Philosophical Explorations of Science Fiction

a Discovery Core Experience

This course may be taken as either a BCORE 107 (Social Sciences) or as a BCORE 104 (Arts & Humanities) course.

About This Course

While science fiction may seem to be about other times and places, most of it is really about us. In this class we’ll read sci-fi stories and watch sci-fi movies as a way to examine our own time and place. In the process, we’ll explore various philosophical concepts like free will, gender binaries, artificial intelligence, knowledge, justice, and the meaning of life. The instructor has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a background in the performing arts, so students can expect to be part of engaging and entertaining group discussions about the Big Ideas that we’ll see in the sci-fi movies we’ll watch together and the sci-fi stories we’ll read. This course involves frequent creative writing exercises and students will author their own original science fiction short story as a final project. As a Discovery Core course, this class will also introduce students to some important parts of UWB life, like research in the library, use of various campus resources, interdisciplinary inquiry, and others. The class is meant to be a fun and intellectually stimulating class that’s also a great introduction to your new life at UWB.

Why Should I Take This Course?

It’ll be fun and we’ll get to watch movies and talk about them.

What Will I Study?

You’ll study a few different issues in philosophy: knowledge, ethics, philosophy of mind, AI, utopias / dystopias, etc.

Selected Texts & Films

We’ll read A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers, and a bunch of short stories, including Escape From Spiderhead by George Saunders and Liking What You See: A Documentary, by Ted Chiang, and many others. We’ll watch a few episodes of Black Mirror, and the movies Her, Ex Machina, probably others.

  • A Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
  • Escape From Spiderhead by George Saunders
  • Liking What You See: A Documentary, by Ted Chiang
  • Her (Movie)
  • Ex Machina (Movie)
  • Black Mirror (Show)

Selected Projects & Activities

The final project involves writing a philosophically provocative science fiction short story.

Dr. Nixon (he/him/his)

School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences


  • B.A. Philosophy, University of Washington
  • M.A. Philosophy, University of Washington
  • Ph.D. Philosophy, University of Washington



“I want to get the students to learn to love ideas. I want them to enjoy their philosophy classes as opposed to walking away thinking that philosophy is stuffy, boring, and totally divorced from anything in their own lives.”

Dr. Nixon