GH 301: Slipstream Fiction [Spring 2018]

Instructor: Jake Jakaitis
Meeting Time: 12:30 to 1:45 Tu Th
Office: Root Hall A-209
Classroom: Root Hall A-275

Office Hours: 2-3 Tu & Th and by appointment

Office Telephone: 812-237-3269


Alien abduction, ghosts, murdered and mutilated clowns, munchkins and McDonalds, immortality elixirs, werewolves and vampires—What do these have in common? They, among other elements, appear in various combinations in slipstream fictions. In the late 1980s, the science fiction writers Bruce Sterling and Norman Spinrad attempted to identify a new movement in popular, speculative fiction while suggesting that conventional science fiction [SF] had merely begun to recycle old plots and thematic concerns while no longer speaking to a contemporary audience. Their essays suggest that a new genre had been developing as a counter to SF; they label this developing genre "Slipstream," 'The New Weird," or fiction of the very strange, and suggest that prior authors like Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, among others, had previously established the parameters of this genre.  In GH 301: Slipstream Fiction, we will explore mixed genre fiction and films that presumably support Sterling and Spinrad’s call for a new, engaging speculative fiction. Individual texts will combine elements of science fiction, fantasy, detective fiction, horror, and fairy tale, among other genres.


Kelly, James Patrick and John Kessel, eds. Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2006.
Link, Kelly and Gavin J. Grant, eds. The Best of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.
Lain, Douglas. After the Saucers Landed. New York: Night Shade Books, 2015.
Murakami, Haruki. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.


While at times we will be reading only a single short work [story or novella] for a single class meeting, sometimes two or more stories or essays will be assigned for a single class meeting; most often, the longer assignments will be due on a Tuesday because there are five days between our Thursday and Tuesday class meetings. You will be expected to read carefully, take notes, and come to class prepared to discuss the assigned readings. Study questions to focus your reading will appear as links in the on-line syllabus in advance of the due dates for the assigned readings. It is your responsibility to check our web syllabus regularly, for I will often withhold posting of study questions for later assignments or revise previously posted study questions so that I can tailor the questions to address issues and concerns raised in class discussions of the previous works.  The study questions will prepare you to participate in meaningful discussion and interpretive analysis of the assigned literary works.  Familiarity with the literature will, of course, prepare you for interpretive analysis and discussion on the examinations, on assigned papers, and on the final examination.  You are responsible for all of the assigned readings, even aspects of them not discussed in class.

1.  Attendance and Participation (15%)

Attendance:  Full attendance is expected and punctuality is important to your success.  If you arrive late, you will lose attendance and participation points. If you accumulate 6 unexcused absences, you will fail this course.  Of course, all absences, excused or unexcused, affect your grade because each absence reduces your quiz and participation score.  If you have an excused absence for medical or other University approved reasons, it is your responsibility to make up missed work by appointment with me before the next class meeting. 75 points will be allocated to participation.

Participation:  Much of our time will be spent discussing the assigned readings.  Exemplary performance in these activities will demonstrate that you are effectively preparing and thinking about the material and will significantly increase your attendance/participation score.  After each class meeting, I will assign participation points on a 5 point scale to students who actively comment on the readings and promote meaningful discussion related to the specified goals of the course. At semester's end, students will receive a letter grade for participation based on my estimation of their cumulative performance. Students who actively participate, demonstrating their commitment to reaeding and examining the assigned text[s] will earn a 5/5; those who attend but do not participate will receive a 3.5/5, or a C-. At semester's end, each student will recieve a score out of 75 available points based on the percentage of available participation points earned. For example, if a student earns 85% of the available participation ponts during the semester, that student will earn a participation score of 64, or 85% of 75--a B+.It is in your best interest to take notes and come to class prepared to ask questions or provoke discussion.  These practices will also prepare you to perform well on the short essays and examinations.  Conferences are not required but are encouraged. If you wish to meet with me but cannot attend my office hours, please arrange a conference with me at a more convenient time.  A semester goes by rather quickly; please see me immediately if you begin having difficulty with any of the course materials.

