This course will focus on an admittedly slippery genre, one that has only in recent years been taken seriously as a subject for critical discourse: science fiction. We will approach science fiction from a number of complimentary perspectives. On the one hand, we will consider the argument forwarded by one critic that science fiction is characterized by "cognitive estrangement," by creating new worlds that we must struggle to understand. At the same time, we will bear in mind the critical suggestion that such "other worlds" narratives are always about our world, and that tales of the future are invariably about the present. In so doing, we'll begin with a series of texts that construct what might be thought of as the contemporary science fiction "tradition," and will follow these with a number of texts that, in varying ways, write back to or against that tradition. Throughout, our focus will be on these writers' widely varying treatments of race and gender, both as part of worlds from which we are "cognitively estranged," and as part of worlds that tell us something about our own.