ENG 335:  SCIENCE FICTION AS SOCIAL CRITICISM                                 SPRING 2017

 Instructor:  Jake Jakaitis

Meeting Time:  9:30--10:45 Tu Th

Office:  RO A-209

Classroom: Root Hall A108

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

E-mail Address: jake.jakaitis@indstate.edu

Office Telephone:  812-237-3269

Home Page: http://isu.indstate.edu/jakaitis


Science Fiction as Social Criticism investigates the genre’s historical tendency to question the relation of individuals to the social and political structures that shape their identities and govern their lives, thereby enacting political and social criticism.  It is not a chronological or historical survey. Instead, we will examine science fictional addresses to technology and progress, conquest and colonization, and the role of the individual in society.  Following Ursula K. Le Guin’s belief that a well-written science fiction is never really predictive, but is always about the author’s present, always a displacement of a concern relevant to the here and the now, our goal will be to expose complex relations among popular texts and social, economic, and political forces in culture, to effect a cultural critique.


(Years in parentheses indicate dates of original publication.)

Dick, Philip K. The Man in the High Castle. [1962] Vintage. ISBN 0-679-74067-8
Masri, Heather. Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts. [Compact Edition] Bedford St. Martin. ISBN 978-1-4576-9581-0
Russell, Mary Doria. The Sparrow (1996) Ballantine, 2008. ISBN 978-0-449-91255-3
Steele, Allen.  Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration. [2000-2001 serialization in Asimov’s] Ace SF, 2003.  ISBN 0-441-01116-0.
Wells, H.G. The Time Machine. (1895) Dover Thrift Edition, 1995. ISBN 0-486-28472-7.


  • To provide an historical overview of the development of science fiction while emphasizing science fiction's tendency to enact cultural and political critique.
  • To connect the works studied to cultural and historical contexts through interpretive analysis and discussion of narrative structure, displacement, and the common themes and emphases of science fiction.
  • To develop and refine close reading and analytical skills through student interpretations of literary works communicated both through class discussions and in written assignments. 
  • To encourage critical sophistication and lifelong interest in literature by deepening students’ awareness and understanding of the aesthetic and cultural dimensions of literary, artistic, and philosophical studies


The reading and class preparation load for Science Fiction as Social Criticism will be rather intense at times.  While we often will be reading only a single short work [story or novella] for a single class meeting, in some weeks we will be covering a complete novel of 300 or more pages.  You will be expected to read carefully, take notes, and come to class prepared to take an objective test or to write short answer and essay responses to quiz questions about the assigned work.  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 and quizzes will sustain the expectation that you have carefully read and thought about the assigned readings and that you are prepared 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 in quizzes, in assigned papers, and on the examinations.  You are responsible for all of the assigned readings, even aspects of them not discussed in class

1.  Attendance and Participation (100 Points)

 Attendance:  Full attendance is expected.  Because we will open some class sessions with a quiz, punctuality is crucial to your success.  If you arrive late, it will be impossible to give you additional time to complete the assignment and since the class discussion following each quiz will rely on students’ responses to the quizzes, completing the work after class is not an acceptable option.  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.
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 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. 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 ENG 335 will not be allowed 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 e-mail, instant messaging, or any purpose not directly related to the ongoing class discussion.  The ISU “Code of Conduct” can be found at http://www.indstate.edu/sjp/code.html.

2.   Quizzes (100 Points)
Class meetings will sometimes open with a quiz.  Some quizzes will ask you to provide brief, factual responses to a series of questions about the assigned readings. More substantive quizzes will require short essay responses that analyze and interpret assigned readings.  These responses must begin with topic sentences that directly answer the question and then supply specific story details to support the topic.  [See the "How to Respond Effectively to Quiz Questions" link below.]  Simply quickly reading the assigned stories will not prepare you to score well on these quizzes.  Instead, you must actively consider study questions, literary techniques, plot structures and conflicts, thematic concerns, or the relation of the assigned reading to material presented in lectures and discussions of previously assigned works.  How to Respond Effectively to Quiz Questions

2 Point Score Chart  3 Point Chart   20 Point Chart

3.  Essays (100 Points)
You will write one required essay in the course on The Sparrow; you will also have an opportunity to write a second essay on The Man in the High Castle for grade replacement. Each essay will be four double-spaced typewritten pages (approximately 1,300 to 1,400 words) and each will be worth 100 points or 10% of the course grade. Your interpretive analysis of these novels will conform to MLA documentation style when you present and discuss quotations as supporting evidence. Plagiarism—the intentional presentation of work that is not your own—will result in failure on the assignment. In more severe cases of plagiarism, the result will be failure in the course and notice of the offense being sent to Student Judicial Programs. 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 each assignment. 

4.  Examinations (600 Points)
You will write two examinations including short answer questions and an extended response to an essay question and a take-home final examination.  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 the examination. Each examination will be worth 200 Points.


100 Points
100 Points
Essay #1
100 Points
Examination 1
200 Points
Examination 2
200 Points
Take Home Final Examination
200 Points
900 Points

5 Point Scoring Chart  40 Point Scoring Chart  55 Point Scoring Chart  60 Point Scoring Chart

Final Grade Scale:  95% = A+, 92% = A, 90% = A-, 85% = B+, etc. Since we are working with a 900 point total, your final grade in the course will be determined by where your total point score falls on the following scale: A = 828 points; A- = 810; B+ = 765; B = 738; B- = 720; C+ = 675; C =648 ; C- = 630; D+ = 585; D = 585; 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.

