HARVARD — Sixteen-year-old Blair Andres is a big fan of reading science fiction, and she writes some of her own as well.
Those literary talents were recently recognized by environmental activists from the Boston area after Andres finished fifth a statewide story-writing contest and won $50.
The challenge was to create a short story that illustrates how the energy choices of businesses and consumers today can affect the world of tomorrow. The result was a cautionary tale titled “Not With a Bang, But a Whimper.”
Though she concedes the title was lovingly borrowed from T.S. Eliot’s prediction of how the world would end, the concept was all her own. It centered on the experience of a young single mother living in the mid-21st century who comes to the unpleasant realization that life as we know it is about to end.
From there the story explains how that came to pass and the central character’s reaction, said Andres.
The dark idea came innoculously enough, from Andres reading a contest flier on her English teacher’s bulletin board. Though she’d never written for a competition before, she liked the concept and decided to give it a shot.
“I love writing and it really piqued my interest, thinking what the world would be like 50 years from now,” she said.
As so often happens with science fiction, the crisis within Andres’ story stemmed from a major technological breakthrough. In this case, it was the elimination of harmful germs, which allowed more people to live longer.
However, the resulting census explosion increases the damage from existing habits of consumption to leave the world overpopulated and exhausted.
The hardest part of writing the story was whittling an extremely wide premise down to something manageable within a handful of pages, said Andres.
“It was so broad a topic. It was really hard to just think about one thing to write about,” she said. “It was also difficult to finish It’s easy to begin something, but harder to finish.”
The contest was titled “Imagining Tomorrow.” It was sponsored by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), an organization of activists and professionals who advocate for sustainable and “green” energy practices through a variety of methods.
The finals for the contest were held on May 26 at the Genzyme Center in Cambridge. For a science buff like Andres, visiting the headquarters of one of the world’s leading biotech companies was a reward in itself.
As a finalist in the competition, she had a place in the event’s “story gallery” where attendees got to read work from all 25 finalists and question the authors.
Overall, Andres termed the experience positive and educational.
“It helped me become more aware of current issues and what people are and aren’t doing to help,” she said. “It was also fun to meet other people who participated.”
NESEA Education Director Chris Mason termed the pilot competition a success, in an event release.
“It is inspiring to find so many students able to imagine how today’s energy use might change the future,” he said.
Harvard resident Mary Essary was the program director for the competition and spoke to its purpose.
“The goal of the Imagining Tomorrow program is to promote learning about the linked issues of energy and (the) environment,” she said.
While that mission was accomplished for Andres, it also tapped into her love of writing, and she’s already making plans for next time around.
“I’m definitely going to enter the contest again next year with a different story,” she said.