Books·The First Page

The Only Difference by Katelyn Snell

Katelyn Snell, 17, is one of 10 finalists in the Grades 10 to 12 category of The First Page student writing challenge.

2018 finalist: Grades 10 to 12 category

Katelyn Snell, 17, is a 2018 finalist in the Grades 10 to 12 category for The First Page student writing challenge. (Submitted by Katelyn Snell)

The Only Difference by Katelyn Snell is one of 10 stories shortlisted for The First Page student writing competition in the Grades 10 to 12 category. 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. Nearly 2,400 students submitted their stories.

Snell, a student at R.A. McMath Secondary School in Richmond, B.C., tackles artificial intelligence in The Only Difference.


In the beginning, it was blood. No blood, no life. That lasted for about a year until company's fixed them up a thin layer for surface level injuries. Over the years they improved it, piece by piece. Now, you'd have to break an arm to know for sure, but that's problematic for obvious reasons.

So we moved onto the bio scanner, it operated like an X-ray, but for organs instead of bones. One flash over a person and you knew right away if they were human. That was when things were easy. Then they gave 'em rights. No more Box-Rooms, no more unpaid labor, and no more civilian spot checks. That last one made it trickier for my line of work. At first, it meant that I had to be more careful, scanning from under my cloak. But companies caught onto that one surprisingly fast when their latest models started dropping off the map. 

If they couldn't stop us from doing it, they had to make the test ineffective. So they did. They gave 'em replica organs, the kinds they use for human transplants. It was clever, I'll give them that.

Currently, there are two main methods of identification. If you're rich, you can get the material scanner, find out if their calcium is iron. Or if you're like me, you do it the old-fashioned way. Take them somewhere unsanitary, like the woods or the trash dens for a week or so and wait for the pimples to start popping out. Or lack thereof. 

Because it's all in the skin. People will say it's the eyes or the fingernails, but they're wrong. That's not to say it's bad quality, it still gets wrinkles and scratches. But what they don't get are pimples. You've got to have the real deal for oily blemishes, none of that synthetic stuff.

Of course, it's not easy nowadays to notice that kind of detail. Every decent makeup store on the planet has effective pimple treatment. So if you're testing someone you've got to keep them away from any products.

It's difficult but manageable for the payout. The amount of gold these things have in their wiring is ridiculous, it's pushing eight pounds on average. There are weirdos who get thrills out of it, consider it "sustainable" to put them down. I'm just here to get my cash.


About The First Page student writing challenge

CBC Books asked students to give us a glimpse of the great Canadian novel of the year 2168. 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 award-winning YA writer Cherie Dimaline, author of The Marrow Thieves. The winner will be announced on CBC Books on Feb. 22, 2019.

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 YA books.

CBC Books's next writing competition for students is the Shakespeare Selfie student writing challenge, which will open in April 2019.

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