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What Belongs In a High School Sci-Fi/Fantasy Lit Class?

ScuttleMonkey posted about 5 years ago | from the fantasy-is-thinking-this-class-wont-get-axed dept.

Books 1021

flogger writes "I have been asked to help develop a literature course for Science Fiction and Fantasy literature. What do you consider to be appropriate selections of short stories and novels in these genres for high school students of all ability levels? I'd also like to know why you choose certain selections. This class will be 'regular' class and not a class for 'flunkies' to earn a credit by sitting docile and listening to lectures. The following is a course description that I have been given as a guideline. This description can change. Any ideas? 'In this Junior/Senior level course, students will focus on the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Students will survey the histories of these genres and recognize how world events have been reflected onto other worlds. From the early formation of the genre, with Verne, and the classics of Clarke, Tolkien, Bradbury, and LeGuin, to the contemporary works of Card, Jordan, and Vinge, the genres have been about portraying humanity in possible scenarios. These works have mirrored events throughout the troubled situations of our history and provided optimistic outcomes and horrifying predictions. Through this course, students will utilize analytical skills and reading strategies to evaluate our current situation and project into the literature of different worlds while sharing and learning of an author's insight. Possible areas of interest will be topics of the environment, energy conservation, war, social issues, and others. '"

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Where was this class for me? (4, Insightful)

marbike (35297) | about 5 years ago | (#29649149)

You might consider that not only does the world around us inform the fiction that is written (consider Heinlein's social and political commentary in Starship Troopers) but that also Science Fiction informs our own world (see how innovation is sparked by what SciFi has given us. Also, the genres can be used to teach us about the past (Piers Anthony's Steppe) or give us a glimpse into the far future (Niven's Ringworld). There is quite a lot of SciFi in our daily lives, but our world is certainly present in our SciFi.

I want to know where this class was $Big_Num years ago. I would have jumped at the chance to participate in such a class.

Re:Where was this class for me? (3, Insightful)

madhurms (736552) | about 5 years ago | (#29649203)

Try Hitchhiker's guide to galaxy. Great read.

Re:Where was this class for me? (1)

marbike (35297) | about 5 years ago | (#29649269)

And possibly a good example of how literature can inform the real world. Wikipedia [] and H2G2 [] are both very similar to the notional Guide in HHGTTG.

9 more books! (1)

El Jynx (548908) | about 5 years ago | (#29649563)

Julian May's Pliocene Exile series is absolutely brilliant as well (and entertaining). Near LOTR in its own way.

Re:Where was this class for me? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649309)

I can't articulate how much I agree. I would have killed for a class like this when I was in highschool. A literature class I *care* about?! Perish the thought.

Some More Names to Consider (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | about 5 years ago | (#29649163)

My reading is (obviously) slanted toward sci-fi over fantasy but here's some more names to consider (in no order): Stanislaw Lem, Assimov, Wells, Philip K. Dick, Orwell, Mary Shelley, H. P. Lovecraft, William Gibson, Charles Stross, Heinlein, Vonnegut, Lois Lowry, Madeleine L'Engle, Larry Niven, Sturgeon, Huxley, Herbert, Stephenson, Douglas Adams, Rand, Anthony Burgess, Philip Jose Farmer, Robert Silverberg, Harry Harrison, Frederick Pohl, Harlan Ellison, Jack Williamson, E.E. Smith and Crichton. While you might feel some of them belong elsewhere (Shelley, Vonnegut, Rand, Orwell) they're still sci-fi/fantasy.

Um, what were you planning to have them do? What amount of reading per week are you aiming at? 20-30 pages? I realize a lot of the authors (Jordan especially) may be too much to ask.

Re:Some More Names to Consider (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649205)

I second this. Orwell's 1984 should be mandatory reading for all high schoolers.

Re:Some More Names to Consider (2, Interesting)

nizo (81281) | about 5 years ago | (#29649331)

Don't forget Animal Farm.

Re:Some More Names to Consider (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649579)

I don't think I've met a single person my age who hasn't read at least one of those, so I don't think you really need to worry about them, they seem to be covered.

Re:Some More Names to Consider (2, Insightful)

Minwee (522556) | about 5 years ago | (#29649593)

Just remember to pick up an untraceable paperback copy. Orwell eBooks have a distressing habit of dropping into the memory hole.

Re:Some More Names to Consider (2, Insightful)

bryan1945 (301828) | about 5 years ago | (#29649237)

I'd add Brin & Modesitt. They also have some nice socialogical themes to them.

Re:Some More Names to Consider (1)

Darby (84953) | about 5 years ago | (#29649431)

What Modesitt series would you recommend? I read all the Recluce books and liked them (apart from the obsession with describing every part of every meal ;-)

Re:Some More Names to Consider (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 5 years ago | (#29649467)

L. Ron Hubbard! He wrote some freaky, over the top science fiction called Scientology.

Re:Some More Names to Consider (2, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#29649279)

I second most of this list, especially Asimov, Dick, Lem

However, I would not suggest heavily political books to avoid needless controversy, or big doorstoppers that might discourage some kids.

