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John Scalzi’s SciFi Writing Contest


This week, out here in what is occasionally called “the real world,” I am an instructor at Viable Paradise — a week-long writing workshop for aspiring science fiction and fantasy authors. Here we critique stories and novel excerpts, lecture on writing and publishing and have Q&A sessions about the writing life. Another thing we do is give our students writing assignments to help spur their creativity and, you know, make them feel like they’re getting their money’s worth.

But then I thought, “Why let the Viable Paradise students have all the fun?” Below you will find a selection of writing assignments, based on various science fiction movies and/or science fiction filmmakers. Write up one or more, and put them into the comments below (one writing assignment per comment — keep them short and punchy). Here’s the juicy part: I’ll select my favorite from the bunch and AMC will award its author a DVD set of the original The Prisoner. It’s that easy! Have fun.

1. Write a brief monologue from the point of view of the creature who burst out of the chest of John Hurt in Alien.

2. Whilst visiting an alien world to collect plant samples, one of your crew ran afoul of the local sentient life, forcing you to cut short the mission and then subsequently mount a rescue attempt to retrieve said crew member. Write the discipline report for the crew member, whom the local sentients labeled as E.T.

3. Will Smith has agreed to do your next movie! Congratulations. Now pitch that movie to a studio executive. In addition to Smith, the movie must contain at least four of the following ten elements: A toothbrush; a small primate known as the Aye-Aye; a mad scientist; a robot who learns to love; shape-shifting zombie cats; a sexy podiatrist; a 1972 AMC Gremlin; Red Vines; a ticking time bomb; any one member of either Duran Duran or the Jonas Brothers, depending on your generational inclinations.

4. You are the founding member of the Jar-Jar Binks Reclamation Project who has come to the San Diego Comic-Con to spread the Gospel of Jar-Jar. You have one hundred fifty words to make your argument to the assembled masses. Go.

5. Similarly: you are at an academic film conference to give a presentation. The title of your talk? Uwe Boll: The Most Important Film Director of the Last Decade. Provide the synopsis paragraph of this talk, and/or recount how you escaped from the auditorium in which you gave the talk alive.

6. Write a short monologue from the point of view of The Terminator. NOTE: Due to circumstances beyond the filmmakers control, Arnold Schwarzenegger is not available to play the role of The Terminator. The role of The Terminator will instead be played by C-3P0. Please incorporate this fact into your monologue.

7. You are a screenwriter. Show us a short scene from your upcoming Matrix sequel, entitled Agent Smith: Telemarketer.

8. The movie Dune has been remade. The name of the newest version is Muad’Dib! The Musical, starring Hugh Jackman as Paul. You are a critic. Write the review.

9. Stung by the reviews of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that describe the flick as being utterly without any redeeming qualities, director Michael Bay declares that the next Transformers movie will have a story and script based on one of the plays of William Shakespeare. In no more than two paragraphs, write a synopsis of that movie, using any Shakespeare play you like. NOTE: No fair using Titus Andronicus.

10. A group of science fiction sidekick characters have come together for their monthly support group/happy hour. The event takes place at TGI Friday’s or some other moderately-priced restaurant chain. Provide us a glimpse of the transcript from that meeting.

Happy writing, and good luck!

Winner of the Hugo Award and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, John Scalzi is the author of The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies and the novels Old Man’s War and Zoe’s Tale. He’s also Creative Consultant for the upcoming Stargate: Universe television series. His column appears every Thursday.

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