PROPOSED Course Syllabus

English 192: Science Ficton
Other Worlds, Other Lives

Teaching Associate: Patrick Mooney

Office Hours: TBD in South Hall 2432K.
Mailbox: English Department mail room, South Hall 3421.
Voicemail: (805) 272-0069

Course Description

Science fiction (or, as some critics of the genre prefer, "speculative fiction") often sees itself as a genre that asks "big questions" — thematizing large-scale philosophical issues (what is it to be human? what are the ultimate boundaries of knowledge? what are the possibilities for other forms of how we can organize our lives, and what other forms of life might exist? what kind of a universe do we live in?). Though it shares these large-scale concerns with other forms of fictional writing, science fiction turns away from answers provided by the conventional philosophical methodologies associated with more mainstream "literary" writing and explores those questions by altering basic parameters of the world that we (think we) know. Along the way, science/speculative fiction gains clarity on these questions through its conceptual distance from our own world and its own time, and separates itself from other forms of fiction by requiring specific interpretive practices that often seem strange (one might also say: alien) to more traditionally oriented literary critics.

This course traces major developments in twentieth-century science fiction through a number of interrelated thematic questions that we will examine through a film, several novels, and a group of short stories (this last of which is arguably the form in which science fiction is most deeply rooted and best understands its own generic conventions). Alongside some of the defining names of English-language speculative fiction (Asimov, Bradbury, Lovecraft), whom we will be reading in (comparatively) short form, we will focus on the latter part of the twentieth century with a particular eye toward ways in which science fiction pushes past its own generic boundaries and doubles back on the literary fiction against which it has traditionally been defined.

Required Texts

All of the books for the course are available in the UCen bookstore, and are also available on line through the normal retail channels. Personally, I frequently use to comparison shop (they don't pay me to endorse them; I'm just a satisfied customer). You may also find to be a useful comparison-shopping site. I do ask that you use the editions of books ordered through the UCen bookstore for the course (their ISBNs are listed above) in order to facilitate class discussion.


Course Readings and Lecture

You should always prepare for lecture by reading the assigned texts carefully and critically. Printing out the online readings (rather than reading them on your computer screen) will be helpful, because engaging physically with the text (writing in the margins, underlining, having something to throw across the room when you are frustrated or in violent disagreement) promotes comprehension and retention. It is also a good way to stay prepared for the final exam and to be ready to write when paper topics are assigned.

Trying to provide a fair introduction to the scholarly study of the science fiction genre in a compressed summer session means that we will be moving quickly this term. (Every week has either a novel or a movie, plus, usually, a short story and a critical article. That's a lot of reading.) I assume that, if you are enrolling yourself in a senior-level English class, you will not need much hand-holding to be able to engage in good literary reading practices, that you will be passionate about and engaged with the material, and that you will be doing the reading on time (you should always have completed the assigned readings by the date indicated on this syllabus). You should ensure at the beginning of the session that you will be able to perform all assigned readings carefully and critically. Reading quizzes — which I am giving in lieu of a midterm exam — will be moderately easy for those who have done a thorough, engaged job of critically reading all of the assigned materials, and difficult for those who have not. Quizzes cannot be made up if missed (although I will drop your two lowest quiz scores), so be sure that you arrive in class on time and prepared.

You should always bring the day's readings with you to class.

Although this course is organized as a lecture, I welcome thoughtful, informed student participation in class. If you have questions or want additional information on a topic, or want to discuss additional implications of the texts and topics with which we are dealing, please let me know. Even more welcome is student participation in the form of dissent, disagreement, (appropriate) redirection of focus, the expression of alternative viewpoints, and relevant discussions between students on course topics. I have only three basic expectations related to course participation: that you arrive promptly, having read the assigned texts in a nuanced and engaged manner; that everyone contribute meaningfully to the group's discourse at some point during the session; and that everyone in class treat each other respectfully during discussions, even (especially!) when disagreements arise.


