Course Meeting Times

Seminars: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

While some people argue that genre fiction is simply a marketing category, most would say that different genres meet specific expectations of readers. We will examine these different agreements of what the reader wants and what the writer provides under the aegis of different genres. While we will begin with science fiction and fantasy, the other genres we explore will be dictated by the interests of the class. Mystery, historical fiction, preternatural romance, horror and others are all available and our readings will draw on many of these. We will look at how genres are divided into subgenres and how they are combined into cross genre work as well, always keeping in mind the Reader-Writer Contact that is at the heart of genre writing. We shall also think about the ways in which crossing genres has led to the establishment of new genres (steampunk, preternatural romance) and strongly established subgenres (historical mystery, urban fantasy).

We will spend a good portion of this class in workshop. All students will produce three works of fiction which will go through the workshop process.


At the end of this course you will:

  • Understand the Reader Writer Contract and how it applies to creating fiction of various genres.
  • Understand, recognize, and work with the tropes of the genre you choose.
  • Be conversant in the conventions of genre fiction in general and the requirements of multiple genres so that, should you choose in the future, you can shift genres or combine them.
  • Recognize cliché within the genre and know the difference between writing fresh, original work that still fulfills the Contract of a given genre and hack writing.
  • Be able to write in at least two subgenres of the genre of your choice.


I believe it was Mark Twain who said, "You don't have to write well. You just have to rewrite well." Because of this, I cannot really judge any piece of writing until I see a final rewrite. And I want to encourage you to rewrite as many times as you feel necessary, until the piece meets your approval. I think assigning a grade to any draft at any stage until the end can interrupt the process. I want to encourage you to write, to take risks, to rewrite freely, and to be willing to experiment without worrying about a grade until you feel the work is ready. For this reason, grades in this class will be based on contract grading.

That is, you and I will enter into the following contract:

You will treat this class seriously, do the assignments fully with intent, participate in discussion and workshop, turn in all written work on time and of the highest quality you can write, and attend all class meetings and arrive on time. If you fulfill this contract you are guaranteed to receive a B in this class.

To receive an A your writing will need to approach publishable quality. If you ever drop below the level of a B I will inform you immediately. If you ever have any question as to where your grade is during the semester you may ask me directly, but assume a B if I have not told you otherwise.


Writing is a practice; theory without application is meaningless. Workshop forms the central core of practice in this class and responsibility to the group as a whole as a workshop is crucial. Therefore, absence from class becomes problematic. If you are absent from workshop you still owe critiques to those whose work was up on that day. If you have another obligation—a job interview, for example, that keeps you from workshop—you inform the entire group and not me alone. Missing workshop when your work is scheduled is considered a severe violation of the social contract of the workshop except in the most extreme cases (you are in the hospital or there is a death in the family) and will be penalized as such. Writing program policy states that more than five absences can be grounds for a failing grade.


All fiction assignments will be turned in online by 5 pm of the day due, and hard copies will be turned in to me in class. All fiction assignments will be printed out in a serif typeface in 12 point type, black ink on white paper, double-spaced, with your surname, a keyword from the story and the page number on every page. In addition, the first page will have your full contact information. We will go over this in class.

Required Readings

Five books are required for this class. I strongly recommend that you acquire them used through online sources. At least one of the books (Babel 17) is currently out of print, but is widely available used online.

The following books will be used by the entire class:

Buy at Amazon Jones, Diana Wynn. The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel. Firebird Press, 2006. ISBN: 9780142407226.

Buy at Amazon Sayers, Dorothy. The Nine Tailors. Mariner Books, 1966. ISBN: 9780156658997.

Buy at Amazon Delany, Samuel R. Babel-17. Ace Books, Inc., 1966. ISBN: 9780441045914.

Two other books will be determined by the genre interests of the class


Turning in work late as a professional writer can lose you sales. Editors are more likely to be understanding if a writer requests an extension than if that writer simply does not send in an expected story by the due date (which upsets editors, who don't know if there will be a story at all). For that reason, in this class I take deadlines seriously. If you need an extension, ask twenty four hours in advance. Like most editors, I am far more likely to be understanding if asked in advance than if I am surprised on the due date.

If you do not ask for an extension in advance and turn work in late, your grade will fall by one full letter grade, no exceptions. If you do not show up for your own workshop and you are not hospitalized and all the members of your family are breathing, your final class grade will drop by one full grade.

Laptop/Electronic Policy

Laptops and tablets are permitted in class during workshop sessions and the last day of class only. They are not permitted during lectures or discussions. Cell phones and all other electronic devices should be silenced and out of sight during class.

Food and Drink

No food in class unless you bring enough for everyone to share. (Sharing snacks during workshops is permissible and even traditional among some workshop groups.) Beverages, especially those that will help keep you awake, focused, and hydrated are strongly encouraged.