Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Rise of Chaos

I recently read a political opinion piece that makes reference to not one but two tellers of weird tales. It's called "The Woke Have Confused Sword and Sorcery" and it's by Richard Fernandez, a very interesting thinker and writer. Mr. Fernandez begins his essay with a paraphrasing of Robert E. Howard's famous introduction to his Conan series: "Know, O prince, that between the years . . . ", except that in Mr. Fernandez's version, the chronicle is of events that have taken place between the fall of the USSR and our current "rise of Chaos."

The future--now--was supposed to be science-fictional, not weird-fictional. Yet science has given way to superstition and we live at the beginning of a new dark age. Men now use science-fictional or quasi-science-fictional means to pursue their ends, yet superstition reigns. Socialism is one of these superstitions, of course, but in our age socialism has been eclipsed by Wokism. Wokism is a heresy against reality, but we don't yet know how long it will take to run its course, nor how many will have to suffer and die, nor how far our civilization will have to fall before it does. But reality will out. It always does, despite all of our striving against it.

Richard Fernandez writes:

This [the inevitable failure of Woke plans and ideas] is perhaps the reason why our politicians, the modern sorcerers with all the clanking machinery of the End of History at their disposal, are surprised when their confident plans to boost the economy, flatten the pandemic curve and replace nuclear plants with windmills unaccountably take off in unknown directions. The usual explanation is it's not that Woke sorcery has stopped working; it's bad luck.

And then he quotes Robert A. Heinlein:

     Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded--here and there, now and then--are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

     This is known as "bad luck."

(The quote is from "Notebooks of Lazarus Long" in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, June 1973, page 77, originally in Time Enough for Love, also published in 1973. Happy June to everyone!)

Richard Fernandez writes for a website that is sometimes behind a paywall, even if all you have to pay is your consent to allow advertisements. That's a shame. His writing deserves wider reading. But if you would like to give it a try, look for "The Woke Have Confused Sword and Sorcery" by way of a link on Mr. Fernandez's website, His essay is dated May 30, 2022. Since then, he has written about zombies, as we all seemingly must do.

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Margaret "Peg" Winter Kearney Campbell (1907-1979)

Aka Mrs. John W. Campbell
Teacher, Businesswoman, Amateur Researcher, Author
Born March 5, 1907, Negaunee, Michigan
Died August 17, 1979, Waterville, Maine

Margaret "Peg" Winter Kearney Campbell was born on March 5, 1907, in Negaunee, Michigan. She was the older sister of Dr. Joseph A. Winter (1911-1955) and the second wife of John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971), longtime editor of Astounding Science Fiction/Analog magazine. She assisted both in their development of Dianetics and her husband in his later research into supposed psionic phenomena.

According to Alec Nevala-Lee, Margaret Winter graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a master's degree in English literature and philosophy. Her minor was educational psychology. (Astounding, p. 274) Someone on the website Find A Grave has written that she had six years of education after high school. I don't have any reason to doubt that, for the numbers add up just right. Mr. Nevala-Lee called her "strikingly intelligent." (p. 274)

Margaret Winter taught at Luther L. Wright High School in Ironwood, Michigan, in 1931-1932. On October 15, 1932, she married Everett W. Kearney (1898-1951), a merchant, in her parents' home in Negaunee, Michigan. The couple honeymooned in Chicago.

After marrying, Margaret Kearney gave up teaching but became involved in the business of knitting and selling yarn and items made from yarn. Those endeavors proved successful and she kept at it for decades afterward, even after she remarried.

Everett and Margaret Kearney had two children. Born in 1934, their son Joseph H. Kearney graduated from Luther L. Wright High School in 1951 and Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, on June 12, 1955. Five days later, on June 17, 1955, he was killed in a car accident while driving to Chicago for summer classes. It was a terrible and devastating loss, and my heart goes out to the family, even now, sixty-seven years after the fact. We should remember that Dr. Joseph A. Winter, brother of Peg, had died just eight days before.

Joe Kearney was to have studied sociology at Harvard University beginning in the fall of 1955. The soft sciences--psychology and sociology--seem to have been of special interest to members of the Winter, Kearney, and Campbell families. His mother and uncle studied these things, as did his stepfather and sister, as well as the husband of his cousin Mary.

