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This survey course introduces students to the genre of science fiction and its unique ability to examine cultural issues by placing them outside reality.  The speculative nature of the genre allows writers to explore the future, alternate histories, and scientific, moral, and political controversies.  Starting with early historical works, the course surveys mainstream science fiction and major literary science fiction works.


Students may take this course after completing the composition requirement of their curriculum.


  • To develop the students' sensitivity to literature and language so that they read with insight and enjoyment.
  • To increase the students' self-awareness through a development of their critical abilities.
  • To develop the students' writing skills and information literacy through writing both traditional literary analyses and research papers. .
  • To improve students' reading skills.
  • To show how science fiction has influenced and been influenced by mainstream literature.

My courses are designed to deal with adult issues often centering on controversial cultural and historical conflicts. At times, the class readings, lectures, and discussions may question ideas or beliefs that individual students hold dear. In addition, the language used in the course may range from highly technical jargon to the vernacular, including profanity. Students who wish to avoid such a classroom environment should seek another section of the course.


  • Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts. Ed. Heather Masri. Bedford/St. Martin's.  # ISBN-10: 031245015X / # ISBN-13: 978-0312450151
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood ISBN: 9780385490818
  • Watchmen by Allan Moore and Dave Gibbons ISBN-10: 093028923
  • 1984 by George Orwell (Plume; Centennial edition (May 6, 2003)) ISBN-10: 0452284236
  • Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein ISBN-10: 0441783589
  • The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams ISBN-10: 0345391802
  • Post-It Brand book marking tabs
  • Access to the MLA Style Guide with the 2009 Update
  • Pen and paper for each class

English 245 will be one of the most challenging courses of your academic career because it moves quickly, requires a wide range of academic skills, and demands more time than the average course. In addition to an intensive reading load (with reading checks to document your marginalia), each student will write two major papers (a literary interpretation and a research paper), prepare two exam guides, take a mid-term and final exam, develop an annotated bibliography, and use the discussion board extensively to post drafts and comments on readings. A breakdown of the assignments and relative point values is as follows:

Final drafts of papers

200 points


100 points

Annotated bibliographies

40 points

Two-minute presentation

10 points

Individual drafts of papers

0-20 points, depending on completeness

Required emails and posts

-5 points if not completed

Required Attendance at Writers Conference Q&A on Friday, Nov. 4, 2011

20 points

Submitting final drafts to Turnitin.com

Zero on final draft if not done

Reading checks

5 points

Exam Guides and open book tests

20 points

Formal responses and peer reviews

20 points

Your grade is calculated by adding the total points earned and then dividing them by the total points possible. That average will then be plugged into the college's grading scale.

Numerical Grade 

Corresponding letter grade             

Percent Equivalent


















79.5- 77.5










Be advised that you must complete all major papers in order to pass the course. Even if your paper is too late to be accepted under the late work policies, it must be completed by the end of the semester. If it is not, then you will automatically fail for the course, regardless of what your point total is.

When the final draft of a major paper is due, you will need to do the following:

  • Submit a copy to the dropbox on Blackboard for the paper. This file is what will actually be graded, so make sure it is the final version and not a prior draft. 
  • Post a copy to the discussion board in the "Final Draft" forum.
  • Submit the paper to Turnitin.com and get a receipt. Papers not submitted to Turnitin.com receive zeros.  See handout for log-in information.

In order to allow students to benefit from the three-step writing process and to turn in the best possible work for evaluation, students will be permitted to revise the first major paper in the course for an entirely new grade provided they meet the following criteria:

1) The assignment/essay must have been handed in on time and without plagiarism. Late or plagiarized papers are ineligible for revision.
2) Students desiring to complete a revision will meet with the instructor or a professional writing tutor at the Learning Assistance Lab. to discuss strategies for successful rewriting before attempting revision.

Note: The original, graded essay must be turned in with the revision. Just turning in a revision does not guarantee you will receive a higher grade. In the event that the revised draft grade is actually lower than the original assignment, you will receive the higher of the two grades; however, a higher revision grade always replaces the original grade, so if you are prepared to work hard, your grade will most likely benefit. See the class web page for more information on the major paper rewrite. Please see the class web page's assignments section for more explicit details.

All College policies must be followed and are a binding part of this syllabus. Details on the Student Code of Conduct can be found at http://www.mc3.edu/policy/sa/conduct.htm.

Plagiarism constitutes a serious breach of academic honesty and will not be tolerated. Unless I deem an act of plagiarism or cheating an honest mistake, I routinely assign students an "F" in the course for any act of academic dishonesty without the option of withdrawing from the course. Especially egregious acts will receive an "FX" with an additional notation of academic misconduct on the student's transcript. Please note that submitting work from another class as original work for this course constitutes academic dishonesty. For a full discussion of the Academic Honesty policies, please see http://www.mc3.edu/policy/aa/ethics.htm.

