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ENGLISH 3D03 Science Fiction

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Anne Savage


Office: Chester New Hall 326

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23729

Office Hours: Tuesdays 10:30-11:20am or By Appointment

Course Objectives:


Science fiction has altered from its early origins in the nineteenth century, over the course of the twentieth, to our current time; but it’s always focussed on the ways in which technology enters and affects human life, and sometimes animal life. We’ll begin with a work by one of its founding writers in English, H.G. Wells, which shakes the boundaries of the human and nonhuman; then we’ll move through other challenges and disruptions foreseen by SF writers into the current century, and the ordinary ways we interface with technology without thinking, as well as how we take science for granted as an arbiter of our reality. Thinking about these is the main demand of this course.

In terms of learning outcomes, you’ll become familiar with many of the themes of the genre, and examples of these; you’ll learn how major changes to the concept and practice of science fiction resulted from changes to concepts and practices of technology, social movements and events, while change continues to occur. Knowing how to frame a discussion of issues arising from them clearly is a major goal. Because the texts we discuss will always be historically situated, you’ll have an understanding of what aspects of science and technology gave rise to their concerns from the late nineteenth century to the present. On our Avenue to Learn site you will have access to supplementary materials, optional readings and further discussions.

The works on which you write the first two essays won’t be on the final exam. You’ll have six opportunities in class only to write brief answers to questions on the lectures, and the top five grades will go towards your mark. Don’t ask me to reschedule these individually, since they concern class participation and are not regular essays.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:



The Island of Doctor Moreau, H.G. Wells (1896)

Neuromancer William Gibson (1984)                                

Kraken, China Miéville (2010)



“The Machine Stops,” E. M. Forster (1909)

“Night,” John W. Campbell Jr. (1935)

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” James Tiptree, Jr (1970)

“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” Philip K. Dick, (1966)

“Piecework,” David Brin (1990)

“The Screwfly Solution,” James Tiptree, Jr (1977);          

“Blood Music,” Greg Bear (1985)                                                                             

 There Will Come Soft Rains,” Ray Bradbury (1950)           

 “Burning Chrome,” William Gibson, (1982)                                                                 

“To Hie from Far Cilenia,” Karl Schroeder (2009)                                                      

“Aunt Parnetta’s Electric Blisters,” (2012)

Method of Assessment:


Essay 1



Essay 2



In-class participation writing

15%  opporetunities


Final exam




Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

See McMaster Policy

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


“Beyond Lies the Wub,” Philip K. Dick (1952)

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr, (1959) Chapters 25-30,_Jr__4.pdf

“Blood Child,” Octavia Butler (1995) (“Blood Child” and “Afterword, ”Octavia Butler (1995).



5 Introduction to the course: materials, goals, expectations, assignments.

9 The intellectuall framework of the course: science fiction as a genre; ‘scientific progress’ and the human species; conceptions of technology and personhood.

10-16 The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896)

FOCUS POINT: H.G. Wells and a big idea.


Early futurism and no future:

17 - 26 “The Machine Stops,” E. M. Forster (1909); “Night,” John W. Campbell Jr. (1935);  There Will Come Soft Rains,” Ray Bradbury (1950)

A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr, (1959) Chapters 25-30,_Jr__4.pdf

30 Overview of the above.

FOCUS POINT: SF, technology, and the end of the world.


Plugged in and working:

January 30–FEBRUARY 6

“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” Philip K. Dick, (1966); ”The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” James Tiptree, Jr (1970); “Piecework,” David Brin (1990)



Meeting aliens:

9-16  “Beyond Lies the Wub,” Philip K. Dick (1952); “The Screwfly Solution,” James Tiptree, Jr (1977); “Blood Music,” Greg Bear (1985); “Blood Child,” Octavia Butler (1995) (“Blood Child” and “Afterword, ”Octavia Butler (1995).


27 Aliens, continued.

FOCUS POINT: the making of an alien


28 An introduction to Cyberpunk


2-9 Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)

13 FOCUS POINT: artificial intelligence


The New Weird:

14-21 Kraken, China Miéville (2010)

23 FOCUS POINT: paranormal science


Everyday Technology:

27 “Burning Chrome,” William Gibson (1982)

28 “To Hie from Far Cilenia,” Karl Schroeder (2009) ESSAY 2 DUE SUMBMITTED ON AVENUE


3 “To Hie from Far Cilenia,” continued.

4 “Aunt Parnetta’s Electric Blisters,” (2012).

6 Overview, exam review