Monday, February 28, 2011

Books For Reading vs. Books For Teaching

One of the great things about teen readers these days is how much speculative fiction they're reading. Any teacher that's conscious can name the titles kids have in their packs:
  • The Lightning Thief series
  • City of Ember series
  • The Hunger Games books
  • The Harry Potter books (of course)
  • The Twilight novels
  • The Uglies series
  • The Eragon series
There are more, of course, but you get the idea. The question is for a teacher, should we consider actually teaching these books? I would argue “No,” and for a couple of good reasons. As a teacher you have limited time to teach, only ± about  180 days, and half that if you're teaching high school. How many books can you teach within this time? This means that you need to be very selective about your books, and it makes sense in this context to choose books that kids are not reading.

Part of what we should be doing with science fiction and fantasy literature is giving kids an education in science fiction and fantasy literature. With that in mind, we should teach some of the more seminal works of the genre, the ones kids aren't regularly reading. Kids who are reading the Twilight series should be taught Dracula. You're into dystopian novels? What about The Time Machine or 1984? You like swords and sorcery? Then let's do The Hobbit.

It's up to the teacher ultimately to choose which books to teach, but what the kids are reading is a good way to determine that choice. If you don't have the luxury of choosing books in this matter, have a class library of the appropriate books ready to hand out to the enthusiastic reader.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

How To Make A Fun “Knighting” Ceremony In Your Classroom

This is a really fun way to end a unit on fantasy literature or medieval history. Here's what you need:
  • Some Gregorian chant music — I use the Chant CD by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos on an iPod attached to powered speakers.
  • Robe or sheet for each student. It works best if they bring in their own.
  • A ceremonial “sword” of some sort. A wooden replica works very well for this.
  • A clear space in your classroom for all the students to kneel.
  • Darkness.
In the days before this event, students will need to chose some sort of chivalric symbol, like a dragon, crow, or tower. This would be fun to do while teaching heraldry. Hand out shield-shaped paper and have the students draw their symbol on it, then decorate the classroom with the shields.

Darken and clear the room before the students enter. Put on the music. Have them put on their robes and drape their sheets over themselves before they come in. If you feel comfortable asking this, have the students leave their shoes at the door.

Students will enter silently and kneel in the clear space in the classroom. Have them kneels silently for a few moments, then tell them about how a young boy would advance from page to squire, then finally to knight. (Make sure you have your research done. Here and here are good webpages with information on knighting ceremonies.) Have students understand that the kneeling part of ceremony was meant to be uncomfortable, although you as a teacher should not push it. Have students kneel as long as they're comfortable.

Once you've taught what you wish to teach, have one student stand and approach you. He/she will kneel in front of you, then you will have him repeat some sort of code of honor. It would be good to make one up appropriate for your school or community. Then ask the student his/her symbol. When you receive the answer, dub the student with the wooden sword on both shoulders, then say, “I now pronounce you Sir (name) of the (student's personal symbol).” If the student is a girl, replace “Sir” with “Dame”. Go through the students one by one, making sure the unknighted ones stay on the floor until they're called.

This is a fun moment for everybody. Students get a feel for what a knighting ceremony feels like and you as a teacher will get mucho cool points from your students. Usually this ceremony takes about 20 minutes, so have something planned for afterward too. A discussion on knighthood or a journal entry might be appropriate.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Teaching the Fun Stuff With Fantasy

I've been a geek all my life. Nothing I can do about it; it's the way I'm wired. This means that, as a child, I must admit to the most shamefully geekish activity of them all: playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons & Dragons, to those of you who know little about it, is a game. In it, you create a character like a fighter or wizard and send this character off into merry adventures created by a person known as the dungeon master. This game was played with graph paper, dice, pens and a whole bunch of game manuals.

For me, one of the best parts of those game manuals was the endless lists of medieval equipment, especially the weapons. I learned about every type of sword, pole arm, and other weapons a medieval knight or soldier might use. So when it came time to actually equip my character (I preferred thieves), I knew exactly what I needed.

