Georgia Institute of Technology science fiction scholar Lisa Yaszek will be featured on the upcoming AMC program, James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction — a new series from the director of science fiction blockbusters such as Avatar, Alien, and The Terminator.
The six-part series, which airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET, explores the “evolution of science fiction from its cult beginnings in pulp to the engine for blockbuster film and television success it is today,” according to the network.
“I think people are going to learn a lot from this, and I think they will be entertained,” said Yaszek, a professor of science fiction studies in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication. She researches and teaches science fiction as a global language crossing centuries, continents, and cultures.
Yaszek said she was surprised to get the call from producers seeking to interview her about appearing on the show. Fellow academics, and a former student, recommended her for the role, she said.
She ended up filming interviews for all six episodes. The episodes each focus on a distinct theme: aliens, time travel, outer space, dystopian futures, monsters, and finally, robots, cyborgs and other “intelligent machines.”
Yaszek also wrote a chapter for a companion book to the series, also titled James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction.
The book includes the full versions of interviews Cameron conducted for the series, bonus materials from Cameron’s archives, and essays corresponding to the main themes around which the show is organized.
“The book publishers reached out to me and asked me to write the time travel chapter after watching the first cut of the series,” Yaszek said. “It was a challenging but fun task that involved balancing what was covered in the show with a carefully curated selection of other important science fiction time-travel texts across media — and believe me, there are a lot!”
Yaszek, who is particularly interested in issues of gender, race, and science and technology in science fiction, has written several books, including Sisters of Tomorrow: The First Women of Science Fiction, Galactic Suburbia: Recovering Women’s Science Fiction, and The Self Wired: Technology and Subjectivity in Contemporary Narrative.
She said the team involved in the production seemed extraordinarily well-informed about science fiction’s past, present, and future.
Her first interview with the team, in April 2017, lasted two hours. The discussion went deep into science fiction topics and allowed the producers to decide if Yaszek would be relatable to a mass audience.
“It was sort of like taking your graduate school comprehensive exams all over again,” she said.
She apparently passed, because they flew her out to Los Angeles a month later to film her part in the first three episodes.
“The first day was supposed to be a three-hour shoot, but we were there for six or seven hours,” she said.
She later filmed three segments in New York for three additional episodes.
It was the first time filming a television series for Yaszek, who is often quoted in the news on topics related to science fiction literature, her area of expertise as a professor at Georgia Tech’s Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts.
“It was fascinating to work with visual media creatives,” Yaszek said. “Science fiction scholars tend to approach the genre intellectually, asking questions like, ‘How does this author contribute to ongoing public debates about some aspect of science or technology, and what techniques do they use to make that contribution?’ Creative professionals working in film and TV tend to approach science fiction from an emotional context, asking, ‘How would it feel to have this scientific or technological experience? What’s the human angle here, and what techniques can I use to convey that?’”
She will appear in segments sandwiched between discussions featuring Cameron and science fiction luminaries such as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.
For more information about the series, go to AMC’s website.