Quiz: Mulder and Scully vs. Lois and Clark in an easter egg hunt in Mordor. Who finds the most?



The correct response is Krypto, obviously named after Kal-El's home planet of Krypton. Before the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which substantially reduced the number of characters in the DC Universe, Krypto was a regular character who had many of Superman's abilities. After the Crisis, Superman was the only survivor of Krypton--or so it was believed. Krypto has appeared in several publications since the Crisis in the 80's. It just goes to show that you can't put a good dog down.

I would also like to apologize for the new header. It seems Alfonso may have misunderstood me when I asked him to add some new graphics to the site. We'll have that cleaned up in a week or two--so long as Alfonso understands my directions this time.

Enjoy the rest of your break!


Prof. Sci-Fi




I hope you all had a good winter break. Now that the next semester is beginning, I'm sure you are all looking forward to classes and homework.

I wanted to inform you about some changes that will be taking place in the next few weeks in our class, "Sci-Fi: A Narrative to Live By" or AWSM 101. First, I'd like to introduce you to a new member of our class, Alfonso, our TA. You will see him posting occasionally to keep you updated about changes to the syllabus, assignments, and other administrative things that help make the class run smoothly. It was necessary for me to hire Alfonso due to yet another change.

I am teaching a new course--some lectures of which will be appearing on our class website as supplementary material. The class is called: "Practical Skills for Sci-Fi Environments." This course is largely designed for people who will be doing field research in Sci-Fi environments and will cover topics such as safety tips for encounters with the Borg, guidelines for operating DeLoreans, and the many uses for Kryptonite. Check this space often for new material in this course.

Obviously, my busy schedule required me to hire Alfonso as an aide. I will also be participating in several conferences this semester, and so we will be having guest lecturers from all over the Sci-Fi universe. This semester, guest lecturers will come exclusively from the Star Trek mythology. Their lectures will be available as video blogs on the class website. The first lecturer will be Cowboy Worf and he will be visiting on Jan. 11. The topic will be forthcoming.

Because I will be out of the classroom so much, I believe it will be beneficial for you, the students, to have more direct access to me in case of any questions. Of course, as this is a class about Sci-Fi and morality, feel free to send me any questions regarding our class topics. You can reach me at . You can also contact Alfonso if you have any questions about grades or administrative things. Alfonso: . If the questions pertain to the whole class, I may answer them on the class website--with your permission, of course.

Of course, also keep watching this space for your homework assignments and weekly quizzes. The quizzes will be explained at the end of each week in order to better facilitate your learning.

It has been a great semester, and I look forward working with you in the new year, 2010. Sounds like something out of Sci-Fi, doesn't it?


Prof. Sci-Fi



There will be changes coming to the website. Stay tuned to find out how the timeline is about change.

Prof. Sci-Fi


Homework #4: Time

Time travel is a common plot device and theme in sci-fi. Usually in a sci-fi movie, ep, or book, the timeline gets distorted somehow and the job of the heroes is to fix it.

Of course, "distorted" is a pretty loaded term. In a story, we see the timeline as being "distorted," but in reality there's no "right way" for events to unfold. This leads me to a question:

Why does time travel intrigue us so much? And in the absence of even the possibility of time travel, why do we dream about it? Before sci-fi was invented, did people dream about changing the past or the future?

Feel free to answer any of these questions--or all of them.


Homework #3: Dark Side

Why is the Dark Side of the Force so appealing? Why do people turn to it? Would you?


We never really understand our own experience. Yet our experience is what defines us and what guides our decisions. And that's living. I learned that from Buffy.

Angel's experience is a conundrum (whose isn't?). He is a vampire--a monster who took great pleasure in torturing and inflicting pain on others. But he also has a soul--which means his own conscience tortures him with guilt for what he has done. And one Christmas, Angel's experience was almost his undoing.

Wracked with the suffering of those he killed, Angel decides to kill himself by standing on a hill, waiting for the sun to rise. But then Buffy finds him.

Buffy has had her own experience. But hers, like most of ours, is not nearly as cut-and-dry good-and-evil as Angel's. Hers is filled with nuance. She has a tendency to fall for guys who are likely to hurt her. Plus she has a calling: she is the Vampire Slayer. She never wanted to be the Slayer, and so her experience of living has been the tension between fate and free will, duty and liberty. Buffy's done some bad things, but she's mostly a good person. And she has come to talk some sense into Angel.

But Angel is just trying to make sense of his own experience. And he has a point.

"Am I thing worth saving? Am I a righteous man?" he cries.

Buffy doesn't buy it. She loves him and wants him to live. So she accuses him of being a coward for not fighting--for not dealing with the conundrum of his dual experience. Angel sees it another way: he thinks he IS dealing with that problem and solving it. He asks her to let him be strong.

But Buffy says: "Strong is fighting! It's hard, and it's painful, and it's every day. It's what we have to do. And we can do it together."