Re:Some More Names to Consider (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | about 5 years ago | (#29649491)

What he said!

Fahrenheit 451 (3, Informative)

Victor_0x53h (1164907) | about 5 years ago | (#29649169)

Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 is a favorite classic. Science fiction, but easy to read for anyone.

Dune (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649173)

I think the books really transcend into life in the 21st century. Plus there's a plethora of movie versions you could show your class.

Re:Dune (3, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#29649321)

What do you mean "books"? There is only one Dune book!

Enders Game... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649179)

Enders Game...great story, and will probably leave them thinking a little. Would be good discussion starter.

Re:Enders Game... (1)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#29649363)

Enders Game...great story, and will probably leave them thinking a little. Would be good discussion starter.

Yeah, until one scrawny kid tries to kick a bully in the balls to death, inspired by the protagonist, and the teacher ends up fired...

Nah, just kidding... this is a great choice for teen readers.

Re:Enders Game... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649375)

For the love of god, no!

Whoa.. stop! (5, Insightful)

Anrego (830717) | about 5 years ago | (#29649187)

Think of the children! PLEASE!

No offense .. but it sounds like this course is going to be just like most English courses..

That is.. take an enjoyable experience (i.e. reading a good book) and turn it into a complete chore by over-analysing everything to the point that students shun reading forever.

Now.. maybe some high school students would enjoy comparing their favorite sci-fi series to the cold war.. or writing a 10 page essay on what the author _REALLY_ meant when he said "John walked briskly across the street".. but I suspect most won't.

That said.. if this is your intention though.. 1984 is a must. You can (and people have) turn just about any paragraph in that book into a masters thesis.

Re:Whoa.. stop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649295)

I agree. Do NOT, under any circumstances, take whatever books you end up using and tear the fun out of them.

Re:Whoa.. stop! (0)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 5 years ago | (#29649299)

Well said. SF is about the tech, not the people. it doesn't stand up to literature style critique as the ideas are more important than the language or literary technique / style. if an individual is not interested in tech, they won't be interested in SF so making them read and spend time on it is a bad move.

Re:Whoa.. stop! (1)

langelgjm (860756) | about 5 years ago | (#29649409)

I noticed this as I was reading through a few of Asimov's Foundation books... the prose isn't spectacular, but the whole idea behind the books is so compelling and unusual. And it's not necessarily about technology... the whole idea of "psychohistory" is kind of like a super-advanced version of sociology and political science...

Re:Whoa.. stop! (3, Insightful)

Culture20 (968837) | about 5 years ago | (#29649569)

SF is about the tech, not the people.

Technical documents are about current tech. Scientific American is about fictional future-tech. Science-Fiction is about the people living in a "Scientific American" world. If it's not about people, there's no _story_.

Re:Whoa.. stop! (1)

rawr_one (1474675) | about 5 years ago | (#29649357)

I believe most high schools teach 1984 in their normal curriculum already, so I don't think it's necessary to put it in this class. It should certainly be mentioned, but I believe Brave New World is probably more appropriate for this class (and, as far as I know, isn't as often taught as 1984 is).

Also please please please don't ruin Sci-Fi for these kids. Your choices very much so need to allow them to reflect upon the parallels between the worlds of these novels and our own, and traditional high school English courses tend to utterly fail at doing this. Please work as hard as you can to make this one different.

Re:Whoa.. stop! (2, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | about 5 years ago | (#29649459)

This two-period hybrid full-stop/ellipses you use strikes me as emblematic of your perspective on literature and literary classes.

No offense .. but it sounds like this course is going to be just like most English courses..

Well no shit. You go to school to learn, which is Hard Work, not to goof off or be entertained. If students just want to read good books, they can read themselves without taking the class.

.. or writing a 10 page essay on what the author _REALLY_ meant when he said "John walked briskly across the street"..

Has that ever really happened? Ever?

You can (and people have) turn just about any paragraph in that book into a masters thesis

Likewise, this? Somebody wrote a master's thesis about a *paragraph* from 1984? And even more than one person has done this?

Re:Whoa.. stop! (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 5 years ago | (#29649533)

Don't forget all interpretations much match the teachers own view as well. Nothing spoils someone interest in a topic, when a teacher always tells them what story they got from this abstracted fiction is wrong.

break down the genre a bit (5, Insightful)

gingerTabs (532664) | about 5 years ago | (#29649195)

Cyberpunk (Gibson, Stross et al)
Classic old school sci-fi (Clarke, Heinlein etc)
Modern Space opera (Ian M Banks)
High Fantasy (Tolkein et al
Schlock Fantasy (Dragonlance, Drizzt)

Hello??!!! DUNE!!! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649215)

And you need Heinlein as well, probaby Starship Troopers or Stranger in a Strange Land.

