Speculative Literature: Science Fiction

Syllabus and Course Description

Welcome to Science Fiction. This genre of literature is primarily for fun – mind fun ! Essentially, the reader plays a thinking game, a game called “What if?” The answers to that question -- which make take the form of novels, stories, scientific speculation, movies, TV shows, games, or websites – carry the reader into possibilities or impossible worlds, of when, where, what, how, who, and, of course, the most essential world of all, the world of why.

All of these worlds can be reached without leaving the room. That’s a nice sort of trip to take: you can turn back any time you want, or go on… far beyond where your guide (the author or actor) intended to take you. Why stop at Orwell’s Big Brother? Why not go on to Big Sisterhood, a revolt of the Proles, or something else unforeseen and unimagined, that would bring down Big Brother’s awful dictatorship? You can go anywhere, and do anything. By the end of this course, you will choose your paths and goals with an increased facility.

As you learn (or further develop) an appreciation for the byways of the mind and future, through studying and devouring of science fiction, the literary values of the material will be discussed. I hope to aid you in realizing that just because you enjoyed the book doesn’t mean that it was well written and the reverse as well. That is, to help you to develop your own definition of “good book” in the field of Science Fiction.

It is my hope that you fine people can be induced to yield excellent level work. The work will be designed to augment rather than to interfere with the pleasures of imaginative reading. The make-up will be reading, writing about reading, two exercises, lots of discussion, and T he P roject .

1) Reading . I expect you to do a lot of it. More than 40 titles are going to be drawn from for our class material. As all of you are already readers of science fiction, many of these books may be familiar to you. Of the books you have not yet read, among those to be covered, you should strive to read a third. Of course, the more you read, the more you’ll have to say.

2) Writing about reading. This is totally optional. If you have an opinion about a book that is perhaps a bit involved (either book or opinion), please feel free to write it down. It will be discussed and perhaps copied for the rest of the class. If you wish, the style of your opinion can be discussed as well.

3) Discussion. In order to contribute to the discussion, three major areas of a book need to be examined: a) what is happening in the book; b) the writer’s ideas, opinions, points, or whatever; and c) your reactions to those ideas, etc. To break these down even further, in looking at the story, check the technique in communicating ideas, developing the characters, maintaining the pace, and overall telling of the story. To top off your analysis, decide “where” you might have taken the theme; how you would have handled the idea… This aids in the understanding of a story as a whole, rather than just the little pieces the average reader perceives.

4) Exercises. There will be three written exercises. The first of these is a time capsule. It is to be representative of 2004; other than that, any limitations you place on that are your own. The second exercise will be assigned during one of classes 5-7. The last of the exercises is a set of 128 questions designed to stimulate the imagination. Specifics will be discussed when it is handed out.

5) T he P roject . On the last day of the course, T he P roject will be due. T he P roject is the vaguest thing in the course, because I leave it totally up to you. In the past, I have seen short stories, plays, models of futuristic cities, and artwork, as well as more conventional critical analysis-type papers. All are welcome, along with anything else you devise. All I ask is that your T he P roject be your response to the ideas and/or topics of the course. In science fiction, that could mean almost anything.
After you have read this, I imagine that questions about T he P roject will come rapidly in this direction. So, I think I will spend no more time on it here.

6) The course. Enjoy it. This is your first and last assignment.

Class by Class Outline

Reading List