Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Science Fiction Portal

An Introduction to the Oddest Inkling

Charles Williams was a friend of Tolkien and Lewis; he was also a novelist, poet, literary critic, editor, theologian, and occult master. There is no other literature quite like that by Charles Williams: his writings are startling, convoluted, beautiful, unpredictable, and obscure. Every sentence is thrilling, dangerous, sinuous, and demanding. His unusual combination of Christianity and the occult finds expression in a bizarre, exciting mix of the everyday and the supernatural in his writing. In this module, you'll get a taste of his works through one novel and selections from his poetry and nonfiction. Once you start reading the Oddest Inkling, you'll want to keep going until you've experienced all seven of his "supernatural shockers" and his astonishing Arthurian poetry.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

"Arrival" and Adaptation

The 2016 film ""Arrival"" and the novella on which it is based (Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang, 1998) are wildly different from one another. In this course, half of us will read the story first, then watch the film, while the other half of the class will watch the movie first, then read the story. We will compare our reactions and discuss how the genre/medium affect adaptation choices. We will also talk about each work on its own merits, including a day with one of Signum's fine linguists on the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Asimov's Foundation, an Intro

Isaac Asimov wrote a complete 7 volume series of Foundation novels, an interesting Empire prequel series, and compiled short stories and novellas into a Robot prequel series to make a vast and arching future history for our universe. But at it's core were the first three compiled and original stories that made a trilogy of the Seldon Plan and its unfolding. If you want a spoiler free, first look into this classic series, let's read the first three books together in one month.
Precepted by Carrie Gross.

Babylon 5: Who Are You?

The first of the two essential questions raised in Babylon 5, “Who are you” demands that listeners and respondents consider the nature of their own mortality and personhood, delving deeply into their multifaceted identities. This four-week seminar explores the responses to this question as given by six core members of the Babylon 5 universe and considers its presentation as a core Vorlon question, examining the world of Babylon 5 as a space of introspection and self-discovery.
Precepted by Faith Acker.

Biological Concepts in Fantasy and Science Fiction

From the nesting habits of dragons to the process of zombification, science has become an increasingly important component of speculative fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, and horror). This module will explore the ways in which various works have incorporated biological principles to enhance their worlds, creatures, and characters and to draw in audiences of increasingly scientifically aware readers and viewers.
Precepted by Ryan Kimbell.

Constructed and Fictional Languages in Science Fiction

The use of fictional languages in science fiction from the good to the bad. This includes fully constructed languages, references to constructed and foreign languages, as well as misuse or misunderstandings of language change. How these subtle points contribute to or detract from world building. This will expand on the work of Ria Cheyne through examples and delving deeper linguistically.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Creative Writing: Stories in the Darkness

Join the amazing Jennie Starstuff: NASA Solar System Ambassador with Sparrow F. Alden to talk about the coolest, trippiest space physics to inspire our fiction! We’ll learn stuff on one day to use as writing prompts for peer-review on the second day. The plan is to explore star lore and archaeoastronomy; gravity and relativity (things get really weird); stars and cosmic life cycles; and life in the cosmos (alien contact? Heck, yes!). What about the amazing spaces between? We will have wonderful sonifications (sound pictures) of some of the most wonder-filled, hard to believe astro science out there—just imagine the stories we’ll create!
Precepted by Jennie Starstuff and Sparrow Alden.

Creative Writing: Writing Computers

What does a computer scientist wish that writers knew? That we are building aliens right here on Earth? That perception is not what we think it is? Join us for four weeks of learning, writing, and feedback. In "How Does Hacking Actually Work?" we'll learn to write far more complex and realistic scenes than Hollywood. In "Computer Perception" we'll talk about detecting the simple presence of volts and the most subtle patterns of the cosmos. In "Computer Interfaces" we're going to cook up stories about the Alien, the Understander, and the Quality of Misunderstanding. Finally in "Atemporal Decision Theory" we're going to ask enough questions about Truth, sentience, and honor to fill adventure after adventure with artificial and artisanal intelligences. Each week we'll have a learning and discussion day plus a day to reflect on "This idea made me ask 'what if?' and reach for my keyboard."
Precepted by Sparrow Alden and Daroc Alden.

Don't Panic! Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy was first a radio production, then a novelization, then a tv series, then a movie. If this is giving you fits, don't panic, there's even more. Grab your towel, and thumb, and hitch a ride for a rediculous look at the lighter side of science fiction. Where were you when you heard those recordings for the first time? Or discovered the trilogy was 5 (or 6?) books? In this SPACE course we will cover the 12 fits of the radio drama's first series, and the first 2 books in the trilogy that it covered: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Restaurant at the End of the Universe. There may be spoilers and digressions into the other adaptations and possible series in progress as well.
Precepted by Carrie Gross.

