# L. Ron Hubbard - the art, not the man

## Main Question or Discussion Point

L. Ron Hubbard was a con man, abuser, liar, cheat, megalomaniac, pathetic excuse for a human being. Everyone, myself included, knows that. But that was the man. When it comes to his art, I'll bet at least 1% of his work can be called decent, to say the least. What do you guys say? Yay or nay?

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Staff Emeritus
2019 Award
Is this the logical inverse of Sturgeon's Law? ("Ninety percent of science fiction is crap. But ninety percent of everything is crap.")

Is this the logical inverse of Sturgeon's Law? ("Ninety percent of science fiction is crap. But ninety percent of everything is crap.")
That's far from what I was thinking about when I wrote this.

Klystron
Gold Member
I recuse myself from an opinion of L. Ron Hubbard's output as I was never able to finish reading it. I rely on contemporary artists' opinions of his work such as in Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle's "Inferno" and various insinuations in novels by Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Kurt Vonnegut among others. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) never met L. Ron but certainly recognized the type.

A frequent complaint is that (honest) SF authors create speculative religions for comparative and entertainment purposes without roping the gullible into an actual construct.

Tried a few times, but could not find that 1%. Then I've stopped even trying - there are so many other authors who could write books I did not drop after just hundred pages.

Klystron and Bystander
When it comes to his art, I'll bet at least 1% of his work can be called decent, to say the least.
Which 1% would you nominate, @gabriel alexander?

phinds
Gold Member
2019 Award
L. Ron Hubbard was a con man, abuser, liar, cheat, megalomaniac, pathetic excuse for a human being. Everyone, myself included, knows that. But that was the man. When it comes to his art, I'll bet at least 1% of his work can be called decent, to say the least. What do you guys say? Yay or nay?
I think you'd lose that bet.

Which 1% would you nominate, @gabriel alexander?
Battlefield Earth, maybe, which was tainted by a craphole of an adaptation, starring Travolta.

phinds
Gold Member
2019 Award
Battlefield Earth, maybe, which was tainted by a craphole of an adaptation, starring Travolta.
Wikipedia's summary of reviews of the novel:
Critical response
Battlefield Earth received mostly negative reviews. The book had a negative reception from some literary critics: The Economist, for instance, called Battlefield Earth "an unsubtle saga, atrociously written, windy and out of control"[3] while in the science fiction magazine Analog, Thomas Easton criticized it as "a wish-fulfillment fantasy wholly populated by the most one-dimensional of cardboard characters."[4] Other critics pointed to the book's slipshod writing, such as "the ineffably klutzy destruction of the planet of the evil Psychlos by atomic bombs, which turns it into a 'radioactive sun'".[5] Punch sarcastically commended Hubbard's "excellent understanding of evil impulses, particularly deviousness, which helps with the plot, and [he] is well-enough aware of his weaknesses not to dwell upon frailties like love, generosity, compassion".[6] David Langford, after criticizing the plot, style and scientific implausibilities, concluded: "From this, Battlefield may sound almost worth looking at for its sheer laughable badness. No. It's dreadful and tedious beyond endurance".[7][8]

Red bolding mine.

Battlefield Earth, maybe, which was tainted by a craphole of an adaptation, starring Travolta.
Most sci-fi adaptations fail to capture the underlying novel, so that's not a surprise. What I always thought was the surprise was that Hubbard's book was so popular in the first place. Hubbard himself said, "I hope you enjoy this novel. It is the only one I ever wrote just to amuse myself," and I have always wondered whether there is any correlation between your intended audience and quality of the story.

