English 333

Science Fiction Syllabus

Paul Brians Fall 1999

Students are responsible for reading all assignments before class. Note that due dates, marked by an asterisk are listed below the date on which they are due.

 

August

24 Introduction

H. G. Wells: War of the Worlds, Book I: Chapters 1-14

31 H. G. Wells: War of the Worlds, Book I: Chapters 15-all of Book II

September

2 Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles, "Rocket Summer" through "And the Moon Be Still As Bright"

7 Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles, "The Locusts" through "The Martian"

9 Ray Bradbury: The Martian Chronicles, "The Luggage Store" through "The Million-Year Picnic"

*Sign up for research paper topics.

14 Walter M. Miller: A Canticle for Leibowitz, Part I: "Fiat Homo"

16 Walter M. Miller: A Canticle for Leibowitz, Part II: "Fiat Lux"

21 Walter M. Miller: A Canticle for Leibowitz, Part III: "Fiat Voluntas Tua"

*Annotated bibiliography for research paper due.

23 Stories reflecting nuclear war anxieties: Norton Anthology: David R. Bunch: "2064, or Thereabouts"p. 93, Clifford D. Simak: "Over the River and Through the Woods," p. 125, Zenna Henderson: "As Simple As That," p. 231, Kim Stanley Robinson: "The Lucky Strike," p. 538

28 Stories about the end of the world: Norton Anthology: Theodore Sturgeon: "Tandy's Story," p. 74, Sonya Dorman Hess: "When I Was Miss Dow," p. 151, Ursula K. Le Guin: "The New Atlantis," p. 317, Carol Emshwiller: "The Start of the End of the World"p. 466

30 Lem: Solaris, Chapter 1: "The Arrival" through Chapter 7: "The Conference"

* First paper due on War of theWorlds (suggested topics: use of point of view, social satire, anti-heroic elements); The Martian Chronicles (suggested topics: racism and colonialism, horror fiction techniques, use of senses in descriptions, nuclear war); or A Canticle for Leibowitz (suggested topics: satire, religion, moral issues, attitudes toward science and technology, nuclear war). 1200 word minimum.

October

5 Lem: Solaris, Chapter 8: "The Monsters" through Chapter 14: "The Old Mimoid"

7 Dick: Blade Runner, Chapters 1-11

12 Dick: Blade Runner, Chapters 12-22

14 Film: Blade Runner; Note: on November 2 you will have the longest reading assignment of the semester. It would be wise to begin reading The Dispossessed now, because this week you have no reading assignments and after break you have shorter than average ones.

19 Film: Blade Runner, discussion comparing the film with the book.

21 Alternate realities and religion in SF Norton Anthology: Samuel R. Delany: "High Weir," p. 183, Robert Silverberg: "Good News from the Vatican," p. 242, Philip K. Dick: "Frozen Journey," p. 386, Phyllis Gotlieb: "Tauf Aleph," p. 427

26 Satirical SF, and others: Cordwainer Smith: "Alpha Ralpha Boulevard," p. 49, Frederik Pohl: "Day Million," p. 166, William Gibson: "The Gernsback Continuum," p. 457, Octavia Butler: Speech Sounds," p. 513, James Patrick Kelly: "Rat," p. 654, Eileen Gunn: "Stable Strategies for Middle Management,"p. 705

28 LeGuin: The Dispossessed, Chapters 1-7

November

2 LeGuin: The Dispossessed, Chapters 8-13

4 Gender issues in SF: p. 132, "James Tiptree, Jr.: The Women Men Don't See,"p. 255, Suzette Haden Elgin: "For the Sake of Grace," p. 211, Joanna Russ: "A Few Things I Know About Whileaway," p. 337, John Varley: "Lollipop and the Tar Baby," p. 357

* Due today: paper on Solaris (suggested topics: mystery novel techniques, the limits of knowledge, interaction among the characters–and mimoids), or on The Dispossessed (suggested topics: advantages and disadvantages of the Annaresti system, changes in Shevek's character, treatment of gender roles as compared with the stories assigned for today). 1200 words minimum

