Need literature suggestions for a "visions of the future" unit

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Nascent, Oct 27, 2008.

  1. Nascent

    Nascent Rookie

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    Oct 27, 2008

    Hopefully someone can lend me a hand with this. I'm currently working on a unit plan for my English practicum with the theme of "visions of the future in literature". I want to focus on a small selection of core novels suitable for late middle school or early high school students, preferably of the science fiction genre, that prominently feature speculation about the future (in a positive light, if possible). I've already got Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon" as an early historical example, but I need at least 2 or 3 more to serve as anchor pieces for the study.

    Also, if anyone knows of any short stories or poetry dealing with the subject that could be of use as well. Thanks! :thumb:
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 27, 2008

    How about 2001: a Space Oddessy or 1984??

    Also, take a look at the short story "All Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury, about life on a space station on another planet.
     
  4. ChangeAgent

    ChangeAgent Comrade

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    Oct 27, 2008

    Bradbury has many great pieces, though usually cynical (true to his form). Check out the short piece "The Veldt" about a "living" technological play room, and the usual Fahrenheit 451.

    Another "warning" piece is Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron." Stephen Vincent Benet (I think that's his name) also has "By the Waters of Babylon," which takes place after a nuclear war, with the setting (minus the monkeys) similar to Planet of the Apes where ancient/holy territory ends up being NYC.

    In a short science fiction unit I taught while student teaching, I also showed 10-15 minute clips from science fiction movies (Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn, Planet of the Apes, and a part of an episode from the series Babylon 5). The students then had to respond either to a prompt specific to the movie or from our stock options.

    I also incorporated a variety of voculary words, ranging from "stem cells," to "apocalypse," to movie-specific words like "The Force." This was fun.

    As far as positive images of futuristic societies, I must admit I am at a loss.

    While a novel exploration may be good, I do feel an assortment of science fiction short stories may better provide various examples, which you may be able to better compare/contrast. Of course, this depends how much time you are allotting to this unit.
     
  5. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Oct 27, 2008

    Right on, Aliceacc. Ray Bradbury short stories! "All Summer in a Day" That story chokes me up. Powerful.
     
  6. wunderwhy

    wunderwhy Comrade

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    Oct 27, 2008

    The Giver by Lois Lowry
     
  7. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 27, 2008

    OK, all you Englishy types:

    There's a Sci Fi poem I'm thinking of. (One of my kids used it when I coached Speech and Debate.) It's a vision of NYC in the future. Because of global warming, things are much more tropical than at present-- people siesta at mid day and so on. But everyone has adapted gradually. (I remember a line about "nobody really noticed.)

    At the end, they talk about the termites-- how silly, termites in a city made of steel.

    Until someone pries a piece of steel from the termite's mouth.

    WHAT is the name of the poem????
     
  8. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Oct 27, 2008

    I second "By the Waters of Babylon;" our 10th grade book also has Bradbury's "There Will Come Soft Rains," which is a short story about an automated house that lives on after a nuclear holocaust. Not uplifting, but a neat story.
     
  9. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Oct 27, 2008

    Alicecc - written by Steven Vincent Benet in 1933:

    Metropolitan Nightmare

    It rained a lot that spring. You woke in the morning
    And saw the sky still clouded, the streets still wet,
    But nobody noticed so much, except the taxis
    And the people who parade. You don’t, in a city.
    The parks got very green. All the trees were green
    Far into July and August, heavy with leaf,
    Heavy with leaf and the long roots boring and spreading,
    But nobody noticed that but the city gardeners
    And they don’t talk.
    Oh, on Sundays, perhaps you’d notice:
    Walking through certain blocks, by the shut, proud houses
    With the windows boarded, the people gone away,
    You’d suddenly see the queerest small shoots of green
    Poking through cracks and crevices in the stone
    And a bird-sown flower, red on a balcony,
    But then you made jokes about grass growing in the streets
    And gags and a musical show called ”Hot and Wet.”
    It made a good box for the papers. When the flamingo
    Flew into a meeting of the Board of Estimate,
    The new mayor acted at once and called the photographers.
    When the first green creeper crawled upon Brooklyn Bridge,
    They thought it was ornamental. They let it stay.

    That was the year the termites came to New York
    And they don’t do well in cold climates– but listen, Joe,
    They’re only ants, and ants are nothing but insects.
    It was funny and yet rather wistful, in a way
    (As Heywood Broun pointed out in the World-Telegram)
    To think of them looking for wood in a steel city.
    It made you feel about life. It was too divine.
    There were funny pictures by all the smart, funny artists
    And Macy’s ran a terribly clever ad:
    “The Widow’s Termite” or something.
    There was no
    Disturbance. Even the Communists didn’t protest
    And say they were Morgan hirelings. It was too hot,
    Too hot to protest, too hot to get excited,
    An even African heat, lush, fertile and steamy,
    That soaked into bone and mind and never once broke.
    The warm rain fell in fierce showers and ceased and fell.
    Pretty soon you got used to its always being that way.

