English class is out of this world experience

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    By Bethany Hyatt

    The worlds of elves, magic, wizards, aliens, far away galaxies and light sabers all intersect at BYU?s English department.

    Students ? majoring in everything from English to neuroscience ? are exploring the science fiction and fantasy genres in two courses offered through the English department.

    ?I have always liked science fiction and fantasy,? said Jill Saunders, 21, a senior from West Jordan, majoring in anthropology. Saunders is the president of BYU?s sci-fi club, Quark. A fan of ?The X-Files? during high school, Saunders continues to pursue sci-fi as a hobby.

    ?Although my major has nothing to do with it [sci-fi], I see it as a hobby I can do for the rest of my life,? Saunders said.

    Following the motion picture releases of ?Harry Potter? and ?The Lord of the Rings? series there has been an increased interest among BYU students in the sci-fi genre.

    Sally Taylor, a retired English professor and co-instructor of the creative writing course, said the class has an average enrollment of 15 students a semester. Currently, Taylor has 33 students in her Tuesday evening class.

    Dennis Perry, English professor and instructor of the literature study course, said the genres are appealing to so many people because of the interest everyone has in what will or could happen in the future.

    ?A lot of it is wishful thinking,? Perry said. ?Star Trek, for example, portrays a pristine, technologically advanced future.?

    Perry said although many of the technologies portrayed in Star Trek are ideal, the expense to actually produce them kills the idea.

    Taylor also said the challenging ideas of social and scientific issues within the sci-fi genre appeal to many people.

    Fantasy does a good job defining good and evil, leaving no question whether good will win, Taylor said.

    Students enrolled in the sci-fi courses study works ranging from ?The Haunting of Hill House? by Shirley Jackson, to ?Lost Horizon? by James Hilton and ?Dune? by Frank Herbert. The students are able to experience a variety of sci-fi, expanding beyond ?Star Wars? and ?The Twilight Zone.?

    Both Taylor and Perry look back to Marion K. ?Doc? Smith as the father of sci-fi at BYU. Smith, who died in 2002, was considered one of the greatest sci-fi teachers in the country. Smith instituted the sci-fi courses at BYU and the student publication ?The Leading Edge.?

    In addition, Smith founded BYU?s annual symposium, ?Life, the Universe and Everything.?