Professional Courtesy:  You will be expected to behave professionally in this college classroom.  Turn off cell phones before entering the room.  From the moment that you enter the classroom, you should be focused on the materials and assignments in this course.  Reading of newspapers or other material not directly related to work in GH 301 will not be tolerated in the classroom--neither before class has started, nor during our formal class session.   If you are interested in reading newspapers or other materials unrelated to this course as you wait for class to begin, do so outside the classroom. Students who behave rudely, or who have to be asked to put down newspapers or other reading materials will lose participation points.  Under extreme circumstances, such students will be removed from the classroom or dropped from this course.  Laptops may be used for note-taking and for review of course materials posted in our on-line syllabus, or for searches during class to support our discussions.  However, this privilege will be revoked for anyone using a laptop for any purpose not directly related to the ongoing class discussion.  Any student caught viewing material irrelevant to this course will be removed from the class. The ISU “Code of Conduct” can be found at

3.  Essays (35%)

You will write three short essays (3-4 typewritten pages:  1,000 to 1,300 words). These essays will require you to analyze one of the stories or novels assigned in the class. Students interested in writing creatively may choose to write their own slipstream short story following the pattern established by one of our assigned stories for essay #2 and/or #3. However, creative submissions will obviously be somewhat longer than the analytical papers and will include a 1-2 page discussion of how an assigned author and text influenced the design of the submitted creative piece. Your analytical paper(s) will be supported by quotations from the story functioning as evidence to support your claims and will conform to MLA documentation style. Plagiarism—the intentional presentation of work that is not your own—will result in failure on these assignments. In more severe cases of plagiarism, the result will be failure in the course and notice of the offense being sent to Student Judicial. The essays will be submitted by e-mail attachment and will be returned in the same manner. Due dates and more specific instructions for documentation procedures and essay submission will appear in the assignment. The initial two essays will each be worth 10% of the final grade, while the third essay will account for 15% of the final grade.

4.  Two Examinations (30%)

You will write two examinations including short answer questions and an extended response to an essay question.  Each examination will be worth 15% of the course grade. The short answer component will include a matching section asking you to link quotations from the stories to the appropriate story titles. Regular attendance and note taking will be crucial to your success on this portion of these examinations.

5.  Final Examination (20%)

You will complete a final examination covering Haruki Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. The final, an essay on the novel, will be written at home and submitted as hard copy during our final examination meeting on Tuesday, May 8, at 1:00 in Root Hall A 275.


150 Points
Essay #1
100 Points
Essay #2
100 Points
Exam #1
150 Points
Exam #2
200 Points
Final Exam
200 Points
900 Points

Final Grade Scale:  A = 828 points; A- = 810; B+ = 765 ; B = 738; B- = 720; C+ = 675; C = 648; C- = 630; D+ = 585; D =558;  D- = 540; F = less than 540 points.  The same percentage scale applies to each assignment.  For example, if you earn a B on the first short essay, I will assign you somewhere between 82% and 84% of the available points depending on my evaluation of your paper.  The letter grade and specific point score will be noted in my final comments on the paper.
**** Retain all graded assignments until you receive your final grade.  You will have little chance for grade review unless you are able to re-submit your graded work.


This is a tentative syllabus. It is your responsibility to attend regularly and to adjust to changes in the reading or assignment schedule. Any changes will be posted in this syllabus. Please check the web site regularly, as additional supporting materials will be added to the site as the course proceeds.

DATE             ASSIGNMENT [LCRW = Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet; FVS =Feeling Very Strange]


1-16 [Tu]       Course Introduction: Preliminary Slipstream Definitions

                      Film: Un Chien Andalou [Dir. Luis Bunuel; Art Design Salvador Dali; 1929] SQ

                      RECOMMENDED BUT NOT REQUIRED: Bruce Sterling: "Slipstream" [1-8]; Norman Spinrad: "The New Weird" PDF [226-237]


1-18 [Th]       Franz Kafka: "The Metamorphosis" [PDF: 1-34] SQ   It's a Wonderful Life


1-22 [M]       Last Day to Add/Drop With No Grade

1-23 [Tu]       Jorge Luis Borges: "Death and the Compass" [ PDF: 1-8]; "The Garden of Forking Paths" [ PDF: 1-10] SQ

1-25 [Th]       In Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet: "A (Parenthetical) Preface" [viii-xi] & "An Introduction" [xvii-xx]

                      Kelly Link  Don't Shoot It's Only Comics  Leeking Ink

                       In Feeling Very Strange: "Slipstream: The Genre That Isn't" [viii-xv] John Kessel  James Patrick Kelly

                       Assign Essay #1  Plagiarism Handout Sample Works Cited Entries.


