Science Fiction That Teaches Science
By David Brin, Ph.D.
Of course, you're welcome to use the stories I've posted on this site to create your own educational, nonprofit materials based on my posted short stories or one of my novels. (On this website I've excerpted beginning chapters from all my novels. Click the appropriate link on my books page.) If you use one of my works please let me know. Email your lesson plan and I might mention it on my blog or post it on this website.
Temptation: A sophisticated tale featuring dolphins who confront the dangers of romantic wish-fantasy.
Aficionado: Wealthy amateurs support the development of private space launch vehicles. Taking advantage of the latest adrenaline sport, one rocket-jockey plummets into the Carribean toward a meeting with dolphins that explores the meaning of intelligence.
Lungfish: A lengthy and thoughtful exploration of concepts behind the "Great Silence" or apparent absence of extraterrestrial intelligent life. It may turn out to be easy to send space probes that make copies of themselves at alien star systems. What if this has already been done? What kinds of ancient probes may already exist in our asteroid belt?
Those Eyes: A devastating deconstruction of so-called UFOs. If any of the tales are true, then the UFO gray critters do not deserve our respect, only contempt.
The Giving Plague: Explores concepts of biology ranging from disease and symbiosis to safety of the blood supply, to the very nature of altruism.
Reality Check takes on the subject of reality itself.
[image from Star Teacher]
Using Science Fiction to Teach
Many other efforts have been made to link science fiction to educational curricula. Click here to see a website devoted to science fiction and education. Other valuable work has been done by Canadian Julie Czerneda (see her book No Limits) and by the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle. Here are more useful websites:
Science-based lesson plans for teachers, using popular movies and other film resources to illustrate science.
I've posted another page devoted to my general theory about paying forward.
The Postman Curriculum Site has long been an archetype for a teacher's self-made web resource designed to connect an SF book and a movie to classroom needs. Don Braden, a high school teacher, set it up years ago. For some time, however, the Postman curriculum site had shut down. It is now available again. I have also prepared a class discussion guide.
- BIOL 103: Biology in Science Fiction
Science Fiction in Academia
Slowly, some sites in academia are becoming reputable centers for scholarship of and about science fiction. The Eaton Collection at the University of California, Riverside, has long been such a center of excellence. So has the English Department at the University of Kansas, led by the eminent author and professor, James Gunn. Lately the Merrill Collection at the University of Toronto has joined the ranks of august SF-adept institutions, and strong progress has taken place at Temple University. At the University of Liverpool, Andy Sawyer has made tremendous success with the Science Fiction Foundation.
I have made all of these sites places where I regularly donate and deposit copies of my works -- including all foreign editions -- as a small way to help these institutions create useful collections. Now comes word that another of my longtime depositories -- Georgia Tech -- has their SF collection website up and running. I urge my fellow authors -- and anyone interested in helping the field get the respect it deserves -- to help these worthy efforts any way they can.
The Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection in the Cushing Library at Texas A&M (College Station, Texas) houses the papers and manuscripts of Chad Oliver and Michael Moorcock, and is a depository for the books and papers of George R. R. Martin, among the 110 archival collections related to science fiction. Begun in 1973, the print collection contains 20,900 titles and 49,113 volumes, and over 10,000 magazine issues.
For some other excellent academic SF links, see the list Georgia Tech put up at their site.