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One thing I love about science fiction is how it can give you that “what if?” moment. A really great premise can make you think about it for days, weeks, even years after you’ve closed the book. Today I want to talk about three science fiction stories from my childhood that I still find myself thinking about.

The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh

In fifth or sixth grade, my English teacher read this book to the class. For those of you who don’t know it, it centers on a family about to leave Earth. The planet is dying, and in order to ensure the continuation of the human species several ships have been launched into space in the hopes that some will find a new planet and survive. The main character is a young girl named Pattie, and the story of finding a new planet and trying to turn it into a home is centered around her point of view.

Why I still think about it:

At the start of the book, each person is allowed to choose one book to bring with them. One, just one. This will be the only book they are taking from Earth…I used to think about this choice all the time, and I still find myself wondering which I’d choose. It feels like an impossible choice, and in the end, maybe Pattie was the only one who had it right. What book did she choose? You’ll have to read the story to find out… šŸ˜‰

House of Stairs by William Sleator

Five 16-year-old orphans are all kidnapped and brought to a strange place made of endless stairs leading to nowhere, except to a weird red machine. This machine is their only source of food, and in order to survive, they’ll have to learn to follow the rules the machine sets. But when the machine starts asking them to hurt each other, to change into crueler versions of themselves, will they? Or will they realize that sometimes the cost of survival is too high?

Why I still think about it:

I’m a very food-motivated person. I always have been, and the fact that these kids, all normal with all different personalities, are each manipulated by a machine into becoming…well, horrible, in order to eat…that’s always stuck with me. Would I be willing to starve in order to avoid turning into a violent, hateful person? And how quickly can a group of kids be trained through repetitive actions? It’s a creepy premise, and worth thinking about.

The Veldt by Ray Bradbury

This is a short story that we also read in school. It’s about a futuristic house filled with advanced technology that can pretty much do everything for you – cook your meals, clean itself (and you), provide any entertainment you want. And it has the most wonderful nursery, perfect for babysitting the kids as it can turn into anything, anything at all. Want to explore the jungle? See what it’s like to live on the moon? Visit the African Veldt? Sounds amazing, but as the house takes over everything, the kids start to wonder what they even need their parents for. After all, they have the veldt. And when the parents threaten to take all that away…well…

Why I still think about it:

It’s the kind of premise that really makes you wonder “what if?” This “HappyHouse” seems like something that could possibly be created in the future, and honestly, I loved the idea of the nursery, and while I know that’s not what I was supposed to walk away from this story thinking, I couldn’t help imagining what it would be like to have a place like that. At the same time, this story does a good job of showing how dangerous it can be to give up control of everything to something else, and how when all your needs are met by machines, the people in your life can lose their meaning. Also, the end of the story is gruesome and chilling, and I still find myself wondering what the kids in that house are doing after the story ends.

How about you? What science fiction stories have stayed with you over the years?

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