Where do you work? (0)

eepok (545733) | about 5 years ago | (#29649219)

Wow! Where do you work? Almost any district I've been to would have a small group of "outraged" parents preventing the establishment of a curriculum that "forces" students to read fantasy (read: witchcraft and Satan-worship).

Robert Heinlein! (5, Insightful)

Brazilian Geek (25299) | about 5 years ago | (#29649225)

Robert Heinlein!

Note: I'll write only about the books I've read, other folks might have other points of view.

Heinlein might have had a weird way of looking at things but he has great stories as an introduction to the scifi genre - light(ish) reading with plenty of topics to discuss.

Take two of his works that I recommend to folks, Starship Troopers and Farmer in the Sky. Both are "juvenile" books - sex and misogyny are themes in Heinlein's later works - but deal with life in space in a very realistic way. They're wildly speculative yet, just barely, they're plausible enough to make sense.

If you're looking for short stories, there's The Man Who Sold The Moon - short stories populated with really far-fetched ideas yet it's a really fun read.

I'm sure other people will suggest other things but I strongly suggest you take a look at Heinlein for the kids, after all he wrote a bunch of stories for them that are easy reads and are, as far as I can remember, kid-safe.

I'm resisting recommending more authors - as I'm sure this thread will be full of them - but Heinlein's earlier works, from what I recall, are nice examples of scifi aimed towards younger audiences.

Re:Robert Heinlein! (1)

nomadic (141991) | about 5 years ago | (#29649263)

light(ish) reading with plenty of topics to discuss.

In a high school literature I'd hope you'd want heavy reading.

Movies (2, Informative)

conureman (748753) | about 5 years ago | (#29649231)

One thing that might generate extra interest is stuff that has been adapted into a movie. Daphne du Maurier's "The Birds" comes to mind, but I'm pretty antiquated.

Let the students... (1, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29649243)

Let the students decide. In most literature classes similar to this, you can pretty much bet that each student will have their favorite authors/genres, so why not take suggestions at the beginning of the year, order the books and use that as some material. Students will like it because they aren't being "forced" to read a book that isn't their style, they see that a teacher respects their opinions and chances are you would have better discussions. So pick a few "classic" books and a few contemporary novels, but let the students really direct what the class reads, the English classes that were like that in high school I really loved and participated much more actively in than "read pages 125-178 by tomorrow" classes.

Re:Let the students... (2, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 5 years ago | (#29649385)

As much as I want to agree, I just can't. Any liturature class should be about exposing the students to works that they would probably not have discovered on their own. If you only have them read what they like, they would have read it without the class anyway. I definately feel that giving them a choice has a place in such a class, but more like something to do at the end, and have them write a report comparing and contrasting the 'classics' with their choice of book.

Re:Let the students... (2, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | about 5 years ago | (#29649527)

Depends though. I was in a number of literature classes and book clubs in high school and a lot of the books that have made the most impact weren't the "classic" books that everyone thinks about, but rather the odd book that one or two students really liked so the entire class read it. For example, even though my teacher had never read an Ayn Rand book, one of the students had and recommended it, and it really challenged and expanded my view of the world. It also helps reduce certain biases by teachers in what types of books you read (and its pretty easy with fantasy/sci-fi for a teacher to project their own personal beliefs via the types of books).

More classics and sources (3, Insightful)

Stile 65 (722451) | about 5 years ago | (#29649251)

I'd add some H. G. Wells and John W. Campbell - classics before Asimov (although Campbell's personal views are somewhat controversial now). And of course Asimov was mentioned by some people above me already.

Also, there are genres that fall within sci-fi and fantasy, like alternate history. Some good sources for short stories, too, are the Asimov's, Analog and SF&F literary magazines, and also short story digests published on a regular basis that include some big names writing short stories for the more literary public.

Re:More classics and sources (2, Informative)

Stile 65 (722451) | about 5 years ago | (#29649433)

Oh, and for classic fantasy you can't do much better than pre-monotheistic mythology. Gilgamesh, the Iliad and Odyssey... all those fun gods and creatures that form the basis of modern fantasy. Don't forget the Celts and the Norse and the Slavs (Orson Scott Card wrote a book based on Slavic mythology!), and also don't forget African and Asian and pre-European-dominance Australian and American cultures as sources of myths that to this day color horror and fantasy.

Re:More classics and sources (2, Informative)

RIAAShill (1599481) | about 5 years ago | (#29649437)

I'd add some H. G. Wells and John W. Campbell - classics before Asimov (although Campbell's personal views are somewhat controversial now). And of course Asimov was mentioned by some people above me already.

