Dave Wolverton and Algis Budrys

A Different Kind of Writing Workshop

David Farland with Algis Budrys at the Writers of the Future workshop in 1991

When L. Ron Hubbard initiated the Writers of the Future contest, he knew that there would be awards and publications for the winners. As Algis Budry, the first contest administrator put it to me, “He wanted to make sure that this helped launch new writers. That it gives them publication and some notoriety, along with enough prize money from winnings and publication so that a new writer could invest in his or her career by purchasing a new computer, doing research, and so on.”

But he wanted more for the new writers. He wanted them to meet and mingle with real professionals, people who had struggled and made their mark on the field, and he wanted to do that in the context of a writing workshop.

So a different kind of workshop was envisioned. They knew that the authors who won would already be good writers—maybe even incredibly gifted and talented writers. So a decision was made early on: We’re not going to go back over the basics. We aren’t going to teach the writers yet once again how to polish a sentence.

How to Become Writers

It was reasoned that each of these writers would have learned to write, at the very least, a professionally sellable story, and probably a great story. So what do you teach a writer who already knows the basics of how to write?

The answer was to teach them “How to become writers.” In other words, teach them how to move from being an armchair quarterback and to get into the game.

You see, people have a lot of odd ideas about what writers do. They imagine that we go to scenic mountain resorts and type out a manuscript, then deliver it to an editor to great applause. What most people don’t know about writing is this: Writing can and should be hard work.

So a workshop was created to give advice that would be perfect for taking budding new writers into the professional arena.

Algis put the lesser amount into the workshop, and so I will cover his offerings briefly. He suggested that in the mid-1980s, most new authors weren’t being taught how to plot a novel or short story. He was right.

Plotting a Story

Throughout the 1930s to the 1980s, many in the mainstream were rejecting the idea of literature that they felt “relied upon plot.” Such literature—which included things like romance, mysteries, and science fiction—were called “genre literature,” and were not considered worthy of study. Certainly, in many creative writing programs, plotting was something that was never taught. In my school, Brigham Young University, several professors refused not only to teach how to write genre literature but demanded that students not even read or study it, since it was unworthy of emulation.

Now, it didn’t matter that the most popular stories in the world were well plotted, or that “genre authors” very often outsold literary authors a thousand copies to one. Nor did my teachers realize that their notions were antiquated and had been proven wrong in other mediums. For example, in poetry when many of the beat poets were suggesting that poets ought to revolt against form in writing, Robert Frost famously silenced them by saying that “Writing poetry without rhyme is like playing tennis without a net.” In short, it makes the artist weak and sloppy. His real answer to them, though, came in his own magnificent poems that used rhyme and near-rhyme so effectively that the rhyme schemes became invisible, so that you could read one of his poems in a natural voice and not discover until after you stopped and studied the poem that it was a perfect sonnet.

In short, Algis’s argument in favor of form is simple: A formed story can be more powerful than one that has no form. So he decided to talk about form in the workshop. How do you write a plotted story? He chose a simple adventure plot, and advised writers on how to handle it. As he put it, “This isn’t the only way to write a formed story, but if you use it, you can make an entire career using this basic plot line.”

So he taught authors how to write a simple story. You can learn about his structure in an article called “Writing to the Point,” which is available from Wordfire Press. It is one of the most insightful little books on plotting you’ll ever find.

When Algis wrote it, I don’t recall ever seeing any other book on plotting—and I looked. I was researching the craft heavily, and I really wanted to know. Eventually, I became an expert on plotting myself, and you can read some of my insights into it in my book Million Dollar Outlines, where I teach not only how to create a plot, but also teach enough advanced audience analysis so that a writer can figure out how to write a bestseller.

Of course, in the past thirty years, I’ve seen a number of other fine books on plotting come out, and they are readily available now.

Becoming Your Own Muse

L. Ron Hubbard wanted to talk about more than just plotting, though. He wanted to talk about a lot more. He wanted to talk about where ideas for stories come from, and how to generate them off-the-cuff, so that if an editor calls you looking for a story or a novel, you can compose the tale in a matter of a few hours, rather than agonizing over them for years.

