Martin Shoemaker of Hopkins (left) gives an acceptance speech on Sunday, April 12, as one of 12 to win the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future award. He was introduced by grand master science fiction writer Larry Niven (right) and coordinating judge Ron Lindahn.

Hopkins sci-fi author wins Writers of the Future award

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

Martin Shoemaker, 52, of Hopkins was a winner of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future award for his sci-fi thriller, “Unrefined.”

The short story takes readers to a space station where millions of asteroids orbiting Jupiter are mined and follows the team that must save the settlement from a runaway fusion reactor.

Shoemaker was one of the 12 writer winners making it further than several thousand others who entered the international competition.

The win whisked Shoemaker off to California for a Hollywood-style, author-studded, red carpet event at the famed Wilshire Ebell Theatre where the Oscars were once hosted.

Between weeklong writer workshops and the awards ceremony, Shoemaker said on the phone from Los Angeles he’s been a writer all his life, but gave up several times while pursuing his career as a computer programmer.

“Don’t give up after a few rejections,” he said. “I gave up at age 16, 23, 37—and at 47, I stopped giving up.”

His inspiration for writing was the Apollo program.

“The engineers and astronauts who took us to the Moon were inspired by the science fiction of their youth,” he said. “I want to capture that spirit of ingenuity and exploration, and nothing would make me prouder than if I were to inspire the next generation in space.”

Shoemaker’s story will be published in the 31st volume of The L. Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future anthology now available online at Amazon.com, Kobo.com and BN.com. Print editions will be in stores May 4.

The contest for inclusion in the sci-fi and fantasy book is a means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged. There is no cost to enter and the book also features stories by five professional sci-fi writers, including author Kevin J. Anderson who has more than 50 bestsellers.

“Anderson boasts he has the most rejections with 500 before his first sale,” Shoemaker said. “I think the universe is paying me back for starting so late—I had 130 submissions that included 13 sales and publications.”

Some of his stories were published in Analog Science Fiction Science Fact, a leading science fiction magazine. “Not Close Enough” was in the May 2013 issue; “Murder on the Aldrin Express” was in the September 2013 issue; “Brigas Nunca Mais” was in the March 2015 issue; and a fourth, “Racing to Mars,” will be published at a later date.

After three publications, Shoemaker is no longer eligible to compete in the Writers of the Future contest. However, his third story in March was not published before the contest deadline and he’s been writing ever since.

His story “Scramble” won second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest and earned him lunch with Buzz Aldrin, which inspired his story “Murder on the Aldrin Express.”

That story was reprinted in “Year’s Best Science Fiction 31st annual edition,” and it appears as an audio book in “The Year’s Best Short SF Novels 4.”

“I hit the jackpot with that,” Shoemaker said. “It was a competition of all the people who make my bookshelf.”

Another of Shoemaker’s stories “Il Gran Cavallo” printed in the magazine Galaxy’s Edge was inspired by Nina Akamu’s American Horse at Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

“From the first time I saw that sculpture over 15 years ago, I knew I would write a story about it but I didn’t know what it would be,” he said. “When magazine editor Mike Resnick asked me for a story and I had nothing ready to send him, the horse came to my rescue.”

Shoemaker had entered the Writers of the Future contest 12 times before a win. Three entries became finalists or semi-finalists and eight entries won honorable mention.

One fellow writer had been a contest candidate for 28 years before winning; another had been entering for 25 years. Other winners included illustrator Quinlan Septer of Grand Rapids and writer Philip Kaldon, a Western Michigan University physics teacher.

“West Michigan was well represented in the contest,” Shoemaker said.

During their stay in Los Angeles, other best selling authors and former contest winners paid it forward by hosting workshops on the craft of writing and the business of marketing.

“I met 11 other brothers and sisters from all walks of life that are at the same point in our career,” he said. “It will be a sad day when we have to split up and go home.”

Each author was given a 24-hour writing assignment to learn how any idea can be structured into a viable story in a short time. Authors were also told there are three ways to transport a reader—by sensory perception, emotion and intellect. If a writer can transport a reader in any one of those categories, they can sell a story; any two categories they can make a career of writing and with all three they can become a bestseller.

“I’m an intellectual writer in which believable worlds are built and that’s where my computer programming background comes in handy,” Shoemaker said. “I write the nut and bolts of spaceships so it feels like it really works and could be built in 10 or 15 years.”

Each winning author was paired with a winning illustrator for inclusion in the anthology.

“We were told, ‘sorry to tell you but this is your peak’—we will never have a book launch this exciting again,” Shoemaker said.

The awards ceremony can be viewed at www.writersoft hefuture.com.

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