Recently there came a period when I had little to do.
I guess when you’re the head of your own religion and have Sea Org slaves to wipe your butt, you have some free time. Especially after you’ve enacted the biggest infiltration of the US government ever…
and I decided to amuse myself by writing a novel that was pure science fiction.
As opposed to… what?
And actually, a lot of “pure” science fiction still can be classified as other things, like “comedy” or “satire.” It can even be science fiction while acquiring the trappings of fantasy, like Star Wars and Babylon 5… which makes me wonder if that was a heavy-handed swipe at Star Wars for not being “pure” enough.
He rambles for a bit about how FDR sucked, and how he totally let all the writers flounder if they weren’t wild successes. I guess it’s easier to just blame the president’s policies rather than admit he, you know, kinda sucked. And probably the Depression wasn’t a great time for speculative fiction, because that tends to be a luxury.
I have heard it said, as an intended slur, “He was a science fiction writer,” and have heard it said of many.
Okay, I’m not going to pretend for a second that there isn’t a ghettoizing effect on sci-fi/fantasy authors. Lots of people look down their dribbling noses at “genre” fiction, while praising mediocre masturbatory fiction that pretends to be about the human condition or whatnot.
It brought me to realize that few people understand the role science fiction has played in the lives of Earth’s whole population.
Thankfully, none of yours did.
I have just read several standard books that attempt to define “science fiction” and to trace its history. There are many experts in this field, many controversial opinions.
Okay, I’m not an expert, but basically science fiction is speculative fiction based on technology or creatures that could theoretically exist in reality, according to the laws of the universe as we currently know and understand them (ie, no magic).
Devotees are called “fans,”
… Hubbard, I’m pretty sure the word “fan” wasn’t just applied to sci-fi fans back in the eighties.
Few professional writers, even those in science fiction, have written very much on the character of “sf.”
Now we have John Scalzi! So we’re good.
However, many false impressions exist, both of the genre and of its writers.
Yeah, a lot of people have the false impression that Hubbard was a decent writer. My liver has discovered otherwise.
So when one states that he set out to write a work of pure science fiction, he had better state what definition he is using.
I don’r know what definition that is, because Hubbard is using a term (“pure”) that I’ve never heard anyone else use. I think he might mean hard sci-fi, which is sci-fi with an emphasis on technical accuracy and plausibility. But I’m not sure.
It will probably be best to return to the day in 1938 when I first entered this field, the day I met John W. Campbell, Jr., a day in the very dawn of what has come to be known as The Golden Age of science fiction.
… I really hope he isn’t implying that the start of his career was what brought about that Golden Age. Because if he is… I don’t have enough buckets to express my feelings.
So he tells us a story about how he was summoned by his publisher, and how at the time he was not a sci-fi writer, but… something else.
By the actual tabulation of A. B. Dick, which set advertising rates for publishing firms,
And whose name sounds like the punchline for a sex joke.
either of our names appearing on a magazine cover would send the circulation rate skyrocketing, something like modern TV ratings.
Things must have been bleak back then.
Apparently the publisher had bought a magazine called Astounding Science Fiction, which is the longest-running sci-fi magazine, and went through several name changes (including Analog Science Fiction and Fact, its current name). It also helped promote Dianetics, mainly because John W. Campbell was super-interested in pseudoscience. Not just Dianetics, but stuff like psionics and anti-gravity.
Anyway, the publisher was unhappy because of the focus of the stories because… apparently they felt it was too machine-based.
As publishers, its executives knew you had to have people in stories.
And by people, we mean asshole Ubermenschen who instantly inspire slavelike loyalty from all.
They had called us in because, aside from our A. B. Dick rating as writers, we could write about real people.
Battlefield Earth will quickly kill THAT idea.
So they asked the writers to produce some sci-fi, and then called in John W. Campbell, who was the editor of the magazine at the time…. and alienated a number of people who worked for it. Not diminishing his accomplishments or his importance to the genre, but Campbell was kind of an asshole. Aside from his fixation on pseudoscience, he also had some very far-right political ideas, insisted there was no serious correlation between smoking and lung cancer, and insisted black people WANTED to be enslaved. Hol-ee fuck.
He found himself looking at two adventure-story writers,
No, I’m not sure what “adventure story” means. I assume it means things like The Shadow or The Phantom.
He resisted. In the first place, calling in top-liners would ruin his story budget due to their word rates.
That’s a reasonable issue, since the publisher apparently wasn’t footing the bill but demanding that everyone else tighten their belts.
And in the second place, he had his own ideas of what science fiction was.
Great. We’re getting into semantics about what “real” or “pure” science fiction is.
Hubbard then tells us about how Campbell had a degree in in physics, and how his perception of sci-fi was basically a sciency idea from an actual scientist, which would then be prettied up into a story. Which seems like a bass-ackwards approach even for the hardest of hard sci-fi. I mean, The Martian is about as hard as it gets, but it still was ultimately about people and not “here’s a nifty sciency idea!”
So Campbell didn’t want to buy their stories, so the publisher ordered him to.
But do not get the impression that Campbell was anything less than a master and a genius in his own right.
I wouldn’t. When someone like Isaac Asimov praises your importance to the genre, then someone should sit up and pay attention.That said, he could be an asshole and had some very problematic views.
Star Wars, the all-time box office record movie to date (exceeded only by its sequel), would never have happened if science fiction had not become as respectable as Campbell made it.
I hate to break it to you, Hubbard, but science fiction was not considered very respectable when Star Wars first came out. I mean, obviously there had been some good movies that came out the preceding decade, but Star Wars was what basically made it profitable and worthy of notice for the mainstream.
More than that—Campbell played no small part in driving this society into the space age.
Yeah, I’m sorry, but I don’t think any author, no matter how influential, ultimately controlled that. I suspect it involved the Russians a bit more.
Over lunches and in his office and at his home on weekends—where his wife Doña kept things smooth—
As far as my Internetting will tell me, her name was actually spelled “Dona.” Which makes sense, since with the tilde, it just is a formal method of address, like “Missus.”
To say that Campbell considered science fiction as “prophecy” is an oversimplification. He had very exact ideas about it.
So he considered it prophecy, but he wanted that prophetic stuff to have a specific outcome rather than acknowledging that the human race is unpredictable and chaotic, and no societal change happens exactly as the people promoting it hoped. For instance, people back in the 1960s thought we would have space travel by now, but didn’t even imagine the level of computer technology we WOULD have.
Or how pathetically addicted we’d be to videos of cats doing cat things.
I was what they called a high-production writer, and these fields were just not big enough to take everything I could write.
- High-production writers can occasionally be good… see Brandon Sanderson.
- But mostly it results in crap.
- And come on, is Hubbard seriously suggesting that his imagination and talent were TOO IMMENSE for whole genres?!
- No wonder this guy founded his own religion. His ego could curbstomp Godzilla.
Campbell, without saying too much about it, considered the bulk of the stories I gave him to be not science fiction but fantasy, an altogether different thing.
- Thank you for informing me that fantasy and sci-fi are different genres.
- Otherwise, I might have thought that Lord of the Rings and The Caves of Steel were in the same genre.
- Was he assuming that this book would be primarily read by people who’ve never read either?!
- And if Campbell saw sci-fi that wasn’t super-ultra-hard as “fantasy,” then his definitions really didn’t matter.
I had, myself, somewhat of a science background, had done some pioneer work in rockets and liquid gases,
He dropped out in his second year of college, where he was studying civil engineering and got crappy grades. But because of his presentation of Scientology as a “science,” he liked to pretend that he was a nuclear physicist, even though he only actually attended one class related to that field, and got an F.
Amazingly, he got a B in English. I assume his teacher was drunk.
but I was studying the branches of man’s past knowledge at that time to see whether he had ever come up with anything valid.
Gasp of shock, did the vast total sum of humanity’s accumulated knowledge not measure up to Hubbard’s standards? Did he not feel that anything great minds through the ages had discovered or developed was “valid” enough for him?
You know, that guy who got an F in the one class of the field he claimed to be an expert in.
To handle this fantasy material, Campbell introduced another magazine, Unknown.
That is a terrible name for a fantasy mag. Why not something like “Sword”? Or “Magic”? Or “Epic”?
As long as I was writing novels for it, it continued. But the war came and I and others went, and I think Unknown only lasted about forty months.
“Have I mentioned that I was so great that my greatness managed to sustain a whole magazine, and it flopped once I was gone?”
So anyone seeking to say that science fiction is a branch of fantasy or an extension of it is unfortunately colliding with a time-honored professional usage of terms.
Um… I don’t know about the 1940s and 50s when Hubbard seems to have developed most of his writing style, but I’m pretty damn sure that in the 1980s they knew what was fantasy and what was sci-fi. He doesn’t need to be so condescending.
I mean yeah, there was some crossover in movies like Krull and Star Wars and… well, God help us, Starchaser. But for the most part, the fantasy and sci-fi tropes had been laid out and people knew the difference between these things.
- Sci-fi: Star Trek (both the show and the movie), Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, ET, The Thing, Westworld, Logan’s Run, Close Encounters of the Third King, Solaris, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Black Hole, Earth II, Doctor Who, the original Battlestar Galactica, etc.
- Fantasy: Lord of the Rings (the Bakshi version), Dragonslayer, The Dark Crystal, Clash of the Titans, Excalibur, Time Bandits, Hawk the Slayer, The Last Unicorn, The Hobbit (Rankin-Bass version), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, assorted Disney movies…
And that’s just movies and TV. Literature also had its fair share of both – not as numerous or common as today, but there were definitely fantasy and sci-fi books aplenty.
This is an age of mixed genres.
Behold: the only other author besides LKH that I’ve seen use that phrase. The phrase is CROSS-genre.
I hear different forms of music mixed together like soup.
- … you don’t really mix together soup.
- You make a kind of soup, and… you eat it. You don’t make soup, and then add a different kind of soup.
- Or does he mean like INGREDIENTS?
- Remember: professional writer! Words are his bizniz!
I see so many different styles of dance tangled together into one “dance” that I wonder whether the choreographers really know the different genres of dance anymore.
“Damn kids get off my lawn! Those kids with their new dance moves and stuff! Where’s my Geritol? Ooh, I wet meself!”
There is abroad today the concept that only conflict produces new things. Perhaps the philosopher Hegel introduced that, but he also said that war was necessary for the mental health of the people and a lot of other nonsense.
Actually, I kind of agree with that. Too much peace and complacency tends to make people selfish self-absorbed assholes, and threats and conflict make them reassess what is important for them and for society.
And even if you buy that he was wrong about that, it doesn’t make him wrong about OTHER points. Teh logiks!
If all new ideas have to spring from the conflict between old ones, one must deny that virgin ideas can be conceived.
This sounds good… until you realize that no, there aren’t really “virgin ideas” where genre are concerned. For instance, the first sci-fi novel in literary history is generally considered to be Frankenstein… but Frankenstein isn’t JUST science fiction. It’s also horror, and gothic, and there’s an element of the occult as well.
So is the ORIGINAL science fiction book not “pure” enough for Hubbard? Or does he deny it was sci-fi at all because it doesn’t fit into a very narrow hard-SF standards of Campbell and himself? If so, he’s denying pretty much all science fiction until the mid-1900s, including HG Wells (whose “time machine” had no basis in actual scientific reality and was kept vague for that reason). Or Jules Verne, whose sci-fi stories were also adventure stories that weren’t really scientifically based.
Hell, what about Edgar Rice Burroughs? His stories about John Carter are classic early SF, but they’re also fraught with magical plot convenience (Carter keeps getting zapped from planet to planet) and a number of fantasy tropes. And at the time, they were considered ADVENTURE stories.
I get the feeling this is Hubbard being pissy because people in the 80s were experimenting with what science fiction could have, especially since Star Wars was technically sci-fi, but had fantasy tropes and overtones of the spiritual. And there were other examples at the time, like Terry Brooks (while the Shannara series is fantasy, it’s set in a distant post-apocalyptic future) and Krull (both SF and fantasy). There were also authors like Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe, who write “Dying Earth” books during this period that were fantasy-like, but technically sci-fi.
But the fact is, this wasn’t the beginning of cross-genres for sci-fi. Look at comic books! They have had science-fiction for a long time (Iron Man, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, etc), but they also had fantasy in the same reality (Wonder Woman, Doctor Strange, etc). And of course, you had authors like Jack Vance and Andre Norton writing sci-fantasy decades before this.
Sci-fantasy was not a new phenomenon. I could totally buy that it was experiencing a big boom in the eighties, since both SF and fantasy movies were being produced more than they had in the previous decade. But it was not some “damn these kids and their newfangled cross-genre stuff!” novelty.
And that’s just ONE fusion with sci-fi. Science fiction also fused with westerns, comedy, horror (Alien) and other genres.
Also, why is this even a problem? Art is rarely “pure”; it evolves, combines with other things, and achieves new styles and genres based on that. For instance, rock music evolved from R&B, which evolved from jazz, blues and soul music, which evolved from African-American spirituals and folk music. But does that mean that say, Muse is not “pure” rock because it incorporates classical instrumentation?! And does that mean that rock, R&B, jazz and gospel music are all the same genre? NO! OF COURSE NOT!
In short, this whole ramble feels like an old man ranting because sci-fi has gotten more complex and nuanced than it was back in his day, when people would gobble up stories which had nothing more complex than rayguns and BEMs. He was comfortable with the crap that people got in the 50s, and didn’t like that it was evolving away from that… you know, like every single genre of literature ever.
So what would pure science fiction be?
A completely and utterly fact-based story with no plot elements not directly related to it. In other words, boring and unengaging.
Science fiction does NOT come after the fact of a scientific discovery or development. It is the herald of possibility.
Got that, all writers of sci-fi that is based on actual developments of today? You’re not writing sci-fi.
It is the plea that someone should work on the future.
This might be more valid if he wasn’t writing a story about human beings losing literally ALL civilization, right down to the domestication of animals and the invention of shoes…. and getting most of it back in about a year.
In fact, there is no “plea” of any kind in Battlefield Earth.
Yet it is not prophecy. It is the dream that precedes the dawn when the inventor or scientist awakens and goes to his books or his lab saying, “I wonder whether I could make that dream come true in the world of real science.”
Okay, I’m going to stop and mention something: I hate it when people misuse the word “science.” Science is not a thing in itself. It’s not something you believe in (no matter what ill-informed atheists like to say), or rely on, or need to “uncover” to gain knowledge. It’s the name we give to our knowledge of the universe, and as such, it’s always incomplete and full of holes, because WE can never fully grasp the fullness of the universe and anything beyond it.
Science is like a map of the physical and measurable universe. Originally, the map was ill-defined and had only vague blobs where continents should be. But over the centuries, people redrew the map so that it contains more defined continents, rivers, islands, etc. Eventually the map strongly resembles the actual layout of the planet… but it still has a LOT of stuff that is not included. It will never include everything that exists on our planet, but we still try to refine it further and further so it will contain as much information as possible. And if something is wrong, we fix it.
THAT is science.
But who am I kidding? This is a guy who named his own religion “Scientology” to try to make it sound more “sciency.”
You can go back to Lucian, second century A.D., or to Johannes Kepler (1571–1630)—who founded modern dynamical astronomy and who also wrote Somnium, an imaginary space flight to the moon—or to Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein, or to Poe or Verne or Wells and ponder whether this was really science fiction.
Yes. They were. At least the last four were, and only a blithering idiot with excessively narrow definitions of the genre would deny they were.
How do I know? Because they took actual technological concepts and theories and applied them to fiction. For instance, Mary Shelley wrote her book about restoring life to dead tissue, which was something that was actually being experiments on at the time. For instance, some people thought electricity was the key, since it could make muscles contract and react even after something was dead.
Obviously we know now that you can’t reanimate things by zapping them, and there’s no chemical formula that can revive dead tissue. But it was a story written based on scientific theory of the time, and the fact that the theory was wrong and we haven’t invented a reanimation cocktail doesn’t take that away. Scientific “knowledge” of the past are often wrong, but that doesn’t mean sci-fi based on it is not sci-fi.
Let us take an example: a man invents an eggbeater. A writer later writes a story about an eggbeater. He has not, thereby, written science fiction. Let us continue the example: a man writes a story about some metal that, when twiddled, beats an egg, but no such tool has ever before existed in fact. He has now written science fiction.
- Maybe in the most technical sense of the term. But no, he hasn’t.
- For one thing, I could write about a bicycle built for sixty-five people, and that wouldn’t make it science fiction just because it has never existed.
- Also, science fiction is FICTION. It is a story, required to have things like plot and characters and acts and structure. Merely tossing in a machine that does not exist does not make it science fiction.
- That’s like claiming that Terry Pratchett wrote his own valid religious mythology because he wrote the Oh God Of Hangovers.
- Also, just because you write something that theoretically could be made in the future does NOT mean it’s based on scientific knowledge to fulfill a “dream.”
How do you look at this word “fiction”?
A story that is not real.
This guy is incredibly pedantic and condescending.
But when we join the word to “science” and get “science fiction,”
Does he seriously think that sci-fi is some kind of special snowflake genre that needs special definitions?
the word “fiction” acquires two meanings in the same use: 1) the science used in the story is at least partly fictional; and 2) any story is fiction.
So? I can apply that to almost any genre of literature. Here’s mystery: 1) the crime committed in the story is at least partly fictional, and 2) any story is fiction.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines science fiction as “fiction in which scientific developments and discoveries form an element of plot or background; especially a work of fiction based on prediction of future scientific possibilities.”
Anyone who defines a genre based entirely on dictionary definitions is an idiot. That’s a one-sentence definition of a very wide and complicated array of stories.
For example, I’m checking the definition of what fantasy is. The AHD defines this as “A genre of fiction or other artistic work characterized by fanciful or supernatural elements.” Except that leaves out many different aspects of the fantasy genre (the mythic basis, the distinction between different kinds of fantasy, the existence of magical realism), and that definition can be applied to NON-fantasy works such as horror.
In short, a one-sentence definition is a very very bad basis for an argument. That is the BEGINNING of knowing what something is, not the end.
So, by dictionary definition and a lot of discussions with Campbell and fellow writers of that time, science fiction has to do with the material universe and sciences; these can include economics, sociology, medicine, and suchlike, all of which have a material base.
Except that that definition also applies to books that are definitely NOT science fiction. For example, that can also apply to thrillers by people like Clive Cussler.
Merely having “science” in your books does not make it science fiction, and merely having a single speculative element does not make it sci-fi either. The speculative aspect needs to be more pervasive and tied to the plot.
Then what is fantasy?
I can tell this is going to make me angry.
In these modern times many of the ingredients that make up “fantasy” as a type of fiction have vanished from the stage.
… says the man who created a religion that says alien souls are stuck to you and you have to pay to have them removed. Oh, and you can levitate when you are “clear” enough.
You hardly even find them in encyclopedias anymore.
I find that hard to believe.
These subjects were spiritualism, mythology, magic, divination, the supernatural, and many other fields of that type.
- No. Sorry. Stop. Fail.
- Those things may all technically have something to do with the supernatural, but they are EXTREMELY different in actuality.
- “The supernatural” is so vague that it might as well not even be included.
- And what is “magic”? Does he mean fictional magic? Folk magic? Belief in magical beings? WHAT? These are not all the same thing!
- And mythology is not just a belief in the supernatural, you dumb dipshit. It’s an expression of culture and past religious belief.
- Also, remember how I keep bringing up Star Wars?
- Well, there’s definitely a spiritual element to Star Wars, and I’m pretty sure people noticed it. If they hadn’t, then hardcore fans wouldn’t have shit themselves inside-out when a “scientific” explanation for the Force’s interactions with people was introduced.
- So if nobody cared about the supernatural in this time, why did it strike a chord with so many people?
And if nobody cared about those elements of fantasy in the 80s, then why are so many of the most beloved fantasy movies FROM THAT DECADE?
The primary reason such a vast body of knowledge dropped from view is that material science has been undergoing a long series of successes.
Dammit, science doesn’t have “success.” You just add to the bulk of it.
But I do notice that every time modern science thinks it is down to the nitty-gritty of it all, it runs into (and sometimes adopts) such things as the Egyptian myths that man came from mud, or something like that.
No, I’m pretty sure it has never adopted that, and not just because “modern science” is full of assholes who think that they’ve reached the pinnacle of scientific knowledge and therefore are too smart to even consider that something out there might exist. Which it is.
It would be more accurate to say that it sometimes runs into evidence that some ancient myths might be true, despite previous “scientific” skepticism, like King Arthur or the lost city of Atlantis. Or distrust of scientists themselves is generated, like the anti-vaxxers (FUCK THEM AND THEIR CHILD-ABUSING WAYS).
But the only point I am trying to make here is that there is a whole body of phenomena that we cannot classify as “material.” They are the nonmaterial, nonuniverse subjects. And no matter how false many of the old ideas were, they still existed; who knows but what there might not be some validity in some bits of them. One would have to study these subjects to have a complete comprehension of all the knowledge and beliefs possible. I am not opening the door to someone’s saying I believe in all these things: I am only saying that there is another realm besides dedicated—and even simple-minded—materialism.
So buy a copy of Dianetics today!
So fantasy could be called any fiction that takes up elements such as spiritualism, mythology, magic, divination, the supernatural, and so on.
I know the fantasy genre is a lot more common and prominent today than it was at the time, but I’m pretty sure most people knew what the fuck fantasy was.
When you mix science fiction with fantasy you do not have a pure genre.
Seriously, I do not know why this bothers him so much. A lot of people acknowledge the supernatural and still have scientific interests, because – despite what some bigoted assholes think – the two do not conflict. One is the physical world, one is not.
So why is it a problem to have speculative fiction about technology in the future, but also incorporate things that are NOT about the technology but about something else?
The two are, to a professional, separate genres.
Nice little slap at any PROFESSIONAL who dares to write/produce sci-fantasy. Hubbard sure burned George Lucas, Andre Norton, Gene Wolfe and the whole comic book industry!
…. or he might have, if any of them had ever given a damn or heard about his comments, which they probably didn’t.
I notice today there is a tendency to mingle them and then excuse the result by calling it “imaginative fiction.”
Damn kids get off my lawn! And stop getting your damn fantasy in my science fiction!
Actually they don’t mix well: science fiction, to be credible, has to be based on some degree of plausibility; fantasy gives you no limits at all.
Also, they do mix well, and if Hubbard had ever actually read/watched them, he might have learned a little something. For one thing, sometimes something merely RESEMBLES something else from the other genre. For instance, Babylon 5 is science fiction and most (though not quite all) supernatural events and personages are actually explained away by time travel, alien tech or the like. But it adopts a lot of the TROPES of fantasy, such as the godlike aliens, technological “sorcerers” and legendary heroes in the vein of King Arthur.
Or else, take Star Wars again. The Force is something that can be perceived as either a guiding supernatural presence like God (Qui-Gon Jinn’s viewpoint) or as a sort of cosmic energy field (Obi-Wan’s). Neither opinion necessarily invalidates the other.
Also, I’d like to remind you that this is BATTLEFIELD EARTH we’re talking about. Without going into spoiler territory, plausibility is turned inside out, shot in the face and left floating in orbit of Pluto. I think Hubbard thinks that it counts as more plausible because there are nuclear bombs instead of magic spells, but when you introduce things that are “plausible,” you have to actually stick to plausibility instead of stretching credibility until it snaps (such as suggesting that a nuke has been sitting out there for a thousand years, and is STILL in perfect working order).
Writing science fiction demands care on the part of the author; writing fantasy is as easy as strolling in the park. (In fantasy, a guy has no sword in his hand; bang, there’s a magic sword in his hand.)
NO. STOP. FAIL. WRROOOOOONNNNNGGGGG.
This just shows that Hubbard is pontificating from his anus about fantasy. No, it is not “easy.” If anything, a complex fantasy world is HARDER to write than science fiction. With hard science fiction, you’re relying on a series of theories, conclusions and viewpoints that are supported by the evidence and knowledge at hand at the time, and that serves as the skeleton for your fictional world. You know where the boundaries are because other people have told you things that make logical sense, and your imagination will work inside that.
A fantasy world? You need to come up with a whole cosmology and determine how the supernatural will work within that framework. In essence, you need to WRITE the laws of established science for your fantasy world, which work in different ways than they do in ours. You need to do all the work sci-fi writers do, and then some of the work of GOD.
Take the usage of magic in your world.
Is treated like a science that can be studied, or is it something ethereal that can be ACCESSED?
Can anyone learn it, or is it an ability that’s inborn?
If the latter, how does it manifest? At what age? Is it a random thing, or is it inherited genetically?
Does it require training or refinement?
What kind of form does magic take? Is it elemental? Transformative? Divine? Necromantic? All of the above?
What are the social implications of it? Is it considered shameful? An honor? Just another talent like being a good painter?
How does a society develop when a number of their population are able to use magic?
What are the limits of magic’s use?
Is it possibly to surpass those limits and restrictions, and if so, what are the penalties for doing so?
What is the price, if any, of using magic?
What special abilities does this grant you (example: bonds with animals)?
Is this something that only humans have?
Are there other species who can use it? Do they have it as part of their physical makeup?
What are the applications of it in different scenarios like battling or hunting or whatever?
And so on, and so on.
And that’s just ONE ASPECT of your fantasy world. That doesn’t even get into things that you have to map out like theology, the wildlife (do dragons exist? Griffins? Other fantasy things?), whether there’s a mythological base to to your cosmology, technological levels, whether it’s taking place in our world or a high fantasy world, etc, etc. You have to dream up ALL of that and much more, and it all has to make sense WITHIN ITSELF. Otherwise you end up with a Laurell K. Hamilton book.
I’m not saying sci-fi isn’t challenging to write, because it is. But it’s a different KIND of challenging, the challenging that comes with research and knowledge and theory and being creative INSIDE a framework of scientific knowledge and semi-realism. Fantasy has the challenge of CREATING that framework, and making it consistent.
And in fantasy, a guy who needs a sword can just poof it into existence because magic? NO. Oh, I’m sure that Hubbard would have written it that way, because he was a fucking HACK.
But a GOOD author finds a way for that character to find a sword, or get a sword, or buy it, or SOMETHING. Take The Hobbit. Bilbo and Thorin needed swords for the later parts of the narrative to work, so Tolkien had to produce swords for them.
Did Gandalf magically pull Orcrist and Sting from his ass? NO. Because Tolkien was a good writer! So instead, he wrote in a whole sequence where they encounter trolls, get captured, are saved by Gandalf (who outsmarts the trolls, no magic needed), and investigate the troll hoard where they find old Elven blades. He actually put thought into how this would work, and a logical way for the characters to get the kind of swords he wanted them to have.
This doesn’t say one is better than the other. They are simply very different genres from a professional viewpoint.
Ad woe betide anyone who writes sci-fantasy.
And again, little feeble slaps at anyone who dares write it. Clearly they are not “professionals.”
But there is more to this: science fiction, particularly in its Golden Age, had a mission. I cannot, of course, speak for my friends of that period. But from Campbell and from “shooting the breeze” with other writers of the time, one got the very solid impression that they were doing a heavy job of beating the drum to get man to the stars.
Just because you “got the impression” that what you were doing was changing the world doesn’t mean it actually was. And even if your crappy SF stories did have any kind of impact, it had far, far less of an impact than did engineers, scientists, and the FUCKING PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
I could buy that people like Asimov, Clarke and the like could inspire a movement, even though I know for a fact that idealistic fiction was NOT the main thrust behind humans going to the moon and fixating on space. But not Hubbard. The only way his works make me want to head for the stars is because there might be bookstores without his books there.
Also, if they WERE trying to inspire “man” (not woman, since woman’s job is to wear sexy cavewoman garb and cook) to get to the stars… they failed. We didn’t go there. I don’t know why you would boast about that.
But worse than that, science itself was not getting the attention or the grants or the government expenditures it should have received.
Ah, “science.” What kind of science? Zoology? Microbiology? Archaeometry? Neurochemistry? Oceanography?
See, this is why I hate it when the scientifically illiterate (including 99% of Internet commenters) act like science is just this vague ill-defined godlike answer for everything. It’s not even ONE THING. Countless different disciplines are combined under the umbrella of “science,” and they are ALWAYS finding that they are wrong about stuff, and that their knowledge is incomplete.
There has to be a lot of public interest and demand before politicians shell out the financing necessary to get a subject whizzing.
I’m starting to see why Hubbard was the leader of the biggest infiltration of the US government in history. He seems to take it as a personal insult when the political winds are blowing in directions that he’s not interested in.
Campbell’s crew of writers were pretty stellar. They included very top-liner names.
… like?! Who?!
They improved the literary quality of the genre.
Is he saying it was crap before he and his buddies came on board?
And no, I’m not arguing that this magazine or Campbell didn’t have a big influence on the genre. Analog has helped launch SF/F stars like Timothy Zahn, Orson Scott Card, Joe Haldeman, Robert Heinlein, A.E. van Vogt, Ellison, E.E. Smith, Isaac Asimov, Lester del Rey and others. But for someone who gets so prickly about the credibility of sci-fi, Hubbard doesn’t seem to think it was worth anything before them.
Then Hubbard recounts how he went to the science department of a “major” university (I don’t know why he doesn’t mention names, either of authors or this university) to get data for my own serious researches. I have no idea what those “serious researches” were, especially since Hubbard specialized in pseudoscience. I’d make a Scientology joke here, but I’m honestly trying to avoid doing too many of those.
and the next thing I knew, I was shaking a lot of hands held out below beaming faces. And what did they want to know: What did I think of this story or that? And had I seen this or that writer lately? And how was Campbell?
They had a literature! Science fiction!
- Ugh. I’m sorry, but it just pisses me off so much that he seemed to think that science fiction only REALLY began when he and his buddies started working on it.
- And I really hate this attitude that people’s direct interest (or lack of it) in science must inform their reading tastes. That is horseshit.
- I’m not particularly interested in any scientific field – I’m more of an art person – but I do love me some sci-fi. Hard, soft, dystopian, utopian, contemporary-setting, futuristic, etc. I cut my teeth on Star Trek and Star Wars, and spent my formative years looking over all the old SF/F books my mom kept from her college days.
- And what in the world made this egotist think that they were thinking “We have our own literature nao!”? If they were nerds, they were probably interested to know more about the magazine that they read. It doesn’t mean that they never had any literature to read before, or that they had never been represented in fiction before. It just means that they were getting to hear about something they were fans of!
- And considering how idiotic in all matters “science” Hubbard proved to be, I’d expect his stories to make blood shoot out their ears.
- That’s the effect it had on me. And I’m not even a “sciency” person.
And they were proud of it!
What makes you think that they weren’t proud before?!
For a while, before and after World War II, I was in rather steady association with the new era of scientists, the boys who built the bomb, who were beginning to get the feel of rockets.
Yeah, and they apparently did occult sex magic. I somehow doubt that a guy who dropped out in his sophomore year of civil engineering was on the inside with people who made atom bombs that blew up Japanese cities.
They were all science fiction buffs. And many of the hottest scientists around were also writing science fiction on the side.
… such as?
I’m really getting annoyed by him never mentioning names, EVER. Even of the top authors who were in the magazine, which is common knowledge.
In 1945 I attended a meeting of old scientist and science fiction friends.
Ah yes, old friends who are scientists. Much like him, for he was super-involved in sciency things for science. Science science science.
The meeting was at the home of my dear friend, the incomparable Bob Heinlein.
Fun fact: the founding of Scientology was because of a bar bet that Heinlein made with Hubbard. Scientologists deny it, of course.
And do you know what was their agenda? How to get man into space fast enough so that he would be distracted from further wars on Earth.
- I know that utopian goals of peace and universal brotherhood are generally lauded merely for existing, even if they’re unrealistic.
- I don’t. I give no credit to people for good intentions if they’re too dumb to know what human beings are like.
- Human being are selfish and vicious, and we create artificial divisions entirely so we can feel superior to other people. Sexuality, race, nationality, philosophy, political party, etc.
- So anyone dim enough to think that “OOH SHINY” distractions would make war stop forever deserves nothing but scorn.
- And that’s not even getting into the simple fact that until we come up with a method of either folding space or traveling faster than light, going into space is essentially like levitating two inches off the ground. Yeah, you’re technically floating, but you’re not going anywhere.
- So what exactly did these guys want to do once people got into space? What did they think would cause the people of the Earth to be SO distracted that they would never have wars again? EVER?!
And they were the lads who had the government ear and authority to do it! We are coming close to doing it. The scientists got man into space and they even had the Russians cooperating for a while.
Yes, they got into space… and it became a competition to see who had the bigger national dick. And space travel had absolutely no effect on the Cold War, which only ended several decades later… and that had absolutely nothing to do with space travel. At all.
One can’t go on living a naive life believing that everything happens by accident, that events simply follow events, that there is a natural order of things and that everything will come out right somehow.
That isn’t science. That’s fate, kismet, and we’re back in the world of fantasy.
“If you don’t agree with my worldview, then you’re totally unsciency! Even though that worldview makes no sense because ‘everything happens by accident’ and ‘everything will come out right somehow’ are totally contradictory!”
The Golden Age of science fiction that began with Campbell and Astounding Science Fiction gathered enough public interest and readership to help push man into space.
I can only say it so many times: No, there was much, much, much more to human beings making it into space than a bunch of SF writers. Not saying they were devoid of influence, but Hubbard makes it sound like they had people marching in the streets demanding space travel just because some guys wrote stories about spaceships. He leaves out everything else that motivated it, especially the stuff that wasn’t very high-minded or glamorous.
I’m pretty sure that the incredibly popular and charismatic president saying “We’re going to the moon” had much more of an effect on the population, for instance.
Today, you hear top scientists talking the way we used to talk in bull sessions so long ago.
No, I don’t. Because I don’t really spend any time with top scientists. But I suspect in the 1980s, they were focused more on things like computers than in “we must go to spaaaaaaaace!”
And I have a big question for Hubbard: if we only went into space and wanted to explore the universe because of a handful of SF writers…. why is it that now, when sci-fi is much more accepted by the mainstream and commonly published, space exploration is at a nadir? Why is it that despite the success of scientifically plausible SF like the Expanse series or The Martian, we are no closer to getting to Mars? Shouldn’t the acceptance and enjoyment of those works mean that all the science nerds working for the government, not to mention the public, should be pushing for space travel?
Or maybe, just maybe, there’s more to exploration than people writing. Stories can inspire and change the world, but to be brutal and blunt, exploration does not happen because of some idealistic ideas. It happens because of money and power. It’s always been that way, and that is why it’s not happening now.
Of course, if Hubbard were around today, he’d likely be bitching about how all the sci-fi these days is dystopian and dark and not idealistic and not full of sexy women being rescued by manly heroes.
After he lost his first wife, Doña, in 1949—she married George O. Smith—
You don’t typically talk about people “losing” their spouses when the spouses divorce them.
When I started out to write this novel, I wanted to write pure science fiction.
So he wrote a Gary-Stu self-insert fanfic full of insane coincidences, logical plot holes, and stuff that just plain doesn’t make sense. Hey, Hubbard: just mentioning “sciency” stuff doesn’t make your book more plausible than fantasy.
And not in the old tradition. Writing forms and styles have changed, so I had to bring myself up to date and modernize the styles and patterns.
He failed. A lot of people who read this book are under the impression that he wrote it in the fifties, when standards for things like plot, characterization and scientific accuracy were, to be honest, a LOT lower. I was shocked that it was written in the 1980s, when sci-fi had definitely moved on way way way past Hubbard’s oeuvre.
And… OMG, I just realized that that means he wasn’t trying to write something retro.
To show that science fiction is not science fiction because of a particular kind of plot, this novel contains practically every type of story there is—detective, spy, adventure, western, love, air war, you name it.
- I don’t see horror, drama, roman a clef, tragedy, comedy, etc, etc.
- And Hubbard was really showing his age here when he describes “practically every type of story.” I mean, what kind of genre is “detective”? Or “adventure”? Or fucking “air war”?
- And by the way, most of those “types” are either not really represented in the book, or are represented really badly.
- I mean, the “love” stories are so bland and lifeless that they could be background romances in Twilight.
All except fantasy; there is none of that.
Because the supernatural and the sciency can’t coexist! That’s unpossible! Buy a copy of Dianetics!
The term “science” also includes economics and sociology and medicine where these are related to material things. So they’re in here, too.
And all of them are absolutely ridiculous and have nothing to do with actual sciences.
In writing for magazines, the editors (because of magazine format) force one to write to exact lengths. I was always able to do that—it is a kind of knack.
Is there anything Hubbard doesn’t claim to be a natural expert in?
But this time I decided not to cut everything out and to just roll her as she rolled, so long as the pace kept up. So I may have wound up writing the biggest sf novel ever in terms of length. The experts—and there are lots of them to do so—can verify whether this is so.
No, I’m pretty sure he didn’t. There’s Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged which is… sort of SF; there’s Henry Darger’s obscure magnum opus In the Realms of the Unreal; Stephen King’s The Stand, and some of Peter K. Hamilton’s books.
Of course, I suspect Hubbard’s snootiness about any speck of fantasy tainting “pure” sci-fi would cause him to dismiss some of these works.
Some of my readers may wonder that I did not include my own serious subjects in this book.
You know, serious topics like space planes flying across the galaxy and dumping aliens into volcanoes. Serious!
(Oh, and there’s plenty of propaganda for Hubbard’s freaky ideas in this book)
There are those who will look at this book and say, “See? We told you he is just a science fiction writer!”
No no no, they said, “See? We told you he is a SHIT science fiction writer.”
Well, as one of the crew of writers that helped start man to the stars, I’m very proud
A giant raging ego is more like it. How arrogant do you have to be to take credit for space travel when you had nothing to do with it?
Somebody had to dream the dream, and a lot of somebodies like those great writers of The Golden Age and later had to get an awful lot of people interested in it to make it true.
Right, because NOBODY dreamed of space travel until that particular band of writers did. Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. G. Wells are probably shrieking from beyond the veil.
I hope you enjoy this novel. It is the only one I ever wrote just to amuse myself.
And he is the only one it amused.
It also celebrates my golden wedding with the muse. Fifty years a professional—1930–1980.
Fifty years… and THIS was what he had to show for it.
And as an old pro I assure you that it is pure science fiction. No fantasy. Right on the rails of the genre. Science is for people. And so is science fiction.
FUCK YOU IN YOUR STUPID FACE. Enough with you shitting on fantasy while not having the slightest grasp on what science actually means.
You know, I think the reason he’s so desperate that nobody think there’s the slightest hint of something supernatural in his fucking book is because he spent so long trying to depict Scientology as something “scientific.” You know, despite the absolute and total lack of actual evidence to support anything it says… because it’s not like EVIDENCE has anything to do with science.
So of course he has to shit on the entire fantasy genre so people will know he is sciency and doesn’t truck with all that silly superstitious magical stuff. Because of course, fantasy has no rules or internal logic, and therefore cannot be appreciated by anyone who knows anything about sciency scientific science. Fuck him.
L. Ron Hubbard
… what in hell?! Are you five? Who says that?