In Spring 2019, students in two classes used the City Tech Science Fiction Collection.
On May 9, 2019, Prof. Lucas Kwong’s ENG2420 Science Fiction class used collection materials pulled by Prof. Jason Ellis as part of an assignment. Prof. Kwong describes it as: “The assignment involves comparing and contrasting one of the texts we discussed this semester with a text (could be film, game, TV show, or other media) of their choice. The students are choosing a pretty diverse range of topics and eras of sci-fi to focus on – several of them are looking at contemporary games + films, while also reaching back to “The Machine Stops” and other early sci fi. I am encouraging them to think of the archive as both a source of creative inspiration (they will have to write a short story as part of the assignment) and a means of contextualizing their analysis in the light of sci fi’s history.”
On February 7, 2019 students in Prof. Lavelle Porter’s ENG 2001 “Introduction to Literature I: Fiction” (sections 534 and 535) made a visit to the City Tech Science Fiction Collection. Librarian Wanett Clyde facilitated our session and helped us with retrieving material. Among the texts that my class read and discussed this semester were Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower and Samuel R. Delany’s essay, “Racism and Science Fiction.” Students had already done some research by looking up critical articles about Octavia Butler and Parable of the Sower in various journals, including SF journals such as Extrapolation and Science Fiction Studies. Using the collection’s finding aid we were able to locate print copies of these journals containing the articles that students had found online and summarized. This was a meaningful way for students to experience print material, and see the physical origins of journals that are archived in digital platforms like JSTOR. We also located a copy of the 1998 issue of the New York Review of Science Fiction newsletter where Delany’s “Racism and Science Fiction” first appeared. The essay has since become a touchstone in science fiction criticism, and is now available on the NYRSF website, and was recently reprinted in Delany’s The Atheist in the Attic (2018). In our class sessions we talked about the history of mass-market science fiction publishing. Walking through the archive, students were able to see old paperbacks of science fiction novels, and all of the other wonderful material available in the collection. This experience helped students to think about the material aspects of fiction publishing, and expand their knowledge of science fiction as a popular genre of fiction writing.