on 4 May 2014
This annual collection of the winners of the Writers and Illustrators of the Year contest includes 13 original stories by new SFF writers, 16 story-specific illustrations by 12 new SFF artists, 3 stories by established SFF authors, and several essays on different aspects of SFF writing and illustrating.
There are a few pervasive themes throughout these stories: the importance of conserving precious natural resources and animal life, the striving for personal redemption, and a sense of hope even in the darkest of futures. Whether this is a trend initiated by the writers or self-selected by the judges (probably both), it's resulted in an anthology of thought-provoking yet hopeful works.
In my opinion, the strongest of these stories are those by Megan E. O'Keefe, Shauna O'Meara, Amanda Forrest, and Randy Henderson - but make no mistake, there are no "duds" in this collection. I eagerly look forward to reading more SFF and seeing more fantastic artwork from this year's Writers and Illustrators of the Future.
CONTENTS and my brief description of each story:
"Another Range of Mountains", by Megan E. O'Keefe (illustration by Sarah Webb)
- An artist able to retrieve images from an object's reflection history races time to find a kidnapped little girl. (I found the visual, aural, and tactile imagery of this story entrancing.)
"Shifter", by Paul Eckheart (illustration by Michael Talbot)
- A member of a shapeshifting family, experiencing a very personal betrayal, finally finds a real meaning and purpose in life. (I didn't care much for this story at the beginning, but it really grew on me, and I quite liked it by the end.)
"Beneath the Surface of Two Kills", by Shauna O'Meara (illustration by Cassandre Bolan)
- An expert hunter faces the moral dilemma of upholding her professional reputation by killing an animal of a near-extinct species, or letting a cold-blooded murderer escape execution.
"Animal", by Terry Madden (illustration by Seonhee Lim)
- In a world where all non-human animals will soon be extinct, an animal preservationist risks one last act of desperation to save something of the treasure to which she has dedicated her life.
"Rainbows for Other Days", by C. Stuart Hardwick (illustration by Andrew Sonea)
- An android caretaker tries to nurture and help regenerate a devastated natural environment which has become hostile and poisonous to human life.
"Giants at the End of the World", by Leena Likitalo (illustration by Trevor Smith)
- A self-condemned wanderer finds redemption for killing his best friend by saving the life of a stranger - and thus perhaps saves a special non-human species as well.
"The Clouds in Her Eyes", by Liz Colter (illustration by Kirbi Fagan)
- A young woman learns that only she has the power to destroy her world in order to save and remake it.
"What Moves the Sun and Other Stars", by K.C. Norton (illustration by Kristie Kim)
- A sentient robot imprisoned with a multitude of other sentient mutants on a comet of Sartre-like never-ending hell is offered the opportunity to escape - but is the man his savior, or merely delusional?
"Long Jump", by Oleg Kazantsev (illustration by Adam Brewster)
- A researcher into the physics of space-jumping is selected as the next to trial the experimental system which killed the colleague with whom he'd traded places, years before.
"These Walls of Despair", by Anaea Lay (illustration by Bernardo Mota)
- An apprentice at emotion-inducing is given the tough assignment of concocting the emotional injection which may help save a woman on trial for her life.
"The Shaadi Exile", by Amanda Forrest (illustration by Vincent-Michael Coviello)
- A skilled artisan who has had great fortune in love and in life realizes that she has the power to help someone who has had neither.
"The Pushbike Legion", by Timothy Jordan (illustration by Cassandre Bolan)
- The earth's last survivors eke out life on a small bubble of land with diminishing resources, surrounded by a desert populated by mysterious aliens of whirling sand.
"Memories Bleed Beneath the Mask", by Randy Henderson (illustration by Vanessa Golitz)
- A young boy from the black sheep side of the family becomes the recipient of his wealthy grandfather's knowledge and prestigious profession, but he also gains an even more valuable inheritance - memories of his father, who died long ago, and an understanding of his unique destiny to change the world for the better.
(years indicate selections previously published elsewhere)
"Beyond All Weapons", story by L. Ron Hubbard (1950) (illustration by Adam Brewster)
- Would-be space colonists discover that the cost of choosing to pursue war over making a life for themselves is far more expensive than they imagined.
"Carousel", story by Orson Scott Card (2012) (illustration by Vincent-Michael Coviello)
- Bereaved family members realize that the resurrection and continued companionship of their dead loved ones is not the benevolent gift they expected.
"Robots Don't Cry", story by Mike Resnick (2003) (illustration by Andrew Sonea)
- Spacefaring junk dealers unearth and reactivate an antique robot, which they can sell for a high price - after granting it one wish.
"Introduction", essay by Dave Wolverton
"Artistic Presentation", essay by L. Ron Hubbard (1964, 1970)
"... And Now Thirty", essay by Robert Silverberg
"Synaptic Soup", essay by Val Lakey Lindahn
"A Word on the Art Direction", essay by Stephen Hickman
The stories themselves are good - and many are great. The world-building is superb, the writing polished. The characters are convincing, the premises captivating. At least half the stories deserve to be called 'excellent'.
The problem is the other stuff. Each story is prefaced by a lengthy tedious, often poorly written biography of the author. I'm not interested in an author's childhood and employment history until I've read their story. On top of that, there's a biography of the illustrator (equally lengthy and tedious) before each story. That's a lot of crap to wade through before you get to the good stuff.
Much of the book is taken up not by stories, but by advertising (New Writers! Order Now!), promotional texts and self-congratulatory articles extolling how great Writers of the Future everyone involved in the project is. Maybe it's just me, but it really put me off.
I don't think I'll buy another book in this series, though I may look for more fiction by some of the authors.
I received a free copy to review this book.