Writers of the Future, Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard

A question from the gallery:

My wife and I were wondering if you would be so kind as to post your thoughts about the Writers of the Future contest on Whatever. With everything in the news about Scientology right now, we thought it might be interesting to see your take on the contest, the man, the religion, etc. Do you get the sense that some authors embrace Hubbard, while others snub their noses? The contest seems well respected, but does it come with an attached stigma?

For those of you not in the know, the Writers of the Future contest is a writing contest open to novice sf/f writers; there are quarterly and yearly competitions. The contest is funded by the estate of L. Ron Hubbard, Hubbard being, of course, the founder of Scientology. It’s administered by Author Services, Inc., which represents the Hubbard estate and is, I believe, staffed with Scientologists.

I’m really not a good person to ask about the Writers of the Future contest, because I never entered it, and never really had any interest in it. This was nothing against the Writers of the Future, I’ve just always been ambivalent about writing contests. I only entered one, and that was one at my college (I dusted off a high school story I’d written and came in 3rd, which was more than I deserved). But otherwise, eh.

That said, I know a few people who have entered the contest, and know a few others who have won; so far as I know no effort was made to convert them to Scientology at any point (“Congratulations, you’ve won! Here’s a check! And a gift certificate for a free auditing!”), and none of the entrants/winners I know are Scientologists as far as I am aware. So if WoF is meant to be a recruiting ploy for Scientology, it’s subtle to the point of being truly ineffective. Those folks who have entered/won WotF who also frequent here are invited to post their own experiences with the contest for more illumination. But I will say what little I know of it seems to suggest that is neither biased toward, nor intended to recruit for, Scientologists.

As for my own thoughts on Scientology, I have really very few. This may come as a shock to folk who have read The Android’s Dream, because in that book I create The Church of The Evolved Lamb, a religion founded by hacktastic science fiction writer as a scam to separate the credulous from their money, which is a description I know many would apply to Scientology. But in the course of the book, the folks in the Church are shown to be the good guys, with a solid grip on reality (such as it is in the course of the book). So if I’m satirizing Scientology in TAD with the intent to mock or demean it, I’m doing a pretty bad job of it. In fact, the Evolved Lamb Church has almost nothing to do with Scientology; I definitely take advantage of the (presumed) reader familiarity of L.Ron Hubbard and Scientology to set up the ELC, but after that it’s pretty much its own thing.

But as for Scientology itself, well, I’m not down with Xenu using DC-8s to transport billions of people to volcanoes for the purpose of nuking them into malevolent ghosthood, but then I’m not down with Yahweh blinking the universe into existence in six days and then kicking Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden because they decided to make a fruit plate, either. They’re both just different flavors of nonsense. I’m not sure why anyone wants to believe either, but if people want to believe either, it’s fine with me, as long as they keep it to themselves and don’t bug me about it.

This laissez-faire attitude will almost certainly enrage people with a particular bug up their ass about the Scientologists (or alternately, a bug up their ass about Christians, or a bug for each ass cheek about both), but I’m not at all sure why their ass-buggery should be my ass-buggery. Until I hear about Scientologists trying to make teachers talk about Incident II in science classes, or something equally Constitution-shredding, I’m content to leave them be. And, it seems, they feel likewise: unlike various Christian sects I could name, whose members show up at my door to discuss all the ways I’m going to have a miserable afterlife unless I join them right now, the Scientologists have yet to attempt to theologically molest me at home. Which I appreciate. Hopefully they won’t start now.

Moreover I have nothing to say about Scientologists and all their celebrities, except to note that I think Jenna Elfman is really cute. There, I’m done.

L. Ron Hubbard as a writer: A hack, but knew how to tell a story well enough. I remember picking up Battlefield Earth when I was twelve or something and being passably entertained until I realized that it so damn long that it would never end, and I’d be spending my entire rest of my childhood trying to get through it. At which point, I set it down because life is too short. I thought the movie was a real gas. We rented it off satellite because we couldn’t imagine it was as bad as everyone said it was — and it was worse! So much worse. But you could tell that John Travolta, at least, was having fun. Good for him. But to get back to L. Ron, he pretty much tubed his reputation as a writer once he got into the religion business; I can’t really think of an SF writer my age or younger who really considers him any sort of influence.

