As a kid, I have always been interested in a lot of the same things my parents loved. My parents could have not been more different though in their approach to raising my family. My mother has always been a bit of a realist, and never really liked anything made up or fictional. My dad however, was completely the opposite, and had (and still does) have a massive appreciation for sci-fi. It was weird growing up. My dad loved science fiction and pretty much anything related to it. To him, anything that had to do with the telling of a fantastical story that takes place on fantastical worlds was so much of a joy. He used to encourage me to read anything and everything I could get my hands on. While a lot of those were books, the one thing I loved reading more than anything were comic books. Comic books, especially in the time that I was growing up, was the window to a world that I knew very little about, but, once I knew of, I couldn’t stop learning about. The worlds, characters, and ways that the writers and illustrators put on paper was something that I loved more than anything.
At the time, comics and television were two parallel story telling devices that began to intersect. Not only were comics and books blooming in relevance and in popularity, but, television was coming into its own. Some of the best cartoons and live-action movies were coming out at every corner, and as a young spongeling, it was a real pleasure soaking it all in. Being around my dad at the time, it was easy to be excited. The messed up thing was that while in my household, a lot of this pretty normal, outside of there it wasn’t really. I think a lot of it had to do where I grew up. I grew up in an area that wasn’t the greatest. There was a lot of crime, and the neighborhood was a place where families from different parts of the world came together. While the diversity was cool, there were very few people I remember growing up with that were as die-hard Star Wars, or Aliens or even Terminator fans as I was. When you love something, the first thing you want to do is to tell someone about it. It could be your love for food, a crush on a girl, or your never ending love for all things Moon Pie (yes, I have a fascination with those, what can I say?), but, when it came to sci-fi, I stood with little options but to bury myself in more comics and tv.
This changed when I made it to middle school however, and it was then, that I found friends that I could talk with about Star Wars (and a lot of other sci-fi franchises and stories). For the first time, I could talk to someone about the differences in tie-fighter designs, and why one version was superior to the next. I could talk to them about the armament load out on the dropship from Aliens, and why the power loader was one of the coolest things ever invented (even though I would sadly find out that it was nothing but a dream). Having a passion for something, and being around people that have that same love for the things you do is one of the best feelings in the world. I never knew about Comic-Con back then, or any other sci-fi conventions, and it would take years after the fact to ever learn of them, and I feel as though I missed out on that. Because, going to a convention, or any type of meeting where you can be around like-minded people is just incredible. The one thing that I would have never been able to do though, is to meet the people behind those creations. Meeting the people behind my favorite stories felt like something that could never happen, and I would have flipped if I could have met the artists and writers themselves. I mean, was that even possible?
It’s funny, these were some of the things that ran through my head as I sat on the red carpet at the L.Ron Hubbard, Writers and Illustrators of the Future show. I know, it’s a pretty long title (for an awards show), and just typing it out makes my arthritis flare up (I don’t really have that, but, I have to use a little bit of creative license to keep your attention right?), but, standing there in the presence of the very people that are influencing the next batch of hungry readers is an honor that is a bit hard to describe. The artists (and that’s really what they are) that were invited to this event are some of the best and brightest in their fields. Not only did they come from the US, but, several of them came from other countries, proving that the love of science fiction is a universal fact. But, what is this show, and how did we get involved? It’s a an answer that has a few different twists and turns, and for us who were a part of the ceremony this year, a bit of an eye-opener.
The 33rd Annual L.Ron Hubbard, Writers and Illustrators of the Future Awards Ceremony was an event that I knew next to nothing about. As an avid sci-fi fan, I was familiar with L.Ron Hubbard and some of his writings. I never knew about this show until we were invited to it. Not knowing anything about it, I was fascinated and eagerly jumped at the chance to check it out. For the first time, I would be going to it with our newest correspondent, Claudia, and I was excited on two fronts to see what it would be like. Arriving to the theater just moments before the event started, I was greeted by a lot of people eagerly waiting for the everything to start. You can always see anticipation on people’s faces before something is about to go down, and this day, that was no different. All around me were media and attendees to the event, and on everyone’s mind was who was going to pass through the red carpet. Before we even arrived to the show, we had an idea of who might be showing up. Usually ,we are given a list of the award winners and some of the attendees. A lot of times though, I tend to forget the list I looked at. It’s not so much that I don’t really care, it’s because, of all of the red carpets I have attended (with one exception), the roster has changed all the way up until that day. So, for me, going in cold turkey is a little bit of a surprise. More often that not, those surprises tend to be more exciting than what we were promised. This time was just as awesome, although, I wouldn’t know it at the time.
