English 243/002: Speculative Fiction (January 2022)

ENGL 243/002: Speculative Fiction: Commodified Populations; Posthuman Dystopias

Dr. Gisèle M. Baxter

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Term 2 | TTh 12:30-2p

“We make Angels. In the service of Civilization. There were bad angels once … I make good angels now.” – Niander Wallace, Blade Runner 2049

“Whole generations of disposable people.” – Guinan, “The Measure of a Man”, Star Trek: The Next Generation (season 2)

The near-future and alternate-reality landscapes of science fiction 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 more recent products or accidents of science: clones, robots and replicants, artificial intelligences, cyborgs. Such texts raise issues of gendered exploitation, consciousness and rights, research ethics, and fear, in the realization that these creatures are, ultimately, not human but posthuman, yet often more sympathetic than their makers. However, despite their apparent superiority, such humanoids tend to be defined as commodities.

In this course, we will consider the posthuman element of dystopian speculations reflecting on the present and recent past, especially concerning threats of mass surveillance, profit-motivated technology, environmental crisis, and redefinitions of human identity.

Texts:

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer: the UBC Bookstore has ordered print copies; the ebook is available on Kindle, Kobo, Apple Books, and Google Play
  • Lauren Beukes, Moxyland: the UBC Bookstore has ordered print copies; the ebook is available on Kindle, Kobo, Apple Books, and Google Play
  • Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski, The Matrix: Shooting Script (PDF on DailyScript)
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go: the UBC Bookstore has ordered print copies; the ebook is available on Kindle, Kobo, Apple Books, and Google Play
  • Blade Runner 2049 (dir. Denis Villeneuve): available to stream (no fee) through Library Online Course Reserves; available to rent or purchase via Apple TV, YouTube, Microsoft, Google Play, and Cineplex; available to order as a physical-copy dvd or bluray.

Note: The novels are all under copyright so no legal free or extraordinarily cheap ebook editions of them exist and I can only permit use of legal versions of these course texts.

Evaluation will be based on a midterm essay, a term paper, a final exam, and participation in discussion.

See Recent Posts or Archives (June 2021) in the right sidebar menu for descriptions of my other 2021-22 courses.

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