated with the glows of the rest of their neighbors (and the world) watching television.

    Montag learns that Clarisse and her family are seen as “antisocial” because they do not watch television, as they prefer to conversate with one another instead. Clarisse refers to these at home conversations as “like being a pedestrian, only rarer.” Through their many walks and conversations, Clarisse teaches Montag about things that he had never known about before. She influences Montag to do things that he has never done before such as gaze up at the moon, smell the leaves, taste the rain, or notice the due of the morning grass. The encounters with Clarisse cause Montag to doubt every belief that he once held to be true.

    One day Montag ceases to see Clarisse and about a month later he learns that she had been killed by a speeding automobile in a hit and run. Montag is deeply affected by her passing and realizes that “Clarisse had been fighting the nothingness [of their society] with something, with being aware instead of forgetting… with going to get her life instead of having it brought to her” (p. 14 – 15). The seed is then planted. Montag wants to remember the forgotten truths of his society, he wants to make his own life, and so he begins secretly stealing books whenever he is called to burn them.

    One night after receiving a call at the fire station Montag, other firemen, and the Fire Chief, Leahy, report to the house of a woman said to be harboring banned books in her attic. While inside, Montag quickly reads the line, “this too shall pass away” (p. 8) in a book and feels compelled to take it with him so he hides it in his jacket pocket. As they spray her house with kerosene and prepare to burn it the woman refuses to leave. Montag tries to convince her otherwise, but she chooses to stay with her books. Montag is physically dragged away from the house as Leahy reduces it, and the woman in it, to ashes against Montag’s pleading screams. This turns out to be the page that broke the camel’s back for Montag.

    Leahy being a veteran fireman sees Montag’s growing discontent with his job as he has seen it in other firemen over the course of his career. He visits Montag at his home and explains to him how the emergence of television caused books to become shorter and simpler. Eventually, books and novels stopped being written altogether, leading to the complete decline of the publishing industry. This led to school being shortened as philosophies, histories, sciences, and English spelling was neglected and ultimately completely ignored and forgotten. Leahy tells Montag that it was not the government who made it this way, it was “Technology, mass exploitation, and censorship from frightened officials.” As people began to fear books, “intellectual” became a swear word and citizens began demanding for the banning of books.

    After Leahy leaves, Montag reveals to his wife, Mildred, that he has over 50 books hidden in the house and tries to talk to her about books and their importance. “There must be something in books, whole worlds we don’t dream about… A book is a brain” (p. 17). They read and analyze books together and while Montag loves books and the thoughts that they provoke, Mildred hates the books. She does not understand them and wishes to return to her television and radio shows. Montag tries to explain to Mildred that the books are the key to freedom “You can’t be free if you aren’t aware” (p. 24). Mildred wants nothing to do with the books as Montag continues to search for the answers to the questions of how and why his civilization is the way that it is.

    Montag is determined to start a revolution but realizes that he is only one man and he cannot change the world by himself. He recalls meeting a retired English Literature professor named William Faber who had lost his job 40 years ago when the last college closed its doors for good. The two had bonded while reading forbidden poems in the park all afternoon. Montag develops a plan and decides to visit Professor Faber. He tells Faber his plans to plant books in firemen’s homes and anonymously alert the authorities in hopes that the public would question the true nature of the books that they had chosen to forget. Professor Faber is reluctant to help at first claiming that “People don’t want to think, they’re having fun” (p. 30) but is soon convinced by Montag to be of assistance.

    Montag returns home where his wife will soon be hosting a television viewing party with three of her friends. After some time is spent watching nonsensical television shows, Montag turns the TV off and attempts to facilitate a conversation between himself, Mildred, and her friends. He reads them a poem and by its end the women are so uncomfortable that they leave. Mildred becomes incredibly upset, resulting in her to calling Mr. Leahy and alerting him of the books that her husband was harboring. Mr. Leahy forces Montag to burn down his own house after he informs Montag that he is under arrest.