So in short: Writers of the Future not a recruiting front; Scientology as nonsensical as any religion; Jenna Elfman is cute; L. Ron Hubbard was a passable hack. I think we’ve said everything that need be said.

59 thoughts on “Writers of the Future, Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard

  1. I’m a WotF first place winner who has since developed a modest career in genre fiction. Pretty much what you said. Run by the CoS, but not for the CoS. In Scientology, writers and artists are (loosely speaking) secular saints, whether or not they share in the church’s beliefs. My experience of the contest and the particulars around it is of a group of very hard working people who are deeply committed to what they are doing.

    Plus, if you win, it’s a hell of a ride.

  2. Jenna Elfman is indeed cute. Where did she go? It’d be nice to see so more not classicly hot chicks my age on TV these days.

  3. Another thing about WotF, at least from what I’ve heard, is that the Scientology connection -does- draw a lot of celebrities to the awards banquet. Second- or third-tier celebrity, but still, more than you get at most SF events.

  4. I just won the last quarter of 2007.

    I’ve submitted often in the past, but I never gave it much thought, even though I know people who have won in the past (Hi Jay! ;)). As I become more immersed and gain more information on both the upcoming weeklong workshop and my fellow contestants, I feel increasingly honored and privileged, in time, company, and — let’s be honest — financial recompense ;).

  5. DCM,

    She’s in The Six Wives of Henry Lefay, coming out sometime this year (probably a summer release). I worked on it and she is indeed seriously cute.

  6. Patrick Rothfuss is either a winner, or a high placer at WotF. His winning (or placing) story was published in the WotF anthology (incidently, this is why he is ineligible for the Campbell)

  7. @ Rembrant Jay, could you elaborate on this? “Plus, if you win, it’s a hell of a ride.”

    Sure. You get paid lots of money, flown to LA (or in some years, someplace else), a fascinating week long workshop with Tim Powers and KD Wentworth, a glitterati banquet and awards ceremony, and practice at a high profile book signing event. Plus your story in a book with a solid worldwide distribution. As another past winner said to me when I won, “no one will ever make this much fuss over a short story again in your life.”

    Plus in my case my WotF story propelled me the Campbell.

  8. Interesting. I had almost the same reaction to Battlefield Earth although I first got fed up with all the auditing crap.

    The movie – wow. That was a perfect example of why actors need directors and directors need producers a writers need editors.

    I don’t think it is fair to compare religions by only comparing their creation stories. Of much greater importance is what they actually do.

    Some of us rememberJonestown.

  9. Yes, Jenna Elfman is cute. And even more so in the Looney Tunes movie with Brendan Fraser, where she seems to be routinely dressed in tight, short skirts and tight silk blouses. Not that I noticed or anything.

  10. Thanks Nathan. I just checked The Six Wives of Henry Lefay on IMDB and the flick also has Andie MacDowel, Paz Vega and Elisha Cuthbert. Hotties for all ages! Not a Tim Allen fan, but I thought he played his part perfectly in Galaxy Quest

  11. the Scientologists have yet to attempt to theologically molest me at home.

    Wish I could say the same. Back in the day (circa 1988-1994), I answered the door to someone who began by holding up a paperback copy of Dianetics and saying, “Hey, you like reading, don’t you?”

  12. For what it’s worth, Scientology front groups do indeed try to pass off Scientology stuff in public schools, especially through their Narconon programs, no matter how many times they’re kicked out.

    Also, Scientology front CCHR lobbies hard against mental health parity bills (since a goal of Scientology is to eradicate psychiatry, the source of all evil from the beginning of time).

    And there are abuses of the law – Keith Henson spent months in prison for “interfering with a religion” after peacefully picketing their razor-wired complex in SoCal.

    And of course the outright crimes – the biggest government infiltration in US (and Canadian) history, framing journalist Paulette Cooper for bomb threats, framing mayor Gabe Cazares for hit-and-run, holding people against their will, and so on – and the suspcious deaths (Lisa McPherson just being one of the best known).

    For me and many critics, it’s not the beliefs, it’s the illegal and unethical behavior.

  13. I for one am going to keep entering until I win or am no longer eligible. I know a couple of people who actually have won it and it was a great experience for them. The workshop thing they do sounds fabulous, if slightly intimidating and overwhelming.

  14. Thanks Jay.

    While I haven’t had a CoS member bug me in person I do remember a time when commercials for dianetics were far too frequent.

