Literature of Science Fiction:
The SF Short Story

check with McKitterick for updates on future offerings

Syllabus - Table of Contents

Click the links below to go to the appropriate section of this syllabus.

Course Goals and Overview
Diversity and Disability
   Required Books
   Recommended Books
Your Instructor
   Contact Information
   Office Hours

- Weekly Schedule -

Course Requirements
Class Periods
   Attendance and Class Participation
   Discussion Leaders
   Weekly Response Papers
   Mid-Term Paper
   Group Presentation
   Final Project
      Option A: Traditional Research Paper
      Option B: Course Outline, Lesson Plan, or Study Guide
      Option C: Creative Work
        Final Project Deadline
    Level Up
    What's My Grade? Chloe's Example Scenario
More Good Stuff
   Events and Activities
   More Recommended Readings

Course Goals and Overview

"The most powerful works of SF don't describe the future - they change it." - Annalee Newitz, io9

By successfully completing this course, you'll become fluent in SF by becoming familiar with some of the most-influential short stories that shaped the genre and the world we inhabit today - and tomorrow.

The goal of the course is to provide 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, we discuss how the genre got to be what it is today by comparing stories and their place in the evolution of SF, from the earliest prototypical examples through more recent work. You will demonstrate your understanding of the genre by writing weekly reading responses, participating in a group presentation, and creating a substantial final project that expresses your personal understanding of where SF came from, what it is, and where it might be going. 

Award-winning SF author and scholar Chris McKitterick leads the course.

To empower you to earn your best grade, practice research and participation skills that'll help your scholarly and professional careers, and get the most out of the course, you have endless opportunities to earn bonus (Level Up) points using an additive (rather than the typical deductive) grading system. You'll find lots of suggestions for additional related research, events, and media throughout the syllabus as well as via Blackboard announcements and in-class discussion. Take full advantage of these opportunities - and exceed minimum writing and participation expectations - to Level Up your grade!

Satisfies KU Core Goal 6, "Integration and Creativity," and serves as a capstone. Available to undergraduate and graduate students. 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 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  Feel free to contact me privately about your needs in this course.


The readings all come from James Gunn's wonderful The Road to Science Fiction series of anthologies. Always read the short essays that introduce each story, as well as the book introductions whenever we start a new volume. 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.

When you lead class discussions, come prepared with three or more questions per reading in order to stimulate discussion about the day's topics and authors and share what you learn with the rest of the class, and perform additional research prior to class (further readings, identifying possible multimedia content, and so forth) whenever possible. (Your instructor also brings lots of his own prompts and notes, so you're not alone.) I expect all students to participate in discussions, but also request that you avoid talking too much or talking over others. Be civil: These are discussions about ideas, not arguments or lectures.

Graduate students: In preparation for each session, find, read, and respond to additional short (or long, if you choose) work that represents the week's topic, time period, author, or literary movement. Include your response to this work as part of your regular response paper. If you find it online, provide a link in your response paper. Otherwise, include bibliographic information. Also please share these recommendations for your classmates via the Blackboard discussion forum.

 Required Books

This list reflects many important works that helped shape the genre. 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. These link to the Scarecrow editions, but any you find will work. If you use the early paperback editions, be aware you might need to hunt down a couple of missing stories.

Good news: Scarecrow recently lowered their prices, so the books are a bargain this year!

Full details about which stories we'll be reading and discussing on each day are available below.

For further reading, Gunn also edited two more volumes (great for Level Up!):

To get a full understanding of the early works from which we read a number of excerpts, be sure to look up the complete versions - most are in the public domain and linked in the daily syllabus.

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. And see the More Recommended Works section at the end of this syllabus.

Want novel recommendations, too? 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. 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. Also recommended are the complete works from which we read a number of excerpts.

We hold a few copies of many of these books, so check with McKitterick to see if we can lend you a copy. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and much of our library is supplied by alum donations.

More to come! Check back later....

 Your Instructor

Christopher McKitterick is an award-winning science-fiction author and scholar, founded the new Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction and the Speculative Imagination (launch announcement here), directed (and previously helped run) the J Wayne and Elsie M Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction from 1995-2022, teaches SF and creative writing at KU and elsewhere, and offers workshops and masterclasses around the world. He's been a professional writer and editor for decades, managed a documentation team, freelances for a variety of publishers, worked in the gaming industry, and is a popular public speaker. He writes not just stories and novels, but also nonfiction such as astronomy articles, technical documents, game supplements, journalism (and some poetry, too)... just about every writing genre. He's also edited magazines, developed websites since the 1990s, and more.

His newest short fiction, "Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust," won the 2019 AnLab Reader's Award. His debut novel, Transcendence, is now in its second edition. He recently finished a far-future novel, Empire Ship, and has several other projects on the burners, including The Galactic Adventures of Jack & Stella. Feel free to mine his experience for tips and advice about writing, editing, and the science fiction field.

Syllabi for his other courses

Read more about McKitterick here, or check out his personal website.

Feel free to mine his experience for tips and advice about writing and editing in general, as well as about the science-fiction field.

Contact Information

If you have questions, need assistance, or just want to chat about writing, feel free to visit during office hours, or drop an email any time. If I'm not in the office, leave a message. It might take a little time to respond if I'm out of town or in the middle of a project, so don't wait until the last minute! 

Email address: (please use the course name in the subject line for clarity and fastest response)

Office: Wescoe 3040 (also my lending library), occasionally Nichols Hall 340 (West Campus)
Phone: (785) 864-2509

Other contact info:
Ad Astra Center for Science Fiction and the Speculative Imagination
JWEMG Center for the Study of Science Fiction
The Internet Speculative Fiction Database
SFWA Speaker's Bureau
Tumblr (narrow it down by going to my Science Fiction tags; writers, check out my various Writing Tips tags)

Office Hours

Happy to meet by appointment: I'm often in my office when not in class and almost always available via email.

Weekly Schedule

Here are the works we'll discuss each week. Always read the short essays that introduce each story, as well as the book introductions whenever we start a new volume.

Each day, two or more students lead the discussion, bringing enough good questions to keep a lively discussion going for the class period; aim for at least three questions and discussion prompts per story. Discussants should also seek relevant information about the authors, how the stories influenced the science fiction that was to follow, and so forth. You must lead the daily discussion at least twice, but may serve more often. This is a major part of your grade and an important learning opportunity!

Syllabus last updated Dec 22, 2018.
Note: Syllabus gets regular updates. Dates and schedule are from Fall 2017.

Monday, August 21, 2017
Not a class meeting - just a reminder to watch the solar eclipse!

We don't have class today, but don't miss our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a solar eclipse pass right near where we live! In Lawrence, we'll get 99.5% eclipse, but drive only 20 miles north and you can see totality. That's the difference between almost doing something and having the full experience.

Level Up! suggestions and resources:

To earn bonus Level Up points, write a short response paper about your experience of the eclipse. Because we don't meet until Thursday this week, I don't expect you to turn in these materials today, but for the rest of the semester, you'll normally turn these in before class.

Upload your response to today's assignments into Blackboard's Week 1: Level Up Response Paper slot by 5:00pm Friday. For the rest of the semester, upload your response to each day's assignments into the appropriate Blackboard slot before class starts that day.