Additional Information:  For information about the Foundational Studies Program—specifically the “Sycamore Standard,” academic freedom, and the rights and responsibilities of students with disabilities—consult the Foundational Studies Program website:


This is a tentative syllabus.  Unless otherwise noted, all page numbers refer to Masri’s Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts [Compact Edition]. It is your responsibility to attend regularly, to be prepared for quizzes on the readings, and to adjust to changes in the reading or assignment schedule.  Any changes will be posted in the syllabus available at: http://isu.indstate.edu/jakaitis/.  Please check the web site regularly, as additional supporting materials will regularly be added to the site.


WEEK ONE:  Course Introduction  

1-17 [Tu]        Course introduction and prepare for first assigned reading:  The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Cover Art. Wells and Conrad.

1-19 [Th]        Read William Gibson on The Time Machine. Here's another time travel essay, a review of Michael Swanick's Bones of the Earth.
                        Notes on Cosmic and Ethical Evolution

WEEK TWO:  Scientific Romances--Playing with Time

1-23 [M]       Last Day to Add/Drop with No Grade

1-24 [Tu]      The Time Machine [1895] by H. G. Wells. Read this short novel for free by clicking on the MS Word or PDF versions below.  SQ  
                     The Time MachineMS Word Version; PDF version.

1-26  [Th]       Continue discussion of The Time Machine.  

WEEK THREE:  Playing with Time

1-31 [Tu]         “Twilight” [1934] by John W. Campbell: 661-677. SQ
                       “Vintage Season” [1946] by C.L. Moore: 293-325. SQ   Longer Bio
2-2 [Th]         “All You Zombies” [1959] by Robert Heinlein: 326-336. SQ and “The Story of Your Life” [1998] by Ted Chiang: 390-426.

WEEK FOUR:  First Contact


2-7 [Tu]          “A Martian Odyssey” [1934] by Stanley Weinbaum: 18-37. SQ
                       “Arena” [1944] by Fredric Brown: 38-58. SQ F. Brown Magazine Covers
2-9 [Th]       “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” [1971] by Ursula K. Le Guin: 83-105. SQ

WEEK FIVE: First Contact

2-14  [Tu]        Click on links to read the web versions of today's two stories: “Slow Life” [2002] by Michael Swanwick SQ
                        “Bloodchild” [1984] by Octavia Butler SQAlternative Bio.
                        EXAM #1 REVIEW
 2-16 [Th]       EXAM #1

WEEK SIX:  Crises of Conscience

2-21  [Tu]       Begin The Sparrow [1996] by Mary D. Russell: Prologue & Chs. 1-5 [3-42] SQ  ESSAY ASSIGNMENT

2-23  [Th]       Continue The Sparrow: Chs. 6-15 [43-152] Characters in The Sparrow

WEEK SEVEN:  Crises of Conscience

2-28  [Tu]       Continue The Sparrow: Chs. 16-20 [153-214]
                        INTERIM GRADES DUE

3-2   [Th]       Continue The Sparrow: Chs. 21-28 [215-330]

WEEK EIGHT:  Simulating Humanity


3-7     [Tu]      Finish The Sparrow: Chs. 29-32 [331-405]

3-9     [Th]      "Helen O'Loy" [1938] by Lester Del Rey inPDF: 42-52. SQ
                        "The Algorithms for Love" [2004] by Ken Liu: 246-257. SQ Review of Liu's The Grace of Kings

WEEK NINE: Simulating Humanity


WEEK TEN: Simulating Humanity

3-21 [Tu]      “Liar!” [1941] by Isaac Asimov: 141-155. SQ
                     "Second Variety" by Philip K. Dick: 155-190. SQ

3-23 [Th]      "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" by James Tiptree Jr.: 201-230. SQ

WEEK ELEVEN:  Alternate History

3-28  [Tu]        “Burning Chrome” by William Gibson: 230-246. SQ
                        EXAM #2 REVIEW

3-30  [Th]        EXAM #2

WEEK TWELVE: Alternate History

4-4     [Tu]     “Blood Music" by Greg Bear: 743-762. SQ
  nbsp;  &                  Introduction to I Ching.

4-6     [Th]     The Man in the High Castle [1962] by Philip K. Dick: Chs. 1-4, pp. 3-60. ESSAY ASSIGNMENT

                     Tip Top Comics #1   Herman Sorgel   Horrors of War Cards   Milk Bottle Caps   Rudolph Diesel   Dr. Theo Morell

WEEK THIRTEEN:  Political Space Opera


4-11    [Tu]     The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick: Chs. 5-9, pp. 61-149.


WEEK FOURTEEN: Political Space Opera

4-18    [Tu]      The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick: Chs. 10-13, pp. 150-220.                     

4-20    [Th]      The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick: Chs. 14-15, pp. 221-259.


WEEK FIFTEEN:  Political Space Opera

14-25 [Tu]     Coyote:  A Novel of Interstellar Exploration [2002] by Allen Steele:  Parts One & Two: 1-125.
                       [Be sure to read the 5 pages that precede Book One.] SQ

4-27   [Th]     Coyote:  Parts Three and Four: 129-233. New Florida Map   Equatorial River Map

STUDY WEEK:  The Posthuman

5-2 [Tu]        Coyote:  Parts Five, Six, and Seven: 241-363 SQ for Book Two

5-4 [Th]        Finish Coyote: Part Eight: 367-433. QUIZ
                     FINAL EXAMINATION REVIEW



[Our examination is on Tuesday, May 9 @ 10:00 in Root Hall A 108.]