ENG 2420: Science Fiction

City Tech, Fall 2016

Author: Jill Belli (page 1 of 2)

Wrapping Up the Semester

We made it! A few things to keep in mind as we wrap up this semester:

Final Draft of Write-Up +Reflection
Due 11:59pm on Mo 12/19. Remember, you need to submit two ways: 1) create an OpenLab post with the revised abstract in the post and the Essay (with Cover Letter as first pages of the file) as a PDF (label correctly!) … this is a public document! 2) Dropbox as a Microsoft Word document (label correctly!)

Final Course Reflections
Individual Final Course Reflection is due by 4pm on Tu 12/20 (this is a mandatory–not optional–assignment). You will be submitting the reflection privately (only I will see it) via Dropbox, as a Microsoft Word document (correctly labeled). Refer to the Final Course Reflection page on our site for details on this assignment.


Final Project Grades / Final Course Grades

The deadline for professors to submit final course grades for the Fall 2016 semester is Tu 12/27 at midnight. Please wait to view your course grade online through CUNYfirst (I will not be giving out final course grades via e-mail).

Final grades are non-negotiable, though I am always more than happy to discuss them/your work with you at any point in person. If you would like to discuss any of your grades/receive additional feedback on your Project (project grades will be posted as a “private” comment to your Final Project posts on our OpenLab site), feel free to e-mail me to do so (we can always also schedule an appointment to discuss your work in-person when we return to campus at the end of January, when the new semester starts up).


Thank you, & stay in touch!
Finally, it was a pleasure to work with you all this semester. I wish you the best of luck wrapping up the semester and on your final exams, and in your future endeavors at City Tech, & beyond. You all worked incredibly hard this semester, and I really appreciate your consistent effort and good cheer each week. I hope you enjoyed yourselves and learned a lot about science fiction and critical thinking / reading / writing / reflection. There will be some exciting developments at the college related to Science Fiction in coming semesters, so do be on the look out for announcements about them! Have a wonderful winter break & happy holiday season (best of luck in 2017!), & don’t hesitate to be in touch /stop by my office in future semesters to discuss your work in this course/beyond (or chat science fiction in general!), and/or to just say hi  :)

 

Class Today in Library: Visit to the City Tech Science Fiction Archive

Hi everyone! Just a friendly reminder that today, as a class, we are visiting the City Tech Science Fiction Archive. Therefore, we won’t be meeting in our normal classroom (M305); instead, we will meet outside the library, 4th floor of the Atrium. Please make sure that you are there no later than 4pm, so that we can do an introduction to the archive there and then head into the library together. If you have any questions, please “reply” to this post & someone will answer.

See you all soon 🙂

Today is the City Tech Science Fiction Symposium!

Poster designed by Marlon Palmer

Poster designed by Marlon Palmer

Hi everyone:

Don’t forget that today, from 9am-5pm, is City Tech’s Science Fiction Symposium! Stop by for any or all of it, and get extra credit for attending/blogging about your reflections of it & what you learned there (see Schedule for details about the extra credit).

The Symposium presentation schedule and other information is here. A number of students in our class (Joselin, Rino, Alex, Shiasja, Moises, Cody) are presenting on the student roundtable at 3pm, so come cheer them on 🙂

Symposium on Amazing Stories: Inspiration, Learning, and Adventure in Science Fiction, Tues. Nov. 29, 9am-5pm, Namm 119, Schedule

 

 

bring 4 printed copies of proposal to class tomorrow (Th 11/17)

Hi everyone:

I hope the proposal writing is going well. In addition to posting your proposal to our OpenLab site by 2:15pm tomorrow, please bring 4 printed copies of it to class tomorrow so we can do peer review.

Also, remember to BYOD (bring your own device: laptops, tablets) to class, if you have access to one.

Thanks, and see you soon!

Cheers,
Professor Belli

Strategies for Drafting + Revising Essays

These are some notes reflecting on Essay 1, and strategies for you as you work on Essay 2. The goal is to get you thinking about the drafting & revision process holistically, and to understand the different components (argument, structure, etc.) that go into creating an effective thesis-driven essay.

