1994 was the eleventh year of L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future contest. The contest is funded by a generous endowment from Mr. Hubbard, an extremely prolific writer of pulp genre fiction (including SF&F) from the thirties on. He wanted to establish a contest that would help beginning writers get started on their careers.
The contest is quarterly and produces first, second, & third place winners (cash prizes of $1000, $750, & $500 respectively). In addition, each year the four first place winners compete for the $4000 grand prize. The winners are treated to a week long writers workshop, transportation and lodging paid by the contest.
The judges are all well known SF&F writers, people like Larry Niven, Andre Norton, Ann McCaffrey, Tim Powers, Greg Benford, Algis Budrys, Fred Pohl, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Silverberg, Jack Williamson, Dave Wolverton, and the late (alas), great Roger Zelazny.
Currently Dave Wolverton is the judge who deals with the slush pile. From the thousands of stories received each quarter (Bridge Publications, which administers the contest, refuses to say just how many--but Dave has mentioned getting crates of manuscripts) Dave selects five to eight finalists. Those stories are sent on to the other judges participating in that quarter. Each chooses stories for 1st, 2nd, & 3rd place--stories that are chosen are given points based on their ranking. The results are summed and the highest point total is the first place story, the next is second place, and the next is third. The rest are simply "finalists." Prizes are awarded to the winners immediately.
Some time in the next year the winner's stories are collected into an anthology--usually the antho is rounded out with a couple of finalist stories that are considered especially deserving. Stories are illustrated by winners of the companion Illustrators of the Future contest--each artist is assigned a story from the antho. All the authors whose stories are in the antho are flown to a week-long writer's workshop and awards ceremony. The artists get their own workshop and also attend the banquet and awards ceremony. The location varies--past locations have included New York, Los Angelos, and the NASA space center in Houston.
The workshop is taught by the contest judges--Algis Budrys and Dave Wolverton did ours, Keven Anderson, Jack Williamson, and LOCUS publisher Charles Brown also taught on the last day of the workshop. The whole focus of the workshop is writing as a career. Topics run the gamut--idea generating, plotting, marketing, writing fast and well, characterization, and on and on. Each participant writes a story at the workshop and the stories are critiqued by all the participants. In my quarter, they were all excellent stories, all written in less than twenty-four hours. It was an amazing experience.
The awards ceremony follows a formal banquet. Trophies and certificates are presented to the winners, the new anthology cover is revealed (surrounded by a pile of books), and, having dragged out the suspense as long as possible, the Gold Award (grand prize) winner is announced. Checks are presented (in addition to the prize money, Bridge also buys the stories for the anthology) and a party follows. A grand time was had by all.
Check out the table of contents of WotF XI. You'll be seeing a lot more stories by many of these people.
The contest rules for the Writers of the Future and the Illustrators of the Future contests have been uploaded with the permission of Bridge Publications.
Mr. Hubbard is also well known (some would say infamous) as the author of Dianetics and the founder of the Church of Scientology. The contest is kept rigidly separate from Scientology. Indeed, though many of the people who run the contest are Scientologists, they will not discuss Scientology with winners at the WotF workshop or in any other contest related official capacity.
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