  15. What Kristi said.

    As long as we don’t have adequate mental health treatment in this country, we all pay the price. We have a criminal “justice” system and emergency rooms overrun by people with psychiatric disabilities because they can’t get adequate services. The Scientologists run elaborate lobbying campaigns under misleadingly named organizations (at least in Florida) in opposition to public policy that would ameliorate some of these problems.

    So yes, I’m one of those enraged people with a well inserted bug, I guess. But this is not a group of benign navel contemplaters.

  16. I would insist that while I agree that Christians have what I consider to be wacky beliefs, Scientologists have wackiER beliefs. The space ships that happened to be shaped like DC-8s was what did it for me.

  17. I had someone once posit that the Writers of the Future competition was created as a source of unknown science fiction that could be passed off as Hubbard’s, especially in the period when it was being kept from some of his family members that he had already died.

    Although it could just be that he remembered what it was like to be a broke, unknown aspiring writer and wanted to provide a break for others.

    I don’t quite have a bug up my bum about Scientology, but it’s certainly a multi-celled organism of some sort. I don’t like prosletyzers, and they do seem to run roughshod over critics and apostates.

    As to the idea that an established name buys new work and slaps his/her name on, it isn’t completely unprecedented. I know an Academy Award-winning special effects guy who says that it’s common in Hollywood for many filmmakers, directors, producers, etc. to buy someone’s first screenplay, pass it off as their own, in exchange for a tidy sum and a deal to buy one or two more screenplays with the writer’s real name attached.

  18. WOTF is pretty much the 800-lb. gorilla of SF/F writing contests. From all I’ve heard, they try pretty hard to keep the contest and Galaxy Press separate from the other stuff. Hubbard, even when he was in this plane of existence, wrote a lot of essays on writing and encouraged young writers, so it seems reasonable to me.

    The contest has serious prize money ($1000 for 1st prize), an enormous word limit of 17,000 words, and closes four times a year (31 March, 30 June, 30 September, 31 December). The four 1st prize winners in one year then are re-judged for a Grand Prize of $5000. Payment for inclusion in the anthology is handled separately as a pro paying sale. And all of the 23 annual anthologies so far published are still in print, which doesn’t happen very often in short fiction. Their website is pretty hyper (annoying).

    They get over 1000 submissions a quarter, I’m guessing, and Finalists and Semi-Finalists get story crits from coordinating judge K.D. Wentworth. A group of BNA’s (Big Name Authors) judge the winners. But even an Honorable Mention (Quarter-Finalist) means you’re well into the top 10%.

    Full disclosure: I’ve been entering the contest since June 2002 — haven’t won, but I got two Finalists in 2007 and one of them will be the sole published Finalist in the 24th anthology. So I don’t get prize money, but I’ll be invited to the rest and make a big sale. And since I didn’t win a prize, and don’t have 3 pro sales yet, I still qualify for entering the contest.

    One of the things I really like about WOTF is that you get four writing deadlines a year, which means a new writer can build up their inventory of stories.

    Dr. Phil

  19. Yeah, I’m a first place winner too. They flew us to a luxury resort in Florida, took us to a space shuttle launch and held the awards ceremony at the the space center. Scientology was barely mentioned. The checks were huge for the short fiction game. And it’s the best writers conference you’ll ever get paid to attend. We had Dave Wolverton, Algis Budrys, Kevin J.Anderson, Tim Powers, Frank Frazetta and Jack Williamson attending, among others. A wild ride indeed.

  20. I know Scalzi isn’t of the opinion that all Christians are nutjobs, but in response to Jemaleddin: please don’t confuse Christians with creationists. Some (I would hazard a guess that most) Christians are really quite fond of science. I know it amuses creationists to believe they speak for all ‘true’ Christians, but keep in mind that it also amuses them to believe that evolution doesn’t exist.

  21. I’ve been a finalist or an honorable mention many times now (over 6 years) and so far I don’t remember being recruited for Scientology, but then I might just be repressing that memory. At a recent con I was very surprised to hear an editor I respect go off about them, which then caused me to re-examine all the contacts I’ve had with them beyond mailing off manuscripts. If they’re recruiting that way, they are exceptionally subtle about it.

  22. None of the WotF winner I’ve met complained about Scientology, but as far as religions go, it’s one of the more socially malevolent ones to come out of the western world.

