M A I N * L I N K S


SUNY Fredonia
Division of Arts and Humanities
ENGL 216: Science Fiction
Spring 2008
TTh 2-3:20 pm
Houghton 101
Office: Fenton 265; TTh 3:30-4:30, W 9-12, F 1-4:30, and by appointment; 673-3856
E-mail: simon@fredonia.edu (work days); brucesimon18@yahoo.com (other)
Web Page: www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/
Course ANGEL Space: https://fredonia.sln.suny.edu



About the Course Web Site

This web site is designed to help you get as much out of this course as possible--you can use it to find out how you will be graded, how to use the course ANGEL space, what reading and writing assignments are due and when, and how to use the world-wide web for research. Please take the time during the first week of classes to read this page carefully and to familiarize yourself with the other pages for this course. Please get in the habit of checking back to this web site to keep track of changes to the tentative schedule (see below) and to find advice on papers and projects, as well as to surf the ever-expanding list of links to interesting web pages related to the course. And please contact me any time (see above for my coordinates) if you have ideas about how to improve these pages or the course as a whole. I hope you enjoy taking this course as much as I enjoy teaching it!

I. Course Description

Historical and generic survey of science fiction through representative works and major authors; examination of its relationships with other types of literature. This course introduces students to major problematics, movements, texts, and authors in science fiction, and through them, to approaches to disciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary inquiry in English, the humanities, and beyond. Divided into two units--Distortions of the Present and Histories of the Future--this course focuses on selected post-W.W. II U.S. science fiction novels. This structure allows us, within each unit, to compare different authors' narrative strategies, themes, and visions (formalist criticism), consider developments in the genre and relations to other genres and modes (intertextual criticism), explore relations between the novels and their time periods (historicist criticism), and relate the novels to contemporary social/political issues (cultural criticism). Further, it allows us to practice going beyond disciplinary (science fiction as a specialization within English studies) and even interdisciplinary (science fiction studies as a cultural studies field combining literature with history, sociology, the sciences, and so on) inquiry and working toward a transdisciplinary approach to examining the stakes of science fiction.

This course is an elective in the English and English Adolescence Education majors and satisfies Part V of the College Core Curriculum (CCC).

II. Rationale

In ENGL 216, as in most courses offered by the English Department, students from a range of majors, minors, and concentrations interact, and the goals of the professional programs are integrated with specific course and general education goals. Achieving these goals (described in Section IV below) will require us to foster academic skills and intellectual habits of reading closely and carefully, thinking critically and creatively, listening actively and attentively, speaking thoughtfully and concisely, and writing clearly and analytically--skills and habits useful to everyone, but of particular importance to future teachers.

III. Textbooks. The textbooks adopted for this course are:


[Note: Although I've dropped David Brin, Earth (Spectra) and Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz (Eos) from the list required texts for the course and the schedule of assignments, you certainly may still write blog posts and/or critical essays on them.]

IV. Course Objectives and Outcomes.

As a course fulfilling Part V of the CCC, ENGL 216 is designed to present general ideas and ethical principles basic to the humanities and to foster critical thinking and critical literacy. This section sets out to reach these goals by helping students (1) to appreciate, understand, and practice using various modes of analysis of science fiction, (2) to appreciate, understand, and analyze a variety of narratives and narrative strategies in science fiction, (3) to appreciate, understand, and analyze the development of science fiction from the Cold War to the present and of its relation to post-W.W. II American society. To achieve these goals, students will



V. Instructional Methods and Activities

The methods used in the classroom will include some lecturing, but mostly in-class writing, guided discovery, open discussion, cooperative group work, student discussion leading, and other interactive and participatory activities.

VI. Evaluation and Grade Assignment

A. Methods.

Attendance/Preparation/In-class Participation (10%). Regular attendance to and thoughtful participation in class are crucial to your enjoyment of and success in this course. If there is absolutely no way for you to avoid missing a class, you must contact me ahead of time or soon after your absence, preferably by email. Even more important than showing up on time, of course, is coming to class prepared and focused. I expect you to read what has been assigned for a given date at least once by the time we begin to discuss it in class. This is a discussion rather than a lecture course, after all; although I will provide some context and background for our reading, the bulk of class time will be spent in small- or large-group discussions and activities. Since it's difficult to make good contributions to discussions about a text if you haven't read it carefully or thought about it extensively, how well you budget your time outside of class will to a large degree determine how well you do in this class in general and how well you do on this portion of your course grade in particular.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be based on a combination of your attendance, the quality of your participation in class and on the course ANGEL space (described below), and your preparation, effort, and improvement over the course of the semester. As there is no final exam in this course, think of my evaluation of your preparation/participation as a different but equally important method of assessing your overall performance in the course. Due to the importance of attendance and participation, more than two unexcused absences will hurt your preparation/participation grade and each non-emergency absence after the third will lower your final course grade by a full grade (e.g., with four absences a B+ will become a C+; with seven, it will become an F). Please see Section VIIIB, below, for definitions of excused and emergency absences.