(Just as an aside, Dungeons & Dragons got an unsavory reputation in the 1980s for reasons I don't care to go into. Speaking as a person who played the game quiet a bit, what we did was far less violent and much more creative than the typical first-person shooter game enjoyed by a large percentage of teenagers. The focus was always on character, storytelling, and problem-solving, not so much the fighting. Battles were done with dice, not realistic weapons like the computer games, and too much of it got boring. More of this in another post.)

This extensive preview has to do with teaching, trust me! Now let's fast forward in time to the first time I taught the King Arthur stories as a part of the sixth grade curriculum. We were working off of a textbook, which was an edited version of Howard Pyle's King Arthur stories. The story began with a tournament, and the students were very curious about how they worked.

So, using my D&D enhanced knowledge of medieval warfare, combined with some hands-on knowledge of medieval combat courtesy of some medieval reenactments, I told them how tournaments worked. We went through the various weapons, swords, maces, lances, flails, and demonstrated how they were used. The students were spellbound.

Now was this pushing the edge of teaching? Probably. I was talking about weaponry, but from a historic point of view. This talk made medieval combat much more real than any movie or computer game. The kids saw how dangerous these tournaments were, and were glad they only had to face the perils of the lacrosse field. A teacher needs, of course, to be careful with this subject. Knights and armor are fascinating, but we cannot and should not glorify violence. I believe that teaching this also lets kids know how brutal these times were. Sure we view the middle ages with a nostalgic eye, but nobody with common sense would like to live in them. I prefer my life without serfdom, plague, and getting pillaged, thank you very much.

The best teaching moment was when I discussed how effective a flail could be, because the ball-on-chain could wrap around a defender's shield and still hit someone. When a students asked me how I knew that, I answered, “Personal experience.” The kids don't need to know everything!

Who knew my geekish romps into medieval reenactment could be a useful teaching tool? The bigger point is that kids are interested in the nuts and bolts of fantasy and how it works. If the arms and armor thing doesn't interest you, how about medieval food, or clothing, or guilds? Give kids the nitty-gritty details to make these flights of fantasy real. Food is an especially good subject to teach, because kids can make meals themselves. Perhaps you could even hold a medieval feast as the climax of a fantasy unit. We do this at my school, then afterwards the students are “knighted” in a fake ceremony. It's a a lot of fun.

A Great Link For “Star Trek” Information

Star Trek fans are nothing if not obsessive about the details about their show. Teachers might also need a resource for finding out information about this series. I suggest you go to the Star Trek wiki:

Here you will find enough information to out-nerd the most dedicated Star Trek geek.

Why Isn't “Star Wars” Science Fiction?

Star Wars is the first example of science fiction most people think of, but it's barely science fiction. Here's why:

Science fiction is about ideas. It's about the exploration of a concept in science or technology and seeing its effect on society. What is the idea behind Star Wars?

If you ignore the science fiction setting, the Star Wars movies don't deal with science fiction issues very much. They deal with the battle between good and evil, which are differentiated quite clearly. There's very little middle ground. As well, this battle between good and evil is what sets off the action. These movies are much more like a fantasy story in a science fiction setting.

How could I claim that Star Wars is fantasy? The main heroes fight with swords (mostly). The heroes (and a couple of villains) use a magical power to gain an advantage over most of their enemies. At best, the struggle is a conversation about what kind of government is better for a galaxy, a dictatorial bureaucracy or a looser, more democratic system. Interestingly, the movies make a point that the dictatorial bureaucracy is much more efficient than a democracy, an important theme of the three prequel movies where the initial democracy is seen as inefficient and corrupt. Yet this argument tends to fall apart because we never really see what kind of government replaces the empire. At the end of The Return of the Jedi the evil emperor had been defeated, but we don't see what kind of government the rebels replace the empire with.

The best science fiction idea from Star Wars is probably the concept of the Death Star. Unfortunately, the idea of a weapon so strong it can destroy another planet isn't really a new one, nor is presented in a particularly innovative way. A better example of this might be the classic Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine”, where an automated “planet killer” is roaming through our galaxy, munching on planets (and star ships) for fuel. Its hull is impenetrable, which makes it a very difficult thing to kill. It's certainly nothing a lone snub-fighter could destroy, with a precision attack on a stupid design flaw.