Minutes after I arrived to the red carpet, celebs, illustrators, musicians and authors began to pile their way down it. Just as I arrived, I had to double-time my effort and get my cameras ready. After years of shooting events and weddings, I am pretty used to the situation, and gladly welcomed what was coming down. To my surprise, some of the first people to walk down the carpet were the actual winners of the show. These were the people that had been selected by the L.Ron Hubbard society for their achievements in writing and illustration. Unlike most award shows, everyone in that group were winners. They had already competed against a large field of applicants from around the world, and the folks that were there standing in front of us were not only the best of the best, but, they had spent an entire week training with past winners. These past winners (most of which were current judges in the competition), are some of the foremost artists in their fields. The are already established and have massive followings, but, because of their experience with the L.Ron Hubbard Writers and Illustrators of the Future group, they have taken it upon themselves to help guide the newest batch of science fiction content creators. Before we had even arrived, these artists had taken something of a week-long boot camp to help them prepare and become better at their crafts. During this week, they artists would be tag teaming with both writers and illustrators with the goal of producing a short story and a cover image to go alongside it. The only thing that this ceremony provided was not only credit to all of them, but, an opportunity to choose a winning story (and a nice amount of cash). It was awesome to get to meet them, and one could tell that, while they are all incredibly gifted at what they do, they are supremely humble. The same went for the former winners and contemporaries that attended.
One of the things that caught my eye was the way that the red carpet was set up. While a red carpet is just a red carpet, it was what was alongside it that really got my attention. During the celebrity arrivals one has little time to sit there and admire the scenery. A few instances of not paying attention and you could lost the opportunity to talk to someone you really want to. But, in those few moments where I had a chance to look around, I couldn’t help but notice the large dragon head near the theater entrance. Not only was there a dragon head, but, the more I turned to look (at the entrance), I could see people walking around in knight’s armor, fair ladies and lots of fantasy themed cadence. If you wanted to know that you were going to an event that was a lot different than your regular old awards show, this was it. I wouldn’t know it yet, but later on when I was able to go inside, that theme carried on to the stage. That same dragon’s head we saw before was placed onto a full body dragon and scene on the inside. It was pretty incredible, and if we were allowed to shoot inside, I would have gladly taken a picture of it. But, trust me when I say that the look of everything was like a story coming to life. Definitely something I enjoyed seeing and being a part of.
One by one as the people walked down the red carpet and showed us their wonderful outfits, we would be treated to having a moment or two to talk with them. One of those people of mention, was the artist Ciruelo Cabral. This fascinating character had both a striking presence and gentle demeanor as he walked down the carpet. I didn’t know who he was, but, as soon as he spoke (in that thick Spanish accent of his), it was apparent that this was a man with a story to tell. Later on I would look up his name and see the work he has created over the years. The paintings that this man has put together are without a doubt, some of the most incredible painting of scenes, landscapes and dragons that I have ever seen. Right after we would also have an opportunity to talk to actress Rachel Nichols. Rachel is an actress that has been around for some time now, and I knew her from her role on the show ‘Charmed’. That show came out a while back, and while she has been in a lot of shows since (including the CW produced, re-imagining of the Archie Comics series of comics, ‘Riverdale’), I couldn’t help but be struck by her beauty. She looks just as incredible now as she did when she first broke out on the scene. It was fascinating talking to her about something we don’t normally hear about, and that is her love for science fiction. She showed us what it was to love science fiction and how that love has helped her to break into the industry in which she works. I have always loved hearing about the people behind shows that I watch and the things that have influenced them. Sometimes, those influences are a lot more similar to things that I have enjoyed, but, we never would have known unless we were given the opportunity to talk with them. Those few moments with Rachel were a fascinating glimpse into the mind of an artist and fan of the genre.
One of the highlights on the red carpet was meeting and talking to actor Erika Christensen. I have always been a fan of hers, and getting the opportunity to see and talk to her was amazing. The funny thing was, that not long ago I was actually thinking of her and her performance in the movie that sold me on her acting ability. It may be far too much info for what this story needs, but, I remember seeing that movie about a month or two ago. I was watching movies with my friends (some of whom I never watch movies with) and one movie that I loved just happened to be on. The movie was Traffic, and it was a movie that fortunately for me, my other friends had never seen before. While it is a fantastic movie, and one that deals with a subject that is very real and very hard to talk about, it was Erika’s performance that not only convinced me, but convinced all of my friends of her acting chops. There is a scene in which Erika’s character spaces out on some hard drugs and fights with her father. It was in that moment that my friend (who is usually pretty quiet during movies), turned to us and knew exactly the feeling she was expressing. In those few moments she had convinced all of us that she was for real. Since I had first seen that movie way back when I was a fan, and knowing that she was going to be there was exciting. Even though she appeared briefly on the red carpet, seeing her in her beautiful silver scale dress and lovely smile was enough to make everyone on the carpet fawn over her. She was gorgeous and took the time to take pictures with everyone there (including our very own reporter Claudia), and also filled us in on her upcoming projects.
