In the 1980’s L Ron Hubbard was in hiding. He was justifiably afraid that he would be arrested for ordering and directing “Operation Snow White” . This extensive undercover operation involved infiltrating government and private offices to remove records that contained negative material about Scientology, and planting incriminating evidence.
The aim of “Snow White” appears to be have been to neutralise the US government’s case against Scientology – and to attack Hubbard’s old enemy (and paranoid fixation) psychiatry.
Physically ill and socially isolated, Hubbard seems have distracted himself from his fear of apprehension by working to revive his career as a an author – and the culmination of this effort was a massive novel called, “Mission Earth”.
You might think it would be difficult to publish a book when you are in hiding. However, Hubbard still controlled the Church of Scientology (and their publishing house “Bridge Publications”) through intermediaries. This provided ‘plausible deniability’ – he could do what he pleased with Church of Scientology resources without the orders being traced back to him – including self-publishing his latest magnum opus.
Hubbard’s unforeseen problem was that those intermediaries were also his gatekeepers – everything that he knew about the wider world came through them. It was a perfect opportunity for a ruthless person to seize de facto power while distracting a old man (whose mental and physical health was in rapid decline) with dreams of literary celebrity. Unfortunately for Hubbard, one of his gatekeepers was a young man called David Miscavige.
This is the story of how “Mission Earth” was prepared for publication.
- New material had to be ghost-written and inserted so that it could be divided into no less than 10 ‘instalments’
- Two postal ‘interviews’ with Hubbard, intended to publicise “Mission Earth”, were written for him by the same person.
Young was presented with a Manuscript that weighed in at no less than 1.2 million words – in the form of one continuous, rambling, story. The prose was only a hair away from the ‘word salad’ that is a diagnostic sign of mental illness, and every part of it was critically mauled on publication.
Hubbard had once been a pulp author with a reputation for being able to produce serviceable copy at short notice. He knew something about the publishing trade. How could he produce a commercially unpublishable 1.2 million word ‘novel’ – let alone think it was quality work. This speaks to a frightening level of obsession and delusion. It also raises the question of what Miscavige had been up to while Hubbard has been distracted by all that typing, and dreams of literary glory.
Young’s first solution was to divide the manuscript into no less than 10 novels and suggest titles. However, critics who were shown pre-publication mock-ups hated the first volume, pointing out that it read like a part of longer book (which was, of course, exactly what it was). Miscavige’s response was telling:
Of course, we didn’t tell Hubbard about the bad reviews. Such things were kept from him. Meanwhile, Miscavige was in a rage so he threw the problem at me to solve. We can’t publish the books this way, he said, so figure out what to do.
Young solved the immediate problem by suggesting that he wrote introductions to volumes 2 – 10. The manuscript opened with a conversation between a character who had witnessed the events in the book, and a ‘robo-translator’ taking his testimony, years later. Young wrote a new conversation for each subsequent book reminding the reader of where they left off – rather like the brief reminders that occasionally open television programmes (“last week on Mission Earth…”).
Miscavige ordered Young to make this proposal to Hubbard himself . Hubbard was notoriously sensitive to the slightest suggestion of criticism, so if the idea was rejected it would be Young, not Miscavige, who would suffer. To their mutual astonishment, it was approved.
I would do the writing and submit them to Hubbard for his approval, as I had done for the Rocky Mtn. News and “Dream Makers II.”
Young wrote the new material, and “Mission Earth” was published in this form. Wait a minute – Young had written material for Hubbard before? Young is claiming here that he had written:
Both of these pieces were postal interviews presented as being with L Ron Hubbard himself. They were something of a scoop – if only because the author was a notorious, rich recluse (shades of Howard Hughes). However, the style of these interviews (which are unlike Hubbard, but very like each other) supports Young’s claim he was their ghost-writer.
You can judge for yourself – they will both appear, in full, in future posts.