Why do we look at the world and imagine it differently? This class covers the long history of the science fiction genre, from its emergence in the nineteenth century to the present day. By examining the forms and conventions of the genre as it developed, we will follow how science fiction changed in response to the increasingly rapid technological change of the twentieth century. Science fiction as a genre has been notoriously hard to define; we will read the major theorists of science fiction in order to come to our own conclusions about what makes successful science fiction and why it has had such a lasting appeal.
Science fiction has always worked to question what we believe to be unquestionably true, and we will follow its lead, taking up its challenges to the naturalized categories of race, gender, sexuality and history and to the distinctions between self and other, real and unreal, present and future, and human and nonhuman. In reading a wide range of literature and film, we will also spend time developing skills in critical writing, close reading, and film analysis, examining how writers have represented other worlds, and what this says about ours. Writers include H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula LeGuin, Philip K. Dick, Octavia Butler, and China Mieville; films include The War of the Worlds, Blade Runner, and District 9.