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

Weird 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.

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.

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.

Meeting the Horned God of the Witches

The Horned God, alongside being modern paganism's most popular deity, enjoys a rich heritage in speculative fiction and popular culture. In this module, we will explore his ancient (and modern) origins, his appearances in both esoteric and popular literature, and his surprising role as an environmental figure. Throughout the module, students will gain familiarity with the four core figures that make up the Horned God (Pan, Cernunnos, the Sorcerer of Trois Freres, and Herne the Hunter), and key narratives associated with him. They will also have an opportunity to ponder the complex web of influences between modern paganism and speculative fiction.

This module builds on the work of Margaret Murray and the module 'The Witch-Cult Hypothesis', but does not require prior knowledge of the material covered there.
Precepted by Anna Milon.

Supernatural Shockers: "All Hallows' Eve" by Charles Williams Continuing Series

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about his last, greatest novel: All Hallows' Eve. Two of the main characters in it are dead, but this does not prevent them from interacting with the living, including a painter with profound spiritual insight, a black magician who makes two copies of himself to rule the world, and a woman who conceives a daughter in order to sacrifice her to her devilish master.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams Continuing Series

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about Descent into Hell, which expresses his signature ideas perhaps more clearly than any of his other writings. It features a Shakespearean play, a doppelgänger, a succubus, an ancient witch, and several supernatural acts of substitution that transcend time and space.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "Many Dimensions" by Charles Williams Continuing Series

Charles Williams was a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and other influential writers of the early 20th century. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about Many Dimensions, in which a magical stone engraved with the letters of the Tetragrammaton can transport people through time and space, heal illnesses, grant wealth, and otherwise transcend the laws of nature. It is up to a young secretary to offer herself as a bridge to save the world from destruction. While Many Dimensions is a kind of sequel to War in Heaven, they can be studied on their own, and students need not take that course before this one, although they are welcome to do so.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers Series Exploring Charles Williams Series

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Higgins' Supernatural Shockers Series exploring Charles Williams' seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life.

This page will be updated to reflect which module in the series is being offered once the class decides.
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Supernatural Shockers Series Exploring Charles Williams:
• Supernatural Shockers: "War in Heaven" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "Many Dimensions" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "The Place of the Lion" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "The Greater Trumps" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "All Hallows' Eve" by Charles Williams > Link
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NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.

Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "Shadows of Ecstasy" by Charles Williams Continuing Series

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about Shadows of Ecstasy, in which an immortal guru invades England with an army of African soldiers, offering magical transmutation of the passions to his followers. While Williams wrote this novel first, it was published later, but still reveals an early, ambiguous phase of his religious thought.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order; however, this is the strangest and most disturbing of Williams's fiction, so students would probably benefit from taking at least one other module in this cycle first.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "The Greater Trumps" by Charles Williams Continuing Series

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about The Greater Trumps, in which the original deck of Tarot Cards and a set of dancing golden figures offer power to foretell the fortunes of the world and control the elements. A deadly snowstorm, a madwoman, and a saint are among the memorable features of this unforgettable, vivid novel of spiritual submission and supernatural power.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "The Place of the Lion" by Charles Williams Continuing Series

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about The Place of the Lion, in which the Platonic archetypes invade the English countryside in the form of gigantic animals, threatening to swallow up all of reality.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "War in Heaven" by Charles Williams First in the Series

Charles Williams was a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and other influential writers of the early 20th century. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about War in Heaven, in which a saintly archdeacon, a poetic duke, and a publisher's clerk race to save the Holy Grail from the three satanists who want to use it to destroy the world.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

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.

Wayward Children Novellas: Part 1

Boarding schools have become a staple in fantasy, but Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children specializes in children that have stumbled into and then out of portals and haven't quite managed to adjust to being back from their adventures. There are three rules at Eleanor West's: No Solicitations, No Visitors, and No Quests.

Explore the first three novellas (Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, and Beneath the Sugar Sky) of the Hugo and Nebula-winning Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire. Join in for a discussion on portal fantasies, children's adventures, and what it can mean to believe in a world you may never see again.
Precepted by Laurel Stevens.

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].