INTRODUCTION TO SFF LITERATURE

WSF101

Pre-Requisites:

  • Basic essay writing skills
  • High school 12th grade English literacy or better

Course Goals:

  • Improve fiction writing skills by:
    • reading and critically analyzing ten SFF works
    • in-class flash fiction writing
    • peer feedback on flash fiction writing
  • Gain an understanding of how one's own work fits into SFF.
  • Gain a broad understanding of major works in SFF.
  • Write a five to ten page analysis of an SFF work.

Required Texts:

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1831 edition)
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864)
  • War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (1898)
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (1932)
  • Foundation by Isaac Asimov (1951)
  • Solaris by Stanisław Lem (1961)
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (1962)
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)
  • Hyperion by Dan Simmons (1989)
  • The City and the City by China Miéville (2009)

Week 1:

  • Lecture: Introduction to the course (10 min.)
  • Lecture: Why learn to write fiction through reading fiction? (10 min.)
  • Lecture: Ground rules for participating in class writing activities and giving good feedback (20 min.)
  • Activity: Fiction writing (30 min.)
  • Activity: Pair feedback (30 min.)
  • Lecture: Introduction to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
    • imagine the world when the technological level during a person's lifetime would remain the same; imagine the reaction when technological advancement during the human lifespan became noticeable (15 min.)

Week 2:

  • Seminar: Reactions to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (10 min.)
  • Seminar: Is all this technology good for us? (20 min.)
    • The fundamental tension in SFF
    • Can tools be evil?
    • Avoiding technological absolutism in our own fiction
  • Activity: Fiction writing (30 min.)
  • Activity: Pair feedback (30 min.)
  • Lecture: Introduction to Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
    • imagine the world before the institutions of high techno-culture; how we arrived at modern high techno-culture. (20 min.)

Week 3:

  • Seminar: Reactions to Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (10 min.)
  • Seminar: Compare and contrast "techno-societal critique" with "technoludism" (20 min.)
    • Technoludism–the human imperative to discover new things
    • Does Journey engage in any kind of critique of society or the human condition?
    • Are the two modes mutually exclusive?
  • Activity: Fiction writing (30 min.)
  • Activity: Pair feedback (30 min.)
  • Lecture: Introduction to War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
    • What are the ethical and moral responsibilities of a technologically adept societies towards other societies at different stages of technological development? (20 min.)

Week 4:

  • Seminar: Reactions to War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells (10 min.)
  • Seminar: Power and Exploitation
    • the "human/animal" "Martian/human" juxtaposition; how can we use alien perspectives in our fiction to explore the human condition? (10 min.)
    • the loaded term "technologically advanced" (10 min.)
    • do we still face issues of exploitation within the modern world, and how can that inform our fiction (10 min.)
  • Activity: Fiction writing (30 min.)
  • Activity: Pair feedback (30 min.)
  • Lecture: Introduction to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    • apprehension about the future in the early twentieth century (20 min.)

Week 5:

  • Seminar: Reactions to Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (10 min.)
  • Seminar: Society and the Individual in Question
    • Are individual's instinctive impulses necessarily good for them? (10 min.)
    • How do intelligent, sensitive individuals stay sane in a mad world? (10 min.)
    • What are good versus bad dystopias? (10 min.)
  • Activity: Fiction writing (30 min.)
  • Activity: Pair feedback (30 min.)
  • Lecture: Choosing an essay topic
    • Choosing a book, either from syllabus, or your own selection, but must be approved by teacher if not on the syllabus (5 min.)
    • Reach class-wide agreement that draft opening paragraph is due for next class (5 min.)
  • Lecture: Introduction to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
    • The Golden Age and the genre-literary divide (10 min.)
    • World War II is over and everyone's ready to be excited about the future again, except will the future really be all that different from the present? (5 min.)

Week 6:

  • Finalized essay topic and first paragraph draft due
  • Seminar: Reactions to Foundation by Isaac Asimov (10 min.)
  • Seminar: Science to the Rescue!
    • The Roman Empire and the Galactic Empire (10 min.)
    • Does history repeat itself? (10 min.)
    • Can science alone save us from ourselves? (10 min.)
  • Activity: Essay workshop; students give pair feedback on each other's paragraphs (50 min.)
  • Lecture: Introduction to Solaris by Stanisław Lem
    • The New Wave (10 min.)
    • Can we ever really know another? Can we ever really know ourselves? (10 min.)

Week 7:

  • Seminar: Reactions to Solaris by Stanisław Lem (10 min.)
  • Seminar: Knowing the Other (20 min.)
    • What is human intelligence and is it universal?
    • What are the implications for AI?
    • Would we know aliens if we met them?
    • How unique can we make our own aliens?
  • Activity: Fiction writing (30 min.)
  • Activity: Pair feedback (30 min.)
  • Lecture Introduction to The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
    • What is meta-narrative? (10 min.)
    • How do we know whether or not we live in a just society? (10 min.)

