New Year's resolution

The Future of Short Stories: A New Year’s Resolution

Writers of the Future is a contest built upon short stories, inspired by the days of pulp fiction, where short was de rigueur, whether science fiction short stories or fantasy short stories.

So we want to help you start off the New Year by keeping with the original goal for Writers of the Future as stated by L. Ron Hubbard when he launched the Contest in 1983, to “provide a means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged.”

What better way to make a New Year’s resolution than to ask some of the top names in publishing their thoughts on the future of short stories. Allow them to help you reaffirm your goal to be a published author of fantasy short stories or science fiction short stories!

Bill Fawcett

Bill Fawcett“I see short fiction and media merging with cut scenes and videos weaved into eBook formatted stories and audio read stories … Multifiction format.”

Bill Fawcett, an American editor, anthologist, game designer, book packager, fiction writer, and historian.


David Farland

David Farland“The future for short fiction has never been brighter. With a plethora of new online magazines, it’s now cheaper to produce and distribute great short fiction than ever before, and so I see a burgeoning market over the next decade or two!”

David Farland, an international bestselling author, a writing instructor, and the Coordinating Judge for Writers of the Future.


Mike Resnick

Mike Resnick“The short story, as has been shown over the past couple of centuries, can be as powerful as the novel. It’s quicker to write, easier and cheaper to publish, takes less of a time commitment on the part of the reader (and usually, though not always, the author), and there’s no question that it’s here to stay. I would guesstimate that there are more short stories in print from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s than there are novels in print from that same time period.”

Mike Resnick, has sold 69 science fiction novels and more than 250 short stories and edited 40 anthologies, and is Editor of Galaxy’s Edge Magazine.


Jody Lynn Nye

Jody Lynn Nye“With a single plot and a world drawn with rapid strokes, short fiction has a flexibility that long fiction does not. Readers can have the pleasure of downloading a piece to enjoy with their lunch, during a commute, or just standing in line. Writers have been experimenting with the explosion in social media and new technology to get their work into the hands of more readers than ever before. We’re already seeing short stories being posted on websites, transmitted over Twitter, or downloaded on cell phones (especially in Japan), in both text and audio formats. Every advance in communication is an opportunity for writers to offer their ideas, their characters, their worlds to readers. Short stories are those bite-sized pieces ready for those eager consumers.”

Jody Lynn Nye, the author or co-author of approximately 40 published novels and more than 100 short stories.


Dean Wesley Smith

Dean Wesley Smith“I think in this new world of indie publishing, short fiction will play a major part in a lot of different areas, from increased cash flow to promotions to discoverability of a writer’s work. In essence, I think any writer working into the future must know short fiction and make it a regular part of their writing.”

Dean Wesley Smith, has published almost 200 novels in 40 years, and hundreds and hundreds of short stories across many genres.


Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress“In science fiction, short fiction has gotten increasingly sophisticated and literary, and as a new generation writes, its social concerns will be reflected in fiction’s themes, as has always been true.”

Nancy Kress, bestselling author of 26 novels and four collections of short stories.


Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card“The investment a writer makes in a novel is staggering. For months or years of their lives, writers concentrate on a single story, usually a complex one, with many threads. Living inside that world, it becomes familiar and, when the books emerge, they are self-consistent exactly to the degree that the writers disciplined themselves to stay within the bounds of that fictional reality.

“In short fiction, however, the investment of time is far less burdensome. The writers have room to play, to explore. If they come upon an idea that contradicts what they said earlier, it’s a simple thing to go back and revise in order to fit in the new idea—because they will be revising here and there among 20 pages, not 200 or 1,000.

“Creativity, not consistency, is the river that spawns short fiction. Short fiction can make nonce rivulets that flow where there has been no stream before. It is in short fiction that genres are defined and redefined, banks and boundaries oversplashed and, in some cases, eroded away, to move the community of writers and readers into new channels and new possibilities.

“No television show can ever take the place of short narrative fiction, because the huge budgets required even for the cheapest storytelling podcast or vlog, compared to the cost of purveying short fiction, make it commercially impossible to create screen stories that do not meet audience expectations and follow the tropes and obey the parameters of existing genres.

“Even though television and its stepchildren on other screens have largely replaced short fiction in the attention of the vast public, there remains a select audience that recognizes that in the text of short fictional narratives, the best writers are carving out new territory. It won’t be ready for television for decades, in all likelihood—yet through that select audience, the influence of the short fiction will spread, opening the minds of the wider audience until they are ready to receive the new worlds and ways invented and discovered by the writers of short stories, novelettes, and novellas.”

Orson Scott Card, international bestselling author (Ender’s Game) and publisher of Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show


As we enter 2019, the future of short stories, whether science fiction short stories or fantasy short stories, looks brighter than ever. So if your dream is to be a published writer, then heed what these top authors above have said and avail yourself the opportunity provided by the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.

Make your New Year’s resolution. Enter the Contest. And allow your creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged.

 

 

Walter Dinjos

“View from a Hill”

by Martin L. Shoemaker

A tall, strong, young man stood on the crest of a hill, looking out over the green-brown plain below. A slight breeze ruffled the collar of his dark blue shirt. The air bore the sweet scent of the Maringa trees behind him and the musical chattering of the dabchicks in the ponds. The sun warmed his head through his short, curly locks. He held a long, straight, roughly shaped staff. But he did not lean upon it. He stood strong.

