Stephen Sottong said as a kid, he spent a lot of time at the library in Kokomo in the 1960s.
The first book he checked out? A science-fiction novel by Ben Bova called “Star Conquerors.”
He read it and was instantly hooked on the sci-fi genre. From there, he made his way through as much of the library’s collection as possible, reading the classic sci-fi novels of the ‘50s and ‘60s from authors like Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.
Sottong said his time at the library and the books it offered ultimately inspired him to try his hand at writing science fiction at the age of 10. And for the last decade, the 61-year-old said he’s worked to sharpen the writing craft he took up as a kid.
It has paid off.
Sottong was recently named a winner in the Writers of the Future contest — one of the most internationally prestigious competitions for up-and-coming science-fiction writers.
Throughout the contest’s 29-year history, more than 650 writers and illustrators have been recognized as winners. Past winners of the contest have published more than 750 novels and 3,500 short stories.
“What’s amazing to me is that a good 60 to 70 percent of winners go on to successful careers,” said New York Times’ best-selling author Kevin Anderson in a press release. “You could call it the ‘American Idol’ for writers, long before there ever was such a show.”
The Writers of the Future contest was founded in 1983 by L. Ron Hubbard — an American pulp fiction author and the founder of the Church of Scientology — to provide a means for aspiring writers to get a much-needed break.
Sottong, who now lives in California, said he was honored to be named one of the three quarterly winners in the competition and said he’s hoping the award will give him a break.