English (ENGL) 387

Writing Speculative Fiction (Revision 2)

ENGL 387 Course Cover

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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 will learn to perform expert critiques and write informed revisions. Above all, they will 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
  • 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 400–500 words 10%
Short Story and Reflections 1,500–2,000 words 15%
Short Story 2,000–2,500 words 20%
Markup and Critique 250–300 words plus markup 10%
Short Story Introduction  600–800 word 10%
Story Revision 250 words plus revision 10%
New Short Story Final Draft 3,000 word 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.” The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. Eds. John Clute and John Grant. London: Orbit, 1996.

Delany, Samuel. “About 5,750 Words.”

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.”

McIntyre, Vonda. “Pitfalls of Writing SF and Fantasy.”

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

Runté, Robert. “Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy.”

Runté, Robert. “Why I Read American SF.”

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

Shaw, Robert. “Light of Other Days.”

Sterling, Bruce, et al. “The Turkey City Lexicon.”

Strange Horizons. “Horror Stories We’ve Seen Too Often.”

Strange Horizons. “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 2, February 9, 2017.

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Updated December 06 2018 by Student & Academic Services