Week 1: Thursday, August 24 (first class meeting)
 Course Introduction / Defining Science Fiction

Topics and Readings

Your reading response paper for this week is about the readings linked below, plus your definition of science fiction. Always turn in response papers to the appropriate Blackboard Assignment slot before class starts.

Introductions, course and syllabus overview, discussion leaders sign-up.

McKitterick leads the discussion for this first week, so bring your thoughts, questions, and maybe even your reading response to help guide your thoughts.

Prepare to discuss your take on "What is science fiction?" by reading the definitions of SF on this page.

Here is a set of definitions (doc file) that I quote from throughout the semester.

James Gunn's essay, "The Worldview of Science Fiction." (Gunn is the founder of the SF Center.)

Spend a little time checking out Ward Shelly's excellent "History of Science Fiction" illustration.

Week 2: August 31
 Changing Attitudes

Road to SF Volume

Readings for Class Discussion.
Also read all of Gunn's story introductions.


vol 1

Volume 1 introduction

James Gunn

vol 1

excerpt from Frankenstein (1818 anonymous; 1823 Shelley)

Mary Shelley

vol 1

"Rappaccini's Daughter" (1844)

Nathaniel Hawthorne

vol 1

"The Diamond Lens" (1858)

Fitz-James O'Brien

vol 3

"The Cold Equations" (1954)

Tom Godwin

vol 3

"The Engine at Heartspring's Center" (1974)

Roger Zelazny

vol 1

"The Star" (1897)

H.G. Wells

vol 2

"The Machine Stops" (1909)

E.M. Forster

vol 2

"Twilight" (1934)

John W. Campbell

Your reading response for this week is about the stories and introductions listed above, as they will be for each week following. Always complete these before class starts.

Week 3: September 7
 Far Travels and Proto-SF

vol 1

excerpt from A True Story (165 - 170 AD)

Lucian of Samosata

vol 1

excerpt from The Voyages and Travels of Sir John Mandeville (1357-1380)


vol 1

"Somnium or Lunar Astronomy" (1610, published 1640)

Johannes Kepler

vol 1

excerpt from The Journey to the World Underground (1741)

Ludvig Holberg

vol 1

"Mellonta Tauta" (1849)

Edgar Allan Poe

vol 1

excerpt from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870)

Jules Verne

vol 1

excerpt from Around the Moon (1870)

Jules Verne

vol 1

excerpt from Looking Backward (1887)

Edward Bellamy

vol 1

"With the Night Mail" (1905)

Rudyard Kipling

vol 1

excerpt from Utopia (1516)

Thomas More

vol 1

excerpt from The City of the Sun (1623)

Tommaso Campanella

vol 1

excerpt from The New Atlantis (1627)

Sir Francis Bacon

Level Up ideas:

Want to read more proto-SF? Check out this page about some of the earliest speculative-fiction literature.

"Kepler's Somnium: Science Fiction and the Renaissance Scientist," by Gale E. Christianson (in Science Fiction Studies online).

"KEPLER'S SOMNIUM," by Andrew Boyd (in Engines of Our Ingenuity online).

Week 4: September 14
 Natural Mysteries

vol 2

Volume 2 introduction

James Gunn

vol 1

excerpt from A Voyage to the Moon (1657; Gutenberg edition)

Cyrano de Bergerac

vol 1

excerpt from A Voyage to Laputa (from Gulliver's Travels, 1726)

Jonathan Swift

vol 1

"Micromegas" (1752)

Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire

vol 2

"The Revolt of the Pedestrians" (1928)

David H. Keller, M.D.

vol 2

excerpt from Brave New World (1932)

Aldous Huxley

vol 1

"The Damned Thing" (1898)

Ambrose Bierce

vol 2

"The Moon Pool" (1918 [in 2002 RtSF edition only; link is full book version])

A. Merritt

vol 2

"The Red One" (1918)

Jack London

vol 2

"Dagon" (1919)

H.P. Lovecraft

Week 5: September 21
 The Pulp Era and Mad Science

vol 1

excerpt from She (1887)

H. Rider Haggard

vol 2

From Under the Moons of Mars  (aka A Princess of Mars, 1912)

Edgar Rice Burroughs

vol 2

"A Martian Odyssey" (1934)

Stanley G. Weinbaum

vol 2

"Proxima Centauri" (1935)

Murray Leinster

vol 2

"Black Destroyer" (1939)

A.E. van Vogt

vol 2

"The New Accelerator" (1901)

H.G. Wells

vol 2

"The Tissue-Culture King" (1927)

Julian Huxley

vol 2

"With Folded Hands" (1947)

Jack Williamson

vol 3

"Brooklyn Project" (1948)

William Tenn (Philip Klass)

Week 6: September 28
 The Golden Age and SF Adventure

vol 3

Volume 3 introduction

James Gunn

vol 2

excerpt from Last and First Men (1930)

Olaf Stapledon

vol 2

"What's It Like Out There?" (1952)

Edmond Hamilton

vol 2

"The Faithful" (1938)

Lester del Rey

vol 2

"Requiem" (1939)

Robert A. Heinlein

vol 2

"Hyperpilosity" (1938)

L. Sprague de Camp

vol 2

"Nightfall" (1941)

Isaac Asimov

vol 3

"Reason" (1941)

Isaac Asimov

vol 3

"Critical Factor" (1953)

Hal Clement

Week 7: October 5
 The Idea Is the Thing

We'll start today with an round-robin reading of " Sail On! Sail On!" led by McKitterick.


"The Science Fiction Sentence"

"The Protocols of Science Fiction"

Level Up opportunity: Read C.P. Snow's "The Two Cultures" talk (pdf).


vol 3

"Sail On! Sail On!" (1952)

(For our live-reading convenience, here's a pdf of the story available online.)

We will do a close reading of this story to discuss the protocols of SF: How do we read SF differently than other literature? What is the "science fiction sentence"? How do "the two cultures" read differently?

Philip José Farmer

vol 3

"All You Zombies" (1959)

Check out this timeline of the story; another. (Also adapted to a movie called Predestination.)

Robert A. Heinlein

vol 3

"We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (1966)

Two movie adaptations: Total Recall (1990) and Total Recall (2012).

