Other Dreams, Other Worlds, Other Syllabi

After I posted my dream about teaching on another planet a few days ago, Mack Hassler emailed me a recent article that he wrote about the history of world building in science fiction. This made me realize that creating syllabi for new courses, as I had been doing for a job application, was a form of world building. As a teacher, you imagine what is the best environment and situations to accomplish the goals of a given course. As a classroom world builder, you consider what texts, order, and assignments will help you achieve those goals. I wrote this back to Mack in response to his essay:

Thanks for emailing me your piece on world building! It was an
enjoyable read, and a good reminder of some of the heavy work in
science fiction–building worlds. I finished writing two syllabi for
the GT application just before dinner time. Not exactly
worlds, but smaller worlds–perhaps on the scale of Kubrick’s/Clarke’s
Discovery or Lucas’ Death Star. One is in Biomedicine and Culture and
the other is Science, Technology, and Postmodernism. . . . It was fun
constructing those worlds with my selections of flora and fauna.
However, I do not know what kind of people will join me on those
worlds–I hope that it will not turn out like Dick’s A Maze of Death.
I will mail all of this out on Monday and we will see how it goes.
Now, it is time to return to my Kent State writing worlds and do some
grading, after which it will be time to dissertate, if I can find
Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.

I am writing this blog post from my office at Kent State, which is anything but a Fortress of Solitude. Cutting at the chaos outside with a slammed door has at least helped me get some layout work and this post done.

I will post my sample syllabi soon in a subsequent post.

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Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.