  23. Scientology frightens me more than just about every other ‘religion’
    Especially their ‘Fair Game’ policy of maliciously trying to discredit their critics.

    And the CoS is trying to slowly take over Clearwater, Florida

  24. While I’ve had my own reservations about the potential connection between Scientology and the WotF contest, something else puzzles me a bit more. Why do authors so often feel the need to express an opinion about either politics or religion? Using it in one’s work makes sense to me, as either can be a major part of an explored world, but I really don’t care that much about a writer’s political or religious leanings, as long as I like their writing.
    Or is it just me?

  25. Network Geek:

    “Why do authors so often feel the need to express an opinion about either politics or religion?”

    Because they’re human and humans have opinions, and like sharing the opinions with other humans?

    That’s just a guess.

  26. Network Geek: Adding to what Scalzi just said, I don’t think authors feel that need more than anyone else. I find that my friends and everyday acquaintances, very few of them writers, feel that need just as much, if not more.

  27. Mr. Scalzi:
    Hmm, maybe what baffles me is that people seem to give author’s opinions more weight. I guess it’s that celebrity factor or something.

    I had a Physiological Psychology professor who concealed his religious affiliation based on the idea that it could distract from the topic of the course. I’ve always admired that and followed it when talking about things like writing or other creative pursuits. My religious leanings, or lack thereof, hopefully, have no direct bearing on my skills, so I prefer they not get in the way. Also, why possibly alienate an audience? (Of course, you answered that in another post, but, I’m just sayin’.)

    So, are there *any* writing contests you’d recommend? Or, do you prefer the “ultimate writing contest” (ie. publication)?

  28. Network Geek:

    “maybe what baffles me is that people seem to give author’s opinions more weight. I guess it’s that celebrity factor or something.”

    Writers (hopefully) have the advantage of presenting their thoughts cogently, which helps. But yeah, valuing the opinion of a writer (or anyone) higher simply because they’re better known is silly. But if you go through the comments here, you’ll find enough people who say “I like your writing, but you’re totally wrong” that I don’t feel like people are overvaluing me too much.

    Writing contests: I can’t recommend any because I have never entered any and I know almost nothing about them. I think getting published is always a good thing, but certainly winning contests is fun too, especially when they come with money attached.

  29. Network Geek: Hmm, maybe what baffles me is that people seem to give author’s opinions more weight. I guess it’s that celebrity factor or something.

    I think it may be that authors, being wordsmiths by trade, are better skilled, and certainly more practiced than my neighbors and friends at presenting their opinions in an interesting, coherent and yes, entertaining manner.

  30. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battlefield_Earth_%28novel%29

    “Science fiction author, A.E. Van Vogt, stated, “”Wonderful adventure . . . great characters . . . a masterpiece.”[16] but later admitted that he had not actually read it due to its size.”

    …which is kind of amusing, as van Vogt was often rumored to have ghosted BFE for Hubbard (or for the C of S) when we discussed on that Arpanet-thingy way back when it first came out.

    Hubbard as a writer? Some of the stuff (Final Blackout) is good. The rest, not so much. Anything written by him in the 80′s onwards (whether really by him or not), blech.

  31. “Hmm, maybe what baffles me is that people seem to give author’s opinions more weight. I guess it’s that celebrity factor or something.”

    I think you’re confusing exposure with weight. We’re here on the interwebs in public on an author’s website, discussing a writing contest funded by an author famous for starting his own religion, so it’s inevitable that authors’ opinions are being discussed. And it’s likely that a few of us who regularly drop by around here might occasionally mention something we saw here because we regularly drop by here, so it’s something we might mention (especially if we think other regulars might stop by our own blogs).

    But that doesn’t mean anyone’s saying, “OMG! DID YOU SEE WHAT SCALZI SAID?!?!?” anywhere else. I don’t expect it’ll come up when I finish my lunch break and go back to work, you know.

    The same principle applies beyond the internet: author (musician, director, actor, whatever) has a new thing to promote and TV shows (newspapers, magazines, radio programs) have space to fill, so there’s this mutual need that’s fulfilled when the writer goes on NPR or TODAY or takes a call from the writer/editer/publisher of The Okapokie Tattler. If the topic happens to turn to politics or religion, okay then. It doesn’t necessarily follow, though, that anyone’s giving weight to any of it just because of celebrity. If something is said fairly well, we might like the articulation, but that comes from “I like the way he phrased that,” not, “Wow! He thinks that! I’ll bet his underwear smells awesome, too!” Your next door neighbor might say the exact same thing, but he probably isn’t on a book tour when he says it.

