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Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, 2016

By Donald LaBranche

They came, they saw, they conquered.

Way back in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, we played Dungeons and Dragons. It was low tech then. Dice, plastic avatars, and the imaginative gumption of the Dungeon Master who set up the adventure, set the boundaries, and set down the parameters. The rest was up to the players as they set foot in that world for the next dozen or so hours.

Just so sixteen students walked into my Young Writers Classroom this past July. (Three of them repeats!) They bought into the adventure as I described it to them and off they went. From the very first prompt (“Machine”–Expound) to the last day when they suffered their parents to collaborate with them on a story, they were writers.

One of them turned in what may have been the best short story by a young writer I’ve ever read. We discussed and wrote around the various permutations of the temporal paradox. We argued over who has played the best Doctor Who in their lifetime. We thought about the craft of writing as Ursula Le Guin explains it. We took pleasure in each other’s company and took each other’s work seriously. We joined in conversation with the Great Ones from the past.

I played Charon to their Homer, their Virgil, their Dante. I told them what I know about the journey ahead of them.

And this week Neil Gaiman reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s questions for writers of speculative fiction to ask of themselves:

What if…?                                                                                                                                                                                                            If If only…?                                                                                                                                                                                                                        If If this goes on…?

I’ll write them on a sheet of vellum with a quill pulled from the neck of a phoenix, in ink infused with a little drop of poison.

I’m going to fix it so I see them first thing when Spring of ‘17 rolls into town.

I can’t help myself.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. janiceewing #

    Don, it was so interesting to read this post, after having read your piece in May about your “immersion into horror” to prep for this course. Your students are lucky to have a teacher who understands, honor, and encourages their passion.


    September 2, 2016
  2. Don, Thanks for the fabulous post! Love the content, references, and the respect you show your young writers — From your careful planning, your enthusiasm, and your identification of your young group as writers — it is apparent how fortunate your young writing group was this past summer! I believe the memories of your class will buoy many of your writers as they navigate another year or adolescence. Your thoughtfulness and care is inspiring!


    September 2, 2016

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