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Science Fiction As a Vehicle for Social Commentary

Science Fiction As a Vehicle for Social Commentary

When many high school students think about the genre of science fiction, they think of aliens, spaceships, teleporters, and laser battles competing with the flashing of the stars. They visualize Jar-Jar and hear Kirk tell Scottie to beam him up. They rarely think about the meaning behind these representations and stories. When hearing about upcoming science fiction material in class, students often say, "So what? It doesn’t have anything to do with me. What use is it to think about other worlds and futures that we don’t even know will come to pass?"

Students are not the only ones guilty of this narrow view of science fiction. Our society tends to view science fiction movies as nothing more than a way to show off the new methods of special effects. After walking out of a science fiction movie, it is rare to hear anyone discussing how the issues presented relate to our present society. Instead, talk about computer animation and staging of the explosions takes a more central role.

People with this particular view of science fiction are missing out on the power and possibility of the genre. In his essay, "Black to the Future," Walter Mosley states, "The power of science fiction is that it can tear down the walls and windows, the artifice and laws by changing the logic, empowering the disenfranchised, or simply by asking, What if?" In this statement, he reveals the potential of the genre.

Through this unit of study, students will come to realize the potential and power of science fiction as a vehicle for social commentary. Students will be reading and viewing various works of science fiction that make statements on current issues. The novel, Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, will serve as our primary text. Besides exploring the ways in which other writers have used the genre for social commentary, students will research a current issue with which they are concerned. Based on the research, each student will write a science fiction story to illustrate the issue.

How can the choices an author makes affect the reader’s understanding of current societal issues?

Essential Question
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Introductory Activities
While students are reading
Close to completion
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Urban Dreams
OUSD Curriculum Unit
Science Fiction As a Vehicle for Social Commentary
Subject: English
Grade Level: 9th

Lesson Plan Author:
Philena Pugh