Exclusive Interview: “Writers Of The Future, Volume 40” Editor Jody Lynn Nye


There are a lot of anthologies ever year that claim to present the best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories.

But one book actually puts them to the test: the annual L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers Of The Future anthology, which presents the winners of the yearly Writers Of The Future contest. []

In the following email interview, Jody Lynn Nye, the editor of the newest installment, Writers Of The Future, Volume 40 (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), talks about what this series is all about, how the winners are chosen, and what went into this new installment.

Jody Lynn Nye Writers Of The Future Volume 40

For people unfamiliar with this series, what are the Writers Of The Future anthologies about, and what makes them different from other science fiction and fantasy short story anthologies that have the word “best” in their titles or somewhere on their covers?

The Writers Of The Future anthologies are collections of the stories written by the winners of the Writers Of The Future Contest in that year. It’s been running for forty years now. There is no set theme for any volume, except that every story is speculative fiction, whether fantasy, science fiction, or mild horror. The writers are the first, second, and third place winners from each quarter of the year, so twelve in all.

The difference between the Future anthologies and other “best of” collections is that the latter are usually gleaned from other anthologies or magazines from a specific publishing house, and the Future stories are judged from entries to the Contest. We get thousands every quarter, and the three winners are chosen from eight finalists that I pick out of that mass group. It’s a broader field.

Aside from being really good, are there any other parameters that the stories have to fit? Like is there a maximum or minimum word count?

They need to be spec-lit, and you would not believe the number we get that don’t have a speculative fiction element in them. No matter how good they are, if they don’t make that hurdle, I can’t consider them.

We accept word count all the way from flash fiction to 17,000 words.

Also, do all the writers have to be obviously influenced by L. Ron Hubbard? The full title of this series is L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers Of The Future, after all.

No, not at all. The stories just have to be good. Hubbard himself wrote in numerous genres. These collections reflect his versatility. No matter where you are coming from, and I love seeing diverse points of view, if you send me a great story, I’ll be thrilled to pass it along to the other judges.

Do the stories have to be exclusive to your anthology? Or can they also appear in other yearly “best of” collections?

If you mean, can they submit a previously published piece, no. We require an original story.

Winners also have to hold off publishing their story elsewhere until after the anthology comes out. After that, they retain all other rights. I hope they do sell them elsewhere and get the attention that they deserve. These are good stories!

So for Writers Of The Future, Volume 40, what subgenres of science fiction and fantasy are represented in this edition?

This is a great volume to show off the many subgenres that we receive. We have a cat story that’s also a virtual or enhanced reality story; a hard SF dystopia; a time-travel cum computer-mind-invasion story; a marooned astronaut; imaginary friends; an African ghost fantasy; one featuring a Native American boy, a terrifying mythological creature, and Teddy Roosevelt; and a humorous sci-fi story of a friendship between a human and an AI toaster. And if that doesn’t blow your mind, I don’t know what would.

As you said, all of the stories in Writers Of The Future, Volume 40 — like previous installments — are ones that won the Writers Of The Future Contest. But what are the parameters for entry in the contest? Do you have to be previously unpublished in a professional setting, is there an age restriction, what?

Anyone who has not published a novel or three short stories at professional rates can enter. Writers can send in a story every single quarter. Those end on December 31, March 31, June 30, and September 30. (The year is off kilter because we put the new anthology together in December.) Some people win on their first entry, and some are still submitting after ten, twenty, or thirty entries.

There is no age restriction. We have had a winner who was fifteen, and our grand prize winner in Volume 39 was in his late 60s. The rules are on the website and in the back of every volume of the anthology. Send me stories! I’m always looking for good tales. Blow my mind. Delight me. I’m open to all kinds of spec-lit. I want to see new takes on ideas. Don’t send me a rehash of a fairy tale. Find something new to say about it.

We do not accept the following: profanity, ethnic, religious, or racial slurs, on-screen sex, extreme violence, plagiarism — and my first readers are very well read — and anything written by AI. I am also unlikely to consider something set in someone else’s world, even if it’s in public domain.

Galen Westlake, Lance Robinson


Two of the winners with stories in Writers Of The Future, Volume 40 are Michael Kortes, whose story is presented under his pen name Galen Westlake, and Lance Robinson. What are their stories about?

I was really tickled and touched by Michael Kortes’ story, “Imagilisk.” I don’t want to give away too much, because the unfolding discovery the reader experiences is wonderful. The protagonist is an elderly man who is going into a senior residential facility, and he discovers a marvelous link to his past that exists only in that place. It’s delightful.

Lance Robinson’s story, “Five Days Until Sunset,” made me think of a plot by Isaac Asimov, in which humans make landfall in a settlement on a new planet that raises so many questions, and a mathematical puzzle that will determine whether that settlement will survive the ages.

Now, you have been involved with this series for a while. You had stories in Volume 34 [“Illusion”], Volume 36 [“The Phoenix Peace”], and Volume 37 [“The Phoenix’s War”]; became a judge in 2016 and a coordinating judge in 2022; and co-edited Volume 39 with Dean Wesley Smith. Did being a judge have any influence on how you edited Volume 40?

Not a huge amount. I’ve edited anthologies for decades. I’m the “& Associates” half of Bill Fawcett & Associates, my husband’s company. He is a book packager and editor with over 200 different books to his credit, both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve helped with thirty or so BF&A anthologies, plus three of my own. I have also taught writers’ workshops at numerous conventions since 1980, taught the Fantasy Writers’ Workshop at Columbia College Chicago, and have run the two-day Writers’ Workshop at Dragon Con since 2011. At Dragon Con, I edit and write critiques for short stories or book excerpts for twenty students per year. Being a judge didn’t change my perspective that much, except that this time, my “students” are all being published together in one volume. One of the fun things about working on an anthology is arranging the stories for maximum reader pleasure and impact.

And what did you learn from co-editing 39 with Dean that made editing Volume 40 on your own easier?

Dean has so much experience in the publishing field that I always learn something when I talk with him. I can’t think of just one thing, but I have enormous respect for him.

Hollywood loves adapting short stories into movies. Are there any stories in Writers Of The Future, Volume 40 that you think could work really well as movies, and, importantly, are stories Hollywood would actually consider making into a movie?

I think so. The best movies are made from short stories. When you try to adapt a book, you always have to leave out so much. A film can encompass a short story and get all of the details into it. I’d love to see some of these become movies. A couple of them might be a challenge, but they’d be worth the trouble.

Jody Lynn Nye Writers Of The Future Volume 40

Finally, if someone enjoys Writers Of The Future, Volume 40, which of the three volumes that you had stories in would you suggest they read while waiting for Writers Of The Future, Volume 41 to come out?

They should read all of them. There’s no difference in the amount of enjoyment readers will get from one or another of the volumes. They’re all good.

Okay, in that case, what if they wanted to base their decision on your stories?

Of my stories? Either “Illusion” [Volume 34] or “The Phoenix’s War” [Volume 37] “Illusion” is fun. It’s based on the cover painting by Ciruelo, one of the artist judges. I wrote about a master magician who has gotten out of his depth, and has to pull out every trick he knows to save his beloved kingdom. “The Phoenix’s War” was based upon the gorgeous cover painting by the brilliant Echo Chernik, the Coordinating Judge of the Illustrators of the Future.

But I love all of my children equally.


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