  32. Network Geek:

    “Hmm, maybe what baffles me is that people seem to give author’s opinions more weight. ”

    For example?

    In America, people don’t give authors’ opinions more weight. Quite the contrary — in America, we don’t pay much attention to authors, except for the minority of Americans who read books regularly, and even then I can’t think of any examples of those whose political opinions are held in greater esteem than, say, Sean Penn’s.

    We give Scalzi’s opinions more weight here because he’s very articulate, knowledgable, and argues well, and also because it’s his blog, and we’re here because we’re fans or friends of Scalzi, or both.

  33. “winning contests is fun too, especially when they come with money attached.”

    I have entered one writing contest. I think I baffled people by saying I was shooting for second— second and third came with monetary compensation, while first came with an “internship” with an established author.

    I won first. The internship never materialized. Damn, I could have used the money. :D

    But it was fun.

  34. I’m from Clearwater, Florida and lived there for over twenty years. It’s true, Scientology owns quite a bit of land and keeps buying. Their presence (uniforms, group marches, etc.) downtown was a constant source of amusement when I was in high school. Most of my neighbors were not fans. However, you were more likely to have your door knocked upon and be proselytized to by a Jehovah’s Witness.

    I’ve never entered the writing contest, but several times, I ran in a road race they held every December called the Jingle Bell Run or something similar. Aside from the free t-shirts all runners got having the words “Dianetics” (one of the sponsors) embalzoned across the back in big letters, you wouldn’t know it was run by the COS. We certainly weren’t recruited. We ran the race, ate the free pizza and powerade afterwards, got our ribbons and t-shirts, and went home to decorate our imported fir trees.

  35. @Mitch Wagner on 41.

    Well, maybe I’m biased since I’m one of the small number of readers left supporting the decaying publishing system. But, I have seen people on other author’s sites getting quite distressed because their view was either not shared or came into conflict with their favorite author’s opinion. If my garbage man was from the opposing political party, would I refuse to let him collect my garbage?

    Seriously, I was using “authors” here, because, as you point out, I’m posting a comment on an author’s website, but I’m equally baffled by why I should care what a celebrity thinks about politics and religion, too.
    Oddly enough, Michael Madsen made the comment on last night’s Chelsea Lately show that he thought actors should keep their nose out of politics.

    It just seemed like an odd thing to me. But, then, celebrity in general seems like an odd thing to me.

  36. @NetworkGeek on 44: OK, that’s a whole different matter — I thought you were making a broad statement about “people.”

    Fans identify closely with the writers they admire, so the behavior you describe is understandable. It’s an intimate connection, not the same as someone who performs a service for you.

    As for actors and celebrities voicing political opinions: They’re people. They have the same right to speak out that you or I do.

  37. Joni just called me and said I made an ‘honorable mention’ for WOTF. I am assuming it’s 1st quarter? A remarkably unexpected call, and I am not quite sure what an Honorable Mention means, other than it might perk up a few heads if I put it into a cover letter on my future submissions. Can any of you more experienced and published folk comment on the ‘Honorable Mention’? Obviously not as exciting as an actual semi-finalist win, but this is certainly the gosh darn biggest official praise I have ever gotten for any of my writing!

  38. Hey Brad, congrats on your Honorable Mention! I’ve had several HM’s in WOTF, plus a Semi-Finalist and Finalist, but never got a phone call from the Contest Administrator. I’m jealous.

    Per KD Wentworth’s comments in the WOTF forum, an HM means she liked the story well enough to read the whole thing, some aspects of your story telling craft were extremely well done, and yours was in the top 10-15% of entries.

    My near misses in the contest have given me the encouragement to keep going, knowing if I continue to work hard and learn more of the craft, I’ll eventually start selling stories. Good luck to you. Maybe we’ll both be winners in the same quarter and attend the workshop together. (The workshop is why I keep entering. The money and marketing help is nice, but I really want the workshop.)

  39. Since religion is being discussed, I think Christianity is an organized criminal syndicate.
    Just look at the facts:
    They have been burning innocent women at the stake, have committed ritual murder of over 30,000 Jews and have slaughtered non-believers wholesale over the centuries.
    More recently their priests have been molesting little boys and they are extorting millions from their parishioners with the threat that if they don’t pay they go to hell.
    What a racket – and it’s been going for well over a thousand years.

