Science Fiction

Class info

“What do the worlds of science fiction teach us about our own world?”

Students will analyze selected works in order to study the essential questions Science Fiction writers have been asking for over 180 years. Students will also research and collect materials to find and support the thematic concepts that are at the base of all science fiction: unexplained phenomena, self-knowledge, the individual vs. society, space and time travel, the relationship between technology and humankind, and the relationship between the environment and humankind.

We will be reading short and long fiction as well as watching films, all of which will tie into our four central themes: (Hu)Man and Machine, Robots and Mechanical Men, Utopia, and Stranger in a Strange Land.

Because of the birth of my son on Jan. 1, I began second semester three weeks late. Thanks to my excellent sub, my students were all right on track when I showed up on Jan. 26. Unfortunately, my Web site will pick up approximately where I started this semester. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Wednesday, 5/13

Today was the final. I also collected books from most of you. If you have books outstanding, please get them in (or pay for them) ASAP so I can sign your senior check-out sheet.

Monday, 5/11

Today was the review day for the final exam. The final will be during 6th period (our normal meeting time) on Wednesday, 5/13. I will also collect books and sign checkout sheets this day. Homework: study/plan your essay!

Thursday, 5/7

Today was the 4th unit test. Students also received the review sheet for the entire semester (and thus, the final). Homework: begin reviewing for the final, and come in prepared to do so in class on Monday.

Tuesday, 5/5

Today we tried to catch up on the stories and questions from last Friday. We also did a review for the Unit 4 test which will be Thursday. Homework: study for Thursday’s test.

Friday, 5/1

I was out today taking care of a sick 4-year-old. The sub should have distributed this handout with discussion questions for our final stories — including “The Veldt,” of which you should also have received copies. Homework: read “The Veldt,” any of the stories for today you hadn’t read yet, and answer all of the discussion questions; we’ll wrap up this unit on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 4/29

We finished our viewing of 12 Monkeys today and began our discussion of the film using the questions I gave out on Monday. I also returned the utopia tests and briefly discussed the timeline for the remaining classes this semester. Homework: read “Mariana” and “The Ifth of Oofth,” beginning on pages 152 and 304 respectively, both in the Science Fact-Fiction text.

Monday, 4/27

Today we started 12 Monkeys in earnest. We discussed the timeliness of the viewing of this film at the same time a possible swine flu pandemic is ramping up. We also reviewed these questions that I wanted you to consider while watching the film. We will finish and discuss the film on Wednesday. Homework: work on extra credit!

Thursday, 4/23

We spent class today discussing different theories of the 4th dimension. In “A Sound of Thunder,” that 4th dimension was time, and we talked about some of the possible consequences of time travel. In “—And He Built a Crooked House,” it was a spatial 4th dimension, which had consequences for the house and the characters inside it. Doing so required some background info on tesseracts and hypercubes (the images specifically are helpful). We then tied these two stories into our next (and last) film, Twelve Monkeys. Time travel and alternate realities collide with mental stability in this text. Is crazy an absolute, or is it just relative? We watched the first 10-12 minutes of the film, which we will discuss and probably re-watch on Monday.

Tuesday, 4/21

Today we began our 4th unit, Stranger in a Strange Land. The essential questions of this unit are:

  • What is real?
  • How would you define “real?”
  • How would we react to alternate realities/parallel universes/other dimensions?

We started class with a quiz on “The Yellow Pill.” Then we discussed these essential questions, using Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” and assistance from Mr. Trinidad, to try and illustrate different levels of reality and perception (for more about the “Allegory of the Cave” beyond my inadequate explanation, check out these resources online — 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 — or do a Google search). Then we spent a few minutes discussing our story for today, specifically which of the realities was real and why. Homework: please read “A Sound of Thunder,” which is in both anthologies (p. 46 in Science Fiction and p. 251 in Science Fact-Fiction), as well as “And He Built A Crooked House,” p. 25 in the Science Fiction anthology.

Friday, 4/17

Today was the Utopia unit test. Any make-up tests need to happen ASAP next week. Homework: read the first text in our final unit, “The Yellow Pill” on p. 127 in the Science Fiction text.

Wednesday, 4/15

We finished viewing Children of Men today and had a pretty good discussion about it. We unfortunately, because of the fire drill, didn’t have a lot of time for the Utopia unit review. Regardless, the test will be on Friday (or the next day we meet, in the very slim chance we don’t have school Friday). Homework: study for said test.

Monday, 4/13

Today we quickly discussed “The Winner,” though folks seemed reluctant to talk today, so we didn’t get as much out of it as I had hoped. We then began our viewing of Children of Men. Use this handout during and after the viewing so that we might have a good discussion about the film. Homework: begin preparing for the Utopia test Friday.

Thursday, 4/9

We continued our discussion of Brave New World/Gattaca/“Harrison Bergeron” today using this handout. We also added in our discussion of “The Enchanted Village.” Afterwards, I finally handed back the Robots and Mechanical Men tests from far too long ago. Overall, they were good. Homework: read “The Winner” on p. 109 in Science Fiction for Monday. The next unit test will likely be next Friday.

Tuesday, 4/7

Today we finished our viewing of Gattaca. Because I figured that some of you were unable to read “Harrison Bergeron” because of the snow days, we read that in class in addition to answering several questions about the three utopia texts so far. We then briefly discussed Gattaca and went over some of those questions. We’ll continue this on Thursday. Homework: read “The Enchanted Village” on p. 191 in Science Fiction.

