Science, Technology, and Society:
Examining the Future Through a Science-Fiction Lens

Spring 2019
ENGL 507 (capstone) / ENGL 690 (graduate) / HUM 510 (Honors)
(or not-for-credit, for professionalization)
Thursdays 4:00pm - 6:30pm
Room: Wescoe 1003

Syllabus - Table of Contents

Course Info
   Diversity and Disability
   Required Books

Weekly Schedule

Course Requirements
Class Periods
   Attendance and Participation
   Participation Scoring
   Weekly Response Papers
      Weekly Paper Scoring
   Mid-Term Paper
   Group Presentation
   Final Research Project
      Option A: Paper
      Option B: Creative Work
   Extra Credit: Level Up!
More Good Stuff
   Curated Science and SF Blogs
   Bonus Events
   Regional SF Conventions
   Recommended Readings


Philip Baringer

Chris McKitterick

Physics and Astronomy

English / Center for the Study of Science Fiction


(more contact info on bio page)
(more contact info on bio page)

When writing, for clarity please use the course number in your subject line.

Office hours:

2:30 - 4:00pm Wednesdays
(or by appointment)
4075 Malott

Feel free to stop by during office hours or email if you would like an appointment for a different time.

Office hours:

By appointment
3040 Wescoe (aka Gunn Center library)
Nichols Hall 340 (West Campus)

I'm often in the office and almost always available via email.

Science Fiction Grand Master and Hall of Fame inductee James Gunn is also a course consultant.

Course Info

Science and technology offer countless benefits, yet they also present new challenges. In this interdisciplinary course, we use a vast set of nonfiction articles, multimedia materials, and science fiction as tools to investigate and better understand the transformative and revolutionary changes we have experienced in our lifetimes, as well as explore possible utterly reshaped - even transhuman - futures to follow.


The central question we'll investigate this semester is this: How do scientific discoveries, technological advances, and society pressures drive ever-accelerating human change?

Our goal is to provide you with information, exploration, knowledge, resources; share how we understand this; and guide in-class discussion and your projects to help you discover how best to interpret these changes in a way that's meaningful to you, relevant to your life, and helpful in the pursuit of your career, personal research, and future. The only thing certain about our future is that it will be different than today! You will shape that future and be profoundly affected by it, so it's vital to continually ask the next question.

Led by experimental particle physicist and Professor Philip Baringer and science-fiction author Chris McKitterick, Director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction and English writing and SF faculty. We'll expose you to a vast set of possibilities, ideas, and information - how much you take in is largely up to you and your desire to learn! - and by discussing these things in a collaborative, respectful environment that values diversity of experience and opinion, we hope you'll discover new levels of potential within yourself and possibility in the future you help create. And we hope we'll learn as much as you do this semester!

Satisfies the Humanities requirement and KU Core Goal 6, is a featured Honors course, and is a capstone for English majors. Available to undergraduate and graduate students. Ask your advisor for details about how the various ways to enroll best fit your needs.

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. Click here to see the Center's Diversity Statement. If you encounter any needs or concerns in one of our classes, we want you to feel comfortable coming to us with confidentially your request or suggestion. 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).

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.

Adding and Dropping

Thinking of adding this course? Do so as soon as you can, because it's easy to fall behind in the readings.

Withdrawing from a course should not be taken lightly. Please consult with us if you are having any type of difficulty (academic or personal) to see if we can develop a plan of action that does not include dropping the course. We know that life can get complex sometimes, so talk to us before you do something as drastic as dropping the course; we've worked with a number of people in the past to avoid a drop.

If you are having difficulties that affect your regular attendance, let us know as soon as possible what's going on so that we can work out a solution short of withdrawal or a grade penalty. On the other hand, its better to withdraw than to fail, so stay in good communication. The sooner we know, the sooner we can help.

If you are thinking about dropping a class, check the Registrar page for relevant dates, as well as the KU Registrar Calendar and Timetables. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Undergraduate Services sends messages about drop dates. Note these deadlines. The last day to add/drop without penalties is usually the first week.


Most of the course readings are linked from the Daily Schedule, below, or are available through the Blackboard course site. However, you will buy a couple books, download other readings, and possibly get others in class. When you lead class discussions, you are also expected to do additional research beyond the regular readings and share these materials with the rest of the class.

Graduate and Honors students:
Each week, find, read, and respond to one or more additional works that matches the week's topics; 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. Look for paragraphs shaded gray like this throughout the syllabus to find our grad- or Honors-student-specific expectations.

 Online Readings

You'll find most of the required readings and multimedia linked from the Daily Schedule table, below. Some other online materials are available via our Blackboard course reserves.

 Required Books

The titles below contain links to online booksellers like Amazon and Powell's; click these links to find the books for sale online. Most are available as free downloads:

 Level-Up Readings

Throughout this syllabus and in our Blackboard course reserve, you'll find additional recommended (not required) readings and multimedia materials to help you Level Up your grade and learning experience. McKitterick adds more throughout the semester (and afterward), and welcomes recommendations.

 Reading and Discussion Schedule

Draft syllabus version 1.24, last updated Mar 16, 2019.
Note: The syllabus will change as we and student discussants add or identify new readings, and as we find more extra credit opportunities.

Revision history:
Dec 20 - Jan 18: Updating article links...
Jan 19 - 31: revised some readings, fixed broken links, added more Level Up suggestions, added "Upcoming Events" items to Level Up sections, and more edits.
Jan 29: added the discussion leaders list to Week 2, more Level Up suggestions, small edits.
Feb 2-3: added more Level Ups, updated Week 3 bitcoin / blockchain readings, updated discussion leaders list.
Feb 5: added 'Oumuamua story to Aliens & SETI week.
Feb 4-5: added more Level Up offerings.
Feb 7: Due to campus closure, we're holding this week's discussion virtually! See the Blackboard Discussion Forum to participate. Let's keep the discussion active for at least a couple days - jump in any time and check back often for new posts and responses. Discussion leaders: Post your questions and stay involved!
Feb 19 - Mar 5: Updated discussion leaders list, plus some edits, images, and more Level Up suggestions.
March 16: Spring Break present! Giving you an extra day for revising your Mid-Term project (now due Tuesday, March 19, by 5pm). Also see the Mid-Term project section for additional information about peer-reviewing (to earn Level Up points).

Dates and Topics

Level Up Extras

Level Up (bonus) opportunities. We sometimes look at these in class.
Check back frequently for more suggestions and offer your own.

Required Reading Prior to Class

Read these before class. Most articles link to websites.
You'll find materials not linked here on Blackboard.

Week 1: Jan 24
Welcome! The science-fiction perspective.

Thinking outside the box: Dimensions. What is science fiction?

Level Up bonus suggestions:

A former student put together a list of recommended Futurama episodes relevant to each class - check it out!

Click the links to read these online:

Graduate and Honors students: If possible this week - but for sure starting next week - find, read, and respond to an additional work (any form of text or media is great) that informs the week's topics.

You might find it handy to bring your weekly reader response or discussion-leader notes to class. Your response paper for this week is about these materials and topics.

