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Writers of the Future II
By Scott Nicholson

Winning the Hubbard Gold Award was a real "feather in my cap." I'm the stunned one in the middle between Fredrick Pohl and Doug Beason.

A new Hubbard Gold Award winner has been crowned, and I'm no longer reigning king of the international Writers of the Future contest.

Boo hoo and hooray.

Okay, lest I sound like an ungrateful wretch, let me say that the Writers of the Future contest had a more significant impact on my writing career than anything else that's taken place beyond the strange circuitry of my word processor. For those of you who haven't heard of the Writers of the Future, here's a summary: you, along with several thousand other wannabees, enter your story in the contest; the contest administrators take your name from the cover sheet so that the stories are judged blindly; big-name science fiction and fantasy writers score the stories; you wait for the postcard to come back telling you you're NOT a winner.

Except four lucky people every year get the call; you are a first place winner in your quarter. Such a call arose from my telephone like genie smoke in 1998, the same year I was a published finalist in the contest. I went to Hollywood yet again for another week-long workshop followed by a glamorous awards ceremony. Only this time, I might be one of the four who would have his name called, would hoist a Lucite obelisk overhead, would grin and make an inscrutably joyful acceptance speech, would clutch to his or her breast a check for an additional $4,000.

Naturally, that winner would not be me. I had convinced myself that my chances were much less than one in four, especially after I learned of the literistic genius of my competition. Still, hope springs eternal, and so does greed. I'd written what I thought was, if not a truly good story, at least one that was the best I could do at the time. The moment came. My name was called, the taped fanfare played, hugs and handshakes were given, cryptic statements spilled from my mouth at the podium.

And while the big-name writers nodded at the amplified promises of yet another of the grand prize winners to work hard and get published and be famous, perhaps one or two eyed me speculatively and wondered if one day I'd be competing with them for rack space. A couple agreed to give me cover blurbs for my story collection. But most rapidly forgot me, consigned me to that long stream of previous winners, many of whom have never written another decent story

I came home from Hollywood, elated that I had fulfilled one of my goals. With persistence, I might achieve more of my goals. I didn't expect that the phone would ring and some agent would say, "Hey, I heard about your award..." And my expectations were accurate. Besides the writers who try for it and a small handful of people who think awards are the measure of having done something, the two trophies sitting beside the TV don't really have a lot of luster in the true arena: the one where new sentences must be made and new stories cobbled together.
<<what it's all about: me, Amy Sterling Casil, and Ron Collins in LA
I got some good publicity from winning the contest, some people thought I was famous, I went on a semi-successful signing tour (let's not mention that factory town in east Tennessee), and I had enough money to buy a computer and start a retirement fund. The mayor sent me a congratulatory note.
A local NBC affiliate interviewed me on their late news. All well and good, fine and dandy, the cat's knees and the bee's pajamas.

Good luck to Gary Murphy, the new Hubbard Gold winner. Want some advice, Gary? Spend the money wisely and don't quit your day job. Write and sell a story as good or better than your winning one. Write another story. Keep on until no one mentions the award again.

It was great being a Writer of the Future. But I look around and, to me, it looks as if the future is here. And has been all along.

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