Everett and Margaret Kearney were divorced on April 19, 1951, in Gogebic County, Michigan. Less than two months later, on June 15, 1951, she and John W. Campbell, Jr., were married in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Campbell had of course been married before. His first wife, Doña Stebbins Campbell (1913-1974), had left him while he was heavy into Dianetics. His involvement in that business seems to have been the last straw for her. Peg Campbell, on the other hand, "became involved with the movement at once, teaching classes and investing five thousand dollars in the [Dianetics] foundation." Mr. Nevala-Lee adds, "She also became Campbell's auditing partner." (Astounding, p. 274) Like L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986), Peg had red (or reddish) hair. Unlike his, her eyes were blue. If the supposed folkloric belief that red-haired, green-eyed people are demonic, then she escaped that influence by maybe only a few wavelengths. By the way, Everett W. Kearney died on October 3, 1951, in Gogebic, Michigan, less than seven months after their divorce.

The Kearneys' younger child was a daughter, Jane Kearney. She attended Wellesley College and the University of California, where she received a bachelor of arts degree in psychology in 1959. She married twice but was to have been married to another man before any of that happened. That man was science fiction author Gordon Randall Phillip Garrett (1927-1987), known as Randall Garrett. The Campbells announced their daughter's impending nuptials on November 24, 1956. Garrett was a friend and associate of other science fiction writers, including Robert Silverberg (b. 1935) and Isaac Asimov (1920-1992). He was also what used to be known as a bounder. Campbell found out about him and the wedding was called off.

John W. Campbell, Jr., died at home on July 11, 1971. It was his wife who found him in his chair. She survived him by eight years, dying on August 17, 1979, in Waterville, Maine. Perhaps she lived close to her daughter at the end. Peg Campbell was seventy-two years old when she died. It is that same number of years that separate us now from the beginnings in print of Dianetics.

* * *

Peg Campbell has the following credit in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb), as Mrs. John W. Campbell:

  • "Afterword: Postscriptum" in The Best of John W. Campbell (1976)

She is also in Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee (2018, 2019) and in The John W. Campbell Letters, Volume 1 (1985), presumably, too, in its sequel. Science fiction author George O. Smith (1911-1981) wrote a tribute to her, "In Memoriam: Margaret Winter Campbell," in the February 1980 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. In completing this account of diverse family dramas, I should point out that George O. Smith was married to Doña Stebbins Campbell after she and Campbell were divorced. Actually she ran to Smith during her first husband's mad obsession with Dianetics in 1950-1951.

You can find photographs of Peg Campbell on the Internet. You might start with one entitled "John W. and Peg Campbell at Medieval Tourney event, Baycon" (1968), from the Jay Kay Klein Collection at UC Riverside, Library, Special Collections and University Archives, by clicking here. Note that in the picture, Peg is wearing a scarf. I wonder if it's one that she made herself.

The Best of John W. Campbell (Nelson Doubleday, 1976). The cover, by Chet Jezierski (b. 1947), illustrates Campbell's most famous story, "Who Goes There?", originally in Astounding Science-Fiction in August 1938. In that first publication, Campbell used a pseudonym, Don A. Stuart, a tribute, I guess you could call it, to his first wife.

"Who Goes There?" was of course made into a movie, The Thing from Another World (1951), and a remake, The Thing (1982). The first version was released on April 27, 1951. At the time, different kinds of dramas were being enacted in the lives of its original author and the people around him. Campbell was wrapped up in Dianetics. The woman who was to be his second wife was securing a divorce from her husband. And on June 15, 1951, she and Campbell were married.

Scientists don't come out very well in The Thing from Another World. It's no wonder that Isaac Asimov didn't like the movie. Campbell was more sanguine. Maybe he would have liked the remake better, as it is closer to his original conception than The Thing from Another World.

Note that the introduction to The Best of John W. Campbell is by Lester del Rey (1915-1993), who opposed Dianetics.

