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Revision as of 07:17, 21 September 2009 by Sahmed82 (talk | contribs) (Assignment 1 - Topic Sign Up Page)


Elements of an SF Story

Common elements in SF books/movies/tv shows/etc:

  • involves science/extrapolations on science
  • technology gone wrong
  • aliens
  • other worlds/parallel worlds
  • magic/things that couldn't happen
  • space travel
  • robots
  • artificial intelligence
  • monsters
  • utopia
  • dystopia
  • the future
  • Social Commentary
  • anti-heroes
  • unrealistic turn of events
  • exploring the unknown
  • military
  • large corporations
  • mythology
  • apocalyptic
  • time travel
  • vast worlds

Our Definition of SF

Assignment 1 - Topic Sign Up Page

No more than three people may sign up for one question. Sign up is on a first-come first-served basis. Please put your name in box at the end of the question if you'd like to do that question - unless, of course, three people have already signed up for it! Note that "assigned reading" is one of the major stories from the anthology, and not one of the quick stories I give in class.

In “Nightfall” and “The Cold Equations” does the author believe man is superior to nature? Or nature to man? Your name here!
What do “Helen O'Loy” and “Nightfall” say about the role of science in society?
Several of the assigned readings we looked at were considered to be “ground-breaking”. Pick two stories and explain how they broke new ground in SF.
How has SF grown and matured as a literary genre? Use two of the assigned readings to illustrate the growth – you may also refer to works that preceded the ones you are talking about to illustrate the growth.
Is science a necessary element of a science fiction story? Defend your argument using at least two of the assigned readings.
What is the author saying about men's expectation of women in “Helen O'Loy” and “His Vegtable Wife”? Nicole Zirngibl, Szymon Ahmed
Is “It's a Good Life” science fiction?
Ideas often take precedence over characterization in SF stories. Illustrate this using two of the assigned readings.
SF stories often turn things around so that we see them in a new way. Describe how this technique is used in two of the assigned readings.
Since SF stories can be set in any place or time, most begin by establishing the setting. Illustrate how this is done in three of the assigned readings.
By setting stories on other planets or using other races, the author is often holding a mirror up to our society or to human psychology. What is Murphy saying about society in “His Vegetable Wife”?
Science fiction stories often have to deliver a lot of information to the reader, but don't want to deliver it in a tedious way (i.e. as a dry lecture). Describe and illustrate the techniques used to do this in two of the assigned readings.
Is "Helen O'Loy" a sexist story? Be sure to explain any terms you might use, especially the term "sexist".
Wiki madness! In lieu of a formal essay, I will allow some people to put together wiki pages on some of the assigned readings. You may not choose one of the stories that has already been done below. See me for more details. Stories eligible for this include "The Cold Equations" "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" or "Aye, and Gomorrah".

Term Test Essay Questions

Note: these are the questions from 2007 and will be modified before our test this semester. Please check back to make sure you have the correct questions!

The term test will cover all the material we've discussed in class up to the week before reading week and will be closed book. It will consist of the following questions:

  • 5 content questions worth 5 marks (similar to the quizzes). The answers can be single words or in point form, as is appropriate. Grammar will not count, although spelling will!
  • 5 short answer questions (no more than 1 page) worth 5 marks each. Your answer should be a complete paragraph with grammatically correct sentences and have appropriate formatting - page citations are not required.
  • 1 longer essay question (3-4 pages), worth 20 marks. This should be a complete essay, with an introduction, thesis statement, conclusion, and two to three body paragraphs, each of which addresses a sub-topic and provides concrete examples from the assigned readings to support your thesis. Your answer should also be in grammatically correct sentences and have appropriate formatting - page citations are not required.

For the test I will select questions from the lists below. There will not be a choice of questions (you have to answer all the questions I give you!), so you might want to sketch out answers to all these questions beforehand to prepare for the test. I'm also happy to answer any questions you might have or to have a quick look at a point form answer you draw up to any of these questions - as long as you send it to me at least 24 hours prior to the test.

Shorter Questions

  • Why was "Helen O'Loy" considered to be a "ground-breaking" story? That is, how did it differ significantly from SF stories that came before it?
  • In "Nightfall", Anton the director of Saro University, Theremon the reporter, Sheerin the psychologist and Latimer the cultist represent different ideas. Describe the ideas associated with each.
  • Is "It's a Good Life" an SF story? Support your argument by referring to concrete examples from the story.
  • Names and the use of names are important in "The Cold Equations". What is the author trying to say?
  • "Flowers for Algernon" is told through Charlie's journal-entries. Why did the author choose this form of narrative?
  • Explain the difference between "soft/social" SF and "hard" SF. Cite examples of each from the assigned readings.
  • Explain what is meant by the term "Sense of Wonder" as it applies to SF, and give examples from at least two of the assigned readings.
  • Why is it critical for an author to establish setting early in an SF story? Give two examples of how this is done using the assigned readings.
  • SF works often pose "What if..." questions. Explain what a "What if..." question is, and give three examples from the assigned readings.
  • The misuse of science and the scientific method are often the focus of SF works. Give two examples from the assigned readings where this is the case, and explain what criticisms they make of science or the scientific method.


