English 173 - Summer Sessions II, 2017

Science Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Ziser, Michael
CRN: 71487
Time: TWR 2:10-3:50
Location: 1130 Bainer


    In his despairing book Eaarth, environmentalist Bill McKibben argues that humankind is already inadvertently pioneering life on the “tough new planet” created by generations of ecological exploitation of the “old” earth, no space travel required. Whatever the merits of this particular argument, the rhetorical mix of science-fictional and ecological tropes alerts us to the profound and longstanding entanglement of sf with the environmental imagination. This summer course will explore these connections, connecting classic sf texts with environmental themes like deep time, anthropocentrism, animal minds, ecofeminist futurism, toxic waste, eco-apocalypse and survival, and more-than-natural disaster. As we will see, environmental histories and futures look very different when viewed through the eyes of speculative sf writers—and science fiction becomes a different kind of enterprise when it is understood as fundamentally environmental. Literary readings will be supplemented with secondary materials and in-class screenings of key green-sf films and documentaries.


    Attendance and Participation: 15%
    Discussion Posts: 2.5% x 6: 15%
    Creative Response: 10%
    First Paper (5pp): 20%
    Second Paper (5pp): 20%
    Final Exam (in-class): 20%


    The Time Machine (1895; Dover, 1995) ISBN 978-0486284729, H. G. Wells
    Last and First Men (1931; Dover, 2010) ISBN 978-0486466828, Olaf Stapledon
    Odd John and Sirius (1944; Dover, 1972) ISBN 978-0486211336, Olaf Stapledon
    Lilith’s Brood (1987-2000; Grand Central, 2000) ISBN 978-0446676106, Octavia Butler
    Earth Abides (1946; Del Ray, 2006) ISBN 978-0345487131, George Stewart
    Ecotopia (1975; Heyday, 2014) ISBN 978-1597142939, Ernest Callenbach
    The Word for World is Forest (1972; Tor, 2010) ISBN 978-0765324641, Ursula LeGuin
    The Water Knife (NY: Vintage, 2015) ISBN 978-0804171533, Paolo Bacigalupi