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.
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.
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:
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BL9_7szTMLE] – June Scobee Rodgers, widow of Challenger Astronaut Dick Scobee:
[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:
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOJqORDz3Lg] – Robert J. Sawyer, author of Flash Forward:
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRST4raF_SQ] – And Kevin J. Anderson, author of Dune and X-Files fiction:
[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. 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 Golden Brush Award: Trevor Smith 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. All in all it was a delightful evening and anything that helps writers get their foot in the door is a good thing.