The Idea

Teaching science fiction at university level has its challenges. One needs to convince the higher ups of the overall benefit, one has to newly organize both lecture and reading material, and one has to prove to students that SF is not just a fluke of a topic but really needs serious academic work. So, as with many other courses in popular culture (which share the same problems), not many get taught at university, especially not in Hamburg, where I teach. But what if, like me, you love science fiction and want to share it with as many people as possible? Well, you develop an idea and roll with it. After having taught a course called “A Survey of American Science Fiction” and a course focused on “Cyberpunk and Cyberspace”, I wanted to go broader and have real expert opinions in my classroom. I wanted to teach an “SF 101” course introducing the topic, but I also wanted a lecture series on science fiction done by those who know best about it. Which leaves us with logistics: I was faced with the problem of how to get as many as thirteen colleagues to speak in person here in Hamburg. That was surely not going to happen – financial crisis and cut-backs would see to it. To me, the answer was obvious: why not get my experts to speak wherever they were and still have them present where my students were – A Virtual Introduction to Science Fiction was born. But why stop at one course and one university? If the lectures are transmitted via video conference, they most certainly can be recorded and published on the internet. Now not only my students could benefit from expert knowledge, but everyone can: lecturers, teachers, students, and fans. By collecting the lectures, editing them for publication, adding bonus materials and making teachable sessions out of them, everyone can teach sf or learn about sf online.

The Course

The groundwork for this website has been done for a course, offered in the American Studies Program of the University of Hamburg, titled “A Virtual Introduction to Science Fiction”, which took place from April 3rd to July 10th 2012 and consisted of thirteen original lectures. The course, as well as the online teaching platform were supported by an eLearning grant provided by the University called “Seminare ans Netz“. This website would not have been possible without this financial support. My gratitude thus goes to the central eLearning office of the University of Hamburg and to my student assistants Julia and Steven for help in editing, recording and all sorts of logistics. The original lectures (comprising the syllabus of the course) were:

  • 03.04. – What is SF? Some Thoughts on Genre – John Rieder (University of Hawaii)
  • 10.04. – Proto-SF (History of SF up to 1900s) – Brian Stableford (Independent Scholar)
  • 17.04. – The Rise of the Pulps (1900s-1930s) – Zahra Jannessari (University of Teheran)
  • 24.04. – The Golden Age of SF (1940s-1950s) – Gary Westfahl (University of La Verne)
  • 08.05. – The New Wave of SF (1960s-1970s) – Ed Carmien (Mercer County CC)
  • 15.05. – Cyberpunk (1980s-1990s) – Pawel Frelik (University of Lublin)
  • 22.05. – Slipstream and Crossovers (2000s) – Doug Davis (Gordon College)
  • 05.06. – SF as Film Genre 1895 – 1960s: from Early Film to Modern Cinema – Alfredo L. Suppia (Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil)
  • 12.06. – SF and New Hollywood (1970s-2000s) – Mark Bould (University of the West of England)
  • 19.06. – Feminism in Science Fiction – Ritch Calvin (SUNY Stony Brook)
  • 26.06. – Race in Science Fiction – Lisa Yaszek (Georgia Institute of Technology)
  • 03.07. – Fandom in Science Fiction – Robin Reid (Texas A&M University Commerce)
  • 10.07. – New Media Forms of Science Fiction – Stefan Hall (Defiance College)

Additional Lectures

I have been really overwhelmed by the help and support of colleagues from around the world, and thus in addition to the original course lectures many more have offered to give lectures, which will be added to the website as soon as we can manage recording and editing them.

Some have already been added:

    • SF and Poststructuralism – Sandor Klapcsik (University of Jyvaskyla)
    • Apocalyptic SF – Allan Weiss (York University Toronto)
    • German SF – Sonja Fritzsche (Illinois Wesleyan University)
    • Military SF Film – Steffen Hantke (Sogang University Seoul)
    • Argentinean SF – Silvia Kurlat Ares (Independent Scholar)

Others are still awaiting their recording:

  • Transhumanist SF – Agnieszka Malek (University of Wroclaw)
  • Canadian SF – Dominick Grace (University of Western Ontario)
  • Space Opera – John Clute (Encyclopedia of SF/Independent Scholar)
  • Russian SF – Anindita Banerjee (Cornell University)
  • Brazilian SF – Elizabeth Ginway (University of Florida)
  • Utopia and SF – Peter Sands (University of Wisconsin)

Interested to participate?

As you can tell by the outline given here and the general structure of this website, the efforts to enhance this site, to further teaching of science fiction, we could always use more material. If you are an expert on a specific topic of science fiction and would like to provide a lecture in a specific national literature, a specific medium or with focus on topics we have overlooked so far, please contact me via email and we will find a way to place your expertise as a teaching pod in here as well.


MLA Citation for this page:
Schmeink, Lars “Overview”. Web Page. A Virtual Introduction to Science Fiction. 
Ed. Lars Schmeink. Web. 2012.<http://virtual-sf.com/?page_id=2>.

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