No, he does not have to join the Scientologists to be honored, Sottong said by phone today.
"They do try and create a firewall between the contest and Scientology," he said. Whew.
It is, in fact, a most prestigious contest, he said, that has made some people's careers. The ceremony draws bigshots, according to a news release shot out today announcing the ceremony in April "at the famed Wilshire Ebell Theatre":
"Participating in the ceremony will be best-selling authors Kevin J. Anderson (Dune prequels), Larry Niven (Ringworld), Jerry Pournelle (A Mote in God's Eye), Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides, which Pirates of the Caribbean IV was based on) and Robert Sawyer, referred to as Canada's Dean of Science Fiction; as well as award winning artists Cliff Nielsen (Narnia book covers), Larry Elmore (Dungeons & Dragons book covers), Steven Hickman (over 400 book covers), who will all serve as presenters."
Sottong writes science fiction -- has been doing so since he was a kid soaking up the tales of Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin and the like. But he was an engineer first, and then an engineering librarian at Cal State Los Angeles for 10 years. Ten years ago, he and his wife, Joy Thomas -- a libriarian at Cal State Long Beach -- retired and moved to Eureka. Thomas is a beekeeper. Sottong helps, and in fact was on the cover of the Times-Standard March 8 dealing with a swarm (the paper spelled his name wrong). He also has a blog.
Sottong's stories have appeared in local publications, including Humboldt State's Toyon. And he's entered L. Ron's contest before, but this is the first time he's won. The way the contest works, each quarter three winners are chosen -- first, second and third each in writing and illustration. Sottong won third place in the first quarter of 2012. The first place winners will all compete for a grand prize. But third place ain't bad -- Sottong was awarded $500 and his story will be published in the 29th volume of winners, out this April.
His winning story is a 15,000-word novelette set "far, far in the future."
"It's basically a buddy fiction story," he said. "It's about two guys who are doing the initial explorations of planets. It's about the difficulties of exploring unknown planets and the problems they get into, and it goes through various planets and various scenarios."
There's an interplanetary government system in place. The two main characters - 40-ish Aiden and 20-something Lester -- explore eight unnamed planets. They work for an outfit called Planetary Scouts. Aiden's breaking new-recruit Lester in.
"It's an adventure story," said Sottong.
Here's that news release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STEPHEN SOTTONG OF EUREKA TO BE HONORED
AS WINNER OF WORLDWIDE WRITING CONTEST
Celebrities, Best-Selling Authors, Famous Illustrators Along with JPL Scientists to Fete Newcomers at Festive Gala in Hollywood
HOLLYWOOD - Twelve winning writers and twelve illustrators from around the globe-including Stephen Sottong of Eureka-will be honored during the 29th Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards at the famed Wilshire Ebell Theatre, on Sunday, April 14th, 2013 beginning at 6:30 pm.
Stephen Sottong was born and raised in the rust-belt town of Kokomo, Indiana. He was introduced to science fiction by his brother and sister. The first book he checked out of public library was Ben Bova's Star Conquerors. From there, he made his way through as much of the library's sci-fi collection as possible, reading the classic novels of the '50s and '60s from Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Brunner, Le Guin and others. He started writing at ten and continued sporadically throughout his working career but never did so in earnest until retirement. In the interim, Stephen repaired radios in the Navy and afterward in civilian life until he decided to upgrade his education.
After ten years of engineering and another stint in college, he became an engineering librarian for the rest of his working career. As an academic librarian, he wrote numerous dull, scholarly articles published in library journals. The possibility of early retirement offered him the opportunity to return to his first love and write fiction full time. His short stories have been published in regional magazines but Writers of the Future is his first national publication.
The highlight of the ceremony will be the announcement of the year's two Grand Prize winners who will each receive $5,000. Quarterly winners also receive cash prizes from $1,000 to $500. Their winning stories and illustrations will appear in the annual anthology L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers and Illustrators of the Future, Volume 29 (Galaxy Press, 2013).
Participating in the ceremony will be best-selling authors Kevin J. Anderson (Dune prequels), Larry Niven (Ringworld), Jerry Pournelle (A Mote in God's Eye), Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides, which Pirates of the Caribbean IV was based on) and Robert Sawyer, referred to as Canada's Dean of Science Fiction; as well as award winning artists Cliff Nielsen (Narnia book covers), Larry Elmore (Dungeons & Dragons book covers), Steven Hickman (over 400 book covers), who will all serve as presenters.
Throughout the Contests' 29-year history, over 650 writers and illustrators have been recognized as winners. "What's amazing to me is that a good 60 to 70% of winners go on to successful careers," says New York Times' best-selling author Anderson (Dune prequels, Seven Suns series). "You could call it ‘The American Idol' for writers-long before there ever was such a show."
The Writers of the Future writing contest (www.writersofthefuture.com) was initiated by L. Ron Hubbard in 1983 to provide a means for aspiring writers to get that much-needed break. Due to the success of the Writing Contest, the companion Illustrators of the Future Contest was created in 1988.
The intensive mentoring process has proven very successful. Past winners of the Writing Contest have published over 750 novels, 3,500 short stories and winners of the Illustrating Contest have had their art published in more than 500 books and magazines, with 4,500 illustrations, 350 comics and over 1.3 million art prints.
"The Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests have proven to be the most effective means for contestants to make their break in the publishing industry, an industry renowned for being closed to the newcomer," said Joni Labaqui, director of the contests. "Well over six million fiction and non-fiction manuscripts make the rounds annually to find a publishing home, yet only 2,500 new science fiction and fantasy titles are published each year, and many of these are from already established authors.
"That's why these Contests were created - because it's so hard to get published and there are so many talented people who give up on their dreams to see their works in print."