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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Grad Barlow Wins Place in Sci-Fi Anthology

Apparently, the force was with him.

Barlow won first place in the internationally recognized L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest for new and aspiring writers of speculative fiction.

Along with a cash prize and an all-expense paid trip to Hollywood to hobnob with the best science fiction writers in the business, Barlow's winning story has also been published in "L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future-Vol. XVI."

Not bad for a guy who'd never even read science fiction before entering the contest.

"I've never really been interested in it. It's pretty new," Barlow said. "But my wife's been writing it since before we were married, and she's been entering (the Writers of the Future Contest) for awhile."

After hearing about the contest from his wife, Barlow decided he had an idea for a story. The idea evolved into a short story about a famous scientist and a friend who discuss a contraption that has appeared in the scientist's house, and whether or not this contraption is a time machine.

Unlike other stories in the genre, Barlow's story aims for a little laughter.

"My story is more humor than science fiction," he said.

This is not surprising considering Barlow's background as a humorist. He has worked as stand-up comedian and written humorous columns and essays for various publications.

Barlow has also published several books on a rather unusual topic - the card game cribbage. After winning the 1980 National Open Cribbage Tournament, Barlow wrote a lot about the strategy of the game.

As an L. Ron Hubbard Writer of the Future, Barlow and his wife were whisked to Hollywood for a gala awards ceremony with all the major names in the world of science fiction, along with a writing workshop led by acclaimed authors Algis Budrys and Tim Powers.

"We were put up in a hotel, there were limo rides, it was almost like being at the Oscars," Barlow said.

With his recent success, Barlow has turned his attention more seriously to science fiction. Besides boning up on the science-fiction classics like "Dune" and "The Martian Chronicles," Barlow said he has found a new favorite author, Philip K. Dick, and a new set of aspirations.

"I'm about a third of the way through a funny sci-fi novel. I'm also trying to start a small press for science fiction and fantasy," Barlow said.

This former math-turned-English-major is serious about his plans to affect the science-fiction writing and publishing scene.

"For the last 25 or 30 years, I thought I should have stayed in math, but now possibilities are opening up. I'm going to be focused more on the press for a little while. I'm getting lots of manuscripts, and I'm a slow reader," Barlow said.

"If it's successful, I'll stick with the press. It'd be nice to put out some bestsellers."

And who knows? Maybe some of those bestsellers will end up being written by Barlow - or his wife. She, after all, told him about the contest in the first place.

"She was mildly annoyed that I won the first time," Barlow said. "But she's already entered again."

For more information on the Writers of the Future contest and anthology, see

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at

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