The greater whole is precisely what critics declared: “an intergalactic adventure with the imagery and impact of Star Wars and a plot that sets it apart as a masterpiece.” It was also rightly declared a blockbuster of phenomenal scope – riding one national bestseller list after another for a full year, then topping international lists – and a genuine event in publishing history. “It caught everyone by surprise when L. Ron Hubbard returned to writing,” remarked an insider from the book trade, “the closest equivalent would have been the Dodgers coming home to Brooklyn.” Then again, with initial sales of more than two million copies, one inevitably heard much talk of the book as a cultural catalyst in itself; Battlefield Earth has inspired an undying devotion among fans of the genre, and is regularly ranked among the six most memorable stories in the whole of science fiction along with Frank Herbert’s Dune and Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. The work has further become the basis of study in some forty institutions – appropriately including both George Washington and Harvard universities where LRH himself had lectured so many years earlier.

     Finally, and of most immediate significance here, is all the novel came to represent as a legitimate trendsetter. The first work of science fiction in more than twenty years to attract a truly substantial mainstream readership (Heinlein’s aforementioned Stranger in a Strange Land was the last), Battlefield Earth is legitimately credited with inspiring a resurgence for the whole of speculative fiction. Point of fact: within four years of Battlefield Earth’s publication, a once neglected speculative fiction – primarily fodder for the paperback original or specialty publisher – was suddenly accounting for a full 10 percent of all fiction sales. Hence the eventual descriptions of Battlefield Earth as “landmark,” and “an epic which will be talked about for years to come.”

     The following LRH causerie has been hailed as a legitimate classic in its own right – specifically, “a delineating essay on science fiction as ‘the herald of possibility’ and fantasy as ‘postulating no limits at all.’” To what has thus far been said of Ron’s place in those wonderful realms of possibility, we might add one more pertinent word: in describing himself as initially diffident and, actually, “quite ignorant” of science fiction, Ron is touching upon yet another significant point of science fiction history. What originally fueled the field was not, as is so frequently argued, a John Campbell vision of brave new technological wonders penned by a stable of techno-authors from MIT and Cal Tech. No, what fueled science fiction was the same stuff fueling all great fiction – which is to say, all we have examined through “this business of writing.”



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