Where Star Wars does become science fiction is in its setting, yet I would argue that may not be enough to make it a science fiction story. The different planets in the Star Wars universe are well-researched in terms of their ecosystems. As well, the space ship designs employ a certain wild creativity that makes them fascinating to look at. At best, Star Wars is the kind of science fiction called space opera, a type of science fiction story that emphasizes adventure and romance. We have lots of examples of space opera, from the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon stories to the novels of E.E. “Doc” Smith and the the John Carter, Warlord of Mars books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. These stories are fun but not really “serious” in the same sense of H.G. Wells. Star Wars certainly isn't as goofy as some of the Buck Rogers stories (or as racist), but it shares this genre's focus on melodrama and adventure.

So when you talk about science fiction in your classrooms, keep in mind that the most recognizable example of the genre barely fits within the genre.


The classic Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine”, written by Normal Spinrad.

The Star Wars movies, episodes 4–6, and 1–3 (regretfully)

Is “Star Wars” Science Fiction?


Friday, February 25, 2011

Issues With Teaching “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”

C.S. Lewis's book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a popular book for middle school reading classes as well as a beloved classic of fantasy literature. It has many qualities which make it a great books for young people: magic, talking animals, battle scenes, a frightening villain, and a plucky central character (Lucy). Yet it also has aspects which are either troubling for young readers to understand or may brush up against current cultural barriers. Here we will examine several of them and come up with some good ways of addressing the for young people.

The first problem with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is that it is a Christian allegory. If this book was only taught in Sunday school (which it frequently is) this would present little problem, but since it's also popular in public schools, it needs to be addressed differently. Christianity becomes present in the book in two ways: direct and symbolic, and each needs to be discussed in different ways.

The direct Christian references in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe begin in chapter two when Lucy has her first startling encounter with the faun Mr. Tumnus. He says after his astonished realization that Lucy is a human, “But I've never seen a Son of Adam or a Daughter of Eve before. I am delighted.” Mr. Tumnus could have said, “I've never seen a boy or girl before,” but C.S. Lewis used the biblical language, a reference any alert student will notice.

In a school which is supposed to be secular, how do we address this purely religious reference? I believe the first step is to make sure your students have been introduced to C.S. Lewis's biography. That way they will already have an awareness of his religious transformation from a mostly secular person to a faithful member of the Church of England, a change sparked by Lewis's good friend, the writer J.R.R. Tolkien. This faith became vital to Lewis's, character, giving him inspiration to write several religious-themed books, including The Screwtape Letters and Surprised by Joy. Knowing this, students should already have an awareness of Lewis's religious background and not be surprised by the reference. I suggest that Son of Adam and Daughter of Eve should be taught as poetic references too, taking away emphasis from the purely religious reference.

This mention by Mr. Tumnus does beg an interesting question: does the story of the Bible also extend into Narnia? Narnia is clearly and explicitly “not earth”, so it's odd that an inhabitant of this magical country would be so aware of it. This becomes especially odd when you realize that Narnia is less of a magical land and more of a country on another world, In other countries humans are common and dominant, so much so that the magical animals are considered myth. (See Lewis's The Horse and His Boy for more details on this.)

In chapter 10, Peter, Susan, and Lucy, en route to Aslan's camp with the two beavers, encounter Father Christmas. While I believe Father Christmas's gifts represent a custom that is pretty uncontroversial, he says a couple of things which are troubling. One, a comment about war to Lucy, will be dealt with later, but he also says at the end of the encounter as he pulls away in his sled, “Merry Christmas! Long live the true King!” A younger reader will most likely understand this as a reference to Aslan, but there are a couple of reasons why this is not true. Firstly, if Father Christmas was referring to Aslan, why didn't he just mention the lion's name? (Indeed, in the 2005 film, Father Christmas does proclaim, “Long live Aslan!”) This vagueness also is intended as a reference to Jesus Christ, although a vague one.