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Joseph A. Winter (1911-1955)-Part Two

Joseph A. Winter, M.D., was first in Astounding Science Fiction in October 1948 with an essay entitled "Endocrinology in Tough" [sic]. His first short story, "Expedition Mercy," followed close on its heels in November 1948. His second, "Mission Polychrome," came along in January 1949. Later that year his life changed when first John W. Campbell, Jr., then, in July 1949, L. Ron Hubbard wrote to him. Campbell and Hubbard were already working on Dianetics by then. Both were also interested in endocrinology. (Hubbard claimed to have been conducting research in that field for the previous eleven years.) The two men were looking for a medical doctor to assist them, perhaps to lend credence or medical cachet to their work. Winter had his own interests, which seemed to align with theirs. He showed up in New Jersey in October 1949 and began working with Campbell and Hubbard. After one or two more trips back home, he made the move permanent in January 1950. It is in reference to Dr. Winter that the word Dianetics first appeared in newspapers, as far as I can tell.

* * *

I recently read Astounding, Alec Nevala-Lee's combination history of Astounding Science Fiction magazine and biography of its editor and leading contributors, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and L. Ron HubbardJoseph A. Winter is in Astounding, too. I began writing this series before I knew of Mr. Nevala-Lee's book. As soon as I found out about it, I knew I had to read it. It is from that book that I have drawn a lot of the information I have used here. I fully acknowledge Alec Nevala-Lee's work. He has written a very thoroughly researched and very interesting and readable book. His prose is so good, in fact--so clear and smooth--that it seems to have come from another time, fitting for a book about the science fiction of the past.

When I started a few weeks ago, I thought that I had made a discovery linking J.A. Winter to John W. Campbell, Jr. As it turns out, Mr. Nevala-Lee made that discovery before I did. However, the Internet doesn't seem to have discovered it yet, including the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb). My hope is that what I write will bring the facts and the connection into the open. Solving the mysteries of biography, culture, and history is one of the reasons I began writing this blog. I hope you don't mind that I spend some time solving--or at least setting before you--a little of this mystery involving Dr. Winter, his sister, the editor Campbell, and the origins of Dianetics.

It becomes clear in reading Astounding (2018, 2019) that Joseph A. Winter was instrumental in the development of Dianetics. You can read about all of that in Mr. Nevala-Lee's book. Dr. Winter was also a friend to Campbell and Hubbard. He delivered Hubbard's daughter, Alexis Valerie Hubbard, born in silence on March 8, 1950, so as to avoid lodging engrams in her mind. Winter must also have introduced his own sister, Margaret "Peg" Winter Kearney, to Campbell. (The circumstances aren't made clear in the book.) The date was sometime in early June 1950. Alexis Hubbard dropped out of the Campbell-Astounding-Hubbard-Dianetics-Scientology picture. (Wherever she is, I hope she's safe.) Peg Kearney, on the other hand, became Mrs. John W. Campbell, Jr. I will have more on her in the next part of this series.

As everyone seems to have done, J.A. Winter fell out with L. Ron Hubbard. In late 1950, his book, A Doctor's Report on Dianetics: Theory and Therapy, was published by Julian Press. I haven't read Dr. Winter's book. From what I know of it, Dr. Winter seems to have believed still in Dianetics as a type of therapy, but evidently not in Hubbard's approach to it. Sometime after that, presumably in 1951, Campbell said that Hubbard was operating under the "conviction that Joe Winter, I, and the others who originally backed him are his worst enemies." (1) As we now know, personal conflict and paranoia were hallmarks of Hubbardism.

Dr. Winter went on to conduct research or practice psychotherapy of one kind or another in New York and New Jersey. He died suddenly on June 8, 1955, at Englewood Hospital in Englewood, New Jersey. He was just forty-four years old.