I also strongly encourage everyone to review the Essay Assignment & the requirements/expectations, before submitting your final draft. You may also want to review the Writing Resources I provided. And remember, your final draft should be fully revised, and that you should include a reflective (also fully revised) Cover Letter that should be one full page single-spaced.

As you work on Essay 2, you should pay particular attention to:

  • The focus/sophistication/clarify/persuasiveness of your argument (both in your opening paragraph and in its development throughout the body of the essay).
  • The quality and incorporation of textual evidence (using a mix of summary, paraphrase, quotations, signal phrases, introducing/contextualizing this textual evidence)
  • Correct/complete citations (both in-text and Work Cited)
  • Sentence-level issues, including proofreading. Nobody should be turning in a final draft with any typos or other similar errors in it. You should revise your draft thoroughly, including reading it out loud to catch any mistakes.

 

Here are some more helpful thoughts about drafting / revising:

  • Your thesis should be the final sentence of your first paragraph, but you should spend the entire Introduction developing/working up to this final claim (think of it as a “thesis-paragraph,” rather than a thesis “sentence”). Make sure that your Introduction (thesis paragraph) provides an outline (a road map) of your essay/argument. Introduce/define any central key terms/concepts here as well. This first paragraph – the thesis paragraph is key: don’t start with generalities about technology or machines (etc.) or a basic summary of your broad topic or text. The purpose of this paragraph is to introduce readers to your focused/specific argument in relation to the novel. So, here, you should provide only the specific information readers will need to understand your argument in this essay.
  • Everyone needs to think about your readers’ expectations. You should assume they have read but not thought carefully about the novel. You need to provide information to guide them through the presentation/discussion/analysis of your argument (don’t just jump right into the middle of things). What information do your readers need, in what order, to understand and be convinced of your thesis?
  • Use your topic sentences to lead with your claims (and their significance) instead of just listing a detail/fact from a source. You don’t want your essay to stay in the same place (horizontal); instead you want it to grow and build with each new paragraph. It is crucial that you use transitions, reflect on the links between your various sentences, ideas, sources (etc.), and then connect the dots for your readers (don’t leave them guessing). You need to bring something new to your topic (not just re-presenting back facts/observations from the text/s). I know that this can seem like a daunting task for an essay, but remember that synthesizing/integrating all of the information you have found and weaving it together is already a work of intellectual effort (which involves analysis, evaluation, narrative/story-telling, etc.). You want to provide argument and analysis, not merely describe facts.
  • Use transitions to connect your ideas. Don’t have ideas jumbled in the same paragraph or merely string quotes together. Evidence (quotes, examples from the text/s) must be clearly introduced, explained, and analyzed. You have to connect the dots for your readers. Clearly explain the significance of your points (it’s like baking – you might have all the ingredients on the table, but if you don’t know what to do with them, you can’t bake the cake!). Really think about the argument/structure of your essay: what do your various paragraphs (and ideas) have to do with each other, other than the fact that they are dealing with the same text or broad general topic? What other deeper, less superficial connections can you highlight for your readers?
  • In general, you need to make sure that whatever you write serves a particular purpose in your essay. There are many places where you might make general statements (e.g., humans and machines are similar to each other) or hint at some larger point but don’t actually take the statement to its logical conclusion (ex: technology can be a good or bad thing … ok … but how/why?). These sections take up precious space but don’t add anything significant to the essay. You have to get to the point you faster,  try to completely cut the fluff and then draw out the significance of your points (this is where the “so what?” comes in). Try to avoid fluff, wordiness, repetition, and generality: saying the same thing over and over again in different ways or talking around the text. When you quote, you should comment on/analyze the text rather than merely describing it (move beyond simply providing evidence).
  • This assignment is a close reading of one text (don’t bring in outside information or spend time discussing the “real world” or “our society”). Therefore, you will need to return to the novel repeatedly as you revise. Why are the parts of the text you chose to discuss in your essay (the evidence) important? Grapple with the ideas. Beware of absolutes/over-simplifications – nuances and complexity are interesting. Remember, you don’t have have to make a one-sided/absolute argument. What does your approach offer the reader in terms of seeing these text in a new light? Work on presenting a complex, nuanced argument.
  • Mostly everyone will need to spend extra time drafting/revising his/her introduction. But in order to figure out what you are (or are not, in some cases!) saying, you need to go back to the body paragraphs. Then get your argument and put it up front. Then go back and make sure each body paragraph supports this main point with evidence and analysis. Then re-write the conclusion. In fact, if you are having trouble clarifying your argument, look to your conclusion (often things come together there in a first draft, as it is the natural place where everything culminates), but part of your work in revising is to bring that material forward and integrate it throughout (to work on structure). Then check to see (by looking at all of your claims isolated together) if there is development and it makes logical sense. Then revise. Etc. You get it. Writing is recursive, revision, a process. It is ongoing, difficult work. But you can do it