Philip K. Dick

vol 3

"Sundance" (1969)

Robert Silverberg

Week 8: October 12
 The Future of Humankind and the New Wave of SF

vol 3

"Desertion" (1944)

Clifford D. Simak

vol 3

"The Game of Rat and Dragon" (1955)

Cordwainer Smith

vol 3

"Who Can Replace a Man?" (1958)

Brian W. Aldiss

vol 3

"Dolphin's Way" (1964)

Gordon R. Dickson

vol 3

"Day Million" (1966 [hear Pohl read this piece online])

Frederik Pohl

vol 3

"Tricentennial" (1976)

Joe Haldeman

vol 3

"The Million-Year Picnic" (1946)

Ray Bradbury

vol 3

"Thunder and Roses" (1947)

Theodore Sturgeon

vol 3

"That Only a Mother" (1948)

Judith Merril

vol 3

"The Terminal Beach" (1964)

J. G. Ballard

vol 3

"The Big Flash" (1969)

Norman Spinrad


Week 9: October 19
 The Utopian Impulse, Strange Phenomenon, and Narrative Necessity

vol 3

"Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (1944)

Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore)

vol 3

"The Sentinel" (1951)

Arthur C. Clarke

vol 3

"Kyrie" (1968)

Poul Anderson

vol 4

"Schrödinger's Kitten" (1988)

George Alec Effinger

vol 3

"Coming Attraction" (1950)

Fritz Leiber

vol 3

"Harrison Bergeron" (1961)

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

vol 3

"Slow Tuesday Night" (1965)

R. A. Lafferty

vol 3

"Aye, and Gomorrah" (1967)

Samuel R. Delany

vol 3

"The Jigsaw Man" (1967)

Larry Niven

vol 3

excerpt from Stand on Zanzibar (1968)

John Brunner


Week 10: October 26
 Individual Visions

vol 4

Volume 4 introduction

James Gunn

vol 3

"Fondly Fahrenheit" (1954)

Alfred Bester

vol 3

"Pilgrimage to Earth" (1956)

Robert Sheckley

vol 3

"The Streets of Ashkelon" (1962)

Harry Harrison

vol 3

"I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" (1967)

Harlan Ellison

vol 3

"Masks" (1968)

Damon Knight

vol 3

excerpt from The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)

Ursula K. Le Guin

vol 3

"When It Changed" (1972)

Joanna Russ

vol 4

"The heat death of the Universe" (1967)

Pamela Zoline

vol 4

"Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand" (1973)

Vonda N. McIntyre

vol 4

"Abominable" (1980)

Carol Emshwiller


Week 11: November 2
 Ecology, Change, and the Environment

vol 4

"Born of Man and Woman" (1978)

Richard Matheson

vol 4

"Common Time" (1953)

James Blish

vol 4

"Nobody Bothers Gus" (1968)

Algis Budrys (McKitterick's first literary agent)

vol 4

"The Dance of the Changer and the Three" (1968)

Terry Carr

vol 4

"The Last Flight of Dr. Ain" (1974)

James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)

vol 4

"View from a Height" (1979)

Joan D. Vinge

vol 4

"Flowers for Algernon" (1959)

Daniel Keyes

vol 4

excerpt from Dune (1965)

Frank Herbert

vol 4

"The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories" (1970)

Gene Wolfe

vol 4

"Gather Blue Roses" (1971)

Pamela Sargent


Week 12: November 9
 The Literary Touch

vol 4

"The Library of Babel" (1941)

Jorge Luis Borges

vol 4

"With a Finger in My I" (1972)

David Gerrold

vol 4

"Rogue Tomato" (1975)

Michael Bishop

vol 4

"The Word Sweep" (1979)

George Zebrowski

vol 4

"The Luckiest Man in Denv" (1952)

C.M. Kornbluth

vol 4

"Where No Sun Shines" (1970)

Gardner Dozois

vol 4

"Angouleme" (1971)

Thomas M. Disch

vol 4

"Uncoupling" (1975)

Barry Malzberg

vol 4

"This Tower of Ashes" (1976)

George R.R. Martin

Turn in your Final Project (before class) early for +5 Level Up points.


Week 13: November 16
 Changing Voices

vol 4

"My Boy Friend's Name is Jello" (1954)

Avram Davidson

vol 4

"The First Sally (A), or Trurl's Electronic Bard" (1974, part of The Cyberiad)

Stanislaw Lem

vol 4

"The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080" (1980)

Ian Watson

vol 4

"The Moon Moth" (1961)

Jack Vance

vol 4

"Light of Other Days" (1966)

Bob Shaw

vol 4

"The Planners" (1968)

Kate Wilhelm

vol 4

"Air Raid"  (1977)

John Varley

vol 4

"Particle Theory" (1977)

Edward Bryant

vol 4

"Exposures" (1981)

Gregory Benford

Turn in your Final Project (before class) early for +4 Level Up points.

November 23
No Class: Thanksgiving Break

No class - Thanksgiving Break.

Turn in your Final Project (by Friday at 5pm) early for +3 Level Up points.

Week 14: November 30
 The Conversation Continues:
 Contemporary SF and the Shape of Things to Come

"The Man Who Sold the Moon" (2015)

  Sturgeon Award winner; response to Heinlein's story. From Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future

Cory Doctorow

"The City Born Great" (2016)

  Hugo Award nominee. 

N.K. Jemisin

"Folding Beijing" (2015)

  Won the 2016 Hugo Award - she's the first Chinese author to win this award. Finalist for the Sturgeon Award

Hao Jingfang (translated by Ken Liu)

"Names for Water" (2010) - see Blackboard for text, StarShipSofa for podcast.

Kij is a KU creative-writing professor and the SF Center's Associate Director, and the winner of numerous spec-fic awards. Meet the author: Kij will join us tonight! 

Kij Johnson

"Paradox" (2017)

(Or "Cat Pictures Please" [2015] - won the Hugo Award.) 

Naomi Kritzer

"The Night Market" (2016)

  Onwualu grew up in Abuja, Nigeria, and now lives in Toronto. She attended the Gunn Center summer workshops and Clarion West, edits and co-founded Omenana (a magazine of African speculative fiction), and is lead spokesperson for the African Speculative Fiction Society.  

Chinelo Onwualu 

"Jagannath" (2012) - see Blackboard for text, Drabblecast for podcast.

  From the award-winning collection of the same name

Karin Tidbeck

"Utopia, LOL?" (2017) 

Jamie Wahls

Some more good stuff to check out (bonus):

"Herd Immunity" (2014)

  This story was a finalist for the Sturgeon Award, and the author won the British Fantasy Award and National Book Award.  

Tananarive Due 

What comes next for science fiction? Bonus readings - not stories, but great materials for discussion:

  "Sci-fi stories that imagine a future Africa" (2017), Nnedi Okorafor's TED Talk on YouTube (here it is on TED). "My science fiction has different ancestors - African ones," she says. Between excerpts from Binti and Lagoon, Okorafor discusses the inspiration and roots of her work, and how she opens strange doors through Afrofuturist writing.

  Science Fiction Studies dedicated a special issue to the topic (seven articles here). Good piece about Afrofuturism in ThinkProgress.

  Another region that's seeing huge growth in speculative-fiction culture is China. Check out the Future Affairs Administration, a Beijing-based group that operates very much as the Futurians did in 1930s US!

  James Gunn's commentary on "The Future of Science Fiction."

  Will SF return to its roots? Read this short article on the return of Space Opera.

  ...or will it be something completely different, like "Solarpunk" (great discussion with resources about Solarpunk here)? If that sounds interesting, check out the resources on Solarpunk: A Reference Guide (by the people who run the Solarpunks Tumblr). For an example, check out the Hieroglyph project, at Arizona State University's Center for Science and the Imagination.

  Can science fiction be defined? Read the BBC's take.

  Read "Not a Manifesto," Charles Stross' explanation of why he's moving away from writing science fiction - this from the man who coined the term "rapture of the nerds" and is at least partly responsible for launching the posthuman-SF subgenre.



