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Speculative Fiction Teaching Resources

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  • How Do Book Covers Represent Speculative Fiction?

  • Instructions for Students

    What’s the first thing you notice about a book? Why are you attracted to a particular book on a library or bookshop shelf?

    As many in the publishing industry argue, the design of a cover is a crucial part of selling any book. Moreover, covers then represent Speculative Fiction in particular ways, e.g., as something exotic or mysterious or frightening and so forth.

    Using a special framework for analyzing visual images, you are going to analyse the covers of some books in order to:

    (a) reflect on how those covers invite you to think about Speculative Fiction

    (b) evaluate the way they represent Speculative Fiction.

    So, look carefully at least two of the Speculative Fiction book covers. Using this first table, compare what you can see. Then, using this second table, interpret the covers, considering:

    • What are the clues that each story can be regarded as Speculative Fiction?
    • What are the novels likely to be about?
    • Who are the authors? What do you know about them, if anything?
    • How do you feel about the characters? What ‘feeling’ do you get about the stories?
    • What are your expectations about the type of language that will be used?
    • Do these seem like books you will enjoy? Why or why not?
    • How is Speculative Fiction represented, e.g. as something exotic and strange, mysterious and perplexing, dystopic and frightening…?

    Form a group with other students. Compare what you have found:

    • What were the similarities and differences between the covers?
    • Are there patterns to the way that Speculative Fiction is represented?
    • What books would you be keen to read?
  • Ideas for Teachers

    When analysing the design of book covers (and other images), it is useful for the students to be provided with a systematic framework for understanding the use of visual resources. The Blackline Masters (tables one and two, available above) strive to do this by drawing on recent research that has developed ‘visual grammars’ to complement written grammars.

    The BLMs adapt that research, and focus on aspects of the images that are likely to be most useful. For more information, see Kress and van Leeuwen’s Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design and Pointer, Martin and Unsworth’s Reading Visual Images.

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