Science Fiction – Class Notes 9/25/18


People’s Choice Posts winners for the reading responses have been announced. Congratulations to Sheng Nan-Zhang (The Machine Stops and The Star), Pedro Balbuena (The Machine Stops), Justin Bernard (The Star), and Vishal Naraine (Metropolis) for winning.

Not many people have been submitting votes for People’s Choice Posts. Don’t forget to read other people’s blogs and pick your favorite.  If unsure of when assignments are due check the Schedule in OpenLab for the due dates of assignments. A person may vote for themselves as long as it’s within reason.

Attendance has been fluctuating. Please attend class as much as possible.


“The Machine Stops” Discussion

Conflicts – different characters display different values putting them at odds

  • Kuno vs Machine
  • Kuno vs Vashti

Theme – What is the story trying to help us understand?


  • The Book of the Machine – answer to everything, a guide, provides security and faith
  • The Machine – a home, organizer, protector, caretaker, a god


  • Vashti’s room – A home, place of comfort, eventual prison due to the Machine stopping
  • Airship – shows Vashti’s experience, provides no ideas to people, out of Machine’s reach causing discomfort among people
  • Surface of the Earth – Out of Machine’s reach, regarded as a dead wasteland that provides no ideas even though Kuno sees life on it
  • Tunnel – last location where everyone is found panicking


“The Star” Discussion


The Star is a bright object that is brought to the people’s attention after impacting Neptune.  It eventually becomes visible from Earth and elicits a variety of reactions from humans from fascination to apathy.  The Star is recognized as getting closer to Earth and nearly wipes out the human race with the survivors working on rebuilding.  Afterwards, Martian astronomers express their surprise on how Earth didn’t suffer as much as they expected.

Reactions when reading

  • Scared – pushed limits of what chaos can be/how it can be interpreted
  • Sadness – humans are trapped in a hopeless situation
  • Shock at the beginning, disappointment at the end


Ogilvy – stock character. Only mentioned once in the story.

Master Mathematician – character who gets the spotlight only for a brief moment before fading into obscurity

The Star – an entity that essentially has more development than the human characters.  Everything revolves around it.

  • Constantly characterized by its brightness
    • Brighter than the evening star at its brightest
    • Glowed out white and large
    • Clear shining disc
    • Twinkling spot of light
  • Presence evokes different reactions from the people
    • Remarkable but unnoticed by some.  Fails to capture the attention of homeless and weeping people
    • Policeman yawns upon seeing it
    • Most people stand agape at the sight of it
    • Causes panic among many due to being unknown and mysterious
    • People mostly only think of the Star in relation to how it affects them
  • Space – stands out due to its size
    • Vast mass of matter
  • Time – appeared in the early twentieth century.

Comparison to “The Machine Stops”

  • “The Star” has fewer characters to worry about. Those who are introduced are not dynamic characters giving readers no room to emotionally connect with them
  • “The Star” has fewer settings to worry about. Doesn’t particularly focus on a specific area or country in the story.
  • “The Star” is more simplistic and breezes through the coming and going of the Star
  • Both stories have first person narration but “The Star” puts more focus on the outside world rather than inside people’s heads
  • “The Star” doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and is focused more on description


Important Knowledge

Father’s of Science Fiction

  • Herbert George “H.G.” Wells (1886-1946) – wrote “War of the Worlds”
  • Jules Verne (1828-1905) – wrote “Journey to the Center of the Earth”
  • Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967) – published a science fiction magazine in 1926 which enabled a much wider audience to become invested in the science fiction genre.  Unlike the other two, he didn’t use the term “scientific romance”


Vocabulary and Terms

  • Euphemism (noun) – to sugarcoat, substitute a harsh/blunt expression with something more pleasant
  • Conflict (noun) – a disagreement generally caused by competing set of values
  • Theme (noun) – the main idea, message, or lesson
  • Erratic (adjective) – Irregular, unpredictable
  • Unprecedented (adjective) – Unknown, not preceded, not known before
  • Impalpable (adjective) – Can’t be touched
  • Vast (adjective) – Large, huge
  • Save (preposition) – Except for, other than
  • Scientific Romance (noun) – a precursor term used to categorize the “Science Fiction” genre. Applied in the mid 19th century.
  • Cherry Picking (verb) – A selective form of researching. Act of picking certain things but obscuring others. An example is politicians, who would take an idea and completely miss the bigger picture.
  • Apocalypse Break (noun) – an event that allows new things to happen. An example would be an ambiguous ending which leaves readers to imagine the ending themselves.


For Future Notice

When analyzing works, be sure to find textual evidence that helps interpret the elements of fiction (conflicts, theme, symbols, settings)

No new homework or blogs due next Thursday (9/27/18). Just review class notes in case we have a quiz. Remember to review “The Star” and “Metropolis”, which we’ll be discussing in class Thursday.  Also review the ending of “The Star” and consider “What is the story doing at the end?”

In the future we’ll focus on looking into the history of science fiction.

Professor Belli has received a donation of books that consist of writing books and guides. For those who are interested or need them for any purpose, go to the English Department to pick them up.


If I missed any notes, please comment below, I’ll make sure to correct the post.

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