Want even more short SF? Check out the finalists for the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF of the year. This juried award really does represent the best short SF, even if your favorite might one of the other finalists rather than the winner.

Also check out the Hugo Awards, given each year by the attendees of the World SF Convention. They give awards for many categories.

And the Nebula Awards, given each year by the Science Fiction Writers of America (the professional organization). Also many categories.

Same for the Locus Awards (this link goes to their all-awards news page), whose nominations and votes come from the serious readers of that magazine. 


Level Up bonuses to those who rec great, influential, and discussion-worthy stories, especially from under-represented groups. More to come... 

Turn in your Final Project (before class) early for +2 Level Up points.

December 7
 Awesome Student Presentations!

Presentation groups (approximate order):


Turn in your Final Project (before class) early for +1 Level Up point.

December 14—15
No Class: Final Project Due

No final test - focus on completing your final project this week!

Final project deadline: Post to Blackboard by Thursday, December 14, at 5:00pm.

Late projects: To receive (reduced) credit, hand off your missing response papers and other prior work before 5:00pm to Blackboard by Friday, December 15. If you didn't manage to finish something when it was due, turn it in after you turn in your more important final project. After you've taken care of that, turn in any additional Level Up projects by end of day on December 15.

 Course Requirements

To successfully complete the course and get out of it all you can, you are required to:

  • Attend class each week.
  • Participate in class, which means being involved in discussion every day we meet.
  • Lead class discussions with partners.
  • Read the required stories and other materials.
  • Write insightful weekly response papers.
  • Create a substantial final project due near the end of the semester.
  • Participate in a live group presentation on one of the last days of class.

To earn top scores and get a great final grade, be sure to Level Up whenever possible! 

 Class Periods

Each day we discuss a variety of readings, their authors, the science fiction genre, and the historical context in which they appeared. Occasionally, we might have guest speakers. Class periods revolve largely around discussion, with some lecture.

Be civil: These are discussions about the literature of ideas, not arguments! Civility and respect for the opinions of others are vital for a free exchange of ideas. You might not agree with everything I or others say in the classroom, but I expect respectful behavior and interaction all times. When you disagree with someone, make a distinction between criticizing an idea and criticizing the person. Similarly, try to remember that discussions can become heated, so if someone seems to be attacking you, keep in mind they take issue with your idea, not who you are, and respond appropriately. Expressions or actions that disparage a person's age, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, nationality, race, religion, or sexual orientation - or their marital, parental, or veteran status - are contrary to the mission of this course and will not be tolerated. 

Avoid dominating discussions, mindlessly blathering, talking over others, or speaking when someone shyer than you has raised their hand for attention; doing so frequently can negate possible bonuses for insightful comments and questions. Exercise your socialization: If you're normally shy, here's your chance to talk about something you love! If you're normally domineering, tone it down.

If we all strive to be decent human beings, everyone will get the most out of this course.

Attendance and Class Participation

This is a discussion-based course, so class participation is weighed heavily. Coming to class and getting involved in the discussions each week are necessary not only for getting a good grade, but also for how much value you get from the course. The discussions aren't just explication of plot or concept, though we will discuss those; I expect you to exercise your critical-reading skills. That is, don't just read the fiction for pleasure, don't just accept the related scholarship or introductions as canon, and don't feel the need to agree with your classmates' ideas - no one scholar can tell you the One True History of Science Fiction.

By the end of this course you should possess expertise of your own in the topic. In the discussions, I want to witness your growing understanding of the genre based on the required readings, your outside readings, and your personal experience with SF.

Because we only meet once per week, if you know you are going to miss a class for an academic event, illness, or other excusable reason, contact me as soon as possible to see if we can work out something so it does not negatively affect your overall grade too much. If appropriate, I can mitigate this loss so your attendance percentage remains unaffected. Otherwise, here is how I score attendance and participation:

During discussions, do not expose yourself or others to distractions such as checking email, Facebook, and so forth. If you're looking up relevant content, do so in a way that doesn't distract you or your classmates. Obviously, turn off your phone's ringer/buzzer. I know it's sometimes a challenge to focus during extended discussion, but recent studies show that the human mind cannot pay attention to more than one thing at a time, and fracturing your attention means you're not getting everything possible out of each discussion. Even worse, monkeying around online also disrupts your neighbors' attention.

Feel free to take notes on your computer or portable device or look for content to share, just stay away from distractions. It's difficult to remain engaged in discussions if your mind is elsewhere, and doing so usually bumps down people's overall grade. On the other hand, actively participating in class discussions bumps up your overall grade.

I'm sure you have heard this before, but it's 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'll miss out on a lot of opportunities to learn and grow as a person. 

Show up and get involved!

Base value: 3 per class session x 15 classes = 45 points base score.

Level Up

  • Never miss a class: +4.
  • Great participants in the daily discussions can earn up to +15 points or more over the course of the semester!


Missing class is the surest way to lose points here: -3 points per missed class (after the first).

If you know you are going to miss a class for an academic event, illness, or other excusable reason, contact me as soon as possible to see if we can work out something so it does not negatively affect your overall grade too much. If appropriate, I can mitigate this loss so your attendance percentage remains unaffected. If you need to leave in the middle of class due to personal emergency or you sense a threat, please let me know later so I can take that into account.

Graduate students: I expect you to participate every day, providing insightful comments and questions while encouraging those less inclined to participate - but not to dominate the discussions.

Discussion Leaders

Your instructor will likely open each day with some background on science fiction, especially the topics and genre movements relevant to the day's discussions, and perhaps some information about the authors. After that, the day's student discussants take over. 

Discussion leaders perform additional research prior to class (further readings on the genre movements at hand and the day's authors, identifying possible multimedia content, and so forth) and come prepared with at least 3 questions and discussion prompts for each reading to stimulate discussion among your peers about the day's topic and readingsm, and lead (not monopolize) the discussion. (Your instructor also brings his own prompts and notes, so you're not alone.) Turn in these discussion notes and plans as part (or most) of your response for that day (in addition to your regular response). Everyone is required to act as discussant at least twice during the semester. If you have special needs and cannot perform this task, let me know early.

If you would like to suggest relevant content (stories or other media) for when you lead discussion, by all means drop me an email with links to the materials! Due to the nature of SF, new stuff is always appearing, and you might know of something great. This is a cooperative-learning course! I'm happy to add links with your suggestions, given enough time for the rest of the class to read or otherwise study it, or to use as Level Up.

You can split up the tasks among your fellow discussant(s) based on content, topics, themes, media forms, or however you see fit. I expect everyone to serve equally.

Base value: 5 x 2 sessions = 10 base points.

Level Up

  • Lead more than the base two sessions (if needed): +2 (or more) per extra session.
  • Discussion leaders who facilitate particularly excellent class sessions: +1 for each Discussion Day of Awesome.
  • Discussion leaders whose preparation is really stand-out (lots of extra research, extra discussion prompts, multimedia use in class, sharing resources with the class, and so on): +1 for each Discussion Day of Awesome.
  • Possibly more ways to get bonuses - be a kick-butt discussion leader!

