Many years ago, I taught SF (and other things) at Ithaca College in upstate NY. The other day, writer Madeleine Robins gave me a copy of an exam I created in 1978 for a class that her husband, an undergrad at the time, took. Here it is.
I. IDENTIFICATION OF PEOPLE, GADGETS, OR PLACES (25 points -- time approx. 30 minutes)
Identify the following people, gadgets, places, or ideas. Put them in the appropriate work and discuss the importance of each to that work. Why does the author invent such a thing? How does it enhance his or her story line or the point made within the book? 1. The stillsuit 2. Odonianism 3. Charles Reymont 4. The Sirkunix at Ankurum 5. The three laws of robotics
II. ESSAYS. Pick three of the following topics. 25 points each -- time approx. 30 minutes each.
1. In both DUNE and the BIRTHGRAVE, you find characters who possess special powers and who are driven by terrible purposes. How do these powers and purposes differ? What difference does that make to the books? Be as specific as you can when discussing Paul or Karrakaz.
2. Both THE MOTE IN GOD'S EYE and TAU ZERO are highly technological works. Both concern themselves with HOW devices work. Concentrate in both books not on the gadgets but on the characters in each book and the message you think the authors of each are trying to convey. What is it? Why do you think so? Which do you think is the more deeply realized, the more humane?
3. Discuss the methods of social control on Anarras as opposed to the Urrasti Nations A-Io and Thu. Are these methods in accord with the Odonianism the Urrasti profess? Defend your judgment in the light of what you know about Odo's philosophy.
4. There is an apocalyptic element (i.e., pertaining to the end of the world in TAU ZERO and A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ. How do they differ?
5. Discuss the ruined civilizations of THE BIRTHGRAVE and A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ. What use does each author make of them and why?
6. Discuss John Brunner's method of organizing STAND ON ZANZIBAR. How does it contribute to the message he is trying to convey.