For this week only, please upload your response to the "Week 1:" Blackboard assignment slot by noon (next) Monday at the latest to count as "on time." For the rest of the semester, upload your response to the week's assignments into the appropriate Blackboard assignment slot before class starts each Thursday

To earn maximum Level Up! bonus points for this week, also include your response to the bonus materials you read, and maybe the in-class discussions, into the Blackboard "Week 1 Level Up!" slot by 5:00pm on Friday (and - if possible - come to class having already read the bonus materials, so you can reference this material during in-class discussion).

Be clear in your response about how these additional materials and ideas extend your understanding of the week's content and themes. 

Week 2: Jan 31
Ideas in science fiction, futuristics.

How science and technology shapes human experience. Science's greatest hits. New perspectives.

Some Level Up bonus suggestions (Note: You need only cover a couple of these to count in your Level Up bonus response - the more you cover, the more potential bonus points, but no need to do them all! They're all just suggestions):

See Blackboard for these (attached to this week's Assignment):

  • Isaac Asimov's story, "The Psychohistorians" (from The Foundation Trilogy).
  • Isaac Asimov's essay, "Science."
  • Arthur C. Clarke's essay, "The Hazards of Prophecy."
  • Frederik Pohl talk from The Literature of Science Fiction film series (ask if you'd like to borrow the DVD from the Center's large multimedia collection; we might play a clip in class). See Blackboard Assignment for this week to read the full transcript.

Click the links to read these online:

This week's discussion leaders: Emma Verdonik, Riley Robert, Adam Braun, and Hamza Rehman (see image below for full list so far).

Discussion leaders note: Always perform additional research that addresses the week's topics, and prepare to share in class (and include a link in your discussion notes, if possible). See the column to the left for ideas, or this section of the syllabus.

Starting this week, upload your required reading response or discussion-leader notes into the "Week 2:" Blackboard assignment slot by class-time today at the latest. For max bonus points, turn in your Level Up! response into the Blackboard "Week 2 Level Up!" slot by 5:00pm on Friday.

Week 3: Feb 7
Innovations in communication, future economics.

How does human social and economic interactions change as we reshape our world?

Some Level Up bonus suggestions:


Due to campus closure today, we'll meet virtually, online in the Blackboard Discussion Board (speaking of contemporary communication techniques).

Discussion leaders: Get the discussion going any time today (before 4:30) and keep it rolling at least through 6:30pm tonight! Post your questions one at a time to give folks time to respond to each.

Everyone: Get involved as soon as you start seeing questions.

Phil and Chris will also post some of our own, and others feel free to post any you want to discuss, too.

See Blackboard for these (attached to this week's Assignment):

Click the links to read these online:

Week 4: Feb 14
Space exploration.

The final frontier! Economic and scientific aspects, public or private sector...

Level Up bonus suggestions:

See Blackboard for these (attached to this week's Assignment):

  • Robert Heinlein's story, "Requiem."

Click the links to read these online:

(goodnight, Opportunity Rover)

(click image to see full-size Cassini spacecraft photo taken as it flew between Saturn's rings and the planet on its final day before descending into the atmosphere)

Week 5: Feb 21
Aliens and SETI.

Are we alone in the universe... and what if we're not?

Level Up bonus suggestions:

See Blackboard for these (attached to this week's Assignment):

  • David Brin's story, "The Crystal Spheres."
  • James Gunn's story, "The Listeners."
  • Science News special feature, "In Search of Aliens."

Click the links to read online:





From Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials:

(click to see full size)

Week 6: Feb 28
Ecology and evolution

The shape of things to come.

Level Up bonus suggestions:

See Blackboard for these:

Click the links to read online:

evolution graffiti

Week 7: March 7
Biotech and the future of medicine.

Extended age spans, organ transplants, genetic engineering, GM foods, stem cell research, mutation, cloning, fear of change, religious resistance...

Level Up bonus suggestions (Note: You need only cover a couple of these to count in your Level Up bonus response - the more you cover, the more potential bonus points, but no need to do them all! They're all just suggestions):

See Blackboard for these:

  • Nancy Kress' story, "Beggars in Spain."
  • Judith Merril's story, "That Only a Mother."
  • James Tiptree's (Alice Sheldon) story, "The Screwfly Solution."

Click the links to read these online:

bioluminescent plants

Mid-term research or creative project due
by 5:00pm Monday, March 18 Tuesday, March 19

phages attacking a bacterium

  March 14: Spring Break (no class)  

"Have regular hours for work and play. Make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well."
    - Louisa May Alcott

Mid-term research or creative project due
by 5:00pm Monday, March 18 Tuesday, March 19

Use the extra day for revision and peer-review.

Empty slots = opportunities to help lead more discussions = Level Up! We'll update this image as needed. Click or tap to see full size.

Week 8: March 21
Cyber space I: Robots and AI.

How might robots and artificial intelligence change our world - for better or worse?

Level Up bonus suggestions:

See Blackboard for these:

  • Isaac Asimov's story, "The Evitable Conflict."
  • Robin Wayne Bailey's story, "Keepers of Earth."
  • C.L. Moore's story, "No Woman Born."

Click the links to read these online:

Abstract, outline, and preliminary reading list for final project due by
5:00pm Monday, March 25.

If you haven't already started reading, don't forget we're discussing William Gibson's novel Neuromancer next week, so jump on it!

Week 9: March 28
Cyber space II: Cyborgs and cybertech, present and future.

How does the human experience change as we merge with technology?

Level Up bonus suggestions:

William Gibson's novel, Neuromancer (entire book - get started reading early!).

Click the link to read these online:

See Blackboard for this one:

  • First five pages of the introduction to Infoglut (feel free to read and respond to the full excerpt if it draws you in!).

N=2i-1 is the formula for intelligence

Week 10: April 4

Plague, overpopulation, pollution, climate change, dystopias, terrorism, war...

Level Up bonus suggestions:

See Blackboard for these:

  • David Brin's story, "Cascades" (short story that later became the first part of the novel, The Postman).
  • Harlan Ellison's story, "A Boy and His Dog." (Note: Contains scenes of violence and assault; if this is a trigger for you, feel free to substitute a relevant alternative.)
  • Paul McAuley's story, "Antarctica Starts Here."

Click the links to read these online:

click to see full size

Level Up opportunity to turn in your final project (by 5pm Friday): +8 points.

Week 11: April 11

Revolutions in production: Replicators and 3D printers, nanobots and grey goo...

Level Up bonus suggestions:


K. Eric Drexler's book, Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology (free download, or you can purchase a print copy if you prefer; read the entire book). Available for free download on

See Blackboard for these:

Greg Bear's story, "Blood Music."
Nancy Kress' story, "Nano Comes to Clifford Falls."

Click the link to read this online:

nanotech-modding DNA

Level Up opportunity to turn in your final project (by 5pm Friday): +6 points.

Week 12: April 18
Posthumanism and transhumanism.

What might we become?

Level Up bonus suggestions:

Chapters 1 thru 7 of Ray Kurzweil's book, The Age of Spiritual Machines (glitch with the free download on here - scroll down to see the chapters and click to read each; there's also a print book you can buy. See Blackboard for now.).

