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Tales of the Future

Classics inspired the winners of this year's science fiction writing contest

Posted: Sunday, August 13, 2000

Change inspires Lisa Weissler.

Weissler won first place in the Juneau Empire's Science Fiction Contest for her entry ``Changing Times.'' The annual contest is the fourth held by the Empire.

``It's actually taken from a short story I'm working on,'' Weissler, 43, said. ``The short story came about from just thinking about how fast things are changing now and how I almost wish I could see how things will be like in 1,000 years.''

Weissler said the television show ``Star Trek: The Next Generation'' got her hooked on science fiction in the early 1990s.

``It just came on at the right time to take a break, and I just kind of got into it, into the story,'' Weissler said.

She's since become interested in science-fiction books as well; Sheri Tepper is a particular favorite. She described Tepper's books as science fiction with a message to it.

``(She writes) a lot about women's issues and very mental issues, but all wrapped up in a good story,'' she said.

The appeal of science fiction is wide, Weissler said.

 

``It's a wonderful genre of writing and reading,'' she said. ``There's so many possibilities to it, and in some ways it creates our future.''

Weissler is an attorney for the state of Alaska. She's married and has no children. She began writing several years ago. She said her winning story, which brought her a $75 gift certificate from Hearthside Books, benefited from the contest's 300-word limit.

``It really forces you to think about the story and pare things down just to the essence of the story,'' she said. ``I think I can go back to the short story now with a better idea of how to show the story, rather than just tell it.''

 

Future projects may also include a book.

``I finished a first draft,'' Weissler said. ``But a first draft is a first draft. It's got a long way to go.''

Like her short story, the novel deals with change.

``When you read science fiction, you're often told (that) back at this particular time, this thing happened and the world changed,'' Weissler said. ``What I'm trying to capture with this particular book is that time of transition.''

Chris Benson, second-place adult winner, credits the inspiration for his sonnet to such horror classics as ``The Attack of the 50-Foot Woman'' and ``The Incredible Shrinking Man.''

``I just wanted to state the superiority of insects over humanity,'' he said. ``They are the superior species ... they'll outlive us.''

Benson, 43, is from Clemson, S.C. He has been visiting Juneau as a staff member of the Breadloaf Institute, a Vermont-based master's degree in English program that offers summer classes in Juneau. Benson finds reading and writing science fiction quite appealing.

``I think it lets you explore how we are as a race of people, or a species, in terms of the imagination,'' he said.

Kaitlin Ellis, 13, took home the prize for best youth entry. She credits her story to pure inspiration.

``I just kind of thought of it,'' Kaitlin said. ``It just kind of popped into my head.''

Writing took a little longer.

``I thought maybe a few days, and then I put it away for awhile, and then I took it back out and finished it,'' she said.

A fan of science fiction since sixth grade, Kaitlin pointed to the ``Star Wars'' movies as particular favorites. She also enjoys reading science fiction.

``I just really like to read,'' she said. ``It's just interesting, how people come up with that.''



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