Chemical Engineering 24, Section 1

Whose Science, Whose Fiction? Exploring America's Scientific Imagination


Monday 4:00-6:00PM SEE CALENDAR!!

100 Hildebrand Library

Course Description
What do we learn about ourselves, our society, and the natural world through science fiction? Discover with Professor Reimer how space exploration and technological innovation in the mid-twentieth century spawned an explosion of books, movies and television that revealed much about the US psyche. Technological triumphalism, cultural hegemony, libertarian politics, the nature of God, sexual identity, and "war as a force that gives us meaning" are just a few of the topics that will reveal themselves in our readings and seminar time together. 

Course context

We will meet on several Mondays throughout the term where there will be two hours viewing and discussion of previously assigned readings and/or viewing of films and television shows. Prof. Reimer will lead discussions and students will be expected to bring epiphanies, extensions, and/or questions about the readings and viewings. The matrix below introduces the themes and readings. For some of these themes students will be expected to identify texts and suggested excerpts for the class to discuss. P/NP grades are based upon class participation and a final essay.

Tentative Schedule (subject to change)…

Session 1, August 28: What is SciFi? Usula Le Guin’s definition, and “The Inner Light,” STNG. An exploration of the greater speculative fiction genre, and a focus on how to define “SciFi”

Session 2 politics #1, September 25: Readings from “They Shall Have Stars” (James Blish) and watching “Colonial Day” from BSG. Blish’s , how are they like the USA today? How does BSG’s political structure resemble today’s liberal democracies? Or not?

Session 3 politics #2, October 2: “The Day the Earth Stood Still” movie (1951) plus discussion. How do we see the various forms of power in this movie? Intellectual? Political? Physical? Sexual? Cultural?

Session 4 Robots #1, October 16: watch “Blade Runner” then discuss. Why is Rachel compelling? Does she pass the Turing test? Does Deckard?

(possible optional field trip to see Blade Runner 2049)

Session 5 Robots #2, October 23: Issac Asimov’s great short stories, and excerpt from Wall-E, Ex Machine, maybe TNG episodes.

Session 6 Time Travel #1, October 30: immutable time, plastic time, and parallel universes; what do these mean? Can you give examples from books, short stories, film or TV of each? Discuss Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” and watch/discuss “Blink” from the Dr. Who TV series.

Session 7 Time Travel #2, November 6: watch “The Girl Who Leaped Through Time (2006)” then discuss; is this immutable time travel?

Session 8-tba, November 27:

STNG = Star Trek Next Generation

STOS = Star Trek Original Series

BSG = Battlestar Galactica 2004 TV Series