Why Science Fiction? Why do feminists write it? Why do they read it? We call it SF and that stands also for Speculative Fiction, for Speculative Feminisms, for Speculative Fabulation. Worlding is at stake. You might say this is the beginning of something we could call "Complexity Studies." World crafting is a special skill that we will explore in this class, learning how feminist SF shares it across intertextualities in forms of transmedia storytelling. And worlding and human flourishing are at the heart of the issues of complexity we will be exploring. 

We will be exploring too concepts of transmedia storytelling, cultural production, and media ecologies. SF belongs complexly in all of these, and we will be continually figuring out how this is the case for SF and for other kinds of writing and thinking as well. Such “new materialities” are making changes in what feminisms see and shape. Individuals and groups will be able to practice immersion in specific and favorite SF possibilities. You will get to choose about half of your reading and share your discoveries with the rest of us. We will have some core class texts though, ones we will hold in common.

All students please do come to office hours to just talk. I want to get to know each of you personally! This should be a very fun class, demanding I hope in the most satisfying ways, and full of comradeship and excitement. I want to know how the class is working for you, what touches and excites you, how your projects are going. So please make a point of coming to office hours and social hours and conversations with Irene and opening up conversations!

Let me know in office hours or after class when you need help, or any special accommodations, the sooner the better. Folks with disabilities or who need time from class to observe religious holidays, please contact Katie ASAP to make any arrangements necessary.

how the class will be organized

This will be a media and technology intensive course. So-called constructionist learning and collaboration open up our analysis of interconnections among SF and feminist media worlds and the cognitive structures and ecologies they alter and interact with. Bring your own laptop, netbook or iPad if you can, to connect across media, to become increasingly savvy about web resources, and to use data visualizations and virtual environments for cognition and collaboration. Throughout the course we will share resources for all these. Of course, all uses of electronic media during class should be class related. You may be asked during class to search for materials on the web and share them during seminar, or otherwise participate in class activities using your electronic media. Be prepared to respond quickly and appropriately, and to demonstrate that your use of electronic media is for class and even allows you to attend more intensively and creatively.

The course will involve both taking things in, absorbing them and learning to put them in context; and also actively using what we come to know, sharing it others, thinking on one's feet, brainstorming and speculating, figuring out how it all fits together. Both require careful preparation before class and keeping up with the reading. Some educators call these forms passive and active learning. One can take in and absorb more complicated stuff than one can work with and work out, at least at first. We do both in the class, but we also realize that active learning requires patience and imagination, a bit of courage to try things out without knowing something for sure yet, and a willingness to play around with being right and wrong, guessing and a lot of redoing.

The website for our entire class is located at: http://femsfwmst.blogspot.com/ 
This is where graphics, mini-lecture materials and notes, communications and assignment help, and other vital class information and presentations are displayed. You can complete your assignments properly only if you stay very familiar with this website. Bookmark it immediately! Plan on visiting our blog site and reading email every couple of days, and not just a few minutes before class. These are class requirements. If you have any difficulties getting access to these resources come and talk to me as soon as possible. Any announcements about cancellations due to weather or other considerations, and general class requirements will be sent out on coursemail and you need to see them quickly. To get help go to OIT's Help Desk at the Computer and Space Sciences Building, Rm. 1400, or checkout the help desk webpage at: http://www.helpdesk.umd.edu/

Get to know everyone in the class, share contact information, and support each other if in emergencies anyone must be absent with class notes and discussion. Everyone should also have several class buddies too. We will introduce ourselves early in the semester, and buddies can help each other brainstorm projects, edit each others’ work, provide feedback before assignments are due, and help each other work in drafts, starting projects early and completing them in good time.

We will create our own SF cons twice during the semester. Those who have been to cons will help us out here, although these class cons will be a hybrid version of course. During part of each con paper and poster assignments will be presented poster conference style. That means that some people will be presenting their work in various parts of the room, all at the same time, while other class members wander around the room, interacting with them as they discuss their projects. Katie will also wander around, giving folks immediate feedback on their work. After we spend time doing this, we will move into collective discussion and engagement all together. For more on SF fan cons, see the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_convention ) and online materials on WisCon, the yearly international feminist SF con (http://wiscon.info/index.php ).

