Fractal City

The ideas behind some of the best Science Fiction Writing and Cinema

Module details

  • Offered to 1st years
  • Tuesdays 16.00-18.00
  • South Kensington Campus
  • 8 weeks (spring term only)
  • Non-credit only
How to enrol

Science fiction has become a discipline for serious academic study. Its ability to address complex questions about the relationship between science and humanity is particularly pertinent as culture becomes increasingly enthralled by technology. Focusing on Science fiction’s development throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century, this module will take you through a representative sample of Science fiction (novels, short stories, drama and film), looking at the different themes, techniques and sub-genres, examining their wider contexts and deeper meanings.

Information blocks

Learning outcomes

Flying saucer

  • Examine key themes, genres and concepts within relevant science fiction literature
  • Integrate concepts using self-directed primary and secondary science fiction research
  • Present individual and group work to peers and respond to constructive feedback from facilitator and other learners
  • Apply key concepts, research, and feedback to write an analytical science fiction essay
  • Evaluate current curriculum provision and use digital tools to contribute to future science fiction curriculum development

Indicative core content

Sci-fi illustration

  • What is Science fiction?: we will explore the concept of Science fiction, how it emerged historically and discuss the impact of Science fiction on popular culture.
  • Alien Encounters: we will investigate the place that extra-terrestrials hold in the public consciousness. We will explore recurring themes such as alien invasion, aliens as a metaphor for ‘the other’ and alien manipulation of human development.
  • Cyborgs and Human Augmentation: we will discuss ways in which Science fiction writers have speculated about the potential reworking of the human body and mind such as genetic manipulation, mechanical prosthesis and mind-computer interface. We will also look at how technology has affected, interacted with and changed our conception of the human body.
  • Cybernetics: we will look at the dramatic rise of information technology in the last thirty years and how it has, at times, been foreseen by Science fiction authors. We will go on to discuss such ideas as virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
  • Time Travel: we will examine the ways in which time travel has been used in SF such as investigation of future societies, alternate histories and the potential paradoxes caused by time travel.
  • Utopia/Dystopia: we will look at the ways in which alternative or future societies have been portrayed both optimistically and pessimistically. We will also investigate the utopia/dystopia as a means of political critique.
  • Space as the Final Frontier: We will investigate thecolonisation and exploration of space as one of the driving themes in Science fiction. 
  • Science Fiction Fandom: We will chart the history of Science fiction fandom from its humble beginnings as a subculture to a global multi-million dollar industry and speculate on possible reasons for Science fiction’s current cultural prevalence (particularly in visual media i.e. TV, film, videogames).


  • End-of-term essay (80%): 1500–2000-word essay 
  • Class participation (20%): constructive participation in class discussion and exercises, group work, peer feedback, use of Blackboard and completion of required class preparation

Key information

  • ECTS value: 0
  • Requirements: You must be prepared to attend all classes and to spend about an hour a week preparing for each session
  • This module is designed as an undergraduate Level 4 module. See Imperial Horizons level descriptors [pdf]
"The course has been fantastic. I enjoy exploring the sub-genres of science fiction."