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  • Shelby Cadwell

Sci-Fi Saturday #7

Welcome to Sci-Fi Saturday, a new column that is devoted to all things science fiction: film, television, comics, novels, video games, and local Metro Detroit events. If there is a topic you'd like to see covered in an upcoming column,

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Since I'm still on my Star Trek hiatus until I can build up the energy to watch a two part episode ("The Menagerie," in case you cared), I thought I'd take this week to talk about teaching science fiction cinema. First, a bit of context: I'm teaching an accelerated summer semester Intro to Film & Media Studies course at Wayne State University (Detroit, MI). 8 weeks. 16 students. One film per class session (minus the date that's been scheduled for the final) for a total of 15 films altogether.

It is common in my department to choose a film genre to focus on when teaching this course, although almost everyone seems to show a mix of film genres/styles from a wide swath of cinema history. For this class, I have decided to focus on science fiction (with a splash of Sci-Fi/Horror thrown in for good measure). To talk about visual design we watched Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Blade Runner (1982). For sound design, Alien (1979) and Annihilation (2018). Last week, for classic science fiction we watched Forbidden Planet (1956) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (also 1956). In the upcoming weeks we will be watching The World's End (2013), Strange Days (1995), and Galaxy Quest (1999) to talk about SF parody, pastiche, postmodernism, and genre experimentation.

My initial goal when picking films was to choose films that pair well with earlier screenings from the semester or with the screenings directly before or following. For example, Invasion and The World's End are both body-snatching films. Strange Days should pair well with Peeping Tom (1960), which we watched earlier this semester, as both films deal with issues of looking, being looked at, and the voyeuristic role of the film spectator. I'm having students watch an episode/film from the Star Trek universe outside of class before we watch Galaxy Quest. I'm hoping that these pairings will be generative and lead to interesting class discussions about changes in film form and content over time and the cultural instrumentalities of genre.

Because the class is only 8 weeks and the primary goal is to teach students to identify and analyze different aspects of film form, I can't dig into SF with my students as much as I'd like to. But I have tried to make sure they get the "quick and dirty" intro to SF cinema in class lectures and a good sampling of what the genre has to offer in screenings.

I wanted to share my materials here, in case they are useful or interesting to anyone who teaches or may someday teach SF (or anyone who wants to learn more about the genre themselves). I have to give credit to my adviser, Professor Chera Kee, from whom a lot of my resources are borrowed (although most have been altered).






[Where I collect the most interesting and science fiction-y headlines from the last week]

  • For the first time, scientists have successfully transplanted laboratory-grown lungs into pigs

  • A newly improved AI can perform lip-reading with a higher accuracy rate than professional human lip-readers; although accurate lip-reading technology would be invaluable to the deaf and hard of hearing, some speculate that this technology could someday also be used for reconnaissance and/or general nosiness

  • Scientists have developed thin, stretchy speakers and microphones that allow human skin to conduct sound waves

[Where I share upcoming and ongoing SF-centric events in the Metro Detroit area]

Sunday, August 5th:

Tuesday, August 7th:

Thursday, August 9th:

Friday, August 10th:

Saturday, August 11th:

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