Decades: Historical SF

The “Decades” Units at the start of each semester serve as an introduction to the genre for new students, and provide background on (and examples of) the various tropes and archetypes that we will see throughout the year. In addition to reading stories representative of each decade, we will  examine how the genre has changed from its origins to today.  You will also begin to learn vocabulary and protocols for reading, discussing, and understanding SF.

Sem.1: Studies in Science Fiction


  • Fantastic Voyage:  Evolution of Science Fiction
    • This documentary contains the history of SF, and commentary from a number of authors whose works we will read during the course of the semester.

Short Stories: You will receive hard copies of most stories in class, which you are welcome to write on (underlines, highlights, margin notes, etc.).  You may also choose to read online for those stories that have online versions available.  The first three are Word documents, but the others are various file types and websites  as indicated.


  • Conventions in SF writing with Protocols for SF reading
    • Use this detailed handout to expand your understanding of SF. It gives 21 points to note about how SF is written and how readers are expected to work with the writer to understand it. Many of these concepts can be applied to stories in general, though many are specific to SF.
  • SF Critical Essay and Discussion Guidelines
    • This handout provides prompts for evaluating a Science Fiction story. The four categories for evaluating a story are Major Characters, Minor Characters, Point of View, and Setting/Atmosphere.
  • SF Motifs and Archetypes
    • This bullet-point list of archetypes can be used to identify archetypes and motifs that commonly appear in SF stories.
  • Timeline
    • A timeline of historical events, including significant changes or contributions to SF. Use this timeline to evaluate how a story reflects its historical context.
  • SF Critique and Discussion protocol for stories and novels
    • This simplified handout provides a list based on the Protocols in our text book (ed. James Gunn), which are also included in the first handout on Conventions in SF. This handout is a simpler list of questions that can be used as a quick guide for discussion or evaluation of a story.


Sem. 2: More Studies in Science Fiction



Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (available on Netflix’s Instant Watch or on DVD)

Check out this article: “The Battle Against ‘Sexist’ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Covers” on the BBC