A short, gnarled old woman, old as the land itself, emerged from the trees and stood next to him. She also stood unbowed, and she gave the impression that she was larger than him in a way that the eye could not see. “You are audacious,” she said, “to bear a stick to meet me.”

He shook his head. “It is not a stick, it is a scepter.”

“I am the Woman of the Wood,” she answered. “I know this stick. I can name the tree from which it broke, and the stories of that tree, and of the seed from which it grew, and of the tree which dropped those seeds. Your eyes lie to you. It is a stick.”

“I do not see with my eyes, old mother, but with my spirit. As you have taught me. And my spirit knows that this is a scepter, and it marks me as king of all that I see.”

The woman chuckled softly as they looked out over the plain, with its stagnant ponds, sparse grasses, clumps of withered trees, and goats idly grazing. “And what do you see, O king?”

The young man shielded his eyes and looked out where she did. “I see rich fields where our people will someday grow sweet berries and yams and rice. We will plant vast crops to feed ourselves, and more. We shall feed a hungry world.”

She shook her head. “Once these lands were enough to feed our people, so they did not ask for food from others. Your spirit sees the past, before the wasters and the troubles, not the future. These lands were rich once.”

“And they shall be again! We bear burdens, but we do not sink beneath them. Someday we shall be rid of those who threaten the people and the land. We shall not break, we shall grow.”

“All I see is struggling grasses and goats wandering among them. And dirty little children,” she added, though she smiled when she did. “Children all around the field, if you know where they play.”

“And not just in the field,” the man answered. He glanced over his shoulder where bushes rustled, and he heard one small child’s voice gasp, while another giggled.

“They are brave, but foolish to approach me.”

“As was I,” the man answered. “Brave. Foolish. Burning with a hunger that food could not fill. I had to know. I had to know your ways.”

“And so it is with these? They come to learn of the Woman of the Wood?” Her eyes grew moist. “They still know of me?”

“No. They do not see you. Not yet.”

“I know,” she said, and a tear ran down the furrows of her face. “They do not know me anymore.”

“They will! It’s my turn now. I will teach them. They will know you, and they will know this future. That is what draws them today.” He lifted the stick and grasped it by the end. “They come to hear tales of my star sword!”

That turned the old woman’s frown into a smile. “I thought it was a scepter.”

“It is a star sword, won on the field of battle! You see?” He gestured across the plain with the stick. “Out there, beyond our rich fields, is the spaceport! There we shall build our own space program, with our own strong hands and our own bright minds. There we shall build rockets that shall take Nigerians to other planets. To the Moon and to Mars. To the stars!”

The woman’s dark lips parted, her mouth gaping. Finally, she said, “You’ve given me a gift. Now I know that even I, Oldest, can still wish. I wish that I could see that.”

“You will,” the man said. “My spirit sees it. We will go places that can only be seen in the imagination today; and wherever we go, we will take your stories. We will take you with us. I will tell your stories.”

“No,” the woman said softly. “I’m sorry. Not you.”

He turned to her. “So soon?” She nodded. “But I have so much to do. So many stories to tell. My children must learn. They must have this future.”

“You’ve made me believe, king of the world. They will. But you? Your spirit shall be freed to go many places, worlds even I have never imagined. And that journey starts today.”

The Woman of the Wood loomed tall over the man, her true majesty revealed at last as she reached out a hand and gently cupped his shoulder. He collapsed against her, strong until the final moment. And then he faded on the wind until all that remained was spirit, which she clasped to her breast.

And then she too was gone, and the old stick clattered to the ground, the only sign that the tall man had ever stood there.

The bushes rustled once more. After several minutes, the bravest of the two little boys came forward, looking around the hill and out over the plains. In the distance, he saw the silver towers of the spaceport. He picked up the stick. As a rocket blazed into the sky, the boy held up the sword and pointed it to the stars.


Emeka Walter Dinjos, 7 Dec 1984 – 12 Dec 2018

You saw far, but too briefly.


Walter Dinjos introducing himself as a Writers of the Future winner.

Walter Dinjos acceptance speech shown at the Writers of the Future Volume 33 awards event.

Walter Dinjos award-winning story “The Woodcutters Deity” was published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33.

 


Martin L. ShoemakerMartin L. Shoemaker is a programmer who writes on the side… or maybe it’s the other way around. Programming pays the bills, but a second place story in the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest earned him lunch with Buzz Aldrin. Programming never did that!

Martin’s work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, Galaxy’s Edge, Digital Science Fiction, Forever Magazine, Humanity 2.0, The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 4, Writers of the Future Volume 31, Time Travel Tales, Trajectories, Little Green Men: Attack!, The Glass Parachute, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection.

Martin had become very good friends with Walter and so originated this tribute.

Elise Stephens

This Just Happened: A Writer’s Dream Come True

It was late April 2018. James and I were hiking Little Si, a small mountain near North Bend, WA. We navigated wet dripping branches and slick tree roots as we tried to rouse our minds and spirits from a season of mental fog that had engulfed us while my husband studied fervently for his Structural Engineer licensing exam.

Elise with husband in Spain

I just love this guy. Spain vacation.

He’d taken the test a few weeks before and would have to wait several weeks for his results. We’d left the kids with my parents and retreated for a one-night stay at a bed and breakfast to heal, spend time together, and catch up on many neglected conversations.

Amongst discussions of our families, hopes, and dreams, James and I also did some goal setting. James’ goal was to pass this SE test. It boasts a statistical 30% pass rate. It might take him more than one try.

At the beach with the young’uns!

At the beach with the young’uns!

