Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Writers of the Future XXIII

While I would not normally be seen dead reading something with the words "L Ron Hubbard" on the cover, it's hard to see what he has to do with this particular book, seeing as he's been dead for quite a while now. In fact, the book is the annual result of a regular contest for new writers, with no apparent connections to Scientology* (apart from Hubbard's big ugly name being splurged across the front), and actually contains some very good writing. Of course, there's some crap in here too, not least of which are essays by Hubbard himself and hackmeister extraordinaire Kevin J Anderson (one of the contest judges), but really no worse than you'd see in a collection by established authors.


The phrase "sense of wonder" is often used to describe the appeal of SF, which I rather dislike - it just conjures up the image of some small American boy in the 1950s with his mouth hanging open - but it's true that much of the joy found in SF comes from the wealth of ideas, making the short story its true home. Plenty of the stories here would not stand up to a book-long test of their central concepts, but they certainly provide the requisite wow! factor of sparkling new vistas and What If? scenarios. A few of the themes here have been doing the SF rounds recently (time travel by projection, life discovered on Jupiter's moons, reality TV and hippy new-agery) but the stories mostly avoided any feeling of staleness.


Not counting the Hubbard and Anderson essays, the worst thing in here was Tony Pi's The Stone Cipher - a promising idea about the world's statues all starting to speak, but hampered by clunky writing, waffly pseudoscience and the author's need to stuff in too much of his knowledge of linguistics. The only other contender for the bottom spot was Mask Glass Magic by John Burridge, some fantasy-lite new-age witchy chick-lit fluff with an incomprehensible twist, but it was well-written and harder to dislike than I expected. At the other end of the scale, we have a few good stories and a couple that even approached greatness - Karl Bunker's far-future survival tale Pilgrimage, and the moving time-travel story Our Last Words by Damon Kaswell. And a shout-out to Stephen Gaskell too, a local writer who kindly gave me this copy of the book.


The establishment of this contest for unpublished SF writers was a good thing, even if it was just to add a veneer of respectability to the Hubbard brand; on the other hand, having the association with Scientology may be as much of a hindrance as a help. Still, if the Hubbard name puts you off, you could always invest in a marker pen and scrub his name from the front to no great loss; there's no other reason to avoid the book. Go on, give some new writers a chance!


-/10



*Following the arrival, several months after this review was written, of a Hubbard disciple demanding I remove all my anti-Scientology comments (see below), I'm afraid I have to retract my recommendation of this book. It seems apparent now that the Writers of the Future brand is NOT separate from Scientology, and so I can't in all conscience recommend it to anyone, and would urge new writers to steer clear; there's better ways of getting published than by associating yourself with such a fraudulent and free-speech-hating organisation.

37 Comments:

Anonymous Roddy Reta said...

Wow, what a pompous review.

1:28 am  
Blogger Alice said...

Yeah, it probably is. That's how I write. I'm glad you found it necessary to point that out, though. Have a nice day!

7:17 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:25 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

A better review of this book without the Hubbard bashing, see this link:

http://www.scificatholic.com/2007/10/anthology-review-writers-of-future.html

9:28 pm  
Blogger Alice said...

Oh goody, the Scientologists are here! Their brainwashing techniques must be getting better if they can even convince people that KJA is a good writer.

Maybe I should make this clearer. Scientology is an evil, cult-like worldwide scam, and anyone defending it is either a sadly deluded sucker, or a wilfully complicit scumbag up to his neck in filth. Which would you say you are?

4:06 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:33 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

Did you read the review by scifi catholic.com?

5:34 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:29 pm  
Blogger Alice said...

Welcome back, Cap'n! Let's see if I can address some of your points, including the ones in the post you deleted.

1) The Hubbard name is rightly offputting for many people, for some good reasons - a, he's a crap writer, and b, he spawned that ridiculous cult. I thought it entirely valid to preface my review with a disclaimer that the usual reasons to beware of Hubbard do not really apply, and that I'm not some Scientologist with an agenda that would affect my review. Were you as honest in your Amazon review? Oops, no you weren't; your review consisted of a blurb for the contest, some story summaries pasted from the contest website, and one line of opinion - "Some are better than others".

