Capturing my own dreams in words, paint or music and then seeing them live is the highest kind of excitement,”
L. Ron Hubbard wrote early in his remarkably diverse and prolific career. It was, as well, an excitement he drew with consummate skill from a life of adventurous breadth and uncommon personal achievement—as an explorer and ethnologist, master mariner and daredevil pilot, filmmaker and photographer, philosopher and educator, composer and musician, and, always, before everything, as a writer and master storyteller. His boundless curiosity, his deep conviction that “To really know life you’ve got to be part of life. You must get down and look; you must get into the nooks and crannies of existence,” carried him across continents and oceans and through the wide realm of the human condition. And all of it, first to last, became part both of L. Ron Hubbard’s fiction and of the literary culture of our time.
The biographical chronology that follows profiles, although it cannot fully encompass, the dimensions of his life and work.
The Legend Begins:
Hubbard returns to New York where executives from Street & Smith, one of the world’s largest publishers, enlist his help to fill the pages of their newly retitled magazine Astounding Science Fiction. He is asked to boost sagging sales with stories about real people—not robots and machines. He continues to write in other genres, but his decision to enter the field of science fiction is one which fundamentally changes the genre. “The Dangerous Dimension,” his first story for Astounding Science Fiction, appears in the July issue.
In January, John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding Science Fiction, starts Unknown magazine to provide a venue for “fantasy” stories, particularly those that Hubbard writes. Hubbard’s first story for Unknown, “The Ultimate Adventure,” appears in the April issue.
Ketchikan, Alaska, 1940 The Explorers Club elects him a member in February. Death’s Deputy is published the same month. Final Blackout is published in three parts between April and June. In June, the same month that Fear is published in Unknown, Hubbard sets sail from Seattle under Explorers Club flag number 105, in the thirty-two-foot ketch Magician, on the Alaskan Radio Experimental Expedition. He charts previously unrecorded hazards and coastline for the U.S. Navy Hydrographic Office, conducts experiments on radio directional finding, and examines local native cultures. He also does a series of radio shows on KGBU in Ketchikan, Alaska. Then, in December, he announces a Christmas story writing contest for Alaska’s amateur writers in the “Golden Pen Award” hour.
“The Kilkenny Cats” is published in September and Typewriter in the Sky is published in two parts in November and December.
The U.S. Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation awards him the “Master of Steam and Motor Vessels” license in December. After he is back home in the Seattle area, he presents the U.S. Navy with hundreds of photographs and notes from his expedition and resumes his writing.
Hubbard receives the “Master of Sail Vessels” license for “Any Ocean” in late March. The United States Navy commissions him as lieutenant (jg) in the Navy Reserve in late June. With the outbreak of war on December 7, he is ordered to active duty. He reports to Australia where he coordinates naval intelligence activities as Senior Officer Present Ashore. Nine stories, written earlier, are published between January 1942 and April 1943.
- Portland, Oregon, 1944
- Hubbard returns to the United States from Australia and in the summer assumes command of convoy escort YP 422 in Boston. He attends submarine chaser school in Miami and commands the subchaser PC 815 in the North Pacific, where he engages enemy submarines in two separate encounters off the coast of Oregon. He also instructs at the Small Craft Training Center in San Pedro, California, is a navigation officer aboard the USS Algol, and attends the U.S. Navy School of Military Government at Princeton University. As the war enters its final months, he is sent to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland, California, to receive care for injuries sustained during the war.
At Oak Knoll, Hubbard conducts a series of experiments dealing with the endocrine system and discovers that, contrary to long-standing beliefs, function monitors structure in the relationship between thought and the body. He begins to help fellow veterans “who had not survived the war too well.”
- New York City, circa 1940
By July, “The Chee-Chalker” is published. In the next three years (up to November 1950), he publishes forty-seven science fiction, fantasy, western, mystery and detective stories. Among these are “Blood on His Spurs,” “Ole Doc Methuselah,” “Killer’s Law,” To the Stars, The Kingslayer, The Masters of Sleep, “Hoss Tamer” and “The Obsolete Weapon.” During these years, he serves as a special officer with the Los Angeles Police Department and conducts Dianetics research in cities across the United States, including Los Angeles, Savannah, New York City and Washington, D.C. He also writes the original thesis of Dianetics, which is circulated widely among doctors, engineers and scientists across the country, and publishes his first articles on the subject, “Terra Incognita: The Mind” (Explorers Journal, Winter-Spring 1950) and “Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science” (Astounding Science Fiction, May 1950).
Exploring Terra Incognita: 1950-1979
Monumental Return to Fiction: 1980-1981
- Celebrating 50 years as an author
Recently there came a period when I had little to do. This was novel in a life so crammed with busy years, and I decided to amuse myself by writing a novel that was pure science fiction.”
During 1980-1981, Hubbard produces two million words of fiction. Among his writings are two feature-length screenplays, Ai! Pedrito! and A Very Strange Trip. Both screenplays are later adapted and released as full-length novels and become New York Times bestsellers. He also produces the largest single-volume science fiction novel ever written, Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, and his masterpiece of comic satire, Mission Earth—an unprecedented 1.2-million-word science fiction novel in ten volumes, for which he coins the term dekalogy.
From his California ranch, Hubbard researches and releases his latest and final discoveries in Scientology. His own literary agency, Author Services, is established and he sees Battlefield Earth become an international bestseller after its 1982 release. He composes music and lyrics for Battlefield Earth—the first time a recorded “soundtrack” is created to directly accompany a bestselling novel. Shortly thereafter he composes twenty songs for the Mission Earth series.
Hubbard launches an international science fiction and fantasy short story and novelette competition for new and aspiring writers, which he calls the Writers of the Future Contest. The Illustrators’ Contest is founded in 1988 to encourage the speculative fiction artist in much the same way the Writers’ Contest has been doing for authors.
The first volume of L. Ron Hubbard’s Mission Earth is published in October and becomes an instant bestseller. As each volume of the dekalogy is released through forthcoming years, each becomes a bestseller. The successive appearance of these volumes on the New York Times bestseller list constitutes a first in publishing history. Also an international bestseller is the May 1987 reprint of L. Ron Hubbard’s first novel, Buckskin Brigades. All told, there are twenty-one consecutive bestsellers in the 1980s—more than for any other author.
L. Ron Hubbard passes away on January 24, 1986, but the impact of his literary legacy continues to grow. In response to demands for his work, an ongoing schedule to republish his earlier fiction and to publish previously unpublished stories is initiated by Author Services. The first two works released, Final Blackout and Fear, promptly leap onto bestseller lists, repeating their popularity of fifty years earlier and underscoring his enduring stature as a master storyteller.
THE L. RON HUBBARD SERIES • THE COMPLETE BIOGRAPHICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA
Introducing the L. Ron Hubbard Series, The Complete Biographical Encyclopedia: a highly personalized and deeply penetrating 16-volume set, chronicling the extraordinary life of L. Ron Hubbard. For more information, click here.