See Blackboard for these:

  • Ian Creasey's story, "Cut Loose the Bonds of Flesh and Bone."
  • Harlan Ellison's story, "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream." (Note: Contains scenes of virtual violence and horror; if this is a trigger for you, feel free to substitute a relevant alternative.)
  • Ray Kurzweil's book, The Age of Spiritual Machines.
  • Ken Liu's story, "Altogether Elsewhere, Vast Herds of Reindeer."

Level Up opportunity to turn in your final project (by 5pm Friday): +4 points.

Week 13: April 25
The Singularity and sociology of the future.

Technological black holes. Future society: Global or local? How will cities evolve?

Level Up bonus suggestions:

Chapters 8 thru 12 of Ray Kurzweil's book, The Age of Spiritual Machines (glitch with the free download on here - scroll down to see the chapters and click to read each; there's also a print book you can buy. See Blackboard for now.).

Click the links to read these online:

See Blackboard for this:

from "The Troubling Trajectory Of Technological Singularity"

Level Up opportunity to turn in your final project (by 5pm Friday): +2 points.

Final project deadline: 5:00pm Monday, April 29.

Deadline for Final Project:
5:00pm Monday, April 29.

Week 14: May 2
The far future.

Beyond the Singularity: Is our far future unknowable, unimaginable?

Level Up bonus suggestions:

If we haven't already, determine presentation order for next week.

See Blackboard for these:

  • Charles Sheffield's story, "At the Eschaton."
  • Cordwainer Smith's story, "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard."
  • Frederik Pohl's story, "Day Million."

Click the links to read these online:

Bender Bending Rodriguez, from Futurama's "Godfellas" episode

Presentations begin next week!

Week 15: May 9

Note: If everyone is willing, we'll try to fit everyone's presentations into this week (so we need not meet during Finals Week). If so, this session is likely to run a little long.

When you're not presenting, your job is to be a responsive and attentive audience, and to think of good questions to ask the groups after their presentations. Come prepared to enjoy and learn!

Student presentations!

Be ready to rock your presentations. Here's the order in which we'll enjoy everyone's awesomeness (TBA):


Finals Week

If needed: Final student presentations... we'll use our scheduled final-exam time only if we cannot finish during Week 15.

Missing or late projects:

  • To receive (reduced) credit, hand off your missing response and other papers (and Level Up responses) to Blackboard by 5:00pm on Friday, May 17.

 Course Requirements

To successfully complete the course and get out of it all you can, you must:

  • Attend class each week.
  • Participate in class, which means being actively involved in every discussion, each day.
  • Lead at least two sessions with partners.
  • Read the required books, website articles, and other materials.
  • Write insightful weekly response papers.
  • Write a formal mid-term research paper.
  • Create a longer final project due at the end of the semester.
  • Participate in a live group presentation on the last two day or two of class.

To earn top scores and get a great final grade, be sure to Level Up whenever possible!

 Class Periods

Each week we discuss a variety of stories and articles. Occasionally, we might have guest speakers, and we or the student discussion leaders will often show film clips and internet multimedia. Class periods revolve largely around discussion, with some lecture.

Be civil: These are discussions about ideas, not arguments! Civility and respect for the opinions of others are vital for a free exchange of ideas. You might not agree with everything we or others say in the classroom, but we expect respectful behavior and interaction all times. When you disagree with someone, make a distinction between criticizing an idea and criticizing the person. Similarly, try to remember that discussions can become heated, so if someone seems to be attacking you, keep in mind they take issue with your idea, not who you are, and respond appropriately. Expressions or actions that disparage a person's age, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, nationality, race, religion, or sexual orientation - or their marital, parental, or veteran status - are contrary to the mission of this course and will not be tolerated. If we all strive to be decent human beings, we'll all get the most out of this course!

Attendance and Class Participation

This is a discussion course, so class participation is weighed heavily! Coming to class and getting involved in all 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; we expect you to exercise your critical-reading skills. That is, don't just read the fiction for pleasure, don't just accept everything in the nonfiction as canon, and don't feel the need to agree with your classmates' ideas - this course is all about challenging the notion that we and our world will always be as it has been. In the discussions, we want to hear how you synthesize the ideas from the assigned readings, your outside readings, and your own experiences. Of course, be polite and diplomatic if you disagree, but don't be shy either.

Because we only meet once per week, each unexcused absence has a significant effect. If you know you are going to miss a class for an academic event, illness, or other excusable reason, contact us as soon as possible to see if we can work out something so it does not affect your overall grade. If necessary, we can mitigate this loss so your attendance score remains unaffected.

During discussions, do not expose yourself or others to distractions such as checking email, Facebook, and so forth. Obviously, turn off your phone ringer/buzzer and put it away. We know it's sometimes a challenge to focus during extended 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. Even worse, monkeying around online also interrupts your neighbors' attention. Former students have let us know in course evaluations that the in-class discussions can be extremely interesting and engaging, and sometimes are really challenging to follow. So fracturing your attention by goofing off doing something not directly to the discussion is sure to leave you behind in the discussion. We want you - and everyone! - to get the most out of this class as possible, and enjoy it, too!

Feel free to take notes on your computer or portable device - or pull up your discussion and response notes - if you choose, just stay away from distractions. It's difficult to remain engaged in discussions if your mind is elsewhere, and doing so also bumps down your overall grade. On the other hand, actively participating in class discussions bumps up your overall grade.

If you suffer from social anxiety or have other special needs, please talk to us so we can work out an alternative to leading discussions. We understand that some people cannot participate in live discussions but get a lot out of listening.


The students assigned as discussants each week lead (not monopolize) the discussion. Everyone is required to act as discussant at least twice during the semester, and can lead more if you want to Level Up. If you have special needs and cannot perform this task, let us know early. See those assigned each week in the Weekly Syllabus for our list so far.

Discussants perform additional research prior to class (further readings, identifying possible multimedia content, and so forth) and come prepared with six or more questions to stimulate discussion among your peers about the day's topic and readings. Turn in these discussion plans as your response for that week in addition to or (if thorough [including notes]) in place of your response paper. We expect all students to participate in all the discussions, but we also request that discussion leaders avoid talking too much or talking over others - this are discussions, not arguments or lectures! Discussion leaders: Don't use this time to lecture, but instead to pose questions likely to raise interesting and relevant discussion.

Your instructors will likely open each day with some general discussion, plus current events and other things relevant to the day's discussions. After that, the assigned student discussants take over. You can split up the tasks among your fellow discussants based on stories, topics, or however you see fit. We simply expect everyone to serve equally.

If you would like to suggest relevant content for the week you're leading discussion, by all means drop McKitterick an email with links to the materials! Due to the nature of science, tech, society, and SF, new material is always appearing, and you might find something even better than what's in the syllabus. This is a cooperative course! I'm happy to add links (or consider replacing less-relevant content) with your suggestions, given enough time for the rest of the class to consider it.

Base value: 5 points per week you lead discussion. Base value: 10 points.

Level Up

  • Discussion leaders who facilitate particularly excellent class sessions: +1 each.
  • Discussion leaders whose preparation is really stand-out (lots of extra research, extra discussion prompts, multimedia use in class, sharing resources with the class, and so on): +1 each.
  • Discussion leaders whose suggested content makes it onto the week's bonus list (you must submit links at least a full week in advance): +1 for each week's new content.
  • Possibly more ways to get bonuses - be a great discussion leader, get everyone involved, and we'll take note!
  • Potential to Level Up and earn +6 for leading two great sessions, or even more!

