User:MorganAtMGA/HUMN 4472 Journal

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August 20, 2019: Science Fiction

Science fiction is a genre. To label a book or movie as "science fiction" may mean that it will explore themes of space travel, alternate worlds, or futuristic technology. An example of science fiction literature is Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Science fiction contains many subgenres, a personal favorite of which is cyberpunk. I'm looking forward to reading and learning more about science fiction in this class. It's one of my favorite genres of books to read, although I find the idea of writing it myself daunting.

August 20, 2019: Learning About Science Fiction

From the assigned video[1] I learned just how much science fiction has influenced technology. I'd always thought that of it as a coincidence that devices like spaceships and wrist-phones showed up in science fiction prior to their invention--that the authors and inventors were reading the same news and stories and happened to arrive at the same conclusions, but no--in many of those cases the authors dreamed it up and then the inventors built it.

From Ursula K. Le Guin's introduction to The Norton Book of Science Fiction: North American Science Fiction, 1960-1990[2] I learned that science fiction differs from the genre of fantasy by its avoidance of the supernatural, and from realism by the narrative value of its departure from reality. Her survey of the themes included in the book, as well as the genre, were new and interesting to me as well. It made me want to read the rest of the book she was introducing.

The most concise definition I've found for science fiction was Isaac Asimov's: "Science fiction is that branch of literature which is concerned with the impact of scientific advance upon human beings."[3] That seems to encompass all of the diverse and complex themes that Le Guin touched on in the introduction above, as well as sum up what I think of when I think of science fiction. It's not about the scientific advances themselves, but their impact on us that has led to all the creativity, speculation, fear, and hope that can be found throughout science fiction literature.

@MorganAtMGA: I thought the same way about science fiction. I mostly thought it was just about aliens and space but it is much more complex than that. Science Fiction is shown to be a very interesting genre. Tami Marie 9:55 September 6, 2019

September 8, 2019: John Cheever's "The Swimmer"

I would argue that based on the definition of science fiction given in the last post I made, which involved the presence of scientific advances, that "The Swimmer" is not science fiction. There's nothing explicitly scientific in it. What is there to distinguish it from literary fiction? Are swimming pools being considered a scientific advance? What I thought when I was reading it was that it was a work of literary fiction, which could be interpreted many ways but the primary meaning I took away from it was about persistence.

Neddy, the main character, persevered on his journey past the point of knowing why he was even doing it. This is most evident in the following quote, where the story breaks into second person point-of-view: "He could have gone back, back to the Westerhazys’, where Lucinda would still be sitting in the sun. He had signed nothing, vowed nothing, pledged nothing, not even to himself. Why, believing as he did, that all human obduracy was susceptible to common sense, was he unable to turn back?"[4] Here, Cheever's narrator asks us directly what the story is about. We wonder not only why he is unable to turn back, but why he went on the quest at all.

Blythe, Hal, and Charlie Sweet[5], however, assert that Neddy's journey is a "selfish search for his own youth." Their emphasis on youth lends a different perspective to the idea of turning back in the last paragraph. Perhaps he wasn't able to turn back physically in the road because time doesn't work that way. We can only move forward, and so we must move forward. Even when the journey itself doesn't make any sense to us or anyone else, we have to keep going.

September 8, 2019: Parallels between "The Swimmer" and La Jetée

Initially, these two stories have very different endings. The main character in "The Swimmer" seems to be facing old age at the end of the story, whereas the main character of La Jetée[6] dies younger and of unnatural causes. However, both main characters are confronted with their own mortality which they are helpless to stop.


  1. The Truth About Science Fiction (Documentary), retrieved 2019-08-21
  2. The Norton book of science fiction : North American science fiction, 1960-1990. Le Guin, Ursula K., 1929-2018,, Attebery, Brian, 1951-, Container of (work): Knight, Damon, 1922-2002., Container of (work): Smith, Cordwainer, 1913-1966., Container of (work): Sturgeon, Theodore., Container of (work): Bunch, David R. (First edition ed.). New York. ISBN 0393035468. OCLC 27382749.CS1 maint: others (link) CS1 maint: Extra text (link)
  3. Bretnor, Reginald, ed. (1953). Modern Science Fiction: Its Meaning and Its Future.
  5. Blythe, H., & Sweet, C. (2003). Cheever’s Dark Knight of the Soul: The Failed Quest of Neddy Merrill. Gale. Retrieved from