There are two, somewhat different, sf feminisms classes this term. We may want to combine our class cons, and/or we may want to invite folks outside class to one or both cons. We will discuss these options in class and come up with arrangements that each and both classes agree to. The point here is to find out what everyone thinks will be the most fun!

How are the two classes different? • This course is a joint women’s studies and English course with mostly upper division students. It takes feminisms a bit more for granted, and its focus is on feminist understandings of cultural production, with an eye to transmedia storytelling.  • The honors version has students from all years, first year through to seniors finishing up, and offers honors credit. Science fiction feminisms are understood in the contexts of design fiction, and as offering itself its own context for design fiction.

How are the two classes the same? Both classes have the same core books for common reading, both courses have cons at the same time and with the same themes and assignments, and many of the threads of each are found in both, although sometimes at a different point in the semester. Both classes will be attending UMD’s Complexity Conference too. You are welcome to look at the website of the other course (go to Katie’s website: http://katiekin.weebly.com/, click Teaching, and see the link to the other class’ website there). Irene Xue, our TA is only attending this course but is the TA for both, and Conversations with Irene or Katie’s social hours include folks from both classes. Folks from both are invited to participate in activities in Second Life, mentored by Irene.

graded assignments: paper, poster, learning analysis, logbook

Four kinds of assignments are required in this class: • a paper (and a handout), • a poster (with digital picture), • a final learning analysis, and • a logbook.

The first three allow you to position the work for the class in various frameworks, or knowledge worlds. In each of these you will work on research, analysis, and critical thinking. Some of this will be in traditional academic forms, some in emerging scholarly practices, but it is possible to combine these also with the techno-crafty delights cons have always shown off as well. And papers and poster projects maybe be done with partners or individually, as you choose.

The logbook will help you organize your projects: when you started them, how many drafts you completed, who you worked with, where you are in what you have done, and what still needs to be done. It will be turned in four times during the semester (the first in time for early warning grades), and you won’t get credit for any assignments until the final version is turned in on the last day of class with the final version of the learning analysis. The paper and poster each count for 1/3 of your grade, and the learning analysis and logbook together count for the final 1/3.

Posters and papers (with handouts) are shared in one or the other of two class workshops. For each con you will do either a paper or a poster. Which one you will do when will be determined by lot. You cannot get full credit for either assignment until after you also present them in the con sessions, and participate in follow-ups. In other words, just the written paper or the poster does not in itself complete the assignment. If an emergency or illness kept you from participation either or both days that week, to get full credit you will have to meet with three other students to share your work and their work outside class, and write up the experience and what you learned from it to complete the participation portion of that grade. SO DO NOT MAKE OTHER PLANS FOR THOSE DAYS: BUILD THEM CAREFULLY INTO YOUR SCHEDULE FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE TERM! Put them into your logbook from the beginning so that attending them will always be at the forefront of your term plans. This is also true of the final day of class, when you discuss your learning analysis with everyone else. Full credit for the learning analysis also requires attendance and participation on that last day.

Cons and themes 

FemCriticon: SF Media ecologies, feminisms and cognitions 

Week of 12 March: 

For FemCriticon you will create either a paper (with enough handouts for each member of the class) or poster (which one determined by lot) in order to explore the political, intellectual, creative, and cognitive ecologies that interconnect transmedia storytelling in science fiction feminisms.

You will choose at least one of the three texts on sf ecologies, one from our sf textualities list, and any one or more other books you might choose with an eye to a smart intertexual “bundle” or set. (We will be experimenting with this idea of intertextual bundles starting out on the first day of class!) You will come up your own topic that explores how sf feminisms help us think about ecologies of cognition – how play, learning, and the kind of thinking media science fictions entail are interconnected in ways feminists might care about. NOTICE that you may need to do some additional reading and research. Always make a point of connecting projects to class readings and lectures.

Whileaway: Worlding and feminist SF 

Week of 23 April:

For Whileaway you will create either a paper or poster (which determined by lot earlier, whichever one you did not do for FemCriticon) in order to explore feminist processes of worlding. You will do some research on the concept of worlding, and choose a bundle of at least five SF texts to explore for their abilities to address feminist concerns through worlding practices.

