Thursday, March 01, 2007

Which SF Stories Taught You Story Craft?

Over at A Place For Strangers and Beggars, English teacher and SF author James Van Pelt has listed the SF stories that might fit nicely into an SF syllabus:

Dialogue: "Even the Queen," Connie Willis
Point of View: "Fondly Fahrenheit," Alfred Bester
Description: "The Dragon," Ray Bradbury
Exposition: "Think Like a Dinosaur," James Patrick Kelly
Style/Voice: "The Boy at Your Window," Bruce Holland Rogers and "Chivalry," Neil Gaiman
Character: "The Faery Handbag," Kelly Link
Setting: "Fall of the House of Usher," Edgar Allan Poe
Plot: "All You Zombies," Robert Heinlein
Gender: "The Better Man," Ray Russel (a very short story, but a funny one) or "The Women Men Don't See," James Tiptree
Race: That's a tough one. How about "On the Other Foot," Ray Bradbury

I did think of that Bester story immediately in terms of POV, and Tiptree's for gender. "When it Changed," by Russ would fit with gender, too, as would "Boobs" by Suzy McKee Charnas.

For Style/Voice, I might go with "'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktockman" or perhaps a particularly lyrical Bradbury or a particularly erudite Davidson. Maybe "Scanners Live in Vain" by Smith. Even a Lovecraft would do, though I can't swallow his style in more than a paragraph at a time sips.

I think "Even the Queen" is a fabulous choice for dialogue! I also suggest "The Death of Dr. Island" by Wolfe and the "The Golem," by Davidson, which could also fit in the "ethnic" or "multicultural" or whatever topic.

For setting? "Hothouse" (novella) by Aldiss is what came to me first. "Harrowing the Dragon," by McKillip also made me feel very much in this cold and isolated place. I hope I'm remembering the title correctly, but "Not Born a Man" by John C. Wright had one of the most nightmarishly vivid settings I've ever read. Maybe even "The Long Rain" by Bradbury.

Character? Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild," or maybe Heinlein's "The Green Hills of Earth," or "The Screwfly Solution," by Sheldon or "Bed & Breakfast" by Gene Wolfe (which is a primer in complex dialogue, too) or "Lot" by Ward Moore, or "Hell is the Absence of God" by Ted Chiang, "Sister Emily's Lightship" by Yolen or maybe...ah, my brain is not working.

I would add the category of "Humor," and there are lots of fine Sheckley, Lafferty, Davidson, Ellison, and Willis stories that would fit right in, including the aforementioned "Even the Queen" and "The Golem."

How about description? "The Scalehuner's Beautiful Daughter," by Lucius Shepard. "Minnesota Gothic" by Thomas Disch.

Now for plot: "Hell is the Absence of God" by Chiang; "All My Darling Daughters" by Willis; "A Study in Emerald" by Gaiman; "Jeffty is Five" by Ellison; "Four In One" by Damon Knight; "Sunbird" by Gaiman.

How about you? What stories would you add to the syllabus under the specific topics? What topics would you add to the syllabus?

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