Eugene's Bunch of Wordos Continues to Find Success

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran March 22, 2007): A story on Wednesday omitted Blake Hutchins from a list of local winners of the international Writers of the Future contest. Hutchins won a first place award in 2006 for his story "The Sword From the Sea."

As president of sci-fi powerhouse Galaxy Press, Los Angeles publisher John Goodwin is no stranger to the idea of paranormal phenomena.

So he knew Eugene was bucking the odds by producing winners in Galaxy's annual Writers of the Future contest six years in a row.

The contest draws 15,000 entries a year, from writers all over the globe. It features "blind judging," with stories identified only by assigned number, not author name or locale. This year's 12 winners hail from Paris and New York, Australia and Canada, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

And - cue "Twilight Zone" theme - Eugene and Eugene?

Two local writers, John Burridge and Damon Kaswell, will receive awards, compete for a grand prize of $1,000 and have their short fiction published by Galaxy in this year's "Writers of the Future" anthology of fantasy, science fiction and horror stories.

"I saw that they were both from Eugene and thought, `There must be something in the water up there!' ' Goodwin said.

Or something not in the water, mused Burridge, a full-time writer and stay-at-home dad.

"Maybe the lack of fluoride keeps us alert," he said.

Or maybe the seeds of inspiration arrived by air.

The Indiana-based Mutual UFO Network lists several reports of Oregon sightings since the early 1980s, when the late L. Ron Hubbard started the contest with proceeds from his best-selling fiction.

And Burridge does remember a not-so-close encounter with a strange, flying object as a Corvallis High School student about that time.

"There were no little green men," he said. "But there was this very bright light moving very low over Bald Hill just after twilight, and then it just disappeared."

There's also a less mysterious explanation.

Both Burridge and Kaswell are members of The Wordos, a Eugene writers group whose members include Nina Kiriki Hoffman, a winner of the first "Writers of the Future" contest in 1984. …