Possible topics for first paper
5-7 pages (double-spaced)
Due February 22

Basic topic suggested: discuss how one work we’ve read functions as science fiction; how does it differ from Western standards OR other work(s) we’ve read that you consider more “typical;” how much is the story teaching, versus entertaining the reader; how smoothly does the educative function with the intriguing or the pleasurable. Apply questions to any of these:

  1. Tsiolkovskii’s “On the Moon”
  2. Bogdanov’s Red Star
  3. Briusov’s “Republic of the Southern Cross”
  4. Kuprin’s “Liquid Sunshine”
  5. Čapek’s R.U.R.
  6. Zamiatin’s We
  7. Chernyshevsky, “Vera Pavlovna’s Dream”
  8. Dostoevsky’s “Dream of a Ridiculous Man”
  9. the excerpt we read from A. N. Tolstoy’s Aèlita, Queen of Mars
  10. Bulgakov’s “The Fatal Eggs”
  11. Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog

Other possibilities:

  1. Compare different depictions of space voyages: which are most scientifically plausible, and why?
  2. What is the role and function of dreams in "On the Moon," "Dream of a Ridiculous Man," and We?
  3. How is freedom related to happiness in Red Star and We?
  4. How do two or three of these texts present the power conferred by scientific knowledge?
  5. How do stories of distant futures differ from SF set in the present or the very near future?
  6. How does the depiction of a socialist society change, if at all, when the author is actually living in one?
  7. Discuss the connections of work and morality in two or three texts.
  8. How do different works expand or trouble the usual definition of what is "human"?
  9. How do two or more of these texts describe sex and sexual relationships, and how does that contribute to defamiliarization?
  10. What failings tend to crop up when an intended utopia goes wrong?
  11. How do R.U.R. and Heart of a Dog rewrite the Frankenstein plot?
  12. How does morality function in "Republic of the Southern Cross" and R.U.R.?
  13. What critiques of Marx’s view of historical evolution does We suggest?

If you want to write on a different topic, please consult me before you put too much work into it. I'm happy to read and comment on drafts I receive by Friday, February 18.

Return to syllabus for Russian and East European Science Fiction