Sunday, April 17, 2016

Passing the Baton...After A Fashion

This past week, the winners of Pocket Books’ all-new, rebooted Star Trek: Strange New Worlds writing contest were announced. The contest was open to “non-professional” writers—those who hadn’t sold more than two stories to qualifying markets at paid professional rates—hoping for the chance to sell their Star Trek tales for an all-new anthology to be published later this year.

After sifting through who knows how many submissions, the editors at Pocket Books selected ten stories to be published in the forthcoming anthology. As fate would have it, I knew two of the winners. They’d each won berths in previous editions of the anthology, but hadn’t rendered themselves ineligible to enter this new version of the contest.

It was exciting to see the contest revived, and to see a new crop of winners announced. When the first version of the contest was originally was conceived back in 1997, there was nothing else like Strange New Worlds. It was the only writing contest for a licensed property where the entrants had an opportunity to be make a professional short story sale. That version of the contest ran for ten years, granting the wishes of dozens of hopeful Star Trek fans and even launching several writing careers.

One of those beneficiaries is the guy whose blog entry you’re reading right now. I sold stories to Pocket Books for each of the competition’s first three years, after which I was no longer eligible to enter future contests. Now I write Star Trek novels on a pretty regular basis, so all those teachers who mocked me for reading Star Trek novels during my free time in school? Nyah, nyah, nyah.

That didn’t mean I stopped paying attention, though. I followed along each year as the anthology’s editor, veteran writer Dean Wesley Smith, offered updates. I was one of the program’s biggest cheerleaders, encouraging people to send in their own Star Trek stories, and I celebrated along with everyone else when each year’s new group of winners was announced. I made several friends thanks to the contest, and we keep in touch to this day.

Everything I’ve accomplished as a professional writer links back to that first contest sale. When it was announced that there would be no more contests, I was as sad as anyone to see it go. Strange New Worlds was a wonderful way for fans to get in on the fun of playing in the Star Trek sandbox, so I was thrilled when I heard last fall that the contest was being revived just in time for Star Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016.

So, here we are, nearly two decades since that first competition, and I feel a little like Father Time watching as Baby New Year takes the stage. The contest is back, and we have a “next generation” of Strange New Worlds winners. Are any of the ten people who sold a story taking their first steps toward their own writing career? Could be. Maybe one or two of them will even sell a Star Trek novel to Pocket, one day. Weirder things have happened, you know.

(You can’t see me, but right now I’m pointing my thumbs at myself.)

Personally, I’m rooting for all ten of them.


Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, I really think such contests are both exciting and beneficial to new writers. I've seen some good stuff come out of them too.

KeVin K. said...

The first time I "met" Dayton it was in an AOL community for Star Trek writing hopefuls. When he won his second SNW I made some joke about him getting special consideration since he was admin on the community. He didn't know me well enough then to recognize the joke, so I had to mend that fence.

Dayton's early run in SNW was the stuff of legend. The trophy for writers who sell three short stories to the anthology (thus disqualifying themselves from further contests) is called the Wardy.

I, too, made my first sale to this contest, and think legitimate contests (as opposed to ones you have to pay to enter with the prize being "exposure" or a chance to talk to a real agent) are a boon to beginning writers.

(Btw, Dayton, thanks for burning my topic for this month's column. Now I'll have to think and I'm really not very good at that.)

J.R. Frontera said...

That's just really cool ... both how you ended up where you are now and that they revived the contest! I hope they'll keep it running again for a long while!

Btw ... speaking of Star Trek's 50th Anniversary ... just so happens I've been put on a panel at ConQuest KC about that very thing! Yowza! Talk about pressure, lol.

Liane Spicer said...

That is awesome, Wardy. A legend walks among us! And definitely lots of nyahs to those silly teachers. :D