The theme for the 2016 LSSU High School Short Story Prize was alt-history short stories. Teachers and students looking for advice on reading alt-history short stories as writers and ideas for brainstorming and pre-writing alt-history short stories are encouraged to download our below contest lesson plan.
WHAT IS ALTERNATE HISTORY?
For the purposes of this contest, alt-history short stories were defined as stories that speculate how the world would be different if the past were altered. In other words, we were looking for stories that explore some “what-if” scenario about history. For example, what if the Axis had won World War II? What if a woman had been elected president in 1976? What if Martin Luther King, Jr., hadn’t been assassinated? What if first contact between Europeans and indigenous American peoples went differently? Any scenario is fair game, as long as it asks how things would be different if the past were changed. Stories could be historical fiction set in the past, which explore how the change to the timeline might have happened. They could be literary fiction looking at how the present-day would be different as a result of the change. Or they could be science fiction that imagines what the future would become as a result of the change. One well-known example is The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick, the 1963 Hugo-winning novel recently adapted for television, which explores what the U.S. would have been like 20 years later if the Axis had won World War II. Check out the links below for classic and award-winning alt-history short story examples we recommend.
“A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury is a classic sci-fi, alt-history, and time travel short story that was originally published in 1952 in Collier’s. Set in both 2055 and prehistoric times, the story explores how time travel to the distant past might affect the future, showing the “butterfly effect” in action.
“The Long Haul” by Ken Liu is an award-winning alternate history short story set in a world where the Hindenburg disaster never happened and airships fill the skies. In the story, a magazine writer accompanies a husband-wife team flying their cargo zeppelin from central China to Las Vegas. It is both an adventure tale and a moving portrait of a marriage. Originally published in Clarkesworld Magazine (November 2014), republished in translation on the World Chinese Science Fiction Association website. Winner: 2014 Sidewise Award for best short-form alternate history. (Check out our recent interview with the author!)
“Recovering Apollo 8” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is an award-winning alternate history story originally published in 2008 in Asimov’s Science Fiction. The story diverges from the original historical timeline in 1968, exploring what would happen if the Apollo 8 mission to orbit the Moon was lost. (2007 Sidewise Award for best short-form alternate history. Nominee: 2008 Hugo for best novella)
More great story recommendations are available at this page listing the short-form Sidewise Awards for Alternate History!
IDEAS, INSPIRATION, & WORLDBUILDING RESOURCES
The following resources may be useful as you decide on the premise of your story and build its world:
- Social studies teachers may help you make connections to history and explore how changes to the historical timeline might alter the future.
- Historic photographs may spark your imagination.
- Newspapers from the date of the event you plan to change can help you better understand the event, the world of your story, and its characters.
- Speculative art may inspire you to think creatively about how you alter history.
- Artist Matthew Buchholz’s website, Alternatehistories.com, offers a wealth of strange and inspiring images that insert monsters into the past.
CONTEST LESSON PLAN
Teachers may be interested in our sample lesson plan, which includes an activity in which students read an alternate history short story as writers and ideas for brainstorming and pre-writing (updated 2/26 with additional research resources and 3/15 with an additional alt-history short story model!).
2016 CONTEST RESULTS
Congratulations to the winner, runners-up, finalists, and semifinalists!