Online Participation (15%). You have two options for online participation in this course--two ways, that is, of developing your writing and critical thinking skills, demonstrating your engagement with the course material, and considering and responding to others' ideas and experiences. You can focus your online participation on one of the options or use both. The first option comprises the discussion board on our course ANGEL space, which only the people enrolled in this class can read. Here are some ways you can participate on it:


Your other option for online participation is a more public one--becoming a co-author on our course blog, sf@SF (http://sfatsf.blogspot.com/), which (theoretically) anyone could read. If you wish to pursue this option, please email me an email address to which I can send you an invitation to join the blog as a co-author. For further information on the course ANGEL space discussion board and course blog, including more specific requirements and extensive advice, go to http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/sf2/op.htm.

You may choose either option or both to fulfill your requirements for online participation in the course. During the semester, I will keep track of the timing, amount, and quality of your posts to the course discussion board, including the quality of the ensuing online discussions initiated by them; each blog post will count as 2-5 discussion board posts, depending on its quality, timing, and impact. At the end of the semester, your grade for this segment of the course will be determined by your total number of discussion board posts: 0-4 will earn you an F, 5-9 a D, 10-14 a C, 15-19 a B, and 20+ an A. [Note: blog posts you write for the Group Research/Teaching Project (see below) will not count toward your total.]

Critical Essays (50%). To develop your skills in literary analysis and critical thinking, you will write two 4-to-6-page critical essays, due at the end of each unit in the course. The assignment sheets and advice for both essays will be made available at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/sf2/ce.htm.

Your grade for this segment of the course will be determined by the coherence and validity of your papers' arguments, the effectiveness of their structures in conveying your ideas and convincing your audience, and the quality of their prose (including grammar, syntax, and punctuation).

Group Research/Teaching Project (25%). During the first week of classes we will form 10 student teams; each team will be responsible for choosing their own novel from the course and leading the class in a 45-to-60-minute consideration of how it connects to its unit. Afterwards, each team member will post on the course blog his or her ideas on the novel after having researched and taught it. Further information and advice on this project can be found on the course web site at http://www.fredonia.edu/department/english/simon/sf2/grtp.htm.

B. Grading. All work during the semester will be graded on a letter basis (A=outstanding, B=good, C=average, D=bad, F=awful) and converted into a number for purposes of calculating final grades. I use the following conversion system (the number in parentheses is the "typical" or "normal" conversion, but any number in the range may be assigned to a given letter grade):

A+=97-100 (98); A=93-96.99 (95); A-=90-92.99 (91); B+=87-89.99 (88); B=83-86.99 (85); B-=80-82.99 (81); C+=77-79.99 (78); C=73-76.99 (75); C-=70-72.99 (71); D+=67-69.99 (68); D=63-66.99 (65); D-=60-62.99 (61); F=0-59.99 (55)

Your final grade is determined by converting the weighted numerical average of the above assignments into a letter grade, according to the above scale.

C. Portfolio. English and English Adolescence Education majors should be aware of the English department's guidelines for ongoing portfolio submissions.

VII. Bibliography. Reed Library has an extensive collection of science fiction and science fiction studies; take advantage of it! Here's a sample.

A. Contemporary References

B. Classic References

C. Key Journals



VIII. Course Schedule and Policies

A. Tentative Course Schedule. The following course schedule is subject to revision--please refer here regularly for updates to this schedule, notes on the texts, and suggestions for further reading. [Note: page numbers are keyed to the editions listed in Section III; if you have another edition, go by the chapter/section identifiers.]


T 1/29 Introductions: People, Course, Goals, Units, Texts.
Th 1/31 Getting Started: Expectations, Assignments, Teams, Definitions. Read Stewart, Earth Abides, Part 1 (1-25); Definitions of Science Fiction; "Today's SF Authors Define Science Fiction," Part I and Part II; and John Walter, Defining Science Fiction.