2) Yes, I read the other review at scificatholic. It's a good review. What's your point? There are lots of internet reviewers, all of whom have differing styles; if you don't like mine then you don't have to read it, but feel free to keep bolstering my hit count with your little flame attacks.

3) Kevin J Anderson is not a very good writer. His dialogue is stilted, his plots are implausible, his sentences are clumsy. I have read two books and one essay by the guy and do not wish to read any more.

4) Forgive me for not taking at face value the claims in the introduction that the WotF brand had no association with Scientology. Cos when scammers tell you "this isn't a scam!" it's so believable. Having a Scientologist so vehemently defend the series is not doing your claim any good, either.

5) What does the First Amendment have to do with anything?

12:14 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

Thank you. No I don't let the fact that I'm involved with Hubbard's work affect my judgment. I thought the contest idea was a good one when it started back in 1986. I did do a cut and paste in the Amazon review, that's true, but I made it very clear what I was doing to any reader. The scifi catholic review didn't include the writer's personal prejudice and simply reported what was in the book, which is what I want from any reviewer. Your personal peeves are of zero interest in a book review. Keep writing though.

5:40 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

Final comment: Your review was not BAD at all, just that the snide comments about Hubbard and Anderson had little to do with the short stories in the book. If you just stuck to the content of the authors in this anthology, then it would have been helpful. I don't hide behind the fact that I am involved in Scientology, but if I were Jewish or Muslim or Asian and you made a snide comment about these, then I certainly wouldn't let it go by. Understand now?

7:38 pm  
Blogger Alice said...

So criticising Scientology = racism now? Nice try. I'm sure the victims of actual racism would appreciate the comparison. I am also puzzled as to why you think it's invalid to mention Hubbard and Anderson's writing when reviewing this book, as the book contained essays by both of them.

Also, I rather like including my "personal peeves" in my reviews. This is one thing I meant when I referred to reviewers with different styles. Some people choose to read reviews that stick to the content with no personal opinions, others prefer ones that give the reviewer's feelings on the matter. For example, your Amazon review merely summarised the stories with hardly any opinion on their quality - that's not the kind of review I'd want to read, or would find useful, so it's not the kind I write.

10:52 am  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:33 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

As well, both the articles written by Hubbard and Anderson were about the craft of writing; they had nothing to do with Scientology, that's why your comments were inappropriate. If you thought their advice was nonsense, then that would have been fine to communicate that.

But words as "brainwashing", "cult", these are flammatory terms that don't belong here.

By the way, why not copy your reviews to Amazon? Bigger audience and all that.

See ya.

4:48 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:14 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:34 pm  
Blogger Alice said...

Oh, blah, blah. I thought we were done here? My definition of bigotry does not include "warning people about an obvious scam", whether it dresses itself up as a religion or not. I'll say it again - Scientology is a fraudulent bunch of bullshit, designed to extract money from the vulnerable and the gullible, so any venture even loosely associated with it is bound to rouse suspicion. We're obviously not going to agree on this point.

As for what "belongs" in my reviews, this is my blog, and I can punctuate them with pictures of my arse if I see fit. No really, I do love the way you're now pretending to be all helpful and stuff, like you came here just to give me constructive criticism and suggest some improvements. It's quite clear that you came here specifically to take me to task over my Hubbard comments, and I can't really be bothered to argue the point any more, as I have no intention of removing them. If it's any consolation, this review is pretty old now so no-one is likely to read it except you.

1:05 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

Don't get your British panties all in a knot, sweetie. It's just a book review.

4:08 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clearly this book is going to be read by young minds that are ripe for the pickings of recruiters for a dying organisation desperate to avoid them learning of its true nature.
The pitifully failed attempts by Capt.Jim to discredit the reviewer have backfired epically, for based on these actions she has decided to review a book that exposes the truly nasty underbelly of Scientology that was trying to be hidden in the first place: "The Complex: An insider exposes the covert world of Scientology" - by John Duignan

8:08 am  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

This is a science fiction anthology, nothing more.

What Anon is talking about, only he/she really knows.

8:59 pm  
Blogger Alice said...

