Course Description

In her 1993 novel Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler wrote: “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are new suns.” This class will offer an opportunity to spend time under new suns, as they have been imagined by creators of speculative fiction whose radical imaginations challenge oppressive structures of gender, race, sexuality, capitalism, and empire. We will learn about the history and present of those structures by engaging deeply with the ways that people have imagined changing them. Paying special attention to the histories of feminist science fiction and Afrofuturism and their intersections, the creators with whom we will engage include Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Nnedi Okorafor, and Janelle Monae. In the new worlds, unexpected pasts, and transformative futures imagined by feminist, queer, and antiracist cultural producers, we will look for tools that open up possibilities for transforming our own present. Our assignments will include not only reading and discussing science fiction novels, short stories, and films, but also engaging with them in creative ways––adapting works for different forms, applying their insights to real-world situations, and building from their examples to create our own speculative worlds.

Course objectives

By the end of the semester, students should:

• become familiar with scholarly and cultural conversations around science fiction
• understand the significance of cultural production to social justice movements
• develop an intersectional and transnational analysis of race and gender as power structures and social categories
• gain experience in multiple formats of interdisciplinary critical and creative writing

Required texts:
• Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Sower (1993; preferred edition 2017 from Seven Stories Press)
• Shelley Streeby, Imagining the Future of Climate Change (2017)
• Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown (eds), Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements (2015)
• Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969; no preferred edition)
Nnedi Okorafor, Lagoon (2014)
• Jeff Smith (ed), Khatru Symposium: Women in Science Fiction (1975; 1993; 2009)