Before I cut my reviewing teeth at Tangent Online, before Daily Science Fiction came to life, I shared my thoughts on the Writers of the Future anthology here at Diabolical Plots. WotF is a contest like none other in literature. The dream child of the late – and controversial – science fiction author, L Ron Hubbard, WotF is a contest reserved for the amateur writers of speculative fiction. Its judges are staffed with the icons in the industry. Winners of the contest have often gone on to greater success. Skeptical? A simple roll call of Hugo and Nebula nominees of the past decade plus is all the evidence you need. Many authors who now make writing their career – including the last two coordinating judges – made their first steps as a successful author winning this contest.
Nebula nominee, frequent Analog byliner, Writers of the Future first place award winner, 2 time Phobos Fiction Contest winner, 6 time Analog Readers Choice Award winner, Odyssey graduate, and longtime Critters member Carl Frederick is camera shy. As you can see from the photo, even his pet cat is shy. He likes cats and dogs and they are prominent characters in many of his stories. Frederick is known for his hard science stories. He’s had 40 plus short stories published in Analog. Lately, without letting up on the hard science stories, he has delved deep into character driven stories and even literary science fiction. Or rather, stories with strong character development well blended into the hard science element – and vice versa.
I heard the sad news today that the long-time contest coordinator of the Writers of the Future contest, K. D. Wentworth, has died from pneumonia. I didn’t know her on a personal level, apart from the occasional forum exchange, but by everything I have seen she was a very friendly person, and very patient with the questions all of the eager entrants of the Writers of the Future contest. She was one of the first editors I submitted a short story to, and I’ve sent her one story per quarter ever since. It will feel weird to know that someone else is reading my submissions.
This marks the fourth year in which I am reviewing the Writers of the Future contest. As a long time reader (I bought Volume I when it came out), and frequent submitter of the past few years, I have come to appreciate the work K D Wentworth and her predecessors have done putting this mammoth endeavor together every year. In the past, I’ve read issues and thought I can do better than that. It wasn’t until I started writing did I realize it wasn’t as easy as it looked. When I started reviewing, I had begun to marvel the work the authors put into each story.
Brent Knowles: Overall I think that I am a more productive and confident writer after the
win. Winning introduced me to many other authors (not limited just to the
winners in my year but including past winners and judges). I think being in
contact with them online and observing their workflows, triumphs and
setbacks has been illuminating… I have learned a lot about the business of writing.
ONE of the best pieces of advice that I read is if you are going to write short stories, you need to read short stories. What better way to follow that advice than by checking up on the competition. My first love is the anthology. I love reading a collection of short stories with a theme. The theme to WotF is very loose but the writers all have one thing in common, amateurs hoping to become pros.
The central character of “After the Final Sunset, Again” is a creature called the Phoenix, who is a kind of demi-god that exists to further humanity’s goals from the grandest scale right down to the personal level. Every morning a new Phoenix is birthed from the ashes of its predecessor, assembling a personality by copying and internalizing memories from surrounding humans, and is then sent into the world to accomplish specific goals. On this particular day, one of the humans who is “donating” memories dies at the moment of the Phoenix’s conception, thus giving her a sense of her own mortality, something no other Phoenix has ever had to confront.
K. D. Wentworth has reached an almost divine state in the eyes of many aspirants; especially those who participate in the quarterly Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest. K. D. is editor of the anthology, and first-reader for the writing portion of the contest. She reads, or at least starts to read, every entry that comes through the doors of Author Services, Inc; a colossal task that she completes not once but four times per year.
How different would my writing career be nowadays if I had sent that first manuscript off to ESP instead of Tor. I probably would never have started writing short stories, so I wouldn’t have come across critique forums like Baen’s Bar. I never would’ve made the awesome friends I’ve made, and I would be left slogging through the revisions of that novel (or ones of a second novel) with little or no feedback to help me understand what works in stories and what doesn’t. ALL it would’ve taken would have been a different address on that one envelope, and this would be so different.