Science Fiction

Spring 1998

TR 1-2:30 (14E-310)
M 7-10, screening (14E-310)

Henry Jenkins
Office Hours, T, TH 10-11, 12:30-1, and by appointment

This course examines science fiction as a genre of popular fictions which proposes alternative ways of conceptualizing the intersections between technology, science, media, culture, and society. This course frames major movements in contemporary science fiction in relation to the genre’s larger history, starting with a historical overview which links science fiction’s representations of the future with changing conceptions of American culture. We will then examine some themes within science fiction (Alien cultures, Man and Machine, Inner Space, and Time Travel), juxtaposing contemporary and classical works. We will also examine parallel developments in film and television and in other forms of popular culture. Among the writers we will study are Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Vernor Vinge, Orson Scott Card, Nancy Kress, Nicola Griffith, Bruce Sterling, Cordwainer Smith, and many others. Media texts will include Aliens, Day the Earth Stood Still, Contact, Strange Days, The X Files, Star Trek, and Babylon 5. A distinctive feature of the course this term will be visits from several distinguished science fiction writers.
Books: Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers
Octavia Butler, Kindred (Beacon, 1988)
Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep (Tor, 1992)
Nicola Griffith, Ammonite (Del Rey, 1992)
Sarah Zettel, Fool's War (Aspect, 1997)
Bruce Sterling, Globalhead (Spectra, 1994)
Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age (Bantam, 1995)
Greg Egan, Permutation City (Harper Prism, 1994)
Nancy Kress, Beggars in Spain (Avon, 1994)
Greg Bear, Blood Music (Ace, 1996)
Orson Scott Card, Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (Tor, 1997)
Richard Garfinkle, Celestial Matters (Tor, 1996)
Kurt Busiek, Astro City: Life in the Big City (Aegis, 1996)

Additional readings (short stories) are placed on reserve in the
Reserve Book Room on the ground floor of bldg. 14.


T F 3     The Origins of American Science Fiction
Th F 5   The Legacy of Technological Utopianism
              Read: John W. Campbell, "Twilight;"  Stanley G. Weinbaum, "A Martian                 Odyssey;" Amelia   Reynolds Long, "Omega" (60 pages)
M F 9    From WWII to the Vietnam Era
              Read: Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers; Norman Spinrad, "The Big Flash";
              Harlan Ellison, "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream";
              Samuel R. Delany, "Aye, and Gomorrah...." (49 pages)
T F 10    (In class): Day the Earth Stood Still
Th F 12  In Class Discussion: Day the Earth Stood Still
              Read: Selected Short Stories

T F 17*   (In class) Lab: A Clockwork Orange (followed by discussion)
Th F 19   The State of Contemporary Science Fiction
               Guest Lecturers: Octavia Butler/ Samuel R. Delany
               Read: Octavia Butler, Kindred

M F 23    Lab: Red Nightmare; Invasion of the Body Snatchers (followed by discussion)
T F 24     Changing Conceptions of the Alien
                Read: Frederic Brown, "Arena"; Jose Philip Farmer, "My Sister's Brother" (80)
Th F 26    The Alien in Contemporary Science Fiction
                Read: Vernor Vinge, A Fire Upon the Deep

M M 2    Lab: Aliens (followed by discussion)
T M 3     Gender, Culture, Community
               Read: Lois McMaster Bujold, "The Mountains of Mourning";
               Mike Resnick,""Krinyaga" (105)
Th M 5    Myths of Identity
               Read: Nicola Griffith, Ammonite

M M 9    Lab:Outer Limits; Star Trek: The Next Generation (Followed by Discussion)
T M 10   Lecture, tba
               Read: Sarah Zettel, Fool’s Gold
Th M 12  The Robot in Classical Science Fiction
               Read: C.L. Moore, "No Woman Born"; Isaac Asimov, "Satisfaction Guaranteed";
               Alfred Bester, "Fondly Fahrenheit" (78 pages)

M M 16  Lab: Blade Runner (followed by Discussion)
T M 17   The Case of Cordwainer Smith
               Read: "Scanners Live in Vain," "The Dead Lady of Clown Town,"
               "A Planet Named Shayol" (124 pages)
Th M 19 Cyberpunk and Beyond
               Read: Bruce Sterling, Globalhead (selections)
               Guest Lecturer: Bruce Sterling

M M 30  Lab: Max Headroom (followed by discussion)
T M 31   Lecture, tba
               Neil Stephenson, The Diamond Age
TH A 2   Mediated Realities
               Read: Frederic Pohl, "Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus";
               Lewis Padgett, "Mimsy Were the Borogoves"; Clifford Simak, "The Huddling
               Place"; Kate Wilhelm, "Baby, You Were Great." (97 pages)

M A 6     Lab: Strange Days (followed by discussion)
T A 7      Lecture, tba
               Read: Greg Egan, Permutation City
Th A 9    The Media and Everyday Life
               Read: Allen Steele, "Lost in the Shopping Mall;" Alex Jablakov, "Living Will";
               James Patrick Kelly, "Itsy Bitsy Spider;" Joe Haldeman, "Feedback" (79 pages)

M A 13   Lab: 12 Monkeys (followed by discussion)
Tu A 14  Transforming the Body
               Read: James Patrick Kelly, "Mr. Boy;" John Varley; "Tar Baby and the
Th A 16  Guest Lecturer: Nancy Kress
               Read: Nancy Kress, Beggars in Spain

Th A 23  Greg Bear, Blood Music

M A 27   Lab: Contact (followed by Discussion)
T Ap 28  Time Travel
               Read: Bruce Sterling, "Mozart in Mirrorshade" (16 pages)
Th A 30  Lecture, tba
               Read: Orson Scott Card, Timewatch

M M  4   Lab:Babylon 5; The X-Files (followed by discussion)
T M 5     Lecture, tba
               Read: Richard Garfinkle, Celestial Matters
TH M 7  Alternative Histories
               Read: Allen Steele, "Goddard’s People," "John Harper Wilson,";
               Howard Waldrop, "The World, As We Know It" (54 pages)

M M 11  Lab: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (followed by discussion)
T M 12   Playing with Popular Culture
               Read: Roger Zelazny, "The Sleeper"; Walter Jon Williams, "Witness";
               Larry Niven, "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex" (99 pages)
TH M 14 Astro City