Science Fiction Studies Assignment

Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


On the due date noted below, you will be pleased and alleviated to turn in the most significant single piece of work you will have produced for the semester in this class, something that ought to have a respectable afterlife — at least as a potential portfolio paper, but possibly as the central document or creation of your own particular expertise in science fiction studies, or the kernel of a larger future masterpiece. Eventually you’re going to die; aim for step one of immortality here. These are your options.

1) THE SECOND PROJECT: a minimum eight-to-ten-page manuscript.

If you submitted a completed five-page paper for your first assignment, this more substantial manuscript will fulfill project requirements for the semester. The typical weaknesses with such papers include the too general nature in the discussion, superficiality, or the erroneous notion that selection of some vast subject will allow for superficial discussion of two or more works slapped together to fill the required pages of what is, honestly, a relatively short paper. This inevitably leads at least to a vague and diluted analysis of the purported issue, and more often to an insane mess. Such a project, and its resultant grade, will suck.

Be conscientious, nay ruthless, merciless! in focusing your scope and in exploring implications. Find a specific facet of the selected work, a subtle motif, or a peculiarity in need of explanation. Why is this one observation or insight of yours significant in the larger framework of the piece?

You are required this time to research and include secondary sources, but original insight and analysis should still dominate the entire discussion. Your final revised essay must be a minimum of eight full, typed, double-spaced pages containing an intriguing (not underlined) title, an original unified thesis, vigorous analytical work, no extra spaces between paragraphs, all in a clean, effective, illuminating, properly documented presentation (correctly punctuated in-text parenthetical citations of author and page, and a correctly formatted MLA-style Works Cited list).

For further instruction regarding documentation, refer to the hand-out given with the previous assignment, or to the web page, or ask me ahead of time. Proofread well so that minor surface matters do not distract readers from your ideas. The grade for any manuscript lacking a Works Cited list or containing a renegade, variant, or insane documentation system will strike you as intensely disappointing.

2) THE FULFILLMENT OF YOUR PROMISE: a minimum twelve-page manuscript, an impressive web site, or a major happening.

If you opted in the first assignment for a work-in-progress, time to ante up, Chuckles.And it had better be impressive. Bet you’re sorry now for lolling about, back in February.

You need to submit the graded earlier text with the final version so I can see all the ignored advice I originally gave you. Chances are I was too polite in my comments on your proposal and you should read between the lines to cultivate an effective dread over how pitiful I really thought the project sounded. Then fix it. Overcompensate too. Realize that a lot of people who went through the agony of cranking out a complete shorter paper last time suspect you’re probably a cheesy slacker. Overcompensate some more.

See immediately above for more paper warnings.


I welcome other kinds of projects that demonstrate the same objectives that the paper does: ability to carry out sophisticated research, to discover an original purpose and focus, to write with clarity and influence your audience’s perspective. You may find a way to construct a bibliographical, filmic, pedagogical, or popular culture related project appropriate to science fiction studies which will inspire enthusiasm and break new ground impressively. You may work on a collaborative endeavor with a colleague. There are many possibilities. Check out my web site and note how skimpy most components are. Some items appear in the index without any linked text! Think about it.

4) CYBERSCHOLARSHIP: a web page.

You may work alone or with someone else creating a useful resource for current and future students of science fiction studies. Realize that this is a scholarly project, not an advertisement or fan page. Pick an appropriately manageable scope for the project and include all the key ingredients that you would provide for a paper: research, analysis, commentary, and whatever else would make this creation impressive and valuable. And then package this in ways appropriate for a web site (research gets registered in a Works Cited that may include hyperlinks, for example) and for an audience consisting of future students of this class. Do not just create a recycling dumpsite, that is, don’t replicate what’s already available. Instead, be sure to offer the one thing most lacking on the web: critical analysis — not a full paper’s worth, since that just invites plagiarism, but some sophisticated components of commentary.

If you choose this project because it seems easy and you think you can submit any old crap with a jpg of Ray Bradbury on the main page, you are doomed and will fail most miserably. If you take up this challenge heroically and meaningfully, it will show. And we can discuss afterwards how to display, link, or incorporate the work most appropriately and helpfully.

Sample papers, good to excellent are available at various locations on my web site (and eventually will be here in the SF component of the site), as are instructions and examples for the required MLA-style documentation.

I am glad to provide advice and help at any stage, from pre-writing and researching to the drafting, of this project. Ultimately, though, it must be completed and turned in when due; the compressed schedule of late semester does not allow for screwing around and cheesy excuses.

PROJECT DUE:WEDNESDAY, APRIL 12th, 2006; 11:10 pm.