So Ron contributed articles like “The Manuscript Factory,” where he emphasizes that an author is a factory that produces manuscripts for a living. If you aren’t producing, you’re like a factory that has shut down.

He also contributed articles like “Magic Out of a Hat,” where writers learn to draw upon their broad experience in travel and in learning various vocations so that they can “write what they know.”

Most writers are insular people—folks who make their friends in books, so that they have little in the way of first-hand experience to draw upon. But the most successful writers in science fiction have been people who have studied engineering, worked in the military, become doctors or researchers.

In short, his advice can be boiled down to “live a large life.” As a teen, Ron left home to travel the world, becoming a photographer in China, joining the Explorer’s Club, learning to fly a plane and pilot a ship, and eventually joining the military. All of his experiences became fuel for his stories.

So he designed exercises to help writers identify some of their own unique experiences. Maybe the author has worked as a cop or a prison guard? Maybe she’s been through an ugly divorce? Maybe he was abused as a child? All of that can add details and realism to a story.

And of course, he suggested that we keep learning. Ron designed exercises to help people learn how to go start up conversations with strangers, or how to research information at libraries.

In short, I think that he would say that the person who refuses to live life, to go out and experience it, to examine it, is probably not going to go very far.

Oh, yeah, and there is that productivity thing. I remember in college hearing a quote from an ancient Greek philosopher who said that if he could go out and come up with a perfect sentence in a single day, he felt gratified. It was enough.

But that’s foolish. One sentence a day won’t do it. Instead of writing one perfect sentence in a day, I’d rather write twenty pages of damned-fine scenes, and with some jobs, it might take more. A real writer sometimes has to roll up his sleeves and get to work. If a producer needs a hundred-page screenplay in two weeks, you write it in two weeks. I recall writing a Star Wars book at 3 a.m. and feeling exhausted, so I put in another two and a half hours before I caught some sleep.

All of that “Sitting around and waiting for the muse” is tripe. Real writers become their own muses.

So Ron suggested that we have our winners compose a story in a day. For many writers, that seems undoable. But most of our writers discover that not only is it doable, it becomes an essential skill.

The Point of the Writers of the Future Workshop

Last of all, L. Ron Hubbard wanted to expose the winners to some of the wisdom of the best current writers in the field, so on the last couple of days of the workshop, the authors get to hear from and hobnob with our contest judges, where they learn the industry secrets and gossip that you won’t find in any writing books.

The entire workshop is a big and exhausting event, and it is sometimes hard on some of our winners. For example, early on, Algis and I had to decide how to start the workshop. We might have people flying in from all over the world on a Monday. Some of our winners might have flown in from places like Australia, or London, or South Africa. They’d have terrible jetlag. So we considered giving them that first night off, but when we talked to students, most of them were excited to get started.

So we decided to introduce them to the workshop that first night in part so that our winners would be able to get some work done.

But we felt that there was something far more important that happened: When we introduce the students to one another on that first night, they always get together and begin to talk, to compare notes, and to socialize. They bond, and in effect, they often begin to become best friends for life. We’ve even had couples marry.

So if you win the contest, and you’re jet-lagged that first night, and I call you in so that we can all introduce ourselves, blame me. Sorry, you might lose a little sleep, but you’ll gain something more.

Really, what I want to emphasize is this. The point of the Writers of the Future workshop was never to “teach you how to write.” Instead, the goal was to teach you some more important skills, like “How to succeed as a working writer.”


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

David Farland winning Writers of the Future Contest in 1987

Prize Writing—Three Things to Know

Contest judge Frederik Pohl presents Writers of the Future Award to David (Wolverton) Farland, 1987

As many of you know, I got my start by prize writing. While I was in college, I won third place in my first writing contest and decided to see if I could win first place in a contest. I spent a year honing some short stories for various contests, in between my studies, and sent them out in the autumn of 1986. Within a few weeks I discovered that I had won not just one, but all of the contests that I had entered. One of the judges at Writers of the Future, Robert Silverberg, liked my story well enough so that he shared it with some editors, and this led to a three-novel contract with Bantam Books. I’ll always be grateful to Bob for that.

