Course Questions: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017

  1. How do you define verisimilitude? [see SF Keywords post] / http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/litweb10/glossary/V.aspx

2. Are canon and megatext synonyms?  If not, how do they differ?  Are they related? [see SF Keywords post and http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/litweb10/glossary/C.aspx ]

3. How many reading journal entries should we have by now? [We are in week three of the semester, therefore, you should have at least three.  However, we have read and responded to seven texts: the Wesleyan “Introduction,” “Why Do You Read Science Fiction?,” Dick’s story, Pohl’s story, Russ’s story, Delany’s story, and Delany’s essay.  You may have reading journal entries for each of these texts, in which case, you’ll have seven entries.]

4. How do you define “the Golden Age” of Science Fiction?  What are its characteristics? [see SF Keywords post]

5. How do you define “Next Wave” or “New Wave Science Fiction”? [see SF Keywords post]

6. How do you define novum? [see SF Keywords post]

7. How do you define cybernetic?  What was the definition in 1950?  What is the definition today? [see SF Keywords post]

8. In Frederick Pohl’s story “Day Million,” is the character Don a robot, or is he an augmented human?

9. Is time travel a theme? [The simple answer is: “yes.” However, the more complicated answer is much more complicated.  Take a look at the SF Encyclopedia entry for a sense of the complications involved:  http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/time_travel and the Norton LitWeb for a working definition of theme: http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/litweb10/glossary/T.aspx]

10. What is the difference between the sf sub-genres of steampunk and cyberpunk? [see SF Keywords post] and sf Encyclopedia

11. Can a science fiction story belong to multiple genres? [yes.  see our ongoing discussion of genre]

12. In Joanna Russ’s story “The Second Inquisition,” are the girl and the visitor related? Is the book supposed to inspire the little girl?  Why did the visitor just leave?

13. What is the narrator trying to explain in the first paragraph of Joanna Russ’s story, “The Second Inquisition”?

14. Why did Professor Rodgers ask us to read the stories by Pohl and Russ?  Why did she not choose to assign more interesting readings?

15. Was the narrator in Joanna Russ’s story imagining the visitor or was the visitor actually there?  How might a reader’s interpretation of this question change his/her interpretation of the story?  Why?  Second question: If the narrator did imagine the visitor, why wouldn’t the visitor have taken her with her?

16. Is gender an issue or theme that comes up often in sf? [yes, does everyone understand the many reasons why this is the case?]

17. What is the difference between a cyborg and cybernetics?

18. What connections exist between fantasy and sf? [see our ongoing discussion of genre]

19. What did Don do in the space ship?

20. Is the visitor in Russ’s story a figment of the narrator’s imagination or is she actually a visitor from another town who happens to be traveling through time?

21. How do you define “hard sf”?  Is it science fiction backed by scientific fact?

22. Does the term “man” relate to the gender or sexuality of an individual?  What is the difference between gender and sexuality?

23. How old is the slipstream subgenre of sf?

24. What distinguishes the three primary “eras” of sf in the U.S. in the 20th c.?

25. What thematic connections exist between Joanna Russ’s story “The Second Inquisition” and Frederick Pohl’s story “Day Million”?  What other types of connections exist between the two stories, i.e., specific shared attributes of the characters, plot points, setting, figurative language, symbols, etc.?

26. Is there some relationship between “magical realism” and sf? [yes: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/magic_realism ]

Five categories of questions:

1/ definitions of literary terms

2/ definitions of SF terms

3/ questions related to Russ’s and Pohl’s stories

4/ discussion questions related to reading and interpreting science fiction texts

5/ questions about course assignments

14 thoughts on “Course Questions: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017

  1. [C1: Definitions of Literary Terms]
    2. Are “canon” and “megatext” synonyms? If not, how do they differ? Are they related?

    Yes, they are related, but they are not synonymous. They are both used to describe SF and other genres, but they are based on different perspectives. A megatext is outlined by authors that contribute to certain themes and sub-genres by creating alternative and derivative works from each other. A canon is outlined by the general community on which individual works contributed to the overall culture of the genre.

