HG Wells writing competition demands handwriting, no science fiction; no one applies

A writing competition held in HG Wells's honor demanded that entries be handwritten ("to address the low standard of literacy and handwriting these days...it's an important art in itself and many of our most famous authors find that's the best way to do creative writing.") and that they treat with subjects other than science fiction ("Last year there were plenty of entries because the competition was open to writers of all ages and stories could include science fiction, depicting ghastly invasions of our everyday lives by all sorts of nameless horrors.").

Unsurprisingly, the contest did not get a single entry.

Budding young writers were invited to send their short stories creating a picture of contemporary life in Kent, to Reg Turnill, a former BBC aerospace correspondent who as a young reporter interviewed Wells. But due to what Mr Turnill now believes were over-strict rules, he has had to change the entry conditions.
No entries for £1,000 HG Wells story competition (via @stevesilberman)

(Image: Wikimedia Commons/Gutenberg.org)


  1. Handwriting? I feel sorry for whoever has to read all those submissions.

    I find that I can type faster than I write, and I can read typed text much faster than I read handwritten text. Actually, I can read English words written in Korean characters faster than I can read handwritten English – if I can even read the handwriting, I don’t know how a bunch of scribbles are supposed to be legible to anyone.

    Why is handwriting considered a part of literacy? If literacy is about reading and writing, what does it matter if it’s ink smeared on dead trees or a sequence of typed characters? As long as they get the words out, they’re literate.

    I think many of our most famous authors preferred handwriting because a great many of them lived in the past, where, for reasons of temporal coherence, it was the only option!. Chaucer didn’t exactly have the option to boot up an early alpha release of open office and begin typing.

  2. “creating a picture of contemporary life in Kent”

    This probably limited entries far more than handwriting/no-sci-fi rules.

  3. It’s worth pointing out that the guy putting this together is 94 years old. Seems like he was proselytizing handwriting, and I can’t help but wonder if a guy like him would consider even a modern-era story to be “science fiction” given this strange attachment to the old ways.

    1. “I can’t help but wonder if a guy like him would consider even a modern-era story to be “science fiction” given this strange attachment to the old ways”

      Remember how in the 1960’s, according to star trek, having a wireless communication device in your pocket was science fiction, it was technology that was 300 years away.
      30 years later, we look back and laugh, they don’t even have cameras in their phones! How quaint!

  4. In what way was this in the honor of H.G. Wells,
    one of the first futurists and progenitor of Science Fiction?

    Okay, there’s the Kent reference, and Wells did write on a number of other subjects both fiction and non. But without a doubt his lasting contribution to the world is his imaginative and predictive writing. The fact that he probably wrote much of his work longhand seems completely irrelevant.

    On the other hand the guy who created the contest sounds like he has the same curmudgeony style as Wells, who wanted his epitaph to be “I told you so. You damned fools”.

    And Wells didn’t write Science Fiction. The term hadn’t been invented yet.

    1. “And Wells didn’t write Science Fiction. The term hadn’t been invented yet.”

      That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. Terms are DESCRIPTIVE, if it fits the description it’s science fiction.
      By your logic the forefathers/inventors of any genre don’t fit the very genre they invented.

  5. I used the best parchment and the finest quill I could find and scribed a most delightful retort to this quandary, however, with Boing Boing lacking a post address, I’m afraid I can’t dispatch a boy to bring you the document.

    Watching CBC Newsworld ( No More, No Now.. what ever the hell that means). and they don’t list written correspondence as a means of viewer feedback anymore. Box 20, Station ‘A’ , Toronto I think it was.. just email, Facebook and Twitter.

    I also remember when web sites were first being given on TV and the talking head would say “You can see the Google at H-T-T-P colon forward slash forward slash W-W-W dot GOOGLE dot C-O-M forward slash index dot H-T-M-L…

    The times, they are a changing.

  6. Participants grew wary of the entry guidelines when they were directed to send their submissions attached to a signed copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses to Puzzler Tower, Car Talk Plaza, Harvard Square, Cambridge (our fair city), MA 02238.

    1. #9,

      I suppose that means somebody has to type them in again. Unless his handwriting is OCR worthy.

      (I hate to think how long is books would be if he typed them).

  7. God help the editor/selector who reads through the stories – i for one have got a horrible handwriting plus it is so difficult to write your thoughts in flow….