My goal was to place among the winner’s ranks in Writers of the Future–a global Sci-Fi and Fantasy short competition. I thought I should give myself five years, vowing to submit one short story for every quarter. If by the end, I still hadn’t won, I’d at least have honed my writing skills with small, specific projects on which I could focus on while our kids are young.

October 4, 2018. I was standing by my front picture window when I got the call.

I dropped into the black IKEA armchair from my grandfather, shaky with anxiety. The woman on the phone informed me that I was a Writers of the Future finalist. I was shocked. I actually thought I’d made no headway in the contest. Now I was being told I’d made it to the top eight stories.

And then? Hurry up and wait. I waited three weeks.

About to fly internationally for 15 hours…

About to fly internationally for 15 hours…

My first week of waiting I was an anxious, sweaty wreck. I slept 3-4 hours a night. The second week, I started to lock down into tight-fisted anxiety. By the beginning of the third week, I heard God say, “I’ve heard your prayers. I know what you want, Elise. Now let me take care of it.” I taped Exodus 14:14 on my bathroom mirror. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. I transitioned into a place of precarious peace, but it was infinitely better than the sleepless wreck of the first week.

As I waited for the news of whether or not I’d win the contest that I’d made into my all-encompassing writing goal, I imagined myself as Schrodinger’s cat. Both alive with joy and dead with despair. (Yes, I’m dramatic with my analogies. That should come as no surprise by now).

Finally, on the morning of October 26th, I received another call. Poetically, I was standing beside that same, sun-streaming window. And no, I hadn’t been rooted there for three weeks, you smart-ass. It was poetic like I said.

I took this pic the day I got the call!

I took this pic the day I got the call!

She told me I’d won first place for the quarter. My little story, read by kind critics and harsh critics, read on my laptop screen till my eyes burned, read out loud to my husband until my throat was dry…that little story had turned heads enough to be awarded a prize in an international contest. It didn’t feel real, but there it was, my name displayed for the world to see as if to say:

This girl can write.

A new chapter is opening. You guys, I’m going to be published in a sci-fi and fantasy anthology that hits national bestseller lists each year! I’ll attend a fancy awards gala (I’ll probably trip on my dress and laugh when we’re all supposed to be quiet, but that should make everyone more comfortable, right?)

They’ll give us writer winners a special writing class and fly us down to Los Angeles for everything.

Yes, it feels like a dream. I’m honored by the favor, overwhelmed by its magnitude. Very grateful to my friends who have supported me and read my drafts and encouraged me in so many ways. Thankful to my God who continues to show that he has some great plans that involve my writing.

It’s time for victory dancing, you guys! In April, I’m going to Hollywood!!

 


Elise Stephens

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. She is a recipient of the Eugene Van Buren prize for fiction. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), and Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015, INDIEFAB Book of the Year Finalist). She lives in Seattle with her family.

Find her on Twitter @elisestephens and Facebook.

Rainsdon Brittany Certificates

Birthing Stories: Five in Thirty-Five by Brittany Rainsdon

I’m Brittany. I’m a nurse. I’m also a mom. I just had a baby. And I got my fourth quarter entry in for the Writers of the Future Contest while working around giving birth. Crazy? Maybe. But sometimes our dreams make us push a little harder (pun intended) and crazy things make a certain kind of sense.

Discovering Writers of the Future

I first heard about Writers of the Future approximately two years ago, when I took an online writing class and was assigned to research potential markets. A few clicks made it clear this was the contest to enter—but it almost seemed too good to be true. In fact, I remember querying a few writer friends to find out if the contest was indeed legit. It was.

Another assignment involved reaching out to published authors from my target market and asking for an interview. Still intrigued by the contest, I hit up Sharon Joss, a previous Golden Pen winner (she also has eight novels under her belt). She gave me an entire page of writing tips and advice, but perhaps her most far-reaching was this: join the Writers of the Future Forum, a discussion board where members communicate about the contest.

I did.

I immediately found friends who wanted to exchange stories, talk craft, and some even seemed to have insider information on how to do well (Coordinating judge, David Farland’s tip emails were foreign to me at the time). They preached producing a fresh story every quarter, not giving up, and maybe (eventually) you would win.

They were right. Even if I didn’t win, my craft would. I would form habits. If I kept writing and then sending my best stories to other markets, I could even pro-out. That would be a win in and of itself. I’ll admit, I haven’t sold anything yet—but with two honorable mentions and a silver honorable mention from this contest, I have hope I’m on the right track. Writing professionally is a marathon, not a sprint.

At the start of Volume 35, one “forumite” set up a challenge—enter every quarter. I had already entered three in a row the previous year, so I committed to do four more. Obviously, at the time, I didn’t know I would deliver a little girl a few days before the end of the final quarter.

When two pink lines did show up a few months later, I determined to plow through all four quarters regardless. What’s a little morning sickness? But I discovered it was much harder producing stories while pregnant. I had three other children, and well, they didn’t exactly slow down when my body did.

Although it got harder to write with each trimester (and Writers of the Future quarter!), the real scrambling didn’t start until the end. For some reason (I blame hormones), I decided the old nursery needed to be completely redone and sanitized. I love my three other kids, but kids can be gross! We scrubbed the walls, painted, caulked, put up wainscoting, rented a carpet cleaner, and even sewed a matching nursery set. Coupling that with other health issues (thanks again, hormones), writing time became slim. Slimmer still as I felt like I couldn’t work on anything non-baby related until the baby came.