9 The Vietnam War in SF, Norton Anthology: " Joe Haldeman: The Private War of Private Jacob," p. 300, Lewis Shiner: "The War at Home," p. 577, Karen Joy Fowler: "The Lake Was Full of Artificial Things," p. 580

11 Veteran's Day, no class

16 Death in SF: James Blish: "How Beautiful with Banners," "R. A. Lafferty: Nine Hundred Grandmothers," p. 142, Vonda N. McIntyre: The Mountains of Sunset: The Mountains of Dawn," p. 287, Margaret Atwood: "Homelanding," p. 794

*Research paper due

18 Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale, Chapters 1-18

30 Atwood: The Handmaid's Tale, Chapters 19-"Historical Notes"

December

2 Gibson: Neuromancer, Chapters 1-4; Note: The reading assignments on Neuromancer are shorter than normal, but you may find them tougher going, so allot plenty of time.

7 Gibson: Neuromancer, Chapters 5-13

*Revised research paper due

9 Gibson: Neuromancer, Chapters 14-24

15 * Third paper due: on The Handmaid's Tale (suggested topics: attitudes toward feminism, religion, narrative techniques) or Neuromancer (suggested topics: descriptive techniques, women, computers)

* Optional extra credit paper: group together three or more short stories from the Norton anthology and write a 1200-word paper about them. If the grade you get on this paper is higher than the average grade on your other papers, your grade will be raised. It will not in any case lower your grade; but if it is graded the same as or lower than your average paper grades it will be disregarded for purposes of calculating your final grade.

Paul Brians' Policies

Fall 1999

Messages:

If I am not in, the phone may be answered by the automated voice mailbox service. Please leave a message including your name and phone number, spelling out your name and repeating the number s l o w l y. If I do not answer the phone I may well still be in the building). I will usually leave a note on my door stating my whereabouts. The fact that you cannot reach me directly by phone does not mean I am unavailable. Come by and see. If you don't find me in person, please leave a note stuck to my office door. I am happy to see people outside of regular office hours when I can.

Study Questions:

Because this course covers a wide variety of material, your learning cannot be adequately reflected solely by the essays you will write on selected topics. In addition, this is primarily a discussion class; and discussions go better when everyone has read and thought about the material ahead of time. For each of the reading assignments, you will be given a series of study questions to which you are expected to use in doing your reading outside of class. You must write out and turn in at the beginning of classes at least 100 words worth of notes dealing with these questions cover all parts of the assignment (not just the first chapter or story). You will also put some of this writing on the Web in the Speakeasy Café to share with others in the class, at least 50 words for each assignment. You need not answer every question, but you should choose thoughtfully the topics you wish to discuss in class, and be prepared to talk about any of the questions during class time. If you wish to make a copy of your notes to refer to during class discussion (a good idea) you may do so. On days when we are viewing a videotape or film, you will be asked to do some writing about what you have seen, and this writing will count as that day's notes. Altogether the notes will make up one quarter of your final grade. If you have to be absent for an excusable reason (illness, family emergency, etc.) you can see me about making up your notes, but no more than three times during the semester. If you are ill for such an extended period that you must miss many classes, you should drop the course, or better, cancel your enrollment (cancellation will avoid any adverse mark on your transcript and result in a refund of some or all of your tuition money).

Since your notes are a record of your participation in class, it is not permitted to hand in your notes and then leave. Anyone caught having someone else hand in their notes for them will receive an "F" in the course for cheating; and the person "helping" the cheater will also receive a failing grade for that days work.

Papers:

For this course you will be required to write three brief papers outside of class, of a minimum 600 words in length, plus a research paper, at least 1200 words long. Minimum paper lengths are so extremely short in this class that anyone desiring a high grade would be advised to write a somewhat longer one. Any paper shorter than the minimum assigned will receive an F as an incomplete assignment. Except for meeting the very low minimum number of pages, don't concentrate on length, but try to make your papers as detailed, well-organized, and interesting as possible. All papers must be typed or else printed out on a computer. (If you use a typing service, please proofread its work carefully; you are responsible for all errors). These papers are not necessarily research papers, and it is possible to receive an A on a paper without doing research for them, although good papers incorporating good library work will normally receive higher grades.

