Full course description
There is a separate application process for this course. If you have not been accepted into the Iowa Young Writers' Studio Summer Residential Program you are not eligible to enroll.
‘Science fiction properly conceived, like all serious fiction, however funny, is a way of trying to describe what is in fact going on, what people actually do and feel, how people relate to everything else in this vast sack, this belly of the universe, this womb of things to be and tomb of things that were, this unending story.’ – Ursula K le Guin, ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction'
Realism is one mode in literature, one way of exploring the world, but it’s hardly the only one. There are other modes, and there are—better yet—other worlds. There’s the world of animatronic boyfriends, of time-bending alien languages, of alternate histories and unkillable women. There’s the land of the dead; there’s the land of unsociable wizards. There’s that far-flung planet filled with telepathic green lions. If we like, these worlds can give us a way out of this one, an escape hatch from the drudgery of our ordinary lives. But escapism isn’t the only promise of fantastic writing. A lot of the time, our depictions of unreal worlds are less fabrication than warped mirror. They offer what Ray Bradbury calls ‘a ricochet vision’: a twisted reflection of our current world that reveals something true. Here, in the many realms of speculative fiction—those of science fiction, fantasy, horror, weird fiction, magical realism, fairy tale, and everything in between—we’ll go searching for the truth. We’ll read fantastical stories from writers spanning the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: Golden Age masters like Ray Bradbury and Theodore Sturgeon, as well as genre-bending, gender-bending innovators like Octavia Butler and James Tiptree Jnr. We’ll explore a host of contemporary practitioners: Kelly Link, George Saunders, Charles Yu, Vandana Singh, Sofia Samatar, Ted Chiang, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Ted McCombs, and Carmen Maria Machado. We’ll also turn to essays and writing advice from Ursula K le Guin, Samuel Delaney, and Damon Knight. In class, we’ll talk about the unique things speculative fiction can do: how it can estrange us from reality and get us to see it afresh, giving us new insights into class, race, gender, and sexuality. We’ll use prompts and generative exercises to open up our brains, and strange things will follow: we’ll start to notice our world differently, and we’ll find peculiar images and stories rising to the surface of our own minds. In workshopping our own writing, we’ll talk about the handling of unreal elements, with craft asides on big, structural concerns like world building and plotting, as well as the granular stuff: clarity and beauty and humour at the level of the sentence. And our characters? They’ll be undead and extra-terrestrial and part-caterpillar and psychically gifted, but they will also be—and I am deathly serious about this—real. They’ll be motivated by real desire and real need; their minds will be believably complex, and we’ll care about what happens to them. Through them, and through the new worlds they inhabit, we’ll learn more about what it means to be human.
is a writer from Sydney, Australia. She’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop. Her work is published or forthcoming in Gulf Coast and HEAT. She lives in Iowa City, where she writes about ghosts, monsters, cyborgs, sentient plant life, distant galaxies, and queer ladies with big feelings. Currently, she’s at work on a short story collection and a novel.
REGISTRATION & FEES
The fee for this course, which includes the fee for the 2-week session of the Summer Residential Program, is $2,500. Payment in full is required to enroll in the course.
Note: Your credit card payment will be processed by an external provider and will appear on your credit card statement as “UI Writing—Magid Center."
Cancellation Policy: If you cancel or withdraw before June 1, 2022 a $100 cancellation fee will be deducted from your refund. Thereafter no refunds are available.
Contact the Iowa Young Writers' Studio: firstname.lastname@example.org.