Sci-fi writers, illustrators honored at annual gala

HOLLYWOOD — Andrew Dykstal, a writer from Arlington, Virginia, has been named the grand-prize winner of the 35th annual Writers of the Future Contest.

Aliya Chen, an illustrator from Fair Oaks, California, was named the grand-prize winner of the 30th annual Illustrators of the Future L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards for Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests in the genres of science fiction and fantasy.

The awards were handed out at the Taglyan Cultural Complex April 5 before a capacity crowd of 400. Presented by Author Services Inc. and Galaxy Press, the theme for the two-hour awards show was Retro Robotics.

John Goodwin, president of Galaxy Press, said: “This year marks a historic milestone in our contests with simultaneous benchmark anniversaries, the 35th anniversary of our Writer’s Contest and, at the same time, the 30th anniversary of our Illustrators Contest.  

“This year was also groundbreaking for another reason, in that Aliya Chen made history becoming our first Chinese grand prize winner ever selected in either of our competitions.”

Dykstal, the winner of the Writer’s Award, said: “This is absolutely fantastic. I feel that my career as a writer has now been catapulted. It’s a tremendous honor to be here. The quality of the stories of my fellow writers in this contest is amazing. I have made new friends for life.”

Chen said: “I didn’t expect this at all. I’m overwhelmed and very grateful. Winning this grand prize award is validation for me that illustration, which is a passion for me, doesn’t have to be limited to a hobby, but it’s definitely possible as a career. I also feel God has opened these doors for me.”

Dykstal and Chen both received checks for $5,000 for winning the grand prizes.

The awards show was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Taglyan Cultural Complex. The evening began with hor d’oeuvres and cocktails, followed by a four-course meal and the awards show, which was followed by a book signing and reception in the foyer.

In his keynote address, Ed Hulse, an award-winning journalist and historian, talked about the golden age of science fiction and post World War II, with a veritable explosion in pulp magazines.

“The golden age of science fiction isn’t a relic of the past,” he said. “It has seeped into our popular culture in myriad ways. The Galactic Empires of Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series were foremost in the mind of George Lucas when he conceived ‘Star Wars’ and Doc Smith’s ‘Lensmen’ were among the influences of his Jedi knights.

“In the first film’s famous bar scene, he even lifted a sequence from L. Ron Hubbard’s story ‘The Kingslayer’virtually word for word. Van Vogt’s mutant ‘Slans’ were forerunners of Marvel’s ‘X-Men.’Countless popular motion pictures and television shows have adapted classic golden age pulp yarns, officially and unofficially.”

Speaking to the writers who were honored at the event, Hulse said: “These storytellers all contributed mightily to the evolution of science fiction. And now you’re part of that evolution. You represent a new generation of writers, alternately building upon and superseding literary traditions now more than a century old.  

“Yours are the ideas and concepts that will shape science fiction for years to come. I look forward to seeing how you’ll respond to the challenge of making science fiction relevant to the readers of tomorrow.”

Joni Labaqui, director of contests for Author Services Inc., presented the L. Ron Hubbard Lifetime Achievement Award to Bob Eggleton, a founding judge of the Illustrators of the Future Contest, and a winner of many literary awards, including nine Hugo Awards and 11 Chelsey Awards.

The 12 quarterly award winners of the writing and illustration contests each received cash prizes and trophies.

Writing award winners included Kyle Kirrin of Creede, Colorado; Preston Dennett of Reseda; Kai Wolden of Eden Prairie, Minnesota; David Cleden of Fleet, England; Rustin Lovewell of Gaithersburg, Maryland; Carrie Callahan of Bardstown, Kentucky; Elise Stephens of Seattle; Christopher Baker of Ramsbury, England; Mica Scott Kole of Westland, Michigan; Wulf Moon of Sequim, Washington; and John Haas of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Illustrating contest included Emerson Rabbitt of Minneapolis; Vytautas Vasiliauskas of Paris, France; Yinying Jiang of Oxford, England; Alexander Gustafson of Essex Junction, Vermont; Christine Rhee of San Francisco; Sam Kemp of Birmingham, England, Allen Morris of Cleveland, Mississippi; Jennifer Ober of Atlanta; Josh Pemberton of Seattle; Qianjiao Ma of Arcadia; and Alice Wang of Bellevue, Washington.