There were a lot of people on the carpet and all around, and almost too many small moments to list. I mean, how often is it that your reporter gets proposed to by a knight in shining armor (seriously, this happened, haha)? Normally though, this is where the story ends. Often times the media side of the house never get the opportunity to go inside to the event and check it out. This time was different, and fortunately for us, we would be able to see and know more about the people that were behind this whole event. It was a wonderful breath of fresh air, and, for a sci-fi fan such as myself, a great opportunity to know more about the people whom are the upcoming stars in the genre. While I won’t go into the show (to be honest, the show in its entirety is on the show website and on You Tube), there was a moment that I cannot help but mention.
At least half of the show was devoted to the artists and illustrators featured that day. There were many touching moments that they all left us with. Some of those moments dealt with their experiences through their week in writing their stories, or the production of their artwork. As beautiful as that is, it is the stories of the people that I always find fascinating. Those stories aren’t about their craft, but, the people behind them. The winner of the the coveted “Golden Pen Award” was a name that I never knew of, but, could not get out of my head afterwards. Before receiving the top award, writer Jake Marley went up on stage and gave a very emotional speech about his love for writing and for the support that his family had given him. The passionate ways in which he expressed his love for them and for all of the experiences he had had leading up to that moment was written all over his face and emoted through his manners. Every few seconds his voice would crack and an (obvious), nervous laugh would follow. You could tell that it was really hard for him to contain his joy. I’ll have to admit, just hearing him made my eyes swell up just a little bit. The emotions coming through his words and through his body language resonated through the audience, and everyone there could tell that even if this man tried, there was no way to hide what he was feeling at that moment. This was a person that would have never guessed that he would win the top award, and when he did, the hooting and hollering that echoed through that auditorium was upped to eleven. I don’t want to take anything away from the other winners, but, this was a person that I don’t think anyone could have not been happier to see win. And, you did see it when his name was called. From the moment his name was called for this second time, the camera was put on him. It looked almost like someone had hit him with a stack of gold. This was a man that was experiencing true joy, and all of us in the audience were right there with him.
When he walked up on stage and began to speak, all of those nerves that had gripped him were now twice as strong. With every word that he spoke a little bit of laughter followed. I suppose it is pretty hard to talk when you are smiling from ear to ear. Every word was hard for him to let out. The experience was more than overwhelming, and all of us (and I mean everyone in the audience I saw) was right there with him. But, it was one moment that really cemented what everyone was feeling. We knew from that first award speech that his wife and daughter were in the audience. There had been a quick cut to them while Jake spoke, and that happened again during the grand award. The only difference was, that his wife little daughter were both crying. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a sucker punch to the gut that moment was to me. Just recalling the moment (and seeing it again in the YouTube video) was one of the most emotionally charged moments I had ever seen. Seeing his daughter cry tears of joy for her daddy was beautiful, and a moment that encapsulated everything that this event truly was. Jake and his family knew what he wanted to do, and supported all of the time and effort he expelled. Seeing everything that he had sacrificed to make that moment a reality was a moment that touched his family in a way that few of us could understand. I was merely a bystander to the entire event, but, when they flashed the faces of his family for that one split-second, I too began to weep. I don’t like to get too emotional when it comes to things like that, but, that image is something that was seared into my brain. That right there folks, is the joy that you can bring to people when you speak from the heart.
That is the essence of scifi, and why I love doing what I do. I am thankful for the opportunity to have witnessed this award show. It was something that I never expected, and I could not have been any happier to be a part of. For anyone that has never been to one of these shows, it is open to the public. As long as you follow up on when the next one will be, you too can attend the show. Or, for anyone that is interested in becoming a part of it, the contest is open to anyone and everyone that has that drive and passion to talk about sci-fi, fantasy and all of the things that they love. This show inspired me to want to become a better writer. But, more than anything, to follow what you love and alongside the people you yourself love. I have Jake and everyone involved in the show to thank for that. This is one show that I would not want to miss next year, and neither should you.
Words and Photos By Daniel Navarrete. With additional photos and reporting by Claudia Bermudez
For more information on the The L.Ron Hubbard Writers & Illustrators of the Future check out their website at http://www.writersofthefuture.com/
This article was prepared or accomplished by Daniel Navarrete in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spektrum Magazine, or its affiliates.