E237 – Introduction to Science Fiction
Description: Introduction to Science Fiction examines the development of modern science fiction, both historically and thematically. Typically, the course begins with early (late nineteenth- and early twentieth century) classics such as H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, presents some characteristic literature of the “Golden Age” magazine era (from the thirties through the fifties), some “New Wave” writings from the sixties and early seventies, then concludes with some contemporary science fiction to indicate new directions in the field. While providing background on the genre’s historical development, the course also illustrates a variety of science fiction themes, such as utopian and anti-utopian societies; relationships between humans, quasi-humans (robots, androids, and cyborgs), and machines; alien contact; apocalyptic and postapocalyptic futures; and exploration of new worlds. As much as possible, traditional literary analysis is combined with analysis of scientific and cultural extrapolation.
This is primarily a fiction course, though it sometimes incorporates material from such media as film and poetry. The readings include some major novels, such as Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles, Frederick Pohl’s The Space Merchants, Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. But these are frequently supplemented by selected short stories from the many excellent anthologies available, which allow for presenting a wide variety of writers and themes.
Whether the course is organized primarily historically or thematically, it exposes students to a wide range of science fiction materials, and it explores the multi-faceted ways that this literary tradition integrates speculative thinking into art.