Summer 2014
Intensive Institute on Science Fiction:
The Science Fiction Novel

 Available as English 506 or 790 (3 credits)
or as not-for-credit (for teacher professionalization)

Meets daily June 16 - 27 (M T W Th F Sa Su) 1:00pm – 4:00pm
Room: Lounge in Reiger Scholarship Hall

Science-fiction author and Gunn Center Director Chris McKitterick

3040 Wescoe (also CSSF lending library - mixed summer availability)

785-864-2509 (office phone - mixed summer availability) (I check this regularly)

Office hours: Daily after discussions in meeting area, beforehand if we lunch, and in the evenings (we often have dinner downtown, see movies, and so forth). Other days and times by appointment.

Science Fiction Grand Master James Gunn originally designed this course and might drop in occasionally as guest speaker.
Gunn's office: 3039 Wescoe. Gunn's email:

 Meeting Space

Class begins promptly at 1:00pm on Monday, July 9, in a lounge in Krehbiel Scholarship Hall at 1301 Ohio Street. Several of us will meet for lunch from noon - 12:50 at a location TBA, where you also have the opportunity to chat with James Gunn if he can join us (might not happen this year, as he has an illness in the family). The front door of Krehbiel will be open a crack to let in those not staying in the hall, so be sure to arrive between 12:45 and 12:55 - no later! - so we can get you through the doors. Please do not be tardy, as this interrupts the discussion.

 Table of Contents

Course Goals
Diversity and Disability
Daily Reading and Discussion Schedule
Required Books
   Recommended Books
Course Requirements
Class Periods
   Attendance and Class Participation
   Attendance and Class Participation Scoring
   Daily Response Papers
      Daily Paper Scoring
   Final Project
      Option A: Traditional Research Paper
      Option B: Course Outline, Lesson Plan, or Study Guide
      Option C: Creative Work
      Final Project Deadline
Final Grading

 Course Goals

To provide an understanding of contemporary and future science fiction through studying the history of the genre and many of its great works. After reading a diversity of novel-length SF, we discuss how the genre got to be what it is today by comparing stories and their place in the evolution of SF, from the earliest prototypical examples through more recent work. Students demonstrate their understanding of the genre by writing daily reading responses and creating a substantial final project. 

Diversity and Disability

Everyone enjoys equal access to the Gunn Center's offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study with us. All courses offered by Gunn Center faculty are also available to be taken not-for-credit for professionalization purposes by community members (if space is available). Click here to see the Center's Diversity Statement.

The Academic Achievement and Access Center (AAAC) coordinates accommodations and services for all eligible KU students. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodation and have not contacted the AAAC, please do so as soon as possible. Their office is located in 22 Strong Hall; their phone number is (785)864-4064 (V/TTY). Also please contact us privately about your needs in this course.

 Daily Reading and Discussion Schedule

Syllabus version 0.1: last updated Feb 9, 2015.

Here are the books we'll be discussing each day, with links to online booksellers like Amazon and Powell's; click these to find the books for sale online. The University of Kansas Jayhawk Ink Bookstore tries to have copies of these books on hand, and most bookstores will likely have most of these books on hand, as well.

Each day, one or two students will lead the discussions, bringing enough good questions to keep a lively discussion going for the class period; aim for at least a dozen questions and discussion prompts. Discussants should also seek relevant information about the authors, how the books influenced the science fiction that was to follow. You must lead the daily discussion at least once alone or twice with a partner, but may serve more often. This is a major part of your grade and an important learning opportunity!

Have you accepted the invitation to join our class Google Group? If not, or if you're using a different email than what you registered with KU, please request to join the Google Group called, "2016 Science Fiction Novels Institute."

 Campbell Conference, July 6 - 8 (not required - extra credit)

You are strongly encouraged to register for and attend the Campbell Conference, which begins on Friday, July 6. There you can meet many authors and editors, get books signed, and participate in a unique scholarly event in the field. Attendees of the Conference get 10 bonus points for attending and writing up a thoughtful response to the event. Register now if you'd like to be a part of this year's Conference! Institute participants may register for the Conference at the early-bird special rate - note that you are an Institute student in your registration form.