I agree completely about looking beyond Asimov and company. I can't vouch for the Campbell (never read anything of his before). But here is my list of top picks.

Mary Shelly's Frankenstein [] is an excellent bit of classical literature that deals with topics such as hubris, justice, and divinity. It is also an enjoyable, easy read.

The War of the Worlds [] is notable for being written in a timeless style. Its parallels to the imperialism of the British Empire is excellent fodder for in depth student research.

Good Omens [] nicely turns Christian Apocalypse doctrine on its head while providing insights into the battles between bureaucracies and nation-states. May be controversial because of its connection to religious doctrine, but one of the more entertaining pieces on this list.

Gulliver's Travels [] , which is excellent satire, even if some of its messages are a bit heavy-handed. A little harder to read than some of the others, but an excellent piece nonetheless. Plus, there are so many common memes that derive from these tales. The various parts are easily read separately. If you only assign part of it, I would keep A Voyage to Lilliput and A Voyage to Houyhnhnms.

The Lottery [] is a must-read. You should find out if many of your students have been exposed to this from other literature courses. If not, then go for it! It has so many lessons about peer-pressure, hypocrisy, institutional momentum, and more. Plus, it is the exemplar "twist ending."

How SF has changed with the Times (2, Interesting)

Syncerus (213609) | about 5 years ago | (#29649261)

It would be interesting to emphasize how SF has evolved with society. From Vern and Wells in Victorian Europe, to Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" and "Stranger in a Strange Land", which demonstrate both sides of American culture in the 1960's. John Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar" is a terrific period piece, and Zelazny's "Lord of Light" is also a blast.

In my view, SF took a serious downward turn from the early 1980's, but there are exceptions, to be sure. With the entire range of SF at your disposal, there's no reason to select junk when there are so many gifted authors to study.

I saw Herbert! (1)

Yamata no Orochi (1626135) | about 5 years ago | (#29649273)

The Dune series is a personal favorite of mine and it's doubtful you'd progress far enough into the series during a single semester to see it begin to crumble towards the end. That's my vote.

But please disregard those mentioning the likes of Fahrenheit 451 or 1984. A class like this needs to address works that won't appear in every English II course in the country already.

What about these guys? (1)

WScottC (44796) | about 5 years ago | (#29649293)

Robert Heinlein
Clifford Simak
Stanislaw Lem
Edwin Abbott Abbott's Flatland

Asimov (1)

durdur (252098) | about 5 years ago | (#29649297)

My 14-year-old daughter liked Asimov's "I, Robot" a lot. Easy to read but also very imaginative and thought-provoking.

"Ringworld" by Larry Niven (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649301) of the best sci-fi novels i ever had the pleasure of reading. Also as others mentioned Douglas Adams, and Orson Scott Card the guy who wrote the "Enders Game" series.

Great novel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649305)


Arthur C. Clarke (1)

gmfeier (1474997) | about 5 years ago | (#29649315)

Got to have at least one short story from Arthur C. Clarke. "Superiority" is my favorite, but "The Nine Billion Names of God" is great too.

In addition to others... (0)

killmenow (184444) | about 5 years ago | (#29649317)

...already mentioned, how about "Little Brother" [] by Cory Doctorow?

Basics (1)

kyrcant (858905) | about 5 years ago | (#29649323)

I recommend doing short stories instead of full books, especially for some of the heavier authors (Tolkein). "The Coldest Place" is a great story. Larry Niven has written many short stories, especially about Gil Hamilton and the stories about the origin of humans. Asimov has lots of short Robot stories, and I'm sure you won't have trouble finding plenty of others. What I'm getting at is that quantity is sometimes ... not necessary. There is plenty to learn comparing short stories by classic authors. my 2c.

Analog or short story collections (0)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 5 years ago | (#29649325)

There's only so many books you can fit into a course. I'd suggest getting subscriptions to Analog (thereby adding to the circulation of a favorite magazine of mine) or getting some short story anthologies.

i'm not trying to be a troll (-1, Flamebait)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 5 years ago | (#29649329)

but while you're teaching high school students science fiction, kids in other high schools are learning actual science

Re:i'm not trying to be a troll (5, Funny)

swanzilla (1458281) | about 5 years ago | (#29649427)

but while you're teaching high school students science fiction, kids in other high schools are learning actual science

In other high schools, kids are learning about mutual exclusivity.

Re:i'm not trying to be a troll (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649549)

In a good school there will be plenty of both English and Science courses. Both are usually required for graduation, so there is no loss in taking a SF/Fantasy English class along with Chemistry/Biology/etc. In fact, the SF English class should get the creative brain thinking about how to take what you've learned in the sciences and apply it to something that hasn't been done before. I was fortunate enough to have a SF/Fantasy class offered at my High School (along with Humor and several other focused English courses). I took them alongside of my Chemistry, Physics, and Computer Science classes and really enjoyed them all. I'm been a EE for years and haven't looked back!