If you suffer from social anxiety, please talk to me so we can work out an alternative to leading discussions.

Graduate students: Demonstrate solid pedagogical theory! Feel free to act as if you're teaching this course for a day, experimenting with various teaching methods and trying out new ways of engaging students in examination of the material.


In addition to good participation and the final group presentation, much of your grade depends on the short response papers you write on a weekly basis plus the longer final project. If you use non-standard software to create your projects, save them in standard formats (I prefer .doc format files, but I'll accept .docx .html, .rtf, and .pdf formats as needed). Turn in papers via Blackboard before class begins on the due date or by end of day when we don't meet for class. Turn in papers via Blackboard before class begins on the due date or by end of day on days when we don't meet for class. They will be graded and returned via Blackboard in a reasonable time.

Want to enhance your literary-criticism chops and Level Up by incorporating traditional (or novel) lit-crit approaches into your papers? Check out this overview page about "Literary-Criticism Approaches to Studying Science Fiction." Let me know if you have some suggestions on ways to enhance that page.

Reading Response Papers

Prior to each class, write a short (300-500 words words for undergrads, 400-1000 words for graduate students) but thoughtful reading response to all of the readings for that week and turn it in via Blackboard in the "Week [x] Response Paper" assignment slot. (If you go a little long, that's better than too short, but be kind to your teacher!) To see good examples of response papers, check the Blackboard Course Documents folder. Along with participation in each day's discussion, these papers are an important measure of your engagement with the topics. You'll write a lot of these throughout the semester, so keep up with your readings and responses!

This paper is a brief but thoughtful response to all of the materials for that day. Your response isn't a plot summary. Provide your thoughts on the assigned works in terms of theme, ideas, character, story, setting, artistic qualities, position in the SF canon, influence on other works, use of the various media forms, comparisons to the original print texts (if appropriate), and so forth.

As in the discussions, exercise your critical-reading skills when writing these responses; that is, don't just read for pleasure, and don't just accept everything that scholars and critics have written about them as canon.

I'm looking for insightful, critical, and thoughtful reflections on all the required works. Articulate how the various storytelling media affect the pieces under consideration - artistically, narratively, visually, in the social context. Ask yourself what the author was trying to say (themes), and how the story responds to the changing times in which it was written. When leading the week's discussion, include your discussion-leader notes as part of your reading response, or in addition to it.

And let me know how the readings affect your understanding of SF. I want to hear how you synthesize new ideas from the assigned materials, your additional readings and other interactions, and your own experiences. I want to hear how you synthesize new ideas from the assigned materials, your additional readings and other interactions, and your own experiences. The best way to do a good job here is to take notes as you're reading listening, then expand upon those notes for the papers you turn in.

Regarding format:
Many people use bullets for discussion points, bold the titles of the works you're discussing, or use the titles as headings. Some people write responses that resemble essays, citing the works in tandem, while others merely respond to each individually. However you prefer to handle it is fine, but what's most important is that you've thought through all the works for each day and their relationship to one another as well as to the the genre and its evolution. (Also, if you write it in a non-standard word processor, be sure to save it as .doc or .docx so I can read it. No .wps, .pages, or so forth.)

Tip: Even if you aren't leading the week's discussion, feel free to include at least a couple of questions to pose to the class or points to stimulate discussion. I suggest bringing your response to class - especially your questions - to help formulate ideas during discussion. (Also be sure to turn them in via Blackboard in advance of class.) They are usually scored in Blackboard by the following week.

Response Paper Scoring

Base value: 2 points x 14 = 28 total.

Here is how I score the papers you turn in each day before class:

    0 - no paper, or bad one turned in late.
    1 - has interesting insights on a couple of the required readings or at least convinces me you completed some of the reading.
    2 - convinces me that you did all the required reading or provides interesting insights on some of them. Discussion leaders: Providing your list of discussion questions on the required materials earns you this score.
    3 - Level Up references all the required materials and shares thoughtful responses or interesting insights to everything (+1). Discussion leaders: Providing your list of discussion questions on the required and additional materials relevant* earns you this score.
    4 - Level Up as above, plus discusses your thoughts on additional materials to the week's content or in-class discussions (+2). Discussion leaders: Providing your list of discussion questions on the required and additional materials, plus your insights, earns you this score.

That means you could possibly earn a 100% bonus over the base score for your reading responses by Leveling Up every time! Up to +28 - wow!

* Some examples of additional materials to cover in your response paper include a short story, an episode of a show, a comic (issue of a printed comic or multi-page online comic), an SF event (convention, book-club gathering, book release or reading, significant fan event, or so on), a movie, relevant website interaction (for example, articles or actively reading and responding on a fan-site), game-time long enough to experience significant story narrative, browsing through (with intent, using your critical skills) a large series of art pieces (such as paintings, sculptures, photographs, and the like), or so forth. You can also count something that you actively create and share with others, such as fanfiction, fan-art, thoughtful blogging, or so forth. This is something that should take the average person at least an hour or two to fully appreciate, consider, and respond to (yes, I have a pretty solid gauge for this). If you've created something that's posted online, just turn in a direct link to it. Please use standard file formats; don't make me have to buy or download software just to see it, or set up an account just to read it.


Late papers get -1 point each if turned in after the relevant class session begins. Turn them in on time! Missing response papers are due ASAP, at the very latest during Finals Week.

Graduate students: As you might imagine, I expect more from your papers. They should reflect your mastery of the form as well as provide insights worthy of your added experience and education. Additionally, for each topic, please find, read/watch/listen to, and respond to an additional work (any length or media form is fine) that matches the week's themes, authors, or so forth, Include your response to this work as part of your regular response paper. If you found it online, provide a link in your response paper. Otherwise, include bibliographic information. Insightfulness and clarity are important. Think about this: If you were teaching this course, what additional short-nonfiction readings might you add to the week's readings to aid the students? What book(s) might you add to the pairings - or what might you use to replace one or more of the assigned readings? Keep in mind that the chosen works aren't necessarily the best-ever, but were the most representative of their time and influential to what came later.

 Mid-Term Paper

Choose any of the weekly sets of readings, and - instead of writing a regular reading-response - write a short, formal paper about the group. Additionally, add at least three more short pieces or at least one book- or movie-length piece; these may be fiction, nonfiction, multimedia, or other sources that support or illustrate your themes. You can either think of this project as an extended weekly response with additional support and a bibliography and other references as appropriate (Wikipedia is not a source, but is often a good place to find sources), or a formal paper that uses those works to make an argument or provide interesting insights into SF or its evolution over the years.

This paper must be at least 1000 words for undergraduates, 2000 words for graduate students, up to a max of 4000 words for undergraduates or 6000 words for graduates (again, longer is okay, just consider how much your teacher needs to read). They are graded on the quality of writing (including grammar and spelling), the quality of thesis and argument, the quality and diversity of research, and how interesting you make it.

Format your bibliography as appropriate for your field of study (MLA for most Humanities, Chicago for most other fields, and so forth; here's a good list of style guides).

Graduate students: In addition to the basics of writing an insightful paper, I expect you to demonstrate mastery of the form.

