Friday, November 25, 2011

"A Fine Romance" Takes a Look at the Jewish Influence in Science Fiction

It's a few days old - but the fact that they're doign it is interesting.

From Urban Citizen: "A Fine Romance" Takes a Look at the Jewish Influence in Science Fiction
URBANA, Ohio (November 15, 2011) - Urbana University Associate Professor of English, Tom Smith, will present "Davids Among the Goliaths: The Jewish Presence in Science Fiction" on Thursday, November 17 at 4 p.m. in the Swedenborg Memorial Library on the Urbana University campus, 579 College Way. The presentation is part of the lecture series accompanying the national traveling exhibit "A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs, 1910 - 1965" which is in the University library until December 14. The presentation and exhibit are free and open to the public.

Smith will describe the significant contributions made to science fiction literature by Jewish writers, including Isaac Asimov, Hugo Gernsback, Robert Silverberg, and Harlan Ellison. He reports that Gernsback is credited with naming the "science fiction" genre. In April 1926, an oversized pulp magazine, titled Amazing Stories hit the newsstands. Gernsback, a Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg, was its editor and publisher and he combined the words "scientific" and "fiction" to create "scientifiction." Finding this too awkward to pronounce, the term was changed to "science fiction."

The prize for science fiction writing is called a "Hugo" in honor of Gernsback. The first science fiction novel to receive a Hugo was The Demolished Man, written by Alfred Bester, a Jewish writer and magazine editor. Robert Silverberg, a prolific author, won his first Hugo in 1956 as "Most Promising New Writer" and went on to win three additional Hugo awards during his career.

Harlan Ellison was thrown out of The Ohio State University and was told by his creative writing teacher that he would never get anything published. He has since received ten and a half Hugos. His first award was for "'Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman" in 1966. He also edited the groundbreaking science fiction anthologies Dangerous Visions (1967) and Again, Dangerous Visions (1972). Ellison has written more than 1700 short stories, novellas, and screenplays and has won multiple Hugos, Nebulas and Edgar awards.

Isaac Asimov, who received six Hugo awards, was trained as a biochemist. Asimov, at the age of 18, published his first story in Amazing Stories. His first Hugo award was in 1973 for the novel, The Gods Themselves. Asimov wrote a series of nonfiction works with the series title Asimov's Guide to .... Among other topics, he covered astronomy, physics, chemistry, math, biography, Shakespeare, and the Bible. By the time Asimov died in 1992, he had published 470 books.

Smith has a bachelor's and master's degree of English from The Ohio State University. He specializes in science fiction, nineteenth and twentieth century British and American Fiction, and creative writing. An Ohio native (born and raised in Springfield), Smith resides in Urbana with his wife Jill (a 1992 graduate of Urbana University) and their three teenaged daughters.

The "A Fine Romance" exhibit can be viewed in the Swedenborg Memorial Library, located on the Urbana University campus, 579 College Way, Urbana, during the month of November: Monday - Thursday 8am - 10 pm; Friday 8am - 4:30 pm; Saturday 12 noon - 4pm and Sunday evenings 7 pm - 10 pm. The exhibit will be closed from Wednesday, November 23 - Sunday, November 27 for Thanksgiving. In December, the exhibit will be open for viewing Monday - Friday 8am - 4:30 pm until December 14. The exhibit is free and open to the public. A series of programs continues throughout November looking at the role of Jewish Americans in American culture. For additional information, please contact or 484-1409.

"A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs, 1910-1965" was developed by Nextbook, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Jewish literature, culture, and ideas, and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The national tour of the exhibit has been made possible by grants from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Righteous Persons Foundation, the David Berg Foundation, and an anonymous donor, with additional support from Tablet Magazine: A New Read on Jewish Life.

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