Four years before, in 1951, L. Ron Hubbard wrote to the FBI, detailing a supposed attempt on his life:

I was in my apartment on February 23, about 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning when the apartment was entered, I was knocked out, had a needle thrust into my heart to give it a jet of air to produce "coronary thrombosis" and was given an electric shock with 110-volt current. This is all very blurred to me. I had no witnesses. But only one person had another key to that apartment and that was Sara. (2)

Sara was Sara Northrup Hubbard, former girlfriend of Hubbard's demon-conjuring pal Jack Parsons and mother of Alexis Hubbard, the first Dianetics baby. Hubbard's letter reads like a detective story, a nice yarn for a man who conjured not only demons but also fantastic fiction and pseudo-nonfiction. I'm not sure how Hubbard survived all of that, especially the coronary thrombosis part. But then he was a Superior Man, that sturdy product of the Campbellian science fiction of the Golden Age. Joseph A. Winter didn't. Survive, I mean. According to his obituary, he was felled by the affliction that had failed to do in L. Ron Hubbard before him: two days after being stricken with a heart attack, J.A. Winter died of "acute coronary thrombosis." (3)

So I have to ask, where was Hubbard when Dr. Winter died?

And before you think that question flippant, consider this quote from L. Ron Hubbard:

There are men dead because they attacked us--for instance Dr. Joe Winter. He simply realized what he did and died. (4)

Next: Margaret "Peg" Winter Kearney Campbell (1907-1979)


(1) Quoted in Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee (2018, 2019), page 302.

(2) Quoted in "LRH: The Story of L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology" by Joel Sappel and Robert W. Welkos (of the Los Angeles Times) in the St. Petersburg Times, June 24, 1990, page 12.

(3) "Dr. Joseph A. Winter Dies in New York City" in The Herald-Press, St. Joseph, Michigan, June 10, 1955, page 12.

(4) Quoted in Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee, (2018, 2019), page 310.

A Doctor's Report on Dianetics by J.A. Winter, M.D. (1951). J.A. Winter was Joseph Augustus Winter (1911-1955), a writer of science fiction and an associate of John W. Campbell, Jr. (1910-1971) and L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986). His book came out late in 1951, after he had fallen out with Hubbard. Note that the introduction was by Frederick Perls, M.D. Also known as Fritz Perls, Dr. Friedrich S. Perls (1893-1970), with his wife Laura Perls (1905-1990), developed Gestalt therapy, so popular in America in the late 1960s and 1970s. We should note, too, that Perls was at one time an associate of Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957), surely one of the wackiest people to have gained entry into mass culture during the twentieth century. All--Winter, Hubbard, Perls, Perls, and Reich--were or seemed to have been influenced by the work and ideas of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939). Campbell may have been a different kind of case. I can't say for sure. But there was an influence of another European-American thinker on the Campbellian/Astounding brand of 1940s science fiction. He was Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950), originator of the field of general semantics, which lies somewhere on the scale of almost-science to pseudoscience. A.E. van Vogt (1912-2000) and Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) are two examples of science fiction authors who employed Korzybski's ideas in their own work.

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Joseph A. Winter (1911-1955)-Part One

Joseph Augustus Winter, M.D.

Aka J.A. Winter, M.D.
Physician, Surgeon, Author
Born February 17, 1911, Negaunee, Michigan
Died June 9, 1955, Englewood Hospital, Englewood, New Jersey

Joseph Augustus Winter was born in winter, on February 17, 1911, and in a wintery place, Negaunee, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. His father was Joseph H. Winter (1871-1956), a bank president and a mayor of Negaunee. His mother was Lucy MacKenzie Winter (1878-1949).

Joseph A. Winter attended the University of Michigan and the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 1937, he received his degree as a medical doctor from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Previous to that, on August 29, 1934, he had married Marjorie Roosen (1908-1999), a native of Ontonagon, Michigan. The place was Little Lake in Marquette County, Michigan. There is a chapel at Little Lake, established in the 1930s. I wonder if that could have been where the Winters were married.

Dr. Winter was a surgeon and a physician. He practiced medicine in Cheboygan, Michigan, for four years before serving in the U.S. Army, from June 24, 1942, to August 3, 1944. Winter returned to civilian life and again practiced medicine, this time in St. Joseph, Michigan, from 1945 to 1949. In January 1949, he moved himself and his family to Bayside, New Jersey, to take up a new endeavor.