Week 1: Identity, Alterity, and Hybridism

Week 2: Destruction and Its Aftermath

Week 3: Title TBD

Week 4: Quantum Epistemologies

Week 5: What Ties Us Together

Week 6: The End Is the Beginning Is the End

Paper Guidelines

Papers are due at the beginning of lecture on the dates found on the calendar above. Failure to turn in your paper on time will result in a reduction of ⅓ letter grade per day (e.g., an A- paper receives a B+ if turned in up to one day late) unless you have either made arrangements with me (at least 24 hours in advance) or have a genuinely serious and unavoidable emergency (family death, serious injury, natural disaster, etc.). If you turn in a late paper, you should put it in my box in the English Department's mail room (South Hall 3421) and must email me before 4 p.m. that day to be sure that I notice it and give you credit for turning it in on the proper day. If you must be absent from class on the day that your paper is due, you may leave your paper in my box before lecture begins.

Papers must be formatted according to the MLA standard. Among other things, this means that you should have a standard list of works cited and use standard MLA-based citation methodology for phrases and ideas originating elsewhere, that you should use one-inch margins, that your paper should be double-spaced, that there should be no extra spacing between paragraphs or other layout elements, that you should use a standard 12-point font, etc. If your word processor does not conform to the MLA standard by default, it is your job to figure out how to override the defaults and produce an acceptably formatted paper. Any deviations from MLA standard (unless they are very, very small) will negatively impact your paper grade. Moreover, as this is an upper-division college course, you are expected to be familiar with (and to employ) the standard conventions of formal writing (including appropriate grammar, punctuation, and mechanics), and any substantial problems with these matters will also negatively impact your grade. If you have questions, please consult a writing handbook, or see me during my office hours. We will discuss expectations regarding papers at greater length before your first paper is due. You may also take a look at my grading rubric, if you like.

Your paper grade is not based on whether or not you agree with me. You are welcome to disagree in whole or part with the opinions I express and positions I take in lecture, in my office hours, or in other places, and this will not hurt your grade — what I expect from all students is that they will have a well thought-out argument that is closely tied to the text(s) with which they engage. Expressing a different opinion will not hurt you, provided that you can instantiate a logical reasoning process for that opinion, and provided that you can tie it closely to your textual materials. Contrapositively, agreeing with me will not necessarily benefit you: I will still expect you to instantiate a logical argument that is closely tied to the text. I do not grade you on your politics, religion, or other opinions: I grade you on the construction of your argument and on your writing.

If you wish to dispute a grade you have received on a paper, you should provide a written statement indicating specific reasons why your grade should be different, based on my grading rubric, and should take my comments on your paper into account. This statement may be delivered to me in person, dropped off in my box in the English department mail room, or sent to me by email. You must also provide me with a copy of your paper that has my comments on it. I do not re-evaluate papers based on general claims such as I just think I did better.

Contact and Communications Policy

I am available during lecture, after lecture (most days), during my office hours, and by email. If you need to see me but cannot come into my office during office hours, let me know and we will arrange another time to meet. I take my pedagogical responsibilities seriously, and want to help each and every one of you to be successful. Although I am willing to answer questions by email, substantial and/or complex discussions about course material are more likely to be beneficial to both of us if they occur in person instead of electronically.

I try to respond to email in a timely fashion, although you should understand that it may take me a day or two during busy parts of the quarter to answer messages. Emailing me with an urgent question the night before a paper is due or a test is scheduled, therefore, is a bad idea, both because I may be busy with other tasks at those times and because many other people are likely to be sending me email then. Please schedule your writing and studying so that any questions arise sufficiently far in advance of the due date and you are not left without feedback at the last minute. Please also note that my daytime responsibilities on campus may mean that I do not check my email the last few hours before a paper is due or a test occurs.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you can receive email at your U-Mail address, and that you check your U-Mail address regularly. Although I do not often contact students by email (except to respond to emails that you send me), I may occasionally make general announcements in this way, or contact you personally about important issues. Emails that I send out are considered to be course material for which you are responsible, and failure to notice an email, or having a full email box, does not exempt you from your responsibility to be aware of these announcements.

