Science Fiction as taught by John Morrell is one of the geekier, albeit most enjoyable, ways of fulfilling a writing intensive credit requirement. The course covers a variety of novels, short stories, and more, including old classics like H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, to more contemporary works such as Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, all the way to newer pieces like Ted Chiang’s Exhalation. All these pieces are gripping and enjoyable to read, and during class time each work is thoroughly picked apart, as any literature course is wont to do. The course is run like a standard literature course, making heavy but efficient usage of discussion, response journals, and essays.
That said, given the more fantastical subject matter and the innate abstraction that science fiction tends to provide, discussions can become bizarre easily, in a positive way. The material does not feel dry nor droll, and lends itself to truly interesting discussion that prods the deeper recesses of the mind. Existential themes and questions of grand schemes are common and allow for one to really tackle the material and one’s own work with a more profound and philosophical outlook. Additionally, John Morrell was a pleasure to work with, being direct and facilitative in his teaching (or professorly, in other words), consistently giving unusually thorough feedback by the standards of traditional professors, and always encouraging any musings or philosophizing from the students.
However, there are some small, somewhat nitpicky issues worth pointing out, such as a lack of a few more representative works of the genre and the occasional cut-off discussion. These, however, are for the most part negligible considering the course as a whole.
To do well in the class, one has to merely engage with the material. Since any discussion is encouraged, the way in which one’s unique, individual mind grapples with the oftentimes intense and heavy topics presented by the texts can be used to great effect. In more concise terms, thinking about the material and not resisting one’s creative impulses will get one far. It is even easier than in many other courses to get papers and response journals done given the more engaging subject matters, and through using one’s innate tendencies and interests through required writings one is bound to create more intriguing works that will allow them to do well in the course.
Much of the material deals with heavier, existential themes. If one is particularly susceptible to existential crises or dread, one may find the course material troublesome. Additionally, a small amount of the material can be graphic in its depictions of gore and disturbing familial relationships. While this is not without purpose, it can be problematic for some. Lastly, some inherent sexism and misogyny tends to appear in older pieces, though it is for the most part ignorable for the better majority of the story.