Science Fiction Politics – Podcasting from the Classroom

Sometimes I feel like I missed the boat on all the cool stuff life has to offer. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I’m behind the wave. Many colleges today offer courses in science fiction. Imagine that! Getting to discuss and learn about science fiction while earning college credit! That sure beats the lame electives from which I was forced to choose.

Professor Courtney Brown PhD of Georgia’s Emory University is offering a Political Science course entitled Science Fiction and Politics and he’s making the lectures available as a podcast. Available lectures ready for download include Foundation (parts 1 and 2), Foundation And Empire and Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov , Brave New World (parts 1 and 2) by Aldous Huxley (parts 1 and 2) and The Left Hand Of Darkness (part 1) by Ursula K. Le Guin.

[via SFF Audio]

7 thoughts on “Science Fiction Politics – Podcasting from the Classroom”

  1. There have always been liberal arts departments offering classes in all kinds of things – history of Rock and Roll, physics of the paranormal, studies in science fiction, and even one I saw on the religeous themes in fantasy literature.

    Are you sure you missed these John? Maybe your school offered this and you just missed it because you weren’t in liberal arts?

  2. I took a Rock and Roll class (can you say “easy A”), but none of the (many) colleges I attended, to my knowledge, offered SF-related courses.

  3. I had a SF college class in 1987. You didn’t miss much if my experience was any indication. We mostly read short stories, often involving bizarre sexual topics. I remember one about a research scientist who is studying orangutans or gorillas and he falls in love with one of the test subjects, which wrecks his marriage. The instructor also had a weak grasp of the difference between SF and fantasy. Several of the stories we read had magic but no science aspect whatsoever. He also liked post-apocalyptic stories published in Britain in the 60s.

    Oh, and he said not once but twice during the semester, “The man who killed Kennedy killed America.” [here’s where I need one of those animated smileys with the rolling eyes]

  4. When I was at UT-Austin in the late 1980s, I took a “Science Fiction in Astronomy” class. It was mostly short stories and novellas, although we read at least two novels (Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity and UT Professor J. Craig Wheeler’s The Krone Experiment).

    It was actually a pretty rigorous introduction-to-astronomy class – we learned Kepler’s laws of planetary motion, the basics of the rocket equation, and special relativity equations while reading Tau Zero (time dilation, mass changing). We also learned all about stellar lifecycles, including end-of-life (red giant, white dwarf, supernova, neutron star, standard black holes; the Chandrasekhar limit). We even learned about quantum black holes before Hawking’s coffeetable book introduced that concept to the general public (while reading Larry Niven’s short “Hole Man” and Weinberg’s Krone Experiment).

    There was more math than writing involved on the tests. But that’s a good thing!

    It was a fantastic class (one that I can – obviously – still remember a good deal from 20 years later!)

    For the life of me, I can’t remember the professor’s name. He was kindly, and older (makes me wonder whether he’s still alive). And he wasn’t Weinberg, in case you’re wondering.

  5. Hmm, I wonder if starship troopers would make the grade…the book mind you, not the seriously cheesy movie that apparently used the same name….hmmm..:-$

  6. Rutgers University had several SF-related courses during the period I attended (late 1970’s). Robert Foster (author of “The Guide to Middle-Earth”) taught a class on fantasy and mythology. There was an occasional course on writers like Saki. But the one that I did not take and was glad I did not was a “trilogy” class. The professor assigned a reading list entirely of trilogies–The Foundation Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, etc., etc., etc.

    (I know because I had several friends who took the class and they were coming to me to borrow these trilogies!)

    This seemed a pretty silly idea, and I know it turned several people off to the field. There did not seem to be any attempt to unify themes, etc., just an attempt to grind people through as many pages of fantasy/SF as possible.

    There are plenty of good efforts at teaching SF. Take a look at what James Gunn or Jack Williamson (among others) have been doing.

  7. I took a SF class in high school, and what little I remember from it was that it was definitely more SF than fantasy focused. The teacher really had a thing for Ray Bradbury and we read alot of stuff by him (Martian Chronicles and others). I wish that I had paid more attention then since I think the class was pretty good for a high school course. College on the other hand was pretty light on language/liberal arts subjects since I was at an engineering college and the only classes that we needed involved technical writing….

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