You should choose a topic you are particularly interested in, not try to guess what I want you to write. When I can learn something new from a paper, I am pleased. Before each paper is due, you will turn in a proposal briefly describing which work or works you intend to write about and how you intend to write about them. I will then give you advice on how to proceed. I am also happy to look over rough drafts and answer questions about proposed topics.

For more details on how to write papers for this class, see the section below entitled "Helpful Hints for Writing Class Papers." Papers are due in class, at the beginning of the hour (not slipped under my door during it or later). Papers may always be handed in before the due date if you wish. There is no midterm or final examination in this class.

The following elements are taken into consideration when I grade your papers: 1) You must convince me that you have read and understood the book or story. 2) You must have something interesting to say about it. 3) Originality counts–easy, common topics tend to earn lower grades than difficult ones done well. 4) Significant writing (spelling, punctuation, usage) errors will be marked on each paper before it is returned to you. If there are more than a few you must identify the errors and correct them (by hand, on the same paper, without retyping it) and hand the paper back in before a grade will be recorded for you. 5) I look for unified essays on a well-defined topic with a clear title and coherent structure. 6) I expect you to support your arguments with references to the text, often including quotations appropriately introduced and analyzed (but quote only to make points about the material quoted, not simply for its own sake). 7) You must do more than merely summarize the plot of the works you have read.

The Research Paper

You will do a research paper in this course which will require you to read scholarly books and articles about science fiction. You may also have to read additional science fiction; but this is not a "book report" in which you talk about what you like about your favorite books. It is a scholarly research project.

You need to sign up for your topic early in the semester, in the Speakeasy Café. Prepare by going on the Web to

<http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/science_fiction/

sfresearch.html> and consulting some of the reference works you find listed in the first section of that bibliography. You'll find these books in the Reference Room. They may not be checked out. Particularly good sources to browse in for ideas: Barron, Gunn, Magill, Nicholls. Under "Indexes to Criticism and Reviews" you will also find the Halbert W. Hall Science Fiction and Fantasy Reference Index, which is the standard tool for doing SF research. Note that it comes in three volumes, the latest of which comes up to 1995. (You can find later articles by reading the annual indexes in each volume of the scholarly journals we receive.) Browsing through Hall will give you an idea of what kinds of subjects scholars have written about. Of the various journals that Hall indexes, we get only Extrapolation and Science Fiction Studies. Articles in other SF journals will have to be gotten through Interlibrary Loan. In the section under "Histories and Criticism," browse through the titles looking for ones that intrigue you. Don't ignore the many collections of articles in book form edited by George Slusser and Eric Rabkin. They contain many useful items. These books you will find in the general collection, and they may be checked out.

Choose your topic based on your own interests plus the results of this research: these papers must draw on published scholarship, so your favorite topic may not be suitable if there are no books or articles dealing with it. If you have a hard time developing a topic, talk to me. I will give you feedback on the Website about your topic. Look over other people's topics to make sure you are not trying to do the same thing as someone else. You don't want to be fighting for the same sources.

On the due date in your syllabus you will submit an annotated bibliography online in the Speakeasy Café. This will consist of a list of relevant scholarly books and articles plus any fiction you plan to draw on, listed in alphabetical order by author, using MLA bibliographic format, and following each item with a sentence or two describing why you think it will be useful for your topic.

The final product must be a formal research paper, not a chatty book review; and must be at least 1200 words in length (longer preferred). The main subject of the paper should be what you learned from doing your research. The research paper is required to pass the course, and revision is also mandatory.

Creative Projects:

If you feel inspired, you may, with my permission, substitute a special project like a play, a cartoon, or a tape for one of the short papers. I will give some extra weight to creativity; but the project must still reflect a thorough knowledge of the text.

