Today, I showed my Science Fiction students the Fred M. Wilcox classic film from 1956, Forbidden Planet. Afterwards, I lectured about the tension that I see in the film between Golden Age emphasis on hard SF (space travel, harnessing atomic power, computers, chemistry, and metallurgy) and New Wave focus on inner space (cognition, mental power, exploration of the Freudian mind: id/ego/superego). This is one of my favorite films, and I hope that the students enjoyed the visual/auditory experience, too.
Tomorrow, we begin our module on New Wave SF with a lecture on New Worlds, England Swings SF, Dangerous Visions, and the assigned readings: J.G. Ballard’s “The Cage of Sand,” Harlan Ellison’s “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” and Samuel R. Delany’s “Aye, and Gomorrah. . .”
In today’s class, I covered large swaths of background material on Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, and Tom Godwin. Then, I gave the class a rough sketch of the development of SF film through the SF-film boom of the 1950s as preparation for tomorrow’s viewing of Forbidden Planet. After lecture, we discussed the readings from Monday and Tuesday: Asimov’s “Reason,” Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains,” Heinlein’s “All You Zombies–,” and Godwin’s “The Cold Equations.”
I was glad to hear that Godwin’s story connected emotionally with some students despite it being “hard SF.” There were also a number of students who preferred “All You Zombies–” and were already familiar with time travel narratives, which supported my lecture argument about Heinlein’s reliance on reader’s experience with the SF mega-text. One student on Bradbury’s story said, “This was the first story that made me feel sorry for a house.” After class, I had a great conversation with two students about Cold War anxieties and the shifting experiences of SF in film and television via new media.