I was privileged to receive an advanced reading copy of WOTF 31, the annual anthology for the best literary contest in the country. These anthologies are a joy to read each year, and each year I find myself marveling over the wonderful stories, re-reading various passages and generally feeling grateful to see there are so many diverse and talented writers out there.
The first story, Switch by Steve Pantazis, is a fascinating, cautionary tale where the future includes Mindnet, or “Internet of the Mind” made possible by a temporal lobe implant that connects people to banks, retailers, social networks and everything else. Enter into this world a new drug called “Switch” and a cop investigating a homicide, and you’ll discover firsthand why The Writers of the Future contest is acclaimed for discovering new talent. Author Pantazis has written a first-rate science fiction thriller.
The God Whisperer by Daniel J. Davis is a satirical and humorous play on those misbehaving pets we all have. In this case, Jack is troubled by Zu’ar, a pint sized war god. He calls in a “God Whisperer” to straighten things out. The God Whisperer is a fun, short tale. Next was Stars That Make Dark Heaven Light by Sharon Joss. This outstanding tale is about Ettie on Hesperide with cartilage instead of bones which necessitates that she spends at least six hours of day in sunlight. When she learns that lapid, the small alien insect sized creature she is raising, can communicate with her the results will leave you flipping the pages. Another great science fiction tale and typical of the high quality this anthology offers.
In A Revolutionary’s Guide to Practical Conjuration by Auston Habershaw we meet Abe who negotiates possession of a sorcery book from a black marketer, he gets more than he bargained for. A gritty but fun tale. Twelve Minutes to Vinh Quang by Tim Napper a taut, short thriller wherein a smuggler is nearly caught by the sloppy handiwork of an associate. Another hardboiled story that immediately held my attention. In Planar Ghosts by Krystal Claxton you will ask yourself is the ghost real? In this futuristic tale Pup travels with Ghost who is “see-through in places and seems to glow without casting any light or shadow. She is a faint purple, like butterflybush blossoms, and her long hair floats about her as though she is always being caught in the beginning of a breeze.” (p. 195) A great story, and one of the several stand-out tales included here.
Between Screens by Zach Chapman is a tight and compelling piece about some students and the world they live in, while Unrefined by Martin L. Shoemaker is a traditional tale that tackles the idea of responsibility in leadership. Both Between Screens and Unrefined are a study in contrasts. Their uniqueness and differences in their approach to storytelling are yet another reason why I enjoy this anthology every year. Half Past by Samantha Murray is stylistically far removed from the hardcore science fiction that precedes it. This refreshing, magical tale is beautifully written and thought-provoking, which the best stories always are. Then we have Purposes Made for Alien Minds by Scott R. Parkin, another edgy sci-fi story that is the hallmark of the WOTF series. That brings us to The Graver by Amy M. Hughes, an emotionally charged fantasy that holds its own against so many stalwart tales; and then Wisteria Melancholy by Michael T. Banker, a finely wrought exploration of human nature.
Poseidon’s Eyes by Kary English is the final story, and another great one. The WOTF anthologies are now published in trade paperback with color plates of the award winning illustrations. The illustrations will leave you breathless. This year the winning illustrators are Alex Brock, Amit Dutta, Megan Kelchner, Tung Chi Lee, Shuangjian Liu, Michelle Lockamy, Bernardo Mota, Megen Nelson, Greg Opalinski, Taylor Payton, Quinlan Septer, Emily Siu, Trevor Smith, Daniel Tyka and Choong Yoon. Included are several stories by such veteran writers as L. Ron Hubbard, Larry Niven, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta. Add to this mix of great stories some insightful essays on the creative process by Hubbard, Orson Scott Card and Bob Eggleton and WOTF 31 will keep you reading late into the night. This year the book was edited by David Farland.