Goonan Featured in Locus, Melds Science Fiction with Technology
Science fiction as a genre has changed immensely since the days of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, who relied on the biological sciences and psychology. Kathleen Goonan, science fiction author and professor of the practice in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC), represents this shift in the genre through her works involving nanotechnology, synesthesia, and memory and consciousness.
In the '70s and '80s, the biological sciences and psychology were not considered science fiction. At the time, any attempt to study consciousness was considered absurd. Times have changed, however, as we have developed the tools to observe the brain non-invasively with fMRI to discover how the brain works, in real time, and in response to different kinds of stimuli. The process is not exactly precise, but we are making progress.
Goonan, who was recently featured on the cover of Locus, the premiere trade journal for science fiction and fantasy publishing, is a self-described autodidact and born-again science nerd. Following a suggestion by Greg Bear to fellow science fiction authors, she began to read more science-oriented books and journals. Books written by scientists, increasingly by neuroscientists, comprise nearly two-thirds of her library.
In 2010, after turning in her novel This Shared Dream for publishing, Goonan had intended to take some time off to think about whatshe wanted to do next as a writer, not just in terms of subject matter, but also style, scope, and audience. Just a week later she received an email from Lisa Yaszek, director of undergraduate studies in LMC, inviting her to join the Ivan Allen College faculty. Goonan began teaching shortly thereafter.
“The first class I taught at Georgia Tech was an honors class in nanotechnology, and, because of my (series) Nanotech Quartet, and all the people I know in the nanotech field, it was a perfect class for me to teach. During that time, the possible changes that a theoretical nanotechnology might bring about in science, society, the arts—basically, everything —were being explored.”
Goonan now teaches two classes each semester, a creative writing class and one of her own creation. In 2012, her specially-formulated honors class on the ‘60s called From the Earth to the Moon covered civil rights, assassinations, the space program, Vietnam, and feminism. This fall she is putting together “Designing the Future,” which will explore how people have thought about the distant future in the past and how those futures were or were not realized.
“At Georgia Tech, the student's minds are prepared for science fiction because it's one of the top engineering schools in the world. I’ve taught [everything from] Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep [to] The Diamond Age. It [has been] a wild ride, a lot of reading, and very intensive. The student's enthusiasm regenerated my interest in science fiction—its history, its long-running conversation, its boldness in bringing important issues to life.”
Read her featured article in Locus Magazine
Kathleen Ann Goonan has been at the vanguard of literary science fiction since the publication of her New York Times Notable Book Queen City Jazz in 1994, garnering starred reviews in all major review journals for each of her six novels. A literary stylist, she melds cutting-edge science with strong characterization, history, jazz, and what Publisher’s Weekly described as “the work of a powerful imagination with a superior command of language."
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