Fantastic Resistances: Astounding Tales for Envisioning Futures

Fall 2016 and Winter 2017 quarters

Taught by

EJ Zita
physics, math, astrophysics
  • UG


Students must have the capacity to write analytically and creatively, and to use algebra.

Students must be willing and able to use the internet for both information and online assignments.

Students must be willing to work in teams. 

Speculative and fantastic fiction responds to tensions in reality.  Envisioning impossible pasts, alternative presents, and potential futures empowers us to contribute to better futures. This program will mine the rich reserves of oppositional and radical thought in “what-if” modes of storytelling and media, from the 19th Century to the present. Fusing these with nonfiction and science studies, we will envision realistic and fantastic possibilities for just and sustainable futures.

We will study speculative genres’ critiques of, and proposed alternatives to, existing power asymmetries – colonial, technological, sexual, economic, raced and gendered – and their unjust and unsustainable outcomes.  How do imagined futures, alternative presents, and invented “never-weres” challenge social, political and material predicaments?  Are the continued economic growth and social asymmetries required by capitalism sustainable?  Are other socio-economic models feasible?

Walidah Imarisha says “all social organizing is science fiction…dreaming new realities together.” Is there a difference between science and science fiction, and between the fantastical and our reality, when thinking about our future? How can we tell?  How do these different disciplines complement each other? Can science, technology, policy, or even thaumaturgy offer new routes out of traditional ruts? Can renewable energy and sustainable agriculture replace fossil fuel dependence? Should we escape to another planet, try to heal the Earth, seek out a wormhole, or just take refuge in hidden or parallel realms? What questions should be asked about future technologies, polities, and personhoods? What are the potential costs, who benefits and who pays? 

We will study imperial and popular histories; political philosophies; and the science of energy, systems, and climate change, in order to develop tools for analyzing questions like these.  We will also develop pre-calculus skills with interactive workshops, applied to questions we care about.

Supporting each other in teams, students will produce creative works of writing, art, research, or other media. These projects will attain final and fully polished form, ready for public presentation, by the end of winter quarter.

We will deeply explore the speculative, the scientific, and the fantastical together, while developing our communication skills and critical reasoning. We will do physics and math (there is no physics prerequisite – we will learn together). We will explore both cinema and literature, so students must be prepared for a viewing- and reading-intensive two quarters, including the nightmarish urbanities of Octavia Butler, China Miéville and Austin Troy; the monsters of Mary Shelley and Nnedi Okorafor; the hopes and nightmares of Ursula K. Le Guin and Elizabeth Kolbert; all threaded with Mike Hulme’s analysis of climate change, from science to social responses.

Program Details

Fields of Study

cultural studies environmental studies literature physics sustainability studies

Preparatory For

natural science, environmental science, sustainability, social justice, education, writing for page or screen, media studies, and philosophy



Fall Open Winter Conditional

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First winter class meeting: Tuesday, January 10th at 1pm (Sem II B1105)

Online Learning

Hybrid Online Learning 25 - 49% Delivered Online


$20 in winter to attend performances.


2016-11-16This program will accept winter enrollment without signature. Students need to do catch-up work over winter break. Description has been updated.
2016-04-18New fall-winter opportunity added.