Father Christmas proclaiming Aslan as the “true King” is an association that becomes inescapable in chapters 14–15 of the book. Here Aslan exchanges himself for the traitor Edmund and allows himself to be killed on the Stone Table, an ancient sacrificial altar. After Aslan dies and is reborn, an alert reader will draw a parallel between Aslan's death and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The question is, does a teacher make his/her students aware of this? My choice would be to not. While I wouldn't avoid the comparison if an alert student picks it up, that is a point where I as a teacher would begin feeling uncomfortable. At the high school level this discussion might be appropriate not at the middle school level. A discussion of this nature might make some students uncomfortable, which would distract from the actual teaching. That doesn't mean that the subject should be hushed if brought up — that might have the same uncomfortable effect for a Christian student that a discussion of the crucifixion might have for a Jewish student — but the best choice might be to avoid that discussion in class. If a student truly wants to continue the dialog about the religious aspects of the book, a one-on-one discussion might be the best choice to serve the student's needs as well as the class's.

Another issue with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the small amount of sexism. Getting back to the conversation of Father Christmas with little Lucy, when Lucy says, “I think—I don't know— but I think I could be brave enough.” These are brave words coming from a girl about eight years old. Father Christmas's answer is, “That is not the point. But battles are ugly when women fight,” an odd statement considering he had just given Susan a bow and Lucy a dagger.

It could be argued, and probably successfully, that C.S. Lewis was operating out of the gender norms of the day. A good argument for this is that while Lucy, the central character of the book (as well as Prince Caspian), doesn't engage in any actual combat, she does seem to be present during during pretty much all important events in the book. C.S. Lewis himself may not have even cared much for combat; being a veteran and survivor of WW I, that's understandable. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has two climatic moments. One is the resurrection of Aslan, which I have already described, as well as his awakening of the stone statues in the White Witch's castle. The other is the final battle with the Witch's forces, which Peter leads and Edmund assists. The events with Aslan last almost three chapters while the battle itself is two paragraphs long.

Sexism perhaps is there with Lewis excluding the girls from the battle, but the battle itself is almost pro forma. We get no sense of strategy or drama. Indeed, by the time we actually join it, it's almost over. This is no battle of Minis Tirith; it's more like a brief skirmish. Let's also not forget that until Aslan, the girls, and the awakened creatures join the battle, Peter's forces are losing. Edmund himself, after a grand gesture of destroying the Witch's wand, lays dying, only to be saved by Lucy and her magic cordial.

By the next book, Prince Caspian (I refer to the order C.S. Lewis wrote the books, not the chronological order), Susan uses her bow more successfully, beating back two Telmarine soldiers to rescue the dwarf Trumpkin. While nobody is killed in this fight, Susan does make her mark as someone valuable in combat. Is this a relaxing of C.S. Lewis's own prejudice here? The text is unclear, but at least “Susan the Gentle” goes beyond spectator to participant.

The movies The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian do a fair amount of revisionism with this point. Father Christmas's line about girls fighting in wars is taken out completely (as well, the line “Long live the true King!” is replaced with “Long live Aslan!” a change C.S. Lewis would not have appreciated). Susan kills the Witch's unnamed dwarf at the end of the climactic battle with her bow, rescuing her injured brother Edmund. This is perhaps forgivable given the modern viewers. Yet by Prince Caspian, Susan is transformed into a Narnian Artemis, killing several Telmarine soldiers in a scene not in the book.

Now as a teacher, the issue of sexism is perhaps easier to deal with than the overt religious aspects of the novel. Clearly Lewis isn't that interested in combat, so while the overt statement of Father Christmas is sexist from a modern perspective, it doesn't seem like Lewis had any prejudice against women. As well, this could be a convenient jumping off point for a discussion on women in combat, from WW II (the time the book takes place) to now. Women played vital non-combat roles during WW II, which would be an interesting point of comparison to the roles Susan and Lucy play during the book. Sine this issue is still controversial within certain circles, women today can be in the army but bot in active combat roles, I would also recommend printing out any modern article on that debate as a point of discussion.

Further discussions can include women warriors from history and literature. For readers who are already familiar with the third volume of The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, an interesting comparison can be made with Eowyn, the princess of Rohan. She too wishes to fight the enemy and ends up disguising her identity to do so. In a climatic moment when Theoden, the king of Rohan, fights the King of the Nazgul, Theoden is beaten down and wounded badly. Eowyn then faces this powerful evil lord, who taunts the disguised women with the taunt, “Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!” While Eowyn is severely wounded in this clash, she and the hobbit Merry (also not a “man”) defeat the unstoppable Nazgul chieftain.

