Science Fiction, LMC 3214: Proto-SF, Voyages Extraordinaires, and Scientific Romances

Today’s class was chocked full of lecture and discussion.

We began by going over the final paper assignment on applying definitions of science fiction to a single work of SF or SFnal that we did not discuss as a class. Since many of the students might not have written literary criticism before, I framed the assignment as an experiment:

  • Identify a problem: Choose a work of fiction (book, short story, film, video game, etc.) that: 1) we did not discuss as a class, and 2) has some science fictional aspect—either strongly or weakly. Pose the question: Is this SF (or SF of a particular type)?
  • Form a hypothesis about the work being SF or not.
  • Choose data for testing your hypothesis: Write about specific themes, examples, and scenes from the work that you choose.
  • Test your hypothesis: Using at least two of the attached definitions from the list, argue for and against your hypothesis.
  • Draw a conclusion: In your discussion, you should: 1) explain why or why not your example work is SF, and 2) build your own definition of SF and write it in your own words.

I believe that having students get their hands dirty with definitions while trying to formulate their own definition will lead to a deeper understanding of SF discourse.

The bulk of our class was spent on laying foundational lecture material for this week’s material. I introduced them to the cultural forces needed for SF to emerge, early practitioners of proto-SF such as Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jules Verne and his Voyages Extraordinaires, and H.G. Wells and Scientific Romances.

For today’s class, we discussed H.G. Wells’ “The Star” (and I introduced them to Voyager’s Pale Blue Dot photograph) and E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” (which led to an AMAZING discussion about social media and contemporary communication technologies).

Tomorrow, we will discuss the Pulps, Hugo Gernsback, C.L. Moore’s “Shambleau,” and H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space.”

Dynamic Subspace Hit Count Bump Thanks to Jules Verne’s Birthday

I was surprised yesterday to see a two-fold increase in my daily site traffic, but I quickly found the culprit for this additional traffic: Jules Verne’s birthday. In 2009, I posted a call for papers for the annual Jules Verne Society meeting here. That post received many hits from search engine result pages even though I haven’t really written about Jules Verne on the site besides that post. That post was ranked on some of the major search engines, which drove a little extra traffic my way. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any party favors to give out or more substantial Verne articles for my visitors to read. I will have to think of something significant to write about Verne before his birthday next year.

Van Cleef & Arpels Les Voyages Extraordinaires Advertisement

Van Cleef & Arpels has a new jewelry line called Les Voyages Extraordinaires that I saw advertised in Taiwan’s Liberty Times. The pictured necklace looks like a hot air balloon and the line at the bottom of the ad roughly translates into English as, “fantasy journeys across time and space inspired this collection.”

CFP, North American Jules Verne Society Meeting May 2010


I saw the following cfp for the North American Jules Verne Society conference come across the SF-LIT email list recently. The above portrait of Jules Verne is by Félix Nadar and can be found here.

Scholars! Scientists! Collectors! Hobbyists! Verne lovers everywhere!

We ask just TWO things of you:

A. Mark your calendars!

B. Put on your thinking caps!

The 2010 Conference of the North American Jules Verne Society is slated
for next Spring, May 19 – May 23 . . . and we’re looking for talks,
papers, presentations, and show-and-tells of all kinds!

NAJVS welcomes Vernians of every bent – educators,
collectors, researchers, hobbyists, translators, and explorers . . . not
to mention renowned scientists and literary figures who say they couldn’t
have done it without Verne! They’ll all be on hand at the 2010 NAJVS
Conference in Bethesda, Maryland:

ARRIVE: Wed., May 19.

PROGRAMMING: Thurs. – Sat., May 20-22.

DEPART: Sun., May 23.

This unique Vernian venture will climax at Bethesda’s Round House Theatre,
one of the leading professional companies in the D.C. area: On Sat. we’ll
attend the Area premiere of Mark Brown’s recent off-broadway hit, Around
the World in 80 Days. It’s a madcap adaptation in which, thanks to
dazzlingly fast reflexes, five actors do the work of fifty! This show, as
the Orlando Sentinel observes, “moves at the speed of a roller coaster.
Writer Mark Brown has taken Jules Verne’s century-old comic novel and made
it gallop across the stage. If this show doesn’t make you laugh, you’ll
have to look hard for something that will!”

Since nearly a fourth of this all-time favorite takes place in North
America, we’ll be featuring a Yankee motif next Spring:  “VOYAGING TO
AMERICA WITH VERNE.” But, needless to say, every Vernian topic is of
interest . . . and Vernians of every nationality! Just ask me to reserve a
slot for you . . .  presentations are to be 20 minutes in length.

All audio, video, and other electronic requirements should be doable.
We’ll be tweaking the technical and thematic specifics with you early next
year. But in the meantime, please let me know that you’d like to
participate . . . and start laying your plans for the North American Jules

Warmest regards,


Rick Walter


North American Jules Verne Society

(505) 821-5678