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 13 Oct 2015, 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 2015-2016 follows:



T 10 Nov
David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks: a new book by the author of Cloud Atlas. This is the story of fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes, who, following a terrible fight with her mother over her boyfriend, slams the door on her family and her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway. A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as "the radio people," Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.
T 8 Dec
Alex Proyas, Dark City (1998): Our annual pizza-and-viewing meeting, this time featuring the noirish story of a man who wakes with no memories of his life, his wife, or the murder he might have committed. Rufus Sewell plays John Murdoch, who attempts to discover his true identity and clear his name while on the run from the police and a mysterious group known only as the "Strangers." Special location: 1180 Duderstadt Center.
T 12 Jan

Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake: Oryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride.

T 9 Feb
Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, Roadside Picnic: Red Schuhart is a stalker, one of those young rebels who are compelled, in spite of the extreme danger, to venture illegally into the Zone to collect the mysterious artifacts that the alien visitors left scattered around. But when he and his friend Kirill go into the Zone together to pick up a "full empty" something goes terribly wrong. . . . First published in 1972 and immediately acclaimed as a science-fiction classic, Roadside Picnic is included on almost every list of the hundred greatest science-fiction novels, despite the fact that it has been out of print in the United States for almost thirty years.
T 8 Mar
Octavia Butler, The Parable of the Sower: When unattended environmental and economic crises lead to social chaos, not even gated communities are safe. In a night of fire and death Lauren Olamina, a minister's young daughter, loses her family and home and ventures out into the unprotected American landscape. But what begins as a flight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny... and the birth of a new faith.
T 12 Apr
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven: Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night a famous Hollywood actor had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear, the same night a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end. Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band's existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
T 10 May
Marge Piercy, He, She and It: In the middle of the twenty-first century, life as we know it has changed for all time. Shira Shipman's marriage has broken up, and her young son has been taken from her by the corporation that runs her zone, so she has returned to Tikva, the Jewish free town where she grew up. There, she is welcomed by Malkah, the brilliant grandmother who raised her, and meets an extraordinary man who is not a man at all, but a unique cyborg implanted with intelligence, emotions, and the ability to kill.
T 14 Jun
Ernest Cline, Ready Player One: In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he's jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade's devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world's digital confines – puzzles that are based on their creator's obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade's going to survive, he'll have to win--and confront the real world he's always been so desperate to escape.
T 12 Jul
Carla Speed McNeil, Finder Library Volume 1 (graphic novel): A large collection of an award-winning comic book science fiction series, the Library reprints the Finder novels SIN-EATER, TALISMAN, and KING OF THE CATS in their entirety, including extensive notes from the author.
T 9 Aug
Andy Weir, The Martian: Astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars, but after a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills – and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
T 13 Sep
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant: The Romans have departed and Britain is declining into ruin. But, at least, the wars that once ravaged the country have ceased. Axl and Beatrice, a couple of elderly Britons, decide that now is the time for them to set off to find the son they have not seen for years and can scarcely remember. They know they will face many hazards but they cannot foresee how their journey will reveal to them the dark and forgotten corners of their love for each other. They will be joined on their journey by a Saxon warrior, his orphan charge, and a knight – each of them, like Axl and Beatrice, lost in some way to his own past. Sometimes savage, sometimes mysterious, always intensely moving, Kazuo Ishiguro's tells a luminous story about the act of forgetting and the power of memory, a resonant tale of love, vengeance, and war.
T 11 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 8 Nov
Kim Stanley Robinson, Aurora: Veteran California science-fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson grounds his new novel squarely in a recognizable convention: the generation ship. In this case, it's a 26th century starship sent from Earth to find a home in some distant galaxy, as generations live and die onboard during the long journey.

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, 19-Oct-2015 10:12:07 EDT.