Joseph A. Winter was an author, and that's where things get interesting for us, for he is listed in the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb) with the following credits:

  • "Endocrinology in Tough" [sic] in Astounding Science Fiction (essay, Oct. 1948)
  • "Expedition Mercy" in Astounding Science Fiction (short story, Nov. 1948)
  • "Expedition Polychrome" in Astounding Science Fiction (short story, Jan. 1949)
  • Letter in Astounding Science Fiction (Aug. 1950)
  • "The General Adaptation Syndrome" in Astounding Science Fiction (essay, Nov. 1950)
  • "What is Psychosomatic?" in Astounding Science Fiction (essay, Aug. 1952)
  • "Thinking in Men and Machines" (essay, Aug. 1953)
  • "The Reference Library: One More World," with P. Schuyler Miller, in Astounding Science Fiction (essay, Mar. 1954)
  • Review of The Living Brain (1953) by W. Grey Walter in Astounding Science Fiction (Mar. 1954)
Note that all were published in Astounding Science Fiction. The ISFDb also lists two hardbound books by Dr. Winter that it calls non-genre works:
  • A Doctor's Report on Dianetics (Julian Press, 1951)
  • Are Your Troubles Psychosomatic? (Julian Messner, 1952)
Both were reviewed in Startling Stories.

There's that word again: Dianetics.

To be continued . . .

According to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb), J.A. Winter, M.D., had a grand total of two short stories published in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. Both have been reprinted in book form, "Expedition Mercy" in Great Science Fiction About Doctors (1963) and "Expedition Polychrome" in this book, Gates to Tomorrow, edited by Andre Norton and Ernestine Donaldy (1973).

"Expedition Polychrome" is set in the future on a distant planet where men from Earth have arrived in their expeditionary spacecraft. One of them is afflicted by a mysterious disease, which turns his skin an aquamarine blue, like "Lake Superior in July." (Remember that Winter was from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.) The main action in the story involves the crewman's treatment by onboard physicians, and there is a good deal of talk of medicine, chemistry, and even botany. Eventually the patient is cured not by Earth medicine but by the natives of the planet, who practice a kind of homeopathy. I wonder whether John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding, could have coached Winter in writing science fiction stories. Whether he was coached or not, Winter introduced a pseudoscience, homeopathy, into his story as a cure for the blue spaceman of the planet Minotaur, this from a medical doctor turned science fiction author. Interesting.

Cover art by Jack Gaughan.

Thanks to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDb).
Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Hubbard the Explorer

or, Expedition Dianetics

The first published version of Dianetics was not in Astounding Science Fiction nor in a hardbound book edition. Instead it was in The Explorers Journal, the organ of the Explorers Club of New York, in its issue of Winter/Spring 1950 (Vol. XXVIII, No. 1). Written by L. Ron Hubbard--but in the passive voice--this version is entitled "Terra Incognita: The Mind." You can read it yourself by clicking here. Hubbard's essay is only three and a half pages long, yet it includes some basics of Dianetics (the word is capitalized in the original). It also introduces the word and concept comanome, later to evolve into the engram.

Strangely, Hubbard was a member of the Explorers Club, his membership having dated to February 19, 1940. On June 27, 1940, he set off on what he called the Alaskan Radio Experimental Expedition. Sailing under Explorers Club flag number 105, he captained a yacht called--ironically or not--Magician. Hubbard was given to boasting and mock heroics. His great radio expedition turned out to be more or less a fiasco, and he returned stateside half a year after beginning.

Volney G. Mathison, who contributed to Weird Tales, was an oceangoing radio operator. I had thought that he and Hubbard might have crossed paths as early as 1940, on the West Coast or in Alaska. But what I have read since writing about Mathison leads me to think that he and Hubbard didn't meet until the early 1950s, or, at the earliest, the late 1940s. In any case, Hubbard went on to lead two more expeditions flying the flag of the Explorers Club (flag number 163), in 1961 for his Oceanographic-Archeological [sic] Expedition, and in 1966 for his Hubbard Geological Survey Expedition. By 1961, Mathison had long broken with Hubbard. By 1966, he was in his grave.

