Online | Fiction | Seminar

4-Week Online Speculative Fiction Seminar: Sci-fi, Fantasy, & More for the Uninitiated

Have you noticed a splash of magic or a hint of the surreal worming its way into your reading, or perhaps even your writing? Join us for a four-week introduction to science fiction, fantasy, and other ways of working with fantastical elements in fiction.

This class does not center on warp drives or the clan structures of best-selling mythical empires. Instead, we’ll read and discuss an array of stories that demonstrate how authors are examining human lives and relationships through alternate realities. Prior knowledge of science fiction and fantasy is not required, but a willingness to step outside the bounds of our current reality is essential.

Participants will be assigned a story to read ahead of each class (works by women and POC will be highlighted). In class we'll discuss the story and its position in the realm of speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, urban fantasy, supernatural, etc). Each class will include time to write, utilizing weekly prompts inspired by the readings, and participants will have the opportunity to share their work to receive brief verbal feedback.

By the end of this class, writers will have an understanding of the breadth of speculative fiction and the subgenres it contains (science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, supernatural, horror, etc). Students will learn how to incorporate speculative elements and worldbuilding into their stories, whether the setting is realistic or fantastical, and will write weekly to prompts, coming away with four new drafts by the end of the class..

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.


- Science fiction and fantasy are about so much more than just the technology or the magic—the most satisfying stories are those that focus on the human desires and narratives behind the altered reality.

- Speculative fiction is for everyone: Developments in science and technology affect people of all genders, races, and nationalities, so we should all have a voice in exploring the changes we'll face.

- Speculative fiction exists in all shapes and sizes, not just doorstop books.

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students should read and be ready to discuss a science fiction short story (over 5,000 words) each week, and come prepared to write to prompts and participate in sharing words and/or ideas. Students will not receive formal written feedback from the instructor during class, but will have the opportunity to share work for brief verbal feedback during class sessions.


Week One: What is speculative fiction, and how does it intersect with our reality?

Week Two: Worldbuilding without the infodump

Week Three: Horror: It’s not all blood and guts 

Week Four:  Twisting Tropes: Taking inspiration from the classics to make something new

Tara Campbell

Tara Campbell is a writer, teacher, Kimbilio Fellow, and fiction co-editor at Barrelhouse. She received her MFA from American University. Previous publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, Booth, CRAFT, Strange Horizons, and Escape Pod/Artemis Rising. She's the author of a novel, TreeVolution, and four collections: Circe's Bicycle, Midnight at the Organporium, Political AF: A Rage Collection, and Cabinet of Wrath: A Doll Collection. Connect with her at or on Twitter: @TaraCampbellCom


"Tara Campbell’s MIDNIGHT AT THE ORGANPORIUM (Conversation Pieces: Volume 67) is a more eclectic collection, showcasing an array of moods and story-telling techniques. ... By far my favourite story, the one that I think best highlights the breadth of Campbell’s imagination and her askew view of the world, is ‘Speculum Crede’. It begins with a cracking opening paragraph..."

Ian Mond LOCUS

"Equal parts surreal and wickedly droll, Campbell’s collection of 12 stories traverses reality in a way that highlights the extraordinary within everyday life. ... Though this may sound like a mashup of unrelated oddities, the stories have been cleverly arranged to maintain a coherent and alluring tone, and Campbell’s versatility is impressive. Each tale is dryly funny, poetic, poignant, dark, and trippy. Readers who are hungry for a quick visit to somewhere left of reality will gladly immerse themselves in this profoundly avant-garde book."


"Tara’s classes always stimulate a host of unique ideas, as well as unexpected new ways to approach speculative writing. She curates a fantastic breadth of story examples, sparking in-depth discussions that often reveal hidden layers of meaning. Tara’s teaching style is warm, welcoming, and fun."

Myna Chang BEST INDIE SPECULATIVE FICTION 2020, "Bards and Sages"

"Coupling a leisurely pace with horrifying tension, these eerie stories feel designed to be shared in the dark around a campfire...the imaginative scenarios and alluring voice never waver. Readers looking for bite-size horror will be delighted."


"The class was excellent, and we had lively discussions about the stories. Tara is a first-rate instructor, with great insight into the work presented."

Claudia Wair science writer and author of THE MAP JOURNAL

"Tara’s instruction, prompts, and written feedback inspired me to publish my first piece of speculative flash fiction. She’s an empathetic and insightful editor who is an expert in the craft and cares deeply about her students and their writing. "

Kristina Saccone writer and editor of FLASH ROUNDUP