Books·The First Page

DesignR Infants Co. by Thomas Nixon-Langford

DesignR Infants Co. by Thomas Nixon-Langford is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge.

2023 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

A portrait of a teenage boy with brown hair covering his forehead smirks at the camera.
Thomas Nixon-Langford is a finalist for the 2023 First Page Student Writing Challenge in the Grades 10-12 category. (Submitted by Thomas Nixon-Langford)

DesignR Infants Co. by Thomas Nixon-Langford is one of 11 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 category for 2023.

Students across Canada wrote the first page of a novel set 150 years in the future, imagining how a current-day trend or issue has played out. More than 1,200 students submitted their stories.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada. The winners will be selected by bestselling YA writer Courtney Summers and be announced on May 31.

Nixon-Langford, 18, a student at Nanaimo District Secondary School in Nanaimo, B.C., writes about genetic editing.

"Alright July, so you want the Bipolar gene taken out and the embryos immune system to be pre-parturationally enhanced. What should I do about the ADHD and ODD genes?" Our nurse, Jennifer, asked, rolling away in her office chair to deposit my blood sample into her DNA reader.

Standard equipment for a DesignR Infants offices like this one "Take them out too if that's okay," I replied wearily, feeling the tiny, round bandage.

"My Aunt suffers from Bipolar, and my lovely wife's brother suffers from ADHD and ODD. We just want our future daughter to be happy," Jake, my husband, put forth.

"I totally understand, I'll add some temperament regulators as well for good measure."

Jake noticed my discomposure and whispered to me, "Hey, I know it's expensive but this'll give her a better life, right?"

"Right, so she doesn't suffer like Mitchell," I reasoned, sliding back into memories of my unruly brother.

"Alrighty, now, how do you want to customize her appearance? Unnatural hair colours are in vogue this year." Jennifer proposed, typing away.

"Well, we're naming her after my wife's mother, so we thought it would be nice if she looked like mine when she's older!"

"Alright then, I'll bring up your mother's DNA profile and model the product's appearance after her. Should I add any intelligence or athletics boosters?" Jennifer asked.

"There's no point in improving her athletics. Neither of us are sporty and we certainly can't afford NBA or NFL level enhancements." I replied, distractedly drumming my fingers on my arm like a full-time professional pianist.

"But what about math proficiency enhancements? Neither of us are gifted there," Jake added.

"True, yeah," I trailed off.

"Now for behavioural settings. Do you want to allow for your child's gender and sexuality to develop naturally or do you want them preset?"

"That's legal?" I blurted out, snapping to attention.

"That's an option? Interesting," Jake mused.

"Do you think you could lock her in as a girl? We have no problem with the LGBT of course. But my friend, Mike, had his kid organically and when the kid turned 13, they came out as trans. The bill for the new wardrobe was eye-watering…"

I looked back and forth between my husband and Jenny, but I was barely hearing their words. I just sat there mortified while Jenny and Jake nattered away about pre-programming our own child's mind.

About The First Page student writing challenge

A cartoon astronaut with a laser sword bursting out of a book and flying through space with her cat.
The First Page student writing challenge asks students in Grades 7 to 12 to write the first page of a novel from 150 years in the future. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2173. They wrote the first page of a book set 150 years in the future, with the protagonist facing an issue that's topical today and set the scene for how it's all playing out in a century and a half.

Two winning entries — one from the Grades 7 to 9 category and one from the Grades 10 to 12 category — will be chosen by bestselling author Courtney Summers. 

Summers has won numerous awards, including the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Young Adult literature, the 2019 Odyssey Award and the 2020 Forest of Reading White Pine Award. Her 2021 book The Project won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Young Adult novel.

The shortlist was selected by a team of writers across Canada:

The winner will be announced on CBC Books on May 31, 2023.

Both winners will receive a one-year subscription to OwlCrate, which sends fresh boxes of books to young readers across Canada on a monthly basis. In addition, each of the winners' schools will receive 50 free YA books.

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