Sunday, January 31, 2016

Questions about MLA Citation?

If you have questions about citing a source, from a You Tube video to an on-line article, be sure to check this link:

This will take you to Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, which has a complete breakdown of every possible MLA citation issue you can think of. Use this if you get stuck so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Feel free to e-mail me with questions as well.

Remember the paper is due Tuesday by 5pm and we DO have class on Tuesday. It's an important class since we'll be signing up for conferences over Paper #1. See you then!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

For Tuesday: Weir, The Martian, Chs.16-22

Answer TWO of the following…

Q1: Why does China agree to help NASA rescue Watney? What compromise does this force China to make…and what compromise does NASA have to make in return? Do you feel this is ultimately a positive, cooperative enterprise, or does it leave either the US or China ahead?

Q2: Do you feel it was ethical of Mitch to leak the e-mail about the “Rich Purnell Manuever” to the crew of Ares 3? Is he acting in the crew’s best interests, knowing how they will react to this knowledge? Likewise, was NASA wrong in concealing it from the crew?

Q3: In a slightly related question to #2, do you agree with the crew’s decision to munity and pursue the Rich Purnell Manuever? Does a crew have a right to go against the expressed wishes of NASA simply to save a colleague or follow their own morals? Does this set a dangerous precedent for future astronauts/missions? 

Q4: Do you feel losing contact with NASA is a mixed blessing for Watney? Does being on his own ultimately save his life? Would NASA have come up with the same survival techniques, or would their bottom line get in the way of a happy ending?

Paper #1: To Boldly Go...

“The cost for my survival must have been hundreds of millions of dollars. All to save one dorky botanist. Why bother?...Part of it might be what I represent: progress, science, and the interplanetary future we’ve dreamed of for centuries. But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out...I had billions of people on my side” (Weir 368-369).

Context:          In the great Age of Exploration, when ships sailed into uncharted waters to discover new continents and cities of gold, few of the explorers ever made it back to tell of their journey. Ships sank, ran out of supplies, crews mutinied, while others simply vanished without a trace. Yet few countries questioned whether the cost of human life was worth the relentless drive to discover new lands and sources of wealth. Today, the story is different: it is entirely plausible that the entire world would ban together to save a single man, even at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Likewise, losing a single man, much less a crew of six, could end the space program altogether (as it almost did in 1986, with the Challenger explosion). Is this a realistic approach to exploring the Solar System? Can we still explore ‘brave new worlds’ without losing a single man/woman?

Response:      So for your First Paper, I want you to argue whether sending human beings to explore and possibly colonize Mars is worth the risk. Is NASA advanced enough—and ethical enough—to oversee such an operation? Is it ethical to send a small crew to their possible doom simply to advance our understanding of science and our footprint in the cosmos? How do Watney’s logs help us re-evaluate our mission in space, and if this science fiction story became reality, how would it change or challenge our priorities? You might also consider why Watney survived to tell his tale. Are there enough safeties in place to ensure that everyone has a reasonable chance of getting back alive? Do we trust the men and women behind the computer screens? Or does this story expose a dystopian future for the space program?

  • Quote from the book: this is your primary source, and I want you to use passages from the book to support your ideas or to argue against them. Watney’s logs are the basic voice you’re responding to in your conversation.
  • 2-3 Secondary Sources: I want you to find 2-3 sources that help you discuss this difficult question and/or help you see different sides of it. Your sources could be discussions about the book (but only one of these), articles about Mars exploration, articles from NASA’s website, articles/books about ethics or psychology relevant to the discussion, or anything about the realities of space travel. Find voices that add an important dimension to the conversation.
  • Cite all sources according to MLA Format (we’ll discuss this more in class) along with a Works Cited page
  • Page Requirement: ???
  •  Due Tuesday, February 2nd by 5pm

Thursday, January 14, 2016

For Thursday: Weir, The Martian, Chs. 9-15

NOTE: No class on Tuesday, since I unexpectedly have to be out of town. We'll meet back on Thursday, so more time to read and/or catch up with the reading! 

