Monday, January 13, 2020
January 13, 2020: Spring Semester Previews: Intro to Sci Fi/Fantasy
[As of next week my sabbatical is officially done and I’m back to full-time teaching. So this week I’ll share some previews for my Spring 2020 classes, focusing on new readings I’m adding this semester and leading up to some updates on book talks and projects. I’d love to hear what you’re up to as well!]
On a long-overdue step toward diversifying my sci fi/fantasy canon.
I created and first taught my Introduction to Science Fiction and Fantasy course in Fall 2007 (in response to student demand for such a class at Fitchburg State), and have had the chance to teach it three times since. And of course I’ve been reading and loving those genres for far, far longer than that. But I’m ashamed to admit that in both the classes and my personal reading experiences, I haven’t read much at all into the long and evolving tradition of African and African American sci fi and fantasy. I love Octavia Butler and taught her time travel historical novel of slavery Kindred in that 2007 course, but that was unfortunately an exception to the general lack of racial/ethnic diversity on the syllabus (which, again, is due at least in part to my own lack of knowledge of these authors and traditions). Given the existence of such vital scholarly books as André Carrington’s Speculative Blackness: The Future of Race in Science Fiction (2016), as well as my proximity to sci fi grandmaster Samuel Delany during my time as a grad student at Temple (where he was for many years a professor), I didn’t really have much of an excuse for that continued ignorance, other than the constraints of time under which we all operate of course.
I can’t change those personal and pedagogical pasts, but there’s no time like the present to redress such gaps and failures. So while much of this Spring’s Sci Fi/Fantasy syllabus will look very similar to the last couple iterations, I have subbed out my longstanding 21st century fantasy novel (Robin Hobb’s wonderful Assassin’s Apprentice) for a new text: Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps (2015). I hardly ever assign and teach a text that I haven’t had a chance to read prior to the class, but again my reading experience of African American fantasy fiction is painfully limited, so that was likely to be the case regardless of what I chose (and is indeed the case with Wilson’s book). There were of course many other good options for this slot as well, including books by African-born authors such as Nnedi Okorafor and Tomi Adeyemi; I’m determined to read them and others soon, for personal but also pedagogical reasons. But you’ve got to start somewhere, and I’m excited both to read Wilson’s book myself and especially to teach it and hear student responses to this exciting contemporary African American fantasy author and novel.
Next preview tomorrow,
PS. What’s on your Spring 2020 horizon?