As the final quarter drew to a close, my story remained unfinished. With twelve days left in the contest and my baby overdue, I needed a boost. I took to the Forum.

Whenever I tell people my goals, it makes me more accountable. It’s the reason I’ve joined consistent critique groups in the past—friends help friends get things done. The Forum proved to be that and more.

When I told the “forumites” about my desire to finish, they were super supportive, but also reminded me to be reasonable. Having a baby is kind of a big deal, and they advised me it would be okay to take a pass this round. No judgment. I still wanted to finish, but it was a reality check that health and family came first. I told myself I would only write if I had time and it made sense.

I didn’t touch my story.

Instead, I focused on making my home baby-ready, caring for my other children, and eating as much spicy food and pineapple I could handle (spicy food to start contractions, and pineapple to prep the cervix for delivery). For the record, pineapple core is gross, but not so bad when blended into a smoothie.

When the baby still didn’t come, we scheduled to induce labor on the twenty-fourth. All my other children had come naturally, so medical intervention made me nervous—especially when well-meaning women would tell me their induction horror stories. And what would recovery be like? I didn’t think it would include writing. Still unwilling to admit defeat, I gave my laptop the side eye and packed it into my hospital bag.

Giving Birth

Rainsdon's BabyLucky for me, I went into labor on my own a few hours before my scheduled induction and had my little girl in my arms shortly thereafter. It was, perhaps, my easiest labor.

So, I wasn’t exactly giving birth with a typewriter atop my belly, but I was incredibly grateful I had my computer in the delivery room. When the rush of adrenaline came that wouldn’t let me sleep for hours, I had something to do.

While still in the hospital and snuggling my newborn close, I typed out everything but the last scene. I kept my promise to only write while it made sense. If I was tired, I slept, and when my other children came to visit, I visited.

Transitioning to home was difficult. The baby didn’t sleep, I didn’t sleep, and it seemed I had tripped just before the finish line. But my sweet husband knew my goal and offered to take the children on Friday afternoon (the twenty-eighth) so I could finish my story. A few hours later the deed was done.

On the last day of the contest, I edited as much as I could and then hit submit. It was my most rushed entry, I had no time for critiques, but hitting that button felt oh, so good. Four submissions in Volume 35—but by my count, I produced five in 35. I dare you to count differently. I birthed two babies that week!

I think I’ll keep pushing.


Brittany RainsdonBrittany Rainsdon grew up as the only girl in a family with four brothers. She’s reversing that trend with her own children—three girls and one boy. Brittany is a registered nurse and has worked in both medical/surgical and rehabilitation nursing. When she went to her first writing conference in 2017, she wore a new pair of green glasses and several people recognized her during lessons as “that girl in the glasses.” She kept the nickname and uses it as her tag on the Writers of the Future Forum. Brittany wants to eventually publish novels, but is currently focusing on writing short stories.

Author Scott Parkin (right) with fans at SLC FanX18

Writer or Author? How to start a story playing with a question…

I think the answer is pretty straight-forward. A writer writes; an author publishes for a paying audience. So while every author is a writer, not every writer has the stuff to be an author.

How do you make the transition (other than the obvious: selling)? You develop and internalize the tools needed to produce material that satisfies both your own inner critic and a publisher’s needs—and use those tools to deliver on-time and according to request (word count, genre, subject matter).

Things to Write About

For example, when you see a call for submissions for an anthology of urban fantasy with a deadline in two days, do yourself a favor and figure out what urban fantasy is. I had no idea, so I wrote a nice bit of magic realism involving a miniature horse and a WW1 veteran (based on a real person), then set it in Berlin. Sent it off the next morning so it would arrive before the deadline. Got a lovely rejection that same day from an obviously confused editor who said, “It’s urban … and it’s fantasy. But it’s not urban fantasy. Good luck selling this elsewhere.”

Oops. I hit the deadline just fine, but I didn’t understand the genre or its tropes. Writer, not author.

Sometimes you don’t have time to wait for the muse to provide inspiration for things to write about. So you learn to make anything into a story. I once used an “Empty every night” label on a trash can as a fantasy writing prompt to write a story that I’ve now sold three times by playing the question game.

How to Start a Story

Empty every night… Empty what? Stories are about characters so it should be a character who is emptied. Emptied of what? Thoughts? Toxins? Hope? Memories. His memories are edited each night. Is he a robot or a person? Editing a person’s memory is both harder and more horrific, so it’s gotta be a person. Who does it? Government agents? Caring family? Himself? I like the idea that he edits his own memories, but I think it’s more horrific if it’s done to him by someone he trusts. Aliens? Yes. Aliens whose only desire is to help, so it hurts them to do this cruel but necessary thing to him.

And so on until you’ve answered enough questions to generate a plot with try/fail cycles, character jeopardy, and meaningful consequences. What to write about—all from a trash can label.

Sometimes when working out how to start a story you start with an idea. I recently sold a piece based on the question, “What makes someone beautiful?” Sometimes you start with a colorful character as I did with the horse/veteran story above. Or an image, as I did with a microchip advertisement that featured a chrome-clad warrior woman standing atop a silicon wafer—who I immediately recognized as The Electric Valkyrie.

So go out into the world and experience new things to generate new images, characters, and questions that you can then transform into a story. You can literally turn anything into a story by playing the question game and exercising a little creative imagination.

Writer or Author?

In fact, this post is based on exactly that. I wrote an odd, quirky little experimental story that ended up winning a prize in the Writers of the Future Contest. (Read “Purposes Made for Alien Minds” in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31.) At the award ceremony, I noticed that the announcer always referred to the winners as either author or artist, and that set me to wondering why. And of course, I already knew the answer—an answer that had been reinforced time and again during the week-long workshop before the awards.