Late Papers:

If you think you have a valid excuse (medical, etc.) for not getting a paper in on time, let me know in advance (phone) if you can. Choosing to work on other classes rather than this one is never an acceptable excuse for handing in a paper late. The syllabus provides ample time to work ahead on assignments so that they should not conflict with work in other courses. Because of my revision policy (see below), it almost always makes more sense to hand in even a poorly-done, rushed paper than none at all. Papers handed in late with no excuse will not receive a passing grade. To pass the course you must hand in all assigned papers.

Paper revision

You may not revise up a paper which you have failed to hand in. However, if you do hand in a paper and are dissatisfied with your grade, after consulting with me, you may revise the paper and try for a higher grade.

Conferences:

I encourage you to come and see me about any aspect of the course during my office hours or by making an appointment. Whenever you do not understand any mark or comment on a paper, please ask about it.

Plagiarism:

Plagiarism is: 1) submitting someone else's work as your own, 2) copying something from another source without putting it in quotation marks or citing a source (note: you must do both), 3) using an idea from a source without citing the source, even when you do not use the exact words of the source. Any time you use a book, article, or reference tool to get information or ideas which you use in a paper, you must cite it by providing a note stating where you got the information or idea, using MLA parenthetical annotation. No footnotes are used in papers for this class. You do not need to cite material from classroom lectures or discussions. If you are not certain whether you need to cite a source, check with me in advance. See "Helpful Hints" and Barnet (pp. 73-86) for details on how to cite sources. Duplicating someone else's notes to answer study questions is also a form of plagiarism. Anyone caught plagiarizing will receive an "F" for the entire course (not just the paper concerned) and be reported to Student Affairs. If you feel you have been unjustly accused of plagiarism, you may appeal to me; and if dissatisfied, to the departmental chair.

Official English Department Notice:

The Department of English expects students in this course to use the WSU library buildings and materials in a responsible manner. Injuring, defacing, concealing, or stealing books or periodicals; vandalizing library property; and interfering with the work of other users indicate lack of respect for the educational process and for the rights of others in the University community. Violations are misdemeanors under the Revised Code of Washington 27.122.330.

Disabilities:

If you have a speech, hearing, or vision disability, or have any kind of learning disorder, please talk to me at the beginning of the course so that we can arrange to accommodate you and provide any special assistance you may need. People needing help with paper writing should go to the Writing Center on the fourth floor of Avery Hall. I will also be glad to help with writing problems.

Grading Policy:

To pass the course you must complete all papers and hand in enough study question assignments to receive a passing grade for that part of the course.

Study question grades:

A No fewer than 3 unsatisfactory or missing.

B 4 or 5 unsatisfactory or missing.

C 6 or 7 unsatisfactory or missing.

D 8 quizzes unsatisfactory or missing.

F 9 or more unsatisfactory or missing. Anyone having an F on the study questions will receive an F for the course.

Note that these grades reflect both attendance and preparation. Only students who regularly attend the class prepared to take part in the discussions will pass the course.

Paper Grades:

A Topics are challenging, often original; papers are well organized, filled with detail, and demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the topic. Examples are chosen from several portions of the work. Opinion papers are carefully argued, with detailed attention being paid to opposing arguments and evidence. Papers receiving an "A" are usually somewhat longer than the minimum assigned, typically a page or so longer, though this all depends on the compactness of your writing style–a paper which is long and diffuse does not result in a higher grade and a very compact, exceptionally well-written paper will occasionally receive an "A." The writing should be exceptionally clear and generally free of mechanical errors. An "A" is given for exceptional, outstanding work.

B Topics are acceptable, papers well organized, containing some supporting detail, and demonstrate an above-average knowledge of the topic. Examples are chosen from several portions of the work. Papers are at least the minimum length assigned. Opinion papers are carefully argued, with some attention being paid to opposing argument and evidence. Writing is above average, containing only occasional mechanical errors. A "B" is given for above-average work.

C Topics are acceptable, but simple. Papers poorly organized, containing inadequate detail, demonstrating only partial knowledge of the topic (focusing only on one short passage from a work or some minor aspect of it). Papers are at least the minimum length assigned. Opinion papers contain unsupported assertions and ignore opposing arguments and evidence. Writing is average or below, and mechanical errors are numerous. Paper does not appear to have been proofread carefully. A "C" is given for average work.