Graduate students and teachers:
Demonstrate solid pedagogical theory. Act as if you're teaching this course for a day. We 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

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'll miss out on a lot of opportunities to learn and grow as a person. Be sure to show up and get involved!

Base value: 3 points per class session. Base value: 45 points.

Level Up

  • Never miss a class: +4.
  • Great participants in the daily discussions can earn up to +20 points over the course of the semester!


Missing class is the surest way to lose points here: -3 points per missed class (after the first).

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


In addition to good participation, much of your grade depends on the short response papers you write on a weekly basis, your formal mid-term paper, and the longer final project. If you use non-standard software to create your projects, 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.

Want to enhance your literary-criticism chops and Level Up by incorporating traditional (or novel) lit-crit approaches into your papers? Check out this overview page about "Literary-Criticism Approaches to Studying Science Fiction."

 Weekly Response Papers

Prior to each class, write a short reading-response paper and turn it in via Blackboard in the "Week [x]:" response-paper assignment slot. Please attach a .doc-formatted document to make it simpler to read everyone's papers every week. Along with participation in each week's discussion, these papers are scored as an important measure of your engagement with the week's topics. You'll write a total of 14 of these throughout the semester, so keep up with your readings and responses!

This short (300-600 words for undergrads, 400-1000 words for graduate students) paper is a brief but thoughtful response to all of the readings for that week, both nonfiction and fiction. (If you go a little long, that's better than too short, but be kind to your teachers!) Provide your thoughts on the week's assigned works, not just a plot summary, instead offering insightful, critical, and thoughtful reflections on the works. When responding to the fiction, ask yourself what the author was trying to say (themes), and how the story answers the question of how science and technology change what it means to be human in a changing age. When leading the week's discussion, include your discussion-leader notes as part of your reading response, or in addition to it.

As in the discussions, exercise your critical-reading skills with these response papers; that is, don't just read the fiction for pleasure and don't just accept everything in the nonfiction as canon - this course is all about challenging the notion that we and our world will always be as it has been. We want to hear how you synthesize the ideas from the assigned readings, your outside readings, and your own experiences.

Regarding format:
Many people use bullets for discussion points, bold the titles of the works discussed, or use the titles as headings. Some people write responses that resemble essays, citing the works in tandem, while others respond to each individually. However you prefer to handle it is fine, but what's most important is that you've thought through all the readings for each day and their relationship to one another as well as their relationship to changes in science, technology, and society over time.

Tip: We suggest bringing your response to class - especially your questions - to help formulate ideas during discussion. (Also be sure to turn them in via Blackboard in advance of class.) They are usually scored in Blackboard by the following week.

Weekly Response Paper Scoring

Base value: 2 points each × 14 = 24 total.

Here is how we score the weekly reading-response papers:
    0 - no paper, or bad one turned in late.
    1 - paper turned in, but does not convince us that you did all of the reading, or provides no interesting insights.
    2 - either has interesting insights on some of the readings or convinces us that you completed most of the reading.
    3 - (+1 Level Up) convinces us that you did all the reading and provides some interesting insights.
    4 - (+2 Level Up) references all the required materials and shares thoughtful responses to everything, plus discusses additional materials relevant* to the week's content.

That means you could possibly earn one-third over the base score for your Weekly Responses by Leveling Up every week! Up to +24 - possibly twice the base score!

Grad and Honors students:
As you might imagine, we expect more from your papers. They should reflect your mastery of the paper form as well as provide insights worthy of your added experience and education. Additionally, for each topic, please find, read, and respond to at least one additional work that matches the week's topics. 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. Insightfulness and clarity are important.

Weekly Level Up Response

Write a second paper - a Level-Up response - that engages at least a couple additional works and responds to in-class discussion. The more materials you cover, the more potential bonus points, but no need to read or watch all the suggestions! They're just suggested added materials.

  • This second paper is scored similarly to the required Weekly Response Papers, but turn it in to the "Week [x]: Level Up!" Blackboard assignment slot. Be clear about how these additional materials and ideas extend your understanding of the week's content, ideas, and themes.
  • Up to +2 base bonus points each week (up to +28 total).
  • Include in your Level-Up response at least two thought-provoking questions that you might pose to the class to stimulate discussion, even if you are not leading the week's discussion: up to +1 each week (for a total possible of +3 per Level-Up response, up to +42 total bonus points for the semester).
    • To earn the maximum bonus, you must turn in your Level Up responses to the appropriate Blackboard slot by Friday at 5pm on the relevant weeks. You can turn them in later, as well, for up to +2 bonus.
    • Some examples include a short story, an episode of a show, a comic (issue of a printed comic or multi-page online comic), an SF event (convention, book-club gathering, book release or reading, significant fan event, or so on), a movie, relevant website interaction (for example, actively reading and responding on a fan-site), game-time long enough to experience significant story narrative, browsing (with intent and using your critical skills) a series of art pieces (such as paintings, sculptures, photographs, and the like), an exhibit, or so forth. You can also count something that you actively create and share with others, such as fanfiction, fan-art, thoughtful blogging, or so forth.
    • Subscribe to or read a science and tech-news list, and write a response to current and future sci-tech (and drop us an email with articles you particularly recommend we add to the readings). Sign up here for the KurzweilAI mailing list.
    • This is something that should take the average person at least an hour or two to fully appreciate, consider, and respond to (yes, we have a pretty solid gauge for this). To earn these bonus points, turn in your response or content as a separate file from the week's usual response under the "Week [x] Level Up!" slot in Blackboard (next to the "Week [x] Response Paper" slot). If you've created something that's posted online, just turn in a direct link to it. Please use standard file formats; don't make us have to buy or download software just to see it, or set up an account just to read it.


Late papers lose -1 point each if turned in after the relevant class session begins. Turn them in on time! Missing response papers are due ASAP, at the very latest during Finals Week.

 Mid-Term Creative or Research Project

Choose either a topic covered in the syllabus or a new one, perform additional research beyond the required materials for that topic, and write a short paper about it. If you're uncomfortable writing research papers, just think of this as a formal and extended weekly response, with quotes and references to various materials to support your arguments, plus a bibliography and other references as appropriate (Wikipedia is not a source, but is a good place to find sources).

We also welcome creative expressions of your understanding about how the human experience is changing or will change. As with the creative option for the Final Project, you must include an "artist's statement" (describing how your creative work displays your understanding of the human experience undergoing due to new science, technology, or societal change, and of SF literature), plus an annotated bibliography (a list of references with brief notes) at the end of your document. See Final Project Option B: Creative Work for details. Use both fiction and nonfiction sources. Turn in this paper via Blackboard.

This paper must be 1000-2000 words (typically 4 to 8 pages) for ENGL 507 students, 2000-4000 words for Honors students, and 3000-5000 words for grad students. A little longer is okay if you must, but try not to get too long! Unlike the weekly responses, these papers are graded on the quality of writing (including basics like grammar and spelling), the quality of ideas and your argument in support of them, the quality of independent research and reporting, and use of course material and arguments presented during discussions.

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). References, bibliographies, and endnote pages do not count toward your word-count.

