The best way to engage analytically with the readings is to write regularly about them. As we will see in the course of the semester, the science-fiction community itself developed partly through the publication of readers’ written discussions of SF stories in the pulp magazines themselves: “fandom” is not just a readership but also a group of writers or everyday critics who are known to one another. In this course, you join this tradition of public reader discussions of science-fiction stories. We will not be making our own pulp magazines, but we will be using one of the closest equivalents our own time offers—the medium of the communal blog.
In this course, you will be required to write eight blog entries. Your required entries should not be mini-essays. They should be thoughtful comments on a prompt I will give in class the week before the assignment is due. A typical entry might run for a paragraph. More is fine. The best entries will usually quote one of the readings. One of the best uses we can make of the blog is as a communal record of passages from the readings that seemed particularly important to us.
The class will be divided into two groups. Each group will be required to write six times, on the dates listed on the syllabus. You must also choose at least two additional weeks to respond to the prompt given to the other group.
I will blog too from time to time. You are warmly encouraged to write more than required. Another great use of the blog is to include links to interesting material you find Out There.
The SF community has not historically been the most inclusive. It has often been conflict-ridden. Our own writing community must not be these things. Write with respect for one another, and be mindful that you are doing required work for the course.
Getting set up to post
Before you begin posting, you must choose a pseudonym. The course blog is meant to be an extension of the safe space of the classroom, but it is also on the public Internet.
Once you log in, you must edit your profile. Click the “Howdy, your name here!” text at the top right of the “menu bar” on the page.
Fill in a pseudonym for yourself in the blank next to “nickname,” then choose to “Display name publicly as” your nickname. If you are completely stumped for a pseudoynm, use your initials (that’s what I did).
Then save your nickname by clicking “Update Profile” at the bottom of the page.
It is essential that you refer to other students on the blog only by their pseudonyms.
Once you are set up, you can start adding to the blog.
Adding a blog post
To add a post, you must be logged in. If you do not see the dark menu bar at the top of your browser window when you go the blog site, log in again using the Log in link to the right of the page. When you have logged in, you can write a new post by clicking the “+ New” link in the menu bar at the top of the page:
You can write your blog post in the WordPress post editor. You can also draft in a text editing program and then paste the text into the WordPress editor. Do not use Microsoft Word to prepare the text for copying into the blog. Pasting from Word will produce many formatting problems. Use a text editor, not a word processor: text editors are programs like TextEdit or TextWrangler on Macs and Notepad or Notepad++ on Windows (all free).
Once you have prepared your post, you must add metadata to the post. This means:
- adding a title;
- making sure the post “category” is set to “Regular entry”;
- tagging the post with as many labels as you like. At the very least, tag the post with the last names of any authors you discuss.
- When your post is ready, click “Publish.”
Commenting and blogging more
You are welcome to comment on other students’ blog entries and to blog more than is required. Label additional posts with the category “Commentary” and any tags you wish. Please remember that this is work for a class and that your comments must be appropriate to the classroom setting.
You are most welcome to write in ways that respond to what others have already written. You are not welcome to present other people’s work as your own. If you are working from someone else’s idea—or a passage someone else has quoted—you must attribute what you are using. Remember to refer to the author by their chosen pseudoynm.
Individual blog entries are graded credit/no credit. Any sincere effort to respond to the assignment will pass. You will receive no credit for an entry that is not posted when I check the blogs.
As the syllabus indicates, this assignment counts for 10% of your final grade and is graded on the four-point scale as follows:
- 4.0 (A) for 7 or 8 credits.
- 3.0 (B) for 6 credits.
- 2.0 (C) for 5 credits.
- 0 (F) for 4 or fewer credits.