Science Fiction – Class Notes 10/25/18


  • Mid semester Grades due by 10/31/18.
    • No notification will be given when the grade is put up.
    • To check your grades, visit the course site for this class and scroll under the categories drop down menu, there will be a mention of Course Gradebook with a link that says “Students, check your grades online!”. Clicking on it will show a column with a letter grade on it.
    • This grade is going to be based around class participation and blogs. Midterm and Essay 1 (which are on 11/1/18) are not included in this grade.
    • The grades are P = Passing, BL = Borderline, and U = Unsatisfactory. For a more accurate grade placement (number grades), discuss with Professor Belli during office hours the week after midterms.
    • If you get a Passing grade, continue doing as much work as you can because it only means you’re above a 60.  Borderline passing grade is 60.
    • If you receive Borderline or Unsatisfactory grade, you should email Professor Belli and discuss it with her during office hours.  Not mandatory but highly recommended.
  • Class on Tuesday 10/30/18 will be asynchronous.
    • Class is free that day as Professor Belli will be absent.
    • Students don’t have to show up but if you want to you may use the time to schedule plans to peer review Essay 1 drafts with your classmates.
  • Midterm will be on 11/1/18.
    • In class exam, Professor Belli will be absent again.  Professor Barlow will be the proctor of the exam.
    • If you have any questions about the midterm for Professor Belli, try emailing her before Saturday to get a response.
  • Look ahead to week of 11/6/18 on the schedule for texts we need to read.
  • The second half of the semester will consist of discussing the genre of science fiction.  It will contain works focused on topics such as power dynamics as well as gender, race, and political issues.  Consider how the genre of science fiction helps us think differently and move beyond the status quo.



  • Study for Midterm (will take place on 11/1/18 at 2:30 pm)
  • Essay 1 (due 11/1/18 at 2:30 pm)
  • Take advantage of any of these to study if in need of help:
    • Writing Resources – covers writing process for essays.
    • Science Fiction Resources – contains links to sources such as The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which covers topics and terms commonly seen in this genre.
    • Learning Center – provides tutoring if necessary
    • Office Hours


Midterm Review

Essay 1

    • The essay will be a critical reflection on the experiences we’ve gone through in class which means it’s written in first person perspective.  Will consist of a cover letter, 3-4 page double spaced essay, and a Work Cited page for any texts used (cover letter and Work Cited pages do not contribute to the 3-4 page requirement).
    • For the cover letter, it must be one page long, single spaced and will be placed at the beginning of the entire essay.  This cover letter explains how you worked on the essay, how you brainstormed and organized all the ideas, and any changes you made.  Overall, it’s the process that you went through to create it. If you submit the essay without a cover letter then it won’t be graded.
    • The main essay will be a reflection of everything we’ve gone through in this course, so look over blogs, discussions, free writing, and texts to use as evidence.  Consider how science fiction and this course helped you think differently about the genre and the world. Have any of your initial views changed? Has it affected parts of your life in any way?  Use the evidence gathered to bolster your argument. Keep in mind that this is not a summary and don’t plagiarize or else you automatically fail.
    • For the Works Cited page, Any quotes or examples used from outside sources or texts must be cited in MLA format. Example of texts would be “The Machine Stops” or “Black Mirror.”
    • Two copies will be submitted, a digital one through Dropbox and a printed copy to Professor Barlow during the day of the exam.  Any essays submitted after 2:30 pm of 11/1/18 will not be accepted. The digital copy must be a Word document or else credit will not be given and labeled with your Full Name, Essay 1.
    • The essay will be graded on your quality of critical thought and the way you present it.  Will be worth 10% of overall course grade.


  • For more in depth information, look under the Assignments drop down menu and click on Essay 1 (The link to Dropbox will also be here).  For additional information, under the same menu, click on Assignments: Formatting, Guidelines, And Submission.



Midterm Exam

    • Expect a combination of identifying short factual terms and critical analysis of texts that we’ve gone over throughout the semester.  Will be a 75 min long, in class exam, no notes or phones will be allowed.
    • The Identification portion of the text will look for basic understanding of ideas, vocabulary terms, and texts.  Things like the elements of science fiction, cyborgs, singularity, turing test, etc. may appear in the test.  Don’t forget to remember what part of speech they are categorized as (ex. noun, adjective, verb, adverb).
    • The Critical Analysis portion of the text will be similar to the free writing that we’ve done in class up until now.
    • To prepare for the exam, do the essay (as it will jog your memory on everything we’ve done so far), study class notes, texts, and blog posts.
    • Will be worth 10% of overall course grade as well.