 

Class Discussion: ‘Blade Runner’

This is a space to continue our class discussion of Blade Runner.

Here are the group discussion prompts from today’s class, as starting points (though you can address anything you want in relation to the film here):

Consider the novel & film together. While you should certainly take stock of their similarities and differences, this is only a first, brainstorming step. Your discussion here should not only note key similarities and/or differences but also (and this is the crucial part!) discuss the significance of these similarities and/or differences. Putting two texts in dialogue with each other allows you to create a more nuanced argument about their themes, conflicts, characters, and meanings.

  1. Consider the novel & film together. While you should certainly take stock of their similarities and differences, this is only a first, brainstorming step. Your discussion here should not only note key similarities and/or differences but also (and this is the crucial part!) discuss the significance of these similarities and/or differences. Putting two texts in dialogue with each other allows you to create a more nuanced argument about their themes, conflicts, characters, and meanings.
  1. Consider the scene in J.F. Sebastian’s apartment, where the replicants encounter other automata (his “toys” and creations). In particular, consider the scene where Deckard uncovers Pris (before she attacks him).
  1. Consider the scene in which Roy encounters his various creators (first “Chew” with the eyes, then J.F., and then Tyrell).
  1. What’s up with the “unicorn” dream & origami figure at the end of it?
  1. Consider the theme of “eyes” in the movie.
  1. Consider the theme of memories in this movie.
  1. Consider the setting of the film, and how this contributes to the themes, plots, and conflicts.
  1. Consider the scene near the end, in which Roy and Deckard struggle and fight. How does this battle help reinforce (or complicate) our assumptions about these characters, about the distinction between replicants and humans, and about good and evil?

Also, make sure to check out today’s class notes (once they are posted), for more themes of what we discussed. Let’s engage with the notion of the “cyborg,” and also “prosthesis” (remember to check out the great scene, starting at minute 43, where Deckard enhances his vision to see into Leon’s photography through the use of the Esper machine).

[The Logistics]

Just a reminder that you should make your at least one comment (just hit “reply,” either to my original post or to another comment on it) by F 11/4. Then go back/read through all comments and extend the conversation by making at least two more comments (of course, more are always welcome!) in response by 11:59pm on Su 11/6.

Your comment (reply) can be just a few sentences: provide the quote/citation and a quick explanation of how/why it functions in the context of some larger issue/question (or you can raise questions, complicate issues, extend discussions, analyze a character, or setting, etc. &/or discuss central conflicts/values/themes through the use of your evidence/analysis). Feel free to post multiple comments, and also to respond to others. If you’ve already discussed some of these instances in your previous blogs or in class, you should feel free to draw on that material.The goal is to have some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about important themes/questions raised by this complex novel, and to find/analyze/synthesize various pieces of evidence in support of claim.

The goal in all cases is to provide specific examples from the film (quotes/scene + citation – use the minute:second format) with discussion/analysis and some connection to a larger claim/argument. You must cite currently in MLA format (in-text citation).