Exploring Death's End Continuing Series

The third volume in Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past series, Death's End builds on the setting of the first two novels, culminating in a dazzling series of events and thoughtful ruminations on their meaning. Join us as we explore this novel largely through class discussion framed by preceptor commentary. There are few series better for an introduction to Chinese science fiction than this one.
Precepted by Robert Steed and Jennie Starstuff.

Exploring Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 1

Recognized as the first sci-fi book, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a short novel full of layers and allusions to other works that go beyond the famous monster and his square face from pop culture. This course is divided into two modules. In the first part, we will read, analyze and discuss the first half of the book (Letter 1 to Chapter 11) and, in the subsequent module, we’ll read Chapters 12 to 24. Among the questions we’ll discuss are: what is the scope of science? What is the story really about? What is the role of fate in the narrative?
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Exploring Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 2

Recognized as the first sci-fi book, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a short novel full of layers and allusions to other works that go beyond the famous monster and his square face from pop culture. This course is divided into two modules. In the first part, we will read, analyze and discuss the first half of the book (Letter 1 to Chapter 11) and, in the subsequent module, we’ll read Chapters 12 to 24. Among the questions we’ll discuss are: what is the scope of science? What is the story really about? What is the role of fate in the narrative?
Precepted by Pilar Barrera.

Exploring The Dark Forest Continuing Series

The second volume in Liu Cixin's The Remembrance of Earth's Past series continues the story of Trisolaran alien invasion and the range of human responses to that threat. As with the Three-Body Problem module, we will read and discuss the novel, both for its inherent interest and for the ways it can serve as an accessible gateway to various aspects of Chinese history, culture, and science fiction.
Precepted by Robert Steed and Jennie Starstuff.

Exploring The Remembrance of Earth's Past Series

Join us as we explore this award-winning Chinese science fiction series from Liu Cixin. The focus will be on participant discussion framed by preceptor commentary. Beginning with The Three-Body Problem, we will explore the various themes of technological and social crisis that alien invasion might present, as well as how they can be interpreted in the context of Chinese history and society.
Precepted by Robert Steed and Jennie Starstuff.

Exploring The Three Body Problem First in the Series

First ever Asian winner of the Hugo award for best novel, as well as winning the Chinese Yinhe (“Galaxy”) award for best novel, and nominated for the Nebula award for best novel, and serving as the source material for an upcoming Netflix series by the same name, The Three-Body Problem is an exploration of both humanistic and technological themes in the context of Chinese history and contemporary society, all set in a narrative of alien invasion. There are few novels better for beginning to explore Chinese science fiction, so please join us as we take a deep dive into this fascinating masterpiece!
Precepted by Robert Steed and Jennie Starstuff.

Exploring William Gibson's Jackpot

Attn: All continua enthusiasts and stub residents, join us as we delve into the world of William Gibson's recent novel and Amazon Prime series, The Peripheral. A world of branch universes, nanobot assassinations, attenuated time travel and kleptocrats, all under the ever-watchful Periwinkle eyes of Detective Inspector Ainsley Lowbeer and the looming Jackpot. If you have read the novels already, this is a great chance to revisit them as the Amazon series rolls out The Peripheral. If you have never read William Gibson, this is an opportunity to explore Gibson's particular flavor of fast-paced action, braided narratives, and provocative ideas.
Precepted by Patrick Malloy.

Frankenstein: A Masterpiece of Modern Science Fiction

In this book-club-style class, we will discuss Mary Shelley's ground-breaking novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. We’ll track the book's major themes, talk about its interesting narrative structure, discuss its historical context and contemporary applicability, and perhaps cheerfully debate some of its philosophical implications. We might talk a little bit about adaptations of the novel to stage or screen, the revision process between the 1818 and 1831 versions, and maybe some points scholars have made to help us understand this important work more deeply.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Geology of Fictional Worlds

This course introduces the student to the various aspects of geology and how they can relate to worldbuilding and mapmaking. This includes continents, plate tectonics, mountains, water, glaciers, planetary patterns, the distribution of rock types and natural resources, natural disasters and weather patterns. This background would allow students to better evaluate fictional maps as well as create them. Examples will be drawn from Middle-earth, Earth-sea, Westeros, Dungeons and Dragons, and suggestions from students.
Precepted by Shawn Gaffney.

Gojira, Then and Now

In this module, we will discuss two films of the Godzilla franchise -- the original 1954 Gojira and 2016's Shin Godzilla. After a quick overview of the franchise -- its numerous films and eras -- we'll look at the historical events that influenced each films' creation, as well as the central themes and motifs.
Precepted by Joshua Sosa.