D Inappropriately chosen topic does not demonstrate more than a minimal comprehension of the topic. `Papers are at least the minimum length assigned. Opinion papers contain unsupported assertions and ignore opposing arguments and evidence. Writing is poor, filled with mechanical errors. Paper does not appear to have been proofread. A "D" is given for barely acceptable work.

F Paper is shorter than the minimum length required. Topic is unacceptable because it does not cover more than an incidental (or unassigned) portion of the work or does not reveal a satisfactory level of knowledge . Generalizations are unsupported with evidence and opinion papers contain unsupported assertions and ignore opposing arguments and evidence. Writing is not of acceptable college-level quality. Paper does not appear to have been proofread. An "F" is given for unsatisfactory work.

Helpful Hints for Writing Class Papers

Paul Brians Fall 1999

Here are some suggestions that will help you avoid simple errors in preparing your papers. The official guide to research for this course is Sylvan Barnet's A Short Guide to Writing About Literature, fifth edition. Copies are available in Holland Library and at the Bookie. Most of these details won't have a big effect on your grade, but following these guidelines will keep me in good humor. Use this sheet to refer to when interpreting marks on your papers.

1. Carefully study the first three chapters of Barnet.

2. All assignments must be typed or else printed out on a computer. Double-space throughout, do not put extra space between paragraphs, and use pica or 12-point type. Do not use type larger than 12 points (or pica). If you are using a Macintosh, avoid the font named New York: it produces very large characters, even at 12-point. Use Times or Palatino instead. Warning: I do not like to read sans-serif fonts like Helvetica.

3. Allow yourself time to proofread and correct your paper. If you are using a computer, be sure to check the printed output. You will catch errors that you missed on the screen. If you use a commercial typing service, please proofread its work carefully. You are responsible for any errors in the finished product. Pencilled-in corrections are always preferable to beautifully typed mistakes. Back up your work as you write. A paper which can be "lost" the in the wee hours of the morning of the day it is due is one that has not been carefully written.

4. Always write at least the amount assigned. Shorter papers will receive an F. Quotations, notes and sources do not count in calculating length. There is no maximum length for papers in this class. Always number your pages, by hand if necessary; but try to learn how your word processing program automatically generates page numbers.

5. Always use at least 20-weight typing paper. Use a fresh, dark ribbon or ink cartridge in your printer or typewriter.

6. Never put a class paper into any kind of folder, especially those plastic ones with the snap-on spines. Fasten your paper together with a staple or a paper clip.

7. Be sure to give your paper a specific title which clearly describes its contents "Science Fiction" or "English 333" is not a title. Nor should you simply use the name of the work you are discussing. "Dead Martians in The Martian Chronicles" is more like it. See Barnet on choosing a topic and a title (26-33).

8. Learn the proper critical vocabulary from Barnet terms like "setting," "point of view," "irony," etc. Study Barnet's sample papers in chapters 4 and 5.

9. Do not underline your paper's title or place it in quotation marks. Underlining titles is a form of quotation. You aren't quoting your own title. When you do quote a title, underline it if it is a book or a work which could be printed as a book; place it between quotation marks if it is a short poem, short story, essay, or other work which would be published only as part of a book. If your computer does italics, italicize instead of underlining.

10. Always space before parentheses. It is never correct to omit the space before a parenthesis.

11. Dashes are typed as double hyphens unless you are using a computer which distinguishes between the two, like the one I used for preparing this sheet (- is a Macintosh hyphen and – is a Macintosh dash, typed by holding down the shift and option keys and pressing the hyphen key): correct: word–word, incorrect: word -word, incorrect: word - word. Never leave spaces around a dash. Do not use dashes where you should use hyphens. Learn how to use semicolons and colons correctly. For instance, quotations may be introduced with a colon, but never with a semicolon.