Week 8:

  • Essay first draft due
  • Seminar: Reactions to The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick (10 min.)
  • Seminar: Our reactions to things versus their reality (20 min.)
    • Apprehensions of beauty juxtaposed with apprehensions of justice
    • Who reads the book and who is being read about?
    • Creating science fictional worlds through cognitive dissonance (intentionally inconsistent internal story logic)
  • Activity: Fiction writing (30 min.)
  • Activity: Pair feedback (30 min.)
  • Seminar: Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (20 min.)
    • The burgeoning women's rights and gay rights movements of the 1960's.
    • Depictions of sex and sexuality in SFF.

Week 9:

  • Seminar: Reactions to The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (10 min.)
  • Seminar: Human sexuality (20 min.)
    • Depicting love in our writing
    • Disrupting given assumptions about human sexuality
  • Activity: Fiction writing (30 min.)
  • Activity: Pair feedback (30 min.)
  • Seminar: Introduction to Hyperion by Dan Simmons (20 min.)
    • tbd
  • Teacher returns essay drafts with comments

Week 10:

  • Seminar: Reactions to Hyperion by Dan Simmons (10 min.)
  • Seminar: tbd (20 min.)
  • Activity: Fiction writing (30 min.)
  • Activity: Pair feedback (30 min.)
  • Seminar: Introduction to The City and the City by China Miéville (20 min.)
    • The new world order of the twenty-first century is remarkably similar to the old one
    • Authors seek to pull apart perspective and identity and see everything new again
  • Remind class we will have oral exams next week instead of writing activities. (1 min.)

Week 11:

  • Essay due
  • Seminar: Reactions to The City and the City by China Miéville (10 min.)
  • Seminar: Nationalism (20 min.)
    • What do the cities' borders tell us about real life national borders in the modern world?
    • What is the point of nationalism? Does it have any place in the modern world?
    • If not a nation, then to what or whom should modern readers owe their allegiance to?
    • Do alternate worlds like this one help us envision a better future real world?
  • Activity: Oral exams (60 min.)

INTRODUCTION TO SFF LITERARY THEORY

WSF 102

Pre-Requisite:

  • WSF 101, or equivalent experience

Coarse Goals:

  • Improve your writing by analyzing the criticism by SF literary theoreticians.
  • Raise your awareness of SFF's blurry genre boundaries.
  • Better understand how your writing fits into the SFF ecosystem.

Required Texts:

  • Metamorphoses of Science Fiction by Darko Suvin
  • The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr.

Week 1:

  • (M) Why be critical?; SF as a self-critical genre; The course as an exploration of defining SF; Introduction to Darko Suvin
  • Assignment: Metamorphoses of Science Fiction by Darko Suvin, I.1 Estrangement and Cognition and I.2 SF and the Genealogical Jungle
  • (F) How is sf different from other genres?; Writing activity

Week 2:

  • (M) How we define sf; Can the definition of sf be static?; Writing activity
  • Assignment: Metamorphoses of Science Fiction by Darko Suvin I.3 Defining the Literary Genre of the Utopia and I.4 SF and the Novum
  • (F) What is meant by the novum?; What common traits of modern SF does this definition exclude?; Writing activity

Week 3:

  • (M) SF as a spectrum of traits; Introduction to Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr.
  • Assignment: The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. Introduction and First Beauty: Fictive Neology
  • (F) Filling our fiction with neologisms and using them well; Writing activity

Week 4:

  • (M) Is the concept of the novum more trouble than it's worth?; Novum redux
  • Assignment: The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. Second Beauty: The Novum
  • (F) What is a good novum, what is a bad novum, and should writers be mindful of whether or not works include them?; Writing activity

Week 5:

  • (M) Reflecting on how we imagine the future; Writing activity
  • Assignment: The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. Third Beauty: Future History
  • (F) What do our future visions say about us as writers?; Essay discussion; Writing activity

Week 6:

  • (M) How do we break the rules of science as writers; How does science change over time?; Writing activity
  • Assignment: The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. Fourth Beauty: Imaginary Science
  • (F) tdb; Finalized essay topic and first paragraph due; Essay workshop

Week 7:

  • (M) Awe and wonder; Writing activity
  • Assignment: The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. Fifth Beauty: The Science-Fictional Sublime
  • (F) tbd; Writing activity

Week 8:

  • (M) Horror and its relationship to SFF; Writing activity
  • Assignment: The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. Sixth Beauty: The Science-Fictional Grotesque
  • (F) tbd; Essay first draft due; Writing activity

Week 9:

  • (M) What is literary gothic?; Writing activity
  • Assignment: The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. Seventh Beauty: The Technologiade
  • (F) tbd; Essay workshop

Week 10:

  • (M) What is the singularity?; Essay workshop
  • Assignment: The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction by Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. Concluding Unscientific Postscript
  • (F) tbd; Essay due; Writing activity

Week 11:

  • (M) Group 1 oral exams
  • (W) Group 2 oral exams
  • (F) Group 3 oral exams

LITERATURE OF THE GOLDEN AGE AND THE NEW WAVE

WSF 201

WRITING MECHANICS

WSF 202

FANTASY LITERATURE

WSF 203

LITERATURE OF THE DIASPORA AND CONTEMPORARY SFF

WSF 301

ADVANCED SF LITERARY THEORY

WSF 302