The real beauty of this moment is that even though Buffy and Angel's experiences are so wildly different, she sees herself in him. That's why she helps him. That's why we help each other. Because our experience is the same on some basic level. We understand and know what others need--we know this from our own experience. It's all we can offer to people in need. Our own experience. And even though we can never be sure, we can hope that we share something in common. And that it will be enough.

Buffy's right. The only way we can get through and make sense of our own experience is if we do it together.

From the University of Awesome, Prof. Sci-Fi wishes you Happy Holidays.


Homework #2

Which sci-fi ideal do you aspire most to? What are you doing to achieve it?


Homework #1

One of the main themes of this course is the status Sci-Fi has in our literary tradition. My thesis is that Sci-Fi evolved out of the social-construct of myth and could ideally function in much the same way fairy tales do. Who knows? Perhaps we won't be telling Grimm Brothers' stories to our kids. Maybe we'll put them to bed with a little tale about how Buffy slayed the vampires.

Writing Prompt
What is your favorite fairy tale? What is your favorite bit of Sci-Fi? Are they similar? How?

Please submit your assignment via the comment button. This is out of a total of 10 points. Due date is Tuesday.


Belief and Doubt

Belief and doubt work in tandem. They are partners investigating this same strange world. And the conversation they hold never ends. I learned that from the X-Files.

Old conventional wisdom says you can't believe and doubt at the same time. But today, even priests talk extensively about how doubt is "okay" and "natural" and even "helpful" to the faith experience because, once you abandon those doubts, your belief is stronger. So ultimately, doubt is a means to an end--at least in conventional wisdom.

But belief and doubt really aren't all that different. In the X-Files mythology, this is shown through the relationship between two FBI agents. Mulder and Scully, the believer and the skeptic respectively, initially have their doubts about each other. The believer thinks the skeptic is out to sabotage his work by exposing his views as frauds. The skeptic thinks the believer is a little unbalanced. But only in the beginning. When they don't know each other. Only when the other person is still an unknown, a dehumanized collection of beliefs (or nonbeliefs) and assumptions, is it possible to think that belief and doubt are at odds with one another. But once they take on the same case, it's clear that they're on the same team. Hell, they even like each other. And they're really two sides to the same coin.

Ultimately, Scully was set up by higher-ups in the agency to expose Mulder and his beliefs as frauds. But by the end of their first case involving a potential alien abduction, Scully cannot bring herself to hand Mulder over as a crazy. Why? Does she feel sorry for him? Maybe a little. Does she think he might be onto something? Maybe a little of that too. But without Mulder, Scully is just one voice articulating something false: that everything has a logical explanation. And without Scully, Mulder is a lonely voice for another falsehood: that faith alone is enough. When the two get together and talk, that's when they find the truth that's out there.

But sometimes the truth is just a smudge on the lens. So make sure you clean your lenses properly.


Escaping the Past

We are the sum of our past, and one event can change us in ways we can never truly understand. I learned that from Smallville.

For Clark and Lana and a dozen other people, it all goes back to the meteor shower. In 1989, a massive meteor shower all but destroyed the town of Smallville, Kansas. And there were consequences. Lana's parents were killed when a meteor fell on their car causing it to explode. Lex, who was out in a cornfield, was nearly hit by one of the rocks and lost all his hair. And, of course, Clark came into the lives of Jonathon and Martha Kent.

That moment changed their lives forever. The lives they were living before the meteors came were definitely not the same lives afterwards. Some moments are like that--they alter things so much that you find you're heading in a different direction than what you thought you were going.

As humans, we experience time as a line--and some points on that line are more significant than others. Those points shape the direction of the line afterwards in ways we can't fully comprehend until years later. Or perhaps we'll never understand. We all have those moments in our lives: it's part of our human experience. But how each of us deals with those moments differs from person to person. Just look at Smallville.

Many years after the 1989 Meteor Shower (it's funny how the moments that shape us get names--like they're a person we met, or a moment bigger than a date on a calendar), a spot of tornadoes hit Smallville. Lana was nearly killed as was Clark's father, Jonathon. After the worst of the disaster was over, Lana visited Clark at his barn:

"I just can't wait for things to get back to normal," Clark said.

"It won't," Lana replied.

"Why do you say that?"

Lana explained, "Nell used to tell me that after the meteor shower. But these events change you. It wipes out your illusions. You discover things about yourself."

Sometimes the things you discover are good, sometimes they're bad. But after your world is shaken, the only positive thing you can do is try to find a new direction to go. If you stay stuck in that moment, it may be a comfortable misery, but you'll keep reliving the same mistakes over and over. If you try to act like the moment never happened, you're a fool and will never be able to accept reality or responsibility. Either way, you're living in illusion. So the best thing to do is to walk through the fire--'cause where else can you turn?

It may be scary treading out onto new terrain. But you can face it. There's nothing you can't face...

Well, except some people have problems with bunnies. But I don't really get that.