|Writers of the Future -- A Background|
|an article by Algis Budrys|
Like other author-adventurers with names like Melville, Twain, London and Hemingway, L. Ron Hubbard's experiences and
travels -- as an explorer and prospector, master mariner and daredevil pilot, philosopher and artist -- found their way through
his writing into the fabric of popular fiction and into the currents of American culture for fifty years. Distinguished editor,
literary critic and grand master of science fiction Frederik Pohl said of L. Ron Hubbard: "There are bits and pieces from Ron's
work that became part of the language in ways that very few other writers managed.…He had a gift for inventing colorful pictures
that still stay with me.…Pictures that stayed in your head." At the same time, his unique voice and style helped reshape and
establish new literary trends for many of the popular genres he wrote in- from science fiction to fantasy, and from horror to
adventure-resulting in a compelling literary legacy. And what a legacy it was: Nineteen New York Times bestsellers, stretching
over fifty years from his earliest commercially published story, "The Green God," in 1934, to the completion of a mammoth
ten-volume novel, Mission Earth, in 1987. His most signal talent, however, was perhaps the ability to create rich
characters and place them in unusual circumstances.
All are examples of Hubbard's unique approach to fiction and his unmatched storytelling ability, crossing multiple genres with ease. From horror and suspense, to action-adventure and, of course, science fiction, he blazed a wide path of fiction output rarely matched by either his contemporaries or literary followers with over 250 novels, novelettes and short stories to his credit. Not surprisingly, L. Ron Hubbard's life was an adventure story in itself.
His real-life experiences began in rural Montana where he grew up on a ranch in the early 1920s and formed an early and lasting friendship with the Blackfeet Indians. By the late 1920s, he left the country to serve aboard a coastal trading vessel operating between Japan and Java in the Pacific. On his return in 1927, Hubbard studied engineering and took one of the earliest courses in molecular phenomena. Later, he went on to achieve renown as a pioneer aviator, famous in the air meets of the day, and became a master mariner -- licensed to sail any ocean, and was three times a flag -- bearing expedition leader of the Explorers Club (as recounted in George Plimpton's As Told at the Explorers Club). All the information gleaned from his experiences growing up and his personal interactions with the characters he met during his travels found their place in his various works: stories of civilians' narrow escapes from marauding warlords and vindictive Japanese generals during the Sino-Japanese war; men being trapped in the Sahara under the guns of the enemy without enough ammunition or water-or relief-in sight; or tales of danger and the risks taken by those who had to test airplanes for the military before such could be put into active service. During this period, his editors noted that his name on the cover of a pulp magazine would greatly boost its sales, so compelling were his stories, and he became a frequently featured writer.
As a consequence, novice writers who hoped to learn his storytelling and story-selling skills often consulted Hubbard for advice. He was happy to offer suggestions and so he began sharing his hard-earned experience with creative writing students in speaking engagements at institutions such as Harvard and George Washington University. In 1935, he was named president of the New York Chapter of the American Fiction Guild, where he made it easier for new writers to join the guild and readily shared his knowledge of writing and publishing with others who sought his help.
Hubbard also generated a series of "how to" articles that appeared in a number of writing magazines in the 1930s and 1940s, offering guidance to help new writers navigate the rough waters they were likely to encounter. Included in this volume is his wry article, "Advice to the Word-Weary," a compilation by Ron of advice letters not previously published. In 1940, as a feature of a radio program he hosted in Ketchikan, Alaska, while on an Explorers Club-sanctioned expedition, he offered advice for beginning writers and went one step further, initiating the "Golden Pen Award" to encourage listeners of station KGBU to write fiction, and he awarded prizes for the best stories submitted.
Years later, in 1983, in recognition of the increasingly difficult path encountered between first manuscript and published work, particularly in an era when publishers devoted the lion's share of their promotional budgets to a few household names, L. Ron Hubbard "initiated a means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged." And so were born the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests. These Contests have continued to expand and now receive entries from all over the world. Recently, the Writers of the Future Contest was acknowledged by Publishers Weekly as "the most enduring forum to showcase new talent in the genre." At the Awards Ceremony for Writers of the Future Volume XXI, Library Journal presented the following award:
THE LIBRARY JOURNAL
These Contests have become today the standard by which any aspiring writer and illustrator in science fiction and fantasy should measure their work. And, as the past twenty-one years have proven, the writers and illustrators you will meet in the twenty-second volume will be the names you will see in the years to come, and is, in fact, why Orson Scott Card says, "Keep the Writers of the Future going. It's what keeps sci-fi alive." For more information, go to www.writersofthefuture.com.
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