Distortions of the Present


T 2/5 Stewart, Earth Abides, Part 1 (26-146).
Th 2/7 Stewart, Earth Abides, Parts 2 and 3 (147-345).


T 2/12 Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Parts I-II (1-110); GUEST APPEARANCE: Dustin Parsons, Assistant Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia.
Th 2/14 Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, Part III-Coda (111-190).


T 2/19 Gibson, Neuromancer, Parts 1-2/Chapters 1-7 (1-98).
Th 2/21 Gibson, Neuromancer, Part 3/Chapters 8-12 (98-156).


T 2/26 Gibson, Neuromancer, Part 4-Coda/Chapters 13-24 (157-271).
Th 2/28 McHugh, China Mountain Zhang, "China Mountain"-"Jerusalem Ridge" (1-129).


T 3/4 McHugh, China Mountain Zhang, "Ghost"-"Daoist Engineering" (130-234).
Th 3/6 McHugh, China Mountain Zhang, "Three Fragrances"-"Rafael" (235-310).


T 3/11 Butler, Parable of the Sower, 2024-2026/Chapters 1-13 (1-133).
Th 3/13 Butler, Parable of the Sower, 2027/Chapters 14-25 (134-295).

Histories of the Future


T 3/18 Asimov, Foundation, Parts I-III (1-133).
Th 3/20 Asimov, Foundation, Parts IV-V (134-236).


M 3/24-F 3/28 NO CLASSES--Spring Break


T 4/1 Simmons, Hyperion, Prologue-Chapter 3 (3-233).
Th 4/3 Simmons, Hyperion, Chapter 4 (234-311).


M 4/7 Critical Essay #1 due
T 4/8 Simmons, Hyperion, Chapter 5-Epilogue (312-482).
Th 4/10 Piercy, He, She and It, Chapters 1-11 (1-96).


T 4/15 Piercy, He, She and It, Chapters 12-31 (97-275).
Th 4/17 Piercy, He, She and It, Chapters 32-49 (276-429).


T 4/22 Stephenson, Snow Crash, Chapters 1-20 (1-163).
Th 4/24 Stephenson, Snow Crash, Chapters 21-42 (163-320).


T 4/29 Stephenson, Snow Crash, Chapters 43-71 (320-470).
Th 5/1 Willis, Doomsday Book, Book 1/Chapters 1-9 (1-126).


T 5/6 Willis, Doomsday Book, Book 2/Chapters 10-23 (127-386).
Th 5/8 Willis, Doomsday Book, Book 3/Chapters 24-36 (387-578).


M 5/12 Critical Essay #2 due


B. Class Policies

1. Attendance. As stated in Section VI above, barring emergencies each absence after the fourth will lower your final course grade by a full grade. Be aware that absences due to emergencies are the only absences that will not be counted toward your total for the semester. Emergencies include but are not limited to death in the family, hospitalization or serious illness, and natural disasters; scheduled and unavoidable school-sponsored events (games, meets, performances, etc.) are also counted as emergencies for the purpose of this attendance policy. Besides emergencies, the only other absences that won't affect your participation/preparation grade are excused absences. Please notify the instructor over email, in advance if possible and, if not, as soon after the absence as possible, if you wish an absence to be considered as an emergency or excused absence; the decision will be made at the instructor's discretion.

2. Online Participation. Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Computer and Network Usage Policy" (College Catalog 2007-2009, pp. 240-248) and check with your instructor first before posting something to the course ANGEL space's discussion board that is not closely related to the course.

3. Late Assignments. Online posts that are not well-timed with the course material and fail to spark other students' interest and responses will not count the same toward your semester total as well-timed posts or posts that do inspire further discussion. Late critical essays will not be accepted or graded. Only students who ask for an extension at least two days before the due date of any written project will be eligible for one.

4. Plagiarism and Academic Integrity. To plagiarize is "to steal and pass off as one's own the ideas or words of another" (Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary). SUNY Fredonia strongly condemns plagiarism and takes severe action against those who plagiarize. Disciplinary action may extend to suspension from privileges or expulsion from college. Please familiarize yourself with the college's "Academic Integrity Policy" (College Catalog 2007-2009, pp. 236-239, see also p. 222) and check with your instructor if you have any questions about it.


M A I N * L I N K S * R E S E R V E S


ENGL 216: Science Fiction, Spring 2008
Webmaster: Bruce Simon, Associate Professor of English, SUNY Fredonia
Created: 1/23/08 5:05 pm
Last modified: 2/28/08 8:22 am
Feel free to explore the Spring 2005 version of this course.