Thursday, January 26, 2012

Writer's of the Future XXVI - Marvelous new ideas from new writers

Writers of the Future Volume XXVI
Edited by K.D. Wentworth
Galaxy Press (2010)

Reviewed by Clare Deming

Each new volume of L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future series of anthologies collects the winning stories from that year's contest. Started in 1983, it has gone on to become one of the most well-known contests for science fiction and fantasy stories. Entries from amateur or unpublished writers are accepted quarterly, with several levels of awards given. The first, second, and third place winners for each quarter earn publication in the anthology and a workshop with professionals in the field. Out of the four first place stories, one is granted the Gold Award, which comes with extra prestige and payment. A companion contest for illustrators is held concurrently, and the winners each illustrate one of the stories in the anthology.

This is the first of these anthologies that I have had the chance to read, and they may certainly vary from year to year. I found that this volume was weighted toward science fiction, with fewer fantasy selections. The stories are interspersed with short essays about the field from well-known authors and artists. Overall, I enjoyed this book and I thought that it was a solid collection of fiction. I'll highlight some of my favorite stories below.

"Living Rooms", by Laurie Tom, was the first story in the collection, and the Gold Award winner. Rill returns home after several years among ladies at court. Her father has died, but the animated personas of each room in his house have remained. Rill must confront the threat of a neighboring wizard while unraveling the secrets that her father left behind. This was a well-rounded story and a solid opening to the collection. While this was fantasy, with wizards and magic, the focus was different from many such tales.

In a unique look at androids, Alex Black brings us "Lisa With Child". Once manufactured as a bodyguard for one of the Agency's Clandestine Service members, Lisa manages to subvert her systems to become pregnant. However, the Agency will not likely allow a self-replicating weapon to exist, no matter what the reason.

"Exanastasis" by Brad R. Torgersen explores a world in which Earth's population has been eliminated to allow its ecosystems to recover. Atreus, caretaker for the project, is re-animated in a cloned body by his humanoid constructions built to resurrect the population from stored data. When his wife is also cloned, he has to decide what distinguishes a human from a monster.

When Izzy left Earth to work on the solar station, she found challenges amid the native Offworlders. Brent Knowles examines the differences of this environment in "Digital Rights". A ghost is lurking in the digital systems, and the exchange of knowledge carries a price.

In "Coward's Steel" by K.C. Ball, Tate struggles to survive in a difficult world. Armed with only a pistol and her long-lost mentor's collection of rules, she stumbles upon a village that seems a bit too inviting. What will be the cost of her visit?

Told from the point-of-view of a sentient tree-like species, "Written in Light" by Jeff Young was quite an engaging tale. Zoi'ahmets (the tree) finds a human girl, stranded in the wilderness of the planet's Dispute Zone. When the youngster's life becomes threatened, Zoi'ahmets must figure out how to save her without endangering the political situation or her own work.

My favorite illustrations were those by R. M. Winch and Jingxuan Hu. Many books don't offer any visual art other than the cover, so I enjoyed seeing these with each story. I think that one of the strengths of this collection is that there are always going to be fresh ideas and voices. I look forward to picking up another volume. More information about the contest can be found at:

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