1-30 [Tu]       In Feeling Very Strange: "Al" by Carol Emshwiller [3-13] & "The Little Magic Shop" by Bruce Sterling [14-26] SQ

                           Dr. Heidegger's Experiment 

2-1 [Th]         In LCRW: "Heartland" by Karen Joy Fowler [58-63] SQ; In FVS: "Hell is the Absence of God" by Ted Chiang [123-150] SQ


2-6 [Tu]         In FVS: "Light and the Sufferer" by Jonathan Lethem [53-86] SQ  Season of the Witch   Hurdy Gurdy Man  McDeath

2-8 [Th]         "Music Lessons" by Douglas Lain [218-245] SQ

2-11 [Sun]      ESSAY # 1 DUE [No later than 11:59 p.m. by e-mail attachment]  


2-13 [Tu]        After the Saucers Landed by Douglas Lain [Chs. 1-6: 1-83]

2-15 [Th]        After the Saucers Landed by Douglas Lain [Chs. 7-9: 84-133]


2-20 [Tu]        After the Saucers Landed by Douglas Lain [Chs. 10-15: 134-236]

2-22 [Th]        In LCRW: "Pretending" by Ray Vukcevich [66-76] SQ  



2-27 [Tu]        In LCRW: "Bay" by David Erik Nelson [133-145]

                       In FVS: "The Specialist's Hat" by Kelly Link [39-52] SQ for both stories Examination #1 Review

3-1  [Th]         Examination #1 Interim Grades Due by 4 p.m.   Stories in Order.



3-6 [Tu]          Film: Don't Look Now [1973]; Director: Nicholas Roeg; starring Donald Southerland and Julie Christie SQ

                       Read "The Film Column" by William Smith in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet[77-79] before coming to class on Thursday.

3-8 [Th]          Finish Don't Look Now   Assign Essay 2.




3-20 [Tu]                 In FVS: "The God of Dark Laughter" by Michael Chabon [208-226] SQ & "Sea Oak" by George Saunders [87-111]  SQ

3-22 [Th]                 In FVS: "Bright Morning" by Jeffrey Ford [159-180] SQ


3-27 [Tu]                 In FVS: "You Have Never Been Here" by M. Rickert [272-284]

                                In LCRW: "You Were Neither Hot Nor Cold, So I Spit You Out" by Spindler and Nelson [355-372] SQ for both stories

3-29 [Th]                                                           NO CLASS: POPULAR CULTURE CONFERENCE

4-1 [SUN]               ESSAY # 2 DUE [No later than 11:59 p.m. by e-mail attachment.]


4-3 [Tu]                   In LCRW: "Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland" by Sarah Monette [116-131] & "Serpents" by Veronica Schanoes [198-208] SQ

4-5 [Th]                  In LCRW: ""Happier Days" [149-156] & "The Pirate's True Love" [292-297] SQExam #2 Review

                               Fonzie Comes Through  


4-9  [M]                 LAST DAY TO DROP/WITHDRAW WITH A "W" GRADE

4-10 [Tu]                STUDY DAY  

4-12 [Th]                Examination #2 Stories in Order



4-17 [Tu]                Begin Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: Chs. 1-8, pp. 1-88.Final Essay Assignment.

4-19 [Th]                Continue Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: Chs. 9-13, pp. 89-142.


4-24 [Tu]                 Continue Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: Chs. 14-20, pp. 143-203.

4-26 [Th]                 Continue Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: Chs. 21-24, pp. 204-249.


5-1 [Tu]                    Continue Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: Chs. 25-33, pp. 250-346.

5-3 [Th]                    Finish Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: Chs. 34-40, pp. 347-400.



Your final essay will be submitted at our final examination meeting on Tuesday, May 8, @ 1:00 in Root Hall A-275