English (ENGL) 387

Writing Speculative Fiction (Revision 1)

ENGL 387 Course Cover

Delivery Mode: Individualized study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Humanities

Prerequisite: ENGL 381 (or equivalent) and professor approval.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

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ENGL 387 develops speculative fiction (SF) writing skills through a combination of strategic study and writing activity. Students learn key definitions, important history, traditions of the field, essential features of SF, and principles and standards of fiction writing in general. Strategic reading throughout the course, along with analysis of professional working methods, contributes and reinforces insights. Students learn to perform expert critiques and write informed revision. Above all, they write and revise short SF with increasing skill and confidence.



  • Unit 1: What Is Speculative Fiction?
  • Unit 2: Preparing to Excel at Speculative Fiction
  • Unit 3: Elements of Story and Special Problems of Character
  • Unit 4: Worlds and Wonders
  • Unit 5: Themes and Tropes of Speculative Fiction
  • Unit 6: Critique and Self-critique
  • Unit 7: Final Draft


To receive credit for ENGL 387, you must achieve a minimum grade of 50 percent on each assignment and a composite grade of at least “D” (50 percent). There is no final examination. The weighting of the assignments is as follows:

Assignment for Credit Length Weight
Analysis and sample writing 400-500 wds 10%
Short story & reflection 1,500-2,000 wds 15%
Short story 2,000-2,500 wds 20%
Markup and critique 250-300 wds & markup 10%
Case study report 500-750 wds 10%
Self critique and markup 250 wds & markup 10%
Short story final draft 3,500 wds max 25%
Total 100%

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Delaney, Samuel R. About Writing. Middleton: Weslyan University Press, 2005.

Le Guin, Ursula K. and Brian Attebery, eds. The Norton Book of Science Fiction. New York: Norton, 1993.

Wilhelm, Kate. Storyteller. Northampton: Small Beer, 2005.

Other Materials: Readings and Short Fiction (Online and DRR)

Clute, John. "Fantasy" (essay) in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, Clute and Grant, eds. London: Orbit, 1996)

Delany, Samuel. "About 5,750 Words" (essay)

Dorsey, Candas Jane. "Farewell to the Literature of Ideas."

Imaginative Fiction Writers Association. "The Critique, Our Reason for Being: Critique Guidelines."

McIntyre, Vonda. "The Straining Your Eyes Through the Viewscreen Blues" (essay)

McIntyre, Vonda. "Pitfalls of Writing SF and Fantasy."

Shainblum, Mark. "Endogamy Blues." (first draft, published draft, and case study of revisions)

Shaw, Robert. "Light of Other Days" (short story)

Sterling, Bruce, et al. "The Turkey City Lexicon" (cautionary list) by Bruce Sterling

Pflug, Ursula. "Airport Shoes" (first draft, published draft, and case study of successive revisions)

Runté, Robert. "Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy" (essay)

Runté, Robert. "Why I Read American SF" (essay)

Strange Horizons. "Stories We've Seen Too Often."

Strange Horizons. "Horror Stories We've Seen Too Often."

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 1, June 19, 2013.

Updated September 21 2016 by Student & Academic Services