Course Information


  • Number: ENGL 334
  • Title: Science Fiction
  • Term: Fall 2022
  • Meeting: MWF 1:50-2:40, LAAH 466


  • Name: Andrew Pilsch
  • Contact:
  • Office Hours & Locations:
    • MWF 12:30-1:30, Zoom

Course Description

Origins and development of the science fiction genre.

Course Learning Outcomes

In this course, students can expect:

  1. To learn about the history of science fiction
  2. To articulate the various media forms taken by SF publication
  3. To understand the relationships between fandom and production in SF


Books to Buy

  • A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells


Assignment Due Dates

Assignment Due Date
Short Assignment #1 09/16
Short Assignment #2 10/21
Short Assignment #3 11/11
Short Assignment #4 12/07


This course will utilize a labor-based model of grading. In place of the traditional grade model, where you produce some arbitrary unit of knowledge and I evaluate it with an equally meaningless number from 1-100, your grade will be determined based on the labor-based rubric below.

When items are submitted, I will read over them and declare the work to be “satisfactory,” meeting the standards of the class, or “unsatisfactory,” which is work that is deficient in some capacity. In the event of the latter, I will provide you with detailed feedback about how to transform the work into a “satisfactory” product. You will email the revised product to me within two weeks of receiving your initial evaluation. If you revise the product incorporating my feedback, the work will be “satisfactory”; if not, the work will be “unsatisfactory” in perpetuity.

Work must be submitted by the indicated due date to be considered satisfactory. The only exception will be in the event of excused absences. Revisions will be accepted up to two weeks after the initial evaluation is posted to Canvas.

To attain the following grade:

  • A: complete four satisfactory assignments
  • B: complete three satisfactory assignments
  • C: complete two satisfactory assignments
  • F: complete one or fewer satisfactory assignments

Assignment Descriptions

Short Assignment #1 – Adaptation

John Carter, the 2012 live-action adaptation of A Princess of Mars, is largely considered the biggest financial disaster in movie-making history. It is estimated to have lost Disney somewhere between $113 and $200 million and ended the career of Rich Ross, the head of Walt Disney Studios at the time. There has been lots written about why the film was a failure, but it can largely be attributed to significant cost overruns and a marketing campaign that wasn’t given much to work with (the average person on the street probably could not tell you much about John Carter, compared to, say, Tarzan).

As we’ve discussed in class, the novel also has the problem of being clunky in its plot and characterization and more than a bit racist.

So, given the novel’s filmic legacy, how would you adapt A Princess of Mars? I won’t talk more about possible approaches, but I don’t want to influence your approach (I have my own ideas). You are, however, free to adapt the novel however you see fit, in whatever genre and medium you think will work best. Feel free to rework the plot as much or as little as you wish.

To complete the assignment you will need to create

  1. Some artifact documenting your adaptation
    • Can be in any form you feel appropriate
    • Can be of any length appropriate
  2. A one-page, single-spaced statement on what you adapted and why: justify your adaptation

Short Assignment #2 – Style

Several of the authors we’ve read so far are noted for their distinct styles. For this assignment, I ask you to study one such author’s style.

You will need to create three things for this assignment:

  1. A short analysis of the three bits in the text in question you consider the most indicative of the author’s style. A “bit” can here be defined as anything as short as a sentence and as long as a few paragraphs.
    • You will transcribe (or copy) the three bits, formatting them as block quotes.
    • After each bit, you will provide a paragraph or two of analysis about what elements in the bit make it stylistically distinct and indicative of your understanding of the author’s style
    • Finally, you will produce a page stating in your own words what you think the author’s style is, defined in terms of imagery, mood, and things like word choice and statistical elements.
  2. You will then produce a short piece of creative writing narrating an everyday scene from your life using the style of the author you have studied.

Short Assignment #3 – Position

Is Neuromancer relevant today? That’s it, that’s the assignment.

But seriously, Gibson’s novel has been hailed as ushering in the digital age for science fiction and for doing lots of important things with the legacy of the new wave, as we’ve been discussing in class. At the same time, we all basically live in the world Gibson imagined (give or take a few pairs of black vinyl pants), so is the revolutionary accounting of computers we find there still something that matters?