Authors are those who can turn anything into a story that’s well-written and interesting enough to be published. All you have to do is work hard and compellingly answer a few simple questions.

 

Scott Parkin after his book signing at FanX Salt Lake City 2018.


Scott ParkinScott R. Parkin is an author, essayist, podcaster, and pop critic who’s sold more than fifty short stories to a wide variety of markets from literary-academic to romance to military SF. He is also a proud winner in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.

Remember the stories in the news about exploding phone batteries? Well, Writers of the Future winner (Vol 33) Stephen Lawson turned the “Lithium-Ion Batteries exploding” phenomena into a terse rescue effort on the planet Titan. The story is “Homunculus” and it was this year’s grand prize award-winner in the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story category.

Alumni Update – Stephen Lawson

Remember the stories in the news about exploding phone batteries?

Well, Writers of the Future winner (Vol 33) Stephen Lawson turned the “Lithium-Ion Batteries exploding” phenomena into a terse rescue effort on the planet Titan. The story is “Homunculus” and it was this year’s grand prize award-winner in the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story category.

Stephen recently posted a link to the story on his blog so you can read it for free. He also includes in that same blog the proofs of concept for the scientific stuff he has in the story. And if you are into the geeky side of stories, you will find it is a fascinating read all on its own. It shows the level of detailed research he does in order to create new universes for his readers.

Bestselling author and contest founder L. Ron Hubbard will tell you from experience how research pays off in his article “Search for Research.”

Likewise author and WotF judge Larry Niven, in his trademark succinct style, gives this advice to new writers, “Always do your research. One mistake in hard science fiction, in particular, will be remembered forever. Remember: you’re on record.”

Obviously, Stephen is on the right track as his propensity for research is paying off in both entertaining and award-winning stories.

Take, for example, his short story “Moonlight One,” which garnered him a Writers of the Future Award (published in Volume 33). This one is a murder mystery set on the moon. What sets this story apart from the normal who-done-it, is there are only two people on the moon. When the protagonist wakes up to find her husband murdered, she has to find the real killer. But behind the story are all the science facts that make it all work, as Stephen explains in this video.

Being one of the Writers of the Future winners, Stephen attended the 2017 Writers Workshop. In addition to studying articles by L. Ron Hubbard on writing and getting sage advice from bestselling authors and workshop instructors David Farland and Tim Powers, there were also guest speakers providing profession tips, for new writers including: Kevin J. Anderson, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Robert J. Sawyer, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Nnedi Okorafor, Jody Lynn Nye, Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, to name but some.

What additionally makes the Writer Workshop unique from others is the 24-hour story that each writer has to submit. The clock starts and the pressure is on as each writer has to turn out a complete story in one day. But Stephen, with his military background, is used to pressure as he explains here.

Looking forward to seeing what new worlds Stephen’s research will take us to next.

National Bestseller 4 Consecutive Years

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future a National Bestseller 4 Years in a Row

Nearly 100 aspiring writers and artists have realized a major accomplishment over the past 4 years as winners in the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contests — when the book they were published in, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, became a national bestseller.

The Hard Facts

The number of new books published annually is now over 1 million (data provided by Bowker) with more than 2/3rds being self-published. Yet the number of book outlets in the US has dropped significantly, from 38,539 in 2004 to 22,586 in 2018. Unfortunately, the average new book will sell less than 250 copies in the first year and less than 1% have a chance of being stocked in a bookstore.

Writers of the Future Provides Hope

At a time when getting a much-needed break as a writer seems next to impossible, having a contest such as Writers & Illustrators of the Future becomes all the more vital. In fact, a review of the previous 33 years found that out of 472 past writer winners and published finalists, 336 have gone on with their writing career, publishing at least one story. And 192 continue to write and be published—that is, over 40% who are still realizing their dreams as a writer.

Publishers Weekly Sci-Fi Bestseller ListWriters of the Future 34 Now a National Bestseller

In keeping with the Contests’ aim to give new writers and artists a leg-up on their careers, this past week L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34, became a national bestseller, hitting the #10 spot on the Publishers Weekly Science Fiction bestseller list. This is the fourth Writers of the Future volume in a row to achieve national bestselling status—a fitting accolade for this year’s winners!

Volume 34, released in April, is a compilation of 12 top sci-fi and fantasy short stories written by 12 winners of the Writers of the Future Contest and illustrated by the 12 Illustrators of the Future Contest winners. While contest entries span over 170 countries, winners this year hailed from 9 different countries and include Belgium, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela, as well as the United States.


 


The winning authors listed alphabetically are Janey Bell, Eneasz Brodski, Erik Bundy, Erin Cairns, Vida Cruz, Jonathan Ficke, Amy Henrie Gillett, Diana Hart, Cole Hehr, N.R.M. Roshak, Darci Stone and Jeremy TeGrotenhuis.

Winning illustrators listed alphabetically are Bruce Brenneise, Adar Darnov, Alana Fletcher, Quintin Gleim, Duncan Halleck, Sydney Lugo, Anthony Moravian, Maksym Polishchuk, Jazmen Richardson, Reyna Rochin, Brenda Rodriguez and Kyna Tek.

Also included in Volume 34 are short stories written by New York Times bestselling authors and Writers of the Future contest judges, Brandon Sanderson and Jody Lynn Nye along with a fantasy short story by contest founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The cover art was created by internationally acclaimed artist and Illustrators of the Future judge, Ciruelo.

