Capella’s Constipation

The feeds brought me an article [Link] this morning that deals with college courses on Science Fiction. Hmmmmm.

The first problem is that, based on titles, none of these courses have to do with Science Fiction. Fantasy, yes! (Tolkien) SciFi (SyFy as it is now commercialized?), yes! Star Wars, Star Trek, and other video. But Science Fiction? No evidence.

I know there have been courses on science fiction, I’ve read about them in ANALOG and in the notes of collections, but these had to do with how to write science fiction, a chancy proposition given that those who major in literature and syntax are not usually given to actually do the Four Ts of any nerdish discipline, and those who are are not really inclined to study literature or syntax in college, which perhaps explains why those who teach the courses are nerds who have gone on to be successful writers of science fiction, which in turn raises the question of how many successful science fiction writers have been educated as litterateurs and syntacticians? Or the courses had to do with the technologies predicted in science fiction or the social concepts explored.

I have rather a problem finding that sort of insight provided in Star Wars, which seems to be primarily about Germanic architecture and the machinations of tyrannical despotisms. Star Trek, on the other hand, seems to be entirely healthier since it takes such a negative view of slavery, at least in its more obvious forms. Tolkien, on the other hand, does an admirable job of arguing the fundamentalism of good and evil in the context of severely dysfunctional but idyllic societies.

Still these are popular and obviously appeal to many, not just the geeks and the weaker minded and willed of the nerds. At issue is not whether those who read science fiction or Sci Fi or Fantasy are depraved but what the depth of that depravity is. Quantity, not quality. Although that is rather more difficult with the readers of fantasy since almost no magics are mathematical, at least as portrayed. [1]

When I was in shul, I never heard any intimation of courses on science fiction or sci fi, maybe fantasy. Such were limited to shuls with large private endowments, notably Ivy Leage and wannabe shuls. Shuls dependent on the whims and prejudices of legislatures could ill afford the death knell of that era, frivolity, being sounded by elected officials [2] in the state capital.

Besides, when you carry a triple major there is scant time to go wandering off too far on electives. As I recall the farthest I wandered was a few applied maths courses in the engineering shul. But we read science fiction in those moments when it would contribute to our getting our heads back. Read, not watched. Yes, we all trooped over to watch Star Trek, the original with villains Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley as heors, second string, and a goilem as first string. Of course the show got missed whenever classwork intervened; the program never missed was Laugh In, which was to be laughed with and not at.

So it seems the question is whether these courses are for bogs who want to understand geeks, or just geeks who want to avoid bogs?

[1] ‘Nerds do maths, Geeks talk about maths admiringly and worshipfully, and bogs disparage and denigrate maths.’
[2] Idealism and thievery are antithetical and inimical.