Intensive Institute on Science Fiction Literature:
Course Goals and Overview
"The most powerful works of SF don't describe the future - they change it." - Annalee Newitz, io9. Become fluent in SF by studying some of the most-influential short stories that shaped the genre and the world we inhabit today - and tomorrow.
Gain an understanding of contemporary and future science fiction by studying the history of the genre and many of the great works that started important conversations about what it means to be human in a changing world. After reading a diversity of short SF and excerpts from longer pieces, we discuss how the genre got to be what it is today by examining the stories and their place in the evolution of SF, from the earliest prototypical examples through more recent work. Demonstrate your understanding of the genre by writing daily reading responses and a substantial final project.
Science-fiction author and scholar Chris McKitterick leads the course.
Satisfies KU Core Goal 6, "Integration and Creativity," and serves as a capstone course for English majors. Available to undergraduate and graduate students. English graduate students can take up to two 600-level courses for credit. Ask your advisor for details about how the various ways to enroll best fit your needs.
Diversity and Disability
Everyone enjoys equal access to my offerings, and we actively encourage students and scholars from diverse backgrounds to study with us. All courses offered by Gunn Center faculty are also available to be taken not-for-credit for professionalization purposes by community members (if space is available). Click here to see my Diversity Statement.
The Academic Achievement and Access Center coordinates accommodations and services for all eligible KU students. If you have a disability for which you wish to request accommodation and have not contacted the AAAC, please do so as soon as possible. Their office is located in 22 Strong Hall; their phone number is (785)864-4064 (V/TTY), or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org Feel free to contact me privately about your needs in this course.
In non-pandemic years, we usually bring in guest scholar-instructors, experts in the field with association with the Center. In addition, the Center's Founding Director James Gunn used to join us on occasion, and Director Chris McKitterick is available throughout the Institute for consultation and informal get-togethers when we're not all just trying to stay alive!
Other contact info:
The readings all come from James Gunn's wonderful The Road to Science Fiction series of anthologies. The students assigned as discussants for the day lead (not monopolize) the discussion. Everyone is required to act as discussant at least twice during the courses. If you have special needs and cannot perform this task, let me know early.
We will read most of the stories in the first four volumes of The Road to Science Fiction, edited by James Gunn. The titles below contain links to online booksellers like Amazon and Powell's; click these links to find the books for sale online:
For further reading, Gunn also edited two more volumes (not required reading):
To get a full feel of the complete works from which we read a number of excerpts, be sure to look them up - most are in the public domain.
Want more great SF stories? Check out the finalists for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF of the year. Here's a good list of SF magazines. Want lots of free SF ebooks and e-zines? Check out Project Gutenberg's growing SF collection.
Want to read books, instead? See the finalists for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel of the year. Most years, the majority of those works could have won the award if the jury had just a few different members. You can find tons more great SF novels in the Basic Science Fiction Library. Also recommended are the complete works from which we read a number of excerpts.
The Center holds a few copies of many of these books, so if you are local to Lawrence or are in town for our other summer programs, check with us to see if we can lend you a copy. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and our library is supplied by previous students donating copies after completing their course.
More to come! Check back later....
To successfully complete the 2020-21 (online-only) course and get out of it all you can, you are required to:
I'm sure you have heard this before, but it is as true as ever: You get out of any activity only what you put into it. The more effort and creativity you apply to your projects and to class discussions, the more you will learn and the better the class will be for everyone else, as well. If you do not regularly attend class or do not participate in discussions, you will miss out on a lot of opportunities to learn and grow as a person.
Want to read more SF? You've come to the right place!
The Center's lending library holds many books, magazines, and more, so if you are local to Lawrence or are in town for the summer, check with McKitterick to see if we can lend you a copy. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis. We also have a course-specific lending library for our SF courses - which is primarily supplied by previous students donating copies after completing their course - so if you want to pass on the love to the next generation rather than keep your books, let your teacher know!
Want more? Check out the finalists for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel of the year, and the finalists for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF of the year. Many years, the majority of those works could have won these awards if the juries had just a few different members.
Want lots of free SF ebooks and e-zines? Check out Project Gutenberg's growing SF collection.
Want even more recommendations? My and James Gunn's "A Basic Science Fiction Library" is a go-to internet resource for building reading lists. It's organized by author.
Want to take more speculative-fiction courses? You're in luck! Check out my growing list of offerings.
If you like novels, or just want to prepare for next year's SF-novels version of this course, here you go:
And here are the books that we removed from the SF-novels version of this course - still important and recommended works for understanding the history of the SF novel, but we only have so much time to discuss:
McKitterick was on Minnesota Public Radio's "The Daily Circuit" show in June 2012, which was a "summer reading" show dedicated to spec-fic and remembering Ray Bradbury. Great to see Public Radio continuing to cover SF after their "100 Best SF Novels" list. Here's what he added to the show's blog:
He was also on again in September 2012, when they did a story on "What did science fiction writers predict for 2012?" The other guest was a futurist - an interesting discussion!
Stay tuned for more to come!