Discover why these are the best new voices in speculative fiction by reading their stories and seeing their art in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.

Never Give Up

Never Give Up!

It was 1978. I was thirteen years old and my mother gave me Clifford Simak’s book, Mastodonia. So began my love affair with speculative fiction. Within a few years, I read everything from Poul Anderson to Roger Zelazny and had amassed hundreds of books and magazines. I was obsessed. I had found my calling. I was going to be a science fiction writer.

A Mountain of Rejection Slips

It took a few years to gather the courage to write a story, and another few to start sending them out. From 1986 to 1992, I wrote 47 stories, submitting them to any place I could find, including and especially to the Writers of the Future. The result was a mountain of rejection slips. Sometimes the editors provided encouraging messages, but they still rejected my stories! I entered the WOTF eleven times and received—no surprise—eleven rejections.

Becoming a science fiction writer was much harder than it looked. After six years of trying to get published, I made a huge mistake. I gave up. It was too hard. I was done. My love affair with speculative fiction was over. I sold all my books and magazines. The only ones I saved were my Writers of the Future books. I just couldn’t part with them. I wept as I boxed them up and put them in the closet, where they would remain for the next seventeen years.

Return to the Urge to Write

Fast-forward to 2009. My boss walks into my office and asks, “Do you like science fiction?”

“I used to,” I said.

“Read this,” he handed me E. E. Doc Smith’s Lensman series. He was my boss, so I obeyed.

And I was back in love! I bought back all my books. I dug out my WOTF books and re-read them. Then I got all the remaining volumes and read those.

Then it happened: I started to feel that urge again, that compulsion to start writing my own stories. But I was terrified. I had been down that road before, and it was littered with broken dreams. I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

So I made a vow. I would try submitting again, but only to the WOTF contest. If I earned an Honorable Mention, then maybe I would try submitting elsewhere. I re-read all the WOTF books again, and then I submitted a story. Of course, I received a rejection, then another, and another, and so on.

An Anonymous Guy from Topanga Canyon

Then it happened, entry number sixteen, an Honorable Mention! I did it! My head nearly hit the ceiling. Still, I was too scared to submit anywhere else. I kept entering the WOTF and soon earned another HM. When I had earned three, I began submitting to the magazines.

To my delight, I not only began receiving personal rejections; within one year, I sold my first story! Then I sold another. And another!

Still, my primary focus was with the WOTF contest. I never missed a quarter. I was earning more honorable mentions, but that was it. The higher levels of the contest seemed out of reach. Whenever I felt my confidence waver, I would look at the WOTF books and tell myself, you could win this contest. Don’t give up.

Then one day I was lurking the WOTF forum and noticed a mention of a cautionary tale about why you should never give up. It was from a workshop by Dean Wesley Smith. I knew about Dean. He had a story in Volume 1, and later became one of the judges. In his workshop, Dean talked about an anonymous guy from Topanga Canyon, a promising new writer who the magazine editors were talking about. They wondered who would be the first to publish one of his stories. Even book editors were showing interest. Then suddenly, he disappeared. Gone and never to be seen again. His name, to protect his identity, was Topanga Canyon.

When I read that, I felt a cold chill. I was from Topanga. That was me. I knew it in my bones. Before I gave up, Dean was editing Pulphouse and had written me personal rejections. I still remember them: “You’re close.” “Keep trying.”

I sent Dean an email. He confirmed my secret identity.

I felt waves of sheer delight with an undercurrent of utter devastation. Editors were talking about me! And I gave up.

The Magic Number—#47

This discovery inspired me, even more, to keep entering, which I did, every quarter, eventually earning twelve honorable mentions. On December 28, 2017, three days before the Q1 deadline, for the 47th time, I submitted yet another story to the contest. I had just received four rejections in a row, so my hopes were not high. I had entered every single quarter for the last eight years. Why should this one be any different? At best I hoped to add to my sizable collection of HMs.

Then the impossible happened. To my utter shock, my story was a finalist. The next few weeks were pure torture. I was at work when the phone call came that I had won second place. It was easily one of the happiest days of my life. I could feel that thirteen-year-old boy inside of me jumping up and down. I won! I actually won! I’ll get a monetary prize, a beautiful trophy, a week-long workshop, and best of all, my story is going to appear in Volume 35. At last!

All I can tell you is, if you have a dream, never give up. Not ever!

 


Preston Dennett

Preston Dennett

Preston Dennett has worked as a carpet cleaner, fast-food worker, data entry clerk, bookkeeper, landscaper, singer, actor, writer, radio host, television consultant, teacher, UFO researcher, ghost hunter and more. He has written 22 non-fiction books and more than 100 articles about UFOs and the paranormal. But his true love has always been speculative fiction. After a long hiatus, he started writing again in 2009. He has sold 37 stories to various venues including Allegory, Andromeda Spaceways, Bards & Sages, Black Treacle, Cast of Wonders, the Colored Lens, Grievous Angel, Kzine, Perihelion, Sci Phi Journal, Stupefying Stories, T. Gene Davis’ Speculative Blog, and more, including several anthologies. He earned twelve honorable mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest before winning 2nd place for Quarter 1, 2018, (Volume 35), his third professional sale. He currently resides in southern California where he spends his days looking for new ways to pay his bills and his nights exploring the farthest edges of the universe.

