Science Fiction Short Story or Vignette

Using Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles as a source of inspiration, write an imaginative story where you explore an aspect of the science fiction or fantasy genre.  Ray Bradbury often said his work was more fantasy than science fiction, but many critics think he combines both elements. The science fiction genre involves imaginative and futuristic concepts that incorporate technology, space exploration, time travel, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction may explore the potential consequences of these futuristic concepts or technological innovations.  Fantasy, however,  is more about imaginative settings and features magical elements or mythical beings.

Requirements:

Explore a characteristic of science fiction or fantasy:

Setting

Non Human Characters

Dystopian or Allegorical

  • In the future
  • In space
  • In a different world
  • In a different universe or dimension
  • Time travel
  • Blurring between reality and fiction
  • Monsters
  • Aliens
  • Robots
  • Extraterrestrial creatures
  • Science fiction is often dystopian in nature revealing something miserable or oppressed in the environment e.g. 1984 and Fahrenheit 451
  • Some stories are allegorical in nature providing a hidden meaning for something greater e.g. Star Wars comments about religious forces; 1984 about governmental authority

Effects of  Science & Technology

Characterization

Ambiguity, Contradiction, & Irony

  • Science fiction can show us the effects or consequences of new technology and how life could be different because of the technology
  • Even in science fiction or sometimes referred to as speculative fiction, characterization is important. Characters need to be well-rounded and dynamic and complex
  • Characters need to have a goal or a conflict that they are trying to resolve or attain
  • The author needs to evoke an emotional reaction either positive or negative from the reader
  • Science fiction may have an unusual, situationally ironic twist in the story
  • Maybe there is ambiguity that doesn’t get understood until the end
  • Maybe there is a clear contradiction until the end
  • Maybe the ending is just situationally ironic from what the reader expected

Elements of Fantasy

  • Unrealistic settings
  • Magic
  • Talking animals
  • Supernatural forms
  • Myth and legend
  • Good overcoming evil
  • Journeys to unknown worlds

Creative Writing Rubric

RATIONALE

CRITERION B: Analysis and evaluation of author’s choice (author’s technique/style/craft)

Essential Questions: To what extent does the candidate analyse and evaluate how the choices of language, technique and style, and/or broader authorial choices shape meaning in relation to the chosen topic? To what extent does the analysis show an awareness of how stylistic features of the texts, such as language, structure, tone, technique and style, are used to construct meaning?

0

1-2

50  60

3-4

70  76

5

  84   87

6

92   95

7

98  100

The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

The writing is descriptive and/or demonstrates LITTLE  relevant analysis of textual features and/or the author’s broader choices in relation to the chosen topic.

The writing demonstrates SOME appropriate analysis of textual features and the author’s

broader choices in relation to the chosen topic, but is reliant on description.

The writing demonstrates a GENERALLY  appropriate analysis and evaluation of textual features and the author’s broader choices in relation to the chosen topic.

The writing demonstrates an appropriate and AT TIME INSIGHTFUL analysis and evaluation of textual features and the author’s broader choices in relation to the chosen topic.

The writing demonstrates a CONSISTENTLY and CONVINCING analysis and EVALUATION  of

textual features and the author’s broader choices in relation to the chosen topic.

CRITERION B: Producing a text with  stylistic choices original writing

To what extent does the student make stylistic choices aware of the impact on the audience?

The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

When the student produces his/her own imaginative text, student makes minimal  stylistic choices in terms of linguistic, literary and visual devices, demonstrating limited awareness of impact on an audience

When the student produces his/her own imaginative text, student makes some stylistic choices in terms of linguistic, literary and visual devices, demonstrating adequate awareness of impact on an audience

When the student  produces his/her  own imaginative texts, student  makes thoughtful stylistic choices in terms of linguistic, literary and visual devices, demonstrating good awareness of impact on an audience

When the student produces his/her own imaginative texts, student overall makes perceptive stylistic choices in terms of linguistic, literary and visual devices, demonstrating good awareness of impact on an audience

When the student  produces  his/her own imaginative texts, the student makes perceptive stylistic choices in terms of linguistic, literary and visual devices, demonstrating good awareness of impact on an audience

CRITERION D: LANGUAGE  (preciseness, vocabulary, varied sentence construction, register, terminology, grammar)

Essential Questions:  How clear, varied and accurate is the language? How appropriate is the choice of register and style?

The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

Language is RARELY  clear and appropriate; there are many errors in grammar, vocabulary and sentence construction and little sense of register and style.

