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EN361 Introduction to Alternative Lifeworlds Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Weird)

Annihilation - the Anomaly

*NOTE : 2018/19 syllabus will have some changes....

Dr Graeme Macdonald (Convenor)

emails: (office hours: Tues 1-2, Wed 9-10, or by email or appointment)


Mode of assessment: 100% assessed (Two x 4000-word essays (90%) plus a Group Video Project (10%) Deadlines are still being finalised, but the first essay will be due at the start of term 2 (ie. in January), the Group Video Project will be due at the end of term 2, and the second essay will be due near the beginning of term 3.

Departmental Essay Deadlines

For Visiting Students, see here.

This module is a Pathway Approved Option for both the World and American Pathways and an option under the other Pathways.

Module Description

This module orients students in the genres of the fantastic—science fiction, fantasy and the Weird—tracing traditions, origins and differences in order to ask what it is they do, and how it is they do it. The three genres together wield a huge influence over contemporary life and the way that we imagine both ourselves and our world. Born of modernity and the industrial revolution, fantastika is the literature of our age, concerned with futurity, history and social change: the inheritor of the tradition of utopian speculation, it has also given rise to dystopian nightmares. It is a literature of social commentary and wild imagination, exploring the boundaries of human possibility, foregrounding the Other, and consistently estranging us from our own comfortable perspectives, making it ideal for exploring radical alternatives. However, it is also the literature of escapism and naivety, of reactionary attitudes and fear of difference. It can foreground the Other only to villify, or demonise; it can travel thousands of years and millions of miles simply to confirm the prejudices of the present. It is because the fantastic sits on this knife-edge of how humanity responds to the world around it that it provides such an important lens into any analysis of contemporary events.

The module will seek to swiftly ground students in science fiction, exploring the different themes, subgenres and literary strategies that it has evolved over the years. It will seek, in places, to incorporate fantasy and the Weird into an explicit exploration of the limits of science fiction, and trace the alternative tradition drawn on by the contemporary efflorescence of the 'post-genre fantastic', as well as looking at the new movements such as Afrofuturism, biopunk and Resource Future fiction. Throughout both terms, literary texts will be studied alongside films, television and music. Students will be expected to read and engage with sophisticated literary and political theory alongside their readings of the primary texts, and by the end of the module will have gained an understanding of the fantastic, what it does, and how to interpret it.

The module will be taught in weekly seminars.

Q: What reading should I do to prepare for the module over the summer?

1) If you want to start reading the primary texts, then do so in the order they appear in the syllabus. We’ve located texts not because they are chronological (although there’s a bit of that), but to build a sequential environment.

2) It's always a good idea to have a look at some Introductions to the genre, to familiarise yourself with the terminology, preoccupations, movements and subgenres of the field. Fortunately, there are a great deal of useful Readers/Introductions and Anthologies available in the library, many in E-text format. A quick read of the introduction to these works is going to help you get into the subject matter from the off. Various examples of these can be found at the top of the Further Reading page, above.

2018-19 syllabus (still being constructed)

Term 1:

Week 1 - Introduction

Week 2: HG Wells, The Time Machine

Week 3: Joe Haldeman, The Forever War

Week 4: Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed

Week 5: SF Short Films: Chris Marker's La Jetée and others (shown in class, with discussion).

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: Octavia Butler, Dawn [1st book in the Xenogenesis/ Lilith's Brood trilogy]. All three can be purchased here.

Week 8: Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon

See also: Nalo Hopkinson, Midnight Robber; Janelle Monae, Arachandroid (2010), Dirty Computer (2018)

Week 9: Michel Faber, Under the Skin Under the Skin Handout

Week 10: Superhero Week (content tbc)

Term 2 (below)

Cityscape dispossesed

Syllabus - Term 2 Combined Handouts Weeks 1-5: (PDF Document)

In Term 2, we'll be covering several themes and building from what you have learned in Term One. These will include: sf and invasion/colonisation narratives; genre, time and memory; dystopias; the alien/future/cyborg body; future tech; resource futures and limits. (Purchase any edition).

Week 1 - Strugatsky Brothers, Roadside Picnic (Word Document) RoadsideHandout

Week 2 - Stanislaw Lem, Solaris Solaris Handout

Week 3 - Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  (Word Document) AndroidsHandout

See Also: Westworld, Season 1 (2016) - free with cancelable Amazon Student Prime account; Humans (2015-18, All 4, Channel 4 on demand); Isaac Asimov, I Robot (1950-); Karel Čapek, R.U.R (1920); Alex Garland, Ex-Machina (2014)
"Genre and Gender: The Case of Soap Opera" in Representation

Week 4 - China Mièville, The City and the City (Word Document) MiévilleHandout

Week 5 - We Zombies (texts to be finalised)- The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye (2003-2004); Colson Whitehead, Zone One; George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Week 6 - Reading Week

Week 7 - Lauren Beukes, Zoo City

Week 8 – Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake  Oryx and Crake critical excerpts

Week 9 - Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

10 - Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy Vol. 1)

 dystopia.jpeg chaubin3-e1354223400838.jpg

Under the Skin


Electric Sheep

moon harsh