 Monday, July 9

Session One: In the beginning / Visions of humanity's far future: The Time Machine and Childhood's End.
Prepare to discuss your take on "What is science fiction?" by reading the definitions of SF on this page.

Discussant(s): Chris McKitterick (your teacher)

 Tuesday, July 10

Session Two: The alien peril: The War of the Worlds and The Puppet Masters.
Sara Stites

 Wednesday July 11

Session Three: The human condition: The Caves of Steel and Dune.
Isaac Bell and CJ Harries

 Thursday, July 12

Session Four: Thought experiments: Mission of Gravity and The Left Hand of Darkness.
Thom Browne

 Friday, July 13

Session Five: Evolution continues: The World of Null-A and More than Human.
Alex Gum

 Saturday, July 14

Session Six: Powers of the Mind / Invoking the social sciences: The Demolished Man and The Languages of Pao.
Bill Madden everyone!

 Sunday, July 15

Session Seven: SF and the literary mainstream: The Sirens of Titan, The Handmaid's Tale, and The Listeners.
Kelsey Cipolla

 Monday, July 16

Session Eight: Dystopia and beyond: Stand on Zanzibar and Gateway.
Jordan Post

 Tuesday, July 17

Session Nine: Tinkering with history: The Man in the High Castle and Timescape.
Jordan Goolsby

 Wednesday, July 18

Session Ten: The biological imperative: Darwin's Radio and Dawn (book one of the Xenogenesis trilogy).
Katy Egan CJ Harries and Sabrina Starnaman

 Thursday, July 19

Session Eleven: Cyberpunk and the Singularity: Neuromancer and Accelerando (available for free download on Stross' website here).
Recommended: Vernor Vinge's essay, "What is the Singularity?"
Isaac Bell and CJ Harries

 Friday, July 20

Session Twelve: Looking backward and forward: Perdido Street Station and Consider Phlebas.
Sabrina Starnaman


This list has been updated over the years to reflect recent important works that helped shape the genre. Here is what we'll be reading for Summer 2012, in alphabetical order:

 Required Books

Some of these volumes might be difficult to find, so I urge you seek copies early and, when books are out of print, search used bookstores and online services (we provide links to two major online booksellers like Amazon and Powell's after each title, above). The University of Kansas Jayhawk Ink Bookstore tries to have copies of these books on hand, and most bookstores will likely have most of these books on hand, as well. Address:

Kansas Union, Lawrence KS 66045
Phone: 1-800-458-1111

 Recommended Books

For further reading, here are the books that have been removed from the required reading list since 2008 - still important and recommended works for understanding the history of the SF novel, but we only have so much time to discuss:

The Center holds a few copies of many of these books, so if you are local to Lawrence or are in town for our other summer programs, check with us to see if we can lend you a copy. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and our library is supplied by previous students donating copies after completing their course.

Want more? Check out the finalists for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel of the year. Most years, the majority of those works could have won the award if the jury had just a few different members. You can find tons more great SF novels in the Basic Science Fiction Library.

Want lots of free SF ebooks and e-zines? Check out Project Gutenberg's growing SF collection.

More to come! Check back later....

 Course Requirements

To successfully complete the course and get out of it all you can, you are required to:

  • Attend every day's discussion.
  • Participate in class. This means being involved in every discussion, each day.
  • Lead at least one daily session alone or at least two with a partner.
  • Read the required novels. Don't just skim them - I'm looking for in-depth discussions about each novel's characters, stories, ideas, and so forth, how each book helped shape the genre.
  • Read outside materials about these books, their authors, and their place in the genre.
  • Write insightful daily response papers for all the books, well in advance of class. I strongly recommend writing these as soon as you finish reading the works at hand, so start now!
  • Create a final project, due at the end of the semester.