This paper takes the place of your regular reading-response paper for one week, but be sure to turn it in to the Blackboard Assignment called "Mid-Term Paper," not the regular weekly response paper slot. You must leave a note in that week's response assignment letting me know that you are turning in your Mid-Term Paper in place of that week's response so I don't think you're missing that response - drop this note into the relevant week's response assignment slots in Blackboard before class so I know what's up.

Due date: Turn in papers via Blackboard. You may turn in your paper as early as Week 2 or as late as Week 12; you need not turn this in on the same week that the reading response would be due, but it's due by Week 12 at the latest. Late papers get -2 points per day late for the first week (that's -10), then -2 points per day late after that. "Late" is after Friday of Week 12. Turn them in on time! Missing papers are due ASAP, at the very latest during Finals Week (at a deduction).

 Group Presentation

The two last sessions of the course are reserved for student oral or multimedia presentations. Here's your chance to pitch your great idea for the in-class presentation project, build teams, chat, and otherwise prep for the last two class sessions. Your job is to share your understanding of SF through a live or multimedia presentation to your classmates. You can present about particular SF works, genre movements, films, TV shows, other other topics - it's up to you!

To help focus your efforts, answer this question:
What's the "big picture" you've taken away about science fiction, especially the SF novel? How have you come to understand how SF reflects the human experience when encountering change? Especially strive to elucidate what SF means to you as a group, or how it informs the future as you see it, and share your unique insights into what you see as the future of speculative fiction.

The form of the presentation is open: Feel free to make it a panel discussion, debate, movie, live game, quiz-show, radio play, skit, guided interactive activity, or other form. Let your imagination run free! This is a great opportunity to express yourself and your understanding of science fiction and its history as well as its future shape, its creators and creative side, ideas and inspirations, and so forth.

Form up with a group of students (3-5 is optimal), and present for a total of about 6 minutes per group member; that is, a 4-person group presents for 24 minutes, while a 5-person group presents for about 30 minutes. If you're showing a short (5-20 minute) film you created, bring discussion prompts for afterward. Your group chooses a topic that illustrates or dramatizes what you all feel is important about science fiction, works together to develop the idea into a shape suitable for sharing with others, then presents it to the class. Be polite: Don't run over your time limit! We'll have a little extra time after each presentation for a short Q&A session.

Every group member provides an equal level of participation overall, including research, preparation, and presentation. You may decide if one member is more of a script-writer or video-editor than actor or presenter, for example, as long as everyone's work is balanced - just let me know how you divided the work in the Submission notes section of the Blackboard assignment slot. You may divide your total number of minutes among the presenters however you see fit; let me know how each participated in the project if you're not dividing your live-presentation time equally. Each individual within the group is graded on the clarity and organization of the presentation, the quality of the analysis, the appropriate use of reference material, and individual contribution.

Turn this in via Blackboard if possible, or post a link to where it lives online if not. The majority of how I score this project comes from experiencing your live presentation.

Base value: 40 points. Help make this group project outstanding - and be a great individual contributor - to Level Up! (up to +6)

 Final Project

The final project can be a traditional essay, a set of teaching materials, or a creative work. Your project explores a topic in science fiction, preferably something not listed in the syllabus or discussed in class - though you may pursue those if you select an angle we didn't already cover or discuss. Projects must be at least 2000 words for undergraduates (max of max of 7500 words), 3000 words for graduate students (max of 10,000 words). Non-text-based projects must clearly demonstrate a similar level of effort.

To help focus your efforts, answer or consider these questions:

  • How do the work or works you're analyzing or creating fit into the larger discussion that is science fiction?
  • What do they add?
  • What are their influences?
  • What are they responding to?
  • How do they extend what you think of as "science fiction"?
  • What's the "big picture" you've taken away about science fiction, especially the SF novel?
  • How have you come to understand how SF reflects the human experience when encountering change?

Share your unique insights into what you see as the future of speculative fiction. Especially strive to elucidate what SF means to you, or how it informs the future as you see it. Discuss as usual in a scholarly piece, or define in your creative piece's artist statement.

Some resources you might find useful:

You must include an alphabetized bibliography with a traditional paper or lesson plan, or an annotated bibliography at the end of your document if it is a creative work. An annotated bibliography is a set of references that provide a summary of your readings and research, to give me an idea of where you got your inspiration, scientific or technical resources, and so forth. List your sources alphabetically and include a brief summary or annotation for each work that you quote in the paper or that you use as a reference (or inspiration). Format your bibliography as appropriate for your field of study (MLA for much of the Humanities, Chicago for most other fields, and so forth; here's a good list of style guides). Turn in this project via Blackboard.

Grad students: In addition to the basics of writing an insightful paper, I expect you to demonstrate mastery of the form.

References, bibliographies, artist's statements, and endnote pages do not count toward your word-count.

Base value: 80 points.

Level Up

Some suggestions for exceeding the base points on this project:

  • Throughout the semester, pay attention to what your classmates, teacher, and others say in class, take notes on great ideas or things you disagree with, and note the date and names of the speakers so you can cite them. Accurately cite in-class discussions that support your arguments, and list such materials in your bibliography. Also, cite and list diverse references, both in terms of quantity and media form. Up to +5
  • Write a kick-butt paper! Teach me something new, make and support an original or thoughtful argument, or so forth: up to +5.
  • Work with a classmate to peer-review one another's projects.
    • See this page for how to successfully do a peer critique, which also describes what I'm looking for in what you turn in for your Level Up assignment.
    • Not only does performing a peer-review earn you bonus points, but it will also improve both of your papers!
    • Bonus points you can earn here can vary widely based on how much effort you put into your review: up to +12.
  • Possibly more ways to get bonuses!


A late Final Project gets -4 points per day late up to a max of -16. "Late" is any time after the due date. 

Option A: Traditional Paper

I grade formal papers on the quality and diversity of research (both fictional and non-fictional), the writing (including grammar and spelling), and the strength of the topic and argument. What I most want is for you to demonstrate what you've learned from the course readings, your outside readings, and in-class discussions, and how you express this synthesis: Demonstrate your understanding of science fiction and the development of the SF novel.

Format your bibliography as appropriate for your field of study (MLA for much of the Humanities, Chicago for most other fields, and so forth; here's a good list of style guides).

This is not something that you can successfully complete at the last minute. The research paper represents a semester-long investigation of topics that interest you. If you wish to use works from the assigned readings that we discussed in class, I expect you to have something new to say that we didn't already discuss.

Option B: Course Outline, Lesson Plan, or Study Guide

Participants who choose this option are often teachers and those pursuing that profession. Choose from these three options or provide another option that fits your pedagogical approach:

  • Course outline: Design a course in science fiction. This can cover any aspect of SF or serve as an introduction to the field. Successful course outlines I've seen before include "Feminist Science Fiction," "Utopian Science Fiction," and others targeted at college undergraduate students, and "Science Fiction: An Introduction" targeted at junior-high schoolers. You can pick any age group you wish, just be sure to specify that when you turn it in. I understand that a complete course plan is a major project, so this can be relatively high-level. Required elements include pedagogy (why teach these materials and how), reading list, and high-level syllabus. If you wish to write a formal, complete course plan, that's great! But it needn't exceed the required word-count.
  • Lesson plan: Design in detail a single lesson plan for a series of short pieces or a book. This includes the part that students see (from a larger syllabus), plus your teaching notes (lecture comments, questions for student discussion, and so on), assignments or exercises, writing prompts, and so forth.
  • Study guide: This is a detailed examination of a single long work or group of short pieces on a single topic. It usually covers plot, character, ideas, themes, setting, and so forth, and often ends with self-study questions. The audience for this ranges from students working independently to teachers looking to develop a lesson plan.

