Table of Contents
Click the links below to go to the appropriate section of this syllabus.
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.
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 accommodations 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 me privately about your needs in this course.
Most of the readings come from James Gunn's wonderful The Road to Science Fiction series of anthologies. We will read most of the stories in these four books plus the story introductions and book introductions, plus a few other pieces linked from the weekly reading lists, above.
When you lead class discussions, you are also expected to do additional research about the day's topics and authors beyond the fiction readings and share what you learn with the rest of the class, as well.
Graduate students: Each week, find, read, and respond to an additional SF story that matches the week's topic, time period, or literary movement. Include your response to this work as part of your regular response paper. If you found it online, provide a link in your response paper! Otherwise, include bibliographic information.
This list reflects important works that helped shape the genre. Here is what we'll be reading for Fall 2013, in alphabetical order by author:
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 after each title, above). The University of Kansas Jayhawk Ink bookstore tries to have copies of these books on hand.
For further reading, here are the books that have been removed from the summer SF Institute's 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 me 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....
Chris McKitterick is Director of the Center for the Study of Science Fiction and teaches SF, creative writing, and technical communication at KU. He has been a professional writer for 17 years, an editor for nearly that long, managed a documentation team for 3 years, and currently freelances for a variety of publishers. He writes not just SF stories and novels, but also astronomy articles, technical documents, gaming supplements, scholarly articles, nonfiction, journalism, fiction, and even poetry. He edits magazines, websites, and more. Feel free to mine his experience for tips and advice about writing, editing, and the SF industry.
If you have questions, need assistance, or just want to chat about SF, visit me in my office (3040 Wescoe, Lawrence campus). You can phone me or drop me email any time. If I'm not in the office, please leave a message. It might take a little time to respond to email longer if I'm out of town or in the middle of a project, so don't wait until the last minute!
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other contact info:
Go to this page to meet other people at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction.
Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2:00pm - 3:50pm, Wescoe Hall 3040 (also CSSF lending library).
Other times by appointment: I am often in my office when not in class and almost always available via email.
You will find this handy Readings Guide useful in finding the stories in our various volumes. Be sure to read the short essays that introduce each story, as well as the book introductions whenever we start a new volume.
Syllabus version 0.1: last updated March 26, 2013.
Week 1: August 23
Week 2: August 30
Week 3: September 6
Week 4: September 13
Week 5: September 20
Week 6: September 27
Week 7: October 4
Week 8: October 11
Week 9: October 18
Week 10: October 25
Week 11: November 1
Week 12: November 8
Week 13: November 15
No class - Thanksgiving Break.
No class - Finals Week.
Final project deadline: Post to Blackboard by Friday, December 11, at 2:00pm.
Late projects: To receive (reduced) credit, hand off your missing response papers and other work by 2:00pm to Blackboard by Friday, December 11.
To successfully complete the course and get out of it all you can, you are required to:
Each day we discuss a variety of stories, 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.
After an introduction to the topic by your instructor, two or more students act as discussants for each day and lead (not monopolize) the discussions. Everyone is required to act as discussant at least once during the semester. If you have special needs and cannot perform this task, let me know early.
Discussants perform additional research prior to class (further readings on the genre movements at hand and the day's authors, identifying possible multimedia content, and so forth) and come prepared with three or more questions per story to stimulate discussion about the day's topic and readings. 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 likely 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 three questions per story 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 and teachers: Demonstrate solid pedagogical theory! Pretend you're teaching this course for a day. 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!
In addition to good participation, much of your grade depends on the short response papers you write on a weekly basis, your short mid-term paper, and the longer research 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 before class begins on the due date or by end of day on days when we don't meet for class. They will be graded and returned via Blackboard in a reasonable time.
Weekly Response Papers
Prior to each class, you will write a short reading-response paper and turn it in via Blackboard. This 300-500 word paper is a brief but thoughtful response to all of the readings for that week, both the stories and their introductions. 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 topics.
As in the discussions, exercise your critical-reading skills when writing these responses; that is, don't just read the fiction for pleasure and don't just accept everything James Gunn writes in the introductions as canon. I want to hear how you synthesize new ideas from the assigned readings, your outside readings, and your own experiences.
To simplify reading these papers, please paste your written paper into the Comments (or Notes to Instructor - whichever works best) section rather than attach a document. If you wish to also turn in a .doc file, that's fine, too.
