Who’s afraid of L. Ron Hubbard?

Looking back over 2008, I’m actually surprised how many books I read through the year. Not a ton compared to some, but enough to surprise myself.
I say this because I have a bit of a short attention span when it comes to full-length novels. In the 1980s, I was an avid reader, but at the same time most books maxed out at 250 pages — maybe 300 if it was a really well-known author. But somewhere along the way, publishers decided we needed more bang for out buck, and novels started getting a lot longer — 400 or more pages.
For me, it just meant too much reading of padded stories, and I gradually got out of buying novels. Sure I’d buy two or three a year, but the chances of me finishing them were pretty slim.
In fact, I’d look for practically any reason to stop reading a novel. I would decide I didn’t like that it was written in first person or that it was too descriptive or even that they were using words that were beyond my vocabulary. Yep, any old reason.
Then a few years ago, I found pulp magazine fiction. I liked the short stories. Everything was to the point. The action was furious. The endings were often clever.
That’s the kind of reading I liked.
So over the years, I’ve sampled many pulp books … and I’ve avoided some too. I tend to steer clear of Western stories, for example. And I’d rather not read “the continuing adventures” of anyone because I “enjoy” fretting over whether the main character will actually survive to the end. I had also avoided L. Ron Hubbard’s work.
And it’s pretty much for the reason you can guess … all the hububb about Scientology and whatever else he came up with.
But then a year or so ago, I found out a local guy had made it into Hubbard’s “Writer’s of the Future” series. I bought the book and read the story (“Games on the Children’s Ward” by Michail Velichansky).
It wasn’t bad, and more importantly it didn’t make me question my faith or even remotely consider picking up “Dianetics.”
So I figured it might be OK to try some of Hubbard’s fiction writing.
A few years ticked by until I actually saw something I thought was worth my time: “If I Were You.”
The book is a reprinting of two of Hubbard’s stories, “If I Were You” and “The Last Drop,” and it sports an awesome retro cover with a golden-age art. It even has a pulp magazine feel with its raggedly cut pages.
“If I Were You” tells the story of a circus performer who learns an ancient hypnotic technique to swap bodies with people. At first, it’s a whole lot of fun, and then, as most pulp stories go, it turns out to be more than he bargained for. Sure, he gets his revenge on those he hates, but at what cost?
“The Last Drop” is a story about a magical potion that inflates its drinkers. It’s more of a humor tale than anything, but still well worth the time it took to read.
The “If I Were You” book also contains a preview of “Danger in the Dark,” another Hubbard tale that will be featured in a similar Galaxy Press release. In fact, the two books are part of a series the Hubbard estate-run publisher is funding to get some of his early stories back in print. They even offer them as audiobooks.
In all, I liked every bit of what “If I Were You” offered. Short exciting stories. Classic old style pen-and-ink interior art. A brilliant cover. A small size at 122 pages. And it only took a few days to read from cover to cover. The perfect read for an on-the-go literary fan.
Geez, why was I ever afraid of L. Ron Hubbard? He’s just another one of those pulp-fiction writers I love so much. Nothing more, nothing less.


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