Take a position, for or against, and write a three page, argumentative paper that convinces me one way or another about the rightness of your position.

Short Assignment #4 – Fan Fiction

Basically none of the text we have read in this class have what might be called a fandom in the line of Supernatural, Star Trek, or Doctor Who (though I suspect the Wayfarer novels have a strong chance of acquiring a fandom, if they don’t already have one). However, the question for this final assignment asks “What if they did?”

I want you to produce a set of artifacts from a hypothetical fandom of any of the texts we have read this semester. Do you want to write a coffee shop au version of “Shambleau”? Can you imagine Pamela Zoline as a series of shitposts? Do you want to make fan art? Memes? A zine?

We’ll talk a bit about the historical forms fandom has taken, as well as what fandom means at present.

You can work in groups on this project, just email me about who’s in your group.

Fanlore and Fancylopedia are both good sources on contemporary and historical fan culture.


Week 1


Wed 08/24

  • Course Overview

Fri 08/26

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912), Ch. 1-7

Week 2

Mon 08/29

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912), Ch. 8-14

Wed 08/31

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912), Ch. 15-21

Fri 09/02

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912), Rest

Week 3

Mon 09/05

No Class

Labor Day

Wed 09/07

Fri 09/09

  • Finish Gernsback

Week 4

Mon 09/12

Wed 09/14

Fri 09/16

  • Finish Moore
  • Short Assignment #1 Due

Week 5

Mon 09/19

  • A.E. van Vogt, “Black Destroyer”

Wed 09/21

  • Finish van Vogt
  • Judith Merril, “That Only a Mother” (1948)

Fri 09/23

  • Finish Merril

Week 6

Mon 09/26

Wed 09/28

Fri 09/30

  • Finish Zoline

Week 7

Mon 10/03

Wed 10/05

Fri 10/07

  • Finish Dick

Week 8

Mon 10/10

No Class

Fall Break

Wed 10/12

  • Ursula K. LeGuin, “Vaster than Empires and More Slow” (1969)

Fri 10/14

  • Finish LeGuin

Week 9

Mon 10/17

Wed 10/19

Fri 10/21

  • Finish Tiptree, Jr.
  • Short Assignment #2 Due

Week 10

Mon 10/24

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), Ch. 1-4

Wed 10/26

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), Ch. 5-9

Fri 10/28

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), Ch. 10-15

Week 11

Mon 10/31

  • William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984), Rest

Wed 11/02

Fri 11/04

  • Finish Butler

Week 12

Mon 11/07

Wed 11/09

Fri 11/11

  • Finish Okorafor
  • Short Assignment #3 Due

Week 13

Mon 11/14

Fri 11/18

  • Finish

Week 14

Mon 11/21

  • Catch-up Day

Wed 11/23

No Class

Reading Day

Fri 11/25

No Class


Week 15

Mon 11/28

Wed 11/30

  • Martha Wells, All Systems Red (2018), Ch. 1-5

Fri 12/02

  • Martha Wells, All Systems Red (2018), Ch. 1-5

Week 16

Mon 12/05

  • Martha Wells, All Systems Red (2018), Rest

Wed 12/07

  • Wrap-up
  • Short Assignment #4 Due

Course Policies

Email Hours

I am available to answer email from 9:00am until 5:00pm Monday through Friday. Emails arriving outside of that time will be answered at my earliest convenience, but do not count on a quick answer to emails sent late at night or on the weekends.

Office Hours

All office hours are virtual. Do not, under any circumstances, come to my office.

University Policies

COVID-19 Statement

To help protect Aggieland and stop the spread of COVID-19, Texas A&M University urges students to be vaccinated and to wear masks in classrooms and all other academic facilities on campus, including labs. Doing so exemplifies the Aggie Core Values of respect, leadership, integrity, and selfless service by putting community concerns above individual preferences. COVID-19 vaccines and masking — regardless of vaccination status — have been shown to be safe and effective at reducing spread to others, infection, hospitalization, and death.

Attendance Policy

The university views class attendance and participation as an individual student responsibility. Students are expected to attend class and to complete all assignments.

Please refer to Student Rule 7 in its entirety for information about excused absences, including definitions, and related documentation and timelines.

