Elegy for a Dead World

As soon as I saw this beautiful game I wanted to play it in my classes. Fortunately,  Steam was generous to give us enough keys to try.   I was personally more interested in getting lost in the visuals than I was in writing, but my students loved it and produced excellent work.  This game is gorgeous, but I recommend it for a more practical reason as well: versatility.  We played in in my Creative Writing SF class, but I now want to try it with Literature and the Environment, Literary Theory, and—if I ever get to teach it—a class on Experimental Narratives. It could work for any course that emphasizes composition, rhetoric, and creative expression.  A big thumb’s up.

Continue reading Elegy for a Dead World

Writing “in-world”

Writing “in-world” Exercise
Pick one of the works of fiction from this week’s reading (below) that you found effective in terms of world-building.  Write a one-page (500 words, approx.) episode within that world.  There are no other constraints.

Tuesday: Amelia Reynold’s Long, “The Thought Monster”; E.M. Forster, “The Machine Stops”; Judith Merrill, “That Only a Mother”; Diane Cook, “Bounty”

Writing Non-human Characters


Character exercise: In Cordwainer Smith’s “Game of Rat and Dragon,” “Captain Wow” is a lusty reprobate of the feline persuasion: deadly, raunchy, and fun.  Part of the success of this character is the shameless anthropomorphism with which Smith writes him, but the technology of “pinlighting” also gives his personality strange credence.  For this assignment of approx 500 words, do one of the following: 1) write one episode in a day in the life of Captain Wow or the Lady May; 2) alternatively, create another “partner” and do the same; or 3) choose a different, non-human character from this week’s readings and do the same.


Readings: Gene Wolfe, “Useful Phrases”; Ursula K. LeGuin, “Therolinguistics”

In linguistics, code-switching is switching between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation.
More generally, code-switching is switching between two or more semiotic systems, in the context of a single conversation, text, or event.

Code-switching is also an excellent creative writing technique that can foster complicity, alienation, authority, and/or alterity, as the short stories by Wolfe and LeGuin demonstrate (Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is another fantastic example).  For this assignment, it is your task to use code switching to communicate a message.  You can make up your own prompt or you can use or adapt one of the following scenarios: Continue reading “Code-Switching”

Roll a D20

Generating Stochastic Narratives

According to Ronald Tobias there are twenty “master plots” that structure all stories. According to Georges Polti there are thirty-six, and according to William Foster Harris there are three (IPL2). In spite of these discrepancies, each of these authors is onto something when he claims that 1) plots have patterns, 2) these patterns show up in various guises, and that 3) a knowledge of these patterns can enhance one’s appreciation of literary texts. But a command over different narrative structures can also enhance one’s writing of literary texts, as you shall now demonstrate. For this short assignment is your task to use the first story that you workshopped and think about its narrative structure by doing the following: Continue reading “Roll a D20”

Electronic Literature

Emily Short’s “Galatea”


Assignment–spend 5-10 minutes with each of the following examples of “electronic literature” (time permitting).  As you explore, consider how you would classify these works. How do they fit into your understanding of literature and art? Are they literary? Are they artistic? Are they cinematic? Do you enjoy them? Do you find them frustrating? What about them makes them so? Comment briefly about one or more of them in the space below. Continue reading “Electronic Literature”

Writing Infrastructure

The dictionary defines “infrastructure” as “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.” The works of sf we’ve read for today juxtapose human (or human-like, in the case of the “Vegetable Wife”) beings with infrastructural features, such as the mailman man-pillar in “Standing Woman,” who helps deliver the mail even as he transforms into a tree; or the “Vegetable Wife,” who grows like a plant in the main character’s cimmeg farm. Continue reading “Writing Infrastructure”

Exquisite Corpse

Exquisite Corpse from The Tate


The “Exquisite Corpse” game began as a parlor trick in the nineteenth century and became extremely popular within the Surrealist art movement in the early 1900s. Each artist would fold a piece of paper into thirds (or fourths, fifths, or sixths, depending on how many were playing) and sketch a body part of a corpse on one folded section. After a set amount of time, each would pass his work to another artist, who would continue drawing without knowing what the other artists had drawn before or after them. Once the sketch was complete, the artists would unfold their papers to reveal an exquisite corpse.

We will do the same thing in fictional form. Continue reading “Exquisite Corpse”