Slavic R5B, Section 101: Session D (July 6 – August 14)

M-Th 9-11, 285 Cory Hall. Instructor: Thomas Dyne.

Units: 4

Instructor e-mail:


Hard Science Fiction and the Representation of Reality

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Since first appearing in the 1957 American anthology Astounding Science Fiction, the term “hard science fiction” has been applied to “grittily realistic, scientifically and technically accurate portrayals” ranging from Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey. But what is hard science fiction, and how do we understand the concept as a genre? Does sci-fi have to be “hard” to be realistic? How can we “realistically” portray something that isn’t real? Can we really call a text realistic if it relies on an alternate history, or on an image of the projected future, or if it contains unexplained or even supernatural moments? What attitude do we take to the text that mixes the natural and the supernatural, or that attempts to realistically narrate the unreal, and what does this do to our sense of what it means to be “realistic”? In this course we will pose these questions and examine them as problems of genre, as we read short stories, two novels, a screenplay, and watch films of the Russian, American, British, and French “hard sci-fi” tradition of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

As this course fulfills the second half of the Reading and Composition requirement, and must be taken for a letter grade to fulfill this requirement for graduation, our goal will be to develop and improve students’ ability to read critically and write clear, well-reasoned, articulate and persuasive research papers. To that end, students will be tasked with writing three short papers (one of which will be a revision of an earlier paper), and one final research paper. The class meets from 9am to 11am, Monday through Thursday. Daily readings of approximately 20-40 pages will be assigned, and a number of films that complement our readings will also be screened in class. In addition to discussing the readings and films, much of class time will be devoted to writing workshops, where students will develop, outline, draft, edit, and revise their papers in consultation with the instructor and in dialogue with their peers. The texts not listed “for purchase” below will be available either online or in the course reader.

Books for purchase:
Yevgeny Zamiatin, We. Trans. Mirra Ginsburg. Eos: New York, 1999. ISBN: 978-0380633135.

Michael Hackett, The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing. Hackett Publishing Co, 2003. ISBN: 0872205738.

Reading List:
The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing – Michael Hackett (for purchase, ISBN: 0872205738.)

We – Yevgeny Zamyatin (for purchase, ISBN: 978-0380633135.)

A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

Monkey Planet – Pierre Boulle

“Hermit and Sixfinger” – Victor Pelevin

“Pkhents” – Andrei Siniavksy

Stanley Kubrick: A Narrative and Stylistic Analysis (selections) – Mario Falsetto

Selected short stories by Robert A. Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, and Isaac Asimov

2001: a Space Odyssey, dir. Stanley Kubrick

A Clockwork Orange, dir. Stanley Kubrick

Blade Runner, dir. Ridley Scott

Solaris, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

Prerequisite: Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent. The “A” course requirement (or its equivalent) is the prerequisite for the second half of this two-course sequence. Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.