Please turn off your cell phone and any other electronic communications device(s) during lecture and exams. If you have a compelling reason for needing to be available in these ways during class (for instance, if you are a paramedic or other emergency responder, or you need to be available to your childcare provider during class in case of emergency), please set your device to vibrate instead of making an audible tone. If a legitimate need arises for you to take an emergency phone call during the class, please leave the room to do so in order to minimize disruption to other students. You may not under any circumstances engage in any form of communication, electronic or otherwise, with anyone other than me during tests and quizzes; please ensure that you inform people who see you as an emergency contact that you are entirely unavailable for any reason during these times.

Plagiarism and Cheating

Anything and everything you turn in for class must represent your own original work. Although it is possible that your papers may build on existing research — excellent papers often do — it must always be clear which words and ideas in your paper are yours and which originate elsewhere. Your ultimate guide to all questions about plagiarism should be the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh Edition, which has a fairly comprehensive discussion of the subject in section two.

If you have questions about plagiarism or how to properly attribute the language and ideas of others, please see me after class or during my office hours.

Exams (including reading quizzes) must be completed based entirely on knowledge that you carry in your own head. You are not allowed to consult notes or texts during exams, and must not look at anyone else's work during the course of the exam. It is your job to avoid even the appearance of cheating. Glancing at someone else's test during an exam — or at your cell phone — is cause for disciplinary action even if you do not use what you see in order to construct your answer.

Any instance of cheating or plagiarism will result in (at a bare minimum) removal from the course and referral to the University's student conduct committee. It is the University's policy (and mine, as well) that cheating in any form is antithetical to the basic goals of education, and I take all incidents, no matter how small, seriously. The maximum penalty possible for cheating or plagiarism is expulsion from the University.

Disability Accommodations

If you are a student with a disability and require special accommodations, please let me know as soon as possible, and apply for services with the Disabled Students Program (

Equal Access Statement

University policy and Federal and state law require that all students be provided fair and equal access to educational services, regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or economic background. All students in this class are expected to treat each other with respect, and prejudicial or hate speech will not be tolerated. Professional speech and demeanor is expected from everyone in class at all times. Behavior and/or language that intimidate or negatively impact the attendance or performance of another student constitutes harassment and is unacceptable. This includes unwelcome sexual advances.

More broadly, we should be discussing texts and ideas, not attacking each other personally. Focusing on discussions of course material and related topics not only keeps us on task, but will ensure that everyone is able to participate effectively and gain as much as possible from the course.

If you have questions or concerns about university policies on equal access, please do not hesitate to contact me. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with me for any reason, you may contact UCSB's Title IX Compliance Office (, the Multicultural Center (, the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity (, or the Women's Center (

Other Resources

A collection of course materials can be found online at (or, if you're fond of additional typing, at At a bare minimum, that site will have electronic copies of all handouts that I distribute during class. There is also a Twitter stream for the course, accessible from the same location, that provides reminders about upcoming events and additional course-related information.

In Conclusion…

I expect that you will put in the necessary work to be prepared for lecture, that you will engage with the course material, that you will turn in your work on time, and that you will treat everyone else in class with respect. I want everyone to benefit from and to succeed in this course, and would be happy to hear input from you about how I can help you to do so. If you have questions or concerns, please let me know in my office hours, after lecture, or by email.

I try very hard to be available to, supportive of, and understanding toward my students. If you are having difficulties with the course material, please come talk to me. If you have unusual, stressful, or bizarre things happen during the term that make it difficult for you to perform up to your potential in the course, please come talk to me. If you just can't seem to get started writing your paper, please come talk to me. If I can help you to be successful in any reasonable way, please let me know. If I'm not aware of what's going on in your life, however, it's difficult for me to assist you.

Policies and reading schedule are subject to change as the quarter progresses, and the most up-to-date copy of this syllabus is always available on the Web at (or, equivalently, at However, please bring your hard copy of these guidelines with you to each lecture so you can keep notes on any changes that I may find it necessary to make.