  • For more in depth information, look under the Assignments drop down menu and click on Midterm Exam.



“The Last Question” Discussion

10/23/18 Recap

  • Humans have learned to harness the power of the sun
  • “The Last Question” had been asked in 2061 in the form of “Can Entropy be reversed”
  • Each Vignette appears to skip ten thousand years
  • Hyperspace Travel has been invented
  • Sustainability crisis
  • People seem to be more mechanical in the appearances we see them every ten thousand years
  • The machine evolves every ten thousand years, Multivac to Microvac to Universal AC, etc.
    • The machine also becomes more portable with every upgrade.
  • Discussed Zee Prime and the intellectual continuation of man (page 6)

Discussion and Text Analysis

  • Page 6
    • “Zee Prime’s mind spanned the new Galaxy…” – Zee Prime’s mind explores the Galaxy looking at different stars instead of exploring it physically.
    • “Each with its own load of humanity” – Each Galaxy has their own fair share of humans living in it.
    • “More and more… Minds not bodies” – People’s minds travel the world instead of their actual physical bodies.
    • “The immortal bodies… to join the incredibly mighty throng.” – The bodies remain on the planets which means there’s a separation of body location and mental location.  Use of physical body is becoming less necessary. Less people are joining the already overcrowded Universe.
    • In this vignette, people are less different and even the names become even more unusual. All the galaxies in the Universe are called “Galaxy”.
  • Page 7
    • “Nor could anyone, for the day had long since passed… ‘THIS IS THE ORIGINAL GALAXY of MAN’” – The AC is building and designing its successors. The AI sustains itself through these new bodies giving itself longevity.
    • Similar to “The Star”, Earth is just a speck in space.  People are narcissistic to believe it has any bigger presence in the galaxy.
    • “During its existence of a million years” – despite the Machine’s incredibly long lifespan it has failed to answer the question of reversing entropy.
    • “A thought came, infinitely distant, but infinitely clear“ Universal AC is capable of reaching into people’s minds and guiding their thoughts
  • Page 8
    • “Man considered… ‘The Universe is dying’”. – People are no longer different as they Man consists of a large number of minds and bodies merged together.  They can’t be told apart indicating no more individuality.
    • Unlike “Metropolis” the automatons in this story were made to care for people whereas Maria was instructed to harm.
  • Page 9
    • “One by one Man fused with AC… was somehow not a loss but a gain.” – Man and Machine have now fused together. Despite losing their mental identity, it’s considered a good thing.
    • “Matter and energy had ended… man to Man.” – Machine continues working on the last question despite all matter and energy completely disappearing from the universe.  Still holding onto its purpose even though it’s alone in the universe.
    • “There was now no man… by demonstration – would take care of that.” – With all the humans gone, the AC has no one to give the answer of the last question to so it creates its own solution. The demonstration refers to the final moment when the AC says “Let there be light!” which signifies a moment of creation.
    • The Machine has shown itself to be capable of giving life to itself by creating a successor but now it gives life to others.
    • Science fiction stories tend to leave room for speculation from readers. “The Star” ended with the Martian astronomers, “The Machine Stops” ended with the people getting out of their rooms, and “The Last Question” ends on the AC enacting its demonstration.  However, it is left ambiguous as to what happened afterwards.



  • Is the “mind spanning the galaxy” thing, similar to astral projection?
  • With immortality resulting in no people dying, is the law different? Is the world more or less chaotic?
  • Consider the relationship between people and Machine. Who serves who?
  • The AC was built entirely to serve Humans. Now that the AC expands itself, what is its purpose after it outlived Man?
  • Similar to “There Will Be Soft Rains”, did the AC develop its own personality or curiosity of how to answer the the question of reversing entropy?
  • Did the AC sacrifice itself to give life and energy to the new universe?


Vocabulary and Terms

  • Automation (noun) – a robot, mechanical device, machine
  • Asynchronous (adjective) – not existing or happening at the same time
  • Disembodied (adjective) – separated from physical form
  • Immortal (adjective) – undying
  • Indistinguishable (adjective) – unable to be told apart
  • Throng (noun) – A dense crowd


If I missed anything, please tell me through the comments and I’ll fix it.

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