My science fiction course is taking shape. I’ve decided we’ll read five novels and a number of short stories, and we’ll watch 2-3 movies and some episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex.
The novels we’ll read are Dawn by Octavia Butler, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, The Telling by Ursula Le Guin, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, Jr., and Ghost in the Shell by Shirow Masamune. In addition to the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex episodes, I know we’re going to watch Bladerunner, and I think we’re going to watch Minority Report (and read the short story upon which it is based). I’m also thinking about showing Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, but I’m also tempted to show War of the Worlds and Mars Attacks!.
The issues of short stories is more vexed, but my current short list includes:
- Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “A Princess of Mars”
- Robert Silverberg’s “Good News from the Vatican”
- Nancy Kress’ “Out of All Them Bright Stars”
- Candas Jane Dorsey’s “(Learning About) Machine Sex”
- Isaac Asimov’s “Robbie” and/or “Robot Dreams”
- William Gibson’s “Johnny Mnemonic” and “Burning Chrome”
- Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Nine Billion Names of God” or “Second Dawn”
- Ursula Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
- Cordwainer Smith’s “The Ballad of Lost C’mell”
- Phil K. Dick’s “Minority Report”
- James Trptree, Jr.’s “The Women Men Don’t See”
- H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”
Who and what that are missing from that list is depressing. Really, I continually debate myself over the wisdom of teaching both science fiction short stories and novels in the same course. As a reader, SF novels were and are much more important to me than SF short stories, but the short story is of vital importance to the history of SF, and one can hardly touch on the complexity of the genre in the span of one semester by just reading novels. The first time I taught a SF class, I went with novels and 4 short stories. Clearly, I’m still sticking with novels, but I’m trying to bring in more stories. I need to browse my SF anthologies and anthologies in the library before I finally decide which stories to include. Please feel free to make suggestions.
The class itself is already full. It usually fills quickly. And I’m glad to see that more than a third of the class is women. Last time I taught it, women made up less than 10%. Though, to be fair, I taught a course that was added late by dividing the already existing and fully enrolled SF course into two courses and the other instructor was a women. Her class was about 40% women.
Finally, I’ve decided to make use of the free wiki service Schtuff, which has a built in blog. I’m not keen on the blogging software my school’s made available, and I can use Schtuff as the course web site, blog, and wiki all from one URL. We’ll be using the wiki for a collaborative project working with the short stories. I’ll post more about that later.