An Excellent Commentary On Gulag U.S.A. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649335)

is Philip K. Dick's Radio Free Albemuth []

Yours In Astrakhan,
Kilgore Trout

Sci/fi lit class (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649337)

I took a a Sci/Fi lit class in highschool quite some time ago, and the only book I can recall was "A Brave New World" by Huxley. I think it was a good choice for the course.

Can't leave Lem out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649341)

In any list of notable science fiction books, Stanislaw Lem cannot be excluded. The Cyberiad would be the obvious starting point.

Just one course? Why not two? (1)

dfxm (1586027) | about 5 years ago | (#29649343)

I know my school had its own Sci-fi lit class. I feel like there's enough sci-fi lit out there to fill a whole semester's worth of material. I'm also not exactly sure where the themes and techniques specific to sci-fi and fantasy literature intersect. Some of the readership is the same, but what else? If you must include both, why not just call the class "Nerd Lit?"

Dick (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649345)

Philip K Dick

I know... (3, Insightful)

ZekoMal (1404259) | about 5 years ago | (#29649353)


All joking aside, I can't see why this class is necessary. Science Fiction and Fantasy are meant to be enjoyed. If you force children who aren't interested, they still won't like it. If it's an elective, then you'll get kids who have probably already read all of the books that might be offered, so they won't fully enjoy it either. Unless it worked around not that well known literature and focused more on discussions and less on bulk reading/essays, it might have some merit.

For that matter, a good 1/3 of my books read in plain ol' Lit were sci-fi/fantasy. Would that class be changed to general lit? Will there be no other specialized lit classes? Will they cut general lit and change it into specialized lit, so that no one has to leave the genre they like? I prefer the generalized approached to reading, otherwise you are in danger of never leaving your comfort zone.

Enjoyable books, please. (2, Informative)

Ikronix (1233418) | about 5 years ago | (#29649367)

"Ender's Game." "Lord of the Rings." Hell, "Chronicles of Narnia." "Starship Troopers." "The Demolished Man." "Ringworld." No reason not to sprinkle some legitimately entertaining reads into the mix, and since the above-mentioned books all have fairly rich themes to discuss, you won't compromise academic value to get something that might hook them.

Neal Stephenson (1)

killmenow (184444) | about 5 years ago | (#29649369)

Anathem []

Took similar course, but as a college junior (4, Informative)

Amigan (25469) | about 5 years ago | (#29649377)

We did a book a week. Some of it was tough sledding. I doubt that will be a viable speed for HS - where the student's won't be buying their own copies.

We spanned HG Wells (Time Machine) through Larry Niven (Ring World). A lot of it depends on how the material is presented. My prof at the time was a repressed poet, and went into the deep meaningful relationships in Heinlein's "Double Star" and swore that the author was seeing a shrink while writing the book. We also went through the original Foundation trilogy where the prof kept pointing out how the administrators of the planet were going through a feminization and had an oral fixation. During the discussion of "Dune" (and again later in "Ring World") there was pointing out of the male fear of falling into a hole - especially a hole with teeth.

Personally, I would look at the older scifi (golden age, 30s-50s) for technology that they proposed and see how long it took to actually implement. Then look at technology mentioned in contemporary scifi and see how close we are to getting there.


Don't forget Bradbury (2, Informative)

chrisj_0 (825246) | about 5 years ago | (#29649379)

One of the best first Sifi books is The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury.
The stories are short and insightful and will make for great discussions in this age group. Although it was written in the early 50's the stories are (from what I remember) still very relevant with great social commentary.

Ianim M. Banks? (1)

Brandano (1192819) | about 5 years ago | (#29649381)

I'd add in a short novel from the Culture universe, there's a few around. If you want a full length book, a good one for a geek is Excession [] . Or if you really hate your students, Feersum Endjinn [] (I am kidding, love them both).

Stick to what's popular (1)

VeritasRoss (1411963) | about 5 years ago | (#29649389)

Well, obviously Harry Potter. And vampires. Definitely focus on books with teenage vampires.

Even More Names to Consider (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649397)

I actually had a High School lit course that covered some SciFi/Fantasy. The three books they used were:

Ray Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes"
Joe Haldeman's "The Forever War"
John Brunner's "Stand on Zanzibar"

Some of my favorites that many have read (1)

x1n933k (966581) | about 5 years ago | (#29649413)

Consider Manga which can offer something easier to get into than a full-blown novel.