One wonders if Misters Tolkien and Lewis had had a lively debate on this subject!


The Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis

The Magician's Book: A Skeptics Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller

Teach the “What If” Question: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

As I mentioned in the blog entry, science fiction as a genre is a thought experiment. It is an exploration of one or more aspects of science or technology which asks a “What if…?” question. Let's explore a couple of important science fiction novels to understand this idea.

Jules Verne's classic science fiction novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was written in 1869. It asks the question, “What if a man built a vessel that could go underwater and make war upon other vessels?” He must have been inspired not only by the recent invention of a French submarine, the Plongeur, but also of the clash of the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac during the American Civil War.

A vessel that can travel underwater and attack other ships? What an insane prediction! That could never come true! And, of course, it did, although not entirely the way Verne predicted. The submarine in the novel attacks other ships with a large ram in its nose, not unlike how classical triremes would attack each other. Verne knew, or course, that a modern cannon would not work underwater, but he did not anticipate the invention of the modern torpedo.

Yet Verne's concept of the submarine also included men who would leave the sub in suits with their own oxygen supply. These suits are clumsy and heavy, requiring its user to walk slowly upon the bottom of the ocean instead of swimming, but they are harbingers of a new era of underwater exploration.

What makes this book an interesting case to teach is that it's a case where the author made predictions which have already come to pass. We as modern readers get a unique opportunity to comment on and perhaps criticize Verne's ideas. An enterprising teacher could create a series of slides from submarines from antiquity to modern submarines. (Here's a useful link for that.) One might do the same with underwater suits, from clumsy diving bells to SCUBA and beyond.

Furthermore, students could spend a lesson predicting what vessels of the future would look like and engage in the same type of thought experiment that Verne did. Any type of vessel would be appropriate: cars, ships, submarines, space craft, airplanes, etc. I would suggest in this that you hold your students to a rough sort of scientific scrutiny. Have them take ideas that exist now and predict how they will change, rather than invent ideas that couldn't exist with a violation of the laws of physics. For example, a space ship with a kind of “star drive” that would propel it to other solar systems would be okay, but a space ship that would magically teleport itself would probably not be in the spirit of this assignment.

If you're going to teach this boo, I would also recommend the fun Walt Disney movie of the book. It has some changes from the book, notably Captain Nemo is changed from an Indian to a generic European (James Mason), but it is a faithful reproduction of the spirit of the book. It's a lot a fun, especially during the battle with the giant squid.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Makes Fantasy Fiction, “Fantasy”?

We all know what fantasy fiction is, right? It's those books with the swords, and the wizards, and all that other medieval fighting stuff, right?

Sort of. Fantasy literature doesn't have to take place in a medieval setting, although it commonly does. Fantasy literature isn't about setting; it's about physics.

Yes, you heard that correctly. Fantasy literature is about physics. Specifically, fantasy literature is about a strange exception in physics, existing only in literature. Here, normal laws about motion, gravity, as well as conservation of mass and energy are overcome by a more powerful force: magic. Here, magic is real.

Magic is the critical element in fantasy fiction. Yet one should not assume that magic is, as my students sometimes define it, “the ability to do whatever you want.” Magic has its own rules. These may not be the rules of natural law, but magic in any fantasy novel will have clearly defined limits.

Let's take an example of magical law from popular novels. In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, the four Pevensie children enter the magical land of Narnia. Unfortunately, they are betrayed by the youngest brother Edmund, who was had been charmed by the White Witch with magical Turkish delight on an earlier visit. After being in the Witch's clutches for some time, Edmund is rescued by the forces of good, led by the g0d-like lion Aslan. Yet even after rescue, Edmund isn't safe. At the end of chapter thirteen the Witch returns to Aslan's camp, claiming, “You know the Magic the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill.”

The laws of Narnia must be appeased here or the land will “perish in fire and water.” Yet this law has its own loophole, for after Aslan takes Edmund's place and allows himself to be sacrificed at the ancient Stone Table, the lion returns to life the next day, much to the joy of the two Pevensie girls Lucy and Susan who witnessed the event. Aslan's resurrection also occurs because of these laws. He says to the astonished girls, “She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.” So the same law which constrained Aslan and his forces also provided Aslan with a powerful triumph.

