Science fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury probe the future. Through their work, readers explore contemporary socio-economic, political, historical, and scientific issues in juxtaposition to similar issues facing future societies.
As a genre, science fiction emphasizes the importance of scientific laws, realistic accuracy, a thematic concern for the future, and the place of humanity in the universe. Heinlein defines science fiction as speculative discourse about the future based on knowledge of the real world's facts and laws; whereas, Asimov describes it as a genre concerned with the problems of fictitious societies that differ from today's world in their levels of technological development. Although many definitions of science fiction exist, certain specific commonalities appear in the genre. It is predictive of the future; it attempts to describe the social impacts of science; and, it may use unusual, imaginative, or fantastic situations. Science fiction attempts to use what is known to hypthesize about the unknown.
A Greek satirist, Lucian of Samosata (second century A.D.), may have been the earliest science fiction writer. Through his writing educated Romans read about space travel and the adventures of a man whose ship was lifted from the Atlantic Ocean by a storm and deposited on the moon. Beginning in the 17th century, a steady stream of speculative and technologically-oriented literature appears in European literature. Two themes are constant: marvelous adventures in strange lands (Gulliver's Travels) and the consequences of scientific research (Frankenstein). By the end of the 19th century, the work of Verne and Wells brought "true" science fiction to enormous popularity and they share the honor of being named the fathers of modern science fiction.
Verne's stories of irony and satire attacked society. His Captain Nemo invented the submarine to fight imperialism and war, and in his From the Earth to the Moon, Americans launch a moonship from Florida. Wells's TheTime Machine , published in 1895, is a social commentary on the changing social and political futures of humankind as Europe transitioned from an agrarian to an industrial society. Interestingly, Wells's perceptions were refined in the work of the late 20th century futurist Alvin Toffler, who wroteThe Third Wave . Toffler analyzed the global effects of societies transitioning from their agrarian and industrial foundations to emerging technological infrastructures.
In 1938, the magazine Astounding, edited by John Campbell, was published. Campbell believed that science fiction should contain science that could not be disproved by known scientific theory. Thus, engineers and scientists began reading and writing science fiction.
In this Internet-Integrated Unit (IIU), The Time Machine is the foundation for a comparative study of the impact of technology on the 20th century. Before reading the novel, an introductory web lesson on Toffler's The Third Wave will review his explanation of the impact of each wave of change on societies that are transitioning from an agricultural, to an industrial, and finally a technological economy.
Additional web lessons will explore related topics in other content areas:
(1) science (physics/astrophysics: a. Einstein's Theory of Relativity as it relates to time b. the relative effect on time for objectstraveling at the speed of light c.the absence of light or a black hole and its theoretical effect on the universe d. evolving theories of gravity e. theoretical descriptions of third and fourth dimensions);
(2) art (Escher's representations of relativity and mathematical concepts) and planes or dimensions in space and time as techniques for seeing and creating meaning;
(3) social studies (futurists' perceptions of the 21st century);
(4) English language arts (a. literature: 1.the genre of science fiction 2. literary elements, i.e., plot, setting, point of view, theme, characterization, dialogue, mood, and narration, in a novel and a film b.writing: rhetorical purposes and modes used to entertain, to inform, or to describe);
(5) mathematics (tesselations and geometry); and,
(6) technology applications (a. information literacy: use of the Internet to research IIU topics b. history and future of computing).
The students will:
- read and discuss the novel, The Time Machine
- review the characteristics of science fiction versus fantasy fiction.
- use print, Internet resources, and related web lessons to identify and research an aspect of technology on the future.
- use print, Internet resources, and related web lessons to research the work of H. G. Wells.
- use relatedweb lessons to study cross-content area topics defined for the IIU.
- use appropriate citations for information obtained from print and Internet resources.
- review literary elements in fiction and film.
- review the rhetorical purposes and modes of writing.
- write a comparative analysis of the film, The Time Machine, and the novel (informative-classificatory).
- write a research paper or publish a web page on a future study topic (informative-classificatory).
Have students see a film version of the novel and write a critical review of the film (informative purpose- classificatory mode) comparing the elements of the film to the novel and the strengths of the two formats.
Have students write a research paper or a web page (informative purpose-classificatory mode) that addresses one significant aspect of technology on the future.
Have students complete assignments from related, web page lessons for this IIU.
Isaac Asimov Home Page
H.G. Wells The Poe of Science Fiction
Science Fiction: Histories, Texts, Media
Brown 233: Science Fiction
Please send me your comments about this lesson.
Thanks for visiting.
(Last Update: August 1997)
These pages were developed through GirlTECH '96, a teacher training and student technology council program sponsored by the , a .
Copyright June, 1997 Barbara S. Camp.
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