  40. I recently reconnected with Joni and Galaxy Press. The contest is clearly continuing to grow, and the recent winners are definitely coming forth with careers such as Jay – and this was not necessarily true in decades past, where the contest could be presented as not-indicative of people going on to have careers after the early winners, which included original contest administrator Dave Wolverton (now writing as David Farland) and Robert Reed – very different, but equally influential and excellent writers. The guy that won the grand prize year #1 with me never published another thing, and it was kind of obvious he probably wasn’t going to do too much, as he didn’t complete a story during the week-long workshop. The story I completed was “Mad for the Mints” (you’re free to read that at Book View Cafe or God forbid, buy it online – imagine that — some dummies just did in the past month, ha – more fool them!). There’s that for what you can do with a paperclip, a box of Altoid mints, and a mental problem – and I was officially NOT a winner, when I finally got something it was just a third prize winner, and it was at the very last possible moment I’d even be eligible to enter.

    Winning this contest, after learning about it, became one of my early writing goals and as described above, it’s easy to see how well I did with that – it got there, but just barely.

    I’m posting because one of the things that occurred to me most strongly as I spent time with Joni and John the other weekend was that these tired old statements about the Scientologists and Scientology really need to be retired – at least as far as the contest is concerned. It truly has nothing to do with the Scientology religion, or with “converting” contestants to Scientology. Instead, it pays a tribute to an aspect of L. Ron Hubbard that predates the Church of Scientology – his writing career and his early efforts in working with new writers and developing a system of writing instruction. Like or dislike Hubbard’s writing or ideas, he was a very interesting man. Those of us who were there those two years laughed at the animatronic Battlefield Earth figure (“Stoopid HUUUUMANNN!”) and really took a good look at and learned from Mr. Hubbard’s writing-related advice, writing, and his factual life experiences, history and non-Church-related ideas.

    Hubbard, his ideas, and the contest which is carrying on one of his non-Scientology interests, and the broad group of field-leading writers who have either served as judges in the past, or who are currently serving, plus the good points of the contest itself – identifying and giving a boost to new writers who genuinely have talent and stories to offer to readers – it really is moving forward rapidly. These complaints are not only kind of abusive and invalid as far as the contest is concerned, they’re really out of date, too. I am very proud of what the contest has accomplished in recent years and I feel strongly they have overcome the taint of having me in their facility not one, but TWO years in a row. And that’s what I have to say about that.

  41. If you’d like an article more recent than the Time Magazine expose, may I suggest this article from the St. Petersburg Times, which is so recent it didn’t even exist when this blog post was first published–

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/article1012148.ece

    Part One of Three. Read the other two parts if you want a clearer picture of where the money comes from.

  42. I am a scientologist, and I think that I like it because I can relate to it. I remember past lives, and I can control different aspects of the MEST universe other than just picking something up and putting it down. What do YOU do with the MEST universe? Anyway, my only point is that I like the ‘religion’ (if you could call it that) because it has reality to me. That’s all. Have a nice day everyone!

    Bye!

  43. Full disclosure I used to be a ‘hardcore’ Scientologist (including 5.5 years on staff 3 of which were in the Sea Org which is the main religious order of the church) but now I’m more a Buddhist in practise though I still use some things like the study methodology and other bits and pieces that work for me. I haven’t been inside an org for a few years now and my decision to change was not because I have anything against Scientology but just because Buddhism suits my needs better at this point in my life for a more Eastern spiritual practise – as I’m part-Asian and want to learn more about that side to me which is the driving force for me to experience these practises.