 Class Periods

Each day we gather in one of the lounges of Krehbiel Scholarship Hall at 1301 Ohio Street discuss two or three novels, their authors, the science fiction genre, and the historical context in which they appeared. Occasionally, we might have guest speakers. Class periods revolve largely around discussion, with some lecture. We meet every day from July 11 through July 22, including the Saturday and Sunday between those two weeks.

Participants are also welcome to lunch from noon - 12:50pm with SF authors Chris McKitterick (your instructor and CSSF Director), James Gunn (SFWA Grant Master who first developed the course and CSSF Founding Director), and Kij Johnson (multiple award-winning author and CSSF Associate Director), as well as dine out in the evenings in lovely downtown Lawrence, attend movies, engage in more discussions, and so forth. 

Class periods revolve largely around discussion of the readings, with some lecture. We meet every day from June 17 through 28, including the Saturday and Sunday between those two weeks, and plan to be in Lawrence for the Campbell Conference before class begins to get a glimpse inside SF today.

Participants are strongly encouraged to register for and attend the Campbell Conference, June 13-16, where you can meet many authors and editors (including the winners of the Campbell Award, Sturgeon Award, and Lifeboat to the Stars Award), get books signed, and participate in a unique scholarly event in the field. Attendees of the Conference get 10 bonus points for attending and writing up a response to the event! Register now if you'd like to be a part of this year's event. Institute participants may register for the Conference at no cost - note that you are an Institute student in your registration form (if you want dinner during the Awards ceremony on Friday night, you must still pay for your meal).


After an introduction to the topic by your instructor, 1-2 students assigned as discussants for each day lead (not monopolize) the discussions. Everyone is required to act as discussant at least once (alone) or twice (with a partner) during the 12 days we meet. If you have special needs and cannot perform this task, let me know early. I will assign discussants on this page (in the daily readings, above), on a first-requested, first-granted basis, so if you have favorite works whose discussions you want to lead, let me know ASAP! We'll have a "Discussants request" email via our Google Groups early in June.

Discussants perform additional research prior to class (further readings on the genre movements at hand, the day's authors, and so forth) and come prepared with questions and discussion prompts: aim for at least a dozen per day, or enough to stimulate 2-3 hours of discussion about the books and the day's topic.

I expect all students to participate in discussions, but I also request that you avoid talking too much or talking over others. Be civil: These are discussions about ideas, not arguments!

Your instructor will open each day with some background on science fiction, especially the topics and genre movements relevant to the day's discussions, and some information about the authors. After that, the day's student discussants take over. Bring at least a dozen questions per novel to stimulate discussion among your peers. You can split up the tasks among your fellow discussants based on stories, topics, or however you see fit. I simply expect everyone to serve equally.

Graduate students: I expect you to demonstrate solid pedagogical theory! Treat this as teaching this course for a day.

Attendance and Class Participation

This is a discussion course, so class participation is weighed heavily! Coming to class and getting involved in the discussions each day are necessary for getting a good grade, not to mention how much value you get from the course. The discussions aren't just explication of plot or concept, though we will discuss those; I expect you to exercise your critical-reading skills. That is, don't just read the fiction for pleasure, don't just accept everything about the books or authors as canon, and don't feel the need to agree with your classmates' ideas - no one scholar can tell you the One True History of Science Fiction. By the end of this course you should possess expertise of your own in the topic. In the discussions, I want to witness your growing understanding of the genre based on the required readings, your outside readings, and your own experience with SF over the years. Of course, be polite and diplomatic if you disagree, but don't be shy either.

If you know you are going to miss a class for an academic event, illness, or other excusable reason, contact me as soon as possible to see if we can work out something so it does not affect your overall grade too much. If appropriate, I can mitigate this loss so your attendance percentage remains unaffected. Otherwise, here is how I score attendance and participation:

Because we only meet for 12 consecutive days, each unexcused absence drops your final course grade by a third; that is, missing a day might mean your final grade drops from an A- to a B+, missing three drops it to a B, and so forth. Missing zero classes usually serves to bump most students up a fraction of a grade (for example, from a B to a B+ when points are close), so don't miss classes! The next table illustrates this relationship.

