F&SF/T

The Fantasy and Science Fiction/Theory Reading Group

The Fantasy and Science Fiction/Theory Reading Group is a casual, convivial group that usually meets on the second Tuesday of each month. We gather to discuss works (partial list of previous readings) that we have chosen collectively and to put those works in some sort of theoretical perspective, the sort, of course, depending on the works and the viewpoints of those assembled. The Group is open on a drop-in basis, because we are always interested in the views of those who are especially interested in a particular work or author, but most participants try to attend regularly. Our currently active members include faculty, graduate students, and staff from the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and other local residents with strong interests in the field. (We are not open to undergraduates. Interested undergraduates may want to consider joining a local science fiction club such as the Stilyagi Air Corps in Ann Arbor.) The Fantasy and Science Fiction/Theory Reading Group normally meets year round from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. although occasionally our schedule varies, so please consult the calendar below. Our current location is 3154 Angell Hall in the Department of English of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The meeting will be hosted by one of our regular members. Light snacks are sometimes provided; if you would like to bring food of some sort, we only ask that you bring enough to share.

At our meeting of 10 Oct 2017, we agreed to continue meeting generally on the second Tuesday of the month and chose a slate of books for the upcoming year. All of the works listed below were available either new or used when the schedule was set, but some books may require ordering, so it is advisable to begin acquiring texts early. Our schedule for 2017/18 follows:

Dates

Works

T 14 Nov
James Gleick, Time Travel: A History (352 pp.): Gleick presents a mind-bending exploration of time travel: its subversive origins, its evolution in literature and science, and its influence on our understanding of time itself. The story begins at the turn of the previous century with the young H. G. Wells writing the fantastic tale that became an international sensation: The Time Machine. A host of forces were converging to transmute the human understanding of time, some philosophical and some technological: the electric telegraph, the steam railroad, the discovery of buried civilizations, and the perfection of clocks. Gleick tracks the evolution of time travel as an idea that becomes part of contemporary culture-from Proust to Doctor Who, from Borges to Woody Allen. He investigates the inevitable looping paradoxes and examines the porous boundary between pulp fiction and modern physics, delving into a temporal shift that is unsettling our own moment: the instantaneous wired world, with its all-consuming present and vanishing future.
T 12 Dec
Movie Night: Nacho Vigalondo, Colossal (2016): Movie viewing followed by discusssion. Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in New York City, and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon. Starring Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. Typically, we order pizza and members are free to bring drinks and other snacks they'd like to share. Special location: 1180 Duderstadt Center.
T 9 Jan

Connie Willis, Doomsday Book (592 pp.): For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received. But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin -- barely of age herself -- finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

