2014 Writers and Illustrators of the Future Awards

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Hanging out on the red carpet – is it weird to see Geek Outlaw out of uniform?

First let’s address the giant oliphant in the room. Yes, this is called the L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future Awards. Yes, this made me very nervous when I first got the invitation to cover it. If you are unaware, L. Ron Hubbard was the founder of the Church of Scientology, a church that has seen its share of controversy. Then again, I’m half Catholic (in theory, not in practice), so who am I to talk about religious controversy? I was quick to ask if the Awards had anything to do with the Church and was given a quick, but polite response that L. Ron Hubbard was also a prolific science fiction writer and the Awards had nothing to do with Scientology. I did a little research and it seemed that they do try and keep the two quite separate. After talking it over with my NerdBFF, Geek Outlaw, our curiosity got the better of us and we decided to go and see what it was all about for ourselves. I will say that there was no indication that it was a Scientology event aside from that it was an L. Ron Hubbard love fest. A large portrait of him hung from the stage the entire time except during the music and dance performances, there was a rather lengthy video montage honoring him, and his name was mentioned every few minutes, at minimum.

Hanging out before the awards

Hanging out before the awards

Now, that being said, if there is one thing that I took away from the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Awards, it’s that it was a very positive experience and a very big deal for the winners. They were obviously well taken care of by Author Services and enormously grateful for the week of classes and activities that were organized for them, including workshops with talented and established authors and artists, trips to museums, etc. They also receive cash prizes that are much higher than other contests, are given opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have, and many of them go on to become highly successful authors and illustrators in their own right. Regardless of whether or not there is any religious affiliation, I think that there is a place for this competition.

Some of the winners

Some of the winners on the red carpet

For me personally, the highlight of the evening was having the opportunity to chat with the winners and presenters on the red carpet beforehand. The winners were nervous and excited, the presenters approachable and proud of the honorees. Geek Outlaw and I had the pleasure of interviewing the evening’s keynote speaker Astronaut Leland Melvin:

Astronaut Leland Melvin

Astronaut Leland Melvin

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL9_7szTMLE] – June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger Astronaut Dick Scobee:

June Scobee Rogers

June Scobee Rodgers

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FDJwC1h5UA] – Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Orson Scott Card, author of the Ender’s Game series of sci-fi novels:

Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOJqORDz3Lg] – Robert J. Sawyer, author of Flash Forward:

Robert J. Sawyer

Robert J. Sawyer

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRST4raF_SQ] – And Kevin J. Anderson, author of Dune and X-Files fiction:

Kevin J. Anderson

Kevin J. Anderson

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFlrp3tRRGU] – The winners were announced alternating between the writers and the illustrators who created the original artwork for that particular story. The winners were from every conceivable walk of life. From high school teachers to high school students, computer scientists to real estate agents, Veterinarians to former military. And from every corner of the planet including South Korea, Jamaica, Canada, Finland, East Siberia, England, Portugal, Germany, Australia and, of course, all over the United States. Some of the awards were interspersed with circus performers, Indian dancers, BMX cyclists and musical performers. DSC01960 (Large) The grand prize is the Golden Pen Award and the Golden Brush Award. These two gentlemen received $5000 and had previously delivered two of the most emotional speeches of the night. Both were enormously grateful and humbled by the fact that they had won. Golden Pen Award: Memories Bleed Beneath the Mask by Randy Henderson DSC02029 (Large) Golden Brush Award: Trevor Smith DSC02024 (Large) The evening wrapped up with a reception and a chance to have our copies of the Anthology signed by all of the winners. I tried to get as many signatures as I could but the crowds because ridiculous and I reluctantly gave up since I had to drive back to San Diego that night. There and back in one day was a doozy, let me tell you! We did get a chance to hang out with writer Tim Powers for a bit before we left. His 1988 novel On Stranger Tides was optioned for Disney’s fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film. DSC02034 (Large) All in all it was a delightful evening and anything that helps writers get their foot in the door is a good thing.

