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.