Some resources you might find useful:

Grad students: In addition to the basics of writing an insightful paper, we expect you to demonstrate mastery of the form.

Base value: 50 points.

Level Up

  • Include an annotated bibliography (regular bibliography is required, and neither counts toward total word-count) to your mid-term paper: +6
  • Meet all the requirements, above, but also deliver your project in a functional multimedia form that works with text (website, comic, or so forth): up to +6
  • Work with a classmate to peer-review one another's projects.
    • See this page for how to successfully do a peer critique, which also describes what we're looking for in what you turn in for your Level Up assignment.
    • Turn in the project you marked up and any additional critque notes you sent your partner (not your own paper).
    • Not only does performing a peer-review earn you bonus points, but it will also improve both of your projects. Everyone wins!
    • Bonus points you can earn here can vary widely based on how much effort you put into your review: up to +8.
  • Possibly more ways to get bonuses: Write a kick-butt paper! Teach us something new, make and support an original or thoughtful argument, or so forth: up to +10 additional.


A late Mid-Term Paper gets -5 points for the first week, then -5 points per week late after that. Turn it in on time! Missing papers are due ASAP, at the very latest during Finals Week (at a deduction). 

 Final Creative or Research Project

The final individual project before group presentations can be a traditional essay or a creative work. Your research paper or creative project identifies and explores a topic related to the course theme, but can cover topics not listed in the syllabus. Papers must be 1000-3000 words (4 to 15 pages) for undergrads and and 3000-5000 words for grad students. If you expect to go significantly over the limit, please contact one of the teachers before continuing.

Essentially, answer this question in the form of an essay or creative work: How do scientific discoveries, technological advances, and society pressures drive human change?

Here is your opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the course's subject-matter, your ability to perform in-depth research on material beyond what we assigned in the syllabus, and your skill at synthesizing interesting insights from that research.

The completed final project is due via Blackboard by the Monday before our last regular discussion. If you've created a website, posted your short film to the internet, or otherwise cannot upload the project directly, just provide a link (website URL) to your project in the Submission section of the Blackboard assignment.

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 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). Use both fiction and nonfiction sources. Turn in this paper via Blackboard.

Grad and Honors students: In addition to the basics of writing an insightful paper, we expect you to demonstrate mastery of the form. You also have an Option C: Course Outline, Lesson Plan, or Study Guide. Contact McKitterick for details.

References, annotated bibliographies, and endnote pages do not count toward the minimum or maximum.

What can you add to the larger discussion about the intersection of science, technology, society, and science fiction? What does it add? What are the influences of the works you're examining? What do they respond to and extend what you think of as "science fiction" or speculative science? Discuss as usual in a scholarly piece, or define in your creative piece's artist statement.

Some resources you might find useful:

Your response can be a traditional written document or a project you create using another media format.

You must include a properly formatted bibliography (list of references or works cited) with a traditional paper, or an annotated bibliography with a multimedia project.

Base value: 80 points.

Level Up

Lots of ways to exceed the base points on this project!

  • Turn in your project by the early due-date. Varies: up to +8.
  • Throughout the semester, pay attention to what your classmates, teachers, and others say in class, take notes on great ideas or things you disagree with, and note the date and names of the speakers so you can cite them. Accurately cite in-class discussions that support your arguments, and list such materials in your bibliography. Also, cite and list diverse references, both in terms of quantity and media form. Up to +10
  • Meet all the requirements, above, but also deliver your project in a functional multimedia form that works with text (website or so forth): up to +10
  • Possibly more ways to get bonuses: Write a great paper! Teach us something new, make and support an original or thoughtful argument, or so forth: up to +10.


A late Final Project gets -4 points per day late up to a max of -16. "Late" is any time after the last due date.

 Option A: Traditional Research Paper

Many students opt for this option. Research 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 we 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: Show us how these readings have changed your perspective on the world. 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 readings from the assigned readings that we discussed in class, we expect you to also have something new to say that we didn't already discuss.

 Option B: Creative Work

A creative work (story, series of poems, play, short film, collection of artworks, website, creative nonfiction, and so forth) must dramatize how the ideas and themes posed in your work could affect believable, interesting characters living in a convincing, fully realized world in addition to revealing substantial understanding of how science, technology, and society affect us as human beings. For the purposes of this course, your annotated bibliography (normally not included in creative work) is particularly important if you pursue this option, because you don't want to force information into a story ("As you know, Jim, the hyperdrive generator operates in five dimensions..."), and we want to see the diversity of readings that helped you develop your work (both fictional and non-fictional). Show us your research with a good annotated bibliography, demonstrate your understanding of science fiction and the kinds of topics we discussed this semester, and make your creative work stand on its own.

To be crystal-clear in defining how your creative work displays your understanding of science, technology, society, SF literature, and your response to the relationship between these things, please also include an "artist's statement," as it very much helps in evaluating creative work. Write this either as an appendix to your document (but don't count this toward your word-count) or paste it into the Submission text box of the Blackboard assignment.

Be aware that this option is more challenging - especially if you haven't taken formal creative-writing courses - because we expect the same level of research as in the traditional paper plus it needs to be interesting and entertaining while reflecting insights into how science, technology, and society shifts affect us as human beings.

Check out McKitterick's intensive, residential SF Summer Workshop Resources page for tons of useful information about writing good SF. Also click here for more useful writing resources.

 Group Presentation

The last week (or two) of the course is reserved for student oral or multimedia presentations. This is our final in-class get-together!

You form a group of students, usually 3-5, and present for a total of about 5 minutes per student; that is, a 4-person group typically presents for 20 minutes, while a 5-person group presents for about 25 minutes. If you're showing a short 5-minute film you created or performing some other preparation-heavy (but short) presentation, bring discussion prompts for Q&A afterward. Your group chooses a topic related to the course theme and makes a presentation to the class.

You can select a topic we've covered or another topic relevant to the overall course theme:
How does science, technology, and cultural change affect us or humankind as a whole? How can literature and other media dramatize, humanize, and prepare us for change?

The form of the presentation is open: Feel free to make it a panel discussion, debate, movie, live game, quiz-show, radio play, skit, guided interactive activity, or other form. Let your imagination run free! This is a great opportunity to collaborate with a talented group and express yourself and your understanding of how our world and humankind is changing and is changed by scientific understanding, societal pressures, and technological advancement.

Every group member contributes an equal level of participation overall, including preparation and presentation (you may decide if one member is more script-writer than actor, for example, as long as everyone's work is balanced - just let us know how you divided the work). You may divide your total number of minutes among the presenters however you see fit; let us know how each participated in the project if you're not dividing your live-presentation time equally. A nicely edited film can be a little shorter than the "5 minutes per person" metric, as that takes more work than simpler shoot-and-cut films: Keep in mind that we'll want you to give a live Q&A after you show the film in class, so you'll likely use more time than you think! If someone is acting, we'll see them; not so much for writers, directors, editors, and so forth. We'll let you be the judge of "equitable contribution." If you have any doubts, get your topic and form of presentation approved by the course coordinators at least a week prior to the presentation, preferably well beforehand. 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 their individual contribution.