So I promised a couple of people on the list that I would talk about prize writing. If you think about it deeply, everything that you write is really for a competition. You’re competing for publication with other writers, for promotional monies from the marketing departments of various publishers, for literary awards, and of course for your reading audience. So these posts really apply to any writer. When you think about it, it would seem that there isn’t a lot that you can do in order to win a prize. Thousands might enter a competition, but only one will win. However, there are some things that you can do to increase your chances dramatically.

These things include:

  • Get to know your judge’s tastes.
  • Aim your story straight at your judges.
  • Make sure that your story is presented well.

This all might sound easier than it is, but let’s take this one step at a time. Your first step is to get to know your judge’s tastes. Now, if you’re talking about a contest judge, this person might be a teacher at a local university. The best way to gauge the judge’s tastes is to read anything that they’ve written. If your judge has written short stories, look at the age of the protagonists, the themes that the judge covers, his or her use of language, and so on. This will tell you whether the judge values crisp dialog over brilliant metaphors, slow pacing versus fast, and so on. Pay particular attention to the themes. If a judge has a penchant for writing about stories that deal with death, for example, you might realize that your story will hit them harder if you feature a death scene.

In some cases, you’ll have a panel of judges. For example, there are more than a dozen judges at the Writers of The Future. So if I wanted to win that contest, I’d look at the mix of writers. How many write only science fiction? How many write fantasy? What do each of their tastes seem to be.

One easy way to gauge their tastes is to look at past stories. You could read the grand prize winners from each anthology. By doing so, you’d begin to notice some patterns.

You can of course do this same thing with any publication. You could go to editor’s panels at science fiction conventions and listen to editors talk about their favorite books out. You could go to Publisher’s Marketplace on the internet and find out what each one of those editors has bought.

It’s really quite easy to learn the tastes of one solitary reader. If you’re facing a panel of judges, the task becomes more complex, but it is possible to write a story that will average out to be a winner.

So start studying!


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Kary English, photo by Olav Rokne

Writers of the Future Taps Kary English as New First Reader

The L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Contest would like to welcome Kary English as the new first reader for contest entries!

The Problem

Due to unprecedented expansion, contest officials asked Coordinating Judge David Farland to help in the selection of a first reader to keep pace with the increase in entries. Dave immediately responded, “Obviously, I’ve had a number of amazing authors that I’ve helped mentor over the years, and so when I considered who I might ask to help out as a first reader, I really suffered from an embarrassment of riches.”

The Solution

“A dozen names almost instantly leapt to mind, but Kary English was right near the top. I wanted someone with a great eye for style, someone who understood storytelling well,” he continued. “Kary, as an award-winning author, has proven over and over to have a great eye, but more than that, her strong support for and commitment to helping new authors spoke volumes. We found someone who cares deeply about new authors, who will help nurture them, and who understands the artistry that is inherent in great storytelling.”

Meet Kary English

Kary EnglishKary English is a Writers of the Future winner whose work has been nominated for the Hugo and Campbell awards. She grew up in the snowy Midwest where she read book after book in a warm corner behind a recliner chair. Today, Kary still spends most of her time with her head in the clouds and her nose in a book. Her fiction has appeared in Galaxy’s Edge, The Grantville Gazette, Daily Science Fiction, Far Fetched Fables, the Hugo-winning podcast StarShipSofa, and L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31.

When approached with the offer to be first reader, Kary said, “I was in high school when I first learned about Writers and Illustrators of the Future. My head was full of dragons and starships, and here was this contest that I could enter and possibly win. The contest has grown so much since then, thousands of entries every quarter, and from countries all over the world. I am delighted to join the contest as first reader so that I can play a small part in discovering and encouraging the writers of tomorrow just as the contest discovered and encouraged me.”