H.P. Lovecraft: Maker of Modern Horror

H.P. Lovecraft revolutionized horror, modernized the Gothic, and created a 20th-century mythology explored by authors from Jorge Luis Borges to Stephen King. This module provides an overview of Lovecraft's fiction, from his early "Dunsanian" fantasies to his later science fiction masterpieces. Along the way, it touches on Lovecraft's life and times, his letters and criticism, and other aspects of his thought, but keeps the stories themselves central. We explore Lovecraft's uses of settings such as "witch-haunted Arkham," techniques including the near-hoax and "adventurous expectancy," and his great theme of "cosmic indifference."
Precepted by Kenneth Hite.

Isaac Asimov's Foundation I & II

Winner of the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966, Isaac Asimov's Foundation series has grown from its many short stories in various serial publications into a solid and complete whole, with adaptations and prequels, and side series as well. Let's take a spoiler heavy, thoughtful and fan approach to this alternate future of humanity. Caveat: All the Foundation novels are listed in the Reading list, but there may be spoilers about the Robot and Empire series as well.
Precepted by Carrie Gross.

Klingon 1 First in the Series

ghojlu’meH QaQ jajvam! (“Today is a good day to learn!”) Klingons: the bumpy-headed warrior race from Star Trek that is obsessed with honor and glory. You’ve heard about people who learn to speak Klingon, and now you can join their ranks. This course will teach students how to read and speak the Warrior’s Tongue. Start with basic grammar and work up to complex sentences. Learn Klingon’s complex inventory of prefixes and suffixes. By the end of this course, you will be able to read and converse in basic Klingon. Qapla’! (“Success!”).

After Klingon 1, those students wishing to continue their Klingon experience can take Klingon 2, the final module in the Klingon series.
Precepted by David Trimboli.

Klingon 2 Continuing Series

So you've learned to speak basic Klingon. But, do you know the correct response when a Klingon tells you a secret? What does it mean if a Klingon says you're using a big scoop? Why do Klingons mix up their words when making toasts? How do you address your loved ones in private and in public? Why are some Klingons mispronouncing certain words? This course, which assumes you have completed Klingon 1, will teach you about the cultural nuances of the Klingon language, including its slang, idioms, dialects, argot, forms of address, familial terms, ritualized speech, measurements, and mathematics.
Precepted by David Trimboli.

Klingon Series Series

ghojlu’meH QaQ jajvam! (“Today is a good day to learn!”) Klingons: the bumpy-headed warrior race from Star Trek that is obsessed with honor and glory. You’ve heard about people who learn to speak Klingon, and now you can join their ranks. This course will teach students how to read and speak the Warrior’s Tongue. Start with basic grammar and work up to complex sentences. Learn Klingon’s complex inventory of prefixes and suffixes. By the end of this course, you will be able to read and converse in basic Klingon. Qapla’! (“Success!”).

After Klingon 1, those students wishing to continue their Klingon experience can take Klingon 2, the final module in the Klingon series.
Precepted by David Trimboli.

MaddAddam: Biological Dystopia (Part 1: Oryx and Crake)

Margaret Atwood's self-described style of speculative fiction illustrates potential futures that could await our planet, rooted firmly in observations of the present and past. Her MaddAddam Trilogy, which began with Oryx and Crake in 2003, explores one such future. Contrasted with the patriarchal dystopian vision of the well-known Handmaid's Tale, MaddAddam presents a world born out of one brilliant bioengineer's dream of utopia-- and what that dream means for everyone else. Starting with Book 1: Oryx and Crake, we will discuss the themes and visions associated with this biological apocalypse.
Precepted by Jennie Starstuff.

Plague Literature

Pandemics have swept the globe with disturbing regularity throughout human history, and authors have written literature in response to one they experienced or others they imagined in the future. What do historical and imaginary epidemics and pandemics teach us about our own? How do authors use contagion allegorically and metaphorically as social commentary? Put our current COVID-19 into perspective by reading and discussing novels, short stories, poems, and other works set in a time of plague.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Ransom The Field Linguist? A Sociolinguist’s Reading

Have you ever read The Space Trilogy and been bothered at how terribly quickly and well Ransom picked up the heavenly languages? Let’s be bothered together! This module will look at each and every mention of philology in Lewis’s other worldly series and analyze what exactly Ransom would have needed to do in each learning situation, evaluate whether the language and culture learning was realistic, and along the way discuss how philology differs from field linguistics.
Precepted by Eve Droma.

Reading Lewis' Ransom Cycle

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Higgins' series exploring Lewis's Ransom Cycle. In this book-club-style series, we will discuss C.S. Lewis’s novels Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. We’ll track his major themes, talk about the background he assumes, enjoy his secondary world, and perhaps cheerfully debate some of his theological claims. We’ll bring in a few of his other works briefly to see how they contribute to his subcreated universe, and we’ll touch on some points scholars have made to help us read these works more deeply.

