I read a short story in grade 8, and I cannot remember the author or the title. The short story was in our textbook for that year (sadly can't remember the title of the textbook, either; I was in grade 8 in Nova Scotia in 1983). The story went something like this:

A girl and her father are celebrating Christmas on the Moon (I think it was the moon). Her father is pleased that the Christmas tree is materialized by a beam from a far-away materializaton complex. His daughter is not nearly as happy with this, so she finds a control panel in the house and turns off the tree.

Her father gets upset about this, and as I recall, she further taunts her father by turning off other switches. She sees labels on the switchboard for things like the sofa, so she gleefully turns off the sofa, further angering her father.

As she goes down the panel, switching things off, she sees there's a switch for the house itself, so she turns off the house. Her father and her are now standing on a bare concrete platform, with only themselves and the swithboard sticking up out of the platform.

Her father by now is quite irate, but she finds a switch for her father and turns him off.

The last switch on the panel has her name on it.

I really wish I could remember the author or title of this short story, because I still remember these details of it 22 years later.

Has anybody else read this story who would remember the title and the author?

  • It was in a textbook? For English class? Jun 22, 2015 at 6:03
  • Yeah, I read this story in grade 8, and it was one of the ones in our textbook or reader, or whatever those mandated short story collections were called. :-)
    – Manni Wood
    Jun 23, 2015 at 16:05

1 Answer 1


Fritz Leiber's short story Mariana, first published in Fantastic Science Fiction Stories, February 1960.

Mariana lives in a beautiful villa surrounded by tall pine trees, but she’s troubled by something, perhaps a sense of monotony. Her husband assures her that her life is perfect, and he urges her to find satisfaction in their cozy situation. Yet when he leaves for work, she is curious. She finds a secret control panel in the wall with buttons labeled “trees” and “house.” She turns them off. When her husband returns, she flips a switch and her husband blinks out of existence. Then she turns off the stars. Mariana wakes up to discover herself being offered therapy by a mysterious doctor. She turns off the doctor and returns to the dark to carry out her therapy, as the doctor says, to its inevitable conclusion. The next switch is labeled “Mariana.”

  • 2
    Thanks so much for the tip! I just downloaded the Kindle version of the story and read it, and it's funny which details I remembered correctly, and which details I totally got wrong. Thanks again for pointing the way!
    – Manni Wood
    Jun 23, 2015 at 16:04
  • @ManniWood If this answer is correct, you should accept it by clicking the green checkmark on the left.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jul 10, 2022 at 20:17

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