    [C2: Definitions of SF Terms]
    21. How do you define “hard sf”? Is it science fiction backed by scientific fact?
    Hard SF is based on science, but not necessarily scientific fact. Works of hard SF make use of the scientific method, where it is not only important to know that something is possible, but also to know how it is possible and why it was made possible. Things that are not based on currently proven scientific facts have to be justified with their own scientific logic. It may be more appropriate to think of it as “fictional science.”

    [C3: Questions Relating to Russ’s and Pohl’s Stories]
    13. What is the narrator trying to explain in the first paragraph of Joanna Russ’s story, “The Second Inquisition?”

    The introductory paragraph is a statement that one of the biggest inhibitors, if not the biggest inhibitor, to creative and divergent thinking is the society and culture that a person is born in. Having “no second inquisition” means that a person is now in a perpetual state of questioning and investigating, or their beliefs can no longer be suppressed or silenced by a society with opposing perspectives. (Based on the Google Search definition of “inquisition”)

  2. C1: definition of sf terms
    What is the difference between the sf sub-genres of steampunk and cyberpunk? 

    Steampunk and cyberpunk are sub genres of science fiction, but steampunk is encouraged by past technology during the 19th century industrial revolution, like steam machines.Cyberpunk looks more ahead regarding the technology and science, such as robots.

    C2: definition of literary term

    How do you define novum?
    Novum is referred to as a theory of the future, an imagination of the distant future, something that’s different from what we have come to know in the present.

    C3: In Frederick Pohl’s story “Day Million,” is the character Don a robot, or is he an augmented human?

    In a story like “Day million” which is set in the future, Don is however depending on how you take the content into consideration. But he’s a cyborg, I suppose.

    • Noshin,

      Thanks for these. The first and second are excellent and crystal clear. The third is a bit less so. If you have the time to clarify exactly what you are saying in the third point, I have no doubt we would all greatly appreciate it.

  3. C1: Definition of SF Terms:

    17. What is the difference between a cyborg and cybernetics?
    The term cyborg is often associated with an already living organism being augmented with mechanical advancements that are used to give them enhanced abilities: like RoboCop or Go Go Gadget. On the other hand, cybernetics are associated with human made machines or artificial intelligence: like the t-900 from the Terminator series or Hal 9000 from Space Odyssey.

    C2: Definition of Literary Terms:

    9. Is time traveling a theme?
    Time traveling is considered a theme. Authors often use this as their story’s main subject matter to convey their vision of future accomplishments, or catastrophes, that humanity can put into motion.

    C3: Questions Relating to Russ’s and Pohl’s Stories:

    8. In Frederick Pohl’s story “Day Million,” is the character Don a robot, or is he an augmented human?
    In Frederik Pohl’s “Day Million,” Don is referred to as a cyborg. Thus, Don was once completely human and opted to augment his body. As a result, Don is an augmented human.

  4. C1
    How do you define verisimilitude?

    Verisimilitude is the lifelikeness of a fictional piece of literature or film, particularly fantasy genres. For example, think of it in terms of the Harry Potter movies, you would assume the fantastic creature you see are natural and belong there, but thinking about it in the context of our own reality you would say it’s all CGI.

    C2
    How do you define cybernetic? What was the definition in 1950? What is the definition today?

    I define Cybernetics as the merger of humans and machines thoughts, the ability to communicate with machines in a way not possible by the verbal communication we use. Cybernetics was popularized by Norbert Wiener in the 1950’s by his book The Human Use of Human Beings. He theorized that cybernetics would be a communication evolution, where communication will not only include humans, animals or plants, but machines. Present day views on Cybernetics have been toned down to a study of how the human brain and body communicate and how it’s reflected in the control systems of machines.

    http://www.infoamerica.org/documentos_word/shannon-wiener.htm

    C3
    What did Don do in the space ship?

    I believe he was working in a highly dangerous part of the spaceship, most likely contaminated with radiation, hence the reason for him to be clad in a “skin of light, resilient, extremely strong copper-colored metal”.