Cap'n, do you spend all your time just refreshing this post over and over? As there are no dates listed by comments, I will point this out for interested readers - Cap'n Jim's oh-so-snide "just your way of venting" post was made some months ago, and there'd been no sign of him since, until he responded to Anonymous 8:08 within the hour. I thought Scientologists weren't allowed on the internet, anyway? Much as I appreciate your support for this blog, if I were you, I'd spend my time tracking down some websites that better illustrate what a load of bollocks your non-religion is, and get yourself deprogrammed. You can thank me later.

1:46 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

Hi, A.

Actually Anon wrote at 8:08 am and I responded at 8:59 pm, over 12 hours later.

Scientologists aren't allowed on the internet? Really? That's a new one. False.

I was just responding to this person's remarks, so please don't take it personally.

You may not know that Google blogs automatically send an email saying there was a response and that it is available for viewing.

You English are really something else as well.

Have fun writing reviews. Later.

3:57 pm  
Blogger Capt.Jim said...

A; Thanks for linking my comments onto other reviews. I'm flattered that you think so well of my comments.

You did well on the rewrite of your review. No matter how you feel about Hubbard's works, your commentary is more appropriate on other boards & discussions. That really was my only beef.

I won't write on your reviews anymore -- I'm done.

Cheers

12:05 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think some have forgotten that this is not a political forum; it's a book review!

Writers of the Future XXIII is a science fiction anthology. I've read it. There's no preaching or any Scientology in it whatsoever.

And, it's published by Galazy Press, not Scientology publications.

So let's stick to the subject, please.

7:32 am  
Blogger Alice said...

Heh. Have you actually looked into Galaxy Press?

(from their website) "Established in 2002, Galaxy Press was incorporated to meet the increasing demand for the fiction works of renowned author L. Ron Hubbard."

Nope, no connection to Scientology there at all. Though you're right, there's no overt preaching in the book and the story authors were all published on good faith, the connection is still far too strong for my liking.

9:20 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, a pompous review.

A. Budrys said: "...in 1983, in recognition of the increasingly difficult path encountered between first manuscript and published work, particularly in an era when publishers devoted the lion's share of their promotional budgets to a few household names, L. Ron Hubbard "initiated a means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged." And so were born the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests. These Contests have continued to expand and now receive entries from all over the world. Recently, the Writers of the Future Contest was acknowledged by Publishers Weekly as "the most enduring forum to showcase new talent in the genre." At the Awards Ceremony for Writers of the Future Volume XXI, Library Journal presented the following award:


THE LIBRARY JOURNAL
AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
Presented to L. Ron Hubbard's
Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests

In recognition of XXI years of discovering, fostering and nurturing writers and illustrators of speculative fiction and successfully infusing new talent into the fields of literary and visual arts.

Library Journal
August 19, 2005

These Contests have become today the standard by which any aspiring writer and illustrator in science fiction and fantasy should measure their work. And, as the past twenty-one years have proven, the writers and illustrators you will meet in the twenty-second volume will be the names you will see in the years to come, and is, in fact, why Orson Scott Card says, "Keep the Writers of the Future going. It's what keeps sci-fi alive." For more information, go to www.writersofthefuture.com.


Copyright © 2006 by Algis Budrys"

Quite an award-winning little book as well as opening the door to new writers. What kind of person would want to stop that?

3:50 am  
Blogger Alice said...

Algis Budrys... would he have been a Scientologist, by any chance? Oh yes, he was. Funny, that.

Your quote is taken from a glowing, GLOWING review of the "Writers of the Future" series, which oddly focuses on Hubbard's own writing for 6 paragraphs before one brief final paragraph on the background of the contest itself - do you think he might possibly have the tiniest hint of bias?

As for the award, Library Journal's "Award of Excellence" is not listed among their regular sponsored awards, and from the (one, tiny) mention on their site, seems to have merely been little more than a recognition of efforts made to encourage new authors. Outside the insular world of Scientology, absolutely no-one uses these contests as a "standard by which to measure their work".

Just because a contest exists is no reason to blindly support it. It's clear that WotF is much more concerned with promoting the image of Scientology than with any new writers who pass under its auspices, and as we can see, there is plenty of propaganda out there that needs countering.

11:21 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reviewer clearly has an agenda from what I've read here. She cannot separate her personal views of Hubbard with a writing contest. Budrys was a scifi writer since the Fifties from what I've seen on IMDB website, so quite qualified to run the thing. Just my two cents. A good book reviewer does not let his/her personal vendettas get in the way of a good book review. If I reviewed a book on Nixon, for example, I would not then start blasting the Republican party. I'd look at the book, what it was saying, etc. Take a chill pill.

5:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks for the link. That George Plimpton book mentioned looks interesting.

5:26 am  
Blogger Alice said...

So Algis Budris, a Scientologist, writes a fawning critique of his cult leader's work, and I'm the one with the agenda? Of course, you are also merely an objective commenter, who has no reason to seek out and comment on a two-year-old review of an obscure anthology, other than a purely disinterested wish to eradicate personal opinions from book reviews... of course you are, and thank you so much for your suggestions, I'm sure you don't have an agenda either.

Let's have a look at your analogy, then. If this book about Nixon was actually "Richard Nixon's Politics of the Future", containing essays by Nixon on how to do politics, and published by the Richard Nixon Promotion Society, then it would be entirely reasonable to look at both the context of Nixon's advice, and the circumstances in which it was published. Suggesting otherwise raises the very strong suspicion that there is something to hide.

If you found out that a seemingly-innocuous writing contest was also being used as a promotion vehicle for the KKK, wouldn't it be irresponsible NOT to mention this? Scientology contains many beliefs that are just as objectionable, and I have no qualms about using my blog to point this out. Sorry, dear readers, but if you want opinion-free reviews then you'll just have to look elsewhere.

11:45 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe anyone would continue listening to Alice, she seems lost in Wonderland. She's found some connection with Scientology, which she has a personal problem with, I've has a little to do with and they are very helpful and genuine people. They certainly don't preach hatred, oops, is Alice's own brain washed so thoroughly, she can't see that hate of something is the product of brainwashing rather than assisting people like the Scientologists and other religions do?

8:11 am  
Blogger Alice said...

Oh dear. Perhaps we might like to consider that there are other ways of being evil apart from "preaching hatred" (because of course Scientology would NEVER do that) - like, for example, defrauding thousands of vulnerable people out of their earnings, based on some pseudoscientific, cod-religious nonsense? I'm sure there are many nice people who have been conned into joining the organisation, but that does not make its goals and methods any less suspect.

9:01 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alice, however noble your message, it'll never reach anybody if you come across as a nut, which you do. Sorry.

Sure, it's your blog. You can fill it with rant. But what for? Does it really make you feel better? Consider this: no matter how many comments you reply to, no matter how scathing you may be, there will always be somebody who disagrees with you. Somebody who has the time and the motivation to reply and counter your points. You may very well be right, but, in the end, what does it matter?

I've been there. I've blogged. I've reviewed. I've ranted. And what for? What did I get out of it but stress? Anger is wasted energy. The world is too complex. It needs a clear mind to navigate through it.

Anyway, to get to the point - I'm a dabbler in the writing arts who will shortly be posting a story to Writers of the Future. The judging panel includes some greats of speculative fiction, writers who influenced my formative years. It seems like a genuine and worthwhile contest for an amateur to enter. whether or not it has connections to Scientology, or even if such connections are relevent to the contest or anything at all, remains to be seem. I'll let you know how it goes..

4:07 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A, that's awesome that you will be published or have a chance to be, in the Writers of the Future contest. Galaxy Pubs publishes Hubbard's fiction works -- all that he's written since the 1930s ,where he wrote much more than sci-fi -- fantasy, air adventures, spy novels -- great Golden Age stuff.

Algis Budrys, RIP, was not a Scientologist. He was buds with Hubbard in the 1950s from what I have read but was never involved otherwise.

Alice's prejudice is clearly getting in the way of her review writing.

Good work.

5:48 am  
Blogger Alice said...

Why are people even still commenting on this review? It's from 2007! None of the other books I've panned get anywhere near this much traffic, and yet strangely, this obscure anthology keeps attracting all kinds of anonymous defenders from out of the woodwork... hmmmmm

12:18 pm  
Blogger LTK said...

Scientology is well-known for being a tad vindicative when it feels threatened. A situation not rare considering they're a bunch of brainwashing cons that don't want to be exposed for what they are.
Basing what they call a religion on the "works" of a crap author?
Yeah right, why not base one on KJA's blurbs?
Keep it up Alice!

1:36 pm  

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