2021/22 Indicative Syllabus Below! (This will be subject to a few changes)
Professor Graeme Macdonald (Convenor)
available for consultation throughout T3 - please email.
Mode of assessment: 100% assessed
Intermediate Year: Two x 3000-word essays (80%) plus a Group Creative Project (20%).
Final Year: Two x 4000-word essays (80%) plus a Group Creative Project (20%).
Essay deadlines are as follows:
Essay 1 (3000/4000 words)
Group Creative Project
Essay 2 (3000/4000 words)
(Submission cut off times for all deadlines are 12 noon).
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.
This module orients students in global genres of the speculative and fantastic—science fiction, fantasy and the Weird—tracing their origins, traditions, trajectories and differences. Such work exerts a huge influence in contemporary life - providing novel ways to view and perceive it through multiple imaginaries of future or alternative worlds. Born of modernity and the industrial revolution, fantastika is the literature of the modern age, concerned with futurity, technology, history and social transformation: 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 and extra-human possibility. Foregrounding other identites, it consistently estranges embedded, comfortable perspectives and explores radical alternatives. It is also a literature of escapism and naivety, exploring reactionary attitudes and fear of difference. It can both celebrate and fret about the alien, demonise the monstrous; it can travel thousands of years and millions of miles using unthinkable technology simply to confirm the prejudices of the present. It is because the fantastic sits on this knife-edge that it provides such an important lens into any analysis of the present and its possible futures.
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 new movements such as Afrofuturism, biopunk and eco-apocalyptic fiction. Throughout both terms, literary texts will be studied alongside films*, television and music. Students will be expected to read and engage with literary and political theory alongside their readings of the primary texts, and by the end of the module will have gained an understanding of 'sf/f', what it does, and how to interpret it.
The module will be taught in weekly seminars. *There will be a regular (voluntary) 'AltLifeworlds Film Night' to accompany the module.
Q: What reading should I do to prepare for the module over the summer?
1) Start reading the primary texts. 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. It is essential you get some reading done in the break. The module runs at pretty much a novel a week (with occasional 'slow-downs' factored in) - they are (of course!) great to read, and not always lengthy - but we guarantee that if you leave the reading too close to call for each week then you will have a less productive time on the module.
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 & Anthologies available in the library, many in E-text format. A quick read of the introduction to these works is going to help orient the material for you from the off. Various examples of these introductory works can be found at the top of the Further Reading page, above.
2021-22 Syllabus. [IN DEVELOPMENT - THERE MAY BE SOME TWEAKS HERE]
There are no prescribed specific editions of the texts, though it is always good to get hold of the most academic and most up to date one. Please - no reading an upload of a pdf on a mobile phone in class. You'll see there are some further recommendations below the primary texts in some weeks. I'll add more to this as we progress.
Week 1: Introduction
Week 2: H.G. Wells, The Time Machine
Week 3: Joe Haldeman, The Forever War
Week 4: Ursula K. 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 8: Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon
Recommended: Alive in Joburg dir. Neill Blomkamp (2006) watch for free here >> https://vimeo.com/1431107
Recommended: Under the Skin (2013) dir. Jonathan Glazer
Week 10: Superhero Week: Warren Ellis, Adi Granov, Iron Man: Extremis (Marvel Comics, 2005) NB THIS WILL BE CHANGED
Term 2 (below)
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).
Recommended: Stalker (1979) dir. Andrei Tarkovsky.
Recommended: Solaris (1972) dir. Andrei Tarkovsky.
Recommended: Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982) dir. Ridley Scott; Blade Runner: 2049 (2017) dir. Denis Villeneuve; Ghost in the Shell (1995) dir. Mamoru Oshii; Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004) dir. Mamoru Oshii; Isaac Asimov, I Robot (1950-); Karel Čapek, R.U.R (1920); Alex Garland, Ex-Machina (2014)Week 4: China Mièville, The City and the City MiévilleHandout Week 5: Zombie Week: Colson Whitehead, Zone One Recommended: The Girl With all the Gifts (2016) dir. Colm McCarthy; George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead (1968) Dawn of the Dead (1978); The Walking Dead Volume 1: Days Gone Bye (2003-2004); Danny Boyle, 28 Days Later (2002)
Week 6: Reading Week
Week 8: Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy Vol. 1)
Week 9: N. K. Jemisin: The Fifth Season
Week 10: Cixin Liu: The Wandering Earth