Graduate students: I expect you to participate every day, providing insightful comments and questions while encouraging those less inclined to participate - but not to dominate the discussions!

Attendance and Class Participation Scoring

Classes Missed Grade Result
(assuming perfect grade of A)


A (bonus effect if you actively participate in all discussions)


A- (minor effect)




(down one full grade)





And so forth

1/3 grade per missed class

During discussions, avoid distractions such as checking email, Facebook, and so forth. Obviously, turn off your phone ring/buzz and put it away. I know it's sometimes a challenge to focus during a long discussion, but recent studies show that the human mind cannot pay attention to more than one thing at a time, and fracturing your attention means you're not getting everything possible out of each discussion. Monkeying around online also interrupts your fellow students' attention. Feel free to take notes on your computer or portable device if you choose, just stay away from distractions. It's difficult to remain engaged in discussions if your mind is elsewhere, and this also bumps down your overall grade. On the other hand, actively participating in class discussions bumps up your overall grade.

You have the opportunity to earn extra credit just for attending Campbell Conference, June 13-16.

I'm sure you have heard this before, but it is as true as ever: You get out of any activity only what you put into it. The more effort and creativity you apply to your projects and to class discussions, the more you will learn and the better the class will be for everyone else, as well. If you do not regularly attend class or do not participate in discussions, you will miss out on a lot of opportunities to learn and grow as a person.


Much of your grade depends on the short response papers you write on each pair (or trio) of novels covered in the daily discussions, plus the longer final project. If you use non-standard software to create your projects, be sure to save them in standard formats (for example, most computers can read .doc, .html, .rtf, and .pdf formats). Turn in papers via Blackboard well before class begins - I welcome you to turn them in as soon as our Blackboard site goes live. They will be graded and returned via Blackboard in a reasonable time before class starts, or soon after the last class for papers turned in after we start meeting.

 Daily Response Papers

Prior to each class, you will write a short reading-response paper and turn it in via Blackboard. This one- or two-page (300-500 words) paper is a brief but thoughtful response to all of the readings for that day. Insightfulness and clarity are important. Along with participation in the discussion, these papers are scored as an important measure of your engagement with the day's novels and theme. Participants taking the course not-for-credit are not expected to turn in daily responses, though you may if you wish.

Tip: Even if you are not leading the discussion that day, include a few questions to pose to the other participants as well as some points to stimulate discussion, even if you are not leading the week's discussion. I suggest printing out your paper and especially your questions and bringing them to class to help formulate ideas during discussion. (Also be sure to turn them in via Blackboard in advance of class.)

Graduate students: I expect to see clearly thought-out responses from you, though you needn't write refined essays for the responses.

Daily Paper Scoring

Turn in your daily response papers in advance of the class session when we discuss those novels - preferably well in advance, but no later than the night before we discuss them.

Here is how I score the daily papers, based on 0-4 points each (or 0-6 for days with three novels):
    0 - no paper.
    1 - paper turned in, but does not convince me that you did all the reading.
    2 - paper convinces me that you did some of the reading.
    3 - paper either has interesting insights on most of the readings or convinces me that you did all the reading.
    4 - paper convinces me that you did all the reading and provides interesting insights.

Responses turned in on the day of the discussions are considered late and will be marked down -1 point if turned in on the evening of the discussion, -2 points (half off) if turned in later. The last day to turn in any paper is Thursday, July 26. Turn them in on time!

Graduate students: As you might imagine, I expect more from your papers.

 Final Project

The final project can be either a traditional essay, a set of teaching materials, or a creative work. Your project explores a topic in science fiction, preferably topics not listed in the syllabus or discussed in class - though you may pursue those if you select an angle we don't already cover or discuss. Projects must be at least 2000 words for undergraduates, 3000 words for graduate students, with a max of 6000 words (if you turn in more, I can't promise feedback on the entire work).

