Review: Writers of the Future, Volume 35

Posted: December 20, 2019 by in Books that are Mediocre (2.6/5 single_star) Meta: David Farland (Ed), Fantasy, Science Fiction, Anthology, Short Fiction

So I’m a little behind in getting to this anthology this year. Can’t say that I really have a good excuse for that. Just sat on my shelf for way too long, and then I noticed it a few weeks ago and decided that I had better stop passing it by in favor of other reads. Regardless of my overall impression of the stories this annual anthology contains, I always find it an informative read and well worth the time I put into it. Although, I admit, I have some strictly selfish reasons for feeling that way: I’m still trying to craft a winning entry. 🙂

The anthology included 12 stories this year. No Published Finalists. There were also a couple essays and a couple stories by those associated with the contest, and then the art for each of the winners. For me though, the important part was the stories. Want to know what I thought? Figured so.

WRITERS OF THE FUTURE, VOL 35 (Amazon) is the latest publication from the quarterly, international contest that has it’s origins in the L. Ron Hubbard estate. The anthology was release in April of this year, and contains the top three winners from each quarter of the contest ending in 2018. On the whole, I had a decidedly less positive impression of the stories this year. Overall, my rating didn’t change much from the one I gave last year’s anthology though. If I had rated each of the stories individually according to our normal scale, I’d have ranked them as thus:

  • Books We Love: 1
  • Books We Like: 1
  • Books We Like and Hate: 2
  • Books that are Mediocre: 3
  • Books We Don’t Like: 5

Here’s a little bit about each of the four stories that I enjoyed the most out of the anthology.

Dirt Road Magic by Carrie Callahan: A boy that has a knack for magical ability that lives in a trailer with his mother, deals with her over-protectiveness and the guy living in the double-wide that wants to teach him the magical trade. This one was easy to fall into, and engaging in a very fun sort of way. Good writing. Nice sense of place. Well-defined characters. And then it just ends. As odd as that seems, it’s an issue that plagues a fair number of the stories that end up winning these contests. If it had had an ending, I’d have enjoyed it quite a bit more than I did. (Author’s Website)

The Damned Voyage by John Haas: A man is chasing an undestroyable book that has the power to call Cthulhu back into the world of the living. After reading some of the words contained in the book several years ago, he became The Ripper of Whitechapel (a name well-known from history), but he is now trying to retrieve the book after it was stolen from him. This story finds him on a boat, and along the way he has to kill several people to keep himself a secret from the crew. Good, atmospheric writing, but some of the creepiness is lost as the end approaches and the action ramps up. Again, there really wasn’t an ending to this story that felt satisfying to me. However, it was an ending of sorts. Unlike the previous story. So, I feel as if I can only complain so much. The art for this story, by , was also really good. One of my favorites of the Illustrator winners. (Author’s Website)

Thanatos Drive by Andrew Dykstal: A man chasing a doctor in a post-apocalyptic world joins up with a woman that wants the doctor to help her, whereas the man just wants to kill him. They are both wary about what the doctor is doing. This story contains elements of Artificial Intelligence, although as wrought from an interesting source. Pretty good writing, but really sparse when describing things of note. There were frequent times that I had difficulty understanding just exactly what was happening. Really liked the setting the author laid out and the characterization was on point, but the sparse writing made it difficult to really enjoy. This story was the winner of the Grand Prize for the year. (No Website)

And then there was this one.

The stories this year were a little less spectactular than what I usually find in these anthologies, but there was one that knocked it out of the park.

Release from Service by Rustin Lovewell: An apprentice to a highly important creed of assassins is brought by his master to a city to kill a target. Once there, his master identifies the apprentice of another of these prominent assassins with whom the POV has some history. Only seven of these master assassins exist, but now there are six. Before sending the boy to kill the other apprentice, he is sent to find out why she has killed her own master instead of fulfilling their contract. Things were pretty good with this one until I got to the flashback that started: “Nine years ago…”. Eye roll. Groan. I’m sorry, but stories that do that, especially stories from newbie authors, just don’t end up well. And yet. MAN, was this a great story. Yes, even the flashbacks. Especially the flashbacks. Because they actually had a point and were important to the story. Great world-building. Great character. Layered information that builds and then reveals the character impact, multiple times over, was laid out to storytelling perfection. My immediate question after reading this story was, “Why in the world didn’t this story win the Grand Prize?” Yeesh. It didn’t even win 1st place for the quarter. From my perspective, this story stood head-and-shoulders above any of the others included in the anthology. It was absolutely brilliant.

So, Mr. Lovewell. I hear you’re working on a novel. When you’re done with it? Send it my way. Please. Based on this sole experience, you now have a permanent invitation to send any story you write my way, and I’ll read the thing. Published or not. No questions asked. (Author’s Website)

So there you are. Another year from Writers of the Future. Anyone else read the anthology? What were your favorites? And more importantly, are you planning on entering the contest next quarter? Because you should.

  • Recommended Age: 14+
  • Language: Minor stuff and only a handful of instances at that.
  • Violence: Pretty mild, but for two stories that include intimate killings and references to exsanguination
  • Sex: Some sexual tension and implied relations

Usually somewhere within these reviews, I give a plug for the contest from which the anthology is collected. This might be the second… or third plug I’m giving on this page. 🙂 Seriously though. Writers of the Future is easily one of the best and most prestigious contests out there for new and/or relatively unpublished authors (3 professional sales makes you ineligible to enter the contest).

Ranking in the top three stories for each round of the contest, which runs every three months, banks you a spot in this annual anthology, provides a payment of professional market rate per word, and enrolls you in a free week-long writers conference with a stacked deck of published authors and people in the know.

If you’re trying to get published, and you understand the value of learning how to write a great short story, I’d have a difficult time coming up with a more important contest for you to be entering. It’s just that good.


  • Lu says:

    An excellent review! Like you, I love to struggle with anthologies. There’s just no way every story will appeal to me, but when I find the one that awes me? Yeah, it makes the effort justified.

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