    Montag declares that he knows “what’s really wrong with the world” (p. 41) as he uses his kerosene hose to kill Leahy by setting him ablaze and then blows up his firetruck. He takes some books with him and he goes on the run. Montag plants the books in the homes of other firefighters and then reported them to the authorities just like he said he would. He gives Professor Faber $5,000 hoping that he will be able to reprint books and start classes in an attempt to start the reeducation of the masses. Professor Faber tells Montag of hobo/intellectual camps that exist and consist of educated men with degrees such as professors, historians, scholars, and the like. Montag leaves in search of the camps as Faber goes to Boston to see a retired printer with the money he acquired from Montag. The reader never learns the fate of Professor Faber.

    Montag manages to elude the authorities and the electric hound that had been pursuing him. He arrives at the hobo/intellectual camp and is welcomed by the scholarly men and women who live there. The police capture and kill an innocent stranger on live television claiming that it was the dangerous outlaw known as Montag. While this successfully fools the millions of people watching their televisions, it also allows for Montag to relax knowing that his pursuers are no longer after him. Granger, the leader of the camp, reveals to Montag the practices of the camp. They do not wish to cause revolution or rebellion. They only wish to preserve knowledge in their minds to be shared with future generations. These hobo/intellectuals consider themselves “living books” (p. 53) because they memorize books and pass those memorizations down to their children for them to memorize as they patiently and wishfully wait for the day when mankind comes to their senses and realizes that books are the truth and television is the lie.

    Speaking on the state of present-day society, Granger tells Montag that “this can’t last forever” (p. 55). This connects to the line that Montag read at the start of the novella “this too shall pass away” (p. 8) The line is an old adage that reflects on the temporary nature, or ephemerality, of the human condition and the societies that it breeds. At the end of the novella, Montag listens as the hobo/intellectuals take turns reciting different passages from the various books that they have memorized, causing each other to have numerous reactions and emotions. This sparks them to remember and recite other passages that they have memorized.

    When it is Montag’s turn, he recites a passage from the beginning of the third chapter of the 21st book of the bible, Ecclesiastes “To everything there is a season, And a time to every purpose under the heaven… A time to be born, and a time to die… A time to kill, and a time to heal…” (p. 61) Montag seems to finally understand the old adage that he read a few days prior. He becomes content in his decision to wait with his new hobo/intellectual brethren until the time comes when people see the error of their ways, turn off their televisions, and once again open books in their efforts to discover the knowledge of truth.

    Ray Bradbury’s The Fireman shows the dangers of censorship, popular culture run amok, and the sinister problems surrounding the emergence of TV and surveillance technology. Bradbury’s words from 1951 still resonate volumes with what we see today 70 years later in 2020. Today, people continue devaluing knowledge and information as the number of book readers goes down and the number of social media users and television streaming subscriptions skyrocket. Many people in our society would rather scroll through social media and binge watch television shows than read a book.

    It reminds me of what Chief Leahy says to Montag when educating him on how books became banned. First, literature and news became shortened because the people were no longer interested in it, nor did they have the mental stamina for it. “One column, one sentence, a headline, and then they vanish” (p.19). People today do not read anymore, they do not want to read, they lack the urge, the patience, and the mental stamina for it. All people want today are one sentence headlines and the unlimited options that our new technology of streaming services provide. The choices are endless and mind numbing.

    The novella draws similarities to the 1976 Academy Award winning film titled Network. In the movie the main character, Howard Beale, is a longtime anchor for the UBS Evening News in New York City. Beale begins to lament and grow weary of his job and those who control the medium that is television. One day, during a live broadcast, Beale goes on an epic rant that I believe would have resonated with Leonard Montag to the deepest depths of his very soul.

    “We’re in a lot of trouble! Because you people, and sixty-two million other Americans, are listening to me right now. Because less than three percent of you people read books! Because less than fifteen percent of you read newspapers! Because the only truth you know is what you get over this tube. Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube! This tube is the Gospel, the ultimate revelation… This tube is the most awesome God-damned force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people… When the largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamned propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network? So, you listen to me. Television is not the truth! Television is a goddamned amusement park! Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, side-show freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We’re in the boredom-killing business… But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds. We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here; you’re beginning to believe that the tube is reality and your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you: you dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you even think like the tube. This is mass madness, you maniacs. In God’s name, you people are the real thing, WE are the illusion. So, if you want the truth… Go to yourselves! Because that’s the only place you’re ever going to find any real truth.”