Just off the top of my head:
Ender's Game and/or Ender's Shadow
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Any Phillip K Dick (since most have been made to movies)


suggestions: Stephen R Donaldson, theme-book data (1)

drDugan (219551) | about 5 years ago | (#29649415)

Both his Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever series (fantasy) and his Gap series (Sci Fi) were excellent writing and stories. I read them growing up and thought they were great. He's one of the few authors I've read that can do both genres really well. []

Also, I think a fun class project would be to compile a concept or theme-based wiki and find/cite examples of major themes in fantasy and sci-fi literature. I use "wiki" loosely here because in my experience wiki tools offer too much freedom to express and with groups it usually makes a mess. But simply put, answer this: what are major and interesting repeated themes in sci fi and fantasy literature, which books do those themes appear in, and for each, a brief description of how the story uses or modifies the basic theme for that story, which stories show best examples of the theme, which places did the theme first appear, etc.

A few suggestions (1)

HiThere (15173) | about 5 years ago | (#29649429)

Charles Stross: Accelerado (Possibly just Lobsters).
Tolkien: Lord of the Rings
Asimov: I Robot
John W. Campbell: Who goes there? (Or "The Cloak of Aesir" or "The Moon is Hell")
E.E.Smith: Skylark of Space
Balmer & Wylie: When Worlds Collide

I tried to get one per decade, but my memory isn't that organized. Reading the list I notice that there are few short stories. And I left out a bunch to shorten the list. But one noteworthy factor is how the themes change over the decades.

Donaldson if the class is mature enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649441)

The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant belong on any list of serious fantasy literature. Apart from the brutal act in the beginning it is absolutely perfect. Nothing compares in terms of esoteric vocabulary. Sometimes I think Tolkien's Elvish is easier to understand than Donaldson's English. But it does challenge you as a reader and as a thinking person.

And a tremendous story as well...

Mixture (1)

Lulfas (1140109) | about 5 years ago | (#29649443)

Consider a mixture not just between the genres, but between the time periods. Do a piece from H. G. Wells, maybe something by Tolkien (maybe The Hobbit), and then something fairly modern and gimmicky, something that'll be fun to read. John Zakour does a lot of small paperbacks that are fairly punny and set slightly in the future. Or even somethings from Anthony Piers. They are always fun, and a great way to point out reader comprehension. Avoid doing a lot of the heavier Sci Fi, as it is just going to turn people off to it. Mix in some of the fun stuff, especially early, and let them enjoy it a bit.

Kindred by Octavia Butler (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649453)

I stumbled across this great book just recently and was ashamed to learn that it was written in 1974. The big thing missing from this list is any books by women.

zardoz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649455)

The gun is good. The penis is evil. The penis shoots seeds, and makes new life to poison the Earth with a plague of men, as once it was, but the gun shoots death, and purifies the Earth of the filth of brutals. Go forth . . . and kill!

Asimov's Mysteries (1)

emkyooess (1551693) | about 5 years ago | (#29649457)

I would recommend selections of those short stories that were collected in Asimov's Mysteries. Asimov is a given for the class, but most people tend to forget he did things other than his robot series (which, are also terribly important). Asimov can be seen as early-on having given thought to the societal implications of technology that would later take over the genre with cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk. While his robot series defines the "Three Laws of Robotics", Asimov's Mysteries deal with what-ifs such as: being far-removed from humanity and alone (or with a small group of people) for a long time (Marooned Off Vesta -- leads well to a discussion about a possible expedition to Mars); the mental pressures of a reputation (Billiard Ball is wonderful for this).

Sadly, it is long out of print, but many of its stories are in other collections.'s_Mysteries []

First of all: (0, Troll)

Hurricane78 (562437) | about 5 years ago | (#29649471)

No Fantasy

They are already dumbed down enough. No need to add to that.

Some recommendations... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649475)

The Princess Bride. Many students will have seen the movie, but they have no idea that it is a book and that the book is completely hilarious (and you can fool them into thinking it's an abridgment).

Ender's Game. This is one of the best sci-fi stories I've ever read. The ending really surprised me.

Starship Troopers. The book is much better than the movie and has lots of interesting political ramifications to discuss.

Rendezvous with Rama (3, Interesting)

nacturation (646836) | about 5 years ago | (#29649477)

Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke. Great novel the perfectly fits the classic sci-fi genre and deals with the "what if" of alien contact and how it could possibly come about. It has ties to biblical stories (eg: Noah's ark) and packs quite a bit of detail (physics, biology, computers, etc.) into a fairly easy read. Rama II was a decent followup and goes more into social issues, but the subsequent novels go progressively downhill and are only worth reading just to find out what happens.

Two great highschool level books (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649481)

Ender's Game (social / war aspects)
Starship Troopers (great social accountability)

War of the Worlds (1)

jnaujok (804613) | about 5 years ago | (#29649483)

I just re-read the original H.G. Wells "War of the Worlds" a few months back, and I was surprised at how much of it is applicable to modern society. While the story itself is somewhat dated because technology has passed it by so completely, the human issues in it are just as modern and prevalent today as they were when it was published.

