L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume XIX, edited by Algis Budrys (Galaxy Press, 2003)

Now in its second decade of existence, the Writers of the Future competition continues to turn out new authors in an inexorable, almost mechanical process. Each year, fourteen winners are chosen from the best stories submitted in each of four separate quarters, and selected to appear in the yearly showcase anthology. Thousands may enter, but little over a dozen writers, and just as many illustrators, are chosen for fame and fortune. Admittedly, there are those who have their doubts about WOTF, or its spiritual founder, the late great L. Ron Hubbard, but the truth is evident: the WOTF program has started any number of writers on the path to professional publication, including James Alan Gardner, Sean Williams, Nancy Farmer, and Robert Reed, to name just a few.
Volume 19 is no different. The (mostly) unknown authors appearing in this collection may very well be the same authors gracing the bookshelves a few years down the road. As always, the stories show both a wide range of potential, and a wide range of styles. In all honesty, I’ve never enjoyed more than half of the stories in any given WOTF volume, but that merely proves that there’s a little something for everyone. Perhaps you’ll enjoy Joel Best’s unusual tale of creative mathematics, “Numbers.” Maybe Matthew Candelaria’s story of uneasy alien diplomacy, “Trust Is A Child” is more your speed.. There’s always Carl Frederick’s oddly touching “A Boy and His Bicycle,” which takes friendship to a new level. These, and eleven others, await you.
It’s always hard to pick out the best stories from anthologies like these. Without a common theme, choosing from fantasy and science fiction, they tend to be a bit scattershot. However, the quality tends to be high, as the judges of the contest are all themselves published authors with distinguished track records. Writers of the Future is a grab-bag anthology, but an enjoyable one, almost always worth checking out.

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