A Legacy of Helping New Writers

Over its 34 year history, the Contest has recognized 404 winners who have gone on to publish 1,150 novels and 4,450 short stories. Of those, 192 are still active with a writing career—that’s over 40%. Twelve of these Contest winners have gone on to become New York Times bestselling authors: Dave Wolverton (aka David Farland), Sean Williams, Jo Beverly, Nancy Farmer, Lisa Smedman, Karen Joy Fowler, Patrick Rothfuss, Tim Myers, Eric Flint, Dean Wesley Smith, Tobias Buckell and Elizabeth Wein. In addition, Contest winners have garnered 155 major awards. Collectively, the winners of the contests have sold over 60 million books over the years.

And with the last four volumes of Writers of the Future hitting national bestseller lists—and each of the winners becoming national bestselling authors and illustrators as a result—contest entries continue to increase each quarter with entries from around the world.

Photograph of Kary English at the Hugo Awards by Olav Rokne

Another article you may be interested in: Brand New Science Fiction

Illustration for “Everything You Have Seen” by Karsen Slater


I promised to talk this week a bit more about what I look for in a story. The first thing that I seek is originality. You may not realize it, but the most common problem with stories is that they’re tepid. The same ideas crop up over and over again. So I look for new and intriguing concepts, especially when I’m judging science fiction and fantasy.

Very often with Writers of the Future, it seems that stories come along in thematic clusters. For example, the quarter after the sheep Dolly got cloned, I had dozens of stories come across my desk about cloning. Now, were any of them publishable? Sort of. The writing was often good, the story fairly interesting. But I don’t think that I had a finalist about cloning that quarter. The idea felt tepid.

Three quarters ago, I got several good stories that featured mind transference. The quarter before that, it was ghost stories. One quarter, I got no less than twenty stories written from the point of view of sperms making a heroic journey. (Life is hard when you’re dodging gobs of spermicidal gel, white blood cells hell-bent on destruction, and struggling not to get bounced out of the race by the sperms of Hitler wannabes.)

So when I see several iterations of the same idea, I have to ask myself, “What makes this story stand out? What makes it better than others?”

The truth is, that sometimes one of the authors stretches himself or herself further than others. They look for a new idea to couple with an old, twisting it, so that we get something that I haven’t seen before.

For example, in that quarter of Writers of the Future where I got several good ghost stories, one of them stood out to me. Alisa Alering’s take, “Everything You Have Seen” is a ghost story in an unusual setting—Korea—during the Korean War. In it, a young girl meets a ghost, a young American boy who can communicate by holding his hands up and creating visions, windows into his own world, that the girl can peer into.

So we have a ghost story in a bit of an unusual setting. It features two interesting characters, one of whom has a unique power that I haven’t seen before. Beyond that, Alisa writes beautifully and evocatively, with subtle twists of phrases that “recreate” the language, heighten it. So she scored higher on the originality scale, than did some of the other authors who had written ghost stories that quarter. I sent hers on to the other judges, and she won first place for her quarter.

Do you see how a story can manifest originality in a number of ways?

  1. Premise. Your story may explore an idea that no one has ever written about before. Greg Bear’s “Blood Music,” for example, is a story about a man who engineers the DNA in his blood so that each cell becomes a miniature computer. The cells begin creating their own vessels to explore his body, and become sentient … and, well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But it’s a great idea. Similarly, the concepts of mathematical sociology that lead to social engineering in Asimov’s Foundation series really intrigued me as a teen. In science fiction and fantasy, the unique idea shows the highest form of creativity.
  2. Setting. You may have a unique setting. In Frank Herbert’s Dune series, Herbert creates an entire world that has its own interesting flora, fauna, and societies. Tolkien does it in Lord of the Rings.
  3. Characters. You can show originality by creating fascinating characters. For example, in the novel Forrest Gump, we meet a boy who is handicapped—physically crippled as a child, mentally challenged as an adult, and emotionally scarred throughout his life. Yet his ability to retain a positive attitude is remarkable and endearing.
  4. Conflicts and themes. You can show originality as you explore the basic conflicts and themes that you deal with. Sometimes, you can take a fairly stock character and make them fascinating.
  5. You can be original in your treatment of a tale—in the artistry that you use to construct scenes, to bring the tale to life, and in the language you use to tell it in a beautiful and powerful way.

