L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future

Nov 7, 2017
Doing some research and trying to get a grip on this contest. Is it still considered legitimate? I've found videos from 5-6 years ago where authors claim that it (then) helped their careers. Their anthology is still a SFWA qualifier. But on the other hand, there are some ominous articles out there about their connections to Scientology. And when I checked the Amazon page for their latest anthology, Anne McCaffrey is listed as a judge, though she hasn't been with us these past seven years. Any constructive input much appreciated (and please no blanket anti-religious responses; I'm an atheist myself but to each her own). Thanks!

PS searched but didn't find any similar threads on Chrons. Apologies if this is a tired trope :)
I'll let you decide what you think from this information, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The original sponsor of the contest was Bridge Publications, Inc., the publishing arm of the Church of Scientology. Prior to the 2004 contest, the sponsorship moved to Author Services Inc. under the trade name Galaxy Press, which was spun off from Bridge to publish Hubbard's fiction and the contest anthologies.

The contest has also been characterized as a promotional vehicle for Hubbard himself, who returned to science fiction writing with Battlefield Earth at about the same time as he began the contest. On the covers of the annual WOTF anthologies, Hubbard's name appears "above the title", and in at least as prominent a font. The prominence of Hubbard's name and the lavish funding of the contest awards, publicity and ceremonies have led some to speculate that the contest is part of a campaign by the Church of Scientology to promote Hubbard's status in the science fiction and literary communities.

Entering or winning the contest does not require or imply endorsement or membership in the Church of Scientology, and the contest itself has been endorsed by a wide range of well-known speculative fiction writers (see Judges and Winners above) who have no relationship to Scientology.

According to Director of the Writers and Illustrators Contests Joni Labaqui, the funds to underwrite the contest—including the cash prizes, the gala awards ceremony and the weeklong pre-awards festivities—come from the Hubbard estate. The Hubbard estate is separate from the Church of Scientology and earns royalties from sales of Hubbard's books, including his fiction. Labaqui also reports that staff of Author Services Inc. is entirely made up of Scientologists.

So, there is some connection to Scientology, and the contest certainly gives the name of the late L. Ron Hubbard a lot of publicity, but you don't have to agree with that religion or admire that person to enter the contest, which, other than the association noted above, seems entirely legitimate.
A friend of mine was a finalist and she said it was a really great experience. It put her in contact with some established SFF authors (I think they might have been the judges) who gave good advice and I guess the award ceremony is really cool.
Have you read any of the books? I recommend doing so - you'll see the quality of the stories. Two of my favourites are Stars That Make Dark Heaven Light by Sharon Joss and Switch by Steve Pantazis - both from issue 31. Many recent WotF authors continue to be published in other top SFWA markets. It's still considered one of the best launching pads for new writers.

The current judges are some of the top names in the science fiction and fantasy field - and I don't know how many (if any) are Scientologists. The slush-pile reader (and also million-selling-author), David Farland, is mormon - it's not like you have to be a Scientologist to be a judge or anything. There's no entry fee, and a great prize. One of my aims in the next year is to get an Honorable Mention, and then hopefully the next step...

The Illustrators of the Future contest runs alongside it too - and again features some excellent artists.

So yes, legitimate in my book!
I entered it once, years ago, and got an Hon Mention, which I now always mention when querying. Don't know whether it helps me or not!
To a certain extent it depends on why you enter. In my case I used the quarterly competitions as aim points for getting individual chapters of my novel drafted. And yes the novel got written. Along the way I collected Honourable Mentions for eight out of the nine chapters I entered. Yes, I know chapters are not short stories, which is where I would lost some marks. In all my dealings with them, I have never had any reason to complain and there was certainly no mention of scientology. My advice, if you think it's going help your writing in whatever way, then enter.
Thanks for all the feedback folks. Between what you write here and other research, have gathered that it is still definitely worth entering. Next deadline is March 31 and I'm planning to send one in before then. Cheers!
It's your call, and I don't want to preach here, but just the name of Hubbard alone sounds alarm bells to me. Even if there is no longer any technical or legal connection to Scientology, why is this contest named for him, an otherwise mediocre writer, when that cult is by far his largest claim to fame (or notoriety)? I'm not suggesting conspiracy or deception (not that it would surprise me) but I am suggesting a character like Hubbard is the last person who warrants or deserves a literary competition in his "honour", and on principle alone I, personally, wouldn't go within a lightyear of it. This contest contributes to the name and posthumous reputation of Hubbard, which effectively contributes to the name of Scientology.
There are hundreds of competitions a year, and loads of ways to gain exposure and network. A contest named after that guy shouldn't be one of them. I would find another contest.
Anyone thinking of entering should read the thoughts of some finalists and winners, who have recently spoken about experiences with the contest:

Matt Dovey on Twitter
Rachael K. Jones on Twitter

I stand by my original response about it being legitimate - the quality of the final product does that for me, and for new writers especially, I think it's an excellent prize. But have a good read through the Twitter threads.
Even if there is no longer any technical or legal connection to Scientology, why is this contest named for him, an otherwise mediocre writer, when that cult is by far his largest claim to fame (or notoriety)?
Possibly for the same reason there is an Arthur C. Clarke award - because they each endowed their respective awards into existence?
Possibly for the same reason there is an Arthur C. Clarke award - because they each endowed their respective awards into existence?
I understand that, my question was rhetorical. I wouldn't mind contributing in any small way to the reputation of Arthur C. Clarke. You couldn't pay me enough to help prop up the reputation of someone like Hubbard, for reasons of principle that I HOPE are self-explanatory (for anyone who knows anything about him or Scientology).
I have nothing else to say on this issue.
I suppose it just comes down to whether any individual author's participation in the LRH contest actually does anything to change public perception of Hubbard. I kind of doubt it, and would not hold participation in the contest against any author looking to promote their writing.

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