* * *

Dianetics is an old word. Originally spelled dianoetics, it was first used in print in 1677. Citing the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Jon Atack, author of the essay "Possible Origins for Dianetics and Scientology" (click here to read it), is the source of that piece of information. Mr. Atack also suggested that Hubbard derived dianetics from the name of the Greek goddess Diana, a prominent figure in Aleister Crowley's supposed magic. Hubbard went on to name one of his daughters and one of his vessels Diana.

Dianoetic was in newspapers before 1900. The first occurrences of the word dianetic in American newspapers that I have found are from 1923 and 1926. In these items, dianetic is used as an adjective and not a noun. The usage seems to me nonsensical and absurd, like someone is putting us on. It also seems to me that the spelling dianetic is just a simplification of dianoetic. It would have to wait until early 1950, as far as I can tell, for the word Dianetics as a noun to occur in print in reference to a kind of psychology or pseudo-psychology. Read on . . .

Newspaper columnist Walter Winchell gets the credit for breaking the story of a coming Dianetics. On January 30, 1950, he wrote:

     There is something new coming in April called dianetics. (1) A new science that works with the invariability of physical science in the field of the human mind. From all indications it will prove to be as revolutionary for humanity as the first caveman's discovery and utilization of fire. (2)

Note the phrase "the invariability of physical science." In that, I detect the influence of John W. Campbell, Jr., who was in fact a physical scientist and seemingly keen on applying scientific principles to "the field of the human mind." I have tried to figure out a possible connection between Winchell and Campbell, Winchell and Hubbard, or Winchell and science fiction in general but have come up empty. (3) It seems to me that in early 1950, Hubbard and Campbell were trying to hype their new invention. What better way than to drop a hint with one of the most widely read newspaper columnists in America? (4) And why wouldn't Winchell publish a bit of gossip? That was his coin. Better to be wrong than to lose a scoop . . .

Except that Winchell was scooped, for Dianetics was mentioned in a newspaper item published twelve days prior to his January 31 column. On January 19, 1950, an anonymous reporter wrote:

Move to New Jersey -- Dr. and Mrs. J.A. Winter and family left yesterday to make their home in Bayside, N.J., where Dr. Winter is to continue his work in dianetics. Their home at 1614 Forres [sic] avenue will be occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Malloy.

The source is The Herald-Palladium of Benton Harbor, Michigan, page 3.

And that's where my research for this series began.

To be continued . . .


(1) The publication of Hubbard's Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health was delayed a few days, until May 9, 1950.

(2) From the column "Gossip of the Nation" in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 31, 1950, p. 19. Winchell's column was of course in many other papers that day.

(3) Robert A. Heinlein later referred to a fictional gossip columnist as a "winchell" in Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). It seems to me that Heinlein was in the habit of trying to immortalize contemporary things. It didn't often work, and it makes him sound like somebody's old grandpa who talks about things from long ago that nobody now understands.

(4) There were newspapermen and broadcasters in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), but not Walter Winchell. These were: Kenneth Kendall, who was later in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968); Elmer Davis, previously editor of the pulp magazine Adventure; and H.V. Kaltenborn. Dorothy Kilgallen was also a gossip columnist. She wrote more than once about flying saucers. Some conspiracy theorists believe that her mysterious death is an example of the silencing of people who knew too much about flying saucers. On August 18, 1950, she wrote about Hubbard's brainchild:

     Dianetics, the new "scientific" parlor game which swept California recently, has begun to catch on in the Gotham set that likes to discuss its neuroses . . . (Ellipses in the original, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Aug. 18, 1950, p. 22.)

The Explorers Journal, Winter-Spring 1950. The photograph on the cover looks like it could have been taken in Alaska. Does it date from L. Ron Hubbard's radio expedition to that place in 1940? And could that be the silhouette of Polly Hubbard, first wife of the inventor of Dianetics? Or is it the silhouette of a man?

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Friday, May 20, 2022

A Wretched Thing or Two

It was May 1950 and time to do a wretched thing or two. Astounding Science Fiction got the ball rolling by printing "Dianetics: The Evolution of a Science" by L. Ron Hubbard in that month's issue. On May 9, 1950, Hermitage House issued the book-length version, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Astounding editor John W. Campbell, Jr., had a big hand in both of those works of pseudo-nonfiction. In 1949-1950, he and Hubbard had collaborated in the development of Dianetics, even if it was initially a product of Hubbard's diseased mind. Unlike inheritance or relativity, Dianetics was an invention--ultimately an artifice--rather than a discovery. Campbell might be considered Hubbard's co-inventor.