Longer Questions

  • Ideas often take precedence over characterization in SF stories. Illustrate this using at least three of the assigned readings.
  • Describe the development of SF as a genre by referring to at least four of the assigned readings.
  • Give a definition of SF, and defend it by citing examples from the assigned readings.

Assignment 2 Essay Topics

Note: these is the assignment from 2007 and will be modified before you can sign up for the assignment this semester. Please check back to make sure you are signing up for the correct topics!

You may not submit your essay until you have submitted your outline and it's been approved.

Your essay must be at 1500-2500 words. You must support your argument by citing several passages from the assigned readings. These are the readings listed on the web site, not the shorter stories I pass out in class. Papers must be word-processed, appropriately formatted using MLA standards (double-spaced, pages numbered, etc) and contain appropriate citations and a bibliography (list of works cited). Please follow the guidelines posted here. There are also some great tips on writing essays on fiction posted in other sections of this website.

You must also cite at least one critical source (not another story) from a scholarly journal (see the "Text and Materials" section of this website for a list of scholarly journals).

You may also cite factual information from Wikipedia (though not someone's opinion stuck in Wikipedia!). I'm also happy to talk to you about your sources, or anything else, if you want to see if you're on the right track....

No more than four people may sign up for one question. Sign up is on a first-come first-served basis. Please put you name next to the topic you wish to do. You must sign up for a topic by Mar 25, or you will be assigned one.


Write an SF short story. Note that you must still submit an outline.
Chris Baynton
Zachary Kain
Anthony Donato
Mark Salvador
Ender is the most sympathetic and compassionate character in Ender's Game. Yet he is directly responsible for the deaths of several humans and the destruction of an entire non-human race. Peter is the least sympathetic and most ruthless character, and yet he is responsible for saving millions of human lives. What is Card saying about human nature? Justin Chan
Billy Halis
Dmitri Edelchteine
Stefan D'Aversa
Illustrate how games play an important role in Ender's Game, and explain what the author is trying to say about games and reality. William McCullough
Chris James
Brianna McEachren
Saro M
The relationship between children and adults is a central theme in Ender's Game. What is Card saying about this relationship? Illustrate your points by referring to Ender's relationship with his parents, Graff and Anderson. You may also refer to any other relationships Ender has with adults that you think has significance. Geoff Bowes
Michael Phrakaysone
Stephen Clancy
Jamie Stratton
Ender's Game is, in large part, about the conflict between our individual needs and the greater good. What is Card saying about this conflict? (For example, do you think Card is saying it is appropriate for Graff and Anderson to manipulate and deceive Ender to defeat the buggers? Or is he saying that it is wrong?) Jeff Silverman
George Apostolakos
Jacob Plax
Segen Hagose
In Ender's Game, almost the entire novel is set in schools that train children to become military commanders. What is Card saying about the military mindset and leadership (how does the military "make" leaders, and how does it view people, war, politics, etc). Prashanna Jayaseelan
Peter Goh
Colin Kelly
Raymond Birch
In Ender's Game friends become enemies and enemies become friends. And sometimes a character is both a friend to, and an enemy of, Ender. What is Card saying about how we define, and identify, friends and enemies? Glenn Macapinlac
Dan Wahrer
Chris Andrisevic
Bryan Cohen
Show how both dreams and the virtual reality game Ender plays are used to examine some of the key themes of Ender's Game. (The above questions all deal with key themes in the novel.) Cameron Tweedle
Jeffrey Jewitt

Final Exam Essay Questions

Note: these are the questions from 2007 and will be modified before our exam this semester. Please check back to make sure you have the correct questions!

The final exam will cover all the material we've discussed in class and will be closed book. It will consist of the following questions:

  • 10 content questions worth 10 marks (similar to the quizzes). The answers can be single words or in point form, as is appropriate. Grammar will not count, although spelling will!
  • 5 short answer questions (no more than 1 page) worth 5 marks each. Your answer should be a complete paragraph with grammatically correct sentences and have appropriate formatting - page citations are not required.
  • 1 longer essay question (5-8 pages), worth 25 marks. This should be a complete essay, with an introduction, thesis statement, conclusion, and two to three body paragraphs, each of which addresses a sub-topic and provides concrete examples from the assigned readings to support your thesis. Your answer should also be in grammatically correct sentences and have appropriate formatting - page citations are not required.

