Dr Dean Taciuch
George Mason University

Fall 2019

English 202: 021
Science Fiction

Course Description

This course will explore mid to late 20th Century science fiction, starting with some short 1950s science fiction, then a novel, followed by a collection of short stories. We will examine the social contexts, particularly in the United States, in which these works were written.

We will also discuss specific literary techniques, such as point-of-view, dramatic structure, character development, symbolism, and so on.

The essays should demonstrate your understanding and interpretation of the texts. They should not be summaries of the stories, but rather interpretations of the various meanings you find in the texts, supported by specific examples from the texts

The assignments include two essays, weekly responses or quizzes, a midterm, and a final exam.

Learning Outcomes

English 202 fulfills the Mason Core requirement for Literature. Students completing this course should be able to

  1. Read for comprehension, detail, and nuance.
  2. Identify the specific literary qualities of language as employed in the texts they read.
  3. Analyze the ways specific literary devices contribute to the meaning of a text.
  4. Identify and evaluate the contribution of the social, political, historical, and cultural contexts in which a literary text is produced.

Texts (in bookstore, but you may also use e-book editions)
Phillip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
William Gibson, Burning Chrome

Online texts (Follow the links or download from BlackBoard)
Phyllis Sterling Smith, "What is POSAT?"
Philip K Dick "Second Variety"
Verner Vinge, "Technological Singularity"
Linda Nagata, "Nahiku West"
Cat Rambo, "Left Behind"

Course Assignments (Total 100 points)
(Almost) Weekly Reading Quizzes:  10@ 2 pts: 20
            (No responses or quizzes on Essay or Exam weeks)
Short Essays (1000 – 1500 words): 2@ 15 pts: 30
Midterm Exam: 1@ 25 pts: 25
Final Exam: 1@ 25 pts: 25

Due Dates
Most weeks will have a reading quiz (in class). These will generally be on Tuesdays. No quizzes on weeks with essays or exams. Missed quizzes cannot be made up, but I will add extra credit questions later in the semester if needed.

Essay 1 will be due Fri Oct 4
Midterm exam will be in class on Thurs Oct 10
Essay 2 will be due Fri Dec 6
Final Exam will be Thursday Dec 12, 7:30a.m. – 10:15 a.m.

The essays are due anytime on the due date. BlackBoard requires that I set a time; I set it to 11:59pm, but I really don't care if the essays are submitted a few hours late. As long as the essays are there in the morning, I don't count them as late


In grading essays, I use the following general criteria:

An "A" essay is well organized, specific, clearly written, and has a strong thesis, presenting an interpretation rather than mere summary. Strong organization requires focused paragraphs with specific support, using examples from the text, following a clear overall structure with each topic sentence supporting the central thesis.

A "B" essay is well organized and has a clear thesis, but may be less specific in its examples, or less clear in its presentation and language.

A "C" essay is average college-level writing. It is organized, but the paragraph structure might be too loose (long unfocused paragraphs, for example), or the language unclear. The thesis is present, but might be too broad or too simple for a sustained analysis.

A "D" essay may have problems with the thesis, organization, or language throughout the essay. Such papers are often mostly summary.

An "F" essay would have problems with more than one of these issues

As noted above, the assignments in the course add up to 100 possible points. I calculate grades as follows:

A+ 100%
A 95% A- 90%
B+ 88% B 85% B- 80%
C+ 78% C 75% C- 70%
D 65% D- 60% F 0 – 50%

So an assignment worth 10 points would receive 8.5 points for a B, 9.5 points for an A, and 10 points for an A+.

At the end of the semester, the points are added up, and final grades are calculated as follows:

A+ 98–100
A 93–97 A- 90–92
B+ 87–89 B 84–86 B- 80–83
C+ 77–79 C 74–76 C- 70–73
D 60–69   F 0–59

Course Policies

Late Assignments: Late papers will lose 5% per day unless you make prior arrangements with me.

Revision Policy: The first essay may be revised for a higher grade, but it must be substantially revised. You cannot lose a grade by revising, but a higher grade is not guaranteed. I have found that "B" papers (or higher) are often more difficult to revise, since serious revision requires thoroughly changing the essay's structure, and "B" papers usually have a fairly good structure. "C" papers (or lower) often respond more dramatically to revision, since the major changes they require are often more straightforward. I recommend revising "C" papers or lower only. If you plan to revise a "B" paper, please see me beforehand so we can discuss a revision strategy.

Essay 2 is due too late in the semester to allow for revision. The weekly quizzes and exams cannot be revised.

All revisions must be turned in within one week of receiving a grade.

Plagiarism: Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another source without giving that source credit. Writers give credit through the use of accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes; a simple listing of books, articles, and websites is not sufficient.

Writers must include a Works Cited or References list at the end of their essay, providing full bibliographic information for every source cited in their essay, including the course textbooks.

Instructors at George Mason University are bound to uphold the George Mason Honor Code, which requires us to report any suspected instances of plagiarism to the Honor Committee. All judgments about plagiarism are made after careful review by the Honor Committee, which may issue penalties ranging from grade-deductions to course failure to expulsion from GMU.

Students with disabilities: If you are a student with a disability and you need academic accommodations, please see me and contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS). All academic accommodations must be arranged through the ODS.

GMU Nondiscrimination Policy: George Mason University is committed to providing equal opportunity and an educational and work environment free from any discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, or age. GMU shall adhere to all applicable state and federal equal opportunity/affirmative action statutes and regulations.

GMU Email: Students must activate their Mason email account and check it regularly. For privacy reasons, all class-related emails will be sent only to students' official GMU email addresses.

Course Schedule



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