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Combine the literary theory of science fiction and fantasy with the study of their language and rhetoric, their various forms and subgenres and their place in the publishing industry on this interdisciplinary Masters course.
- Become an expert in one of the fastest growing areas of popular culture
- Gain a unique qualification with the only MA of its kind in England
- Explore a variety of fields including literature, film and television, linguistics and creative writing
- Our flexible blended learning allows you to study online with intensive on-campus study in Cambridge in September
The study of science fiction and fantasy is over 75 years old and for much of that time has been the domain of English literature specialists. Over the past twenty years, however, strong work has emerged from specialists in film, television, art, publishing and linguistics.
Our MA Science Fiction and Fantasy will introduce you to contemporary work in these genres across a range of media. You’ll benefit from networking and career-building opportunities with professionals in the industry who will give you insight into how materials in these genres are produced and disseminated to their fans.
You will consider science fiction and fantasy as products shaped by interactions between the entertainment industry, reviewers and critics as well as their own fans. By analysing how the boundaries of these genres have been established, policed, challenged and extended, you will learn to apply your own theories to a range of popular works – and produce your own original writing.
Your studies will be supported by our team of published writers and experts in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, including the Course Leader, World Fantasy Award winning author Dr Helen Marshall (Gifts for the One Who Comes After), Dr Una McCormack (Star Trek – The Missing; Doctor Who: An Eye for Murder), Dr Martin Zeilinger (co-director of the Toronto-based Vector Game Art & New Media Festival), and Honorary Associate Fellow, John Clute(Appleseed; Pardon This Intrusion: Fantastika in the World Storm; The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction).
All your modules will be delivered through blended learning. Each will begin with a period of guided reading, with your personal studies supported by online forums, discussions, tutorials and other resources on our Learning Management System. You will also attend one week of on-site, intensive teaching for each module. This includes lectures, seminars, workshops, student presentations and student-led discussions. For the rest of your studies, you will receive tutorial support via email or Skype.
At the end of the course, you will undertake a Major Project. This can be a conventional academic project or a creative piece with critical commentary – the choice is yours.
Our MA Science Fiction and Fantasy is developed with working professionals in mind. It will help you develop the critical skills and the industry know-how for a career working with literature, film and art in roles such as publisher, agent, writer, teacher or librarian.
MODULES & ASSESSMENT
Critical Theory: Science Fiction and FantasyThis module will introduce you to major critical and theoretical debates in these two fields. Genre theory is a key context for this module, and you will examine how the boundaries of science fiction and fantasy have been established, policed, challenged and extended, and also gain an understanding of the development of key subgenres, for example post-apocalyptic fiction, space opera and urban fantasy. You will gain familiarity with a range of terms, tropes and processes particularly associated with these genres, such as the novum, the multiverse and primary/secondary worlds. The module will chart significant developments in science fiction and fantasy; these include the British ‘New Wave’, Cyberpunk and magic realism. These genres have increasingly become a battleground for different ideological perspectives, and you will explore the way in which science fiction and fantasy have negotiated issues such as sexuality, gender identity, race, colonialism, disability, posthumanism, politics and religion. You will first be required to carry out independent preparatory reading, which will be supported by tutorials using email and Skype. You will then attend an intensive study week, before working independently on your assignment with guidance from tutors via email and Skype. Upon successful completion of the module you will have gained an extensive knowledge of the history of science fiction and fantasy, and of the theoretical debates most relevant to a study of the genres. The module is assessed through a 1000-1500-word critical review and a 5000-word essay.
Publishing: The Making of GenresThis module presents and explores the unique sector of science fiction publishing, an anomaly within the industry which conforms to its own set of traditions and expectations. You will explore the history of science fiction publishing whilst considering and investigating key industrial issues in effectively developing and distributing this genre of fiction. The first half of the course will be structured chronologically to provide an historical context beginning in the 19th century, including consideration of key individuals who were internationally important in the development of the genre. Then you will consider the 20th century up to the 1970s, covering the emergence and rise of science fiction magazines and their prominence in developing the market and establishing key voices of the genre, along with the rise and then fragmentation of ‚fandom’ with its implications for publishers. You will then explore the contemporary market for science fiction literature and consider aspects of contemporary publishing practice including digital media and marketing, and the tie-in market. You will also consider different types of format for publication and how these have been marketed internationally. With each topic, you will also be presented with archetypal case studies which place critical issues in context. A different theme will be explored each year through the use of this case study element. Your assessment will consist of an historical case study of one science fiction publishing enterprise (to be submitted in June) (1500 words) and a comparative essay evaluating the marketing and sales strategy of two selected science fiction titles or imprints (3500 words).
