Without this module, the overall curriculum would inadvertently reflect a past where women writers were underrepresented. This module celebrates a view of SF particular to half of humanity, one which is essential to the long-term survival of the genre. Emphasis B—Adaptations for the screen.
The stories in the third module were adapted for cinema or television, five of them as big budget movies. This module illustrates the advantages of SF in literature over visual media, and why students should read it.
Along with the twelve adapted stories distributed elsewhere in the curriculum, these texts can be used to hook the students to literature by means of the TV and cinema productions they already recognize. Emphasis C—Timeline of the SF genre. The last three modules reflect the evolution of SF since its appearance as a distinct genre in For the purposes of this curriculum, three periods will be defined as Classic , Transitional , and Modern , with one module per time period.
While the above subdivisions are by no means universally accepted, they can be justified as follows. This is the developmental era of SF, from its pulp magazine beginnings as a specialized genre to an awakening that SF can and should be true literature, and the founding of its professional writers association. This last period encompasses conflicting trends such as the polarization of hardcore cyberpunk versus mainstream-leaning authors Swanwick, , and a simultaneous UK renaissance of the space opera subgenre. The module purposely ends in in order to allow for the selection of stories that stand out over time.
However the modularity of the online curriculum allows this selection to move forward as later works become more influential.
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The curriculum uses the Human Evolution Framework proposed by Asselin , where it is argued that the changes addressed by SF are future projections of concerns rooted in our evolutionary past: the tools we use stone implements in the past; robots in the future , the settings we explore the next valley; the next planet , others we meet other tribes; otherworldly aliens , invisible dimensions we think about divining the future; travelling there , how to master them and the world by changing our essence shamans and the supernatural; mutants and superpowers , the rules that organize our societies loose-knit hunter-gatherers; finely structured utopias , and the habitat we transform waste accumulation within village walls; radioactive wastelands.
Themes are thus classified in seven broadly defined categories:. Every module comprises two stories for each theme category. The focus on theme brings automatic emphasis on those seldom treated in other media such as human transcendence, new models of societies, and life in a truly devastated world.
It underlines the potential of other themes to exceed the scope of the all too frequent murderous robots, spacecraft as airplanes, monstrous aliens, and zero-consequence time travel. The selection criteria include awards, critical recognition, story length, humor, and online availability. Most of the 90 stories were nominated for one of the major SF annual literary prizes, colloquially known as the Hugos and Nebulas, that have rewarded excellence since and respectively.
The overall average is one nod per story. In order to make the author selection less arbitrary, a tally of award wins and nominations was made, with the highest scoring authors given extra weight. Critical recognition. An alternate, compiled approach to critical recognition is provided by Harris , who derives classic SF volumes by tabulating titles from critical SF reading lists for instance Barron, ; Gunn, ; Hartwell, ; James, and reader polls. The method yields mostly novels and, unlike awards, favours older titles listed anew, yet the resulting author list shows a significant overlap with this curriculum.
Short fiction introduces SF themes while keeping a reasonable limit on reading time commitment. Using the standard Hugo and Nebula categories for fiction length, this curriculum is composed of 45 short stories, 33 novelettes, and 6 novellas. Novels being an important part of the genre, with additional requirements in world-building, depth of characterization, and plotting, each of the six sets includes one novel excerpt, of novelette length, as incentive to seek more. Teachers who wish to use novels only may seek Booker and Thomas , who emphasize subgenre rather than theme.
While humor is not readily associated with SF, many authors use it to great effect. Each module includes at least one story that is humorous, namely texts from Spinrad, Emshwiller, Sheckley, Vonnegut, Lafferty, and Cadigan. The requirement to raise reading skills at every level of the educational system calls for stimulating student interest. The strong presence of SF in popular culture as a distinct genre can be leveraged to lure students to read. See Tables 1, 2 and discussion section for mapping the curriculum to the U. Common Core State Standards.
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As of January , seventy-five percent of the stories in this curriculum are found online, and half of these are free legal downloads. A few in the other half are sold only as part of the book they were originally published in. The current price for such downloads runs between 28 and 32 dollars or below the average cost of a high school text.
Through the lens of SF themes, the six curricular modules are now reviewed in detail with brief summaries for those teachers unfamiliar with all these works. The Introductory module aims to bring SF literature to students who may encounter it for the very first time. As indicated previously, the fifteen stories are ordered so that the human interest takes precedence over any shining new technology see the exact order in Table 1.
The module opens with a story on extraterrestrial life, a theme that immediately signals science fiction, treated here in a thoughtfully unconventional fashion. The purpose of the Women Writers module Table 1 is to provide overall balance in writer gender. The goal for the Classic module see Table 2 is to give a sense of the development of SF up to the mid-sixties, using stories that nevertheless continue to resonate with modern readers.
To uncover the truth, Morris must enter a shadowy, nightmare world of ghosts and golems where nothing—and no one—is what they seem, memory itself is suspect, and the line between life and death may no longer exist. In this Hugo and Locus winner from , an isolated, post-holocaust community attempts to preserve itself through a perilous experiment in cloning.
Though a thoughtful read, there may be more plot holes than modern readers will be willing to accept.
A Theme-based Online Curriculum for the Teaching of Science Fiction
Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. Cloud Atlas is six narratives, taking place in the s, s, s, and several dystopian futures. Not since Isaac Asimov has anyone combined SF and mystery so well. A very rich man dies unexpectedly, and when his backup copy is animated, he hires Takeshi Kovacs to find out why. Morgan creates a gritty, noir tale that will please Raymond Chandler fans, an impressive accomplishment in any genre.
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- A Theme-based Online Curriculum for the Teaching of Science Fiction;
- Stories – The Lost Words.
Like Frankenstein , Jurassic Park explores the unintended consequences of biological tinkering. Thus, the idea of an amusement park was born. As children, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy were students at Hailsham, an exclusive boarding school secluded in the English countryside. It was a place of mercurial cliques and mysterious rules where teachers were constantly reminding their charges of how special they were.
Now, years later, Kathy is a young woman. Ruth and Tommy have reentered her life. And for the first time she is beginning to look back at their shared past and understand just what it is that makes them special—and how that gift will shape the rest of their time together. Both Brave New World and saw dystopian futures, but Huxley seems to have gotten much of it right though Orwell did nail the surveillance state. According to social critic Neil Postman:. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.
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Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism… Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. In Mindscan , it looks like consciousness is downloaded into an android.
It looks like a solid book, though.
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