The single largest problem with stories is that somewhere along the line, the writer demonstrated a failure of imagination. Remember that. Stretch your imagination in your tales, and when you feel that it is about to snap, stretch it some more.


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

The winners and guests before the Ceremony

Writers of the Future Awards Ceremony 2014!

The day had finally arrived when all winners would walk the red carpet, receive their award and deliver their speeches in front of over 1,200 attendees. They would find out who the grand prize winners were and all winners would take part in their first book signing.

In the early afternoon the cameramen and TV crews arrived, set up their equipment for when the winners, past winners, judges and VIPs would walk the red carpet.

Soon enough the guests arrived – the men in sharp tuxes and the women in colorful gowns. Meanwhile the winners walked the red carpet, posed for pictures, and received interviews. The first call was made over the speakers; the show would be starting soon!

C Stuart Hardwick on red carpet with all winners

2014 Winning Writers and Illustrators on the red Carpet

Once the final call was made and everybody was seated, the lights were dimmed and the music started. The Hollywood Hotshots came on stage with singers Drew Seeley and Cassie Simone performing “Living Off the Page.” After a phenomenal performance, emcee Gunhild Jacobs, Executive Director of Author Services, walked on stage welcomed by applause from the audience.

Drew Seeley and Cassie Simone performing "Living Off the Page"

Drew Seeley and Cassie Simone performing “Living Off the Page”

Emcee Gunhild Jacobs, Executive Director of Author Services

Emcee Gunhild Jacobs, Executive Director of Author Services

Guest speakers included engineer and NASA Astronaut Leland D. Melvin who spoke about the importance of achieving your dreams and never giving up and the important role science fiction plays in those dreams, Award-Winning author Nancy Kress who presented a special recognition to Writers and Illustrators of the Future on behalf of Writers Digest magazine,  Director of Author Relations Kobo, Inc. Mark Lefebvre who spoke about the past and future of publishing, and Orson Scott Card who received his Lifetime Achievement Award.  And the speeches given by all winners accepting their awards were, as usual, amazing in their sincerity and hope for their future success.  Then once the book was released, the grand prize winners were announced.  Trevor Smith’s grand prize speech was even better than his first speech–something that has rarely occurred (as winners have already given their thanks and recognized those who helped them along the way).   Then the grand prize writer winner envelope was delivered  by drone and announced an emotional Randy Henderson, who like Trevor, gave a great acceptance speech.  All in all, the show was blow-away in every aspect!

Guest Speaker Leland D. Melvin

Guest Speaker Leland D. Melvin

Orson Scott Card receives the Lifetime Achievement Award

Orson Scott Card receives the Lifetime Achievement Award

Winning writer Oleg Kazantsev walking to the stage to accept his award

Winning writer Oleg Kazantsev walking to the stage to accept his award

Winning illustrator Kirbi Fagan walking to the stage to receive her award

Winning illustrator Kirbi Fagan walking to the stage to receive her award

Drone delivering the envelope with the Gold Award Winners names

Drone delivering the envelope with the Gold Award Winners names

Randy Henderson wins the Golden Pen Award

Randy Henderson wins the Golden Pen Award

Following the show the  guests walked from the theatre to the book signing hall. There was a stunning display of illustrations from this year’s winners, surrounded by flower bouquets and crystal chandeliers. The winning writers made their way to the book-signing table, while the winning illustrators took their place next to their winning piece and so began the signing!  Most notable was when award winning authors Orson Scott Card and Tim Powers circled the table, asking each winner for their autograph!

