* SF Signal asked various "new guard" science fiction authors to define science fiction. Read the answers here (part 1) and here (part 2). (Thanks to kalquessa.)
* I have determined my upper-division seminar offerings for the Fall 2008 semester. (This semester I am teaching "Native American Identity in the U.S. Context" and "J.R.R. Tolkien in History, Political Thought, and Literature.") Both are new courses for me and for the university:
Worlds Gone Wrong: The Dystopian Tradition
Over the centuries, thinkers have used dystopias -- stories of worlds gone wrong, of worst-case scenarios -- to warn their contemporaries about what they viewed as dangerous trends in politics, economics, science, religion, and/or popular culture. This class will consider a variety of historical and current dystopias in literature, film, television, and music. Students will explore the specific conditions that inspired these dystopias, the general warnings inherent in them, and the broad trends in dystopias over time. Students also will generate and analyze their own dystopian visions and consider what they tell us about our understanding of and concerns for the world today.
Native American Film and Fiction
When Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday penned House Made of Dawn in 1968 (and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969), he inspired a new wave of contemporary Native American literature. Authors such as Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie, among others, have inherited his leadership role in contemporary Native literature, and they have used this medium to explore the historical experience and present-day realities of their people. Similarly, Cheyenne/Arapaho director and producer Chris Eyre, with his pathbreaking 1998 film Smoke Signals, ushered in a new era of Native American cinema. Today Native film flourishes through both major and independent productions; these movies capture the contemporary urban Native American experience as well as reservation life and historical memory. In this class, students will trace the development of modern Native American literature and film and analyze the artistic choices made in both in order to understand better the past and present of Native America.
When the great sun has turned his face away,
The earth goes down into a vale of grief,
And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables,
Leaving her wedding-garlands to decay -
Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses.
- Charles Kingsley