Crowdsourcing what constitutes the “human” and the “authentic”

As part of our reading of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, we are exploring what it means to be human, in a world where both people and animals have their fake/electric/mechanical/non-living counterparts.

We are also exploring what authenticity means in a world where everything, including emotions (think the Penfield Mood organ), empathy (Mercerism), beings, products, etc. can be simulated. You might consider the andys, the Penfield Mood Organ, notions of empathy,  the implantation of false memories, the Voight-Kampff test, (etc.), as well as the following questions:

  • What defines a “human” or “humanity”?
  • What distinguishes the real/genuine/authentic from the fake/simulated/ersatz? What is missing/lost/sacrificed (if anything) in these replicas?

(You can think about all of these questions, but especially the first two, above, in relation to the article, “Japanese professor creates uncanny, human-like robots, exhibit website, Android: What is Human? that we’re looking at for this coming week)

  • Who/what serves who/what? Who are the masters and who are the slave? Who are the superiors and the inferiors?
  • What are the relationships (colleagues, friendship, sexual, love, etc.) between different types of beings?
  • What is a real “emotion” if it can be simulated on a Penfield mood organ and what is real empathy if it can be simulated through Mercerism (and tested, perhaps, by the Voight-Kampff)?
  • What about fertility/reproduction (with Deckard’s neighbor’s horse, with the regulars/specials, with Mercer bringing dead things back to life, with having to deal with a post-apocalyptic world that is mostly dead)?
  • What kinds of competing sets of values are at play?
  • What are central conflicts of the novel?

I am also particularly interested in us tracing how, through their interaction with andys (and their particular positions in the world: Bounty Hunter and special/chickenhead, respectively), Rick Deckard and John Isidore move from merely embodying values/norms of their society that they have have already internalized, to developing individual, (perhaps rebellious?), free-thinking understanding about the world and their places in it, and the hierarchy of beings (living and otherwise).

[The Logistics]

Just a reminder that you should make your at least one comment (just hit “reply,” either to my original post or to another comment on it) by Saturday (10/22) at 11:59pm. Then go back/read through all comments and extend the conversation by making at least two more comments (of course, more are always welcome!) in response by Tuesday 10/25 by 2pm.

Your comment (reply) can be just a few sentences: provide the quote/citation and a quick explanation of how/why it functions in the context of some larger issue/question (or you can raise questions, complicate issues, extend discussions, analyze a character, or setting, etc. &/or discuss central conflicts/values/themes through the use of your evidence/analysis). Feel free to post multiple comments, and also to respond to others. If you’ve already discussed some of these instances in your previous blogs or in class, you should feel free to draw on that material.The goal is to have some good virtual discussions here to help you think critically about important themes/questions raised by this complex novel, and to find/analyze/synthesize various pieces of evidence in support of claim.

The goal in all cases is to provide specific examples from the text (quotes/citation) with discussion/analysis and some connection to a larger claim/argument. You must cite currently in MLA format (in-text citation).

Happy National Day on Writing!

Today, Thursday, October 20, 2016, is National Day on Writing! You can more about this on NCTE’s new website for the day. A primary way this day is being celebrated / organized is through the use of a hashtag: #WhyIWrite. As the website states,

“You see, people tend to think of writing in terms of pencil-and-paper assignments, but no matter who you are, writing is part of your life. It’s part of how you work, how you learn, how you remember, and how you communicate. It gives voice to who you are and enables you to give voice to the things that matter to you.

For the past 8 years, we’ve seen thousands of people share their responses and engage in activities around the theme of #WhyIWrite. Their collective voices are raising the volume on this issue.”

You can follow this live conversation unfolding on Twitter, and participate there if you want.

