Announcement: Update for 3/11

As you all should know, we are collectively dealing with a new virus that is creating challenges that we’ll need to overcome in order to successfully complete our class (and of course, do all of the other things that we need to do outside of class).

First, I want everyone to know that I don’t want attending our class to be an undue burden or a source of excessive anxiety. If you don’t feel safe attending class in the short term, you can keep up with our class on our OpenLab site ( where I post lecture videos and the weekly writing assignments. For the midterm notes assignment, you can, as I said in our previous class, submit your notebook as a scanned PDF or a physical notebook.

Second, as long as City Tech remains open, I will hold class and office hours as regularly scheduled. Being in class does give some advantages to in-person students, such as tomorrow, when we will watch videos of SF film serials. However, I will post links to those videos so that students who are not in class can view them on their own time. Of course, this means that students who don’t attend will need to set aside time for class work and have Internet connectivity to view/download videos. Keep in mind that there are alternative ways to get online from NYCLink, to NYPL and BKPL to other CUNY Libraries (which may be closer to where you live).

Third, if you feel ill or sick, please see a doctor and stay home, working remotely from there. I post everything related to class on the OpenLab site, and if you have any questions about anything relating to the class, you can email me or your classmates.

Fourth, these guidelines are for my class alone. You should check with your other professors about how they intend to run their classes for now. And, these policies might be superseded by new guidelines from CUNY or City Tech, which I will incorporate and communicate to you all as they come into effect.

Be well and good luck!

Assignment: Lecture 5 and Pulp SF

Here’s a link to the presentation slide deck that I will anchor the lecture.

Reminder: Turn in a hard copy or email a scanned or generated PDF attachment of your notes so far this semester. You should have notes on every class and all the readings. As I’ve said before, I encourage you to share notes but you must copy others notes into your own script. Review the lecture videos for any days that you missed of class. This midterm assignment is worth 20% of your final grade. All those notebooks turned in as a hard copy will be returned the following week.

2nd Reminder: Each week, you will need to write a 250-word summary of the lecture and readings on these “Assignment” posts. These assignments contribute to the 20% of your grade of “Weekly Summaries of Readings and Viewings.” They should focus on the lecture and the readings assigned for that lecture. So, this week’s summary should focus on the Pulp SF lecture and the readings by Edgar Rice Burroughs and C.L. Moore.

Opportunity: Guest Lecture on Physics and Science Fiction

I gave a lecture on “Physics and Science Fiction” to the Spring 2020 Modern Physics class led by Prof. Darya Krym. I discuss some things that we won’t have a chance to cover in our class. If you have the time, I would encourage you to watch the video. It might give you some ideas for your research paper. More about the guest lecture including my presentation slide deck can be found here.

Assignment: Lecture 4 and Proto-SF

This week, we discussed Proto-SF and the two assigned readings: H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine and E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops.” Below, I’m embedding a video of the lecture for your review:

Also, here’s a link to the Science Fiction at City Tech site, which includes information about SF-related goings-on at City Tech, the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, and other valuable SF-focused resources.

Before our next class, please remember to write at least 250 words summarizing the lecture and your reading. Save that writing some place safe. Then, copy-and-paste it into a comment to this post.

If you need to turn in an assignment late, please do so, but remember to email me (jellis at Be sure to include information about which lecture/reading your late assignment is for so that I can find your work and check it off for you.

Next week, we will talk about the SF Pulps combined with readings by Edgar Rice Burroughs and C.L. Moore. See the syllabus for links to the readings.

Assignment: Lecture 3 and Concluding Frankenstein

Above, I embedded a video recording of our third lecture, which covers the last part of the Frankenstein lecture, discussion of definitions of Science Fiction, and feedback from you all about SF that you’re currently reading, watching, and playing.

If you need to review any of our past lectures, I created a playlist where I’ll link to all the lecture videos. You can find it here.

Before next week, you should write at least 250 words summarizing the lecture and your reading of Frankenstein. You get to choose what to include in your summary, but what you write should always be focused on what we discuss and what you are reading in the class. I’m evaluating these weekly writing assignments based on best effort. They are meant to help you synthesize ideas from the class while building in regular writing practice.

Also, look at the syllabus for our next readings by H.G. Wells and E.M. Forster. If you need to prioritize your reading, focus on Forster’s “The Machine Stops” first. And, please use Wikipedia, Google Search, YouTube, and other resources to find out about the stories–who wrote them, what they are about, etc.–before you read them. Knowing a little bit about the stories in advance makes it easier to dive into them and think about what they might mean.

