SF2017 Final Exam

For the final exam, please select ONE of the following five stories to write about:

SF 2017 Final Exam Readings (PDF packet of five short stories)

Ursula LeGuin “Nine Lives” (Playboy, 1980)

Pamela Zoline “The Heat Death of the Universe” (New Worlds Speculative Fiction, July 1967)

Stanislav Lem “How the World Was Saved” (The Cyberiad, 1965)

Philip K. Dick “Beyond Lies the Wub” (Planet Stories, July, 1952)

Arthur C. Clarke “The Sentinel” (10 Story Fantasy, Spring, 1951)

For the final exam, you will write about ONE of these five short stories in the context of what you have learned about SF studies, literary studies, and other SF texts we have read or seen this semester. For the exam, you will write a short essay explaining what the story is about by describing its fictional elements, reflecting on the importance of story in the context of literary studies and in sf studies, and finally arguing for why you believe that the story should be added to Professor Rodgers SF course syllabus by discussing the connections between the story and other SF short stories that we have read this semester.

NOTE: You will need to print out a copy of the story you select to write about for the final exam.

For some sample draft summaries, you may want to read through these posts by students summarizing “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” and critique them.  How well do they summarize the Dick story?  What might you change in these summaries?  What do you admire in these summaries?


Additionally, to prepare for the final exam, in which you will write an essay about one short story that you have selected, you will want to:

  • Review Course Notes (both those posted and those you have taken)
  • Review your assignments
  • Make some notes on the short story you have selected.  What do you have to say about the story in the context of SF studies, literary studies, and the texts we have read this semester?  Although you will be writing the final exam essay in class, I expect you to come prepared with an outline of the key points that you want to make about the story.

Reminder: Final Draft of Research Project Essay DUE Monday, May 15

Please note that the final draft of your research project essay is due next Monday.  Please make sure that your final draft is in MLA format and includes both a title and a bibliography.  Those who have completed creative responses to texts will be handing in BOTH the final draft of the critical essay and the final draft of the creative response.

For those who would like to take their critical essay through the full revision process, here are links to worksheets for each step in that process–

Structural Revision, Line Editing, and Proofreading–here are a few links:

What Is Revision?
1. Structural Revision
2. Line Editing (see WiW 42)
3. Proofreading (see WiW 43)

Revision: Higher Order and Lower Order Concerns (Purdue OWL)

How To Write an Introduction

How To Write a Compelling Conclusion


For Wednesday, April 26

As we continue our work on the SF Final Project, please make sure that you are in the process of taking notes and gathering textual evidence from the texts you will be working with.  You may find these two resources helpful during this process:

Gathering Textual Evidence Handout

Research Source Cover Sheet

We will be discussing how to assemble the Research Project Proposal during our next class and how to prepare for the brief presentations that you will be giving next about your Research Project.

For Monday, April 24

  1. Please continue to think about your research question and how you might be able to make it more specific.  All of you now have a DRAFT Research Question.  For those of you hoping to further revise it, you may want to use this worksheet and/or refer to some resources related to research questions, which you will find by clicking this link and also on our course website.
  2. Please locate three critical articles or essays related to the text(s) you will be writing about and your research question.  Please consult the SF Final Project assignment for a list of some recommended sources.

FOR OUR NEXT CLASS:  Please bring printed copies of the primary texts that you will be writing about and the bibliographic citations of three critical articles.  If possible, please print out copies of the critical articles and bring those to class also.

Welcome Back!

What we have read:

“We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (1966) by Philip K. Dick
Umland, Samuel J., Ed. Philip K. Dick: Contemporary Critical Interpretations

“Day Million” (1966) Frederick Pohl

“The Second Inquisition” (1970) by Joanna Russ

“Time Considered as a Helix of Precious Stones” (1969) by Samuel Delany

“About 5,750 Words” by Samuel Delany

“There Will Come Soft Rains” (1950) by Ray Bradbury

“Reason” (1941) by Isaac Asimov
“Tik-Tok and the Three Laws of Robotics” by 
Paul A. Abrahm and Stuart Kenter (1978)

“An Interview with Isaac Asimov” (1987)