At minimum, drop a note into the appropriate Blackboard slot describing each member's contribution. If you can, please turn in your project (or paste a link to where it lives on the internet) via Blackboard. At least half of how we score this project comes from experiencing your contribution to the live presentation, so if it's not obvious, be clear in describing your contribution!

Base value: 50 points. Make it outstanding and be a great contributor to Level Up!


Because we hope to get you thinking "outside the box" in this course, we've adopted a new model method for tracking success. That is, everything you do in this course beyond the basic required assignments earns you points toward Leveling Up your grade while giving you freedom to choose a variety of ways to raise your scores. Your final grade is up to you!

By completing all the required readings, turning in reading responses on time each week, creating a decent mid-term project, participating in a group presentation, creating a good final project, attending every class (plus engaging in the discussions), and partnering to lead at least two class sessions, you are pretty much guaranteed at least a C+ for your final grade (almost no one gets this unless they really don't try).

Want a better grade? See the Level Up! section below, throughout the Daily Schedule, and in the More Good Stuff portion of the syllabus for ideas.

So to earn a basic course grade of "acceptable" (the C range), you need between 235 and 260 points. You'll earn those points by doing solid work on all the required course components:

  • Reading the assigned content, and turning in weekly response papers: 14 × 2 = 28 base points possible.
  • Attending and participating in class: 14 × 3 = 42 base points possible.
  • Leading discussions: 2 × 5 = 10 base points possible.
  • Mid-Term paper: 50 base points possible.
  • Presentation: 50 base points possible.
  • Final project 80 base points possible.
  • See each section for details on Level Ups and Penalties.
  • TOTAL possible assigned (base) points: 260

You have many additional opportunities to Level Ups throughout the semester. Here's an example (see the next section and every other section for more opportunities):

  • Weekly Level-Up response papers: 14 × 2 = +28 points possible.
  • Add significantly to every week's discussion: 14 × 3 = +42 points possible.
  • Read additional relevant books, articles, or stories. See relevant movies, documentaries, or shows. Attend talks, readings, or other live events. Just write up a response paper and turn it in to Level Up!
  • Lots of ways to earn bonus points!

If you ever want to calculate your grade so far, go to the Blackboard "Weighted Total" to roughly determine your percentage of points earned and possible so far. If you haven't turned in some things, it won't be complete, but we hope this reduces grade anxiety.

Points Grade

294 or above






















207 or below


 Extra Credit: Level Up!

We're using the metaphor of Leveling Up to give you the opportunity to earn better-than-average grades. In place of the traditional deductive-only grade system (where you lose points by not turning in perfect work), our system uses additive grading (which is gaining pedagogical traction in education theory). You'll have a multitude of opportunities to earn bonus points by (for example) doing additional research, reporting on that added work, and sharing your discoveries in class. You can also Level Up for exceeding our expectations on every project and in every class period; that is, you get more points than the bases value when you exceed "average effort" (traditionally graded as C work), thereby raising your grade incrementally toward a B or A. It's up to you!

On the other hand, if you choose to simply meet all the basic requirements and do acceptable work on your projects, you'll end up with a grade around a C+.

We want you to be in control of your final grade, using a familiar and empowering metaphor.

So, want to earn a higher grade in this course? Each section in this syllabus offers some options for Leveling Up! Possible bonuses abound: See each assignment section for details on more ways to earn bonus points. Here are some semester-long examples of how you can gain extra points:

  • Attend every class session, lead extra discussions, and add significantly to every week's discussion throughout the semester: up to +28 or more.
    Note: This does not mean dominating discussions, mindlessly blathering, talking over others, or speaking even when someone shyer than you has already raised their hand; doing so negates this bonus. Exercise your socialization: If you're normally shy, here's your chance to talk about something you love! If you're normally domineering, tone it down. 
  • Attend outside events, write reports on them, and turn them in to the various Level Up slots you'll find in Blackboard. We'll post announcements there when we identify some cool opportunities, and we'll also add assignments there for you to turn in your bonus papers. 
  • Kick butt on your projects! See the descriptions in this syllabus for ideas. Basically, you have the opportunity to exceed my expectations - and Level Up - with every project!

Basically, be an epic student! You might just get bonus points in the end.

Grad and Honors students: We have additional expectations for you - see gray-background comments directed to you throughout this document!


On the other hand, just like in many game-scoring systems, in this course you have a few ways to lose points, too:

  • Miss a class session: -3 (per missed class after the first, -1 or -2 per half-class missed).
    Note: You're allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies, so if you encounter this, let us know. It's your responsibility to schedule employment, school, and other responsibilities around your classes, or accept the consequences. If you must miss class, please contact us ahead of time to make arrangements for catching up on missed material.
  • If you attend but do not participate in class discussions, this also lowers your overall grade on a variable scale depending on engagement or lack thereof. If you have special needs (for example, you have social phobias), contact us in advance so we can work out alternatives. 
  • Of course, not turning in projects or doing poor work can lose you points, leading to reduced grades. So do your best - and exceed our expectations to Level Up instead!

More Good Stuff

Looking for more ways to learn more about cutting-edge science and technology? Want to get involved in the SF culture? Or just looking for ideas for Leveling Up? You've come to the right place.

Curated Science and SF Blogs

For more art and articles, multimedia and memes, infographics and info, and much more, check out the curated collection of blog posts McKitterick tags on his Tumblr just for this course. I add new items (mostly reblogs of great stuff) here almost every day, so check back every so often for additions. Some of these are offer inspiration, insights, or ideas; others are serious articles or compelling discussions of course-relevant topics; and other are just for fun. Most are filed under the (three similarly named) general tags, but I often add specific tags, too; if you want to go straight to a specific topic, check out these sub-collections. If you don't like Tumblr, use these (or other relevant) tags to search for additional, contemporary posts on your favorite media site:

These are a few tags I use most often for this course (Tumblr app doesn't link tags correctly, but browsers do):

I also created a growing YouTube playlist especially for this class - check it out for multimedia ideas, and please make suggestions for more!

I hope you enjoy or at least find these useful!

Bonus Events

Stay tuned: Throughout the semester, many opportunities arise for you to earn extra credit. We add Blackboard Level Up slots as events become available - and let us know if you've heard about an upcoming opportunity! A good place to look for upcoming talks is the KU Calendar. No one is required to attend these events, so any points you get for reporting on your attendance are pure bonus. You have the opportunity to earn extra credit just for attending and reporting on these events!

Your response paper should discuss the event or exhibit similarly to how you discuss the weekly readings and is scored the same. We encourage you to bring your thoughts to the relevant in-class discussions. If possible, turn in these extra credit papers within a week of the event.

If you have any questions, you can either ask us in class or send an email. 

Here are some recent and upcoming area events relevant to the course content:

The Lawrence Public Library regularly hosts relevant events. We recently did a series of events called, "3-2-1 Blast-off! Astronauts are headed to Lawrence!" that ran for several weeks. Great stuff! 

Nerd Night Lawrence - any event would be great!

Super Nerd Night in Lawrence - this one is gaming-related.

TEDx Lawrence - again, attend any event!

Want to hang out (at least virtually) with other SF folks? See the Lawrence Science Fiction Club on Facebook. They meet every month!

More TBA. Have suggestions? Let us know!