For the exam I will select questions from the lists below. There will not be a choice of questions (you have to answer all the questions I give you!), so you might want to sketch out answers to all these questions beforehand to prepare for the exam. I'm also happy to answer any questions you might have or to have a quick look at a point form answer you draw up to any of these questions - as long as you send it to me before exam week.

Short Answer Questions

  • Identify the major characteristics of "Golden Age" SF. Illustrate your points by referring to one of the assigned readings.
  • Identify the major characteristics of "New Wave" SF. Illustrate your points by referring to one of the assigned readings.
  • Identify the major characteristics of "Cyberpunk" SF. Illustrate your points by referring to one of the assigned readings.
  • Identify the major characteristics of "New space Opera" SF. Illustrate your points by referring to one of the assigned readings.
  • Identify the major characteristics of "Hard" SF. Illustrate your points by referring to one of the assigned readings.
  • Identify the major characteristics of "Social" SF. Illustrate your points by referring to one of the assigned readings.
  • Science fiction stories often have to deliver a lot of information to the reader, but don't want to deliver it in a tedious way (i.e. as a dry lecture). Describe the techniques used to do this in one of the assigned readings.
  • Homelessness is a theme in "Aye, and Gomorrah". Explain. Cite concrete examples from the story to support your explanation.
  • Why did Tiptree choose to make her narrator, and main character, a "strong" male character? Illustrate your points by referring to the story.
  • Does the punishment fit the crime in "I Have No Mouth and Must Scream"? Support your argument by referring to concrete examples from the story.
  • What is Gibson saying about the place of the individual in a corporate-run society? Support your argument by referring to concrete examples from the story.
  • Does Ender represent "Good" in Ender's Game? Support your argument by referring to concrete examples from the novel.
  • Does Peter represent "Bad" in Ender's Game? Support your argument by referring to concrete examples from the novel.
  • Communication, or lack of communication, is important in Ender's Game. Explain. Cite concrete examples from the novel to support your explanation.
  • In Ender's Game, does Ender come to terms with the destruction of the buggers? Support your argument by referring to concrete examples from the novel.


Longer Essay Questions

  • "By scientification... I mean the Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe type of story---a charming romance intermingled with scientific fact and prophetic vision" -Hugo Gernsback. Is Gernsback's definition a good definition of SF? Defend your answer by citing concrete examples from Ender's Game and at least three of the other assigned readings.
  • "Science Fiction is the branch of literature that deals with the effects of change on people in the real world as it can be projected into the past, the future, or to distant places. It often concerns itself with scientific or technological change, and it usually involves matters whose importance is greater than the individual or the community; often civilization or the race itself is in danger." -James E. Gunn. Is Gunn's definition a good definition of SF? Defend your answer by citing concrete examples from Ender's Game and at least three of the other assigned readings.
  • "A science fiction story is a story built around human beings, with a human problem and a human solution, which would not have happened at all without its scientific content." -Theodore Sturgeon. Is Sturgeon's definition a good definition of SF? Defend your answer by citing concrete examples from Ender's Game and at least three of the other assigned readings.
  • "A handy short definition of almost all science fiction might read: realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method." -Robert A. Heinlein. Is Heilein's definition a good definition of SF? Defend your answer by citing concrete examples from Ender's Game and at least three of the other assigned readings.
  • "Science fiction is really sociological studies of the future, things that the writer believes are going to happen by putting two and two together." - Ray Bradbury. Is Bradbury's definition a good definition of SF? Defend your answer by citing concrete examples from Ender's Game and at least three of the other assigned readings.

Short Story Wiki Pages (for Assignment 1)

SF and Literary Terms - A Glossariki!

LY, light year
The distance traveled by light in one Earth year. Light travels at 300,000 km/sec, so a light year is [1 light year = 9.4605284 × 1015 meters]. One light second - 300,000 km or the distance light travels in one second
FTL
faster than light.
FTL drive
the drive that enables ships to cross interstellar distances fast than light would (so in a relatively short time)
Robot
A robot is an electro-mechanical device or group of devices that can perform autonomous or preprogrammed tasks unaided by human intervention. C-3PO and R2-D2 are examples of robots.
Android
An android is a robot made to resemble a human, usually both in appearance and behavior. Data from Star Trek is an example of an android.
Cyborg
Stands for a CYBernetic ORGanism. In essence a creature that is part organic and part mechanical, computerized, etcetera. The Terminator is an example of a cyborg, for it is a mechanical body covered with organic skin and flesh.