Proxima Centauri is a small star, and the nearest to ours. Two or three planets are in orbit around it, winging their way through the dark. Of the two planets we know about, one is likely a gas dwarf, a planet that has a thick atmosphere of hydrogen-helium, and layers of ice and rock, or liquid oceans. This second planet is fiercely cold and seven times the size of Earth.
The first planet holds more promise. Proxima Centauri b is close to its sun, and just slightly larger than Earth. More importantly, though, is that it’s in the ‘habitable zone’ – not too hot, not too cold, and likely to have conditions that could support life.
What truly captivates us, though, is that the space and communications technology we have today makes it possible to send a unmanned vessel to Proxima Centauri b. If we sent it now, we could see images back in our lifetime – perhaps 10-15 years from now. The system is within our reach, and within our capabilities.
In 2020, we weren’t going anywhere, and so this is where our imagination took us instead.
This book is the product of a youth writing workshop offered in collaboration with the Calgary Public Library and the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Science. Throughout the fall and into the winter, teens participated in a science fiction writing workshop, receiving scientific advice, briefings, and writing support. We were fortunate to offer our writers guidance from Lynn M. Thomas, co-editor in chief at the award-winning Uncanny Magazine, and throughout the workshop, we were supported by library and technical staff from the Calgary Public Library.
The theme of the workshop was ‘getting to Proxima b,’ and our writers began to develop their vision of what space explorers or probes might find, upon arrival, and what would be transmitted back to us on Earth. The stories you’re about to read are wonderfully creative interpretations of that theme. ‘Star Havens’ by Avery Sandblom combines a sensitive coming-of-age story with dark intrigue. ‘Proxima b’ by Wil Hughes conveys the wistful searching of a small rover. Otis Lee McLellan’s screenplay scene is a light-hearted comedic drama. Mahrosh Abid’s ‘The Journey to Proxima Centauri’ is the first installment of a thrilling adventure. Finally, Deethi Jahan’s novella, ‘Labyrinth,’ is a deeply character-driven space opera that will delight and entertain.
Young writers bring an emotional intensity and dedication to their craft that is a true privilege to see. The stories in this anthology are powerful explorations of thoughts and feelings with complicated worldbuilding – but what we find so remarkable is the undercurrent of hopeful optimism that runs through them. Despite writing under difficult circumstances, these five writers have a collective vision of the future that celebrates resiliency and courage, even under difficult circumstances. We celebrate their achievements with this anthology even as we look forward to seeing the stories they’ll tell in the future.
Heather Clitheroe and Eric Donovan