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L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol. 21 Paperback – August 30, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
The 21st volume in the anthology series sponsored by Hubbard's Writers of the Future program may contain no knockouts, but more than a few of its 15 tales by emerging SF and fantasy writers show real talent. John Schoffstahl's exciting "In the Flue" extrapolates from today's Mideast headlines. David W. Goldman cleverly examines writers and writing in "The Story of His Life." Sidra M.S. Vitale's "My Daughter, the Martian" is a realistic study of a human colony on Mars from a young adult viewpoint. Andrew Gudgel's "The Firebird" scores as brief and stylized fantasy, as does Cat Sparks's "Last Dance at the Sergeant Majors' Ball" as poignant virtual reality. The illustrations that accompany each story are promising if not up to the quality of the distinctive Frank Frazetta art that graces the cover. (Nov.)
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...a record of nurturing and discovering writers who have gone on to make their mark in the science sf field. --Neil Gaiman
...continues to please thousands of readers who become the audience for yet another generation of sci-fi writers. --Orson Scott Card, August 2005
Writers of the Future is a terrific program for new writers... It has my heartiest support and recommendation. --Terry Brooks
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John Schoffstall's writing in "In the Flue" contains far too many details (e.g., he writes about hover tanks; details are interesting, but detract from the focus of the story). However, the story contained two very interesting elements: the story of the power generating flues and a philosophical element. I found the former very interesting and the second thought provoking.
M.T. Reitan's story "Needle Child" is a fantasy that creates a world of populated hedges surrounding meadows. Reitan properly minimizes any explanation of why it all exists, focusing on one event in this existing world. This story begs for a novel to explain it all. His story follows a hedge person providing a stolen baby to another couple in a meadow. The concept is quite bizarre.
In "The Story of His Life," author David W. Goldman introduces a reality where artificial intelligences control what happens in people's lives, but suddenly a player learns there may be something more. This story is another one that begs for a novel.
There is a short essay by L. Ron Hubbard, whose legacy makes the "Writers of the Future" series possible, titled "Introducing Tomorrow's Miracles."
The story "Green Angel" by Sean A. Tinsley I found a little too esoteric for my taste. The story was almost as much fantasy as science fiction and I found some of the imagery, particularly at the end, difficult to follow. Here two machines battle over eggs on the hostile surface of Titan.
In "The Firebird," author Andrew Gudgel writes a modern fairy tale rooted in science fiction that leads to all sorts of horrific possibilities. Thinking about the possibilities as the story ended sent shivers down my spine.
"My Daughter, the Martian," by Sidra M.S. Vitale contains classic science fiction elements as it tells the story of the head of a Martian colony and her daughter and the events surrounding meeting a supply ship.
For some reason I intuited the ending to "Meeting the Sculptor" by Floris M. Kleijne near the beginning. What happens if there are people who change the past in nearly meaningless ways, unless it is your past being changed? Even though I inadvertently guessed the ending I found the story interesting.
Another essay by Nina Kiriki Hoffman provides "Seven Keys to Writing Success." The title is self-explanatory.
Ken Scholes penned the fantasy "Into the Blank Where Life is Hurled." It appears that the afterlife is more complex than we ever imagined.
The science fiction story "Mars Hath no Fury like Pixel Double-Crossed" was an excellent story and pulled me in immediately. I read this story very quickly because it was styled classically, with all the most modern accouterments. A woman stuck on Mars because her boyfriend sold her return ticket to be "branded." Of course, she'll not sit for that!
"Blackberry Witch" is a lovely fantasy by Scott M. Roberts that reminds me favorably of the stories I read in "Realms of Fantasy." It turns out that regenerating life is more complicated than even witches sometimes imagine.
Steven Hickman provides a short essay on art in "Style Points."
Eric James Stone tells the story of a stoneworker with a past in the fantasy "Betrayer of Trees." However, the stoneworker has a sordid past that has made him a wanted man, and as tends to happen, a person's past can catch up with them.
In yet another fantasy Lon Prater tells of a Father who has discovered that not everyone who is condemned to being "Deadglass" may have sinned.
Another science fiction story that chilled me is Cat Sparks' "Last Dance at the Sergeant Major's Ball." Is there a future where we can no longer know what is real and what is not, particular when consigned to a rest home?
Mike Rimar gives Einstein a choice of futures in "Annus Mirabilis" that asks "what if" in a very intriguing way.
Michael Livingston provides what I thought was the best story of all in "The Keeper Alone." In a story reminiscent of Robert Heinlein's "Orphans of the Sky," what happens when the sole keeper of a space ark saves someone whose pod has malfunctioned? It is stories such as these that keep me reading science fiction.
This book also contains selections of art from aspiring artists. Some of the art I found interesting; other art was less inspiring. None of the art touches the Frank Frazetta cover.
This book is worth purchasing. There are a few stories that I was less enthused about, but the winners in this book, particularly the last story, will make you feel good about the purchase. I always worry about stories that are too impressionistic for my classical tastes, but apparently the people who selected these stories valued clarity. If you like science fiction and fantasy and you enjoy short stories, this book will be a good read for you.
For this specific collection, I have to say in so far it was one of my favorites. Eric James Stone really stole the show, but almost every story in here was worth reading. There are some collections where it really only has a handful of shining stories, but almost all of them were something I would pay for on its own.
If you like short speculative fiction, this set is pretty good.