Finally, you all gave some great examples of contemporary SF that you’re watching and interested in. Here’s the list that we generated in class with a few more examples that I thought of based on individual conversations with students in the class:

Blade Runner
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Ex Machina
Cloud Atlas
The Three Body Problem
The 100
Black Mirror
The Twlight Zone
The Fifth Element
Mass Effect
Blue Gender
Final Fantasy VII
Altered Carbon
The Expanse
Janelle Monáe
Sun Ra

Opportunity: Arizona State University Climate Fiction Contest

I recently received an email about this very cool fiction writing contest sponsored by Arizona State University. If you enjoy writing stories, consider writing one (or using one that you have already written) that in some way relates to climate issues and send to this contest. The prizes are nice, and winning would be a nice addition to anyone’s resume.

In general, consider submitting to writing opportunities and contests. Investigate who is running the contest and focus on no-fee submissions in most cases. There’s no entrance fee and its sponsored by a prestigious school.

Hello all! I’m writing to share that the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University recently launched our third Everything Change global climate fiction writing contest.

We’re looking for short stories of 5000 words or less, across all genres. The first place winner will be awarded $1000, and nine finalists will receive prizes of $100. There is no entry fee, and the contest is open to anyone age 18 or older, anywhere in the world.

The winner and finalists will be published in our third Everything Change digital anthology, which will be free to read and share. The submission deadline is April 15, 2020. Our lead judge is Claire Vaye Watkins, winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award and author of the acclaimed climate fiction novel Gold Fame Citrus

Opportunity: City Tech’s New Writing Center

When you need help with your writing in our class or another, I would recommend in addition to seeing me during office hours, you should visit City Tech’s new Writing Center. When you visit, come prepared with the assignment that you are working on and some of your writing for the assignment. Bring something to write with and on. The Writing Center helps you improve your writing ability through one-on-one help. They aren’t an editing/copy editing service. Writing Centers follow the principle behind this proverb: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Location: LG-27

Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 10am-6:30pm and Fri. 10am-3pm

Assignment: 2nd Lecture and Reading Summary

I wanted to thank everyone for being on time and ready to learn some more about Science Fiction and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Above, I’ve embedded a video of the second lecture. It covers the continuation of the Mary Shelley lecture started in the first video lecture and it concludes with the overview of the list of science fiction definitions.

Before our class on Feb. 19, add a comment to this post of at least 250 words that summarizes the lecture and your reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Remember, you only need to show best effort. Write about what you think is most important from the lecture. Write about how you might describe what you’ve read in Frankenstein to a friend. The goal is to look back at your notes, think about them, and write brief summaries of the lecture and reading. You should see if your comment posts correctly. If in doubt, reload the page and confirm that it posts. If not, copy-and-paste your writing again and click “Post Comment” and then confirm.

Some reminders:

  • Make notes of your reading in your notebook. The kinds of things that I keep notes on of my readings include: character names, plot points, settings, words and their definitions, etc.
  • If you want to read and then make notes after reading, you might write a summary of your reading by volume, chapter, etc.
  • Again, I’m not looking for a particular way of your keeping notes as long as you are making notes in some way that are useful to you.
  • Aim to have Frankenstein completed before class on Feb. 19 when we meet next.
  • If you have any questions, email me at jellis at

Assignment: First Weekly Summary and Personal Introduction

Since we’re just starting the class, this first writing assignment is much lower stakes than those that follow. For this first assignment, write a comment to this blog post that introduces yourself to me and your classmates, and that summarizes what I talked about in lecture and what you read before our next class.

For this first assignment, please spend more writing on yourself and tell us your major, your career goals, and your background/interest in Science Fiction. You can include your favorite SF or maybe what introduced you to SF. Then, briefly write about what I discussed in lecture (only a sentence or two) and what you are reading (again, only a sentence or two is necessary–but be sure to include the title, author’s full name, publication year, and something about what you’ve read so far–e.g., or for example, “So far, the book is about Walton sailing on a voyage of discovery and then his encounter with a man marooned on a floating piece of ice named Victor Frankenstein, who tells Walton about how he came to be there.”

It should be at least 250 words long. This is about 1 page, double spaced worth of writing. If you have the time and energy to write more, I highly encourage it as the 250-word mark is a minimal length. Looking ahead, there might be some weeks that you only write 250 words and others you might want to write more based on your reaction to the lectures and the readings.

These weekly writing assignments are based on best effort. If the word count is met and there are sufficient details, you will receive full credit for that week’s assignment. If the word count is low and/or the writing has too many empty words–meaning not focused on the task of summarizing lecture and readings–less credit will be received.

I STRONGLY suggest writing your weekly summary in a word processor like Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or Google Docs first, so that your work is saved somewhere else. Then, copy-and-paste your writing into the comment box below this post (remember to click on the post’s title and scroll down the subsequent page to find the comment box). Finally, click the “Post Comment” button and wait for visual confirmation that your post was successful.

Always keep a copy of your work saved elsewhere in case your comment disappears from OpenLab for whatever reason. To check how many comments you have made over the semester, you can easily do so by going to our OpenLab site > Mouseover the title of the site at the top of the page > Click on Dashboard > Click on Comments on the left > type in your name in the search box on the right > Click “Search Comments.” The number of “approved” comments will appear under your name in the list.