Language is SOMETIMES  clear and carefully chosen; grammar, vocabulary and sentence construction are FAIRLY  accurate, although ERRORS  and inconsistencies are apparent; the register and style are to some extent appropriate.

Language is clear and carefully chosen with an ADEQUATE  degree of accuracy in grammar,

vocabulary and sentence construction despite SOME  LAPSES; register and style are mostly appropriate to the task.

Language is CLEAR and CAREFULLY  chosen, with a GOOD  degree of ACCURACY in grammar,

vocabulary and sentence construction; register and style are consistently appropriate to

the task.

Language is VERY CLEAR, EFFECTIVELY, carefully chosen and PRECISE, with a high degree of

ACCURACY in grammar, vocabulary and sentence construction; register and style are effective and appropriate to the task.

CRITERION C: Organization (focus, organization, integration, development, transitions, referencing)

Students should understand and be able to organize their ideas and opinions using a range of appropriate conventions for different forms and purposes of communication. Students should also recognize the importance of maintaining academic honesty by respecting intellectual property rights and referencing all sources accurately.

 Essential Questions: How well organized, focused and developed is the presentation of ideas in the writing?

The work does not reach a standard described by the descriptors below.

LITTLE  organization is present.

SOME organization is apparent. There is little development of a line of inquiry.

The writing is ADEQUATELY  organized in a generally cohesive manner.

The writing is WELL ORGANIZED and MOSTLY  COHESIVE.

The writing is EFFECTIVELY organized and cohesive.

Science Fiction Freewrite Prompts for Your Learner Portfolio

  1. Think of a desire that a person wants more than anything in the world. Make something strange and out of the ordinary happen to him that takes him to a different dimension in the universe. Give him the ability to  think he will get what he wants, and then in the end,  he finds out he can’t.
  2. Have you ever made a mistake you wished you could redo? Or, have you ever missed an opportunity because you were afraid to take a chance? Have your character go back in time to redo a moment. When he gets back, have him or her find his life completely different.
  3. Have you ever been fascinated with the idea of the supernatural? Imagine a character who suddenly finds himself interacting with the dead of the future warning of the life to come. What will this character do with the information and will anyone believe him?
  4. Telepathy is a recurring motif in Ray Bradbury’s short stories about the Martians. Imagine that men have found a way to evolve and use mental telepathy for good and harm. How does life change when people can read your minds?
  5. A character tragically loses a sibling on earth. The dead sibling reaches out to the character through his or her dreams to describe the different dimension that exists. What does the character learn?
  6. The earth is in danger of a catastrophe either natural or man made that has the potential to wipe out the entire population. A group of people are ready to venture into the solar system to find a new home. What happens to them?
  7. A person in the year 2080 discovers that the food is being drugged to control people’s thoughts and ideas.  One man or woman discovers the truth. What happens?
  8. In a world where no one wants to be offended, language has been reduced to a very primitive or simplified form. How has life changed since language has been completely altered? Imagine someone from the past comes to this futuristic time and the horror of what he finds in the way people communicate.
  9. A scientist has figured out how to give animals the ability to talk. What do the animals do that is disturbing now that they can communicate as humans do?
  10. At a flea market, you find a pair of sunglasses that are truly one of a kind. When you put them your life forever changes as you glimpse into the future?
  11. In the future, scientists have figured out how to rid man of any disease. There is only one problem: people are not dying. Write about a society that is plagued with people who never die.
  12. You walk into a room and see yourself in the same clothes that you are wearing. You have been cloned. What happens next?
  13. During World War III, aliens visit Earth to tell them about  the ways to find harmony and peace. What do the humans learn? Can they save the world in time?
  14. The year is 2112, and robots are everywhere functioning in different capacities. Suddenly, life has become a video game with robots. What happens?
  15. A parallel universe has been overlapping with us for centuries. Suddenly, now we can see each other. What happens?
    Activities

Supernatural

  1. Review stories about the Martians that suggest their supernatural qualities
  1. Consider the following stories:
  1. “Ylla” pp2-18
  2. “The Martian” (pp182-199)

Telepathy

  1. After reading “The Earth Men” pp 22-41, and “The Third Expedition” (pp43-65) analyze what role telepathy has in the story. How do the Martians use telepathy for good and harm in the stories?
  2. Research what people in our society think about telepathy.
  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/debunking-myths-the-mind/201804/the-biology-telepathy
  2. https://www.britannica.com/science/telepathy

Social Issues

  1. Read the following stories to do this activity: “Taxpayer” (pp42-43), “And the Moon Be Still as Bright” (pp66-99), and “The Fire Balloons (pp120-144)
  2. What is Bradbury criticizing about human in these two stories?
  1. Consider some of the following topics: atomic war, consumption, commercialism, pollution, religion, historical accounts where men take land away from natives, Darwin’s theories of evolution, etc.