    That being said the person (Kristi Wachter) who posted all the anti-Scientology material is known to harass people who are and businesses who employ Scientologists by going through their trash and publishing their business secrets and private lives on the internet – even if said material has nothing to do with the religion whatsoever – I mean don’t all humans still have a right to privacy (especially about financial and sexual matters) even if we don’t like them?
    Oh and the man she applauds for ‘standing up’ – Keith Henson – physically and verbally harassed friends of mine in front of me back when I was staff. I tell you what other than the occasional poorly timed phone call (which I just ignore and don’t pick up) I’ve never had any issue with the CoS bugging me or hurting me or making me do anything I didn’t want to do – I’ve always been able to say NO. I cannot say the same for the antics of Keith Henson who has even harassed friends of Scientologist who aren’t Scientologists – part of the reason he was convicted in the first place and you can look up the court records in Riverside County’s website if you wish. Rather than send you to a church affiliated site – to avoid being called biased – I send you to his own daughter’s site about her experiences growing up with him and being molested – http://valerieaurora.org/keith.html.
    When I was on staff I had tomatoes thrown at me, people spit in my face, and all sort of other evil bigoted things done to me by anti-Scientologists, the worst punishment I got from a Scientologist (for something which I did wrong and actually deserved some sort demerit for) was to clean some a toilets on my free time – hell I do that for my own house nowadays anyway! I’ve even had anti-Scientologists who’ve emailed my husband (not a Scientologist) and tell him to kill himself just because he is married to me – now that’s insane!

    Personally I LOVE science – but as most in the field I acknowledge people can use it for good and bad goals. As a social scientist ‘in-training’ myself critiques of modern psychology’s overdependence of drugging and labelling are not just a purview of Scientologists but of many of those in the field itself. In fact the group she calls a ‘front group’ CCHR was co-founded by the well known and respected Dr. Thomas Szasz – himself an psychiatrist and more importantly an Atheist who doesn’t even believe in religion personally, though he welcomes all who wish to fight the therapeutic state (see http://www.szasz.com/enemies.html).

    Many science fiction writers and others have commented on the issues and injustices surrounding this issue and both Sci-Fi and Fantasy is filled with such commentary, one need only pick up a history book to see that science isn’t always applied toward good things but has been and can be used by individuals and governments to harm people. I especially loved the episodes of BtVS about the ‘Initiative’ and of course ‘Firefly/Serenity’ comes to mind.
    My whole time engaged in the groups Wachter calls ‘front groups’ rarely (maybe once every few months out of hundreds of volunteers a month) did I hear a person who was engaged in those activities want to use it for anything other than just helping make the world a better place. Most Scientologist, just like most Christians or Jews or others who volunteer at charities related to their faith know that the main purpose is to help one’s fellow man, NOT to proselytize. Those volunteers who really didn’t understand that the purpose was supposed to ‘help people’ NOT to ‘make more Scientologists’ were then told it would be better for them to for the church directly rather than our groups as we only wanted people who understood that this was just a way of helping those in the world around us and if they wanted to proselytize they should volunteer at an org or mission (Scientology term for an individual parish or branch) as THAT was the place for such activities NOT in places like ABLE or Narconon, etc. I’ve heard the same policies apply to Author Services staff who are there to help forward Hubbard’s ideas of helping science fiction author’s get their start. I think WoTF winners experiences here are a testament to the fact that the church likes to keep Hubbard’s secular stuff and religious stuff as split as possible – partly so as not to irritate people but more importantly because it’s the right thing to do to respect other people’s religious inclinations and not push your views in their face all the time at inappropriate venues.

    As a general rule in Scientology you’re not supposed to proselytize to someone unless they express interest first – the term used in Scientology is ‘a reach.’ Of course like any group religious or otherwise Scientology wants more members – but the policy is supposed to be that the person must first be ‘a reach’ or reaching for it before you even attempt to proselytize. I wish sometimes other religions had similar policies but sadly this is not the case.

    Scientology also has strict policies on who is eligible so many of the persons participating in such social betterment programs were either not eligible to do Scientology services due to either criminal background or excessive drug use or just because they are children and thus too young to decide for themselves anyway so obviously proselytizing would actual hurt the ability to help those people in any event. Of the hundreds of thousands who have been gotten off drugs from Narconon I only know of like three who later decided to ‘check out’ the Scientology stuff and in all the cases it was years and years later through an unrelated friend that they decided to try Scientology – and they had to prove they no longer had those kinds of issues and were thus now eligible to participate in Scientology services. As a general rule people just go back to trying to recreate their lives without the burdens of whatever the hell landed them in such an ABLE group in the first place, practising whatever their faith or no faith they had before.

