Writing the Sublime: 8-Week Speculative Fiction Zoom Class, Starts Thursday, August 17th, 2023
Class Starts Thursday, August 17th, 2023
Class will meet weekly via Zoom (Thursdays, 8:30PM EST - 10:30PM EST).
Any questions about this class? Use the Chat Button (lower left) to talk with us.
Led by Elwin Cotman, author of the upcoming collection Weird Black Girls (2024, Scribner), and the novel The Age of Ignorance (Scribner, 2025).
Get to know Elwin in our Meet the Teaching Artist series.
Writing the Sublime explores how to craft sublime moments in speculative fiction. Students will do this through readings and focused instruction around the sublime.
Majesty. Awe. Romance. The sense of wonder.
Myths and legends have long been one of humanity’s tools in exploring big questions and grand emotions, specifically through crafting stories and imagery that match the grandiosity of these feelings. One tool that speculative writers use is the sublime, also called the "sense of wonder," the evocation of something greater than human experience to evoke feelings of awe and terror.
In this online class, we'll be exploring the sublime as a key element in speculative fiction. Encounters with things beyond human understanding have a double purpose, on the page and real life: they push characters towards change, but also create euphoria in the reader. We will look over the common mythologies that unite humanity, and discuss how we can remix them in ways that elevate their symbolic meaning. We will also examine how authors create the sublime through narrative beats that build to a satisfying conclusion. Besides reading and analyzing speculative texts, we will do exercises focused around the sublime, and discuss each other's pieces.
This class is open to writers of all levels. Writers will leave this class with a deeper understanding of how to integrate the sublime into their writing, as well as written and verbal feedback and revision ideas on two submissions.
In the course of the class, students will:
- Engage in the sublime both theoretically and through craft
- Build a body of work through exercises
- Discuss creative work in a group setting
In this class, students will come to understand the sublime, from a craft perspective, as a disrupting force that creates change in their characters. As such, that disruptive element is worked into the curriculum: there will be homework assignments where, instead of writing, students will produce another type of art relevant to their writing, or engage in some way with the outside world. Through prompts and exercises, students will learn how to reimagine mythology in creating the sublime. They will gain an understanding of the role story craft plays in creating sublime moments. As well, they will learn how to evoke sublimity in more specific craft devices such as language.
- Week 1: Intro to the Sublime, reimagining myth.
- Week 2: Balancing mystery with revelation.
- Week 3: Sublimity in nature.
- Week 4: Crafting sublime language.
- Week 5: Sublimity through story craft, establishing characters.
- Week 6: Story craft, worldbuilding.
- Week 7: Story craft, character development through sublime moments.
Week 8: Story craft, the sublimity in conclusion.
READINGS MAY INCLUDE:
- The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
- "In the Hills, the Cities" by Clive Barker
- "Money Tree" by Nalo Hopkinson
- "Magic and Loss" by Warren Ellis
- "Ogres of East Africa" by Sofia Samatar
- "Mono no Aware" by Ken Liu
Students are expected to read either two assigned stories or a section of a novel for each class meeting. Students are expected to complete all homework assignments.
"Elwin Cotman is one of the most original new voices you will encounter—he is a synthesizer of the domestic and the fantastic, of soaring myth and the grittiest realities, of lewd dialect and high lyricism. His stories are profound engagements with suffering of every stripe—they will also make you hoot with laughter. I was amazed by the force of Mr. Cotman's pinwheeling imagination." -Karen Russell author of SWAMPLANDIA!
“With hyperbolic, technicolor imagery and engrossing characters that radiate intrigue, these modern tales comprise a new book of essential fables for our time—read it, close your eyes, and delight in the words still glowing hot inside your brain.” -Alissa Nutting author of MADE FOR LOVE
“I found his class very enlightening, not just for writing but for teaching writing as well.” -former student
“Elwin's feedback on my submission was incredibly helpful. I liked that he was organized with a class itinerary and notes in an outline form for us to follow when he shared his screen.” -former student
ONLINE COURSE STRUCTURE:
This class meets weekly via Zoom. Come prepared for a super fun class with live interaction on Zoom each week and plenty of writing, reading, and talking!
- Instructor: Elwin Cotman
- Class Starts Thursday, August 17th, 2023
- Class will meet via Zoom on Thursdays, 8:30PM EST - 10:30PM EST.
Instructor Elwin Cotman is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author of three collections of speculative short stories, The Jack Daniels Sessions EP, Hard Times Blues, and Dance on Saturday. He has done concept work for videogames from Square Enix. He is also author of the poetry collection The Wizard's Homecoming (2023, Nomadic Press), as well as the upcoming collection Weird Black Girls (2024, Scribner), and the novel The Age of Ignorance (Scribner, 2025). Cotman earned his BA from the University of Pittsburgh and his MFA from Mills College.