Beyond the Known Universe:
Science Fiction and Fantasy Outside the Canon

English 162
Fall 2002
Kilgore Trout
Office hours: Tuesday/Thursday 1-2 and by appointment

Much like the epic poems of the Greeks and Romans, the plays of Shakespeare, the epistolary fiction of the eighteenth century, and the Gothic novel, contemporary science fiction and fantasy novels have become a well-established part of the university canon. Through their entrenchment in the halls of academe, these so-called classic sci-fi/fantasy authors, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Madeleine L'Engle, have lost their outsider status and have, ironically, become as much a part of the problem as Faulkner, Hemingway, Melville, Milton, and the rest of the dead white males who formerly held sway over the canon.

This course is founded upon the principle that to replace one canon with another simply serves to perpetuate the false dichotomy of high and low art, and that no distinction should be made between "literary" versus "pulp" science fiction and fantasy. To this end, we will eschew the canonized authors of the sci-fi/fantasy realm and delve instead into popular but overlooked books, those which have been dismissed by critics as poorly written genre novels, sold for a quarter in the grocery store, and otherwise marginalized. Through their daring exploration of such topics as interspecies sex, robots turned bad, magical unicorns, giant killer insects, and the heightened attractiveness of young female scientists when stranded on faraway planets, these books present the ultimate challenge to our notions of right and wrong, good and bad, and our place in the universe.

Required Texts

Anthony, Piers. The Color of Her Panties.
Bradley, Marion Zimmer. Sword & Sorceress XIV.
Donaldson, Stephen R. The Gap Into Conflict: The Real Story.
Norman, John. Slave Girl of Gor.
Rawn, Melanie. Dragon Prince.
Weber, David. Echoes of Honor.
Course packet from Collective Copies (includes "Little Orphan Android" by James Gunn, "The Thorns of Barevi" by Anne McCaffrey, and excerpts from the Weis/Hickman Dragonlance novels).

Course Papers

For this course, you will be required to write a short response paper (one page typed) each week, as well as mid-term and final papers (5-7 pages each). The response papers are to be written in a "Choose Your Own Adventure" format, in which the student should stop halfway through the reading of one of our required texts in order to imagine the possible turns and twists that the plot might take from that point on. Be sure to generate at least five potential outcomes, and say which one you would pick.

The mid-term and final papers will each consist of a free-form analysis of one or more texts we have read. In the spirit of the writers we will be reading, revision of these essays is not required and is, in fact, discouraged. While the strictures of academia normally require that students carefully draft and revise their writings, the authors we will be reading this semester demonstrate that no revision is needed in order to craft a piece of writing that is gripping, powerful, action-packed, and ultimately, profoundly moving. I encourage you to adopt the same tactics in writing your two essays for this class.

Grading Policy

Your grade will be broken down as follows:

Weekly "Choose Your Own Adventure" papers 25%
Mid-term paper 25%
Final paper 25%
Model airplane, homemade robot, or chain mail vest 10%
Class participation 15%

RedFeather, by

Prof. Kilgore Trout is an avid advocate of "low" and "pulp" science fiction, as well as an accomplished antigropelos maker..

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