You must include an annotated bibliography (a list of references with brief notes) at the end of your document, especially if it is a creative work. An annotated bibliography is a set of references that provide a summary of your research. List your sources alphabetically and include a brief summary or annotation of each document that you quoted in the paper or that you list as a reference. Format your bibliography as appropriate for your field of study (MLA for Humanities, Chicago for most other fields, and so forth; here's a good list of style guides). Turn in this project via Blackboard.

References, bibliographies, and endnote pages do not count toward the minimum wordcount.

Participants taking the course not-for-credit are not expected to turn in a final project, though you may if you wish.

 Option A: Traditional Paper

Most participants choose this option. Formal papers are graded on the quality and diversity of research (both fictional and non-fictional), the writing (including grammar and spelling), and the strength of the topic and argument. What I most want is for you to demonstrate what you've learned from the class readings, your outside readings, and class discussions, and how you express this synthesis: Demonstrate your understanding of science fiction.

This is not something that you can successfully complete at the last minute. The research paper should represent a summer-long investigation of topics that interest you. If you wish to use works from the assigned readings that we discussed in class, I expect you to have something new to say that we didn't already discuss.

 Option B: Course Outline, Lesson Plan, or Study Guide

Many participants choose this option, especially teachers and those planning to be teachers. Choose from these three options or provide another option that fits your pedagogical approach:

  • Course outline: Design a course in science fiction. This can cover any aspect of SF or serve as an introduction to the field. Successful course outlines I've seen before include "Feminist Science Fiction," "Utopian Science Fiction," and others targeted at college undergraduate students, and "Science Fiction: An Introduction" targeted at junior-high schoolers. You can pick any age group you wish, just be sure to specify that when you turn it in. I understand that a complete course plan is a major project, so this can be relatively high-level. Required elements include pedagogy (why teach these materials and how), reading list, and high-level syllabus. If you wish to write a formal, complete course plan, that's great! But it needn't exceed the required word-count. I encourage you to share this project with other teachers via
  • Lesson plan: Design in detail a single lesson plan on a series of short pieces or a book. This includes the part that students see (from a larger syllabus), plus your teaching notes (lecture comments, questions for student discussion, and so on), and writing prompts.
  • Study guide: This is a detailed examination of a single long work or group of short pieces on a single topic. It usually covers plot, character, ideas, themes, setting, and so forth, and often ends with self-study questions. The audience for this ranges from students working independently to teachers looking to develop a lesson plan.

All of these options make wonderful additions to!

 Option C: Creative Work

A creative work (story, series of poems, play, short film, website, creative nonfiction, and so forth) must dramatize how the changes or ideas posed in your work could affect believable, interesting characters living in a convincing, fully realized world in addition to revealing substantial understanding of the science fiction genre. For the purposes of this course, your annotated bibliography (normally not included in creative works) is particularly important if you pursue this option, because I want to see a diversity of readings that help you develop your work (fictional or non-fictional). Show me your research with a good, well-annotated bibliography, and make your story stand on its own as a story. Be aware that this option is more challenging - especially if you haven't taken formal writing courses - because I expect the same level of research as in the other options plus a good story. Click here to find some useful writing resources.

 Final Project Deadline

Your final project is due July 26 (finals week). The completed project is due via Blackboard. If you've created a website, posted a short film to the internet, or otherwise cannot upload the project directly, just provide a link (website URL) to the project in the Notes section of the appropriate Blackboard assignment.

 Final Grading

Your course grade is based upon these factors:

  • Class participation = 1/3 of grade. Includes attendance, participation in each day's discussion, and leading at least one discussion alone or two with a partner. Missing three (3) days drops your final grade by one full letter grade; missing one (1) day drops a full grade to a minus grade.
  • Daily response papers = 1/3 of grade
  • Final research paper = 1/3 of grade

Attendees of the Campbell Conference can earn up to 10 bonus points for writing up a response to the event! Register now if you'd like to be a part of this year's event! Institute participants may register for the Conference at the early-bird special rate - note that you are an Institute student in your registration form.

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