Answer TWO of the following questions, again in short paragraph each (a few sentences):

Q1: Despite being on the cutting edge of science (he’s on Mars, after all), how does survival often force Watney to use very low tech or even primitive methods? Why might it be difficult for a robot or a rover to duplicate these techniques?

Q2: Where else in these chapters do we realize that being the only person on a planet is not merely a matter of physical, but mental, survival? What does Watney need to stay sane and functional as a human being? How aware is NASA of these requirements?

Q3: Do you think Watney’s response to his sudden celebrity and the involvement of NASA in his day-to-day existence is realistic? If not, why do you think Weir portrayed him in this manner? But if so, does this say more about his personality as an astronaut, or his personality as someone who has been stranded on the most desolate place in human imagination? Try to focus on a specific scene in your response.

Q4: These chapters complicate the narrative of The Martian, going backwards to the entire Ares 3 mission, as well as reports from the various labs where the HAB was being fabricated. Why do we get these new perspectives in the story? How do they change what we see and/or how we experience it? Do they change the story substantially for you? 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

For Thursday: Weir, The Martian, Chs.1-8

NOTE: Be sure to bookmark our course blog (which I’ll  use instead of Blackboard):  I’ll post all the reading response questions here, as well as paper assignments, and other announcements.

Answer TWO of the following questions in a short paragraph—at least a few sentences. Be specific and avoid the simple response of “yes, he’s doing that because of this.” There are a variety of responses for each question, and I’m more interested to read why you think your answer is right rather than what you think it is. Each set of questions is worth 2 points (out of 100), and they add up quickly; you can only get full points if you give a thoughtful, detailed response of at least a few sentences.

Q1: Discuss Watney’s narration style: what kind of storyteller is he? Even though he’s technically recording a log, and not writing a book, how does his style/personality affect what we learn and how the story is told? How is his narration unique and/or valuable for this kind of story?

Q2: In Weir’s article “How Science Made Me a Writer” (at the back of the book), he writes, “as I wrote, I bungled my way into a revelation: Science creates plot! As I worked out the intricacies of each problem and solution, little details I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed became critical problems Mark had to solve” (385). Where in the opening chapters does science create the plot of the book? In other words, how does actual scientific (or mathematic) fact create drama and conflict for Watney—and the reader?

Q3: Though this book is very plausible and based on realistic science, how might we consider this book as a metaphor (as we discussed in class)? How is the idea of a man stranded in space, without a single human being to help him, a very metaphorical use of science fiction?  What does it help us see or understand about ourselves—or our own society?

Q4: Weir worried that writing a story strictly from Watney’s point of view could potentially be quite boring. For this reason, he clearly decided to add another storyline on Earth, as NASA tries to engineer his rescue. However, what else does this storyline add to the novel? Why do we need, on some level, to see Watney’s story from the other side?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Welcome to the Course!

Welcome to the official course site for Dr. Grasso's English 1213/Comp 2, focusing on the conversation of science fiction. Why read and write about sci-fi? Well, it seems that every other film, book, and TV show these days takes place in the future, on another world, with people who have either escaped an apocalypse or are expecting a new one. Perhaps this is because we’re still newly arrived in the 21st century, where anything can happen—if we don’t destroy ourselves first. So what can we, in the “real world,” learn from science fiction? To answer this, we will read and respond to numerous works in this genre to answer questions such as: how is science fiction a metaphor for our own fears and desires? How does looking into the future help us understand the present and the past? And who are the “aliens” and “robots” in our own world? The four papers and numerous writing responses in this class will help you see the reality behind science fiction, where the galaxy far, far away is always our own.

Make sure to get the following books as soon as possible, esp. since we're reading The Martian for Thursday's class: 

Weir, The Martian
Levin, The Stepford Wives
Millar, Superman: Red Son
ed. Joe Hill, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015

We'll use this site instead of Blackboard, so bookmark this site and check back for assignments, handouts, and other announcements. See you next week!