Here's a list of Futurama episodes relevant to each week's discussion, as suggested by a former student:

Episode name Episode number
Where No Fan Has Gone Before Season 4 Episode 11
A Clone of My Own Season 2 Episode 10
The Series Has Landed Season 1 Episode 2
Attack of the Killer App Season 5 Episode 3
A Clockwork Origin Season 5 Episode 9
The Six Million Dollar Mon Season 7 Episode 7
The Day the Earth Stood Stupid Season 3 Episode 7
Law & Oracle Season 6 Episode 3
Free Will Hunting Season 7 Episode 9
Crimes of the Hot Season 4 Episode 8
Bederama Season 6 Episode 4
Meanwhile Season 8 Episode 13
Space Pilot 3000 Season 1 Episode 1
The Late Philip J Fry Season 5 Episode 7

Here's a short history of recent events, to give you an idea of the kinds of events you can attend and write up reports about to Level Up. Just let us know and we'll make an extra slot for your event, or drop them into one of the catch-all Level Up slots (you can make unlimited "attempts," and we'll get notification that you've turned in another). You can find more on the Center's News page, or our Google calendar:

Film Screening:
    Destination: Planet Negro! with Director Kevin Willmott

What's the solution to race in America? According to George Washington Carver in Kevin Willmott's satire, the only solution is for African Americans to leave Earth and colonize Mars! But when the spaceship's crew travels through a time warp to the present day, they can't believe their eyes.

Fresh from its recent New York City premiere at the Socially Relevant Film Festival, Destination: Planet Negro! spoofs 1950s space films while tackling the question of whether America can ever leave its history of racism and racial disenfranchisement behind.

Join the Honors Program, the Lawrence Public Library, and director Kevin Willmott for a screening and discussion on the film.

Where: Lawrence Public Library Auditorium

An Evening with Margaret Atwood:
    "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
    The Arts, the Sciences, the Humanities, the Inhumanities, and the Non-Humanities. Zombies Thrown in Extra."

The KU Commons is pleased to present Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?: The Arts, the Sciences, the Humanities, the Inhumanities, and the Non-Humanities. Zombies Thrown in Extra, through the support of the Kenneth A. Spencer Lecture fund.

Literary icon Margaret Atwood, celebrated for her prescient vision and poetic voice, discusses the real-world origins of her speculative fiction and the roles of art, science and imagination in her creative process. A winner of many international literary awards, including the prestigious Booker Prize, Atwood is the bestselling author of more than thirty volumes of poetry, children's literature, fiction, and non-fiction. She is best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman, The Handmaid's Tale, The Robber Bride, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. Her non-fiction book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, was recently made into a documentary. Atwood's work has been published in more than forty languages. In 2004, she co-invented the LongPen, a remote signing device that allows someone to write in ink anywhere in the world via tablet PC and the internet. Born in 1939 in Ottawa, Atwood grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Where: Kansas Union, Ballroom

A reception and book-signing will follow the talk.

The Lawrence Public Library and KU Libraries selected Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale as the first Read Across Lawrence book for 2015. Find out more about programs, activities, and opportunities to get involved in the conversation here.

"Asking the Next Question: Science Fiction and the Rational Imagination"
Gary K. Wolfe presents the newest Bold Aspirations talk at KU. Wolfe has been a contributing editor and reviewer for Locus magazine since 1991. He is a Professor of Humanities at Roosevelt University in Chicago, where he has also served as Dean of University College and Dean of Graduate Studies. Wolfe's recent work includes Evaporating Genres: Essays on Fantastic Literature and Sightings: Reviews 2002-2006, plus earlier studies The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction (won the Eaton Award); David Lindsay; Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy; Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever (with Ellen R. Weil); Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996 (won the British Science Fiction Award, Hugo nominee); Bearings: Reviews 1997-2001 (Hugo nominee). Wolfe received the Science Fiction Research Association's Pilgrim Award, International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts' Distinguished Scholarship Award, and the World Fantasy Award for criticism and reviews. He edited Up the Bright River (2011), the first posthumous collection of Philip José Farmer stories; and American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s (Library of America, 2012); he co-edited with Jonathan Strahan The Best of Joe Haldeman (Subterranean Press, 2013). Wolfe serves on the editorial boards of Science Fiction Studies and The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and has served as manuscript reviewer for Oxford, Indiana, Illinois, and Wesleyan University Presses. Since 2010, Wolfe and Australian editor Jonathan Strahan have also hosted the weekly Coode Street Podcast on science fiction, which has been nominated for four different awards in 2011 and the Hugo Awards in 2012 and 2013.  The title of Wolfe's talk borrows from Theodore Sturgeon's motto, "Ask the next question," which he referred to when signing his name with a Q and an arrow running through it, and described as: "...the symbol of everything humanity has ever created, and is the reason it has been created" (more on that here). A reception in the Spooner Hall Commons immediately follows Wolfe's talk, from 5:00pm - 6:00pm. Wolfe is a dynamic and fascinating speaker - don't miss this event!

"The Coming War on General Purpose Computing: every single political issue will end up rehashing the stupid Internet copyright fight"
Cory Doctorow
Richard W. Gunn Memorial Lecture
Go here for the press release.

"Data & Democracy: Our Technology, Our Future"
James Moor, Professor of Daniel P. Stone Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy, Dartmouth College
Perry Alexander, KU Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Details: The Commons will host a debate, moderated by Leonard Krishtalka, about the data deluge, our growing reliance on silicon and algorithms, and the outsourcing of decision-making to artificial "thinking machines." Dartmouth Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy James Moor, and KU Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Perry Alexander will speak from opposing positions. Moor will speak about human relationship and reliance on technology from a conditional dystopian perspective, and Alexander will deliver the Utopian counterpoint. Audience participation is highly encouraged, as the second portion of the event will rely upon questions from the public.

Science on Tap: "Global Shift: a Challenging Twist on Climate Change"
Free State Brewery

"Down to Earth" pre-release event for the Aftermaths anthology
Readings from several area authors who have stories in the book, including James Gunn and yours truly (Chris McKitterick)
Click to see the event poster, here

"Neutrinos, Time, Einstein, and Paradox"
Dr. Thomas Weiler of Vanderbilt University
Physics is sometimes summarized as the study of space and time, mass and energy. Arguably, and surprisingly to many, time is the least understood of these concepts. In September of 2011, a collaboration of 120 international PhD physicists claimed to measure the speed of the neutrino as exceeding the speed of light. If this experiment is reproduced by other experiments, then even the concept of "cause" occurring in time before its "effect" becomes untenable. For example, according to Einstein's relativity, a moving rocket could receive the original neutrino signal, and send another in reply, with the second neutrino arriving at the source of the original BEFORE the original neutrino was emitted. Is Einstein's theory incomplete? Are neutrinos this weird? Is our concept of time meaningful? Or is this experimental result just wrong? All this and more to be presented and discussed in just 55 minutes!

John Tibbetts Celebrates the 100th Birthday Of Literary Icons
Tarzan of the Apes and John Carter of Mars

Nöel Sturgeon
KU Gunn Lecture: "Avatar and Activism: Ecological Indians, Disabling Militarism, and Science Fiction Imaginaries"
This event is free and open to the public.