All of these options make wonderful additions to AboutSF! I encourage you to share this project with other teachers via this educational-outreach program.

Option C: Creative Work

A creative work (story, series of poems, play, short film, collection of artworks, website, creative nonfiction, or so forth) must dramatize how the ideas and themes posed in your work might affect believable, interesting characters living in a convincing, fully realized world in addition to revealing substantial understanding of the science fiction genre. For the purposes of this course, your annotated bibliography (normally not included in creative work) is particularly important if you pursue this option, because I want to see the diversity of readings that helped you develop your work (both fictional and non-fictional). Show your research with a good annotated bibliography, demonstrate your understanding of science fiction, and make your creative work stand on its own.

To be crystal-clear in defining how your creative work displays your understanding of SF, its history, its future, and your response to it, also include an "artist's statement," as it very much helps in evaluating creative work. Write this either as an appendix to your document (but don't count this toward your word-count) or paste it into the Notes to Instructor text box of the Blackboard assignment. If you're creating a multimedia project, please post to an appropriate media host - give me a link to where your project lives, and upload to Blackboard your annotated bibliography and artist's statement, as well.

Be aware that this option is more challenging - especially if you haven't taken creative-writing courses - because I expect the same level of research as in the other options plus a good story or other creative expression. Click here for some useful creative-writing resources

Final Project Deadline

Your final project is due by Thursday of Finals Week, before 5:00pm. The completed project is due via Blackboard. If you've created a website, posted a short film to the internet, or otherwise cannot upload the project directly, just provide a link (website URL) to where I can find the project online in the Submission section of the appropriate Blackboard Final Project assignment slot.



I want you to be in control of your scores as much as possible, so I've adopted a you-centered method for tracking success (in the academic world, it's called "incentive-centered grading" or "gamification"). Everything you do in this course beyond the basics of the required elements earns you points toward "leveling up" your scores (and, therefore, your grade), while giving you some freedom to choose between options. Your final grade is up to you!

By simply completing all the readings, turning in excellent responses on time each week, doing a good job in the group presentation, creating a good final project, attending every class plus engaging in active discussion while there, and partnering to lead at least two class sessions, you are pretty much guaranteed at least a C+ or better for your final grade.

Want to reach higher and earn a better grade? See the Level Up! section below and throughout the syllabus.

Level Points Needed Grade


245 or above



244 - 236



235 - 227



226 - 218



217 - 209


Adept (base)

208- 200



207 - 199



191 - 183



182 - 174



173 - 165



164 - 156



155 or below


So if you're comfortable rising no higher "Adept" (a letter grade of C+), you need between 200 and 208 points. You'll easily earn those points by completing the required course components:

  • Reading the assigned content and turning in weekly response papers: 14 x 3 = 28 base points possible (up to +42 Level Up possible).
  • Attendance and class participation: 15 x 3 = 45 base points possible (up to +20 or more Level Up possible).
  • Leading discussions: 2 x 5 = 10 base points possible (up to +10 or more Level Up possible).
  • Presentation: 40 base points possible (up to +6 Level Up possible).
  • Final project 80 base points possible (up to +10 or more Level Up possible, plus up to +12 more for peer-reviewing someone else's project).
  • TOTAL possible base-level points: 203.

But you have lots of chances to Level Up throughout the semester, making it easy to greatly grow your level. See each section for details on Level Ups and Penalties. See the next section, Chloe's Example Scenario, and every other section for more opportunities.

    TOTAL possible Level Up points: +100!

Graduate students: I have additional expectations for you - see my comments directed to you throughout this document!

If you ever want to calculate your grade so far, go to the Blackboard "Weighted Total" to roughly determine your percentage of points earned and possible so far. If you haven't turned in some things, it won't be complete, but I hope this helps reduces grade anxiety.

Level Up

We use the metaphor of Leveling Up to earn better-than-average grades (think game systems). In place of the traditional deductive-only grade system (where you lose points by not turning in perfect work), our system uses additive grading (which is gaining a lot of pedagogical traction in education theory). You'll have a multitude of opportunities to earn bonus points by (for example) doing additional research, reporting on that added work, and sharing your discoveries in class. You can also Level Up for exceeding my expectations on every project and in every class period; that is, you get more points than the base value when you exceed "average effort" (traditionally graded as C work), thereby raising your grade incrementally toward a B or A. It's up to you!

On the other hand, if you choose to simply meet all the basic requirements and do acceptable work on your projects, you'll end up with a grade around C+.

I want you to be in control over your final grade, using a familiar and empowering metaphor.

So, want to earn a higher grade in this course? Each section in this syllabus offers some options for Leveling Up! Possible bonuses abound: See each assignment section for details on more ways to earn bonus points. Here are some semester-long examples of how you can gain extra points:

  • Attend outside events, write reports on them, and turn them in to the various Level Up slots you'll find in Blackboard. I'll post announcements there when I identify some cool opportunities, and I'll also add assignments there for you to turn in your bonus papers. 
  • Kick butt on your projects! See the descriptions in this syllabus for ideas. Basically, you have the opportunity to exceed my expectations - and Level Up - with every project!

Basically, be an epic student! You might just get bonus points in the end.


On the other hand, just like in many game-scoring systems, in this course you have a few ways to lose points, too:

  • Miss a class session: -3 (per missed class, after the first).
    Note: You're allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies, so if you encounter this, let me know. It's your responsibility to schedule employment, school, and other responsibilities around your classes, or accept the consequences. If you must miss class, please contact me ahead of time to make arrangements for catching up on missed material. If you need to leave, also contact me to prevent lost points.
  • If you attend but do not participate in class discussions, this also lowers your overall grade on a variable scale depending on engagement or lack thereof. If you have special needs (for example, you have social phobias), contact me in advance so we can work out alternatives. 
  • Of course, not turning in projects or doing poor work can lose you points, leading to reduced grades. So do your best - and exceed my expectations to Level Up instead!

What's My Grade?
Chloe's Example Scenario.

If you ever want to calculate your grade so far, go to the Blackboard "Weighted Total" to roughly determine your percentage of points earned and possible so far. If you haven't turned in some things, it won't be complete, but I hope this helps reduces grade anxiety.

