The $500,000 Firefly

A fracas over the winner of a lucrative prize illustrates why some literary contests are best left unheld

Sure, everybody talks about how bummed out all the fictional versions of the future seem to be, but nobody does anything about it except Ted Turner. In November 1989, with the elan of someone ordering up cheerier wallpaper, the cable mogul created the Turner Tomorrow Awards for the purpose of inspiring authors the world over to "write about creative and positive solutions to ! global problems within an original work of fiction." The inducement to think happy thoughts: a top prize of $500,000.

In this respect, at least, Turner showed a canny awareness of the literary temperament, which is more obsessed...

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