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Cat in the Stax: Sci-Fi at Falvey

By Ethan Shea

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To celebrate the recent release of the long-awaited cinematic adaption of Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel, Dune, for this week’s installment of “Cat in the Stax”, I’m going to talk about some sci-fi books you can pick up at Falvey. Sci-fi is one of my favorite genres to both read and watch on the big screen, so with that in mind, here are a few classic books I think you should check out!

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" book coverThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This lighthearted story of space travel by Douglas Adams was one of the first science fiction novels I read, and I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the genre. Just before Earth is destroyed to make room for a hyperspace expressway, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect hitch a ride on the nearest spaceship to escape their doomed planet.

Whether you’re looking to meet the President of the Galaxy or searching for the answer to the “Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything”, this book has something for you. This particular text is the first installment to a six-part series, so if you enjoy reading it, there’s plenty more fun to be had.

The War of the Worlds"'The War of the World' Book Cover"

H.G. Wells, a pioneer of the science fiction genre, first serialized this story in 1897. This means the text was released in parts, which was common for the time, and each section would often end on a cliffhanger. A year later, after the entire story had been released gradually, The War of the Worlds was published in its entirety and has been available as a cohesive text ever since.

You just can’t get any more quintessential than this story of mysterious invaders from space attacking Earth! I’d also recommend checking out some other renowned stories by Wells such as The Time Machine and The Invisible Man.

"'A Wrinkle in Time' Book Cover"A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, A Wrinkle in Time, is an example of a writer being rewarded for persistence. Her story was rejected about 30 times before a publisher finally decided to accept it. Although this book definitely can appeal to kids, you don’t have to be a teen to enjoy reading it.

If you’re strapped for time, this story was recently adapted to the screen in 2018 and features stars such as Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon. Anyone with a Disney+ subscription can stream the movie now. Also, to learn a bit more about Madeleine L’Engle, give this blog a read!

 


Headshot of Ethan SheaEthan Shea is a first-year English Graduate Student at Villanova University and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Memorial Library.


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Asimov at 100…Get to Know a Science Fiction Giant

Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp and Isaac Asimov, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1944.

Robert Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp and Isaac Asimov, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1944.

By Shawn Proctor

This month marks the centenary of the birth* of one science fiction’s founding figures, Isaac Asimov.**

His prose and letters not only set the direction for the genre’s fiction, but Asimov’s mind also popularized scientific concepts that have become central to science fiction across all media, including how we think of robotics, physics, and astronomy. If you’re a Simpsons fan, for example, the robot Killhammad Aieee in season 15 operated by Asimov’s laws of robotics. If you’re a cinephile, alas, you might agree that most of his adaptations (see: I, Robot with Will Smith) have been shades of so-so mixed with a dash of meh.

Still, Asimov’s literary shadow looms over so much that it’s understandable if his oeuvre seems intimidating. Asimov, who was a Professor of Biochemistry at Boston University, wrote or edited an estimated 500 books, in addition to hundreds of short stories. (A search of Falvey’s catalog yields over 100 novels and books of criticism, and almost 18,000 articles and essays!)

Required Reading: Where to begin?

For the deepest of dives into the most essential Asimov, tackle the first three books in the “Foundation Series,” which won a Hugo Award. They were written by young Asimov and offer a solid look at his intellectual acumen and workmanlike prose, which was common to early genre writers.

Up next? If this leaves you wanting stronger prose, check out Ray Bradbury. If you’re more interested in the science side of SF, then continue reading the “Foundation” books, jump to Asimov’s Robot series (I, Robot) or pick up Arthur C. Clarke (2001.)

Perhaps you aspire to snack on a mere Asimov appetizer, just to get the flavor. Then grab his short story “Nightfall.” Not to be confused with the longer adaptations of the same name, including a novel and novella, which offers the main idea stretched very thin, “Nightfall” is a short, potent exploration of the wonder/terror of glimpsing the unknown. It is dramatized in “Nightfall” by a planet of people that has yet to experience darkness finally seeing the cosmos beyond their world.

Extra Credit: Book a Space

For your own glimpse of space’s wonder, schedule a visit to Villanova’s public observatory on the top floor of Mendel Hall.  It is currently open Monday through Thursday, 7-9 p.m., when classes are in session.

*Note: Asimov’s actual birth date is unknown. It was sometime between October 1919 and January 1920, according to his own recollection in In Memory Yet Green.

**Note 2: In the past several years, and especially during this milestone year, many in the writing community are reexamining Asimov’s behavior toward female fans and writers. His legacy as an author is secure, but Asimov the man was well known for unwanted touching and kissing.

In short, he was a problematic person and did much to make Science Fiction and Fantasy a hostile space for women, a legacy that lingers even today. Read JSTOR’s account here.

 


Shawn Proctor
Shawn Proctor is Communication & Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Memorial Library.



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Last Modified: January 22, 2020