[Picture] [Picture]

     Nevertheless, and despite all inherent differences, L. Ron Hubbard and John W. Campbell soon set forth beneath the banner of a new science fiction. The first LRH offering, and not one Campbell would have necessarily published had F. Orlin Tremaine left him unfettered, was entitled “The Dangerous Dimension.” In contrast to the typical Campbell setting amidst gleaming spaceports off the rings of Saturn, that most startling “dangerous dimension” opens in the utterly prosaic office of Yamouth University’s Professor Henry Mudge. Nor do we find the usual ranks of simmering beakers or curiously blinking contraptions. Rather, here is nothing more exotic than a “snowdrift of wasted paper” and strewn texts from shelves of arcane metaphysics. What ultimately emerges from that heap of “limp-leaved” texts is a tale of purely intellectual exploration, or what Tremaine had previously described as “thought variant.” In this case, it seems Professor Mudge has stumbled upon a mathematical door to a “negative dimension,” and has only to think of some distant location in order to physically transport himself. That he cannot control his thoughts, finally proves his undoing and so raises the recurring LRH theme involving failures to harness technological advancement.

[Picture]      Although indisputably astounding, this tale of a teleporting professor was not, strictly speaking, science fiction. Ron himself would describe the work as fantasy, and essentially inspired from an Asian tradition of astral projection, i.e., that one’s physical location may be altered by mere thought. Much more to the point of Astounding, was the second LRH offering, “The Tramp.” Telling of a hobo endowed with extraordinary mental powers after experimental brain surgery, “The Tramp” is finally the tale of a Frankenstein’s monster or experimentation gone awry. In that regard, the theme again involves a failure to harness technological advancement, and stood quite at odds with Campbell’s equation of hard science as our sole salvation. With the advent of atomic weapons, however, more than a few from Astounding circles would join Ron at the Hollywood home of Robert Heinlein for discussions on ways of inspiring a peaceable space race instead of a nuclear arms race.

     It is only with Final Blackout, however, that we come to the most fully realized LRH statement on this matter of a technological advance into oblivion. Initially appearing in April of 1940, and originally entitled “The Unkillables,” the novel is consistently ranked among the ten greatest works of science fiction’s golden age, rightfully compared to Orwell’s 1984, and certainly just as chilling. Yet again, Final Blackout is probably not science fiction as Campbell conceived it. Rather, the setting is a Europe just beyond Dunkirk – but a Europe so thoroughly battered, it finally resembles nothing less than a moonscape. The central figure, known only as The Lieutenant, is arguably the most fully mythic character to ever emerge from the pages of Astounding:

     “He was born in an air-raid shelter – and his first wail was drowned by the shriek of bombs, the thunder of falling walls and the coughing chatter of machine guns raking the sky.

     “He was taught in a countryside where A was for Antiaircraft and Z was for Zeppelin. He knew that the improved Vickers Wellington bombers had flown clear to Moscow, but nobody thought to tell him about a man who had sailed a carrack twice as far in the opposite direction – a chap called Columbus.

     “War-shattered officers had taught him the arts of battle on the relief maps of Rugby. Limping sergeants had made him expert with rifle and pistol, light and heavy artillery. And although he could not conjugate a single Latin verb, he was graduated as wholly educated at fourteen and commissioned the same year.”


L. Ron Hubbard’s “Royal” Typewriter

The Golden Age continued...

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