 

Eneasz at library

Humanity vs. Monstrosity

Eneasz Brodski has a definite opinion about the importance of human values vs. soulless monstrosities. And so this is his tale of how his story “Flee, My Pretty One” published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34 came to be. Check out the video interview below and Eneasz’s article that follows.

“Flee, My Pretty One”

This was originally written quite a while ago, for an open anthology call on the theme of “Start A Revolution.” I’ve been rabidly anti-corporation for most of my life. They’re soulless, profit-maximizing monstrosities, who know nothing of human values. Optimizers unfettered by concern for us. Stross calls them invaders from Mars. Many people have pointed out that they resemble the problem of unfriendly AI in their lack of human values + ability to alter their environment to fit their utility functions (including, infamously and recently, Ted Chaing). I agree, and I would love (or rather, once would have loved) to see a revolution bringing these forces to heel.

I call them Dragons. For two reasons. The first is that dragons are already known for their rapacious love of treasure, and their willingness to do anything to horde it. They are powerful, and non-human, so they make a good metaphor.

The second is that I’m racist against dragons. If that’s a thing? I realized this back when I was playing Shadowrun. During the course of a campaign, I realized that no matter what he did, I would never trust Dunkelzahn. He could be a saint for centuries, doing only good works, and die sacrificing himself to save me personally, and I still would say “Good riddance. You can’t trust a f**king dragon. He was obviously motivated by some evil plot, he held hatred for us all in his heart, and it will come to light eventually.” I’d be horrified if my offspring dated a dragon. Etc. I don’t care what they do, I know they’re evil.

Artist Alana Fletcher with Eneasz and the artwork for his story

Artist Alana Fletcher with Eneasz and the artwork for his story

And like, if you’re going to be racist, I think it’s probably best to be racist against a fictional giant lizard species, so you aren’t hurting anyone. And as long as I’m at it, I can maybe use that racism in my stories, so anyone who’s similar to me can get that same visceral revulsion.

Anyway, yes, the story is about starting a revolution against corporations, except that corporations are actual non-human persons(?) in the story. This makes it more satisfying to attack them, since violence against a person is always more meaningful than violence against “the system.” And giving your villains a voice and agency is more exciting.

Except, of course, violence is bad. And the real world is messy and fuzzy, so trying to apply sufficient violence to the correct target is never as clean as Hollywood and/or activists make it seem. So it all keeps spiraling into ever more chaos until everything is shit around you. And thus was born “Flee, My Pretty One.”

Of note: This story had a lot of near-misses when it was seeking publication, with editors saying “This is good, but it’s not quite right for us.” Then Trump was elected. And the next place I submitted to said, “Wow, this is great, you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the society.” And I nodded and said, “Oh yes, yup, that’s exactly what I was doing.”

I’ve been pissed at the system my entire life, regardless of the political party in charge. Because it’s not about the political parties, for the most part. It’s about the entrenched powers that stay entrenched from one election to the next, regardless of whether the Reds or the Blues are nominally in charge that moment. I guess most people aren’t that upset with the system itself. So, on the one hand, it’s interesting to see so much of the population suddenly as riled up as I’ve always been. It helped get this story published, at least. But I’m dismayed that what they’re angry at is still the politicians. I figure this means that once the politician in charge is swapped out, society will return to how it was, and nothing will have changed.

>:(


Eneasz BrodskiEneasz Brodski lives in Denver, Colorado. He is active in the Bayesian Rationalist community, an eclectic collection of misfits who believe humans can do better. Through the powers of science and technology, he hopes all humans currently living can someday celebrate their 5,000th birthday.

Eneasz has a number of meaningful relationships, of many varieties. He was raised in an apocalyptic Christian sect, and while he has left that behind, that childhood colors much of his writing to this day. He’s been writing since he could hold a pencil, but has only begun professional efforts in the past few years. He just finished his first novel and hopes to see it in print soon.

When he’s not writing, podcasting, or blogging, he can often be found gothing it up at a local goth club. He’s willing to strike up a conversation with anyone in dark clothes and eyeliner.

C Stuart Hardwick signing copies of his story in Writers of the Future Vol 30

C. Stuart Hardwick: Winning Is Just the Beginning

Writers of the Future Volume 30Hands down, the best and most useful part of winning the Writers of the Future contest and being published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 30 was the people. I’ve often compared it to reaching the end of the Yellow Brick Road and instead of yelling, “Ignore the man behind the curtain,” the wizard reaches out a hand and says, “Here, let me help you.” The workshop to which winners are treated is full of wizards, from childhood heroes of literature and art to instructors and invited guests who all give generously of their time and experience to help the next generation and the genre.

The Popcorn Speech

One such wizard is Kevin J. Anderson, who when time allows, gives what he calls “the popcorn speech.” It’s nothing revolutionary — just the idea that success comes from consistent effort, not a single shining moment of razor-honed brilliance. You can make yourself crazy trying to pop that one perfect kernel or you can relax and make some popcorn, leaving the duds in the bottom of the bag. Writing, he says, is like that: put enough work out there, and if you’ve any talent at all, something will stick.

The Nuclear Reactor Theory of Success

There is a closely-related idea that I call the Nuclear Reactor Theory of Success. This isn’t revolutionary either. It starts with networking 101: you meet someone and they introduce you to someone and so on. Eventually, the growing chain of introductions leads to an opportunity, and that leads to a slew of new introductions and the cycle repeats. Pretty soon you have a burgeoning network of contacts and opportunities, compounding like neutrons in a nuclear chain reaction.