You nay want to use the web to follow-up or look in greater detail at the kinds of worldings feminisms explore today and ways all of these are promoted in popular and scholarly media. Always make a point of connecting projects to class readings and lectures.

Remix additions: flip cameras at WMST: Papers and posters may include a range of media creativities, in addition to their analytic aspects. Media fandoms are known for creative work: drawing, mashups, remix, vids, machinima, and more. Any of these may be ADDED to a project if you like. Women’s Studies now has a library of flip cameras for video projects, and you can check one out for a week at a time on a first come, first served basis. Notice that these techno-crafty things are enhancements to the basic project, not a substitute for one, or the only platform! They must be accompanied by a paper or poster no matter what. This is an opportunity to enjoy media learning in alternative forms, but these additions are entirely at your own discretion and pleasure!

Exploring these topics and themes as if at a con means that by attending and listening we will all benefit from the hard work of everyone. Notice that both sorts of projects in both cons should be begun several weeks ahead of their due dates. Not only do you need this time to do any additional research or reading, but to get good grades you need to • write papers in at least three drafts, and • plan out posters carefully to demonstrate both the results of your research and also how you got to those results.

Obviously attending class faithfully and taking good notes will make all this work a lot easier. Lecture materials are displayed on the class website, to be reviewed at any time. In college courses ALWAYS use your projects to demonstrate how you uniquely put together, or synthesize, class readings, mini-lectures and discussion. Make a point of displaying that you are doing all the reading and attending all the classes. Doing this clearly and carefully will demonstrate that this is your own work, and ensure your credit for honesty and for real engagement with the course.

Wondering how grades are determined? What they mean? 

A work is excellent, unusually creative and/or analytically striking
B is fine work of high quality, though not as skilled, ambitious, or carefully presented as A
C is average work fulfilling the assignment; should not be hasty, or insufficiently collaborated
D work is below average or incomplete; shows many difficulties or cannot follow instructions
F work is not sufficient to pass; unwillingness to do the work, or so many difficulties unable to complete

Remember, you can always talk to Katie about grades and your evaluation concerns during office hours anytime.

what to do when you must unavoidably miss class, perhaps for illness:  

TALK TO AT LEAST TWO CLASS BUDDIES IMMEDIATELY. Before you even come back to class, call them up or email them and find out if any thing you need to plan for is happening the day you return, and make sure that you know about any changes in the syllabus. Try to have done the reading and be as prepared as possible to participate in class and with your projects when you return.
MAKE A DATE TO MEET WITH CLASS BUDDY TO GET NOTES AND DISCUSS WHAT WENT ON IN CLASS WHILE YOU WERE GONE. You are responsible for what happened in class while you were gone. As soon as possible, get caught up with notes, with discussions with buddies and finally with all the readings and assignments. Always talk with class buddies first. This is the most important way to know what went on when you were gone and what you should do.
AFTER YOU HAVE GOTTEN CLASS NOTES AND TALKED ABOUT WHAT WENT ON IN CLASS WITH BUDDIES, THEN MAKE APPOINTMENT TO SEE KATIE. If you just miss one class, getting the notes and such should be enough. But if you've been absent for more than a week, be sure you make an appointment with Katie, and come in and discuss what is going on. She wants to know how you are doing and how she can help. Or, while you are out, if it's as long as a week, send Katie email at katking@umd.edu and let her know what is happening with you, so she can figure out what sort of help is needed. You may need to contact team member as well.
IF YOU ARE OUT FOR ANY EXTENDED TIME be sure you contact Katie. Keep her up to date on what is happening, so that any arrangements necessary can be made. If you miss too much class you will have to retake the course at another time. But if you keep in contact, depending on the situation, perhaps accommodations can be made. Since attendance is crucial for the process of this special course and thus for your final grade LET KATIE KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING so that she can help as much and as soon as possible.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN EXCUSED ABSENCE AND ANYTHING ELSE: generally speaking you are only allowed to make up work you missed if you have an excused absence. That the absence is excused does not mean you are excused from doing the work you missed, but that you allowed to make it up. I usually permit people to make up any work they miss, and do not generally require documentation for absences. Be sure to give explanations in your logbook and do make up all work you have missed.

Check our class website for a copy of these instructions.


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