Papers should be written in MLA format and run 1,400-1,750 words (approximately 4-5 pages). choose one of these topics. It has been argued that science fiction’s imaginary worlds can each be situated somewhere on the continuum between the opposing poles of utopia and dystopia. Consider how two or three of the stories published since 1980 suggest futures that will be better in some ways and/or worse in some ways than the “real” world that produced them. What do the features of these various futures suggest about the historical contexts that produced them? Write an essay about imaginative representations of the alien in two or three of the stories published since 1980, including some consideration of the ways in which these representations function (for example, in terms of how they help to define “humanity” or how they act as metaphors of “otherness”). How has the portrayal of the alien in sf evolved since the early decades of the 20th century? Compare, for instance, “Shambleau” and “A Martian Odyssey” (as examples of “pulp” sf from the 1930s) with “Out of All Them Bright Stars” and “Think Like a Dinosaur” (as examples of modern sf). Many readers agree that the fictional worlds of science fiction intersect with the “real” world in two quite different ways: through extrapolation and through metaphor (what Ursula K. Le Guin calls “thought experiment”). Using two or three of the stories published since 1980 as examples, write an essay in which you identify and discuss these two kinds of relationship between fictional worlds and real world. Which of these two tendencies seems most emphasized in the individual texts you? Discuss how two or three of the stories published since 1980 are “about” gender; that is, discuss how these texts construct/support/critique/ question/subvert various ideas about “femininity” and/or “masculinity.” Another way to consider this question is to consider the narrative worlds and structures of these texts and how they “estrange” conventional ideas about gender and gendered behavior. Remember that a text can be “about” gender in many ways. According to some commentators, American sf from the mid-1980s can be divided into two main camps: the humanists versus the cyberpunks. Discuss this polarization. Issues you might choose to focus on include: the relative importance of technology within both subgenres, their divergent stylistic norms and literary values, problems involved in the general division itself. Contrast the role of the hero in early sf (pre-1960) versus contemporary sf. How has it changed? Why? Modern science fiction is sometimes described as more “inward looking” than “outward looking.” Explain, using examples taken from two or three stories published since 1980.
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