Centre for Continuing Education

Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction Course

Creative Writing. Express yourself with the written word.

Develop your creative style the smart way with Creative Writing courses at the University of Sydney.

Do you harbor a love of the fantastic, whether science fiction, horror, weird crime, urban fantasy, steampunk, magic realism and more? Are you, like the Australian legend, Terry Dowling an “imagier”, someone who loves to imagine worlds liberated from the constraints of reality? Have you a novel idea that’s out of this world, or a story that’s just a little weird? Maybe Buffy’s your idea of comfort food; or you can you recite The Raven in Elfish, or would kill to be able to write Urban Fantasy like Seanan McGuire? Is that climate change fiction novel burning a hole in your Scrivener? If so, you’re in good company. Thanks to Pulitzer Prize winners like George Saunders and Margaret Atwood, epic fantasists like Neal Stephenson, Brandon Sanderson, and George RR Martin, or the quietly off-kilter Kelly Link and our very own Margo Lanagan, the walls between genre and literary fiction have come down and there has never been a better time to write, read or publish stories that are out of this world.

Over six weeks, you will address major craft issues, both in a general sense and specific to your chosen genre, such as over and under-plotting, dialogue dos and don’ts, world building and character-motivation. You’ll discuss genre conventions and how to push against them, learn to navigate current trends in publishing such as graphic novels and podcasts, and much more. You will build up a portfolio of writing based around in-class exercises all while receiving regular and detailed feedback from acclaimed author and teacher, J.S. Breukelaar, and your peers in a safe, fun environment.


This course aims to develop your writing skills as well as equip you with a sound knowledge of current trends and concerns in speculative fiction forms and genres that will comprise the basis of your continuing writing practice.


Upon successful completion of this course, participants should be able to:

  1. Splice the skills of a fiction writer with the ability to make the wondrous ring true.
  2. Identify the special conventions and expectations of major forms in speculative fiction, as well as literary craft and how to weave both into their work.
  3. Extrapolate science into futuristic technology, conjure new forms of magic, imagine beauty amid the ruins of fantastic urban terrains or bring nightmares to life.
  4. Build believable characters in imaginary worlds that feel wondrously or terrifyingly real.
  5. Edit and revise their own fiction through getting and giving constructive criticism in class, as well as through the widening of their own reading, viewing and listening horizons with the help of the booklet of readings provided.
  6. Identify ways to market their work here and overseas including recommended conferences and writing retreats to improve their practice and connect with other writers.


This course covers the following topics:

  • Introduction to conventions and expectations of speculative fiction genres.
  • Skills-based learning of fiction writing basics necessary to make the imaginary seem real.
  • Voluntary workshopping in which students give and get constructive criticism from peers and instructor on an original work.
  • Weekly practice in character building, world building, scene construction and all elements of craft both in class as well as through extension activities for those who wish to go further.
  • Weekly instructor feedback on individual work.
  • Introduction to self-editing and to market opportunities.

Intended Audience

Writers of all ages and levels with an interest in speculative fiction, from popular genres to literary forms, will benefit from this course. Whether you have just the germ of an idea, or an entire first draft, whether you’re a fan or a working writer, you will benefit from attending a course with an acclaimed speculative author and qualified instructor experienced in teaching at all levels.

No assumed knowledge or experience beyond an interest in speculative fiction is required.

Delivery Style

This workshop is taught through a variety of methods including:

  • Group discussions
  • Individual and group activities
  • A review of case studies
  • Weekly instructor feedback on individual work

Recommended Reading

The following list is a sample of the tutor’s ever-growing bibliography:

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1985.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies: Literary Adventure Fantasy. Andrews, Scott H, ed. http://www.beneath-ceaseless-skies.com

Bradbury, Ray. Stories: Volume 2. London: Harper Voyager, 2008.

Gardner, John. The art of fiction: notes on craft for young writers. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.

Hill, Joe, ed. Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2000.

Lightspeed Magazine: Science Fiction and Fantasy. Adams, John Joseph, ed. http://www.lightspeedmagazine.com

Le Guin, Ursula. Steering the craft: a twenty-First century guide to sailing the sea of story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

Olson, Danel. Exotic Gothic. East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2014.

Poe, Edgar Allen. Tales of Mystery and the Imagination. London: Everyman, 1993.

VanderMeer, Ann and Jeff, eds. The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. London: Corvus Books, 2015.

Saunders, George. Lincoln in the Bardo. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones. London: Picador, 2007.

Slatter, Angela. The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings. London: Tartarus Press, 2015.

Strange Horizons: A Magazine of Speculative Fiction. Crowley, Jane and Dollarhyde, Kate, eds. http://strangehorizons.com


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Small class sizes
  • Free, expert advice
  • Student materials – yours to keep
  • Statement of completion
$390 Limited inc GST
Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction Course

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