I realized a while ago that I need to branch out in terms of my reading habits. I mostly read Christian fiction, and mostly speculative Christian fiction at that. But there's a lot of other stuff out there, so I decided that I would try to broaden my horizons. To do so, I picked up a copy of L. Ron Hubbard presents Writers of the Future Vol. XXIII. And even though Hubbard's name is in big bold print on the cover, I didn't make the connection with Scientology until I started reading it.
That doesn't mean that there's talk of Xenu or engrams or Tom Cruise in this book. Instead, it's a collection of short stories from a contest entitled (oddly enough) "L. Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Contest." According to the rules in the back of the book, entrants cannot have published a novel, book, novella, or more than three short stories professionally.
By and large, these were great stories. Very creative, well written. There were a few that didn't quite do it for me. For example, "The Stone Cipher" by Tony Pi irritated me. He had a dynamite premise: all over the world, statues are "speaking." Their lips are moving at a glacial rate. What are they trying to tell us? The problem is that the main character makes several leaps in logic that, as far as I was concerned, weren't warranted, leaps that Pi then treated as gospel truth.
"The Phlogiston Age" by Corey Brown was another that just didn't do it for me. I think it was a steam punk story of sorts, but it just kind of fell flat.
But there were some great stories in this collection. I would eagerly recommend "The Sun God at Dawn, Rising from a Lotus Blossom" by Andrea Kail. Let me hit you with the premise: King Tut writes letters to Abraham Lincoln. Bizarre, right? But Kail pulls it off and has a pretty decent twist at the end.
Also memorable was "Obsidian Shards" by Aliette de Bodard, a story set in Mayan times (I think. Admittedly, Central American history is not one of my fortes). It's a murder mystery that was really well done.
But all of the entries in this book are worth your time, even the ones that didn't quite work out for me. Needless to say, I'll be adding some names to my list of authors to watch.