Course Detail

ID 2150
Course ID EES88QSF
Course Name Science fiction eng8
Years Active 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
Terms Active 2
On Course Selection Form Yes
Course Placement No
Special Permission Course No
Credits Awarded 1.0
Retakeable No
Rules Fulfilling
Eligibility Rule

Additional Course Information

Additional Information for Course Exceptions Required? No

In this course, you will be exposed primarily to works which deal with the scientific and technological ingenuity of man (the science fiction genre) and to works which deal with magic and the supernatural (the fantasy genre). It is worth noting that these two genres often overlap, and are frequently subsumed under the umbrella term “speculative fiction” (or “SF”), which also includes superhero fiction, horror, utopian/dystopian fiction, and so on. (So we are likely to read some of that stuff too.)

We will spend the first part of the semester exploring the history of these genres, looking at classic, canonical examples and trying to develop a working vocabulary: what makes a story an example of science fiction or fantasy? What are the key features of these sorts of texts? How have the genres evolved (or stagnated)? We will then move on to look at more diverse, contemporary examples, focusing especially on works that in some way challenge or play with the conventions we saw in the classic texts.

In addition to reading and analyzing traditional texts (short stories and novels), we will also examine the range of other media in which science fiction and fantasy stories have been told, from film and television to comic books and video games. The semester will culminate in a creative project, where you will create your own work of science fiction or fantasy in a medium of your choice.

Readings: The texts chosen for the class will vary from semester to semester, based on the class’s interests and the instructor's whims: there is so much great material to read and discuss in these genres that it’s impossible to cover it all. Things we’ve read in the recent past include:

  • The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester (1951)
  • The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller Jr. (1959)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)
  • A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin (1996)
  • Short stories by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, James Blish, Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore, Cordwainer Smith, Clifford D. Simak, R.A. Lafferty, Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Michael G. Coney, Octavia Butler, Andrew Weiner, Abraham Merritt, H.P. Lovecraft, Jack Vance, Peter S. Beagle, James Tiptree Jr., Phyllis Eisenstein, Terry Pratchett, Joe Hill, Ken Liu, Junot Diaz, N.K. Jemisin, Alice Sola Kim, Catherynne M. Valente, Ted Chiang, Kelly Link, Charles Yu, Hao Jingfang, Amal El-Mohtar, Rebecca Roanhorse, and others…
  • A range of texts in other media, such as comics, film, and television, including The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Star Wars, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, Black Mirror, and others…

Assignments: The work of the class divides into two basic categories: classwork/homework, and writing assignments.

  • Classwork/Homework: Every night you will be reading (or sometimes watching) a work of speculative fiction. You will be expected to come to class with something written about the night’s reading, which you will share, and also to be prepared to participate in a lively and informed discussion. This accounts for 35% of your grade.
  • Writing: There are two categories of writing assignments:
    • Shorter assignments: over the course of the semester you will write three or four short (~2 pages) pieces responding to the books and stories we are reading. These responses will run a range from personal to analytical to creative. These shorter assignments account for 35% of your grade.
    • Final project: At the end of the semester, everyone is expected to create a work of speculative fiction, in a genre and medium of their choice. You could write a story (or part of a longer work), write and/or film a movie/television episode, make a comic book or other visual work, design something digital, etc. This final project will account for 30% of your grade.

Essential Questions:

  • What is “science fiction”? What is “fantasy”?
  • How important are these terms, and the endless categorization of genre and subgenre?
  • How do we recognize a speculative fiction (SF) text when we see one? What are the markers of genre?
  • How does SF work? What distinguishes it from “mundane” fiction?
  • Why do we read (and write) SF? How does it relate to the “real” world? Why is it important?
Syllabus There is no syllabus listed