Author Event - Gears & God by Nathaniel Williams

The Avid Reader is looking forward to event with UCD lecturer Nathaniel Williams, and latest literary criticism, Gears and God: Technocratic Fiction, Faith, and Empire in Mark Twain's America (American Lit Realism & Naturalism), on Saturday, November 17th at 7:30 p.m.

More on Gears & God:

A revealing study of the connections between nineteenth-century technological fiction and American religious faith. 

In Gears and God: Technocratic Fiction, Faith, and Empire in Mark Twain's America, Nathaniel Williams analyzes the genre of technology-themed exploration novels--dime novel adventure stories featuring steam-powered and electrified robots, airships, and submersibles. This genre proliferated during the same cultural moment when evolutionary science was dismantling Americans' prevailing, biblically based understanding of human history. 

While their heyday occurred in the late 1800s, technocratic adventure novels like Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court inspired later fiction about science and technology. Similar to the science fiction plotlines of writers like Jules Verne and H. Rider Haggard, and anticipating the adventures of Tom Swift some decades later, these novels feature Americans using technology to visit and seize control of remote locales, a trait that has led many scholars to view them primarily as protoimperialist narratives. Their legacy, however, is more complicated. As they grew in popularity, such works became as concerned with the preservation of a fraught Anglo-Protestant American identity as they were with spreading that identity across the globe. 

Many of these novels frequently assert the Bible's authority as a historical source. Collectively, such stories popularized the notion that technology and travel might essentially "prove" the Bible's veracity--a message that continues to be deployed in contemporary debates over intelligent design, the teaching of evolution in public schools, and in reality TV shows that seek historical evidence for biblical events. Williams argues that these fictions performed significant cultural work, and he consolidates evidence from the novels themselves, as well as news articles, sermons, and other sources of the era, outlining and mapping the development of technocratic fiction.


More on Nathaniel Williams:

Nathaniel Williams is a lecturer for the University Writing Program at the University of California, Davis.  He teaches business and technical writing, journalism, and other special topics in writing. His research encompasses the history of technology, American literature, religious studies, and science fiction. 

His scholarly articles have appeared in American LiteratureNineteenth-Century ContextsUtopian Studies, and elsewhere. He won Honorable Mention for American Literature's Norman Foerster Prize in 2011.

He has nearly a decade of experience as a professional technical writer, creating online help and instruction manuals for custom software and writing inspection reports of air pollution control devices. He led statewide software trainings for government WIC employees in Indiana, Louisiana, and Missouri. He also wrote grants and online teaching materials for AboutSF, an educational outreach project sponsored by the Science Fiction Research Association, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the University of Kansas.

His speculative fiction has appeared in Fantasy MagazineAbyss & ApexPerihelionPoor Mojo's Almanac(k), Hadley Rille Books' Footprints anthology, and elsewhere. He is an advisory board member of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction.


Event date: 
Saturday, November 17, 2018 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
The Avid Reader
617 2nd St.
Davis, CA 95616
Gears and God: Technocratic Fiction, Faith, and Empire in Mark Twain's America (Amer Lit Realism & Naturalism) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780817319847
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: University Alabama Press - July 31st, 2018