335: SF as Social Criticism
Novel Essay Assignment [20%--200 Points]
Write a 5-6 page [1,600-2,000 word] essay on one of the three novels covered before week thirteen: Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel, or Philip K.
Dick's Blade Runner.
Rather than requiring you to address specific issues of my own design in
one of the novels, I am asking you to evaluate any one of these four
novels as a work of science fiction. To score well, however, your
evaluation must be sustained by your understanding of fundamental issues in
science fiction that we have discussed over the course of the semester.
That is, you are not discussing whether or not you "liked" a particular novel.
Instead, your task is to defend the selected work as a quality piece of science
fiction because it conforms to generic expectations through its creation of a
science fictional world or through its address to common science fiction
thematic concerns or issues as we have defined them over the course of the
semester. In addition to the novel that you have chosen to discuss, you will be required to incorporate information from at least three sources found through library research. The procedures for identifying useful information about the novels through library research will be demonstrated in class.
Rely on our on-line guides and study questions for these novels as well as on
posted information throughout the syllabus to help you to focus your address to
the novel of your choice. To further assist you, I list below some of the
concerns central to each novel. These are by no means exhaustive lists,
nor are they meant to define the only acceptable approaches to the novels.
They are simply reminders of some of the issues that we will define as important to
these novels as we discuss them in class. I will add topics to each list as we cover each novel. Of course, I cannot anticipate every emphasis and issue that will arrive through class discussion; therefore, each of you has the option of establishing alternative approaches based
on your reading of the novels and on our classroom discussions. If you want to discuss an aspect of one of the novels not identified in the lists below, simply provide me with a preliminary thesis statement and I will do my best to direct you on this project.
While the paper will not formally be due until Tuesday, April 12, I urge you to complete and submit the paper early if you choose to write about either The Moon is a harsh Mistress or Caves of Steel because the more time you allow to write about a novel after we have read and discussed it, the more difficult the process becomes. Ideally, if you choose to write about Heinlein's novel, for example, you should submit the paper no more than a week or two after we have finished our discussions. Before submitting your paper, you must clear your approach with me by submitting a paragraph stating your proposed purpose and thesis. The proposals are to be submitted by e-mail attachment.
BE SURE TO FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR PREPARING AND SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT THAT APPEAR AT THE END OF THIS ASSIGNMENT
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Heinlein's Politics [Does Professor de la Paz speak for Heinlein?]
Heinlein's Treatment of Women [Gender in the Novel]
Character Analysis of Mike/Michelle [Is Mike "alive"?]
Historical References and Allusions in the Novel [How do Heinlein's choices reveal his philosophy or politics?]
Caves of Steel
Technology as threat to human culture
Prejudice [Focused primarily through Lige Baley's attitudes but supported by
other characters as well]
Gender, especially representations of women
Nostalgia [longing to recover an idealized past] vs. Progress [accepting the
Simulated vs. "Real" experience
The nature of truth
The human vs. the artificial
What Defines Something as Human
Again, I am not limiting you to discussion of any of the issues noted above.
These are just short lists of some of the issues that I intend to cover in class.
Note that your primary goal is to evaluate the novel as a work of science
fiction. That is, you'll have to establish your argument by defining what
makes a quality SF novel while referencing issues that we've covered in this
course. This opening definition of what results in a quality SF novel, of
course, should be tailored to lead to a discussion of features of the novel that
you have selected.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR FORMATTING AND SUBMITTING YOU PAPER APPEAR BELOW:
- Introduce the novel's title,
author, and year of publication in your opening sentence or two. Typically, the year of publication simply appears in parentheses after the title of the novel. Provide
a brief plot summary keyed to the specific issues that you will discuss.
Your opening paragraph (or at very least second paragraph) should end with a
specific thesis statement that explains or identifies the purpose of the
essay, what will be proved, and how it will be proved through a list of
topics to be discussed.
- Begin body paragraphs with
topic statements, statements of opinions about story facts
(interpretations), and not with the next item in the story sequence or with
a wordy delay phrase like "Another way that the concept that I am discussing
is shown in the way that the story was written is..." See our "How to Repsond Effectivedly to Quiz Questions" handout for further examples of wordy language.
- Put the titles of novels
in italics and place quotation marks around the titles of stories or essays.
- When you summarize plot, use
- Introduce your quotations,
establishing the speaker and context, and document properly using the MLA
format. For example: As Robert E. Lee approaches President Conroy the evening
before hijacking the Alabama, he wonders, "Does he suspect? Has he
learned of the conspiracy?" (21). If the quote itself is a question,
the end punctuation remains inside the quotation mark. Periods, however, are
placed after the parentheses.
- After presenting a quotation,
be sure to discuss its significance or to explain how the quotation furthers
your argument, unless the quote is simply illustrating a point made in the
material immediately preceding the quote.
- Indent and Block quotations
that take up three or more lines of your text. Never end a paragraph
or an essay with a block quote, or any undiscussed quotation.
- Avoid the following wordy
delay structures: In my opinion, I think, I feel, I believe, There is,
There was, There are....Do not open sentences with wordy phrasings like
"Another way that..." or "One of the reasons that" or any similar
structures. Make subjects act through verbs in the beginning of your
sentences. Instead of "There are many ways that Gillis affects the
colony's chances for survival." write, "Gillis affects the colony's
chances for survival by consuming 20% of their stored food during his 32
years alone on the Alabama." Note that the second version of
the sentence includes specific details of Gillis's actions, while the "There
are" opening tends to lead into vague references to his actions--"many
ways." List or name the ways instead of writing general references.
- Format your paper properly. Use Times New Roman 12 font. Use format paragraph to indent the first lines of your paragraphs. Alter the formatting for block quotes. When any quotation takes up more than 3 lines of your paper, single space the quotation and increase the left margin by an additional .5 inch. Use format paragraph to eliminate the extra space that Word automatically places before and after paragraphs. Simply set those values to 0.
- Submit your paper to email@example.com by e-mail attachment. Title your file with your family name followed by the author of the novel and the word, "essay." For example, if I were submitting a paper about The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I would title my file Jakaitis Heinlein Essay.
Paper Length: 5-6 pages [1,600-2,000 words]
Paper Due Date: Tuesday , April 12. [Of course, you may submit
the paper earlier by e-mail attachment in MS Word.]