And that’s where the magic happens. As the popcorn flies and your chain reaction grows, it starts to radiate its own luck.

Many aspiring writers harbor the misconception that “if you write it, they will come.” They think, or at least hope, that if they can just “break in” or “break out” or break something, somewhere, the world will be their oyster; the fans and the money will come rolling in and they’ll be recognized as the next Leo Tolstoy cum J.K. Rolling.

Yeah……..no. It doesn’t work that way. In fact with rare exception, it has never worked that way, not even for Tolstoy or Rolling.

This mentality ignores the cold reality that writing is a business, and businesses take time and capital to develop their brand, whatever else they may get right. It’s a myth and a prescription for misery to count on one unlikely shortcut to bypass that reality. Those who believe it are apt to hold back, waiting for the big break or big win that may never come. Or they may labor forever, polishing the life out of their One Great Creation instead of getting their work and their name out into the world, soliciting feedback, and growing as artists and people. And then when a break does finally come their way, they are likely to hang on it, Madam Bovary style, instead of sticking the feather in their cap and moving on, taking the next (sometimes frightening) step down their personal road. Worse, when the untrod path grows moss, they may grow cynical, blaming “gatekeepers” for their lack of professional attainment while driving away the very people and institutions who might have helped them.

When I won Writers of the Future, I knew exactly one writer (me) and I had maybe a dozen posts on my nascent blog, so I decided to interview my fellow winners—mostly just to scare up some content. Since then it’s become a tradition, and I’ve made friends and contacts in each subsequent WotF class. During the workshop, I camped out at the bar, listening to Mike Resnick and Eric Flint triple and quintuple my knowledge by the minute, sharing their advice and a career’s worth of hard knocks.

Mike gave me hell for not belonging to my local writers′ guild, so when I got home, I joined. That led to a bunch of appearance opportunities — but more importantly, to friendships that have paid unexpected dividends — from sharing the costs at local cons to getting a hug from “The Trouble with Tribbles” author, David Gerrold. It also led to my first gig as editor, helping with a locally-produced anthology.

With my fellow WotF winners and local guilders, I now had a posse to run with at conventions, so I could leave my inner wallflower at home and hang with the cool kids. But more than that, I had colleagues — colleagues who share tips and opportunities, make introductions, collaborate, critique each other’s work, and prod each other onward and upward.

That’s how I heard the popcorn speech — another WotF alum and I found Kevin in the hotel bar at WorldCon and he and Todd McCaffrey strong-armed — I mean persuaded me — to attend his Superstars workshop. I heard Kevin′s talk there, but I also met a whole new group of colleagues. This included the impressively mohawked Quincy J. Allen, who introduced me to a publishing tool that I now use to produce custom signed ebooks. Those help entice new subscribers onto my newsletter mailing list and let me give readers I may never get a chance to meet in person just a little something extra.

This is also how I learned about Taos Toolbox, a writing workshop taught by Walter Jon Williams and another WotF wizard, Nancy Kress. Since my WotF win, I′ve continued to hone my craft and was looking for a quality workshop to help up my novel-writing game. At Taos, I met a family of prairie dogs, George R.R. Martin, and Avatar scriptwriter, Steven Gould. I also made friends with a whole new group of awesome up and comers to share and grow together with.

Another writer friend told me about the Jim Baen Memorial Award — a competition focused on near future space sci-fi and tailor-made for my literary tastes. My first entry made the finals. Then it sold to Analog Science Fiction & Fact — a dream of mine since I was eight! I went on to final twice more before placing, and now I’m going to the International Space Development Conference to be honored alongside Amazon and Blue Origin founder, Jeff Bezos! More important, I’ll meet a whole new group of contacts — aerospace geeks, engineers, entrepreneurs and space exploration advocates. Who knows where that might lead?

The chain reaction grows…

The Future Is NighLast year, I hit up a few of my WotF friends to put together an anthology; nothing big, just an ebook for cross promotion and lead generation for our respective newsletters. It was a smash success — so much so we decided to take it to the next level. By the time you read this, “The Future is Nigh – A Treasury of Short Fiction by Award-Winning Authors” will be available in print and on Kindle.

So here I am, four years on, an Analog regular, a multi-award winning author, and now a publisher! My stories have gotten Hugo and Nebula buzz. I just found out I took first place in the annual Analab reader poll for my story, “For All Mankind” about two women who save the world in an Apollo-era spacecraft! I’ve gotten a back-stage tour of the Kansas Cosmosphere with a group of writer friends, been invited inside the Orion space capsule, and received an email from Spider Robinson saying “Go Cat, Go!”

What’s next? I’m working on a novel…and a few other things… We’ll see.

None of this might have happened without the Writers of the Future win, but none of it happened because of that win. It happened because I viewed the win not as a finish line but as a rung up life’s ladder. Because together with allies made at the WotF workshop and since, I keep climbing those rungs wherever they lead. Of course, I’m no networking mercenary and you shouldn′t be either. These are wonderful people, and knowing them is its own reward. But if my Reactor Theory can nudge you beyond the introversion so common among writers, then put the spurs to ′er.

Life′s a journey. Go boldly.

Stuart


C. Stuart HardwickIn addition to winning the Writers of the Future contest, C Stuart Hardwick is a Jim Baen Award winner, a James White Semifinalist, and an Analog Analab Reader Poll winner. His work has appeared in Analog, Galaxy’s Edge, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Forbes.com and Mental Floss, among others. A southerner from South Dakota, he grew up writing radio plays and has been known to wear a cape.

More at cStuartHardwick.com