T 13 Feb
Seanan McGuire, Every Heart a Doorway (176 pp.): Children have always disappeared under the right conditions, slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else. But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children. Nancy tumbled once, but now she's back. The things she's experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West's care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world. But Nancy's arrival marks a change at the Home. There's a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things. No matter the cost.
T 13 Mar
Michael Moorcock, Behold the Man (124 pp.): Karl Glogauer is a disaffected professional casting about for meaning in a series of half-hearted relationships, a dead-end job, and a personal struggle. His questions of faith surrounding his father's run-of-the-mill Christianity and his mother's suppressed Judaism lead him to a bizarre obsession with the idea of the messiah. After the collapse of his latest affair and his introduction to a reclusive physics professor, Karl is given the opportunity to confront his obsession and take a journey that no man has taken before, and from which he knows he cannot return. Upon arriving in Palestine, A.D. 29, Glogauer finds that Jesus Christ is not the man that history and faith would like to believe, but that there is an opportunity for someone to change the course of history by making the ultimate sacrifice. First published in 1969, Behold the Man broke through science fiction's genre boundaries to create a poignant reflection on faith, disillusion and self-sacrifice. This is the classic novel that established the career of perhaps contemporary science fiction’s most cerebral and innovative author.
T 10 Apr
Charles Saunders, Imaro (256 pp.): Saunders's novel fuses the narrative style of fantasy fiction with a pre-colonial, alternate Africa. Inspired by and directly addressing the alienation of growing up an African American fan of Science Fiction and Fantasy, which to this day remains a very ethnically homogonous genre. The novel addresses this both structurally (via its unique setting) and thematically (via its alienated, tribeless hero-protagonist). The tribal tensions and histories presented in this fantasy novel reflect actual African tribal histories and tensions, and provide a unique perspective to current and recent conflicts in Africa, particularly the Rwandan genocide and the ongoing conflict in The Sudan.
T 8 May
Richard Kadrey, The Everything Box (384 pp.): From the author of the Sandman Slim series, a new fantasy in the tradition of Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen. A thief named Coop, a specialist in purloining magic objects, steals and delivers a small box to the mysterious client who engaged his services. Coop doesn't know that his latest job could be the end of him, and the rest of the world. Suddenly he finds himself in the company of The Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome enforcement agency that polices the odd and strange. The box isn't just a supernatural heirloom with quaint powers, they tell him, it's a doomsday device.
T 12 Jun
Joe Kelly and JM Ken Nimura, I Kill Giants (graphic novel, 232 pp.): Barbara Thorson, a girl battling monsters both real and imagined, kicks butt, takes names, and faces her greatest fear in this bittersweet, coming-of-age story called "Best Indy Book of 2008" by IGN. Barbara is an an acerbic fifth-grader so consumed with fantasy that she doesn't just tell people that she kills giants with an ancient Norse warhammer, she starts to believe it herself. The reasons for Barbara's troubled behavior are revealed through the course of the book, as she learns to reconcile her fantasy life with the real world.
T 10 Jul
Nicky Drayden, The Prey of Gods (400 pp.): In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes, the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges: a new hallucinogenic drug, an AI uprising, and an ancient demigoddess preying on every human she encounters. It's up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there's a future left to worry about
T 14 Aug
Daryl Gregory, Afterparty (304 pp.): After the smart drug revolution, any high school student with a chemjet and internet connection can download recipes and print drugs, or invent them. A seventeen-year-old street girl finds God through a new brain-altering drug called Numinous, used as a sacrament by a new Church that preys on the underclass. But she is arrested and put into detention, and without the drug, commits suicide. Lyda Rose, another patient in that detention facility, has a dark secret: she was one of the original scientists who developed the drug. With the help of an ex-government agent and an imaginary, drug-induced doctor, Lyda sets out to find the other three survivors of the five who made the Numinous in a quest to set things right.
T 11 Sep
Anne McCaffrey, The Ship Who Sang (256 pp.): Helva had been born human, but only her brain had been saved to be implanted into the titanium body of an intergalactic scout ship. But first she had to choose a human partner, to soar with her through the daring adventures and exhilarating escapades in space. Helva makes a happy adjustment (her avocation is singing from basso profundo to swinging soprano) until the death of her first male partner. The author manages the tricky balance of keeping Helva's physical and psychological cogs in gear as she passes from sorrowing adolescence to sensible womanhood on equally traumatic journeys.
T 9 Oct
Book selection meeting! Please come ready to suggest books for the group to read. If you wish, bring a copy of each suggested book and/or bring reviews. Please check in advance to make sure that the books you suggest are available. In case our selection discussion takes less than our two-hour allotment, anyone who wants to can bring copies of a short-short story for us to read together and chew on. If you can't make the meeting but want to make a recommendation, please send it to our email list (FantasySF@umich.edu).
T 13 Nov
George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo (368 pp.): February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old, fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation realizes it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy's body. From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying.

If you want to send an electronic message to this Reading Group, please address FantasySF@umich.edu. If you want to see this message on the World Wide Web, please point your browser at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~esrabkin/fsftsched.html. If you want to add your name to the mail group or make suggestions or inquiries, please contact Eric Rabkin by e-mail (esrabkin@umich.edu).

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This page was last updated on Monday, 16-Oct-2017.