Westward Expansion vs. Life on Other Planets

  1. How does Bradbury compare Westward expansion in America in the 1800s to exploring life on other planets? Read “The Wilderness” (pp147-159)

Intertextuality with Poe

  1. Read “House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
  1. Link to full text
  1. Then read, Ray Bradbury’s “Usher II” pp 161-181
  2. Analyze how the intertextuality and allusion to Poe’s work enhances the narrative. How does it add an additional layer of depth?

Twilight Zone

Watch Season 3, Episode 24 “To Serve Man” about Martians coming to earth. It is free on Amazon Prime or through a subscription through CBS. https://www.amazon.com/To-Serve-Man/dp/B000I0F81S/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=twilight+zone+to+serve+man&qid=1555274374&s=gateway&sr=8-1

After watching the episode, compare and contrast the portrayal of the Martians in the show compared to Bradbury’s portrayal in his short stories.


Rationale

Essential Questions: To what extent does the candidate analyse and evaluate how the choices of language, technique and style, and/or broader authorial choices shape meaning in relation to the chosen topic? To what extent does the analysis show an awareness of how stylistic features of the texts, such as language, structure, tone, technique and style, are used to construct meaning? 200-300 words

In my short story, “Mirrors of Truth,” I chose to explore the fantastical elements of setting with a maze of mirrors at a carnival. Mirrors often have been associated with the idea of seeing things beyond the normal with wisdom and self-awareness, so I wanted to explore the idea of a person seeing their deepest desires in the mirror with elements that seemed unrealistic. I wanted the piece to be allegorical in nature about a young adolescent who struggles with accepting herself as she is and desires change, only to find out that she was happier when she lived simply. The ending shows the contradiction and twist in the story with the theme that we are not always happy when we get what we want. The protagonist Mary achieves her deepest desire to be popular and beautiful and have a boyfriend, but in the end, her subconscious and the carnival tell her she is happier living simply as her former self. Mary is a dynamic  character, and in the end is content being herself, something she was not before. The change she experienced made her realize that she was actually happier and more comfortable as her former self--it took her subconscious reflected through the carnival and dreams to lead her to this conclusion.

Word count: 213

Required Range: 200-300 words

Mirrors of Truth

By Mrs. MacFarland

The autumn leaves rustled in the wind in the 1960’s  town of Dubuque, Iowa. The traveling carnival seemed to engulf the citizens of the town. The lights of the ferris wheel and the smell of hot dogs permeated the surrounding areas. The traveling amusement show attracted all ages: young, old, and everything in between. The Robertsons always enjoyed going each time the carnival rolled in as a family. That night, the dusk air refreshed Mary, their daughter,  as she scampered around the carnival that early evening. Her parents told her she had 30 minutes before it was time for dinner and their departure from the festivities of the day. She desired a break from her family. There was one stop that she wanted to make before she left, knowing the carnival would not come back for some time.

        Marvelous Mickey stood in front of the Mirrors of Truth. “Step right up, ladies and gentlemen and come see what your deepest desires are in the Mirrors of Truth. In the mystery of the mirrors comes the truth from our souls. Come if you are brave enough to find the truth in your heart.”

        Mary had walked by Mickey a few hours before, but her parents thought the whole thing a complete sham and not worth their time. However, with 30 minutes of free time, it would just be enough to sneak in and visit. She felt destined to walk in the maze of mirrors. As a young girl of sixteen, she wasn’t sure what her heart told her, but she knew something was missing in her life.

        “Hello, young girl, are you brave enough to enter?” Mickey said.

        “Yes, sir,” she said, and she handed him a $1 bill to enter. The Mirrors of Truth was definitely the most expensive thing to do. Despite her parents warnings, she knew it would be worth it to her. She would skip dessert for spending so much, but she didn’t care. The lure took hold of her, and she walked right in.

