(2016 premidterm assignment)

Model Student Pre-midterm answers 2016 (Index)

Essay 2: Personal / professional research topic proposal

LITR 4368
Literature of the Future  

Model Assignments


Mark Stapelfeldt

Essay 2: Humanity Recalled

           If I had to choose from the many topics I have invested interest, it would have to be about the concept of humanity and its place in the universe. From all of the stories I’ve read and the video games I’ve played, the one thing that stood out to me was the alteration of how to define a ‘person.’ In future narratives, there are so many different humanoid looking individuals who interact with human beings from aliens, robots, animals, plant life, etc. During the recent fall semester in 2015, I wrote a paper about people living secondary lives in alternate forms of reality in order to conveniently communicate in an interesting way.

          Personally, I’m obsessed with latent futures either immediate or down the line. I usually blame it on my personality type (ENTP), but perhaps it may also be an excuse for trying to not have to deal with real life problems. Professionally I am currently writing a future narrative story that has concepts being represented by characters. What I want to learn is something along the lines of why I care so much about what could happen instead of what is happening around me.

Dr. White's response: . . . your research proposal was intriguing, so I posted it to the Model Assignments even if I don’t necessarily want other students to imitate it except for how it gives one plenty to work with. The essential question of why to care about the future when nearly all normal people seem happier (or normaler) keeping up with everyday routine is fascinating, but I don’t know how to isolate it to a research topic unless you might want to examine prophecy and its personality types, who were often social outliers, I think.

But you broach so many possible topics—probably the one best aligned with our readings would be variations on the humanoid. So far we’ve talked about enhancements and implants but more to come. A rant of mine against most cinematic sf at least is how much life or intelligence is limited to the humanoid, which I smirk at as vanity. Welcome to read ahead to our late short short story titled “They’re Made Out of Meat.” Otherwise you might consolidate your interest in fiction and vid-games in terms of variations on the humanoid. I’d need more details on your current fiction project, but it sounds at least generically like what I learned as allegory. (An 80s movie I liked for varying the alien form was Liquid Sky, which has some cult-classic status.)

Mark's follow-up email: After some consideration and a weekly update on television's Legends of Tomorrow (LoT) and The Flash, I believe I am beginning to narrow down on a research topic of note. The shows themselves deal with potential futures, LoT with time travel and Flash handling alternate dimensions. When a character in fiction is prompted to help people in a 'false realty', they usually end up going head first into danger for the sake of the story, not because that is what would actually happen in the scenario.

In The Time Machine movie (2002), the Time Traveler stays in the future to rebuild what humanity lost instead of traveling back to his era to try and prevent the possibility entirely (the romantic plot in the beginning hinted that events in time are bound to happen and time travel would do nothing to change them).

It is as you stated, some are contempt with routine and are happy living day to day, but they remember the extraordinary. Future narratives provide people what history cannot: a story they can actively play a major role.

Dr. White's response: Thanks, Mark, more below, but before I forget  tonight I watched an analysis show on NBA TV that mentioned that the video game series NBA 2K had proven unable to duplicate the inventiveness and statistical output of the phenomenal Warriors guard Steph Curry.

I appreciate your continuing to develop your topic. I never heard “false reality” before but you mention it as though it’s familiar—if so, define, and expand on what you said about the narrative freedom it enables, which is potentially a feature of all alternative reality stories EXCEPT for that old standby (Star Trek, Back to the Future) of being careful not to disorient the present (or future) to which the time traveler is expected to return. The upside for alt-futures is a kind of playfulness or exuberance of having many time-lines to waste, but the downside is a degradation or relativization of any supposedly privileged time or reality.

My main warning is to do what you can to connect your research and analysis to our course readings, since that’s part of the assignment, though I’ll have to vary that requirement according to topic.

I like your conclusion that future narratives provide an opportunity for readers to feel real possibilities, also maybe a resolution to avoid past mistakes.

You show a fertile mind, but the greatest risk in your style is lack of unity. Welcome to confer on some standard techniques for improving. Here’s my standard link / handout for when I teach writing—review with me as inclined: http://coursesite.uhcl.edu/HSH/Whitec/INST/unity.htm