I’ve submitted final grades for my summer Science Fiction class at UC Davis. I will post some more info about the class in the coming weeks, including a lesson plan or two for any teachers out there looking for suggestions.
Based on the content of the papers and final exams (where student could choose which stories to write about), the most popular stories were as follows:
- E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”
- Clifford Simak’s “Desertion
- Judith Merill’s “That Only a Mother”
- Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains”
- Joanna Russ’s “When It Changed”
- Pat Cadigan’s “Pretty Boy Crossover”
Those stories came up the most in answers on the final. It may be because they overlap with so many of the overarching themes that we discussed:
- Dystopia/Utopia (Forster, Russ, Cadigan)
- War and Weapons (Merill, Simak, Bradbury, Russ)
- Posthuman Life Forms (all of them if you spin it a certain way, but Cadigan and Simak for sure)
- Gender and Sexuality (Merill and Russ, obviously, but also the mother from “The Machine Stops” and the protagonist of “Pretty Boy,” who some students saw as a “feminized” man).
Oddly, with the exception of Russ, these are all earthbound SF. Not a lot of “First Contact” alien stories.
Also, just because they were most popular doesn’t necessarily mean they resulted in the best papers. Had a really strong paper on James Patrick Kelly’s “Think Like a Dinosaur,” for example.