        She entered a dark room, and a red light below showed her the path. She started walking, and suddenly when she looked back, she realized there was no way out. The mirrors completely enclosed her. A faint whisper was audible, “Keep going. You are not there yet. You must find the mirror that will reveal your desires.” Lights flashed from red to green to blue to purple as she walked through the mirrored corridors. Then, what seemed like fireworks of lights exploded before her and she stood still. “You have found your truth now. Look closely.” The whisper would have frightened her younger sister, Kate, for sure, but here it was calming. She knew that fate led her to this moment, and the voice seemed familiar as if she had heard the woman’s voice in her deepest dreams at night.

        Mary took her hand and combed her auburn hair out of her eyes. She wanted to look clearly in the mirror. As the fireworks of chartreuse, crimson, and gold faded away, a soft film appeared on the mirror. She put up her hand to touch it, and the mirror dissolved, inviting her into a secret place, her soul. She stepped through the mirror and closed her eyes to take a deep breath. She opened her eyes and there before her was a replica of herself standing there smiling, gazing back at her. At first, she wasn’t sure if it was her. Her plain auburn hair which usually lay flat against her face was pinned up with curls. Her otherwise plain face, was dressed with make up of ruby lips and rosy cheeks with mascara outlining her eyes. Instead of jeans, she was wearing a striped dress. She was laughing and someone was touching her back. The face was not discernible, but the hands were definitely a boy’s hands. Mary never had  a boyfriend, so seeing this was almost unsettling. Is this my deepest secret?

She closed her eyes again to breathe--her heart was racing. She opened her eyes again, and the soft film had blurred the vision. She stepped back out of the mirror, and the fireworks appeared again with lights exploding.

        Suddenly, time had elapsed, and  she realized that her parents would be waiting for her. She turned left, and the path seemed clear now how to leave. She wondered where the whispering voice was, but as she made it to the last mirrored corridor, a soft whisper taunted her, “You know the truth now. What will you do it with your knowledge now?” This last message was foreboding and not soothing. With a last turn, she saw the carnival lights as the night sky said goodbye to the day. She ran and leapt off the deck, racing to her parents at the front gate.

        “Mary, there you are...what on earth took you so long?” her mom admonished.

        She couldn’t admit the truth. She had seen the truth, and how could she articulate what had happened to her. “Sorry, Mom, I had to have one last fudge sundae.”

        They turned to leave through the exit, and Mary glanced back to see Marvelous Mickey staring at her. His long white hair was pulled in a ponytail, so it was easy to make out his features. He was smiling at her, so she did what was natural. She returned the smile back, a little thank you for the knowledge she gained about herself that night.

        As Mary crawled into bed that night, the world seemed different, mysterious. The tree outside her bedroom window howled with its branches rubbing against the roof of their house. The Robertson’s house was a quiet little house on Charrington Road, but tonight it was coming alive. Mary could hear every sound: the cat’s meow, the dogs barking across the street, the leaves in the wind.

        She closed her eyes, and drifted off. She dreamed of the maze again at the carnival, but instead of stepping through the fireworks, she kept running after someone. She finally caught up to her and the girl turned around--it was Mary in the striped dress with rosy cheeks and ruby lips.”So what are you going to do Mary?” the voice whispered. Mary gasped, and her body was awake in her room with the branches still rubbing against the roof.

        The next two weeks, Mary experienced a slow transformation. First, she borrowed her mom’s rouge and lipstick. Her friend Carol let her borrow her curlers. Her friend Sally out of the blue gave her dresses she no longer could wear saying she had grown too much that past year, including one striped, blue and white dress. Her mom could hardly recognize the plain Mary who was content to sit at home on a Friday night and eat popcorn watching a movie. She now was asking to go to drive in movies with friends, to go to the lake, and go swimming on a Saturday, to stay out past 9 p.m. on the weekends.

        Mary too was surprised as well by the transformation. Her friend group doubled overnight it seemed, and suddenly Bobby Wilson was hanging around her locker wanting to walk her to class. Was it his hand in the Mirror of Truth?  Before she knew it, she was busy helping with student council, planning dances and fundraisers, and people were asking a lot of her now. Even her parents didn’t want to come in last--they expected her to spend a lot of time with them as well and to help her younger sister Kate around the house and with school work.

        She even got her first kiss at the Sadie Hawkins dance she helped planned. Life seemed full and rich--always something to do, someone to hang out with. There was never a lonely night reading a book by herself in her room. After the dance, she gave Bobby a hug, and they had their first kiss. She had been anticipating this moment for weeks now, and it finally happened. The smooth touch of his lips welcomed her in for long kiss.

