June 21, 2014

Famous Science Fiction Authors Discuss Their Work

The science fiction genre has long offered a playground for creative writers to explore what the future of humanity might look like. In this list of 8 free video talks, we dedicate space for famous science fiction authors to discuss their work. Beginning with a historical overview of the genre, we feature titles that delve into the craft of science fiction, and then devote space to lectures and talks from famous SF authors. Names showcased here include sci-fi luminaries such as 2001 author Arthur C. Clarke, an evening with Fahrenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury, and modern masters such as Snowcrash author Neal Stephenson. Learn more about the speculative fiction of the future by clicking any of the links here:

1. An Evening with Ray Bradbury

Renowned science fiction author Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles) gives aspiring writers some encouraging insight in this short lecture provided on streaming video by UCTV. Beginning with a list of essential practices he feels all writers should adhere to, Bradbury then demonstrates how events and people in his personal life fed his classic stories. Inspiring, funny and delivered with irreverent wisdom, Bradbury’s account of his career is a sincere argument for “writing what you know”. This talk is available on streaming video through YouTube.

2. Arthur C. Clarke’s 90th Birthday Reflections

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke passed away yesterday at the age of 90. In this brief video supplied by TVE Asia Pacific, Clarke reflects on his life from his home in Sri Lanka as he turned 90 in December of 2007. He considers the great achievements in space travel which he saw during his lifetime and is hopeful that space travel will be something that many can enjoy in the future. He also provides three wishes for the planet as he surpasses his 90th orbit around the sun. This video is available through YouTube.

3. Isaac Asimov in Conversation

In this streaming archived interview, scientist and science fiction author Isaac Asimov discusses his craft and gives thoughts on the future of humanity. A large amount of time is devoted to Asimov’s autobiography, and the importance he found in keeping a daily diary. He then answers questions on where his ideas come from, how he manages his work load, and how science fiction writers in particular are charged to push boundaries. Asimov also offers speculation on where human beings are headed and meditates on how our natural curiosity is sometimes undercut by self-destructiveness.

4. Neal Stephenson: Science Fiction as a Literary Genre

Cutting edge science fiction writer Neal Stephenson attempts to assess SF as legitimate literature in this lecture from Gresham College. Beginning with an interesting dissection of how genre itself has splintered and found separate niches within various popular entertainment mediums, he then illustrates how SF in particular has settled into itself as “idea porn” for a generally intelligent readership. In the end Stephenson claims that science fiction fans exemplify a societal trend towards knowledge specification; a world where everyone is a genius (or geek) in one specific area. This talk is available on streaming video from FORA.tv.

5. Douglas Adams: Parrots, the Universe, and Everything

Immerse yourself into the mind of Douglas Adams. The author The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy graced the world with one final appearance just days before his tragic death from a heart attack on May 11, 2001. Delivered at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Adams discusses his own personal favorite of his books Last Chance to See about his travels to faraway lands to see firsthand many endangered animal species such as the Aye-aye lemur of Madagascar, the Komodo dragon on the island of Komodo in Indonesia, and the Yangtze River Dolphin in China. With his own hilarious insights he describes these animals and his wild travels to observe them. He ends the talk by urging humanity to envision their place in the world in a way that can sustain all species including humans. This talk is available through YouTube on streaming video and video download.

6. William Gibson and the Decline of Cyberspace

William Gibson, the forefather of “cyberpunk” science fiction, discusses genre, changing technology, and future trends in this streaming interview. Gibson started his writing career as an avid science fiction fan, but came to his first book, Neuromancer with a list of genre conventions he swore he’d never bring to his own work. The resultant mix of science fiction, detective noir, and cultural satire provided a potent mix that infused SF with new life in the 1980s and has proved influential on subsequent writers such as Neal Stephenson and films such as The Matrix. Also credited with coining the term “cyberspace”, Gibson comments that the phrase has lost some of its meaning now that the distinction between real life and virtual reality is blurring. Ultimately Gibson is still an open advocate of technological progress but remains watchful of the perilous ways our latest tools can harm us.

7. The Craft of Science Fiction

In this intimate discussion presented on streaming video by MIT World, noted science fiction author Joe Haldeman reads a selection from his current book and discusses the value of his chosen genre. An MIT professor and war veteran himself, Haldeman discusses how his interest in science has dovetailed with his experience during the Vietnam War. The author also gives a valuable account of the genre’s history, illustrating how it has provided fertile ground for speculation on how human beings may or may not evolve.

8. I Just Make This Stuff Up: How Seriously Should a Fiction Writer Take His Own Work?

Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card praises the cultural value of fiction (science-fiction or otherwise) in this streaming video lecture provided by Brigham Young University. Stating that history, biography and other factual accounts are prone to correction and amendment over time, Card believes that is only with fiction that we can find the meaningful, unchangeable truth of an era and its people. Though a novel is admittedly filled with events that are made up, Card feels that every writer is unconsciously writing an accidental biography, not only of himself or herself, but of what he or she believes about their culture, revealing more about their reality than any history book can ever hope to achieve.