Friday, 3/27

Snow day! On our first day back from spring break, which should be Tuesday, April 7, we will finish our viewing of GATTACA and discuss “Harrison Bergeron.” Enjoy the break!

Wednesday, 3/25

Today we started the first of our films for the Utopia unit, GATTACA. We will finish this film on Friday and discuss it, along with the story for homework. Homework: read “Harrison Bergeron” on p. 119 of the Science Fiction text.

Monday, 3/23

Today we took a quiz and finished going over the events in Brave New World. We followed this up with a thematic discussion centering on John’s conversation/academic argument with the world controller in ch. 16 & 17. Homework: make sure you bring the Science Fiction anthology text with you to class on Wednesday.

Thursday, 3/19

Today we took a quiz over ch. 14-16 to start things off. Then we returned to the hypnopaedic slogans worksheet from 10 days ago (yikes). We spent the rest of class completing these and discussing them. Homework: finish the novel for Monday.

Friday, 3/13

Today we tried to get caught up with the reading schedule. I gave some reading time at the very beginning of class, and then students took a quiz over ch. 7-13. We attempted to have a long discussion of the developments of the novel up to this point, though I must say I was discouraged by the apparent lack of effort in keeping up with the novel as well as some students’ lack of interest in doing some real thinking about the novel and its themes. Perhaps next week will be better. Homework: ch. 14-16 are due on the 19th.

Wednesday, 3/11

Today was our abbreviated-due-to-CSAPs class, and I was impressed that about 20 of you showed up. Those who did took part in a discussion/review of ch. 7-8 which will probably give them a leg up on Friday. Additionally, I handed out an extra credit assignment for those students to reward them for not ditching. Homework: read through ch. 13 for Friday, and be prepared for a big quiz....

Monday, 3/9

We took a quiz today only on ch. 5-6. We then discussed those chapters as well as perceived oddities between the brave new world and our own. I also gave a handout/worksheet on the hypnopaedic slogans in the book to try and determine some meaning from and contextualize them. 

Thursday, 3/5

Today we started with a quiz on ch. 3-4 of BNW. We then went over the results of the questionnaire I gave you last class and discussed ch. 3-4, including a reading of the confusing end of ch. 3. Homework: ch. 5-7.

Tuesday, 3/3

Today we began our Utopia unit. We started with this utopia questionnaire that students took anonymously; I will compile the results, and we’ll discuss them during a future class. Then I went through a slide show with some background information on the concept of utopia as well as Huxley’s novel Brave New World. I gave out a reading schedule for BNW, and we discussed ch. 1-2 a little bit. We also read and discussed an essay/blog post on American individualism by Robert Bellah, a professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley. Homework: read ch. 3-4 in BNW for Thursday.

Thursday, 2/26

Today was our test over unit 2, Robots and Mechanical Men. Students who were absent should check in with me ASAP regarding possible make-up tests. After completing the test, students turned in their I, Robot texts and checked out copies of Brave New World. Homework: read ch. 1-2 of BNW for Tuesday.

Tuesday, 2/24

Today we had a lengthy discussion of Blade Runner in which many of you told me the film was terrible and I tried to convince you that you were wrong. The last 20 min. of the class was spent reviewing for the Robots and Mechanical Men unit test that will be on Thursday. Homework: review for that test.

Friday 2/20

Today we finished Blade Runner. Tuesday will be our discussion and review for the second test. Homework: prepare for the unit review.

Wednesday, 2/18

Today we spent a good amount of time discussing “The Evitable Conflict,” the last story in Asimov’s I, Robot text. Afterwards, I quickly reviewed the next few days:

  • Today: Finish I, Robot, setup and start Blade Runner
  • Friday: Finish Blade Runner
  • Next Tuesday: Discuss Blade Runner, review for test
  • Next Thursday: Robots and Mechanical Men test; start Brave New World

As promised, we had a little preview discussion for Blade Runner, and then we started the film. Homework: get caught up on I, Robot reading, if you haven’t yet read all of the assigned stories.

Friday, 2/13

Today we discussed “Little Lost Robot” and “Evidence” from I, Robot. We also watched a few related clips from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (1, 2). Homework: finish I, Robot with the final story “The Evitable Conflict.”

Wednesday, 2/11

Today we started with a quiz and discussion on “Liar.” We also discussed the shift in the I, Robot text as robots are becoming more advanced (we talked about comparing the progression of the robots to a human progressing through childhood and young adulthood, i.e. growing up). We also revisited both the unit and course themes and questions, which I like to do from time to time to keep us centered. I finally returned your unit 1 tests to you (which were pretty good overall), and then gave you time to start your homework: read “Little Lost Robot” and “Evidence” for Friday.

Monday, 2/9

Today we finished viewing the film version of I, Robot. We also had a quiz over “Runaround” and “Reason.” We discussed the film and these stories and tried to connect them all to the unit question/theme. Homework: read “Liar” in the I, Robot book.

Thursday, 2/5

Today we nearly finished our viewing of the film I, Robot. We spent the last 10 minutes talking about a few of the filmmaking techniques students noticed while watching the film. Homework: if you haven’t already, please read both “Reason” and “Runaround” for Monday; if you read them for today as you were supposed to, no homework over the weekend.

Tuesday, 2/3

Today we started with a quiz on “Robbie.” We then discussed our unit question — “What makes human beings human?” — as well as “Robbie” and the I, Robot text itself. We briefly reviewed the film viewing guide and then began our viewing of the film I, Robot. Homework: read “Runaround” and “Reason” in the I, Robot text.

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