        She crawled in her bed that night and immediately fell asleep. The planning, the decorating, the dance, and then the ultimate kiss. Her body lay lifeless. Her dreams enveloped her. She hadn’t thought or dreamed of the carnival in a while, but swiftly she was back in the Mirror of Truth chasing a girl again. She ran and ran, but had a hard time catching up. Finally, she put her hand on her shoulder, and the girl stopped. The girl, dressed in jeans and simple white t-shirt, slowly turned around. It was her former self, but instead of smiling, she was crying as if the new changes in her made her melancholy now. Now the former self was staring at the new self, and they were both crying together.

        Mary’s eyes opened and found relief in the morning. She shrugged off the dream as erratic. She got dressed that morning with her ruby lips and rosy cheeks, ate a quick breakfast, and ran to the bus stop to meet Bobby. The day seems to progress as normal. She went to English class  and read the part of Ophelia in Hamlet until unfortunately her character drowned in her own despair with flowers all around her. Was she drowning too? She shook sense into her self and the bell sounded for history. Bobby arrived to escort her to her next class. As she walked by the bulletin board, an advertisement of the carnival showed they would be coming the week after school let out. The lure was back. She needed to go again. The crying Mary in her dreams formed in her mind staring at her.

        The end of the year festivities kept everyone going: final exams, end of the year picnics, swimming at the lake. Then, that Saturday, her parents announced they would go to the carnival. It was the opening night, and all of their friends were going. They would go as a family. She could see Bobby another time.

        As she showered in anticipation of the carnival, she decided that a dress was too formal. She would put on a pair of jeans and a simple white t-shirt. She wanted to see the crying girl. She wanted to talk to her. After she blew dry her hair, she skipped the mascara, the rouge, and opted for a light lip gloss instead of the ruby lips.

        “Wow, Mary, you look like your old self. It is nice to see she is still there,” her Mom smirked.

        After cotton candy, pretzels, hot dogs, ferris wheels, and games, Mary found a way to sneak away. “I will be back in 30 minutes I promise,” she claimed.

        She ran to the Mirrors of Truth, hoping to see Marvelous Mickey, but instead there was a woman with dark hair in a bun with long eyelashes, Striking Sara. “Well, hello there. Are you brave enough to enter the Mirrors of Truth? Come see what your deepest desires are.”

        She paid the $1 that was owed and entered in. The changing lights no longer phased her. The voice that was once comforting, seemed haunting, “Keep going. You are not there yet. You must find the mirror that will reveal your desires.” She passed the fireworks, abruptly found the soft film on the mirror. She stepped inside and closed her eyes again, breathing deeply. She hesitated...what would she see?

        “Open your eyes, and see your deepest desire,” the whisper said.

        Mary opened her eyes, and the girl in the striped dress with ruby lips and rosy cheeks was staring at her as if she was mourning. A tear rolled down her face. Mary reached out her hand to touch her, and she disappeared. She turned around, and the soft film evaporated, and she saw a replica of herself: white t-shirt, jeans, simply combed hair, with just a bit of lip gloss. They both stared at each other, neither laughing or smiling or crying. Her eyes were piercing with strength and courage. Time stood still with their eyes locked. Mary wanted to talk to her, but knew there were no words to say. She closed her eyes to take a breath, and then she was gone.

        Her mom was waiting outside of the Mirrors of Truth when she found the exit. “Mary, I don’t know why you wasted your money on that...I told you time and time again...it is all a sham.”

        “Sorry, mother.” Mary climbed down from the platform as she walked away with her mom, she took one more look to see Striking Sara, but her face had changed. Her eyes looked deeply at Mary. Her face was too familiar, but older, 20 years older in fact. She was staring at her adult self with long brown hair in a bun with a beautiful smile with only lip gloss on her lips.

        “Hurry, Mary, if you want to meet Bobby at the drive in, you will need to hurry.”

        “Mom, I changed my mind. I just want to see a movie at home with you--no fuss, no making myself up. In fact, I think I am tired of making myself up and wearing dresses.”

        “Well, then, let’s get to it. I have a movie picked out, and popcorn ready to make.”

        They walked out the exit, and the mom seemed in a lighter mood, a warmth that was missing came back to her heart. Maybe there is something to the Mirrors of Truth, but then she shook her head and told herself she was only being silly.

        Mary thought the popcorn was especially good that night, and even though she couldn’t remember the title of the movie, and she felt content to be at home in her jeans and simple white t-shirt.

Word Count 2,316

Required Range 1,500-2,500