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Study-Unit Description
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TITLE The Rise of Science Fiction

LEVEL H - Higher Level


DEPARTMENT Centre for the Liberal Arts and Sciences

DESCRIPTION ‘Science fiction is the literature of change’ (Brooks Landon). A world is evoked where scientific discoveries, technological innovations, societal changes, or natural events have changed our reality as we know it. Science fiction asks such questions as ‘What if this were to happen?’ or ‘What if this were to go on?’, and then runs that thought-experiment in a story. Often it contests authority and the standard ways we understand our existence. How do we know things? How did we get to be what we are? What might we become? Science fiction explores possibilities, pushes boundaries, and provides alternate points-of-view on familiar subjects. In doing so, it paves the way for an understanding of the universe we live in.

This unit is an introductory guide to the science fiction literature of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. It will provide an overview account of the pre-pulp era, as dominated by the scientific romance, and the ‘Golden Age’ of science fiction with such writers as Hugo Gernsback and John Campbell as pioneers. Focus will be given to the third period in the genre’s development – the ‘New Wave’ era of the 1960s and 1970s – as well as cyberpunk (1980s) and some of the other trends and movements that have followed in its wake.

Three significant themes the unit will address are:

- The question of how stable reality really is and therefore how knowable it can be;
- Computer-generated hospitable worlds;
- Female characters who challenge and upset futuristic patriarchal societies and cultures.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- give a historical overview of science fiction literature;
- explain its recent developments, main concerns, and future directions;
- acquire a sense of some of the contemporary mythologies that have grown from and around the genre;
- discern similarities and differences across the several science fiction traditions and movements;
- describe the singular influence of science-fiction literature on culture since the beginning of the twentieth-century.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- compare and contrast different traditions and movements of science-fiction literature according to their defining characteristics;
- identify the relationship of key themes in the literature with current social concerns;
- interrogate and engage with some of the political and social ideas that contemporary society takes for granted;
- acquire an awareness of the science-fiction culture as found in the several aspects of everyday life and in the different media;
- discern in the literature the ongoing capacity to change the status-quo.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Students will be asked to read some studies like the ones from the list below. Important articles on several aspects of the literature will be provided throughout the unit.

- Beyond Cyberpunk: New Critical Perspectives, ed. Graham J. Murphy, Sherryl Vint (New York: Routledge, 2010)
- Butler, Andrew M., Solar Flares: Science Fiction in the 1970s (Oxford: Oxford University, 2012)
- Dozois, Gardner, The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Second Annual Collection (New York: St. Martin’s, 2015)
- Fifty Key Figures in Science Fiction, ed. Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, Sherryl Vint (Abingdon: Taylor and Francis, 2009)
- Landon, Brooks, Science Fiction After 1900: From the Steam Man to the Stars (London: Routledge, 2002)
- Reading Science Fiction, ed. James Gunn, Marleen S. Barr, Matthew Candelaria (Hampshire: Macmillan, 2009)
- Roberts, Adam, Science Fiction (London: Routledge, 2006)
- Roberts, Adam, The History of Science Fiction (Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006)
- Science Fiction: A Critical Guide, ed. Patrick Parrinder (London: Routledge, 1979)
- Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction: Challenging Genres, ed. P. L. Thomas (Rotterdam: Sense Publishers, 2013)
- The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction, ed. Rob Latham (Oxford: Oxford University, 2014)
- The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, ed. Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, Sherryl Vint (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2009)


Assessment Component/s Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment Yes 100%

LECTURER/S David Vella

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2017/8, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.
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