“Fondly Fahrenheit” (1954) by Alfred Bester

“Helen O’Loy” (1938) by Lester Del Rey

Common themes and concerns:

1/ there is some confusion or disorientation at the beginning of the story that is generally cleared up by the end

2/ all of the stories deal in some way with advanced technologies

3/ all of the stories are concerned in some way with the fate of humanity

4/ all of the stories try to guess what the future will look like

5/ all of the protagonists are affected or impacted by technologies, which are sometimes good and sometimes bad and usually involve a lot of tradeoffs

6/ many of the stories deal in some way with the relationships between humans and machines and/or nature and culture/society

What Do You Think About Machines That Think? (2015)
Marcus, Gary.  “Moral Machines” (2012)
Joy, Bill.  “Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us” (2000)
Lanier, Jaron.  “Who Owns the Future?” (2013)

7/ All of the stories are interconnected.  The authors write in response to the themes, characters, plots, and settings of other authors

Key questions:

1/ What may be/is the fate and/or role of humanity in a world of apparently endless technological progress?  What might be done to better address the human needs of human beings in the current socio-economic and technological context?

2/ How should relationships between humans and machines be conceived?  What differences exist between humans and machines?  What similarities?  What are the consequences of portraying or conceptualizing of humans as inferior machines?

3/ Why do “we” read science fiction?  Have the purposes of the “genre” changed over time?  If so, why?

4/ What similarities and differences exist among science fiction texts in different media?

Some Additional Articles from SFS:


SF Final Project: Overview

Science Fiction Final Project

Spring, 2017

Professor Rodgers

Choose your approach to the Research Project:

1/ critical disciplinary focus

2/ creative/critical focus

3/ comparative media focus


What You Will Do:

1/Choose a Topic, Select a SF short story or short novel to include in your Research Project, and Develop a Draft Research Question
2/Create a working bibliography of three to five sources related to your Research Project   3/Do some reading and research related to the texts you are studying and your research question
4/Finalize your research question
5/Create a deliverable (handout, video, other)
6/Prepare a 5 minute presentation for the class and present your findings and the deliverable
7/Write a five page paper, which will, present your findings, your argument, your analysis, etc.


Due Dates:

Topic and Story Selection and Draft Project Title and Draft Research Question:  Wednesday, April 19

Project Description and Proposal: Monday April 24

Review of Research Sources: Completed by Friday, April 28

Rough Drafts 5-Page Paper: May 1 (Exploratory Draft) and May 3 (Working Draft)

Presentations: May 8 and May 10

Final Draft 5-Page Paper:  Monday, May 15

For details and topics, please visit:


Reading Journal Assignment (Optional/Extra Credit)

Here are two, optional Reading Journal assignments.  Feel free to write about one or both.

1/ Compare and contrast the Dr. Edgemar scene in Verhoeven’s _Total Recall_ with the “Red Pill/Blue Pill” scene in _The Matrix_.  What connects these two scenes?  Are they in dialogue?  Why or why not?  Does one help explicate the other?  Please explain.

Total Recall Dr. Edgemar Scene: 1:18:00 in the pirated YouTube version [Here is a link to a better version (Thanks, Josh!): Total Recall Part I; Total Recall Part II]

The Matrix Pill Scene:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ1_IbFFbzA

Verhoeven Interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_11CaTZHyM

2/ Review the materials and questions we discussed in class on Wednesday, March 29.  Respond to one or more of the questions in your reading journal.

If you are interested in reading further about the “language of film,” here are a few things to read:

“How To Read a Film” by Prof. Mulready

“The Language of Film” by Michael Wohl (2008)

March 29 Class Materials: Total Recall

March 29, 2017

Discussion Questions:

On first viewing, Verhoeven’s 1990 film Total Recall may appear to be another big budget action adventure film set in the future and, possibly, nothing more than a “dumbing down” or popularization of Dick’s short story on which it is based.  However, reading the film more closely, what do we begin to notice about it?  Is it possible that the film itself may not be what it at first appears to be?  If so, how is this communicated to the viewer?

