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The Death of Planet Earth by Zev Lifson

The Death of Planet Earth by Zev Lifson is a finalist for The First Page student writing challenge.

2023 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

A portrait of a teenage boy with long black hair smiling into the camera.
Zev Lifson is a finalist in the First Page Student Writing Challenge in the Grades 10-12 category. (Submitted by Zev Lifson)

The Death of Planet Earth by Zev Lifson 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.

Lifson, 16, a student at the Hebrew Academy of Montreal in Montreal, writes about space exploration.

Some say the Apocalypse will come after the Four Horsemen ride forth.

However it isn't proper etiquette to start a story partway through. Allow me to go back to the beginning, as that is where all fairly good stories begin.

Humanity has always looked to the stars. In 1969, mankind reached the moon. In 2039, the first fully functional warp drive was developed. Then, in 2042, the first large-scale attempt to settle other planets began. Colonies were sent to three planets which were believed to be the best candidates to support human civilization. Yet, one by one, they all fell to ruin.

Thus rode forth the Four Horsemen.

The first, Pestilence, will draw nigh on his white stallion, crowned and with bow in hand. Then, War will follow, on a horse red as blood, swinging a longsword with a ruby on its hilt. Famine will ride a steed black as a starless night, bearing scales of burnished bronze. Last, on a mount of sickly cast, will ride Death.

So says the legend.

However, it seems we have misunderstood the true nature of these harbingers.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were believed by many to be figures of legend. In truth, it appeared we were looking in the wrong places. As it turned out, these harbingers of our world's end turned out not to be Horsemen at all.


"The planet Gliese 1061d was the first of the three colonies to fall. An unknown and virulent disease had spread, swiftly eradicating all living organisms on the planet." (Excerpt from the Student's Modern Textbook on Space Exploration, Ch. 4)


"Proxima Centauri b was the most prosperous of the colonies. Unlike the other two, Proxima Centauri b fell due to human fault. A few notable inhabitants fought over control of the abundant exports, ultimately resorting to nuclear warfare. The planet's surface is now a wasteland home to dangerously high levels of radiation." (Ibid.)


"The last of the colonies to fall was that of Gliese 667 Cc. The planet's atmosphere and climate was altered by periods of intense solar flares from its host star, thereby rendering agriculture and animal farming impossible. The population declined rapidly due to the ensuing famine." (Ibid.)

The Four Horsemen were hardly simple horsemen. They were planets.

This story takes place on the fourth and final of the four.


This story takes place on planet Earth.

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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