This semester-long course is designed as a survey of science fiction and fantasy texts from classic authors of the genre through modern authors and texts. The course is organized into themes which blend together both science fiction and fantasy as windows through which we can analyze the human experience. Over the course of the class, students will read one full-length novel and more than 15 short stories. Students will also explore the philosophical concept of human enhancement and write an argumentative essay using evidence from the novel and class discussions to analyze the topic. By the end of the course, students should have a stronger general concept of what constitutes the genres of science fiction and fantasy as well as being able to cite specific examples of the genres from their readings. The class will integrate media, poetry, lectures and more to engage students in the subjects and to enhance their understanding. While there are many academic goals of the class, encouraging students’ pleasure in reading is also a central goal.
Unit 1: What Are Science Fiction and Fantasy?
In this introductory unit, students will explore the elements that define the genres of science fiction and fantasy (sometimes grouped together as speculative fiction). This unit will cover vocabulary specific to the genres and examples of both types of literature in writing and film. Students will also read a lecture from science fiction author Neal Stephenson about the differences between “geeking out” and “vegging out” and the implications of those terms for science fiction and fantasy fans.
Unit 2: Science Fiction: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
During this unit, students will focus their attention on reading and analyzing the novel The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson (subject to change based on the needs of the students). In addition to focusing on characterization, setting, and theme, students will also apply their new knowledge of science fiction as a genre to the text. Central to the novel is the concept of human enhancement. Students will view movie clips and lectures/speeches and read both informational and persuasive texts about the topic. Class discussions and teacher-directed questions will enhance the students’ understanding of the elements of the novel and how they affect the outcome of the story.
Unit 3: Thematic Exploration of Short Science Fiction and Fantasy Texts
This unit focuses on 8 themes, each including at least one science fiction and one fantasy text each. (Ex. Theme: Leave Nothing but Footprints includes “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury and an excerpt from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien) Each thematic exploration will be one week in length and will give students an opportunity to be exposed to a rich variety of texts while also applying literary analytical skills to their readings. The texts include classic authors like Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien, Isaac Asimov, and Philip K. Dick and popular modern authors like Leigh Bardugo, Naomi Novik, and Garth Nix. Special attention was given to finding stories which represented experiences of women, people of color, and stories from across the world. Stories/themes were also selected based on themes which are common across both genres.