Cyberpunk literature class looks at heavy subjects through the lense of science fiction

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Rakshak Adhikari

Staff Writer

Troy students interested in contemporary science fiction can take a selected topics online class on Post-Colonial/Post-cyberpunk novels offered by the Department of English.

Jonathan Lewis, an associate professor of English and the instructor for the course, said it is an intense nine-week class with a heavy reading load that focuses on works published after the age of “high cyberpunk” — after about 1988.

Lewis said the course is expected to enhance close reading skills and recognizing broad patterns and connections in reading.

According to Lewis, the course also includes several texts readers may consider vulgar and profane. The text will include themes like sexual assault, prostitution, child abuse, incest and genocide, some of which readers my find troubling and even objectionable.

“It is the reality of the works,” Lewis said. “Since 1945, we have been living in a post genocidal world and the greater awareness of personal level of abuse are being more and more commonly understood, and to pretend that those topics are not a part of contemporary science fiction is naïve.”

Sierra Behring, a senior interdisciplinary studies major from Chesapeake, Virginia, said she chose to take the selected topics course because she enjoyed taking classes from the same professor in the science fiction genre.

According to Behring, while these novels include tough material, they are able to address some of the most atrocious behavior and societal depravity in a way that pushes discussion and casts vision.

“Sci-fi is a great way to imagine the future in both the good and the bad,” Behring said. “If I don’t like the way the bad is portrayed, then becoming active in topics of civil rights, environmentalism and government are a good place to start.”

Marcella Reynolds, a senior English major from Sacramento, California, said that as a black female, the discussion of African-futurism drew her to this class.

“What is really crazy is the more horrific the reading assignments became, my intrigue only heightened,” Reynolds said. “I loved these readings because I could imagine myself in the most horrific battles, yet emerging victorious.

“All of these readings show the marginalized breaking through impossible situations and coming out stronger.”

According to James Davis, an assistant professor of English who also specializes in science fiction literature, there is always talk about how science fiction is valuable for predicting where mankind is going in the future.

“Well, that does happen occasionally, but as Ursula LeGuin (a science fiction and fantasy author) said, ‘Science fiction is not about predicting the future; it is about examining the world we are living in now,’” Davis said.

According to Davis, the value of examining mankind and his problems by setting the stories in another reality, a reality without the obscuring prejudices and clichés we use in our everyday lives, is one of clarity.

The course is offered every year in Term 3, and the only prerequisite is a grade of C or better in English 1102.

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