This is an opportunity to consider why you write, the role it has in your life, and perhaps even how your writing is expanding in new media composing environments (digital writing, blogging, videos, etc.) or in relation to science fiction. Anyone who wants to do so may post for extra credit (post by Su 10/23 at 11:59pm). This is an optional post, and can be approached any way you feel would be most appropriate (you can browse the national conversation happening online to get inspiration) … feel to be as creative as you’d like! And feel free to include images, videos, links, etc. [anything that will help us to understand why you write and what writing means to you]

*As you know, extra credit blogs will replace missing blogs (or count as additional credit if you’ve done all of them already). There are only two grades for these extra credit blogs (100 and 0). If you write a thoughtful #WhyIWrite post, you will receive 100% (an “A”) for the assignment. If you choose note to post (or if it is too short/not fulfilling the purposes of this task), you will receive a “0.”

World-Building in the Presidential Election

“Perhaps the crispest definition is that science fiction is a literature of ‘what if?'” (Evans, Christopher. Writing Science Fiction. London, A & C Black, 1988.)

I know many of you are watching the third Presidential debate tonight  between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. As we’ve discussed in class, elections for public office are steeped in both utopian and dystopian rhetoric, about what the state of our country is, what it should be, what it could be. In short, these debates and these elections traffic heavily in “what if?” What will the country and the world (not to mention our individual lives) look like “if” they are elected to serve us? The candidates are putting forth visions about what they think this country should look like, and how they will enact these visions. These elections and the candidates’ words and policies are, in a very real way, about world-building: they are about reality but also about imagination grounded in possibility.

“I define science fiction as the art of the possible. [. . .]. Science fiction, again, is the history of ideas, and they’re always ideas that work themselves out and become real and happen in the world” (Bradbury, Ray. “Ray Bradbury: The Science of Science Fiction.” By Arthur Unger. The Christian Science Monitor 13 Nov. 1980).

This is an open forum for class discussion, tonight and through election day, to share your thoughts on how this rhetoric and these visions shape what is possible in our world. This is a space to consider what these candidates’ visions of well-being for our country (what do they imagine will create the good life for Americans). This Presidential debate, and this election,  is about “extrapolation,” which is so central to the genre of science fiction. The candidates are starting from our present circumstances and extrapolating to what might happen if we continue down our current path undeterred, or what alternatives exist, and how things might be different if we change our course. Though there is much obsession with the “facts,” this extrapolation depends on assumptions, perspectives, and values. This extrapolation is grounded in competing needs and desires about how people should live and how societies should structure themselves (think of hierarchies, treatment of the “other,” about all the questions on the Science Fiction Framework).

Together, let’s close (and actively) read these texts of the election (the candidates’ words, their policies, media coverage surrounding them, etc.) and critically examine what is being explicitly (or implicitly) stated in these vision. As always, textual evidence (with citations/links) from the debates &/or other sources will help to support your claims about what the candidates’ believe America does, could, and should look like in the possible future of their tenure as President of the United States.

This Week: Essay #1 and ‘Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep?”

I hope everyone is doing well. It’s been a long time since we’ve met, and hopefully everyone has been using their time productively, working on Essay #1 and reading through our next novel. I look forward to seeing you all in class on Thursday and Friday (CUNY Tuesday) 🙂

Essay #1 is due by the start of class on Th 10/13. You must bring a printed copy to class as well as submit it to Dropbox. Please makes sure to read through the Essay #1 Assignment & the general assignment guidelines. All essays must have a Cover Letter, and be thoroughly revised/proofread (I suggest reading your essay out loud, once you’re at the final stages, to catch your mistakes).

We’re also beginning our discussion of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? this week, so make sure you come to class on Thursday having read/annotated chapters 1-5. Response blogs are due, as always, the night before class, and you should be reading/commenting on your classmates’ blogs as well.

Finally, thanks to those of you who did the extra credit blogs on the movie versions of Brave New World. Those blogs (along with all other blogs from the semester) have been graded, and you can always check your blog grades in your “Dashboard” under “Posts.” Grades are private (no one else can see them), and correspond to the Blogging Rubric/Guidelines. As always, I’m happy to discuss individual blogs with anyone during my office hours.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment on this post (or to email me, if it is a private matter).

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