12. Learn when to use apostrophes (in contractions, as in "don't," where the apostrophe stands for the missing letter–in this case, an "o,"–and in possessives, as in "Harry's Bar"). The only possessives which do not use apostrophes are the pronouns "yours," "ours," "theirs," "its," and–of course–"mine," "his," and "hers." People almost never insert apostrophes in the last three; just remember that the first four are treated the same. "It's" with an apostrophe is always the contraction for "it is."

13. Periods go after parentheses which are a part of the same sentence (like this). However, if you are quoting a sentence or phrase which ends with a question mark or exclamation mark treat it like this: "'Help!' he shouted" (7). Or: "Don't forget to save your document!" (7). Note that you need both the exclamation point and the period. The parenthesis is part of your sentence and needs to be included in it. However, in a block quotation which is set off, no punctuation follows the parenthesis citing the page from which the quotation comes (see 15 below for set-off quotations).

14. Double space throughout your paper, even in quotations set off and in notes. This gives me room to make comments and corrections.

15. Prose quotations of five lines or more and all verse quotations of more than four lines or more must be set off in a block quotation as described in The Holt Handbook, section 30e. Pay special attention to the requirement to preserve the ends of lines of verse just as they appear in the original. When you set off a quotation, be sure not to add quotation marks around the material, since setting it off is itself a mark of quotation. If the passage quoted already contains quotation marks within it, they must of course be retained.

16. Use single quotation marks only for a quotation within a quotation, not when quoting single words. Generally avoid ironic quotation marks like this: "He was an 'intellectual.'" The temptation to use such marks usually means you have not yet found the precise word or phrase you need.

17. When writing passages of plot summary, use the present tense, even when the story itself is written in the past tense. Be careful to be consistent about tense throughout your paper. Do not switch back and forth between present and past. Be especially careful when you continue to summarize after quoting a passage from your source which itself uses the past tense. It may trick you into continuing to use the past instead of switching back to the present.

18. Introduce all quotations. Don't just begin quoting a source abruptly. Instead, follow this example: "As Robert J. Brown remarks in The Wisdom of the Ages, 'Some people are unwise.'" The first time you cite an author, use both first and last names. In subsequent references, use only the last name. Quote only when necessary. Quote material you go on to analyze or discuss. Paraphrase whenever that would be more efficient or clear than quoting, but remember that paraphrases must be cited with parenthetical notes, just like quotations. Avoid ending a paper with a quotation.

19. Cite all outside sourceswhether you quote them or merely use their ideas, according to the MLA form in the The Holt Handbook, section 39c, and in Barnet. Do not use footnotes or endnotes. The parenthetical method of citation is very simple, once learned, but make sure you use MLA style and not APA. Your list of sources should be called "Sources Cited" or–if there is only one–"Source Cited," and these words must not be put in quotation marks or underlined. You will never write anything in a paper for this class which deserves to be called a bibliography.

20. Despite what you may have heard, it is not incorrect to use the first person in formal writing, especially when you are expressing an opinion. Another common misconception is the idea that you should avoid repeating words. When a certain word is the word you need, then that is the word you should use. A good rule of thumb is: avoid frequently repeating the same adjectives and adverbs; do consistently use the same nouns and verbs when you are referring to the same objects and actions.

21. If you are a truly awful speller, get yourself a computer program with a spelling-checker. It won't solve all your problems, but it will help. Most papers which receive low grades for sloppy writing are yanked out of the printer moments before coming to class. Give yourself time to proofread your final printed copy with care.

22. The professor's pet peeve: "A lot" is always two words. There is no such word as "alot," no matter how many times you may read it in other people's writing.

23. Strive for a clear, simple, direct style. Avoid obscure jargon, needlessly complex sentence construction and flowery language for its own sake. Always use the simplest style which can adequately convey your thoughts.

24. A common flaw in papers is the lack of a good conclusion. A conclusion should not simply repeat or summarize what you have said before (in a brief paper I am not going to forget what you have said by the time I reach the end). Carefully read what Barnet has to say about concluding paragraphs. If your concluding paragraph reads a lot like your opening one, strike it out and write a real conclusion.

25. Before turning in your paper, you would be wise to consult "Common Errors in English" at <http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/>, where you will find explained the errors I most commonly mark off for on student papers.