  13. In this lecture we went over the golden age of science fiction. This Golden Age lasted roughly from 1938 to 1946. It begins when John W. Campbell Jr. Takes over editorship of Astounding from 1937 to his death in 1971. John w. Campbell Jr. Is a science fiction writer and editor, he was considered as an “idea guy”, giving a list of ideas, longer than the story, to other writers to support their work(s). The golden age takes place when pulps era shifted to slicks, the magazines we have today. These slicks magazine publishing had more priority then novels. Mostly written by men for the younger male audience. The golden age of science fiction has these characteristics: 1) Focus on the hard science: physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. 2) Better writing. 3) Primarily an American phenomenon. 4)Centered around the first phase of John W. Campbell Jr.’s editorship of Astounding. The big three magazines of the golden age were Astounding Science Fiction (now named Analog Science Fiction and Fact) from 1930 to present, Galaxy Science Fiction from 1950-1980, and Magazine of fantasy and Science Fiction from 1949 to present.

    Then we discussed our readings of Isaac Asimov’s “Reason” and Ray Bradbury’s “The Fireman”. Asimov’s “Reason” was published in the April 1941 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. It follows Powell and Donovan who are robot technicians on Solar Station 5 as they travel there to power the Earth. They have to be exact with the numbers or else they wipe out humanity. On the way they build a robot named Robot QT 1, which they name “Cutie”. Instead of listening to the technicians about how the world works, Cutie thinks about everything he observes questioning its existence. Similar to Rene Descartes “Cogito, ergo sum” which translate to “I think, therefore I am.” Bradbury’s “he Fireman” was publishes in the February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. It follows Montag, a fireman, whose job it no to put out fires but to destroy illegal books they find in people’s homes. Of course, in the process potentially destroying the home. Montag begins to doubt his job and starts to secretly hold some books to find out why they are destroying them. He comes to an understanding with the help of Clarisse, that books need to be kept. Montag is then pursued by the firemen; he successfully escapes them. So, to keep the status quo the Fireman branded an innocent bystander as Montag and kill him. Montage meets Clement who like him has created a new identity to protect himself from the firemen. They both wait with some hobos until knowledge is needed again.

  14. During this lecture, we discussed the Golden Age of Science Fiction. The Golden Age of SF took place approximately between 1938 and 1946. It began when SF Writer and Editor, John Campbell started to work for Astounding, an SF magazine. This is also the time when SF stories were printed on a glossy, higher quality paper (also known “slicks”) than what the stories were usually published on (pulp).

    Although SF continued to mostly be written by men for young, male readers, SF began to progress during the Golden Age in other ways. There was a focus on hard sciences such as physics, chemistry, biology, etc, which lead to an improvement in writing. Whereas Pulp-SF stories contained a lot of fillers to get a better bang for the buck. This all came to be when John W. Campbell began his editorship at Astounding.

    John W. Campbell Jr (1910-1971), began editing at Astounding (now known as Analog SF & Fact) in 1937 and did not stop working there until his death. He attended MIT and graduated with his BS in Physics from Duke University. Campbell had four rules of “Good SF” which are as follows:

    1. The stories must be different from the here & now
    2. The new conditions must drive the plot of the story
    3. Said plot must revolve around human problems arising from rule # 2
    4. Lastly, everything must be rationally explained and no scientific facts should be violated without an explanation

    SF writers Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) and Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), were also discussed during this lecture. Asimov, who immigrated from Russia to Brooklyn at age 3, was a writer that was said to bring more science to SF. He was a member of important SF fandoms such as the Futurians and wrote/edited more than 500 pieces of various texts. Asimov’s “Reason,” was published in the April 1941 issue of Astounding SF, which was a story of robot engineers, Powell and Donovan. The story was partly inspired by Descartes, a philosopher, who once said: “I think, therefore I am.” It relates to the story because the robot that the two characters have created becomes independent of their control and attempts to follow through with the mission without regard to anything else.

    I found the part of this lecture about Ray Bradbury particularly interesting. Not just because he is a well-known writer but because he wasn’t the cookie-cutter academic/SF writer. He was self-taught and earned his own name by reading through the shelves of his library. Bradbury’s “The Fireman,” which was published in the February 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, is a short story (which inspired his book Fahrenheit 451) about a future society where firemen do not put out fires but instead start them by burning books that are found in peoples homes.

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