In what ways is this film entertaining while at the same time being instructive regarding the dangers and perils of entertainment?   In other words, in what ways does this film succeed in always “saying” two things at once?

If a trip to Rekal is identical to a trip to the movies, what is Verhoeven saying about the experience of watching movies and the roles and functions of entertainment?

In what ways may the title of the film be reflective of its aim and purpose to operate on two different levels of meaning simultaneously?

Is the “double meaning” of the movie a reflection of science fiction as a genre?  Is Verhoeven in the end offering a definition of science fiction with this film?  



On Dangerous Ground: Paul Verhoeven Interviewed

By Michael Wilmington in the July/August 1990 Issue of Film Comment


What attracted you to Total Recall?

If I say that, for me, RoboCop is about Lost Paradise, that’s kind of exaggerated—but it’s something that, to some degree, is in the heart of the movie. And if I say that Total Recall, for me, had to do with fear of psychosis, that’s the same over-and-understated situation, yeah? It has to do with the fear—a basic fear of myself—that psychosis is a way my brains could go.

Like The Fourth Man.

Yeah, little bit. More like Repulsion. When people who behave nice suddenly turn out to be monsters and criminals and kill you; when danger is around every corner, while normally it’s okay; when reality changes to that degree, suddenly—that’s the case for people who are psychotic. Now, certainly Total Recall has that element.

For the audience, every moment in the movie seems to be real. But when you get to the next scene, you can doubt the scene before, yeah? I’m exaggerating, because it would be really terrible to do that to an audience; everybody would be driven crazy, probably. But every once in a while you realize that what you saw before should have been seen in a different way. It was not reality, or it was a misinterpreted reality.




For our class on Wednesday, we will be focusing on a discussion of the following scenes from the film: 1/ 18:00 – 20:24; 2/ 38:50 – 39:50; 3/ 44:00 – 46:15; 4/ 49:00 – 55:00; 5/ 56:00 – 60:20 ; 6/ 1:18:00 – 1:23:00. I also encourage all of you to re-read pp. 311- 319.

Total Recall (1990) Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFMLGEHdIjE


Total Recall (1990) Full Movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQ47IavBh7g

Begins with a dream.

20:00:  Doctor

21:30:  “That’s a new one, blue sky on Mars.”

23:35:   Inside the machine

27:00:   Taxi

30:00:   Lori scene

35:15:   “If I’m not me, who the hell am I”

39:07:   X-ray gun scene; breaking through the screen:

44:00:   Bug in your head/towel/chase scene

50:59:   Quail watches a video of himself

51:09:  “You are not you, you’re me”

56:00    Goes to Mars / Two Weeks

1:06:00  At the Hilton

1:18:00: Dr. Edgemar: “I’m afraid you are not really standing here right now”

1:42:00: Kuato

1:50:00  Cohaagen confrontation

1:52:00  “I want my body back” [Hauser confronts Quaid]

1:56:00  Memories being erased

2:00:00  Drill Scene

2:04:00  Enter Reactor

2:05:00  Hologram Gun Fight

Does the movie end with an implanted dream?


Holographic Watch Scene:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqubhTODE-Q

Future Imperfect: Philip K. Dick at the Movies









RWA6: Preparing for the Midterm Exam and Reading Gernsback and H.G. Wells

The main assignment for this week is to prepare for the midterm exam, which you will be taking on Monday, March 20.  Additionally, although we have not yet had much time to discuss the “pulp era” in science fiction, which extends roughly from 1926, when Hugo Gernsback, who is sometimes referred to as the “father of science fiction [in the U.S.],” publishes the first issue of the magazine Amazing Stories until 1938 when Robert W. Campbell takes over the editorship of the magazine from Gernsback, I’d like you to read some texts from this period.  Please read the following: 1/ Gernsback’s April, 1926 editorial to the first issue and first volume of Amazing Stories, 2/ Gernsback’s June 1929 editorial to the first issue and first volume of his next magazine Science Wonder Stories, and 3/ a story by H. G. Wells published in the 1926 issue of Amazing Stories and/or The Time Machine (1895).  Please don’t hesitate to e-mail me with any questions about the midterm or the readings: jrodgers@citytech.cuny.edu