Tip: Include questions to pose to the class as well as some points to stimulate discussion, even if you are not leading the week's discussion. I suggest printing out your paper - especially your questions - or otherwise bringing them to class to help formulate ideas during discussion. (Also be sure to turn them in via Blackboard in advance of class.) They are usually returned to you via Blackboard, scored, the following week.
Weekly Paper Scoring
Here is how I score the weekly papers, based on 0-4 points each:
Missing response papers are due ASAP, at the very latest during Finals Week at a reduced score.
Late papers lose 1 point if turned in after class sessions or up to one week late; after that, they might lose more. Turn them in on time!
Choose a science fiction topic, novel, or set of short works either covered in class or something we haven't covered, perform additional readings, and write a short paper about it. This is essentially a formal, extended weekly response, with bibliography and other references as appropriate (Wikipedia is not a source, but can be a good place to find sources).
Papers should be at least 1000 words for undergraduates, 2000 words for graduate students, with a max of 4000 words. They are graded on the quality of writing (including grammar and spelling), the quality of thesis and argument, the quality and diversity of research and argument, and how interesting you make it. 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). Grad students: In addition to the basics of writing an insightful paper, we expect you to demonstrate mastery of the form.
Turn in papers via Blackboard before the class session on October 4.
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 7500 words for undergraduates or 10,000 words for graduates. Non-text-based projects must clearly demonstrate a similar level of effort.
You must include an alphabetized bibliography with a traditional paper or lesson plan, or an annotated bibliography at the end of your document if it is a creative work. An annotated bibliography is a set of references that provide a summary of your readings and research. List your sources alphabetically and include a brief summary or annotation of each document that you quoted in the paper or that you used as a reference (or inspiration). 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 word-count.
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 course readings, your outside readings, and in-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 semester-long investigation of topics that interest you. If you wish to use stories 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:
All of these options make wonderful additions to AboutSF.com!
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 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 the diversity of readings that helped you develop your work (both fictional and non-fictional). Show me your research with a good annotated bibliography, demonstrate your understanding of science fiction, and make your creative work stand on its own.
If your annotated bibliography is not crystal-clear in defining how your creative work displays your understanding of SF, its history, and your response to it, please also include an "artist's statement" with your work.
Be aware that this option is more challenging - especially if you haven't taken formal creative-writing courses - because I expect the same level of research as in the other options plus a good story. Click here for some useful writing resources.
Final Project Deadline
Your final project is due Thursday of finals week by 2:00pm. 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.
The two last three sessions of the course are reserved for student oral or multimedia presentations. Your job is to share your understanding of SF through a live or multimedia presentation to your classmates. You can present about particular SF works, genre movements, films, TV shows, other other topics - it's up to you!
The form of the presentation is open: Feel free to make it a panel discussion, debate, movie, live game, quiz-show, radio play, skit, or other form. Let your imagination run free! This is a great opportunity to express yourself and your understanding of science fiction and its history, creators, and so forth.
Form up with a group of students, usually 3-5, and present for a total of about 7 minutes per student; that is, a 4-person group presents for 30 minutes, while a 5-person group presents for about 35 minutes. If you're showing a short 5-minute film you created, bring discussion prompts for afterward. Your group chooses a topic that illustrates or dramatizes what you feel is important about science fiction and presents this to the class. You can select works or a topic we've covered or other science-fictional topics and works.
Every group member provides an equal level of participation overall, including preparation and presentation (you may decide if one member is more of a script-writer than an actor, for example, as long as everyone's work is balanced - just let me know how you divided the work). You may divide your total number of minutes among the presenters however you see fit; let me know how each participated in the project if you're not dividing your live-presentation time equally. Each individual within the group is graded on the clarity and organization of the presentation, the quality of the analysis, the appropriate use of reference material, and individual contribution.
You may turn this in via Blackboard if you wish (not necessary). At least half of how I score this project comes from experiencing your live presentation.
Your course grade is based upon these factors. Out of a possible 208 (approximate) points:
More Good Stuff
Benjamin Cartwright, former Volunteer Coordinator of the Center's AboutSF outreach program, has started a wonderful podcast program. Check it out at the AboutSF.com main page or at our Podomatic site!
Love science fiction film? Join the KU Science Fiction Film Club! Info, discussions, and meeting times at our Facebook page.
Here's a cool event next Spring, right after finals:
What are you doing on Memorial Day Weekend? Why not attend the ConQuest science fiction convention in Kansas City!
Sticking around for the summer? Don't miss the annual Campbell Conference and Awards weekend in July!
Want to take more science-fiction courses? You're in luck! Check out our growing list of offerings.
Go here to see lots more resources on the Center's website.
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