Anne-Sophie at UEA

An International Student of Literature in England.

New Worlds: Science Fiction and Beyond, Project

Yesterday was a day I’d been looking forward to since the beginning of the semester, the project conference organised for the very amazing module I have mentioned in almost every article published since January. I am obviously talking about “New Worlds: Science Fiction and Beyond”!

The way in which the module was organised worked perfectly: like for Cultures of Suburbia, we studied our texts and films in the first 9 or 10 weeks. After that, the rest of the module is dedicated to working on our projects. Yesterday (week 11, the first week back after the Easter break), both groups gathered with both seminar leaders, Matt Taunton and Jake Huntley, to do short presentations about our project ideas – not matter how vague or developed. I love this system and think that it works very well, firstly because it forces you to think about your ideas early, secondly because it helps you organise your arguments, and finally because you can get some feedback from your peer or seminar leaders. In the next two weeks  (also the last ones, sad sad sad), we will work in small groups and meet up to discuss our progress… Before the deadline.

Another thing that was really cool about this conference, apart from the fact that calling it a “conference” feels classy and professional, was the fact that we were all put into different panels based on our ideas or the books we want to study in our projects.

Seeing the variety of ideas people have come up with was amazing and I found all the presentations really interesting! Now I really want to read everybody’s essays when they’re done. However, this variety didn’t surprise me at all because of how varied the texts studied throughout the semester were. Projects focus on time, space, politics, feminism, fate, free will, animals, robots…

So I guess it’s time for me to talk about my idea – but I’ll keep very brief because I don’t know if it’s okay for me to talk about this now before the deadline (paranoid me doesn’t want someone to copy what I’m postinghere) and also because at the time I am writing this article, I’m freezing and falling asleep on the sofa (I woke up at 7:30 and started working at 9 this morning, I impress myself more and more every day!).

Right! Halfway through the semester, I became slightly obsessed with the theme of evolution in several (most?) texts we read for the seminar. My first idea was therefore to write an essay on evolution and Darwinism. I didn’t know how far this would take me but I kept this idea in mind, which is why I did all my formative assessments on Darwinism – which turned out to be super useful and interesting.

But then, I think that’s after I watched Blade Runner for the second time with my housemate, I realised I wanted to include it in my essay too (although I thought the film itself was average, I love the themes and concerns it raises). With that in mind and after we did the week on “insects” I decide to do one essay about everything.

That was both a good idea and a terrible mistake. Let me explain: as usual, I start with my usual basic idea and then crippling self-doubt gets into my mind. “Oh no, I will never manage.” “My ideas are shit and there is never going to be enough to write a 5,000 words essay.” So I did a TON of research. I took everything I could find that seemed relevant out of the library, spent days going through these books, found lots of essays and articles online too, copied all the quotes I found useful and ideas I had. I ended up with a Word document that’s over 40 pages long. Obviously, I wasn’t going to use 40 pages of quotes in my project but all this research was really helpful and gave me so many ideas! I sometimes feel like the amount of further reading I do is useless (it’s not) and ridiculous (it is) but without all this I probably wouldn’t have had ideas in the first place. 

By that point I’d decided to use evolution and Darwinism as a starting point to investigate the questions of “becoming Other,” posthuman, and animals (the vegetarian side of me couldn’t miss this opportunity!). But since I had Blade Runner to include too, I decided to use “anxiety” as a framework to englobe everything, talk about possible new forms of life and challenge the boundary between human, animal and machine.

In the end, my project title is: ‘Becoming “Other”: evolution, metamorphosis and posthumanism.’ I’m quite happy with it so I doubt I will change it now.

Works studied: The Time Machine, The Food of the Gods, The Incredible Shrinking Man, ‘The Metamorphosis,’ The Fly and Blade Runner.

Throughout the essay, I kept two ideas in mind: that Science Fiction is a medium for socio-political criticism (or SF as a new ‘social realism’) and that confrontations with the ‘Other’ (outside or within) forces us, as readers or viewers, to re-evoluate our position – whether this be on an evolutionary scale, on earth (compared to other species), or in the universe (philosophical approach).

As planned, I managed to get the first draft of this essay done before the end of the Easter break which I’m very happy about! It took me ages though because working at home is impossible. So many plans, people to see, places I wanted to go too, the sunshine, the beach… Part of it was even written on a road trip in the car, not the best place to work but four hours is a long time (I miraculously managed to write something decent AND avoided to vomit in the car!)

As you can imagine and thanks to my foreshadowing… there was no way this project was only going to be 5,000 words long (+ or – 10%). My first finished draft was 8,500 words long. Yep. I just wanted to cry inside (and still do, a bit). My essays always end up being way too long but this is a new record. After editing it (almost only rephrasing stuff and removing all the useless words and repetition), it’s now ‘only’ 7,000 words long. I know what you’re thinking: just delete one part? …YES BUT WHICH ONE?! I find all of theme relevant, but I’m thinking maybe The Food of the Gods because it’s the novel I enjoyed the least. For now, I’m in complete denial about the fact that I’m going to get rid of one of my ‘babies.’ I’ll see if I can find a way to keep all my parts but for now I think I just need to step away from it and I’ll send it to some friends for feedback about which part they think should be removed.

This is it for today, this article was supposed to be very short and it isn’t: now you see why my essays end up being way too long!

I know the semester isn’t quite over yet but it is in a way, especially now that the Conference is over. I already miss Science Fiction seminar so much but I’m so glad I got this module! I’d recommend it to literally everyone. Do it! And also super happy I discovered a new genre that I love and authors I want to explore in the future (particularly Wells, Ballard, Vonnegut). This module reminded me what it felt like to be genuinely excited to open a book and read! 🙂 

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