Pirates of the Caribbean: it just gets stranger and stranger

Big wall o' pirates

I know a lot of people who don’t really care for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as a whole. They thought the first one was fun and the 2nd and 3rd ones were convoluted pieces of crap. Therefore, I had a hard time finding someone who would see #4 with me. Luckily I have an awesome Mom who just happened to be visiting this weekend. We both like the films for the most part (although I take issue with parts of At Worlds End). I guess I’m just a sucker for action adventure.

On Stranger Tides is based on a novel of the same name by Tim Powers. It’s appropriately named since it is, well, a bit strange. Power’s novel prominently features voodoo, something that Disney opted to keep and force (not always successfully) into the world of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Barbossa's spiffy new duds!

I’m sure you know the basic plot, that everyone is searching for the legendary fountain of youth. It’s not really clear why everyone (especially Captain Jack Sparrow) is trying to find it. For Blackbeard (Ian McShane), it’s because he’s heard a prophecy about his death and he’s trying to escape his fate. Everyone else wants to find it for no apparent reason. We find out later why Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and the Spanish are looking for it but for Jack, it seems to just be something to do.

As for the fountain, for a secret supposedly taken to the grave by Ponce de Leon, a whole lot of people seem to know all about it. Not just it, but the rather complicated ritual you need to go through to drink from it. By the by, I’ve been to St. Augustine, Florida (PdL was supposedly the first European to set foot in Florida) so I know for a fact that Ponce died and is buried in Cuba and was not left to mummify in a ship perched up on a rock. But whatever, I’m willing to suspend belief a little.

Fun fact: Ponce de Leon wasn’t looking for the fountain of youth to give him long life…nope, he was more concerned about it curing his impotence (how is one supposed to rape and brutalize the natives if he can’t get it up, right?)

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5AqJww06bw]

The ritual requires a mermaid’s tear which requires capturing a mermaid which requires sacrificing a whole lot of minions since mermaids apparently cross-bred with vampires somewhere along the line. They’re hot and they sing but Ariel they most certainly are not. My mom was a little disappointed by the viciousness of the mermaids and I can see why. As the daughter of a sailor, I learned that mermaids are not unlike the sirens of Greek mythology. They hypnotize sailors with their beautiful singing and the entranced sailors would walk or dive off of the ship in order to get to them, unfortunately drowning in the process. Or the sailors are nabbed by mermaids who forget that humans can’t breathe underwater and accidentally drown them while trying to show them their sweet underwater digs. Personally, if the mermaids of my youth had been more like these gals, I would have pretended to be one more often. There was a certain degree of “girl power” to these half mermaid-half vampire ladies…at least until one actually got captured and needed to be rescued by a big strong man. Then the whole “girl power” message kind of went right out the window.

How would you like it if your date went from this...

...to this! yeesh...

Ah well…at least I still had a strong woman in Penelope Cruz. She can fight! She can seduce! She can command a ship! The only thing I didn’t really care for was her borderline creepy obsession with her Dad. Speaking of which…Ian McShane was solid as Blackbeard thanks to his icy eyes. I couldn’t buy into him being a master of black magic but I got a kick out of seeing him in a non-western setting. Geoffrey Rush could read the phone book and make it interesting. His frenemy relationship with Jack was in full swing. Sadly, the person who felt most out of place was Jack and I think it’s because they tried to force the character into Jack Shandy’s role in the book. Despite Johnny Depp’s best efforts, the two characters just don’t really mesh. I missed most of the crew members from the Black Pearl, although my favorite of them, Gibbs (Kevin McNally) was there. I was uber excited to see Keith Richards again as Jack’s Daddy but was sorely disappointed by his wooden performance. This is the guy that Depp based Jack’s zaniness on after all.

In the end, it was a fun and entertaining movie but not one that I necessarily need to see again.

2.5 out of 5 sci-fives

Sci Five 2.5