Cory Doctorow
Kansas Library Association conference talk:
"Copyrights and Human Rights"

History Professor Jeff Moran, author of the forthcoming American Genesis: Antievolution Controversies from Scopes to Intelligent Design
"The Antievolution Controversies and American Culture"
This event is free and open to the public.

Darwin Day: SOMA presents Michael Blanford:
"Inspired by Actual Events: Teaching Critical Thinking and Inspiring Awe by Examining What's Real"
KU Campus - Burge Union: Relays Room
1601 Irving Hill Road
(Facebook event page here)

"Space-Based View of a Changing Climate and its Implications"
Jack Kaye, associate director for research, Earth Science Division, NASA
Dole Institute of Politics
Free. Sponsored by School of Engineering

"NASA Satellite Observations and Their Role in they Study of Global Change"
Jack Kaye, associate director for research, Earth Science Division, NASA
Mercury Room, Nichols Hall
Free. Sponsored by School of Engineering

"Mind, Body, Machine: The Human Design Space 2"
Braden R. Allenby
A Lecture Interruptus, followed by a reception
The Commons, Spooner Hall
Follow-up event: "Q&A with Braden Allenby"

Percival's Planet and Clyde Tombaugh's Discovery of Pluto
An Evening With Michael Byers.


Also consider exhibits at campus museums that are relevant to the course. We offer extra credit to students who explore these exhibits and submit a response paper. (These papers add to your total score in the class, often making up for missed papers or low scores.) You are expected to commit an hour or more with an exhibit, plus whatever time it takes to write up the one-page response paper. Maximum point value per exhibit is equivalent to a regular response paper. Recent exhibits have included:

  • At the Spencer Art Museum, visit "Climate Change at the Poles" (North and South balconies) and the Terry Evans photography exhibit "A Greenland Glacier" (go through the Asian art room on the main floor to get to the photos).
  • At the Natural History Museum, visit the "Explore Evolution" exhibit on the 5th floor.
  • And more! If you have a suggestion, let us know and we'll share it with the class. There's no limit to how many events you can attend and report on for extra credit!

Want to take more science-fiction courses? You're in luck! Check out our growing list of offerings.


The Center for the Study of Science Fiction offers several multimedia offerings online. Click here to see them on this site, or click here to see our YouTube channel.

Benjamin Cartwright, former Volunteer Coordinator of the Center's AboutSF outreach program, created a wonderful podcast program. Check it out at the main page or at our Podomatic site!

This could well be the greatest show in the history of ever, and the relevant-est series possible for this course: Neil deGrasse Tyson brings back Carl Sagan's Cosmos: A Personal Journey with a new show: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Check out the promo video here.

Regional SF and Sci/Tech Conventions

Several science-fiction and speculative-science conventions happen in the area, so check 'em out!

To learn about more stuff, more quickly, you can also find events and lots of SF-related chat with the Lawrence Science Fiction Club! Info, discussions, and (hopefully soon!) meeting times are regularly posted at our Facebook page. Know of something of interest to like-minded folks? Join and drop a note there!

Here's a cool event each Spring, right after Spring finals:

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live Show
Friday and Saturday, in late May
Includes the Spectrum Awards Show
Grand Ballroom of Bartle Hall Convention Center
Kansas City, MO

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 June.

The KC fan community won the World Science Fiction Convention bid, so the world of SF came to KC in 2016! Details at the MidAmeriCon II website. McKitterick was Academic Track program director, and the con-runners are the same great folks who manage ConQuest.

Love science fiction and want to stay in touch with other like-minded folks? Join the Lawrence Science Fiction Club! Info, discussions, and meeting times at our Facebook page.

Want to take more speculative-fiction courses? Check out our growing list of offerings.

 Additional Recommended Readings

Want to read more SF? You've come to the right place! First up, a few books we read excerpts from:

John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar.
Frank Herbert's Dune.
Standage's The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers.

The Center's lending library holds many books, magazines, and more, so if you are local to Lawrence or are in town for our other summer programs, check with McKitterick to see if we can lend you a copy. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis. We also have a course-specific lending library for the SF Literature course - which is primarily supplied by previous students donating copies after completing their course - so if you want to pass on the love to the next generation rather than keep your books, let your teacher know!

Want more? Check out the winners of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel of the year. To see even more great books, check out the recent finalists for the Campbell Memorial Award - most years, the majority of those works could have won the award if the jury had just a few different members.

For short fiction, check out the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF winners, and the recent Sturgeon Award finalists. As with the Campbell, you're likely to find something you'll love among the finalists - and many of them live online, and you'll find links to the stories from that page.

Slate's Future Tense Fiction series is pretty cool - all about the consequences and side-effects of tech on human life. Here's their nonfiction section on the same topic.

The Guardian asked some of SF's greatest living authors to share what they feel are the best books or authors in the genre, and what they came up with is a brilliant list.

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

Want even more recommendations? The Center's "A Basic Science Fiction Library" is a go-to internet resource for building reading lists. It's organized by author.

McKitterick was on Minnesota Public Radio's "The Daily Circuit" show on "summer reading" dedicated to spec-fic and remembering Ray Bradbury. Great to see Public Radio continuing to cover SF after their "100 Best SF Novels" list. Here's what he added to the show's blog:

A great resource for finding wonderful SF is to check out the winners and finalists for the major awards. For example, here's a list of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award winners. And here's a list of recent finalists for the Award. Here's the list of the Nebula Award novel winners. And the Hugo Award winners, which has links to each year's finalists, as well. A couple of books I didn't get a chance to mention include Ray Bradbury's R Is for Rocket, which contains a story that turned me into an author: "The Rocket" (along with Heinlein's Rocketship Galileo and Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time). Bradbury's Dandelion Wine is another, along with books like Frank Herbert's Dune, Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Clifford Simak's City (a Minnesota native), SF anthologies like James Gunn's Road to Science Fiction and the DAW Annual Year's Best SF, and tons more. Personally, my favorite Bradbury short story is pretty much everything Bradbury every wrote. His writing is moving and evocative like Simak and Theodore Sturgeon's - probably why those three made such an impression on the young-me. But if I had to pick only one that most influenced me as a writer, it would probably be "The Rocket," a beautiful story about a junk-man who has to decide between his personal dreams of space and love of his family. It was adapted into a radio show for NBC's "Short Story" series (you can listen to the MP3 audio recording here).

He was also on again when they did a story on "What did science fiction writers predict for 2012?" The other guest was a futurist - an interesting discussion!

More to come! Check back later....

We believe strongly in the free sharing of information via digital humanities such as this website, so you'll find a lot of content - including all of McKitterick's course syllabi and many materials from our classes - on this and related sites and social networks as part of the Center's educational outreach. Feel free to use this content for independent study, or to adapt it for your own educational and nonprofit purposes; just please credit us and link back to this website. We'd also love to hear from you if you used our materials!

The Gunn Center is associated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA), the University of Kansas, and other organizations, and is owned by James Gunn and Chris McKitterick. Web developer and creator of most content since 1992 is Chris McKitterick.

This website and its contents are copyright 1992-present by Christopher McKitterick except where noted, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. (Feel free to use and adapt for non-profit purposes, with attribution. For publication or profit purposes, please contact Chris McKitterick or other creators as noted.)

Creative Commons License
Works on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.