How to Read Science Fiction

Course instructors: Vladimir Poleganov and Alexander Popov

This course will attempt to develop an awareness of science fiction not so much as a “genre”, but as a way of reading. We believe that the reading strategies that science fiction encourages and rewards can develop a reader’s skills in a different way than those of non-SF literature, skills that would extend to the reading and interpretation of non-fiction, as well as various sorts of political and social rhetoric.

The course will be close reading oriented. Theory and history of the genre will be limited, but will be mentioned where pertinent. Here are some of the general activities that will be taking place in the course:

– Reading and discussing stories that present their altered reality with varying levels of subtletly, from classic “spaceships and aliens” tropes to throaway phrases, easily missed, indicating a slight shift in the world.
– Reading and discussing stories from various periods, tracing the development of trends and concerns in the genre, as well as putting them in historical context.
– Reading and discussing mainstream texts as if they were science fiction.
– Writing short science-fictional passages using subtle rhetorical devices to indicate altered realities.
– Writing short analyses of fictional texts employing the concepts and methods discussed in class.

Every good science fictional text is a collection of suggestive images and statements about how the world could be. We hope to encourage an atmosphere of free textual interpretation and exchange of ideas about what lies in the gaps between those images and statements, stiching them into robust and powerful tapestries of alternative realities.

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