Visual Media and Science FictionScience Fiction and Fantasy are as much visual arts as they are written arts. Many of the early fantasy writers originated in the pre-Raphaelite school of art. Many modern sci-fi artists are authors and many authors are artists. The conventions host art shows, and the visual “look” of a science fiction or fantasy movie, of a graphic novel, a computer game or oil painting are as distinctive in their aesthetic as science fiction and fantasy writing is in its rhetoric. Cosplay is also an element of the visual in science fiction that will be considered. In this module you will have the opportunity to explore the ways in which science fiction and fantasy art have developed from the oil paintings of the pre-Raphaelites through surrealism; the expression of science fiction in futurism, the ideas exchange in architecture and design; the development of a distinctive ‚cover art’ aesthetic in the magazines and on book covers; through the development of comic, superhero and graphic novel art into TV and movie aesthetics and technologies and into the visual world of gaming from the 1980s to the present, with the development of science fiction narratives for interactive digital technologies. You will consider interactive science fiction (hypertexts, video games), the participative fan cultures it spawns (cosplay, fan conventions, transmedia fan works, independent game development), and cross-media adaptation, developing comparative analyses of shifting science fiction narrative modes across print-media, film, TV, and video games: impact of visual/digital/non-linear storytelling technologies on the deployment of classic sci-fi themes (time travel, translation, speciation, utopian political systems). You will be asked to explore both the inter-relationship with the written form and the degree to which science fiction and fantasy art develop and maintain their own argument of genre. Your assessment will consist of an annotated catalogue (2000 words) and a negotiated research essay on any aspect of science fiction and fantasy art (4000 words).
Fantastic FictionThis module will allow you to explore the intensely creative and experimental work of children’s fantasy writers, and the techniques and ideas that have emerged in this form. Starting with an introduction to the range of fantastical traditions that have developed across the world, you will discuss similarities and differences and consider the pressures that the globalisation of the market has brought to bear. You will then be introduced to a range of critical traditions and apply each of them to a body of texts (predominantly literature but with some original television, film and material from other platforms). You will examine child-centred approaches to the fantastic that discuss the nature of the market, the shifting expectations of both child protagonist and child reader, and concerns that have arisen periodically over the „threat” of the fantastic to the child’s well-being. You will apply Marxist, Feminist, Post-colonialist and Queer readings, among others, to a range of texts and consider themes that have emerged over the past one hundred and fifty years that create a sense of coherent concerns running through children’s fantastical fiction. In addition to critical reading, fiction will be set for your preparatory reading, and you are expected to bring to the residential period an additional body of personal research reading in the field. You will also accumulate a substantial body of primary source material, which will be reflected in your assessment. This will consist of an annotated critical bibliography, reflecting a reading diary of fiction and non-fiction (1,500 words), and a negotiated research essay on any aspect of children’s fantastical fiction (3500 words).
The Languages of Science FictionIn this module, you will look at conlangs and the way they contribute to the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. You will start by looking at choices for names (which is possibly the most common area where specific sound patterns are used to describe a character) and analyse existing conlangs (such as Klingon, Dothrak or Tolkien’s Elvish languages) to understand why conlangs are used and to get an idea of the design process involved. Finally, you will start to create your own conlang (and possibly conculture) as part of the assessment. Constructing languages requires some level of knowledge of linguistics in the form of grammar, sound patterns and meaning relations. While some of this knowledge will be provided as guidance in the module, it will be necessary for you to independently consult sources on linguistics and the structure of various languages when designing the conlang. The module will run as a seminar with lecture and workshop elements; you are required to undertake the key reading with support based on our virtual learning environment between May and June in preparation for the face-to-face component in summer. The assessment will consist of a proposal for a personal conlang, with accompanying examples of the conlang as worked out, and a 3500-word essay.
Special Topic in Creative Writing/English LiteratureThis module will give you the opportunity to study a particular topic or genre taught by a practising writer with current or recent work in this area. The texts will include those written for adults and children or young adults that share the focus. You might study a particular subgenre such as historical fantasy or weird fiction, or a particular topic such as the apocalypse or time travel. The module will include close reading of the texts, instruction and discussion on how to write in the particular genre, and workshopping of your writing. You will be assessed by means of a final 4,500-word portfolio of creative writing appropriate to the special topic and a critical commentary of 2,000 words. Please note all students wishing to enrol in this module must submit a short writing sample to get approval from the module leader.
Major ProjectThis module will support you in the preparation and submission of a Masters dissertation, allowing you to explore in-depth a particular topic that reflects your academic interest.
You will show your progress primarily through written work, including traditional methods such as critical essays and original creative writing, but also through reviews, book proposals and marketing plans, helping you to develop the relevant skills for your future career.
Your formative assessment will including creating an online reading portfolio that can be shared with other students using our online learning environment.