  8. I think the organiser needs to get himself checked for dementia precox LOL.

    I come from that age – paper and pen, and erasers, and typewriters, and God knows what – but there is just no way I would be getting muscle cramps trying to write long texts in copperplate. Give me a break!

  9. did the person making this contest predate a type writer? I find this quite silly, I almost never use handwriting anymore due to severe nerve damage, I can type out my thoughts much much faster, and if I have to hand write I need a tape recorder and it takes me 10 times as long. My coworkers are annoying as hell about my writing and it’s embarassing, I’ve tried early writing excercises and what not, but I just can’t get my handwriting back to what it used to be. It’s frustrating because I used to be able to write quickly enough and enjoyed penning my thoughts rather then being forced to always type them.

  10. Here’s what really happened: A few baby boomers in charge of stifling culture in the city got together and said;

    “Let’s have a writing competition in honour of H.G. Welts, the little-known luddite technophobe who once visited our town and shared with us his many insights into our unspectacular future.” And it all got misinterpreted.

  11. When I worked at the publisher Prentice Hall, I was told that the prolific information technology author James Martin (The Wired Society and 100 others) wrote his books by hand, and a bit of cursory Googleweorc indicates Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaimain, Joe Haldeman and Stephen King do so as well.

    I’ve been typing letters, essays and stories and so on since I was a teenager (mid-1970s) but I do rather wish I had kept up handwriting; I rarely do it now, my arm gets tired after half a page and the text is soon sloppy enough that I sometimes can’t make out a word even after ten minutes. Yet my college note-taking in lectures is still very clear and legible 30+ years later.

    Reg Turnill was a bit of a TV fixture in my youth, reporting for the BBC on Apollo and Concorde and the like. Though he was older and looked more old-fashioned, I suppose I associate him with telly people like former Spitfire pilot Raymond “Tomorrow’s World” Baxter and James “Connections” Burke, and his Moonslaught booklet (with a pic of the LM during the recent Apollo 9 on the cover) was my guide to the upcoming Apollo 11 and “inspiration” (or plagiarism source) for a geography project at school that year.

  12. I live in the town in which HG Wells was born, about fifteen minutes away from his birthplace and a building which still carries his name. However, there is nothing about the place that would prompt me to write about it. Unfortunately it is as non-descript as many other areas of Greater London and Britain.

    Such a shame as HG Wells was one of the authors that inspired me to write science fiction.

    I couldn’t imagine trying to write anything but a short note in long hand these days. My handwriting is fairly illegible even when I try. Not to mention how painstaking it is to be creative when you’re brain is going a million miles per hour, but the equipment only goes about 5.

  13. H.G. Wells wrote more than just SF (if you can consider his and Verne’s Scientific Romances as SF). Yes, I *know* everybody thinks of Wells as the guy who wrote “The Time Machine” and “The War of the Worlds”, but that’s like just remembering Conan-Doyle as “that Sherlock Holmes guy”. Did you know that Wells also more or less invented miniature war gaming?

  14. Its not ADA compliant. I have MS and my coordination has deteriorated until I can’t write anymore, but I can still type.

    Apart from the illegality of the contest (its not ADA compliant,) and my own execrable writing skills, I might have considered entering.

    Well, screw ’em…

  15. Coincidentally, I also happen to be holding a story competition.
    Entries, concerning modern life in net-land, to be submitted by recitation, in iambic pentameter (on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh), no later than April 4th next year.
    Due to a severe shortage of poetry last year and in case of no iambic being presented, all rhythmic speech of significant length and eloquence will be considered.
    Please be patient with our judges and do your best to ignore the cameras.

  16. I wonder if it would count as science fiction if you wrote fiction with a lot of exposition. The present as HG Wells might have written it. It would come out a bit like Sagan or Burke; a semi-spiritual description of the interconnectedness of technology that we all take for granted.

  17. “James Martin (The Wired Society and 100 others) wrote his books by hand, and a bit of cursory Googleweorc indicates Neal Stephenson, Neil Gaimain, Joe Haldeman and Stephen King do so as well.”

    Because the Internet is only filled with truth. Oh, wait. The others I have no clue about but Stephen King uses a MacBook Pro – read his book on writing called, er, ‘On Writing’.

  18. No one seems to have brought up the fact that banning typed essays, or giving extra points/credit to handwritten essays is discriminating against the handicapped or those unable to handwrite essays.

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