Discussion questions for week 1: thinking about genre, form, imagination

31 Jan

We’ll have a short discussion period in our first class, getting to grips with the idea of science fiction as a genre –– though genre studies will be only one of many critical perspectives we will engage. The readings by Le Guin and Delany open up questions and conflicts regarding content, form, and usefulness that will come up again and again through the semester.

Some questions to get discussion started:

  • What is science fiction? How can we define it? What are its uses? How do each of these three essays answer these questions and how do the answers they suggest contradict or complement one another?
  • What is Le Guin’s argument about imaginative fiction and the American psyche? What distinctions does she draw between science fiction and fantasy? Are Americans still afraid of dragons; how have the dragons that frighten us changed?
  • What does Delany say about genre and form in “About 5,750 Words”? How does he differentiate between realism, science fiction, and fantasy?
  • How does the real world of New York’s racial landscape become central to the idea of what science fiction is for in “The Necessity of Tomorrows”? To what extent does this perspective on speculative fiction seem compatible with Delany’s earlier essay?
  • What role does literary quality play in all three of these arguments?

skiffy whale

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