Indeed, the entire book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is an attempt to fulfill a magical rule. The four children learn about a prophecy in a cozy scene in chapter eight in the Beavers' house when Mr. Beaver says to them, “Down at Cair Paravel … there are four thrones and it's a saying in Narnian time out of mind that when two sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve sit on those four thrones, then it will be the end not only of the White Witch's reign but of her life…” The rest of the book is a struggle to make this prophecy come true.

This prophecy does tend to beg the question as how and why a land's revolt against an evil ruler is dependent on the presence of four children from another world, but that's a question that seems to dig at the structure of the book itself, which is about four humans entering a magical land dominated by talking animals. Perhaps in C.S. Lewis's min, humans were the only “creatures” fit or allowed to rule a land. This hints at a certain prejudice of the author, especially since Narnia seems well populated with wise centaurs and intelligent dwarfs. Yet I think this problem can be forgiven when one considers how successful The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is as a novel. Indeed, the rest of the Chronicles of Narnia seem like retreads of this first book. Some are successful in their own right, but none ever quite reaches the height of emotion of the first book.

As you can see, magic is a powerful force in fantasy literature, but it comes with limitations. Exploring the rules of its magic should be an important part of teaching any fantasy novel. While I've discussed C.S. Lewis's book here, this same type of discussion could and should be held for any fantasy you decide to teach. Later blog entries will discuss the magical rules of other fantasy novels. As well, if you have any comments about this idea or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, please make them below.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Teach Science Fiction?

If it's a teacher's job to get a student ready for the real world, what business does he/she have to be teaching books that, on the surface, have little or nothing to do with reality? Why teach speculative literature? This is a valid question, and the answers may be surprising. It might make sense to address fantasy and science fiction differently because, while they both share a certain “unreality”, the genres deal with very different issues.

Science fiction is the literature of the possible. It is a literature that (at its best) examines trends in technology, science and society and extrapolates what might be a result of that literature. It is literature, I like to say, that asks a “What if…” question, then proceeds to answer it.

Of course, this is a description of good science fiction. There's a lot of bad literature, cinema, and TV out there too which has little to say beyond offering a brief, entertaining diversion. The good stuff is what we want to pay attention to as teachers. The science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon is famous for saying:

“I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. are crap. In other words, the claim (or fact) that 90% of science fiction is crap is ultimately uninformative, because science fiction conforms to the same trends of quality as all other artforms.” (Venture Magazine, March 1958)

In other words, 90% of science fiction is lousy, but then again 90% of all art is lousy. As teachers, we have little time to waste with bad science fiction, so we here will stick with the good stuff.

Getting back to the “Why we should teach science fiction” question, there are few forms of art that address our contemporary society and its needs like science fiction can. We live in a science fiction world now. We live in a world where technology is allowing people to do extraordinary things, and science fiction is the literature that deals with the consequences of what we're creating. When the Baltimore-Washington telegraph line was opened in 1844, Samuel Morse's first morse code message was “What hath God wrought?” This quote from Numbers 23:23 asks us all, what kind of world are we making with our technology? Science fiction is a literature that attempts to answer that question.

The Purpose of This Blog

Speculative literature is literature of the fantastic, the unknown. To be more exact, it's a catch-all phrase for fantasy and science fiction literature (and sometimes horror). While literature like this is very popular with young people, it's not taught very often in secondary school. Even when it is taught, it's often not taken as seriously as “realistic” literature.

The purpose of this blog is to be a place where teachers can learn about teaching fantasy and science fiction literature. This will be a place to find resources for teaching it, where teachers can post exciting lesson plans, and where teachers and students can have a lively discussion about the genre.

If you are a teacher of this kind of literature, I would love to post your exciting lesson plans, interesting literature selections, and dynamic projects. If you would like to post an entry, please e-mail Ian Berger with your idea.

One goal of this blog is to be very useful by teachers. I will be very careful with the search categories on the blog so teachers can search for specific book, commentary, reviews, etc. As this blog grows, there will be more and more information here to aid your teaching.