In a way, I think that's what any SciFi/Fantasy literature course should get across -- that the stories are not just about whiz-bang special effects -- a lot of the time they are far more pointed descriptions and explorations of the human condition than are written in any of the "serious" literature.

War of the Worlds, for example, is a very strong commentary/criticism of English Imperialism and Colonialism and the horrendous toll it took on the peoples of Africa. Even the ending (Spoiler: It's microorganisms) is a comment that the myriad diseases of Africa were eventually the only thing that "saved" Africa from the utter dominance of European occupation.

At the time, had Wells written a non-fantasy book about the same subject, he would have been looking at prison time for sedition against the crown, instead, he sold a best-seller about Martians attacking the Earth.

The Mandatory Five (2, Informative)

sgt_doom (655561) | about 5 years ago | (#29649497)

Please, to not have Iain Banks' The Player of Games is a major shortcoming. Truly THE CLASSIC of future fiction and quite thought-proking.

Also, the following should be included as well:

Drakon, by S.M. Stirling

Watermind, by M.M. Buckner

Improbable, by Adam Fawer (not listed as sci-fi, but definitely in the modern genre)

and, of course, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

For Summer Reading: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649507)

I'm guessing that you have summer reading to start the course like we did when I was in High School. For that you would want one Sci-Fi title and one Fantasy. More importantly you want these books to be ones that the students will actually enjoy quite a bit. I would go with The Hobbit and Ender's Game for your summer reading. Ender's game, in my mind, is the title most likely to get the attention of high school students.

The problem inherent with the entire Fantasy genre is that almost every good book is a part of a series, which requires you to read through the series in order to find out what happens. The Sci-Fi genre does this to a lesser extent, usually making the first book a self-contained story which also works into a part of a larger story. I think that the best choice is to exclude those series which do not have a conclusive ending to their first book.

Ursula K. Le Guin for both sci-fi and fantasy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649515)

Ursula K. Le Guin

for both sci-fi AND fantasy... which is awesome

and one of her best sci-fi books, The Left Hand of Darkness, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970 (Dune did the same things), is bound to get the PTA's panties in a bunch due to it's discussions on sexuality (which, as an English teacher... is your JOB)

As someone who once took such a course... (3, Informative)

Hamshrew (20248) | about 5 years ago | (#29649517)

I can tell you that you should explore the roots of speculative fiction and what it means. For example, here are the novels that we read in my class(which was admittedly a college-level course).

Pilgrim's Progress (John Bunyan)
The Invisible Man (Wells)
The Hobbit (Tolkien) - Whatever you do, don't try to do so thoroughly. The Hobbit alone is a lot of material.
The Neverending Story (Michael Ende) - HIGHLY recommend this one.
Divine Right's Trip (Gurney Norman) - This was an excellent book that I still reference today, but is probably the first one on this list that I'd drop.
Neuromancer (Gibson)

We also covered numerous short stories. A few of the more memorable ones:

The Cold Equations (Tom Godwin) - Excellent, if dated. there's a film of it, as well, but it added a lot of side material.
The Celestial Railroad (Hawthorne) - Highly recommended after Pilgrim's Progress.
The Last Question (Asimov) - Required reading.

Heinlein is also an excellent choice, though we didn't cover it in my class.

my $.02 (1)

gonar (78767) | about 5 years ago | (#29649523)

is this a semester course or a full year?

Focus mainly on short stories that the kids can read in a couple hours. chose a few (3 max for a full year, 1 max for semester) medium length novels to dive deep in.

stay away from Tolkien, except maybe some excerpts.

great short stories are plentiful in Asimov's "complete short stories" vols 1 and 2. in particular, "the Ugly Little Boy"

Clark's "nine billion names of god" is a tasty little bite that will make them think.

"The Sleeper Awakes" by H. G. Wells is remarkable in terms both of what it got right and what it got wrong.

cover a wide variety of genres (cyberpunk, space opera, hard, soft, fantasy/sci-fi blend)

but remember to focus on what makes great sci fi great. great sci fi is great literature wrapped in a (usually) futuristic/alternate universe. all the things that make

Ina word (name) (1)

BlindRobin (768267) | about 5 years ago | (#29649525)

Asimov. You must include Asimov as in his works we find the genesis of sciency science fiction joined with accessible social commentary ideal for introductory courses. The genres are overly broad for a single course so you should concentrate on shorter but apocryphal works without deep analysis of each but concentrate on the use of imagination and the power that science fiction and fantasy have to deeply explore the human condition(writ large) by distancing the reader from the contemporary milieu.

Highest recommendation for this class (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649529)

I would highly recommend, if you can find it, "Microcosmic Tales: 100 SF short stories". It's a collection of short (some very short) that do a great job of presenting an idea for evaluation and discussion without a ton of superfluous dialogue.

