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Writers of the Future -- A Background
an article by Algis Budrys

Algis Budrys
Algis Budrys may be the closest thing we have to a true renaissance man. He began his career in the 50s with some of that decade's most memorable SF, including the classics Who? (1958) and Rogue Moon (1960), and his more recent fiction -- novels such as Michaelmas (1977) and Hard Landing (1993) -- has been just as hard hitting. In later years, he devoted much of his energies towards criticism as an influential SF reviewer. In 1993 he launched one of the freshest new science fiction magazines of the nineties, Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, a Hugo award-nominee. In 1997, the magazine lived up to its name as Budrys pushed his child out of the nest and took it online, making it one of the first true commercial SF webzines. Budrys was the Guest of Honor at the World Science Fiction convention in San Antonio, Texas, LoneStarCon 2.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Writers of the Future, Volume XVIII
Algis Budrys hints on writing
Algis Budrys Speaks
The Writers of the Future Contest

Past Feature Reviews
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.

Writers of the Future -- A Background
In his 1940 horror classic, Fear, Hubbard frames an unrelenting nightmare of the macabre around bookish and mousey James Lowry, Professor of Ethnology at Atwater College, who after publicly debunking the existence of demons and devils finds himself confronted with unexplainable and ghastly real-life evidence to the contrary. Horror/suspense giant Stephen King acknowledges Fear as "one of the few books in the chiller genre which actually merits employment of the overworked adjective 'classic,' as in 'This is a classic tale of creeping, surreal menace and horror'…This is one of the really, really good ones." Works like Fear etched Hubbard's place among the greats of contemporary suspense fiction including legends like Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. But his storytelling expertise was not limited to suspense.

Hubbard also excelled in other fiction genres, including fantasy, "future-history" science fiction, space-travel adventure and frontier fiction, while still showcasing his unforgettable characters in desperate-or hilarious-but always original circumstances. In Typewriter in the Sky (a satiric, story-within-a-story, literary fantasy), he engages the reader in a what-if tale of a piano player suddenly finding himself part of an adventure novel written by his writer friend, Horace Hackett. As if that weren't enough, he is trapped in the novel as the villain of the piece and discovers that he has to suffer through Horace's hackneyed writing and threadbare plot-knowing that his character is going to be killed off at the end. In Final Blackout, the apocalyptic science fiction adventure set in the aftermath of total war, the story focuses on an enigmatic, post-modern guerilla fighter, who is the least likely to lead a nation back from oblivion, and yet finds himself stuck with the problem. To the Stars is yet another beautifully crafted novel of future space travel and adventure that explores the sensibilities of a man shanghaied into becoming a crewman on the "long passage" of extended travel across the universe, while time goes forward normally on Earth.

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:


Presented to L. Ron Hubbard's
Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests

In recognition of XXI 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.

Library Journal
August 19, 2005

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

Copyright © 2006 by Algis Budrys

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