Off the Shelf

“Writers of the Future”

By Marcus Pan

Writers of the FutureIn the mid-80’s, the science fiction and fantasy pulps were nearing the end of their heyday. Astounding, Isaac’s Sci-Fi Fiction/Fact – they were beginning to shut down. The result was a slew of new authors who had grown up reading pulp magazines like this, started writing themselves then found hardly anyone interested in new science fiction and fantasy with few exceptions. On the heels of this, prolific author L. Ron Hubbard took some time out of shrinking heads for Xenu and masterminded a writing contest in which new authors can submit their work for 1-3rd place prizes, with the winners appearing in this here book.

There are fifteen science fiction and fantasy stories here, all from unknown authors. Interspersed with them are some essays on fiction and writing from some of the most notables in the business – Roger Zelazny, Theodore Sturgeon, Jack Williamson and others including Hubbard himself with the introduction. Within are some pretty decent stories – illustrated in that black and white pencil style many of us have fallen in love with made popular by the sci-fi pulps.

Out of the fifteen, many were unmemorable. But there are a few here that really struck a chord with me as excellent ideas. Tyson’s Turn is one such story, by Michael D. Miller and used to open this collection. In it we are taken to a dystopian future where the DNA tampering of humanity results in the creation of people perfect for their professions. The inevitable happens – who wants to be a waiter or a garbageman when the engineers can create a doctor or a lawyer instead? Crime dwindles down, so even the perfect cops bred to protect law aren’t necessary. There aren’t too many sick people about, so doctors are bored. People don’t die so often, so morgues run dry. Now what? Create those you need to do your job – build criminals, create illness…

Mary Frances Zambreno’s A Way Out was wonderful. How easy can one forget there’s an outside when you’ve never gone there? Only the old folks remember the days when the project buildings had exits. And One Last Dance by Dean Wesley Smith reminds me of some whimsical 80s movie who’s name I forgot. If you wish hard enough for something, can’t it happen? Are you dreaming it or if you believe it hard enough can the dream become real?

The Thing From the Old Seaman’s Mouth is Lovecraftian horror and Anthony’s Wives by Randell Crump has a Groundhog Day appeal to it. Shanidar by David Zindell is a favorite, infused with a post-apocalyptic style unlike most others. The subtle nuances of mankind’s last is brilliantly depicted and the twisting ending is worth the read through.

Well – the days of pulp are pretty much over. A few exist, but publishers like Ace willing to publish anything with a flying saucer in it have, probably for the better, disappeared. Here in this 1985 anthology though we have a few gems. It was nice of Hubbard to put down his E-Meter for a while and bring it to us.

“Writers of the Future” by Various Artists
Copyright © 1985 by Bridge Publications, Inc.
ISBN: 0-88404-170-0
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 84-73270

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