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The Science Fiction Short Story from the Golden Age to Cyberpunk

Class 1: What is Science Fiction?

For the first meeting, we will discuss the following essays and story:

•"Estrangement and Cognition" (Suvin, 1977) (PDF)
•"The Magazine Era, 1920 – 1960" (Attebery, Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction) (PDF)
•"Report on the Barnhouse Effect" (Vonnegut, 1950) (PDF)

For our discussion, please consider how you would define "science fiction," and whether or not you consider Vonnegut's story to be an example  of the genre.

Please use this dropbox link to access the PDF readings. Subsequent course readings will include additional instructor-provided PDFs and readings from The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction, available for a 10% discount from Borderlands Bookstore.

About the Instructor

Phil Gochenour holds a PhD in comparative literature from Emory University, and has taught courses on new media, literary criticism, contemporary literature and science fiction at the University of Virginia and Towson University. His most recent essay on science fiction, "'Different Conditions Set Different Standards': The Ecology of Ethics in John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids" appeared in the New York Review of Science Fiction.

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  • John

    This was an amazing first class. Phil is a very knowledgeable and engaging teacher.

    January 18, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    There's a version of Tom Godwin's The Cold Equations available here: (not the most well formatted online zine I've ever seen) in case anyone wanted to read it.

    January 8, 2013

  • Phil G.

    Great first meeting, looking forward to talking with all of you again next week!

    January 7, 2013

  • Phil G.

    Hello everyone, looking forward to our first class tomorrow. Please do the readings in advance if you can, as I would like to have a spirited discussion of whether or not the Vonnegut story is science fiction. Also, please bring paper and a pencil/pen, as I have a very short writing exercise I would like everyone to do.

    January 6, 2013

  • Phil G.

    Hi everyone, my boyfriend gave me a stack of Astounding Science Fiction magazines from the 1950s for Christmas, and I've lots of interesting new stuff to talk about! Looking forward to starting the conversation next week!

    December 31, 2012

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