Makeup Work Policy

Students will be excused from attending class on the day of a graded activity or when attendance contributes to a student’s grade, for the reasons stated in Student Rule 7, or other reason deemed appropriate by the instructor.

Please refer to Student Rule 7 in its entirety for information about makeup work, including definitions, and related documentation and timelines.

Absences related to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 may necessitate a period of more than 30 days for make-up work, and the timeframe for make-up work should be agreed upon by the student and instructor” (Student Rule 7, Section 7.4.1).

“The instructor is under no obligation to provide an opportunity for the student to make up work missed because of an unexcused absence” (Student Rule 7, Section 7.4.2).

Students who request an excused absence are expected to uphold the Aggie Honor Code and Student Conduct Code. (See Student Rule 24.)

Course Policy on Makeup Work

Under Student Rule 7.4, I am under “under no obligation to provide an opportunity for the student to make up work missed because of an unexcused absence.” As such, no late work will be accepted this semester.

Academic Integrity Statement and Policy

“An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate those who do.”

“Texas A&M University students are responsible for authenticating all work submitted to an instructor. If asked, students must be able to produce proof that the item submitted is indeed the work of that student. Students must keep appropriate records at all times. The inability to authenticate one’s work, should the instructor request it, may be sufficient grounds to initiate an academic misconduct case” (Section, Student Rule 20).

You can learn more about the Aggie Honor System Office Rules and Procedures, academic integrity, and your rights and responsibilities at

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Policy

Texas A&M University is committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for all students. If you experience barriers to your education due to a disability or think you may have a disability, please contact Disability Resources in the Student Services Building or at (979) 845-1637 or visit Disabilities may include, but are not limited to attentional, learning, mental health, sensory, physical, or chronic health conditions. All students are encouraged to discuss their disability related needs with Disability Resources and their instructors as soon as possible.

Title IX and Statement on Limits to Confidentiality

Texas A&M University is committed to fostering a learning environment that is safe and productive for all. University policies and federal and state laws prohibit gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment, including sexual assault, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.

With the exception of some medical and mental health providers, all university employees (including full and part-time faculty, staff, paid graduate assistants, student workers, etc.) are Mandatory Reporters and must report to the Title IX Office if the employee experiences, observes, or becomes aware of an incident that meets the following conditions (see University Rule 08.01.01.M1):

  • The incident is reasonably believed to be discrimination or harassment.
  • The incident is alleged to have been committed by or against a person who, at the time of the incident, was (1) a student enrolled at the University or (2) an employee of the University.

Mandatory Reporters must file a report regardless of how the information comes to their attention – including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Although Mandatory Reporters must file a report, in most instances, you will be able to control how the report is handled, including whether or not to pursue a formal investigation. The University’s goal is to make sure you are aware of the range of options available to you and to ensure access to the resources you need.

Students wishing to discuss concerns in a confidential setting are encouraged to make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

Students can learn more about filing a report, accessing supportive resources, and navigating the Title IX investigation and resolution process on the University’s Title IX webpage.

Statement on Mental Health and Wellness

Texas A&M University recognizes that mental health and wellness are critical factors that influence a student’s academic success and overall wellbeing. Students are encouraged to engage in proper self-care by utilizing the resources and services available from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). Students who need someone to talk to can call the TAMU Helpline (979-845-2700) from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. weekdays and 24 hours on weekends. 24-hour emergency help is also available through the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255) or at

Department Policies

University Writing Center

The mission of the University Writing Center (UWC) is to help you develop and refine the communication skills vital to success in college and beyond. You can choose to work with a trained UWC peer consultant in person or via web conference or email. Consultants can help with everything from lab reports to application essays and at any stage of your process, from brainstorming to reviewing the final draft. You can also get help with public speaking, presentations, and group projects. The UWC’s main location is on the second floor of Evans Library; there’s also a walk-in location on the second floor of the Business Library & Collaboration Commons. To schedule an appointment or view our helpful handouts and videos, visit Or call 979-458-1455.

Diversity Statement

It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well-served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength, and benefit. It is my intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, culture, perspective, and other background characteristics. I encourage your suggestions about how to improve the value of diversity in this course.