ISBN 10: 0947761144
ISBN 13: 9780947761141
In the previous post we were introduced to Robert Vaughn Young a disaffected Scientologist who has written extensively about his experience in the Church of Scientology. When he was a committed member, Young handled L Ron Hubbard’s literary business and was responsible for preparing the new fiction that Hubbard wrote for publication.
Young claims to have:
- Edited Hubbard’s last substantial work of fiction (the ten-volume “Mission Earth”) by adding introductions to each volume
- Ghost-written postal ‘interviews’ with Hubbard for “The Rocky Mountain News” ( a newspaper) and “Dream Makers II” ( a book).
The Newspaper interview will be examined in my next post. Today, we will look at the interview with L Ron Hubbard which appeared in the book “Dream Makers”.
“Dream makers” is an excellent piece of work, containing honest interviews/profiles of some of the best science fiction writers of the period. When the author Charles Platt requested an interview with Hubbard for the second volume, it was an excellent opportunity for the Church of Scientology to enhance their leader’s literary reputation before the publication of “Mission Earth” .
When Platt introduces L Ron Hubbard, and describes the strange process by which he obtained his ‘interview’ it emerges that he had two very good reasons to suspect that this material was not written by Hubbard. In the end Platt decided that he was being paranoid, published the interview and let his readers decide.
Since Platt first sought his interview with Hubbard “At the end of 1981” (pg 44 ). we have learned a lot about Hubbard’s later life . This, along with Robert Vaughn Young’s claims, casts significant doubt on the authenticity of this ‘interview’.
Charles Platt Meets L Ron Hubbard’s Gatekeepers
Platt’s Kafkaesque quest to obtain an interview with Hubbard began with the man who had been Hubbard’s literary agent when he wrote for pulp magazines – the legendary Forrest J Ackerman.
[…] he said that my request to interview Hubbard had been forwarded – although he didn’t specify where. I began to get the impression that people associated with Mr Hubbard were very careful never to state in writing that they had sent something to him or received something from him.
We now know that Hubbard was in hiding from the law, running his empire via intermediaries who were specifically instructed to deny that their instructions came from him – and expected to take personal responsibility if they caught doing anything legally questionable on his behalf.
Later, Platt received a letter from Wally Burgess (The International Director of Hubbard’s Office of Public Affairs) who offered to put Platt in touch with “[…] a Hubbard Bibliophile; not with Mr. Hubbard”. Platt wrote back, to repeat his request for an interview with Hubbard himself, and was ignored.
Instead the Director for Affairs, Author Services Inc., “Representing the Literary Works of L Ron Hubbard” (pg 45) wrote to him. This was likely the “Hubbard bibliophile”, using his more impressive title. It was, in fact, none other than Robert Vaughn Young. According to Platt, Young “[…] told me to send my interview questions, and wait for developments” (pg 45).
Platt submitted his list of questions to Young and recalls that,
“[…] he wrote back enigmatically: “I believe I will be able to help you out”. He added: I look forward to the response as much as you”.
Note “the” response, rather than “Mr. Hubbard’s response”. Again the Phrasing seems odd
Robert Vaughn Young Nearly Gets Caught
A week later, Platt received 11 typewritten pages, presented as Hubbard’s response to his questions. The curious and evasive nature of his correspondence had made Platt suspicious – was this really written by Hubbard? He wrote back, asking for proof.
Then a friend pointed something out:
The typewriter used in Vaughn Young’s letters to me had a slightly damaged capital “A” and this was identical to a damaged letter “A” in the typed responses that were supposedly from L Ron Hubbard. Moreover, the paper had the same distinctive watermark.
Did this mean that “Vaughn Young” had made up all the answers himself?[…]
Given what we know now, and also by reading the text, we can see that the answer is ‘almost certainly yes’.
- At this time, Hubbard was mentally and physically ill. The style of the answers given to Platt’s questions emulates Hubbard – but is not quite convincing. It is also much more literate than the text of “Mission Earth” (which Hubbard was writing at the same time). Here, Hubbard’s grasp of grammar and word order appears to be slipping away.
- We know that Young, when he was a Scientologist, was in charge of the promotion of Hubbard’s fiction – and that he now claims to have ghost-written this interview with Hubbard’s approval.
- The style of the interviews for “Dream Makers” and “The Rocky Mountain News” (which Young also claims to have ghost-written for Hubbard) are a close match with each other.
When Young requested his interview, Hubbard was nearing the end of his life. “Mission Earth” demonstrated that such talent as had for fiction writing had left him. He was in hiding from the law, surrounded by yes-men (like David Miscavige) who were supposed to protect him, but were actually positioning themselves to seize power when he died.
In his ghost-written interview, Young put the following words into Hubbard’s mouth: “My greatest treasure is my many friends” (pg 53). Tragically, nothing could have been further from the truth.
After asking for proof of authenticity Platt received,
“[…] a handwritten authentication from Mr. Hubbard, by Express Mail from a PO box in California. I also received another letter from Vaughn Young, patiently explaining that he had used his typewriter merely to transcribe responses that Mr. Hubbard had dictated”
I will let the reader judge for themselves.
Platt records in a afterword (on the last page of the .pdf file) that, after the publication of “Dream Makers”,
[…] I was approached for help in publicizing Hubbard’s novel “Battlefield Earth”. At one point, I was receiving a phone call every week from Hubbard’s public relations man, who clearly wanted the book to win an award at the World Science Fiction Convention. Well, I hated to seem ungrateful, but as I read more about Scientology, I realised that I did not want to be instrumental in what seemed to be a coordinated campaign to renovate L Ron Hubbard’s reputation by recasting him as a writer instead of a cult leader.
Appendix – For Fans of Classic Science Fiction
Charles Platt (the author of “Dream Makers”) is a writer, editor, illustrator, publisher and cryonics enthusiast. He is best know for his fiction, and his pioneering magazine articles about computers and computer programming.
His best novel (which still stands up today) is “The Silicon Man” which describes the plight of an FBI agent whose personality is forcibly uploaded to a computer by the criminal he is pursuing.
From 1980 to 1982 Platt interviewed no less than 40 ‘classic’ science fiction writers, and published the results in two volumes.
These are well worth reading because Platt is not a wide-eyed fan. He is prepared to ask awkward questions and presents his subject’s reactions honestly.
Dream Makers (1987)
ISBN 10: 0947761144
ISBN 13: 9780947761141
The book discussed above is a revised selection, containing ‘only’ 25 out of Platt’s 40 interviews. The .pdf extract contains only the interview with ‘Hubbard’. The book also includes interviews with:
Isaac Asimov, Jerry Pournelle, James Tiptree Jr, Algis Burdys, Harry Harrison, Brian Aldiss, J G Ballard, Michael Moorcock, Frederik Pohl, Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, A E Van Vogt, Philip K Dick, Ray bradbury, Philip Jose Farmer, Thomas M Disch, Arthur C Clarke, Frank Herbert, Fritz Leiber, Piers Anthony, Keith Laumer, Alfred Bester, Kurt Vonnegut Jr and Stephen King.
Not to be confused with…
Platt’s 40 interviews were originally published in two volumes Unfortunately for the book-buyer, all three books bear the same title – only the subtitles vary. For fans of classic SF (who might want to read all of the interviews) here are the details of the other two books.
The supposed interview with ‘Hubbard’ first appeared in volume 2 (1983).