Ummm, and Starship Troopers, of course.

1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are a must (1)

NoYob (1630681) | about 5 years ago | (#29649547)

Those two books have made it into our vernacular and in our everyday news. How many times have you seen "big brother" referred to in the news or commentary? Having them read the book would put it into context.

Fahrenheit 451 is another one. Considering some of the ways that folks on the right and left are trying to ban certain types of literature and speech, that one is necessary.

Those two books had more of a profound impact on me than any science fiction book ever.

Starship Troopers is another one that will put into perspective the relationship of the military, the politicians, and the electorate. It'll put the idea in the kid's head that going to war is always a little more than "fighting for freedom" - especially when it's to go and liberate a country from a dictator in order to put back in the hands of a monarchy (Kuwait).

Friday - no real literary value but it'll keep the little hornballs interested.

A few other names to consider... (2, Interesting)

farrellj (563) | about 5 years ago | (#29649553)

You can get more people reading if you give them books that will catch there interest. Throwing Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land might scare off some newer it's always good to get some sort of a tie-in that they can relate to...and a good example of that would be Robert J. Sawyer's Flashfoward , which has the tie-in of the TV series based upon it. This leads to all sorts of great discussion topics for students about how Media interacts with Art.

Another to consider is Cory Doctorow's Little Brother . In this book, the main chracactors are high school students dealing with both mundane questions of teenage life, and fairly deep questions about freedom, authority and technology. And the technology is current, so that it will appeal greatly to today's high school i/n/m/a/t/e/s/ students.

Stross (2, Interesting)

Frogg (27033) | about 5 years ago | (#29649571)

Accelerando - Charlie Stross

simply superb! :)

Some of my favs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649573)

Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson (although perhaps a tad long for such a course)
Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, by multiple authors
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks
The Island Of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells
The Invisible Man, by HG Wells

Unless you want students trying to fuck their moms (3, Funny)

StealthyRoid (1019620) | about 5 years ago | (#29649581)

Avoid Heinlein. He's only got like 3 good books anyway (Starship Troopers, Moon is a Harsh Mistress [best sci fi book ever], and half each of Stranger and Cat), and subjecting anyone to that convoluted, Oedipus-driven Lazarus Long shit at an early age is either going to turn them off the genre, or make them try to mount their mothers.

An essential timeline (1)

solune (803114) | about 5 years ago | (#29649583)

An excellent choice for this course is "War of the Worlds," by H.G. Wells. Not only is the original great, but using that tale you can explore how science-fiction is perceived and used throughout history.

For example, the Original, as written by Wells, is a fantastical tale; the 1950's version incorporated 50's paranoia, and the Tom Cruise one was merely FX crap.

The manner of story-telling varied with the versions, as have other popular book-to-movie titles: The invisible man, for example, became the lamentable "The hollow man" with bacon.

Heinlein is seen as a fictional father for more libertarian/liberal concepts, glossing over some science facts for character and story development, while many authors currently strive for scientific accuracy within their tales.

Jules Verne, Robert E. Howard (1)

jbezorg (1263978) | about 5 years ago | (#29649587)

Both pioneered a genre.

Don't mix literature courses and SF (5, Funny)

russotto (537200) | about 5 years ago | (#29649599)

Heinlein, _Friday_. Because the parents are going to complain anyway, so you might as well give them a reason. Bonus points for the 1983 cover.

University of Nottingham had this class (1)

dowobeha (581813) | about 5 years ago | (#29649601)

I took an excellent Science Fiction literature class at the University of Nottingham (England) several years ago. I don't remember everything that we read, but I know that there were some truly mind-bending Phillip K. Dick short stories regarding time paradoxes. If you contact their English department, I'm sure the prof who taught the course could provide some good reading suggestions.

Cold Equations (4, Interesting)

new death barbie (240326) | about 5 years ago | (#29649607)

"The Cold Equations" a short story by Tom Godwin (wiki'd the author). It's been 40 years and I still remember the story, that says something. I remember hating the story, because unlike most pulp SF at the time, it didn't have a happy ending; in fact I cried.

I hated it, and I recommend it. You'll hate it too.

Arthur C. Clarke (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | about 5 years ago | (#29649609)

Arthur C. Clarke has some awesome short stories.

"Nectar of the Gods"
"The Last Command"
"The Light of Darkness"
"Neutron Tide"
"Transit of Earth"

None of these stories are that long. Maybe 5 pages at the most I think. Easily read, not all of them SciFi in the "future" sense, but in the "fiction based in science" sense.

William Gibson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29649611)

William Gibson's Neuromancer is a must. As is probably something by Jack Womack (Random Acts of Senseless Violence perhaps), Bruce Sterling (A Good Old Fashioned Future) and definitely Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. Easy!

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