When I came up for the idea of this project, I thought it too good to be true. An entire semester, reading books weekly that I already want to read casually anyways? Man, these blog posts are going to be easy!
Naturally, I was a little naïve to think it would be that simple. After the 15 weeks, I realize with so much more clarity just how interesting and layered the scholarship surrounding science fiction is. Taking myself out of the mindset of reading for fun and putting myself in the mindset of analyzing was far more difficult than I anticipated. Especially when it is impossible to stop reading these books for fun! Almost every novel on the docket had at least one section or chapter that made me think, “Wow! No way!”, proceeding to fly through the pages to see what happens next instead of pouring over what we in the business call “literary devices”. Bo-oring. (Joking, joking, please put your pitchforks down.)
If there is something I could change with my approach to this semester, I would have perhaps made it a requirement that each week I present a thesis I could argue / defend in my blog posts. Some of my posts I felt have been a little aimless, vague, or just general. The blog format made it difficult to synthesize secondary sources into them—or rather, the length of the posts made it easy for me to shirk introducing secondary sources.
That said, I am proud of myself for reading 10 novels and 14 short stories over the span of the semester alongside my other courses. I will not say that there is a shortage of people who take science-fiction seriously, for after this semester I have read much more scholarship on the topic than I thought existed. I, have, however, changed my opinion from, “I hate how many people think science fiction is just spaceships and robots,” to, “Wow, who could ever think science-fiction is bad because it has spaceships and robots?” Because it is never just a spaceship, or just a robot. New Wave science fiction is a banquette of extended metaphor, bursting imagination and creativity, and holds important commentary on many issues we think to be newly burgeoning, “modern issues”. Really, issues such as colonization, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism—just because some believe they see more vocalization about them now does not make them modern issues. Not only did I see and recognize (even empathize) with the material, but I am now convinced that most everyone would benefit from reading more from the New Wave.
I was pleased to have read so many female authors this semester: Le Guin, Kavan, Russ, and Tiptree. While it is still a considerably smaller proportion of the authors in full (I think of Delany’s 70/30 statement), I was glad to read from women in the “Gender and Sexuality” project. I wish I had incorporated at least one female author of color, and I was thinking of Octavia Butler, but unfortunately her career began a little after the New Wave ended. That is not too much of an excuse, though, and I realize that my reading list is overwhelmingly white. If I ever did a project like this again, I would dig deeper to make a more inclusive, more international lineup of authors.
I see, too, now that “Gender and Sexuality” in itself is a very broad scope, as silly as that may sound. Some of the novels were a little difficult to approach through that lens, for at a certain point I felt as though I was writing, “Of course it’s about gender. How could it not be?” instead of making a conscious argument of something new. Still, having this angle in mind while reading lead for some interesting outcomes. For instance, it was interesting to think of Solaris with the implications of Kelvin and Harey’s male-female dynamic as well as widowed husband and ex-wife.
Overall, I think this project was a success, albeit maybe a messy one. I have never done anything in this format before, and I believe that those rough edges show. However, that being said, including this reflection I wrote over 11,000 words worth of analysis, and that is more than I can say if I attempted to write a research paper on the same topic! With MLA format (Times New Roman, 12 pt font, double spaced) the posts span 35 full pages, and I am not unhappy with that. Not unhappy at all.
For those of you who have read this project, thank you! Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for enjoying science fiction.