Writers of the Future after party

The hall where the book signing was held

Writers signing books

Writers signing books

Kristie Kim signing books after the event

Illustrators signing books

 Award-winning author Orson Scott Card getting his book signed by winners.

 Award-winning author Orson Scott Card getting his book signed by winners.

 Award-winning author Orson Scott Card getting his book signed by winners.


Award-winning author Tim Powers getting his book signed by winners.

Award-winning author Tim Powers getting his book signed by winners.


Finally the crowd thinned at the end of the night, and all winners went back to the hotel to prepare for their final day.


Dave Wolverton and Algis Budrys

The Writers of the Future Contest

“I feel this is the most important thing I could be doing with all the things I’ve learned in my life.” —Algis Budrys


In 1983, in recognition of the difficult road to success that new writers had to face in an ever-tightening publishing environment, L. Ron Hubbard “initiated a means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged.” This was the Writers of the Future Contest, endowed with significant prize money, administered and judged by giants of the field of science fiction.

This came about after surveys at several SF conventions showed that almost 25% of attending fans harbored a secret dream to become writers themselves. Hubbard had a long track record of helping young writers, having carried on lengthy personal fan mail correspondence, writing numerous how-to articles in writers’ magazines, even forming and directing small amateur writer contests earlier in his career.

Hubbard himself had dealt with many of the same obstacles when he was first learning not only how to direct his own talent as a wordsmith but to bring it to the attention of editors and publishers. He also knew that beginning writers often lacked for practical support—money, sound advice and meaningful encouragement from their predecessors in the writing trade. Such things have no effect on innate talent, but everything to do with the freedom for such talent to develop.

K.D. Wentworth, the current Coordinating Judge of WotF, wrote, “Only another writer can know how very hard it is to persuade oneself to set out on that long winding road to publication with all its back alleys and notorious dead-end streets. You not only have to convince the publishing world that your work is worthy of seeing print, you have to defeat your own self-doubt which is at least as hard, if not even harder.”

With the initial announcement, the new Contest caused quite a stir among aspiring authors. There was no entry fee. The prizes were outstanding: $1,000 for first place, $750 for second, $500 for third, and publication (not to mention separate pay—and a very high pay) in a professional and widely distributed anthology. The judges were SF luminaries with names to conjure with—Gregory Benford, Algis Budrys, C.L. Moore, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Williamson, Roger Zelazny, and they were joined the following year by Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Frederik Pohl and Gene Wolfe.

Entries poured in by the hundreds, then the thousands.

Algis Budrys, the first Coordinating Judge of the Contest, described the process of how manuscripts are received, evaluated and distributed to the judges.

“The Contest Administration sends the entrant a notice that the entry has been received, carefully records the author’s name and address and story title, and safeguards the information in records none of the Contest judges see. Then the Administrator checks to be sure no trace of the author’s name appears on the manuscript itself, and forwards the now-anonymous work to me, the Coordinating Judge, in a plain, numbered envelope. I see all the eligible entries, each handled in the manner described. Then, every three months, on the quarterly schedule given in the rules, I select all the stories I judge to be publishable speculative fiction, and pass those on to a group of Finalist judges chosen from our panel of the world’s top-flight creators of SF in the English language.

“Each quarter, the Finalist judges select three winners. The quarterly winners are contacted as soon as the judging results come in and are tabulated. Their personal reactions are as varied as their stories and their artwork: stunned silence, disbelief, yelling, crying, laughing . . . you name it and we’ve probably heard it.

“The only criterion for winning is a good SF story, of whatever kind is published in the field or could be published to SF readers. We don’t know who the authors are, we don’t know their age, sex, race, or their circumstances in life, and we can only guess at their hopes and fears because we can assume they are the same as ours were. The readers read, and thus encourage the writers. The writers make sure there’s something new for the whole family to read. And WotF provides a specific, effective channel for getting that done.

“Without aspiration for the future, there is nothing.”

