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Writers of the Future Contest

Entry updated 1 May 2023. Tagged: Award.

This contest, originally sponsored by L Ron Hubbard and later, after his death, by Bridge Publications and subsequently Galaxy Press in the USA, is between short stories or novelettes of sf or fantasy submitted by novice authors who have previously published no more than three short stories or one novelette. Contests have been held quarterly since 1984; the three place-getters receive cash awards as well as publication in the L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future series of Original Anthologies. Winners of the quarterly award receive $1,000; in addition, from 1985, an annual winner, chosen from the quarterly winners, receives the "L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award" and (currently) an additional $5000.

Sums very much larger than these have been spent on publicizing the awards. This practice has aroused controversy, being seen by some as part of a campaign by the Church of Scientology to elevate Hubbard's status within the sf community and the literary community at large. On the one hand, Algis Budrys, administrator of the contest until 1992, said that, though he is personally an admirer of Hubbard's fiction, there is no connection between the Writers of the Future Contest and the Church of Scientology. On the other hand, the first sponsor, Bridge Publications, was originally set up to publish textbooks of Dianetics and Scientology; the launch parties and general publicity given by Bridge to the content, which at one time appeared to be funded from an almost bottomless pocket, have been so lavish as to send frissons of pleasure or disgust through the entire sf community. The company called Author Services, Inc – active in publicizing L Ron Hubbard – which acts as co-host with Bridge at contest award ceremonies, was alleged in 1984 newspaper reports to have at that time assets of $44 million derived from the Church of Scientology.

The Writers of the Future Contest has had its successes. The first of these has been the astonishingly prestigious panel of judges it has built up, including Gregory Benford, Ben Bova, Ramsey Campbell, Anne McCaffrey, C L Moore, Larry Niven, Frederik Pohl, Robert J Sawyer, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, John Varley, Jack Williamson and Gene Wolfe. Only the most determined of conspiracy theorists could see these writers as representing a secret pro-Scientology agenda; it seems clear that they wish merely to assist young writers. The second success has been the writers themselves. By no means all contest winners have gone on to greater things, but Robert Reed (who entered the contest as Robert Touzalin), Dave Wolverton and David Zindell have certainly produced admirable work since, as has Karen Joy Fowler, who though not a winner has been perhaps the most distinguished of all the contest graduates. The general standard of the anthologies drawn from contestants' stories has been quite high. A similar organized Illustrators of the Future Contest has been run in parallel since 1989 (first presentation 1990).

The Writers of the Future Contest programme also includes writers' workshops, initially directed by Budrys in association with such other writers as Orson Scott Card, Tim Powers and Ian Watson. These workshops are notable for being – at least in some sessions – based very specifically on advice to writers originally formulated by Hubbard many decades ago. Those who do not accept Hubbard as one of sf's real craftsmen, though he certainly could write vividly and excitingly, see considerable irony in this.

The listing below is by the year in which the awards ceremony was held, and refers to work of the previous year. Those named for 1985 are quarterly winners; the first "L Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award" proper was presented the following year. The fiction award is known as the Golden Pen and the illustration award as the Golden Brush. [PN/DRL]


  • 1985: Dennis J Pimple; Jor Jennings; David Zindell
  • 1986: Robert Touzalin (Robert Reed)
  • 1987: Dave Wolverton
  • 1988: Nancy Farmer
  • 1989: Gary W Shockley
  • 1990: James Gardner
  • 1991: James C Glass
  • 1992: Brian Burt
  • 1993: Karawynn Long
  • 1994: Alan Barclay
  • 1995: Julia H West
  • 1996: Arlene C Harris
  • 1997: Morgan Burke
  • 1998: Brian Wightman
  • 1999: Scott Nicholson
  • 2000: Gary Murphy
  • 2001: Meredith Simmons
  • 2002: Dylan Otto Krider
  • 2003: Matthew Candelaria
  • 2004: William T Katz
  • 2005: John Schoffstall
  • 2006: Brandon Sigrist
  • 2007: Stephen Kotowych
  • 2008: Ian McHugh
  • 2009: Emery Huang
  • 2010: Laurie Tom
  • 2011: R P L Johnson
  • 2012: David Carani
  • 2013: Tina Gower
  • 2014: Randy Henderson
  • 2015: Sharon Joss
  • 2016: Matt Dovey
  • 2017: Jake Marley
  • 2018: Darci Stone
  • 2019: Andrew Dykstal
  • 2020: C Winspear
  • 2021: Barbara Lund
  • 2022: Desmond Astaire
  • 2023: David Henrickson


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