    You got used to the changed rhythm, the altered beat,
    To people walking slower, to the whole bright
    Fierce pulse of the city slowing, to men in shorts,
    To the new sun-helmets from Best’s and the cop’s white uniforms,
    And the long noon-rest in the offices, everywhere.
    It wasn’t a plan or anything. It just happened.
    The fingers tapped slower, the office-boys
    Dozed on their benches, the bookkeeper yawned at his desk.
    The A.T.&T. was the first to change the shifts
    And establish an official siesta-room;
    But they were always efficient. Mostly it just
    Happened like sleep itself, like a tropic sleep,
    Till even the Thirties were deserted at noon
    Except for a few tourists and one damp cop.
    They ran boats to see the big lilies on the North River
    But it was only the tourists who really noticed
    The flocks of rose-and-green parrots and parakeets
    Nesting in the stone crannies of the Cathedral.
    The rest of us had forgotten when they first came.

    There wasn’t any real change, it was just a heat spell,
    A rain spell, a funny summer, a weather-man’s joke,
    In spite of the geraniums three feet high
    In the tin-can gardens of Hester and Desbrosses.
    New York was New York. It couldn’t turn inside out.
    When they got the news from Woods Hole about the Gulf Stream,
    The Times ran a adequate story.
    But nobody reads those stories but science-cranks.

    Until, one day, a somnolent city-editor
    Gave a new cub the termite yarn to break his teeth on.
    The cub was just down from Vermont, so he took his time.
    He was serious about it. He went around.
    He read all about termites in the Public Library
    And it made him sore when they fired him.
    So, one evening,
    Talking with an old watchman, beside the first
    Raw girders of the new Planetopolis Building
    (Ten thousand brine-cooled offices, each with shower)
    He saw a dark line creeping across the rubble
    And turned a flashlight on it.
    “Say, buddy,” he said,
    “You’d better look out for those ants. They eat wood, you know,
    They’ll have your shack down in no time.”
    The watchman spat.
    “Oh, they’ve quit eating wood,” he said, in a casual voice,
    “I thought everybody knew that.”
    –And, reaching down,
    He pried from the insect jaws the bright crumb of steel.


    I loooove a research challenge! Took a bit of Googling, too! :D
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oct 27, 2008

    Thank you!!!

    It's the first piece of literature that came to mind when I read this thread, and I remembered just enough of it to have it drive me nuts!!!!

    I just love that last line!!! It totally changes the whole mood he's set up!
     
  11. Ms.H

    Ms.H Companion

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    Oct 30, 2008

    The Time Machine by H. G. Wells is really interesting, too.
     
  12. MizDubya

    MizDubya Rookie

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    Oct 30, 2008

    A few off the top of my head, although definitely not future-positive (and perhaps too advanced for your age group):

    A Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
    Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

    As for a more positive vision, there's my personal favorite, Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time (but also perhaps not appropriate).

    Ursula LeGuin has several good young adult science fiction novels about the future (I remember reading one for a grad class on YA lit: Tehanu, which I believe is part of series), and a short story called "The Ones Who Walked Away from Omelas" (but not a positive vision of the future, more along the lines of Lowry's The Giver, which I believe someone mentioned already)

    I also remember reading Keeper of the Isis Light[ for that same grad class. I don't remember the author, but I believe it was also set in the future, and was not necessarily a negative vision of the future.

    Scott Westerfield's series, The Uglies, The Pretties, and The Specials may also work, although again, not so much a positive view of the future. I've only read and taught The Uglies, which I think could actually be pretty great for discussing issues of acceptance and belonging on the basis of appearance. I taught it for a summer school class, and my students came up with some great collages on the basis of the book. It's thick, but the reading level is not that hard.

    Oh, and I second the "There Will Come Soft Rains" story--haunting and gorgeous!
     
  13. ELA 11 12

    ELA 11 12 Companion

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    Oct 30, 2008

    I just returned from a BER conference titled "The Best Books of the Past Decade (1998-2008) for Teens and How to Use Them in your Program" (Grades 6-12) presented by Walter M. Mayes.

    Here's some suggestions:

    Shusterman, Neal. Unwind. 2007 Simon & Schuster --sounds excellent and should appeal the the Uglies, Pretties, Special and Extras fans.

    Black Juice by Margo Lanagan (Harper Eos 2005) It won a Hugo Award is a collection of speculative fiction. Presenter commented "This is one of the best pieces of writing in years!"

    I have a list of many more, having not read any, I put these two are on my "buy and read now" list.
     

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