Thursday, July 30, 2015

I Have a Good Feeling About This

Since surviving Mission Earth, the two Hubbard pieces we've looked at just haven't had the same impact.  There was Fear, a horror story that had a few effective parts that turned out to be ultimately based around a clumsy twist, and then there was Buckskin Brigades, a pretty generic adventure story pretending to be the redemption of the demonized American Indian.  Maybe it's because they're much earlier Hubbard novels than his magnum opus, so they aren't as Hubbard-y as what we became accustomed to.  Or maybe Hubbard is just out of his element when he's trying to write in the past or present.

So when I hit my local used book store, I was happy to spot a big fat Hubbard hardback next to a tower of the full Mission Earth series, a collection of science fiction stories that Hubbard started in 1947.  Let's meet Ole Doc Methuselah, shall we?

We've got us some classic sci-fi here - smooth, shiny spaceships, bright and colorful alien skies just jam-packed with ringed planets and nebulae and moons, and crisp, clean uniforms.  Our hero is boyishly handsome yet stands in a commanding pose, and his crossed sparking wands and mothercrunching cape with lightning decorations suggest that he possesses the wisdom and ineffable powers of a wizard.  It may be hard to tell in this picture, but he's before a crowd of cheering (and uniformly caucasian) people amidst a bunch of pyramidal space buildings.  His companion on the platform extending from his golden starship is some squat reptillian thing with multiple arms and thick legs, supporting a gun that's compensating for something.

The icing on the cake is that said lizard thing is also holding a copy of The Invaders Plan.  It's just like the blurb on the book jacket: "Ole Doc Methuselah was the name by which he was known on a myriad scattered planets, for he was the most famous member of the most elite organization of the cosmos, the Soldiers of Light.  But he was no soldier in the military sense, for the enemies he fought were disease, corruption and the warped psychology that spread in the isolation of mankind's lost planetary colonies." (emphasis added)  We're in for some generic pulp sci-fi with that special Hubbard touch.

The book's introduction gives a history of Hubbard's writing at the time the first Doc Methuselah story was published, which I'll just skim for you.  The original short debuted in Astounding magazine's October 1947 issue, and was published under the pseudonym René Lafayette (the L. in L. Ron is for Lafayette) presumably because of the amount of Hubbard material already appearing in Astounding and is sister publication Unknown.  Introduction writer Robert Silverberg describes the Doc Methuselah stuff as "perhaps reminiscent of the classic westerns," a "high-spirited romp" that the reader probably shouldn't take too seriously, while still containing speculation about the future of the medical profession.  I'm looking forward to learning how psychologists fit into all this.

There's also a Foreword that is nothing but what's already on the bookjacket, as well as a speech the lizard guy will make a bit into the first story reprinted verbatim, so I'll skip most of it.  There is a nearly page-long footnote, however, explaining the history of one organization we'll learn more about soon, which ends with the suggestion that if the reader wishes to learn more they "consult L. Ron Hubbard's "Conquest of Space," 29th Volume, Chapter XCLII."  I guess one of the perks about writing about the future is being able to decide that your other works will become famous as indispensable reference material.

The book contains seven stories that are about fifty pages long apiece, and they aren't divided into chapters so I'll get to arbitrarily choose when to end posts.  I've read most of the first piece and think it offers suitable sporking material - hopefully the rest live up to my expectations.  If not, or perhaps for a bit of variety between stories, I also have four really short Hubbard books in other genres like spy thrillers or pirate stories to turn to.

So yeah, break's over, I'm back to doing my thing.  See you guys soon!

1 comment:

  1. I'm late to this party, but I have to say, I've always enjoyed the Ole Doc Methuselah book, which is why I really like that you sporked it. I mean, it's still not great sci-fi.