  5. C1- Definition of literary terms
    1) How do you define verisimilitude?
    – Verisimilitude is knowing what is real and what is the truth. For example in Phillip K. Dick’s story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, when McClain finds out the truth behind Quail’s real life trip to mars and finding out the real situation he is dealing with, when he discovers the story about the pending alien invasion.

    C2- Definitions of SF terms
    2) What is the difference between the sf sub-genres of steampunk and cyberpunk?
    – Both steampunk and cyberpunk have to do with the advancement of technological innovations, but the difference between them is the time period. Steampunk involves a more 19th century wild wild west time period with the combination of fictional technology and the innovative technology of that time. An example would be the movie Atlantis: The Lost Empire. While cyberpunk involves a more modern time period with the combination of technological advancements in this time period and the addition of more fictional innovations. An example would be Blade Runner.

    C3- Questions related to Russ’s and Pohl’s stories
    3) In Joanna Russ’s story ” The Second Inquisition,” are the girl and the visitor related? Is the book supposed to inspire the little girl? Why did the visitor just leave?
    – Although there may be many opinions about the ending, I believe that my interpretation is the true ending. Both the girl and the visitor are actually the same person. The visitor is the girl from a horrific future and the mirror is the time portal which we see the many creatures come out of towards the end. During the course of the story the visitor encourages the girl to read H.G. Wells’ novel ” The Time Machine”. The reason she suggests this novel to the girl is because it is the blueprints or inspiration for her creation of the time portal the creatures come out of. It was most likely the visitor’s mission to give the girl the inspiration for the time machine, so that her people can come and take over the present time period, which is why the story is called ” The Second Inquisition”. Also, the cousin of the visitor that she murdered could of traveled back in time to stop the girl from achieving her destiny, which is why we are barely given any information about that particular moment afterwards. It does leave questions on how did humanity deform into such creatures, but I guess that question is up to interpretation.

  6. C1- How do you define verisimilitude?

    Verisimilitude would be what appears true or real. For example, the special effects put into making “force choking” look real in the Star Wars films. Through these effects, it SEEMS like a person is being levitated and choked through space magic.

    C2- How would you define novum?

    I’d define it as scientific things that seem possible in SF. For example, the existence of droids in the Star Wars films. It’s very possible that there could be robots that could perform mildly complex functions and such.

    C3- In Frederick Pohl’s story “Day Million,” is the character Don a robot, or is he an augmented human?

    In a literal sense, he isn’t. He’s labeled as a cyborg within the story, making him technically somewhat human, but not whole. In a spiritual sense, it depends on what someone defines as “human”.

  7. C1: Definition of SF terms
    What’s the difference between Horror and Fantasy?
    Horror is a intense feeling of fear releasing energy from the humans body. Most of the SF included horror which can be related to science as to what creates fear in our mind which gives unusual feelings in some cases became reality. However, fantasy is an imaginative mind we human being can dream of yet somehow can mimic into the reality which can be mixed up with SF.
    C2: Definition of Literary terms
    What’s the idea of Neologisms?
    The idea of Neologisms can be express a new word of language which can be used in the modern world creating different words to further our knowledge to build advanced civilizations.
    C3: Questions relating to Russ’s and Pohl’s stories
    19. What did Don do in the space ship?
    Don travel many different galaxies to explore new things in life and repairs the space ship so you can say Don is more of a mechanic.

  8. C1 Definition of literary terms
    How do you define verisimilitude?
    Fiction writers use verisimilitude to give their stories a sense of reality. Most of the time they don’t have to show describe something that is actually true, but instead making it seem believable.

    C2-Definitions of SF terms
    How do you define novum?
    An imaginative way to think about what our future would look like if certain things were to happen.

    C3- questions related to Russ’s and Pohl’s stories
    What is the narrator trying to explain in the first paragraph of Joanna Russ’s story, “The Second Inquisition”?

    The narrator is trying to explain to us what the visitor was up to with her odd behavior,also explaining to us that the visitor likes to read. Narrator is also trying to explain what the visitor looks like as well.

  9. Pingback: Reading Delany’s Fiction and Criticism and Responding to Course Questions | ENG2420 Science Fiction Spring, 2017

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