Still, you asked about "decent", @gabriel alexander, and by any measure, Battlefield Earth was a roaring success. I'd love one of my novels to be a New York Times Best Seller and earn $1.5M in 1980s money! In that regard, it's like Fifty Shades or Jonathan Livingston Seagull for me: one of those poorly written books that catches the zeitgeist and makes a motza despite being poorly written. As for Hubbard's other work, he did not write a lot but to be fair, some of it was well received, including Fear, which Stephen King gave kudos to. I think, as with any author/novel, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some find Hubbard beautiful...and some don't! Most sci-fi adaptations fail to capture the underlying novel, so that's not a surprise. What I always thought was the surprise was that Hubbard's book was so popular in the first place. Hubbard himself said, "I hope you enjoy this novel. It is the only one I ever wrote just to amuse myself," and I have always wondered whether there is any correlation between your intended audience and quality of the story. Still, you asked about "decent", @gabriel alexander, and by any measure, Battlefield Earth was a roaring success. I'd love one of my novels to be a New York Times Best Seller and earn$1.5M in 1980s money! In that regard, it's like Fifty Shades or Jonathan Livingston Seagull for me: one of those poorly written books that catches the zeitgeist and makes a motza despite being poorly written.

As for Hubbard's other work, he did not write a lot but to be fair, some of it was well received, including Fear, which Stephen King gave kudos to.

I think, as with any author/novel, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and some find Hubbard beautiful...and some don't!
Wow. That's what I call a diplomatic answer. People like you are rare.

Klystron
Wow. That's what I call a diplomatic answer. People like you are rare.
Thank you, @gabriel alexander, but rest assured that I have often confused 'being right' with 'being rude' (and even here on PF), so now I try and hose down my inclination to cut to the chase, and consider that we all have different views and feelings on things and mine don't have primacy over anyone else.

I don't think Hubbard was a terrific writer, yet my brother did and his enjoying Hubbard's Mission Earth series, which I found interminable, stole nothing from me. Certainly, Hubbard's legacy of Scientology overshadows most of his books and if that's considered art (many seem to consider it artificial) then Hubbard was considerably more influential than most authors, so perhaps my brother was right after all.

Janus
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Wikipedia's summary of reviews of the novel:
Critical response
Battlefield Earth received mostly negative reviews. The book had a negative reception from some literary critics: The Economist, for instance, called Battlefield Earth "an unsubtle saga, atrociously written, windy and out of control"[3] while in the science fiction magazine Analog, Thomas Easton criticized it as "a wish-fulfillment fantasy wholly populated by the most one-dimensional of cardboard characters."[4] Other critics pointed to the book's slipshod writing, such as "the ineffably klutzy destruction of the planet of the evil Psychlos by atomic bombs, which turns it into a 'radioactive sun'".[5] Punch sarcastically commended Hubbard's "excellent understanding of evil impulses, particularly deviousness, which helps with the plot, and [he] is well-enough aware of his weaknesses not to dwell upon frailties like love, generosity, compassion".[6] David Langford, after criticizing the plot, style and scientific implausibilities, concluded: "From this, Battlefield may sound almost worth looking at for its sheer laughable badness. No. It's dreadful and tedious beyond endurance".[7][8]

Red bolding mine.
Read it back in the 80's. I personally thought it was a weak book. Even back then, the cover had a blurb on it that read "Soon to be a major motion picture!". After finishing it, my thoughts were "Why would anyone make a movie from this?"

Is this the logical inverse of Sturgeon's Law? ("Ninety percent of science fiction is crap. But ninety percent of everything is crap.")
Reminds me of the Zappa quote, "yeah but it is really pure crap..."

edit: the software doesn't like the real quote

Staff Emeritus
2019 Award
"Why would anyone make a movie from this?"

Two points: one on Hubbard the conman, one on his SF writing.

I thoroughly enjoyed Battlefield Earth, a rollicking, rambunctious and rumbustious adventure that flows flawlessly from one improbable episode to the next at a pace that almost leads you to miss the tongue placed firmly in the cheek. It is a brilliantly sustained pastiche of itself, a graphic novel without the pictures, bar those created by Hubbard's mural spanning, technicolour verbal extravaganzas. It has more cliches, tropes and motifs than you can shake a first edition of Amazing Stories at; a perfect reincarnation of the Birth of SF in the pulp magazines of the '20s and '30s. I love it!

Hubbard the conman: I admire lovable rogues. What makes a rogue lovable? In this case Hubbard announced he would create a religion, then went ahead and did so, ripping of the gullible and sceptically challenged, just as he said he would . Those who ignore the advice, caveat emptor, are on their own. Come on! Doesn't any one else see the delicious irony in a sociopath with a sense of humour?

Klystron
DEvens