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I'm actually trying to join EPIC this year, since I have so many stories that came out this past year and I wanted to enter them. With enough stories it's cheaper to become a member and enter than enter as a non-member. I follow the Parsec contest closely, a themed contest that's free. I never win, and they often don't like my stuff, being of the slam-bang opening school, but I get good ideas and sometimes a story or three from it.
I agree with you, mostly, although I find a lot of the good stories suffer from an over emphasis on fantastical language which turns me off. I slogged through LOTR for Sam, not for the high-blown language. If it makes you any happier I try to write better than that, although my stories aren't as popular as the self-haters'. I write about people who do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, but I do it in contemporary language. Lawrence Watt-Evans does a great deal with normal men suddenly thrust into extraordinary circumstances and rising to the occasion. Dave Duncan does many a book with great men chosen by the gods to make the worlds around them a little greater. Lois McMaster Bujold tells a story, in The Curse of Chalion, of a man who gives up his life three times to save his King and country from just such a slow corrosion as you describe here. We need such men ourselves.