All students in my English courses will submit their papers to TurnItIn.com, a tool that checks your papers against other sources. You will have a chance to see your report and revise it before the final draft is due, should you choose.

Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) welcomes qualified students with disabilities and endorses the principles of nondiscrimination and reasonable accommodation as described in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). To see if you are eligible for services and reasonable accommodations in this course please review the policy on the Disabilities web site at http://www.mc3.edu/policy/sa/disable.htm.

Regular attendance and punctuality are expected. Students may miss four class meetings and remain in the course. The fifth absence will result in either a required withdrawal from the course (before the October 22, 2013 deadline) or an automatic F in the course (after the October 22, 2013 deadline for withdrawal without a signature).  At the start of the semester, each student will receive 12 points of extra credit for attendance.  Points lost for tardiness or absences will initially be taken from this pool of points, giving students the flexibility to miss two classes without injury to their grades.  Each absence will subtract five points from a student's total points scored for the semester. Each late arrival will subtract two points from the total points scored. A point will be awarded for each class attended. If a student knows he or she will miss a class, that student should alert Dr. Halbert beforehand. Under special circumstances (usually involving a documented medical emergency or a death in the family), you may request permission to remain enrolled in the course if your absences have exceeded four, but such circumstances are rare. Attendance will be taken by sign-in sheet at the start of class: students arriving after the sign-in sheet will be marked tardy. If you arrive late, please wait until the end of class to sign the sheet. Failure to sign the sheet at all constitutes an absence. Students who leave class early must ask for permission prior to the start of class; if you leave without permission before I dismisses the class, you will be marked absent for the whole period. Good manners suggest that if you know you will miss a class meeting, you will contact me and let me know.

In the event of inclement weather or other emergency, the MCCC School Closing Code is 320 for day classes and 2320 for evening classes. Announcements will be made on KYW (1060 AM) and other local stations. In the event that I have to cancel a class, I will email the class and post a message on Blackboard (assuming I have power at home to access the Internet).

Should you wish to withdraw from the course, the deadline to withdraw without my signature is October 22, 2013. If you do not formally withdrawal, you will receive an F for the course even if you stop attending. After October 22, 2013, I will not sign any withdrawal requests unless you have a documented emergency. This is the last day to request to audit.

Applications for an "Incomplete" will only be entertained in cases of documented medical emergencies or military call-ups. Audits will not be permitted unless you start the course as an audit student and can convince me that you are willing to do all that work for no grade.

All work is due at the beginning of class on the day listed for the syllabus unless otherwise noted. I hate late work from students: it complicates my ability to grade or simply keep track of your work. More importantly, it devalues the efforts of your classmates who work very hard to meet their deadlines. To discourage late work, I have the following policy:

  • Final drafts of papers lose 25 points (out of the possible 200 points) for each 24-hour period they are late. This penalty includes Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Other late assignments have a 24-hour period to be submitted. They will be graded, and that grade will be divided by 2 and entered into the grade spreadsheet.

Late work will kill your grade, so don't do it. If you know ahead of time that you will not be able to complete a task, contact me for an extension. I reserve the right to make an exception to the late policy in the case of an extreme (and documentable) emergency, but that almost never happens.

Tutorial Services, located on the lower floor of College Hall in Room 180, has computers that students may use. In addition, help from professional tutors on papers for English and other courses is available every day of the week on a walk-in basis. I work there Monday and Tuesday afternoons, but any of the professional tutors should be able to help you. Use of the Tutorial Services is strongly encouraged: I've run centers like this, used centers like this, and I believe they are a valuable resource for both struggling and gifted writers because they provide a pair of professional eyes to review a paper and give writers the kind of feedback we all want.

As adults, students and the instructor should know to do the following in class:

  • Be prepared for class with work completed and required materials available.
  • Refrain from non-class related conversations once class has started.
  • Keep cell phones and pagers in "silent" mode and refrain from answering them or using them to send text messages. Should a student expect an important call (because of family emergencies or issues of similar magnitude), please make the instructor aware of that possibility before class.
  • Inform the professor if you will be recording the class.
  • Treat each other with mutual respect: while we can challenge each other's ideas in class, personalized attacks or use of inappropriate language directed at another member of the class community is unacceptable.
  • Ask for help if you need it.
  • Make the most of this course. It will help in the future.

I enjoy teaching literature courses: I believe they can be the most empowering classes a person can take in college because the skills you learn can help you in virtually every part of your life. I took this job to help people discover their potential: as long as you are willing to do the work, I will do everything in my power to help you not only pass the course, but to be the best intellectual you can be.


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Site Created on August 27, 2013