This page will be updated to reflect which book in the Cycle is being explored in a given month.
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Reading Lewis' Ransom Cycle:
• Part 1: Exploring C.S. Lewis’s novel Out of the Silent Planet. (Required Text: C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet)
• Part 2: Exploring C.S. Lewis’s novel Perelandra. (Required Text: C.S. Lewis, Perelandra)
• Part 3: Exploring C.S. Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength and a few short related texts. (Required Text: C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength)
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NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.

Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

The Art of Adaptation

In order to dig into the fine art of adaptation, we'll study four short stories and films based on them:
1. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (James Thurber’s 1939 story and Ben Stiller's 2013 film);
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 story and David Fincher's 2008 film);
3. The story “Supertoys Last All Summer Long” by Brian Aldiss (1969) and Steven Spielberg's movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001);
4. The story ""Sentinel of Eternity"" by Arthur C. Clarke (1951) and the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, Stanley Kubrick with Clarke); we may also look at the novelisation of the film.

Using these works, we'll talk about what happens when a work moves from one genre to another, from one medium to another, from a solo project to a team work, from one audience to another, and more. We'll look at content changes, techniques, shifts of themes, and more.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

"The Last of Us" in Adaptation

HBO’s new “The Last of Us” TV show (2023) is widely hailed as the best adaptation of a video game. “The Last of Us” video game (2013) tells the story of a cynical older man befriending a young girl during a zombie apocalypse. The game received praise for its subtle storytelling and strong characterizations. The lead creator of the game is also a showrunner and insisted that HBO remain faithful to the game. However, the show uses the freedom of TV to expand upon the backstories of characters. In this course, we will watch the TV show and play the video game simultaneously. We will then discuss how the genre/medium of each affects adaptation choices.

Note: Students do not need to have watched the show or played the game beforehand, but will need to have access to both. Students can also watch a walkthrough of "The Last of Us" in lieu of playing the game.
Precepted by Dominic Nardi.

Three from the Big Three

Three Science Fiction Masters of the 20th Century stand out above the rest. Their contributions garnered them the label 'The Big Three.' We will look at three novels of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein and discuss as fans and modern readers the impact of their contributions.
Precepted by Carrie Gross.

Trees Are People Too (And They Probably Don't Want to Hug You)

This course examines novellas, stories, and myths that predated Tolkien's Ents in Lord of the Rings, ranging from Ovid's Metamorphoses to Ask and Embla of Norse myth, to Weird nineteenth- and twentieth-century works, such as George MacDonald's Phantastes and Algernon Blackwood's The Man Whom the Trees Loved. We'll explore why people ascribe human qualities to trees (and why they're often irascible). Through these myths and stories, we will reconsider both what it is to be a tree, and what it is to be human.
Precepted by Chris Pipkin.

Video Game Storytelling

Video games are an exciting new medium for storytelling because they give players agency within the story world. In this class, we’ll look at recent examples of games that use interactivity to tell stories not possible in any other medium. We’ll see how games encourage players to identify with characters’ emotions through gameplay; incorporate world-building into the setting; and handle the branching pathways of player choice. The games we’ll play are relatively short and are accessible to students who have never played video games before.
Precepted by Dominic Nardi.

Video Game Studies

Inviting students to share their delight in, and deepen their appreciation of, video games, we will discuss examples of the art, music, gameplay, and story from a range of influential titles. We will introduce and experiment with some of the theoretical frameworks that have been applied to video games as media objects and cultural artifacts. But mostly, we will enjoy learning more about the medium and the games we already love. Aside from links and selections shared throughout the module, Gabrielle Zevin's novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow will be the only required reading.
Precepted by Wesley Schantz.

Worldbuilding for SFF Writers

While building an entire world may seem like a daunting or divine task, thankfully there are many great writers who have gone before and left behind their advice, instructions, and encouragement for creating a secondary universe of your own. In this course, we'll look at what some smart and skillful folks have said about subcreation, then apply their ideas to your constructed storyworlds. We'll talk about how to choose and develop the properties of your land, what unique objects it contains, what level of technology its inhabitants have reached, who those inhabitants are, what language(s) they speak, what the physical nature of the world is, how its logic works, and--most importantly--its atmosphere and the philosophical implications of each of your creative choices. You should leave this course ready to set stories in your secondary universe.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Writers' Workshop: The Different Body Problem

It's a sometimes inconvenient fact that characters have bodies, and sometimes, those bodies directly affect the stories we write about them. Writing characters who live in bodies that do not perform according to the cultural standard is a skill like any other part of the writer's craft.

In this course, we will look at examples from literature of how authors have dealt with what we usually call disabilities. Some have done well, others have materially harmed people with their writing.

We will also work with one another to hone our craft as writers who are telling stories so that we can find the new and inspirational, while leaving behind the worn-out clichés that make the lives of people like your preceptor materially harder.

Note: Texts will be provided by the preceptor.
Precepted by Chris Bartlett.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].