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 11 Oct 2016, 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 2016/17 follows:

Dates

Works

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.
T 13 Dec
Ari Folman, The Congress (2013): Our annual pizza-and-viewing meeting, this time featuring a movie based on a story by Stanislav Lem. An aging, out-of-work actress (played by Robin Wright) accepts one last job, preserving her digital likeness for a future Hollywood. Through a deal brokered by her loyal, longtime agent (Harvey Keitel) and the head of Miramount Studios (Danny Huston), her alias will be controlled by the studio and will star in any film they want with no restrictions. In return, she receives healthy compensation so she can care for her ailing son and her digitized character will stay forever young. Special location: 1180 Duderstadt Center.
T 10 Jan

William Gibson, The Peripheral: Flinn Fisher takes a quick job from her veteran brother as an online scout in what she believes is a shooter game. Only when she witness a brutal murder she learns it's not a game and the action is actually taking place in an alternate timeline. In his usual mind-bending fashion, Gibson takes on the concept of information leak between timelines and its consequences. A compelling story and characters drive a fast-paced narrative.

T 14 Feb
Ben Aaronovitch, Midnight Riot: Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London's Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he'll face is a paper cut. But Peter's prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter's ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
T 14 Mar
Ryan North, To Be or Not To Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure: When Shakespeare wrote Hamlet he gave the world just one possible storyline, drawn from a constellation of billions of alternate narratives. And now you can correct that horrible mistake! Play as Hamlet and avenge your father's death-with ruthless efficiency this time. Play as Ophelia and change the world with your scientific brilliance. Play as Hamlet's father and die on the first page, then investigate your own murder... as a ghost! Featuring over 100 different endings, each illustrated by today's greatest artists, incredible side quests, fun puzzles, and a book-within-a-book instead of a play-within-a-play, To Be or Not To Be offers up new surprises and secrets every time you read it.
T 11 Apr
Eric Stephenson, Nowhere Men Volume 1: Fates Worse Than Death (graphic novel): "SCIENCE IS THE NEW ROCK 'N' ROLL!" So said Dade Ellis, Simon Grimshaw, Emerson Strange, and Thomas Walker at the dawn of a new age of enlightenment that ushered in a boom in scientific advancement. As the research supergroup World Corp., they became the most celebrated scientists of all time. They changed the world, and we loved them for it. But where did it all go wrong? And when progress is made at any and all cost, who ultimately pays the price? Also supplied are realistic ephemera - personal letters, magazine covers and interviews, World Corp. logos and advertisements - that enrich the experience and fill-in the back story. Volume 1 collects Nowhere Men numbers 1 through 6.
T 9 May
William Goldman, The Princess Bride: Anyone who lived through the 1980s may find it impossible - inconceivable, even - to equate The Princess Bride with anything other than the sweet, celluloid romance of Westley and Buttercup. But the film is only a fraction of the ingenious storytelling you'll find in these pages. Rich in character and satire, the novel is set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an "abridged" retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin that's home to "Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions."
T 13 Jun
Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House: First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers - and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
T 11 Jul
Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, a novel mixeing fiction and photography. A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar, they may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow - impossible though it seems - they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
T 8 Aug
China Mieville, The Last Days of New Paris: In the chaos of 1941 wartime Marseille, American engineer, and occult disciple, Jack Parsons stumbles onto a clandestine anti-Nazi group, including Surrealist theorist Andre Breton. In the strange games of the dissident diplomats, exiled revolutionaries, and avant-garde artists, Parsons finds and channels hope. But what he unwittingly unleashes is the power of dreams and nightmares, changing the war and the world forever. While in 1950, a lone Surrealist fighter, Thibaut, walks a new, hallucinogenic Paris, where Nazis and the Resistance are trapped in unending conflict, and the streets are stalked by living images and texts, and by the forces of Hell. To escape the city, he must join forces with Sam, an American photographer intent on recording the ruins, and make common cause with a powerful, enigmatic figure of chance and rebellion: the exquisite corpse.
T 12 Sep
Ben Winters, Underground Airlines: Victor, a gifted young african american, has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement working as a bounty hunter. He's got plenty of work. In this America, slavery continues in four states called "the Hard Four." On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn't right--with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself. A mystery to himself, Victor suppresses his memories of his childhood on a plantation, and works to infiltrate the local cell of a abolitionist movement called the Underground Airlines. Tracking Jackdaw through the back rooms of churches, empty parking garages, hotels, and medical offices, Victor believes he's hot on the trail. But his strange, increasingly uncanny pursuit is complicated by a boss who won't reveal the extraordinary stakes of Jackdaw's case, as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child who may be Victor's salvation. Victor himself may be the biggest obstacle of all--though his true self remains buried, it threatens to surface.
T 10 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 14 Nov
James Gleick, Time Travel: A History: 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.

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 Tuesday, 18-Oct-2016.