One of these days, I want to teach a speculative fiction course. What does that mean? It means science fiction, fantasy, and horror. (Okay, so it will be light on horror. Or only use old horror. Old horror is much less scary to me, though I don’t know why.)
I already have several works that would help me prepare for that class:
The History of Science Fiction, though I don’t know where on the shelves it is
Barlowe’s Guide to Fantasy
a couple of actual texts used by colleges, including the one I used in my sophomore class. (No, I didn’t keep that. I found a copy of it at the library book sale.
Touch Magic by Jane Yolen (subtitled: Fantasy, Faerie and Folklore in the Literature of Children)
Philosophy and Science Fiction
Writing Science Fiction
and several Narnia, Tolkein discussion books.
(books updated 2/26/08)
What recognized literature falls into this category?
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
Do you see a theme there? I do. Except for Stoker, these are all works I’m already teaching or have taught. Maybe I’m doing my speculative fiction course in bits now. I still think it’d be fun to finish it, though.
If I ever do this, I might want to refer to this post I wrote on speculative fiction, a note on genre.
found while looking at David Simpson’s “Science Fiction”
A Note on Genre
To recognize some works as precursors of SF makes sense in any case because literary genres aren’t absolute classifications. They’re fuzzy sets. Moreover, individual works of literature–especially modern ones–are seldom entirely tragedies, or comedies, or satires, or adventure stories, or SF tales, or lampoons, or any one thing. Instead, they tend to be complicated amalgums of various genres. Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, for example, combines elements of comedy, satire, parody, farce, fantasy-adventure, and prophetic nightmare. Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle offers a similar mix. Yet without question both novels also qualify as specimens of science fiction.
other good stuff from there:
The mere fact that a novel or film deals at length and seriously with science and technology does not necessarily mean that it’s honest-to-goodness SF. The novels of the British writer C.P.Snow, for example, are largely about science and scientists, but they’re hardly examples of science fiction. In fact these novels are actually much closer in style and character to standard historical or political novels than to sci-fi products. That’s because Snow’s concern is entirely with character, power, and moral conflict in a realistically rendered present–a precisely depicted here and now. Traditional SF, on the other hand, tends toward the hypothetical and has a decidedly more prophetic or apolcalyptic goal. The SF writer, that is to say, is more concerned with future scenarios and vivid alternatives, with provocative extrapolations and exciting possibilities, than with the naturalistic transcription of current circumstances. In short, true science fiction is visionary writing about science and technology.
Other options on words for “genre” in this sentence: “We can conveniently sub-divide SF into a set of modes, sub-categories, or sub-genres…”
utopian or dystopian
exotic travel narratives (Gulliver’s Travels again)