Notes and Questions to Consider for Allen Steele's Coyote

As I explained in class and as the publication information in the paperback edition indicates, Coyote was first published in eight installments in Asimov's Science Fiction between January 2001 and December 2002.   We, of course, are reading it under different circumstances, but it should be reasonably obvious that each of the novel's eight parts is designed as a unit, but that while each unit has some degree of closure, each also creates anticipation regarding what will come next.  Below, I provide some notes and discussion issues for each of the units covered by our first reading assignment.  However, I begin with a few notes on the untitled introduction [pages 1-5] that did not appear in the serialized version.


Why does Steele add this part factual and part fiction introduction?  At what point does his factual account regarding the search for other planets and the possibility of life on other planets become fictionalized?  What might Steele's purpose be in mixing factual accounts of scientific inquiry with his fictionalized near future information in this introduction?  How do the final pages of this introduction begin to effect Steele's social and political criticism? 

Which of the following details refer to actual scientific principles, scientists, or events:

Drake Equation

Fermi ParadoxGeoffrey Landis's Reply

Geoffrey Marcy and Paul Butler See also:

Sagan Terrestrial Planet Finder [TPF]

Jet Propulsion Laboratory [JPL]

How does the Freeman Dyson quote that opens the novel prepare us for the conflicts that drive the novel's characters and begin to reveal the basis of Steele's social critique?

Part One:  Stealing Alabama

What values are in conflict in the opening of the novel?  How are these conflicts indicated in the names that Steele assigns to the political party in power and to its vehicles?  Is Steele, through his social and political critique, warning us about developing patterns in our political and social reality? 

What associations are evoked through the shuttle names, Jesse Helms and George Wallace?  Helms Voting Record. Wallace Timeline.

Part Two:  The Days Between

Why does Steele have Leslie Gillis wake only three months into the mission and live out his life alone on the starship?  How does this device prepare us for later developments in the plot?

How does Gillis serve to foreground fundamental thematic concerns in science fiction?

Part Three:  Coming to Coyote

How is this chapter reminiscent of other, earlier science fictions that we have studied? 

Why does Steele place Gill Reese and his United Republic Service soldiers on the Alabama?  How does their presence complicate the situation and motivate plot development?

What is the significance of renaming the Jesse Helms and the George Wallace, and how does this renaming expose some of the residual conflicts among the colonists?

What is the impact of Captain Robert E. Lee's decision not to burn the United Republic of America flag?  Why does he decide to preserve the flag and to name the colony "Liberty"?

Part Four:  Liberty Journals

What is the impact of shifting primarily to individual journal entries by Dr. James Levin, Wendy Gunther, Tom Shapiro, and Ensign LeMare?  How do these entries and the minutes of the town meetings affect your understanding of the group dynamic?

How does this section of the novel further develop the conflicts and tensions resident in the colony?