Ronald Thomas Foster
New Directions in Science Fiction
This is a course in recent science fiction, which is designed both for students with research interests in the genre and students interested in other critical topics that might be addressed through science-fictional works. We will begin by briefly reviewing the history of the genre and debates about how to define it, both by writers or editors and theorists like Darko Suvin. We will then proceed to a series of novels and stories that are representative of new movements within science fiction, including post-cyberpunk; posthuman or post-Singularity narratives; mundane SF; new baroque space opera; new wave fabulism (or â€śevaporating genresâ€?); the New Weird; and steampunk. But we will also be doing readings that are representative of the genreâ€™s dialogue with critical conversations on the status of race and the history of colonialism; on feminism, sexuality, and biopolitics; on environmentalism and ecocriticism; on post-9/11 surveillance technologies and the politics of homeland security; on the possibilities of artificial intelligence and its cultural significance (a case study in the relation between science and science fiction); and on techniques of self-modification, bodyhacking, and cognitive manipulation. The readings will include at least one sequence of poems (Lai), and we will pay some attention to visual culture, especially film, but possibly including some television and graphic novels. Assignments will include an option to write two shorter papers or one longer, final paper, with the possibility of doing an independent study to expand it into a longer research project.
We will read the following works: Nalo Hopkinson, Report from Planet Midnight Larissa Lai, Automaton Biographies Ted Chiang, The Lifecycle of Software Objects (available online) Ian McDonald, Cyberabad Days (selections) Paolo Bacigalupi, The Windup Girl Hannu Rajaniemi, The Quantum Thief Cory Doctorow, Little Brother Gwyneth Jones, Life Sean Wallace, ed., The Mammoth Book of Steampunk (selections) Additional short stories by writers including Nnedi Okorafor, Bruce Sterling, Alastair Reynolds, Kelly Link, China Mieville, and Nisi Shawl; and critical essays
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading