Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Jesus Had It Easy

The Great Secret by L. Ron Hubbard containing the following stories: "Space Can", "The Great Secret", "The Beast" and "Slaver": (Collected 2008): This slim, over-priced for its length collection of pre-1949 pulp stories from Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard (admittedly, it really cost me a dollar in the bargain bin at Chapters, and even that's too much) demonstrates a couple of things that I find interesting.

One is that it's really expensive to be a Scientologist who wants to read everything Hubbard ever wrote: there are 80 of these collections in addition to the 20 or so Hubbard novels also available from the publishing wing of Scientology. That's a whole lotta Hubbard going on. And such small portions.

The second is that Hubbard was a perfectly competent pulp writer, most of whose work can justifiably be forgotten. Nothing included here ranks with Hubbard's handful of better-than-competent stories or pulp novels. "The Great Secret" has a twist ending one sees coming from a great distance, as does "The Beast." "The Beast" also uses Venusian aliens in an extremely discomfiting, pidgin-English-spewing, we-love-the-great-white-hunter way. "Space Can" is a fairly rote space battle story in which humanity has mastered interstellar travel but not automated fire-suppression systems. "Slaver" reads like a prologue to a novel that I don't think was ever written, though it does prefigure Hubbard's 1980's comeback novel Battlefield Earth in some ways.

If you're going to read one L. Ron Hubbard story, go with the psychological horror novel Fear: it's pretty good. Don't read this. Though the layout and production design are nice. The hagiographic history of Hubbard's contributions to American science fiction, fantasy, movies, popular culture, Westerns, World War Two, cultural anthropology, and everything else that appears at the end of this volume (and I'd assume the other 79 volumes) bears no resemblance to any non-Hubbard-inspired history, ever, anywhere. Jesus had it easy: he didn't have a lengthy career as a pulp writer to explain to his followers. Not recommended.

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