Galaxy Press LLC has begun a pretty strong media push for the new print edition (and audiobook) of Dead Men Kill, L. Ron Hubbard’s only zombie novel. Just this month, I’ve seen full-page color ads for it in several fiction and genre magazines.
I remember, back when I was first trying to puzzle-out the appeal of Scientology, I wondered if perhaps Hubbard was a very great fiction writer, and that this explained his droves of followers. Then I read To the Stars and part of Battlefield Earth. And then I stopped, because they were completely asinine and terrible. Hubbard is not a good writer and he doesn’t write for smart people. His novels do everything that bad science fiction does. They overexplain technology. They rely on crude stereotypes instead of building characters. They assume that I, the reader, am dull, poorly-read, and easily impressed.
I mean, every author gets a few mulligans– even the best writers usually pen a stinker or two in the course of a long career– but To the Stars and Battlefield Earth are supposed to be Hubbard’s best stuff. It’s not like I was trying to form an opinion of Shakespeare by only reading King John and Timon of Athens. I was reading Hubbard’s Hamlet and Macbeth.
I think Scientology’s PR department pushes Hubbard’s writing so hard because Scientology’s target demographic are not big readers. Scientology PR emphasizes how many “millions of words” Hubbard wrote because there is very little danger that prospective Scientologists will bother to read even a few hundred of them. It’s a shock-and-awe campaign that assumes you’ll just take their word for it because you’re the kind of person who thinks reading long books is “hard” and that anyone who can write a book is “smart.”
Final Thought: I watched the amazingly awesome Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith the other day. In it– during a discussion of the specious miracles attributed to his namesake, St. Kevin of Glendalough (such as making a willow tree grow apples, having supernatural command over animals, etc.)– Smith says something like: “So when people tell me Scientologists believe all these crazy things, I tell them, ‘Not compared to Catholics they don’t.'”
And I was like: I don’t think the reason most smart people have a bone to pick with Scientology is because the things they believe are “crazier” than other religions. I think it’s because they don’t tolerate dissent or allow for interpretation. There are no “scholars” of Scientology because only one interpretation of Hubbard’s writing is allowed, and it is enforced with Fascistic gusto. Christians can respectfully disagree on whether certain Bible stories are literal or metaphorical, or whether Jesus had free will or not, and still go to church together and be accepted by the leaders of their faith. Scientologists are ousted and put on a “suppressive persons” list for failing to parrot church leaders exactly.
There’s your difference, Kevin Smith.
So anyhow… Not going to read this zombie book. (But if you’d like a dissenting opinion, here’s a reviewer who thought Dead Men Kill was worth reading. )