English 243/001 Speculative Fiction/Science Fiction (January 2021)

Science Fiction and Fantasy/Speculative Fiction – Term 2 TTh 12:00 p.m.

Dr. Gisèle M. Baxter

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NOTE: This course will be Web-oriented: it will be fully online and delivered through Canvas. This status differs from that of courses developed by CTLT and offered through Distance Learning. It also retains a registration cap.

The Posthuman Prometheus: Frankenstein’s Legacy in the Artificial Humans of Speculative Fiction

“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” – Rachael to Deckard, Blade Runner

The near-future and alternate-reality landscapes of literary and popular culture are often terrifying places, and have been since Gothic and dystopian impulses intersected in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shelley’s landmark tale evokes dread in the implications of Victor’s generation of a humanoid Creature; this dread echoes in the creatures haunting recent speculative fiction: clones, androids, artificial intelligences, cyborgs. Such texts conjure questions of gaze (why are these creatures so often attractive young women presented as the object of male desire?), rights, research ethics, and fear, in the realization that these creatures are, ultimately, not human but posthuman, yet often more sympathetic than their makers. You will write two short essays, a term paper requiring secondary research, and a final examination, and will contribute to discussion.

Core texts include the following (with availability):

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (print via UBC Bookstore; ebook via Kindle, GooglePlay, iBooks/Apple Books)
  • the Wachowskis, The Matrix: The Shooting Script (download as a PDF file on The Daily Script)
  • Madeline Ashby, Vn (print via UBC Bookstore; ebook via Kindle, Kobo, GooglePlay, iBooks/Apple Books)
  • Alex Garland, Ex Machina: screenplay (ebook via Kindle, Kobo, GooglePlay)
  • a film: either Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott, Final Cut edition) or Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve) or AI (dir. Steven Spielberg)

Note: I’ve enquired about whether the UBC Bookstore can order digital access cards for Neuromancer and Vn.

A list of supplementary recommended texts will be developed and online readings will be put in Library Online Course Reserves.

This course will proceed in a fully online form, using Canvas and a combination of  synchronous (live lectures) and asynchronous (notes, links, discussion forums, slides) materials. I will make sure all that course material is available online and/or in digital format (and will identify ebook or streaming options for all course texts) and that the full course is accessible to all students.

Keep checking this post for updates concerning the course, its texts, and its requirements.

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