(1911-1986) US writer, most of whose fiction appeared between 1932 and 1941, when he began military service; his later career as the inventor and founder of Dianetics and the Church of Scientology has until recently obscured this early work. From the late 1980s, under the auspices of his Church, the reverse has occurred: large amounts of routine pulp fiction have been republished in expensive editions. LRH is better known for his sf than for his fantasy, but the latter is superior. He had no head for science: he did have an acute grasp of how to tell a thrilling yarn.
Though his works trickled into print in book form over a relatively long period, LRH's career as an active fantasy writer was short: his first tale of fantasy interest, "The Death Flyer" for Mystery Novels Magazine in 1936, preceded his last, "The Room" (1942 Unknown), by only six years. He published 14 stories in Unknown; earlier he published both fantasy and sf in Astounding Science Fiction, including "The Dangerous Dimension" (1938 Astounding), his first sale to John W Campbell Jr. This features the kind of fantasy protagonist Campbell had already come to prefer – the slightly bumbling academic who ineffectually conceals a streak of anarchy in his makeup – and traces the effects upon the world of a man whose Wishes come true. Rampageous activities in venues evocative of Arabian Fantasy soon became an LRH trademark; the best of these stories is probably Typewriter in the Sky (1940 Unknown; in Typewriter in the Sky; Fear coll 1951), where the Arabian-fantasy element is transferred to the high seas. The story is mostly interesting for its premise. The protagonist is caught inside the world of a Book which is in the course of being written, so that his Reality changes in Wonderland fashion as the book's author chops and changes his text.
In LRH's grimmer stories, the sense of persecution weighs more heavily, and the humour is eschewed. "The Tramp" (1938 Astounding), a Dark Fantasy about a man with the evil eye, effectively prefigures the mood of LRH's finest single tale: Fear (1940 Unknown; in Typewriter in the Sky; Fear coll 1951; in Fear & The Ultimate Adventure coll 1970) is a superb, though sloppily written, exercise in oppressiveness. Its protagonist, having been overheard making fun of the supernatural, has four hours stolen from him by Demons and embarks on a terrifying Quest for his lost time, a Night Journey which leads him into an Arabian Nightmare without exit. [JC]
other works: Slaves of Sleep (1939 Unknown; 1948); Death's Deputy (1940 Unknown; 1948) and The Kingslayer (coll 1949; vt Seven Steps to the Arbiter 1975), both assembled as From Death to the Stars (omni 1953); Triton, and Battle of Wizards (coll 1949); Lives You Wished to Lead but Never Dared (coll 1978); The Case of the Friendly Corpse (1941 Unknown; 1991).
other works (nonfiction): Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health (1950), followed by 60 or more titles of the same ilk.
Lafayette Ronald Hubbard