Where do authors come up with their fantastic visions of alternate realities? What is the importance of such stories? In this unit, we will read a number of science-fiction short stories and study the contexts in which they were written to investigate how writers become inspired to create narratives and use the genre to speculate on our future. After reading a number of stories, you will choose one story to analyse and present to the class in a presentation. Following this, you will create your own original short story!
Session 1 – “Speculative Storytelling”
To start the unit we will do some reading and discussion about current exciting technologies and how these might impact our world, for better or for worse. We will learn a little about the dystopian sub-genre before writing our own science fiction narrative excerpt or short story.
Session 2 – “What’s the Big Deal?” Themes in Narratives
Where is the value in the fantastic ideas of science fiction stories? Today, we learn about the big ideas, or themes, in narratives and how to uncover them. We will read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”.
Session 4 – “Inferno!” Immersive Settings
Setting plays a role in both establishing atmosphere and furthering important themes. We will examine this concept by reading H.G Well’s short story “The Cone”.
Session 5 – “Reading Roadmaps” Plot and conflict
Without a series of events (plot) and a problem (conflict) driving things forward, we simply cannot have a story! We will explore Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains”, investigate the cold war context of the novel, and look at an example analytical response.
Session 6 – “Compelling Characters” Characterisation
Character-driven stories are almost always more interesting the action-focused ones. Today, we learn about the tools of characterisation and apply them to a study of Daniel Keye’s “Flowers for Algernon”.
Session 7 – “Who’s Telling the Story?” Narrator and POV
It is not sufficient to simply examine the story itself, but also to consider the storyteller – who is telling the story? Today we learn to analyse the narrative POV and voice.
Session 8 – “Short Story Scrutiny” Close Reading
Close reading is the practice of looking intensely at a small section of text. It encourages close and careful consideration of language choices and effect on an audience. It can include all the narrative elements we have considered but also includes focus on diction, figurative language, imagery and more.
Session 9 – “Speaking About Stories!”
In these lessons, we will prepare, rehearse, perform, and reflect on a speech that introduces a famous author and his/her short story at an award ceremony.
Session 10 – “Speculative Storytellers”
Now it is our turn to do some creative writing! We will brainstorm ideas for future worlds based on current technological and social issues, plan a short story, study a number of writing workshops, and craft a first draft!
Session 11 – “Excellent Editing!”
We will reflect on our drafts using a peer conference format. We will learn to give specific and constructive feedback to our peers.
Session 12 – “Brave New World” Unit summary and conclusion
We finish the unit by sharing our stories, reflecting on our learning, and thinking about other types of science fiction stories that we might want to read.
RESOURCES AND LINKS
* Short stories folder
* Folder containing all resources
* NANOWRIMO writing guide
* Some examples of excellent short stories by younger writers
* The same short stories – annotated to show effective use of narrative features
* More excellent short stories from younger writers – showing evidence of excellent editing
* Short story writing workshops:
– Showing characters, not telling
– Setting #1 and setting #2 (Inferno)
– Thought shots, snapshots, descriptive dialogue, punctuating dialogue
– Punctuating dialogue #2 and answer key
Revision resources from G8:
– Inferring and implying themes; explicit vs. implicit themes
– Symbolism: characterisation and setting
– Figurative language and symbolism
– Video about theme from Mr Sato