    Sure there have been idiots who’ve misapplied it and the horrible incident (ruled by the coroner as an accident) of Lisa that Wachter referred to is one example. But Scientology has never gone around killing its enemies like other faiths and philosophies have in their pasts or even now if you live in the Middle East or some parts of Africa. Oh and that person shouldn’t have rung your door trying to sell a Dianetics book, that’s also considered an ‘off-policy’ or wrong way. Per Scientology rules (policy) they should either know you from somewhere else first or you should be listed as ‘a reach’ from having called off an ad or TV commercial or having walked up to a booth during some public event. Again though we are all human and his/her mistake was probably due to enthusiasm and a lack of policy knowledge rather than any malice. Remember people view tend to view any philosophy they believe in – be it secular or religious – to be good and of course naturally want to share it with others because we are social creatures by nature. Oh and their are idiots in all philosophies be they secular or religious.

    For the record I’ve never seen any such references to DC planes or Zenu in official Scientology books/texts ONLY in anti-Scientology sites online and in an anti-Scientology book I read before trying Scientology services out. I’ve read the staff only policies, upper thingy’s and whatnot (trying to avoid too many Scientology terms) – and to be completely honest without giving any details as I promised to keep the details secret – and I value my ‘word as my bond’ even after leaving a particular faith – it’s more about how to communicate better with people, how to dress better, and cleaning tips than any of the claptrap I’ve seen said on the internet. Like I said I prefer Buddhist practise because it’s more leisurely and suits my ethnic identity better – but I have nothing against Scientology so can give a better, more objective view on the matter.

    In conclusion my experiences are that the “anti’s” have been evil and cruel to those who are even remotely affiliated with CoS members, while CoS members usually commit errors in over-enthusiasm or lack of understanding the general culture around them, NOT out of anything intentionally malicious or vindictive. Oh and I found this because I am a HUGE SGU fan (6th place on my TiVo line-up) then saw this post and thought I’d give a bit of my experiences. Ciao!

  44. Oops it was supposed to read “Oh and their are idiots in all philosophies be they secular or religious – so mistakes are made no matter what is belived”

  45. Just want to bring this comment thread forward into the present time.

    Last month I was down in Los Angeles for the 26th annual Writers of the Future awards, where I received my trophy, my cash payment upon publication, and 12 spanking new copies of the anthology.

    I also did an over-massive writeup on the value of the Conest — as I perceive it — which can be found by clicking this link.

    From my first entry until the time I won, were about two years. Though I’d been trying to break into fiction for much, much longer than that.

    Contest Administrator Joni Labaqui and Contest coordinating judge (and author herself) K.D. Wentworth both confirmed that competition in the Writers of the Future slush is getting very, very good up in the top 10% — which is where the Honorable Mentions, Silver Honorable Mentions, Semi-Finalists, and Finalists are pulled from. I myself was an Honorable Mention for every entry, save the two Finalists I got, one of which won, and other which sold to Stan Schmidt at Analog Science Fiction & Fact.

    For our class of 12 winners (plus one additional winner, who won in 2008 and who could not attend then, but did attend this year) I am pretty sure every single person had, at minimum, one or more semi-pro sales, beyond the Contest. And I think at least half of us also had SFWA-pro-level sales, on top of our wins. It was a very, very solid class — not a hobbyist in the bunch, from what I could tell — so the Contest is certainly not lacking for competetive skill and talent.

    My personal feeling is that Writers of the Future is darn near the best ‘value and prestige’ entry point into professional science fiction and fantasy publication in existence. Mainly because you can’t really hang a price tag on the value of the instruction at the workshop, which includes Tim Powers, Wentworth, and many of the judges: Jerry Pournelle, Eric Flint, Mike Resnick, Kevin J. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta, Dave Wolverton, and many others. Being able to spend a few days with that group, having unheard-of familiarty and access to these highly accomplished professionals, I don’t know where an entry-level newbie professional finds that kind of exposure and knowledge — not for free.

    Anyway, the Scientology concern is one that always seems to come up, but when I was down there nobody ever talked about the church, nor mentioned it, nor did anyone try to use us as winners to promote the religion. If Scientologists run the Contest, they keep it 100% focused on writing (and the artists, for Illustrators of the Future) and there was no blurring the line between church and Contest.

    Jay Lake said it’s a hell of a ride, and he’s right. The Contest also has a hell of a legacy. Boatloads of professionals come out of it, all the time — some of the earliest winners are now judges themselves. It’s a great tradition, and it’s a pleasure to have graduated up out of it as the latest Utah guy to pass through as a writer winner.

    Now, my goal — on top of further exploits in professional publishing — is to win the Illustrator’s award. (evil grin)

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