“Shadows of Auschwitz” by Anna Shier of Gladstone, Michigan, 12th grade, Homeschooled, Teacher Connie Shier
1st Place Runner-Up: “A Most Bitter Cold” by Kelsey Beauchamp of Bay Port High School, Wisconsin, 11th grade, Teacher Ms. Quinn
2nd Place Runner-Up: “The Woman of Brass” by Nathan Fialkoff of Parchment High School, Michigan, 11th grade, Teacher Lisa Ouellette
- Melanie Breeden, “A Twist in Time, A Change in Life,” 12th grade, Bloomington High School South, Indiana, Teacher Ms. McGinnis
- Samuel DeCillis, “It Happened Here,” 11th grade, Olentangy Orange High School, Ohio, Teacher Amanda McCleary
- Lauren King, “Reset,” 10th grade, Bloomington High School South, Indiana, Teacher Ms. Mcginnis
- Connor Reppuhn, “A World Beyond the Setting Sun,” 12th grade, Forest Hills Central High School, Michigan, Teacher Ms. Scobell
- Justin Stankevich, “Line Breakers,” 12th grade, Kingsford High School, Michigan, Teacher Kendalynn Sutton
- Joan Wieland, “Four Horsemen,” 12th grade, Arrowhead High School, Wisconsin, Teacher Elizabeth Jorgensen
- Jordan Barone, “You Only Live Twice,” 9th grade, St. Mary’s, Ontario, Teacher Ms. Melissa Innis
- Samantha Brand, “Through the Motions,” 10th grade, Sault Area High School, Michigan, Teacher Mr. Scott Menard
- Noah Buhle, “Unfeeling,” 12th grade, Hartford Union High School, Wisconsin, Teacher Ms. Herrmann
- Katie Cary, “New Hamburg,” 12th grade, Kingsford High School, Michigan, Teacher Ms. Kendalynn Sutton
- Ethan Cornwell, “Remnants of a Steel Purgatory,” 12th grade, Bloomington South High School, Indiana, Teacher Ms. McGinnis
- Dylan Dal Santo, “Jammed,” 12th grade, Kingsford High School, Michigan, Ms. Kendalynn Sutton
- Emily Finley, “The New Era of Transportation,” 12th grade, Bloomington High School South, Indiana, Teacher Ms. McGinnis
- Ethan Horst, “The Golden Door,” 12th grade, Warsaw Community High School, Indiana, Teacher Mr. Henn
- Amanda Jentsch, “When the Sun Shines On,” 9th grade, New Berlin Eisenhower, Wisconsin, Teacher Sarah Kowalske
- Isabelle Kramer, “Winter’s Dangerous Beauty,” 11 th grade, Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Wisconsin, Teacher Mr. Bruss
- Janel LaPalm, “Ghostwriter,” 10th grade, Escanaba High School, Michigan, Ms. Geyer
- Ekaterina Lindeman, “Daddy’s Going Home,” 12th grade, Kingsford High School, Michigan, Teacher Kendalynn Sutton
- MaKaila Marrison, “The Kennedy Conspiracy,” 12th grade, DeWitt High School, Michigan, Teacher Eder DelaCruz
- Kiegan Mitchell, “War of the Machine,” 10th grade, Olentangy Orange High School, Ohio, Teacher Laurie Repko
- Sarah Payne, “Keepin’ Promises,” 10th grade, Bloomington High School South, Indiana, Teacher Ms. McGinnis
- Rachel Plonke, “Endless Blue Sky,” 12th grade, Kingsford High, Michigan, Teacher Kendalynn Sutton
- Charles Riess, “A Lunar U.S.S.R,” 12th grade, Allegan Senior High School, Michigan, Teacher Ms. Nancy Hascall
- Tyler Ryynanen, “The Last Mistake,” 10th grade, Houghton High School, Michigan, Teacher Julie Antilla
- Isaac Slajus, “Henry’s Ashes,” 12th grade, Kingsford High School, Michigan, Teacher Kendalynn Sutton
- Laura Stahlhut, “June 17, 1953,” 12th grade, Allegan High School, Michigan, Teacher Nancy Hascall
- Bo Stuck, “Dillinger,” 12th grade, Kingsford High, Michigan, Teacher Ms. Kendalynn Sutton
- Erik Wohlfiel, “Eden,” 12th grade, Arrowhead Union High School, Wisconsin, Teacher Ms. Carnell
- Rebecca Yeomans-Stephenson, “Running from the Revolution,” 9th grade, Okemos High School, Teacher Rachel Freeman