A few years ago, on a lark, I sent a short story of mine to the Writers of the Future contest. I wasn’t new to writing stories — I’d been screwing around with fiction on my own since I was a lad — but I was certainly new at trying to publish them. I knew nothing about how to do it. One night at a pub (The Old Toad in Rochester, NY), a more informed friend of mine told me about Ralan.com, a website that aggregates market information for speculative fiction stories, and poring over it the next day I found an entry for this Writers of the Future contest that had no entry fee but thousands of dollars in awards.
I was a little uncertain at first due to the contest’s association with L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology), but the tiniest bit of looking at the contest website revealed that it was judged by some of the greatest living writers of fantasy and science fiction. Hubbard’s interest in supporting young writers struck me as an issue entirely independent from any religious issues. And with that kind of prize money …
Well, for the cost of postage, I didn’t see much of a downside. So I sent in my story, a 14,000-word beastie that was eventually reviewed thus on Amazon (this still gives me goosebumps):
Michael Livingston provides what I thought was the best story of all in “The Keeper Alone.” In a story reminiscent of Robert Heinlein’s “Orphans of the Sky,” what happens when the sole keeper of a space ark saves someone whose pod has malfunctioned? It is stories such as these that keep me reading science fiction. . . . This book is worth purchasing. There are a few stories that I was less enthused about, but the winners in this book, particularly the last story, [“The Keeper Alone,”] will make you feel good about the purchase. — amazon.com
To say I was shocked to win would be an understatement. And I was even more shocked to find out I also got an all-expenses paid trip to a week-long workshop with those famous judges, culminating in a black-tie awards ceremony and book signing. (Most folks know these things, but I was writing in a total vacuum.) Our year the Big Event was held in Seattle, and it was an incredible experience.
It was also meticulously filmed. The contest folks had hired a video crew to follow us around, documenting the whole thing Survivor-style. Crazy.
That documentary — at last we get to the point of this post — is now on YouTube, along with a video of the “highlights” of the black-tie extravaganza itself. It’s an awesome walk down memory lane for me. The video is in three parts, with yours truly appearing first in the second one at around the 1:08 mark (though I show up a quite a bit for the rest of it).
Documentary Part 1:
Documentary Part 2:
Documentary Part 3:
Awards ceremony highlight reel:
Quite a walk down memory lane. And awesome to see so many old friends again via YouTube!