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English 281 - Introduction to Science Fiction and Fantasy - Erin Delaney

Course:Introduction to Science Fiction and Fantasy
Professor:Erin Delaney
  • Online
Course Length:
  • 16 Week


A robot offers flowers to a young woman.  Image by Pixabay user Hansuan_Fabregas

Erin sitting next to her dog with books in the background“I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining.”
― Octavia E. Butler

Welcome to English 281:  Introduction to Science Fiction and Fantasy!  This semester, we're going to read delightful and intriguing works of sci fi and fantasy that introduce us to new worlds, new civilizations, and new ideas.  These works encourage us to think about our own present and future:  What kind of world do we want to live in?  

The diverse texts we'll discuss come to us from across the planet, but they'll ask us to think even bigger.  We'll travel through the vastness of space to other worlds, but on the way, we may slip into a wardrobe and find ourselves in a magical realm.  These incredible voyages, whether taken by spaceship or in a moving castle, are often really about ourselves.  How can we confront the challenges of our time and place?  Sometimes, by giving ourselves a little distance and shifting them to a galaxy far, far away.  

I love teaching this course because of the sheer force of imagination that comes through these works.  We can enjoy them as delightful moments of escape from our troubles, but we can also peel back the surface layers to discuss the important ethical ideas lurking beneath.  And, we can engage in important discussions about the ways these works impact our reality and perhaps our future.  I look forward to working with you this semester!

Course Description

This course provides an overview of science fiction and fantasy, focusing on three themes that apply to both genres:  creatures, voyages, and power struggles.

  • Creatures:  Whether the characters make their own creatures or encounter already existing creatures, sci fi and fantasy ask us to consider the ethics of interacting with sentient beings that can be incredibly close to human, if not human themselves.  What are the characters' responsibility to these creatures?  Do their relationships with the creatures cross the line into exploitation?
  • Voyages:  Sci fi and fantasy take us on epic quests to explore new lands--to seek out new life and new civilization.  These texts give us the opportunity to discuss the value of discovery and diversity, but may also ask us to consider the more sinister aspects of travel:  when does first contact turn into colonization?
  • Power Struggles:  Stories of utopia, dystopia, rebellion, and oppression ask us to think about who is in charge and what those people stand for.  How do they use their power?  What are the costs and benefits of allowing them to stay in power?  And, when is it time to rise up?

We'll read a novel, two novellas, short stories, and poems.  In addition, we'll watch films and television shows.  For the films and televisions shows, I will make sure that free, legal online access is available.  

What to Expect in this Course

In this course, you can expect a welcoming and supportive environment.  We'll work together to explore challenging and sometimes controversial material.  Although the material may be difficult at times, I will support you and answer any questions you may have.  Good learning can happen through a bit of productive discomfort and lots of conversation!

We'll have assignments due on both Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Be sure to complete any assigned readings/videos before submitting your assignments on Tuesday.  On our heavier reading weeks, you may read about 100 pages.  I highly recommend that you begin reading longer works in advance.  In general, you should plan to spend between 6-9 hours a week for each three unit class you take (including this one). 

We'll be completing the course entirely through Canvas, and there are no required Zoom meetings.  We will have occasional video assignments, so students should have access to either a webcam or a smart phone to record their videos. 

Types of Assessments

Assignments:  essays, exams, final project, online discussion boards (some with a video component), and written assignments

We'll be doing both written and video discussion boards.  Videos can be recorded either through a webcam or smart phone.  (Note:  while I encourage you to record your face as you speak, it isn't required.)  

Textbook Information

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey, ISBN 978-1250174666

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, ISBN 978-0765385253

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

Other works available online for free.

Additional Resources


This course can be accessed on the first day of class via Canvas at Log into Canvas using your CanyonsID single sign-on:

  • CanyonsID Username is your COC student email address (Ex:
  • CanyonsID Password is your COC student email password

Please visit the Get to Know Your Online Classroom page for help logging into Canvas and for tips on using Canvas and Zoom. Canvas Chat Support is also available 24/7 for any Canvas related issues.

Online Education

Check out the Online Education website for more information on a variety of topics that can help you be a successful online student such as: exam proctoring, learning styles, computer skills, and tips for student success. If this is your first online course, feel free to take our online learning readiness assessment to assess your skills.

The Learning Center (TLC)

The TLC provides FREE online tutoring resources to COC students!

Academic Accommodation Center (AAC)

College of the Canyons AAC provides educational services and access for eligible students with documented disabilities who intend to pursue coursework at COC. A variety of programs and services are available which afford eligible students with disabilities the opportunity to participate fully in all aspects of the college programs and activities through appropriate and reasonable accommodations. For more information on their services visit the Academic Accomodation Center website.

Online Counseling

The Counseling Department offers appointments online. You can schedule an appointment by visiting the Online Counseling website. Counselors can help you map out a plan to reach your educational goals as well as advise you on course selection and registration.

Management of Stress and Mental Health

Often the pressure on our students is very strong, involving academic commitments, relationships, outside jobs and family pressure to name a few. The staff and faculty of College of the Canyons are here to see you succeed academically and care about your emotional and physical health. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential student services, including counseling and mental health services available on campus by visiting the Student Health & Wellness Center in the Student Services Building (across from the bookstore). The phone number is 661-362-3259 that you can call 24/7. You can also e mail for an appointment at At the Canyon Country Campus the Health Center will be in the new Student Services Building.

Also, the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline number is now 988. All students at COC are encouraged to enter that phone number in their cells. You can call it when you, or someone you know, is having thoughts of suicide or is in severe distress.

You can also now use the Crisis Text Line: Just text "Courage" to 741741. Someone will get back to you immediately. Its free, 24/7, and confidential.

Veterans Resource Center

The College of the Canyons Veterans Resource Center is a department within the Student Services Division at the college, created to help veterans and veteran dependents with applying to College of the Canyons, enrolling in classes, and requesting VA Education or Vocational Benefits. For more information please visit the Veterans Resource Center website, email or phone (661) 362-3469.


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Last updated: 05/26/2021 Sub#: 66