David Farland was an award-winning, international best-selling author with over 50 novels in print, and a tireless mentor and instructor of new writers. He built an audience with his "Daily Kick in the Pants" for writers, launched an editing service with MyStoryDoctor.com, created the Apex writing group, and he was one of the Founders of Superstars Writing Seminars (with Kevin J. Anderson, Brandon Sanderson, Eric Flint, James Artimus Owen, and Rebecca Moesta).

As a writing instructor, Farland mentored dozens who have gone on to staggering literary success, including such #1 New York Times Bestsellers as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner), and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).

For many years he was the coordinating judge for L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest, perhaps the largest worldwide writing competition for new fantasy and science fiction authors, and he worked in Hollywood greenlighting movies and doctoring scripts.

In his own fiction, he won the Philip K. Dick Award for his first novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and the International Book Award for his fantasy thriller Nightingale. He is best known, however, for his New York Times best-selling fantasy series The Runelords, and his Star Wars novel, The Courtship of Princess Leia.

David Farland passed away in January 2022. WordFire Press is pleased to bring back into print this profoundly important and seminal book on writing.

Writers of the Future Volume 34 edited by David Farland

Let your imagination run wild.

24 Award-Winning Authors and Illustrators

Your search for something new and different in sci-fi and fantasy ends here.

Presenting this year's collection of fresh voices, fabulous worlds, and fantastic new characters.

Each year, the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests' blue-ribbon judges search the world to discover and introduce to you the very best new talent in sci-fi and fantasy.

Created byL. Ron Hubbard, whose commitment to help new writers and artists gave rise to the annual Writers of the Future anthologies—a launching pad for writers and artists who are sure to command our attention for decades to come.

Bonus Tips for Writers: Learn how to write or improve your craft with tips from award-winning and bestselling authors Orson Scott Card, Jerry Pournelle, and L. Ron Hubbard. Internationally renowned artist, Ciruelo, shares tips of the trade for aspiring illustrators.

Bonus Short Stories: In addition to this year's diverse winning entries, there are three stories from bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson, Jody Lynn Nye, and L. Ron Hubbard.



  • "Expertly crafted and edited stories and art, running the gamut from humorous to bone-chilling. Speculative fiction is interspersed with essays on the crafts of writing and illustrations from the field's luminaries. Each piece of art embraces the story it accompanies to create a harmonious whole. This inspired, well-rounded anthology has a little something for everyone."

    – Publishers Weekly Starred Review
  • "Fresh voices, fabulous worlds, and fantastic new characters. A 'must read' for all dedicated science fiction and fantasy fans."

    – Midwest Book Review
  • "A wide variety of moods and themes."

    – Tangent Online
  • "All of these stories were well-written."

    – Elitist Book Review




by Dave Farland

As you may know, the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests are the world's largest talent hunt for new authors and illustrators. We receive thousands of submissions of short stories and artwork each quarter from all over the globe, and our judges handpick the very best works which are collected and published in this volume. Every year the Contests continue to grow, and this year they were larger than ever.

You've seen competitions like this in other fields: The Voice for singers, or The World of Dance for dancers. Both of those shows lend themselves well to television. But this global talent hunt is showcased here in these pages. You can read our winning stories in the anthology or see the gorgeous art for each story on the art plates that follow this article.

As the first reader for the writers Contest, I get to look at thousands of stories each year in search of the best new writers of speculative fiction in the world, and I think we have a tremendous lineup this year.

A lot of authors are curious about the selection process, and I thought I would talk about it just a bit.

When I look for stories, I don't get to see the authors' names. I don't know where the story was sent from, and I have no idea of the gender or age or color of the writer. Frankly, I don't care. I get to judge the stories on quality alone.

So I search for science fiction, fantasy, and speculative horror stories that fit our guidelines. The short stories can't be too long—no more than about seventy pages—nor can they be too short. It would be difficult to write a story that was very short and still have it be powerful and convincingly brilliant, so most of our stories here fall between 5,000 and 17,000 words long.

As a writer, I've written a lot of science fiction and fantasy, so I don't care which genre of stories you enter, so long as they are speculative fiction. Nor do I care what sex or nationality the characters are.

I do, however, look for commercial fiction—stories that could be sold in an anthology that goes in some cases to elementary schools. For that reason, extreme violence, sexual content, and profanity can be problematic.

I base my judgment of the story on three elements.

First, I look for a fresh and original concept. I want to see ideas in the story that I haven't seen done a thousand times. I love seeing concepts that are new, or that are at least twisted into some new form that I haven't read before.

Second, I study the storytelling skill of the author. I'm looking for intriguing characters that I care about deeply. I ask myself, does the author plot well? Does he or she put in intriguing twists and turns? Are the scenes developed well, and does the climax and the ending of the story work?

Third, I'm looking for stories that show strong writing skills on a verbal level, where the prose is electric and stylistically elegant.

When I find a story that scores high in all three of these categories, I know that I have a potential winner.

But I won't know what my lineup is until I see all of the stories. It's a process of elimination. So I read through the stories and make multiple passes, searching for the best each quarter. Some stories get rejected pretty quickly. Either the idea has been overdone or the content of the story is offensive or perhaps stylistically the writer just doesn't intrigue me.

But if everything looks great, then I put the stories into my "hold" file, for deeper study. This often means that I have to read the whole story to see if the plot holds together and it reaches a great conclusion.

Normally, I will find three or four dozen stories that I like, and then I have to consider each one again, deciding which of those tales will be categorized with finalists, semi-finalists, silver honorable mentions, and honorable mentions.

A lot of authors ask, "What does it take to win an honorable mention?" Here is what it means: Very often I will see a story where the author shows some promise. Sometimes the author has a great style, or an excellent concept, or maybe crafts scenes well. In short, if you win an honorable mention, I see something that I like in your work, and I want you to keep writing. But I have to admit that some of the honorable mentions are exceptionally well done and are just a hair's breadth from being finalists.

A silver honorable mention is usually a very good story that is pretty much publishable, though it might be that the author needs to go through and do a final pass or a bit of rewriting.

With semi-finalist stories, I offer critiques so that the author can find out what needs to be done to be publishable.

And, of course, there are the finalists—the eight stories that go on to our blue-ribbon panel of judges each quarter, so that they can select our first, second, and third place winners.

As I'm judging the stories, our Illustrators of the Future Contest Coordinating Judge, Echo Chernik, looks at the art submissions each quarter and then sends her finalist selections on to the illustrator judges so that they can pick the three winners.

Those art Contest winners are each assigned a prize-winning story to illustrate, so that we get a great artist matched with each writing Contest winner. You can see these commissioned pieces in this book.

Ultimately, as I put the anthology together, I am hoping that I can find diverse types of stories. I want to have strong fantasy pieces, whether they be medieval, contemporary, magical realism, or so on. I also want strong science fiction, whether set on Earth, in space, or on other worlds. I want some creepy horror in the anthology, and I am always searching for top-notch humor.

This year, I'm happy to say that our authors and artists really delivered some exceptional work! So go ahead and dive in. Their artistry will take you to distant worlds in the far future or will explore original fantasy landscapes. You'll find authors who know how to tell a powerful story and write exquisitely. And hopefully we will help you discover one of your new favorite artists of all time!