If you're not familiar with this sort of process (perhaps you've never played a video or role-playing game!), you can determine your progress toward higher grade (aka higher level) as in this example. Keep in mind that more than half of your base grade comes from the synthesis you demonstrate in your Presentation and Final Project - but performing in an outstanding way throughout the semester offers the opportunity to earn many bonus points. Take a look at Chloe's example:

It's the end of Week 13, right before the Presentations (worth 40) and Final Project (worth 80). Here's where she stands:

  1. Chloe has been doing exceptional work so far, attending all the classes, participating in consistent and thoughtful ways, turning in all her required responses and several Level Up responses. She did a great job leading discussions with her partner. But that's not all. In Week 3, she also watched a Dr. Who episode relevant to the topic, because she's a big fan of the Doctor. She loves it even more in context with the theme! So she looked up some fan blogs and an io9 article about the episode, and realized why she was so moved by it. After that, she does this sort of thing frequently, including these as extra Level Up responses, and not only talks about the materials but provides insights into why they're relevant, and relates this to what some of her fellow students mentioned in class.
        Points tracking:
    +44 (3-4 per week for turning in all responses on time and Leveling Up on most of them);
    +36 (perfect attendance);
    +13 (great class participation without talking over others);
    +14 (helped lead two weeks in a Level Up kind of way: +10 [base discussion leader], +2 [awesome preparation, with great questions and added recommended material], +2 [Awesome In-Class Discussion facilitation and recommends some great Level Up material to add to the syllabus]);
    +4 (helped lead an extra week's great discussion).
        Running Total: 111 points
  2. Oh, and because she wants to focus on her group's Presentation, she turns in her Final Project early.
        Points tracking:
    +90 (deeply moving, insightful, innovative, and demonstrates thorough understanding of SF and the topics she's examining: +80 [base], +10 [exceeded base expectations]);
    +12 (performed a peer-review for one of her classmates);
    +5 (turned in Final Project early)
         Running Total: 228

She's already Leveled Up to Master! ...and she's not even gotten points for the Presentation or attending during Presentation days! If she Levels Up her Presentation (let's say she gets 44 points) in the ways she usually does, that alone is enough to elevate her to and beyond Legend.

So, assuming you're just as motivated as Chloe, you'll easily rise through the ranks to Legend status and beyond: Last year, three motivated students earned almost 300 points! You can, too - it's up to you.

More Good Stuff

Ready for more? Check out these suggestions.

 Events and Activities

If you're interested in getting more science fiction in your life, you can find upcoming regional SFnal events on the SF News page and Facebook page.

Want to hang out (at least virtually) with other SF folks? Sign up for the new Stars Our Destination discussion group and mailing list here, and check out the Lawrence Science Fiction Club on Facebook for informal club chat and get-togethers.

Check out some of these multimedia offerings. Click here to see them on this site, or click here to see our YouTube channel.

Benjamin Cartwright, former Volunteer Coordinator AboutSF, created a wonderful podcast program. Check it out at the AboutSF main page or at our Podomatic site!

To learn about more stuff, more quickly, you can also find events and lots of SF-related chat with the Lawrence Science Fiction Club! Info, discussions, and meetups are regularly posted at our Facebook page. Know of something of interest to like-minded folks? Join and drop a note there!

Here's a cool event each Spring, right after Spring finals:

Spectrum Fantastic Art Live Show
Friday and Saturday, in mid-May
Also the Spectrum Awards Show
Grand Ballroom of Bartle Hall Convention Center
Kansas City, MO

What are you doing on Memorial Day Weekend? Why not attend the ConQuest science fiction convention in Kansas City.

Sticking around for the summer? Don't miss the annual Campbell Conference and Awards.

Want to take more speculative-fiction courses? Check out my growing list of offerings.

Go here to see lots more resources on this site.

 More Recommended Readings

Want to read more SF? You've come to the right place!

My lending library holds many books, magazines, and more, so if you are local to Lawrence or are in town for our other summer programs, 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 the SF Literature course - 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 winners of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best SF novel of the year. To see even more great books, check out the recent finalists for the Campbell Memorial Award - most years, the majority of those works could have won the award if the jury had just a few different members.

For short fiction, check out the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short SF winners, and the recent Sturgeon Award finalists. As with the Campbell, you're likely to find something you'll love among the finalists - and many of them live online, and you'll find links to the stories from that page.

Slate's Future Tense Fiction series is pretty cool - all about the consequences and side-effects of tech on human life. Here's their nonfiction section on the same topic.

The Guardian asked some of SF's greatest living authors to share what they feel are the best books or authors in the genre, and what they came up with is a brilliant list.

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 that I've been updating for decades, and will soon expand even more (as well as create an actual "basic" library list). It's organized by author.

We hold many books, so if you are local to Lawrence or are in town for our other summer programs, check with me to see if we can lend you a copy. These are available on a first-come, first-served basis. This lending library is primarily supplied by previous students donating copies after completing their courses, so if you want to pass on the love to the next generation rather than keep your books, let your teacher know!

Want to take more speculative-fiction courses? You're in luck! Check out my growing list of offerings.

Go here to see lots more resources on this site.

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:

A great resource for finding wonderful SF is to check out the winners and finalists for the major awards. For example, here's a list of the John W. Campbell Memorial Award winners. And here's a list of recent finalists for the Award. Here's the list of the Nebula Award novel winners. And the Hugo Award winners, which has links to each year's finalists, as well. A couple of books I didn't get a chance to mention include Ray Bradbury's R Is for Rocket, which contains a story that turned me into an author: "The Rocket" (along with Heinlein's Rocketship Galileo and Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time). Bradbury's Dandelion Wine is another, along with books like Frank Herbert's Dune, Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Clifford Simak's City (a Minnesota native), SF anthologies like James Gunn's Road to Science Fiction and the DAW Annual Year's Best SF, and tons more. Personally, my favorite Bradbury short story is pretty much everything Bradbury every wrote. His writing is moving and evocative like Simak and Theodore Sturgeon's - probably why those three made such an impression on the young-me. But if I had to pick only one that most influenced me as a writer, it would probably be "The Rocket," a beautiful story about a junk-man who has to decide between his personal dreams of space and love of his family. It was adapted into a radio show for NBC's "Short Story" series (you can listen to the MP3 audio recording here).

He was 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!

* "'History of Science Fiction' is a graphic chronology that maps the literary genre from its nascent roots in mythology and fantastic stories to the somewhat calcified post-Star Wars space opera epics of today. The movement of years is from left to right, tracing the figure of a tentacled beast, derived from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds Martians. Science Fiction is seen as the offspring of the collision of the Enlightenment (providing science) and Romanticism, which birthed gothic fiction, source of not only SF, but crime novels, horror, westerns, and fantasy (all of which can be seen exiting through wormholes to their own diagrams, elsewhere). Science fiction progressed through a number of distinct periods, which are charted, citing hundreds of the most important works and authors. Film and television are covered as well."

- Ward Shelly discussing this excellent "History of Science Fiction" infographic - now available for purchase!

I believe strongly in the free sharing of information via digital humanities such as this website, so you'll find a lot of content - including all of my course syllabi and many materials from our classes - on this and related sites and social networks as part of my educational outreach. Feel free to use this content for independent study, or to adapt it for your own educational and nonprofit purposes; just please credit us and link back to this website. We'd also love to hear from you if you used our materials!

This site is associated with the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), the Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA), the University of Kansas, and other organizations, and is owned by James Gunn and Chris McKitterick. Web developer since 1992 is Chris McKitterick.

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Creative Commons License
Works on this site are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.