In the second year of the contest, L. Ron Hubbard instituted a $4,000 Grand Prize award for the top story among the four First Prize winners, in addition to the $1,000 they already receive for First Prize. Thus, each year one lucky winner, first prize and grand prize, will go from being a complete newcomer to receiving $5,000 for a short story, plus the money he or she would earn from publication and reprint rights.

No other science fiction prize comes close to this.

Dave Wolverton, who succeeded Budrys as WotF Coordinating Judge in 1991, described his process.

“I read thousands of stories each year, trying to find promising new writers, and I began to notice a trend. I would start out the year in something of a cold panic. When those first few crates of stories started hitting my doorstep, I would pull them open and cross my fingers, hoping that in them I would find the next Heinlein or Orson Scott Card or Anne Rice or Andre Norton.

“That’s the dream, to discover someone really marvelous. And if I can’t find someone who is of that quality, then at least I want to find some stories that are exceptional—stories that we can laugh with, or cry with, or which hold some rare beauty or simply astonish us. Always as I read through the boxes of manuscripts, I found many, many stories that didn’t measure up. Then the cold sweat would get colder. But every quarter I found a handful of stories that did measure up. At that point, I’d give a sigh of relief at the very least. I have even been known to jump up and down if I found something really exceptional.

“I’m sure our art judges went through the same thing each quarter.

“Some of the stories and illustrations in each anthology were more polished or accomplished than others. Some were from authors or illustrators who chose, for whatever reason, to create perhaps only one or two works in this genre and then moved on to other things.

“But some of the authors and illustrators I helped discover went on to become recognizable names in later years. Of that, I am sure. And over the course of the volumes I edited, I have to say that I’m pretty proud of the work that we’ve published. After each year, I finished the job knowing that there never was any reason to break out into that cold sweat. It never failed. Good new authors and illustrators kept coming.”

Though L. Ron Hubbard passed away in 1986 at the age of 74, his literary agency continues to administer the Writers of the Future program, and it has thrived for a full quarter century.

Three years after the first Writers of the Future Award Ceremonies, in 1988, a parallel contest for novice illustrators was launched. The Illustrators of the Future Contest boasted science fiction legend Frank Kelly Freas as its Coordinating Judge. The Illustrators of the Future Contest has likewise had a long and successful run in training and encouraging many of the brightest stars in science fiction illustration, with a veritable hall of fame of judges, including Frank Frazetta, Frank Kelly Freas, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Paul Lehr, Ron Lindahn, Val Lakey Lindahn, Bob Eggleton and Vincent Di Fate.

Twenty-five years later, many of the writers who were first published in earlier WotF volumes are now appearing regularly in magazines and with novels; other major publishers in the field seek them out. A gratifying percentage of Contest winners have already been contenders for top awards on an equal footing with long-established SF authors, and many have gained significant recognition in that arena; some have even become judges for the Contest. No other field of popular literature offers its novices such an opportunity for lifelong success.

Over the first twenty-five years of its existence, the Writers of the Future Contest has produced three hundred winners, enthusiastic and dedicated new writers from the United States, Canada, Australia, England, France, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sweden, Ireland and Scotland. The total prize money awarded amounts to $325,000.

Publishers Weekly acknowledged the Contest as “the most enduring forum to showcase new talent in the genre.” In 2005, Library Journal presented the Contests its “Award of Excellence” in recognition of twenty-one years of “discovering, fostering and nurturing writers and illustrators of speculative fiction and successfully infusing new talent into the fields of literary and visual arts.”

The important thing about the design for the program is that it reflects a profound grasp of how creativity works—that it must be supported but left unfettered. At its core, the program does only two things: it encourages talent with measured and practical rewards with no strings attached, and it imposes no form of “editorial policy” on the winning stories or on the future work of their authors.

As Algis Budrys wrote, “To me the impressive thing is not so much that L. Ron Hubbard chose this way to impart a lasting, fruitful legacy to the field in which he had done so much significant work. It is that he did it so well.”