Really? Yes, people, it’s true.

After several years of sprinkling my years of accumulated wisdom in small 50-minute doses at conventions, I’m finally taking the long-form plunge and teaching a continuing education course at my local college.

Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction

This course offers insight into the particular demands of the science fiction and fantasy genres from worldbuilding to magic & technology to polishing your work for publication. Each student is expected to write approximately 1,000-8,000 words a week and will produce one publication quality short story by the end of class. Students will learn to edit their own work and to receive and give constructive criticism. Instructor has been working as an editor and writer in the Fantasy and Science Fiction publishing industry for over 15 years and recently written a guide to writing and publishing in the industry. Beginners and experienced writers are welcome. Tuition includes the cost of textbook.

Here’s the link so if you’re a resident of the Seattle area, you can sign up and join the class.


Over the past few years, a number of different people have suggested to me that I teach a class. In some cases this was general advice for everyone, found in a book. How do you beef up your resume as an expert in your chosen field? Teach a class. My resume does a pretty good job of presenting my qualifications as an author and editor of SF and fantasy, so that’s really not it. They’re paying me, but not a full-time salary or anything—I’m not doing it for the money. So, why then?

For fun, mostly, and because I have been frustrated over the years that those convention seminars start late and end early and there are always people there with questions still to ask. I also never get to read any of the work from those bright and eager writers. The next J.K. Rowling or Frank Herbert is in that crowd, somewhere—I’m sure of it—but I’ll never know. I’ve been asked some remarkably intelligent questions at these events, and find it difficult to chop my answers down to manageable size so the seminar isn’t one Q, one A, and out.

I asked a few friends for advice and after clicking through the current catalog and not finding a continuing education class on writing fantasy and SF, I found the course description form at the college’s web site, filled it out, roughed out a preliminary syllabus, and sent them in. Only then did I discover that my new friend and fellow Fathomless Abyss author Cat Rambo had been teaching a similar course there for some time. I offered to withdraw, but she told me she was happy to hear it. She was planning to step down from that and was thinking about a suitable replacement she could recommend to take her place. I slipped in to fill that gap.

The course will run for eight weeks. We’ll meet once a week at Bellevue College’s North Campus and for two and a half hours each week. That’s a lot of time to work our way through The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, ask and answer questions, run through some exercises, and most importantly: write.

I was given the opportunity to sit in on a short story writing class several weeks ago, just to see how it was structured, and if I was the least bit reluctant or nervous about my own class going in, that experience washed all that away and replaced it with pure excitement. The students were smart and clever and talented—I want some of those!

For writers and editors out there, think about doing this, too, at your local college. Get out there. Shake off the dust that can accumulate on a writer—especially those of us lucky enough to be freelancing full time. I’ve become a one-man operation, a home-based business, and it’s made me stir crazy. This class not only gives me someplace I have to be, y’know, outside the house, every week, but keeps that editorial muscle moving, and gives me a chance to finally read the stories behind all those terrific questions—and the time to give each one a detailed and considered answer.

I literally can not wait to get started!


—Philip Athans


About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in Books, conventions, Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels, Science Fiction Story, SF and Fantasy Authors, The Fathomless Abyss, Writing, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to PROFESSOR PHIL

  1. E. A. Hughes says:

    Congratulations! I hope you find the experience as beneficial as your students do. There’s something about teaching that sharpens the mind and challenges our own preconceptions / bad habits, especially when the tricky questions come that you had hoped no-one would ask!

    If I lived in Seattle I’d be in your class like a shot — do you have any online courses? Or do you know of any?

  2. I did an online “webinar” for Writers Digest University that was fun, and very well-attended. I might do another. You can check them out at:

  3. craig says:

    According to Google, that’s a 2 hours and 12 mins drive from Vancouver Canada… assuming no border line up. Alas, the Northern Campus isn’t quite Northern enough.

    I second the request for more online courses / webinars!

  4. Wish I lived closer, but that’s a long haul from South Carolina! How about a sabbatical to teach at Clemson University? I attended your Writer’s Digest Webinar, and that’s how I ended up with your books and following this blog. Anyone with an opportunity to attend this class should definitely do so.

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