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EN2F5/EN3F5 Introduction to Alternative Lifeworlds Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy and the Weird)

Annihilation - the Anomaly 

Professor Graeme Macdonald (Convenor) Office Hrs: Tuesdays 10-11; Weds 11-12 (Or Teams by Appointment) FAB5.16

Dr Harry Pitt-Scott ( Office Hrs: Thursday 2-3 - FAB5.31

TUES 2:00 - 3:30 FAB 1.13
TUES 3:30 - 5 FAB 1.13
THURS 11-12:30 - FAB 2.35

Module Description

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. These exert a huge influence in contemporary culture - offering multiple imaginaries of future or alternative worlds that can also, in their radical difference provide novel views of the present. Born of modernity and the industrial revolution, sf/f is the literature of the modern age; concerned with futurity and technology, but also with historical transformation and social possibility. It is the inheritor of the tradition of utopian speculation but has also given visions of dystopian nightmare. It is a literature of social commentary and wild imagination, exploring the boundaries of human and extra-human potential. Foregrounding other identities, it consistently estranges embedded, orthodox perspectives and explores radical alternatives. A literature of escapism it can also explore reactionary attitudes to change and fear of difference. It can both celebrate and demonise the alien and 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 in time and space that it provides such an important lens into any analysis of the contemporary and its possible futures.

The module swiftly grounds students in science fiction, exploring themes, subgenres and literary strategies that have evolved since its inception: transcending time and space, revolution, utopia/dystopia, technology, the alien, the (post)apocalypse, space exploration, colonisation and invasion, resource futures, cyborgs. monsters and post humans. It will seek, in places, to incorporate fantasy and the Weird into an explicit exploration of the conventions and limits of science fiction, and trace an alternative tradition drawn on by the contemporary efflorescence of the 'post-genre fantastic’. It will also look at movements such as Afrofuturism, biopunk and eco-apocalyptic fiction. Throughout both terms, literary texts will be studied alongside films*, television, games and music. Students will be expected to read and engage with literary and political theory alongside their readings of the primary texts. By the end of the module you will have gained a solid 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.

Syllabus 2023/24

There are no prescribed specific textual editions, though it is always good to get hold of the most academic and up to date. 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. We'll add more as we progress.

Term 1:

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: H.G. Wells, The Time Machine Critical Excerpts

Week 3: Yevgeny Zamyatin, We Powerpoint

Week 4: Joe Haldeman, The Forever War Powerpoint/Excerpts

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

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed Dispossessed Excerpts LeGuinPPT

Week 8: Octavia E. Butler, DawnLink opens in a new window [1st book in the Xenogenesis/ Lilith's Brood trilogy] DawnPPT

Week 9: Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon LagoonPPT

Recommended: Alive in Joburg dir. Neill Blomkamp (2006) watch for free here >> opens in a new window

Week 10: Superhero Week: Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet: Book1 (Marvel Comics, 2016) Panther PPT

Term 2 (below)

Cityscape dispossesed

Week 1: Strugatsky Brothers, Roadside Picnic RoadsideHandout RoadsidePPT

Recommended: Stalker (1979) dir. Andrei Tarkovsky.

Week 2: Stanislaw Lem, Solaris Solaris Handout Solaris.pptx

Recommended: Solaris (1972) dir. Andrei Tarkovsky.

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

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: Michel Faber, Under the Skin Under the Skin Handout PPT

Recommended: Under the Skin (2013) dir. Jonathan Glazer

Week 5: Zombie Week: Colson Whitehead, Zone One Zone.pptx

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 7: Karin Tidbeck, Amatka Amatka.ppt

Week 8: Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy Vol. 1)


Week 9: N. K. Jemisin: The Fifth Season Jemisin.pptx

Week 10: Cixin Liu: The Wandering Earth Wandering.pptx

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:

Essay 1 (3000/4000 words)

Group Creative Project

Essay 2 (3000/4000 words)

(Submission cut off times for all deadlines are 12 noon).

Departmental Essay Deadlines

For Visiting Students, see here.

This is a Global Optional 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.

 dystopia.jpeg chaubin3-e1354223400838.jpg



Under the Skin

Strange Horizons - The Wandering Earth by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu,  Elizabeth Hanlon, Zac Haluza, Adam Lanphier, and Holger Nahm By Jaymee Goh


Electric Sheep

moon harsh



cover of The Fifth Season, a novel by N. K. Jemisin, shows a stone wall decoration that appears to be covered in flaking gold leaf.