For almost thirty years L. Ron Hubbard's "Writers of the Future" contest has honored up-and-coming science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction authors (and illustrators) with a black tie awards ceremony and an anthology of the best entries. Judges are sci-fi luminaries, and the judges, writers and illustrators have gone on to win some of the most prestigious awards in the science-fiction and fantasy communities (including Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards).
This year's contest honored Tina Gower of Chico and Stephen Sottong of Eureka as quarterly winners, and Gower's story, "Twelve Seconds," went on to win the international grand prize of $5000. (More information, and a video of the awards ceremony, can be found at writersofthefuture.com.) Winning stories and illustrations appear in "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Vol. 29" ($7.99 in paperback from Galaxy Press; also available in Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook ebook formats), edited by Coordinating Judge Dave Wolverton.
Both Gower and Sottong will be speaking and signing copies of the book tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books, 135 Main Street in downtown Chico.
Born in Kokomo, Indiana, Sottong's jobs included radio repair for the Navy and a career as an engineering librarian. His "Planetary Scouts" is a gritty tale of Aidan Pastor and his new Scout partner, Aloysius Lester. "We're supposed to make sure humanity doesn't destroy other intelligent creatures," Aidan tells him, "or pick up something nasty enough to kill us off." That's not quite how things work out. ...
Gower was born in Siskiyou County, married her high school sweetheart, and lives with her family in Chico. She became a school psychologist, trained guide dogs for the blind, and now focuses on raising her family and writing (smashedpicketfences.com). "Twelve Seconds" is the harrowing and sensitive story of Howard, an autistic man who works with Eddie to "process memory siphons. I clean and sort. Eddie approves for archival. We are cogs, endlessly pinching, prodding, and polishing homicide victims' last memories on aging holodesks in a dark room."
Howard dreams of being "Howie," the cool guy who saves the day and gets the girl. But then a strange turn of events leads Howard deep into a sinister plot. It's a brilliant and poignant voyage of self-discovery.