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EN9B4 - Brave New Worlds - Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy

Tutor: Sophie Mackintosh

This module offers an opportunity for students to engage with specific challenges of science fiction and fantasy writing, including (but not limited to): the use and inversion of existing genre tropes and conventions, convincing world building, ‘hard’ vs ‘soft’ science fiction, heroic and anti-heroic fantasy writing. Students will be expected to develop a rigorous, historical and comprehensive understanding of the genre they wish to write in, and (in keeping with the title of the module) to create work that is bold, original, and convincing in its portrayal of an invented world.

Rather than look at each of the specific genres in turn, the course will seek to explore the common ground between the genres. As such, there will be a particular focus on authors (such as China Mieville and Ursula Le Guin) who have written both science fiction and fantasy. In the latter part of the module, we will increasingly focus on the practical elements of genre writing – planning, research, character development – and will emphasise workshopping and peer review to allow students to develop their own writing within a supportive and critical environment.

Week 1 - Worlds and Rules

Reading: The Fifth Season, N.K Jemison; The Lottery, Shirley Jackson

Week 2 - Landscape and the strange

Reading: Annhilation, Jeff Vandermeer; ‘The Long Rain’, Ray Bradbury

Week 3 - Journeys and Quests

Reading:  A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin

Week 4 - Language and the Alien

Reading: Embassytown, China Mieville; ‘Escape From Spidertown’, George Saunders

Week 5 - Writing Workshop

Week 6 - Future Now?

Reading: The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood; The Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

Week 7 - Politics and Puzzles

Reading: The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin; 'The Library of Babel', Jorge Luis Borges

Week 8 - Human acts

Reading: The End We Start From, Megan Hunter; Solaris, Stanislaw Lew

Week 9 - Memories and Loss

Reading: ’We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’, Philip K Dick; ‘Help Me Follow My Sister To The Land Of The Dead’, Carmen Maria Machado

Week 10 - Writing Workshop

Assessed portfolio of 10,000 words (45 CATS) or 6000 words (30 CATS). Students must submit a portfolio of 70% creative work and 30% essay. Students on the MA in English Literature may choose to submit a portfolio of 70% creative work and 30% essay OR 100% essay.

Primary Reading

The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood

The Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler

'The Library of Babel', Jorge Luis Borges

'We Can Remember It For You Wholesale', Philip K Dick

The End We Start From, Megan Hunter

‘The Lottery’, Shirley Jackson

The Fifth Season, N.K Jemison

Solaris, Stanislaw Lem

A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin

The Dispossessed, Ursula Le Guin

‘Help Me Follow My Sister Into The Land of the Dead’, Carmen Maria Machado

Embassytown, China Mieville

‘Escape From Spidertown’, George Saunders