A few years before Dianetics arrived on the scene, Raymond A. Palmer had parlayed the Shaver Mystery into vastly increased sales for Amazing Stories. The publication of Hubbard and Campbell's new pseudoscientific bible led to a jump in sales for Astounding Science Fiction, too. In 1949, circulation was at 75,000 copies per month. In 1950, monthly sales neared 100,000 copies. (1) Maybe Hubbard and Campbell had paid attention while the Shaver Mystery raged in science fiction circles. Maybe they saw an opportunity in what they thought of as a far more significant discovery. Call it Dianetics as Mantong. In any event, Dianetics stormed into the popular imagination in 1950-1951.

In a chapter of his book Astounding (2018, 2019) entitled "The Dianetics Epidemic," author Alec Nevala-Lee writes that by the summer of 1950, the hardbound version of Dianetics was selling 1,000 copies per day. (2) Like our own coronavirus, it raced through the American populace. Some succumbed, like A. E. van Vogt. Others showed strong resistance. In a sort of colloquium published in Marvel Science Stories, May 1951, Lester del Rey began his con to Hubbard's pro position with this observation:

     The secret feeling that you're basically superior to your fellow man is probably more typically human than anything, except the related doubt that you're superior to anyone. Racism is based on the need to believe in superiority, and one of the basic factors underlying many neuroses is the doubt of even equality. (p. 116)

Philosopher and longshoreman Eric Hoffer--like del Rey writing just six years after the destruction of the Nazi regime--came to the same kind of conclusion in The True Believer, that the man who believes himself superior may hold in his secret heart a contrary feeling of crushing inferiority. That seems to have been a general feeling among certain readers, fans, and writers of science fiction from the 1920 and '30s onward. It became more specific in the Superior Man-type story so common in Astounding Science Fiction during the 1940s. Maybe by 1950 Campbell felt that what was needed was to move that concept from fiction into fact, thus Dianetics. Ten years later--in January 1960--Astounding Science Fiction became Analog Science Fact & Fiction. In explaining the name change, Campbell wrote: "The science fiction we run in this magazine is in actual fact a good analog of the science facts to come." (3) Never mind that he had moved on by then from one failed pseudo-quasi-science to another.

To be continued . . .


(1) According to a letter from Campbell to Eric Frank Russell, dated January 7, 1952, and cited in Astounding by Alec Nevala-Lee (2018; Dey Street, 2019), page 272.

(2) Ditto, page 272.

(3) Quoted in Mr. Nevala-Lee's book, page 326, from Analog, February 1960.

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

J. Allen St. John's Covers for Fate Magazine

I wrote the other day about Weird Tales and Fate magazine. Reader Carrington B. Dixon has reminded us that J. Allen St. John, who created nine cover illustrations for Weird Tales, also created two for Fate:

Fate, July 1950, with cover art by J. Allen St. John illustrating "Darius--Conqueror of Destiny" by Harland Wilson. Note the top title: "Lemuria Did Exist."

Fate, September 1950, again with cover art by St. John illustrating "The Ancient Rites of Pan" by Frank Patton. This could easily have been a cover for Weird Tales, but it was not meant to be a cover illustration at all . . .

According to Darrell C. Richardson (1918-2006) in his book J. Allen St. John: An Illustrated Bibliography (1991), the second piece of art shown above, then or later called "Áve Pan," was painted not for Fate but for the artist's own amusement. St. John told the late Mr. Richardson as much in 1949 when the latter visited the former in his studio. "The editor of Fate Magazine," Mr. Richardson wrote, "visited the studio some weeks later and was intrigued by the scene and bought reproduction rights." (p. 101) St. John's tableau was later reproduced as a poster by Russ Cochran.

So, one more connection between Weird Tales and Fate magazine.

Thank you, Carrington B. Dixon.

Thanks also to S.P., who was willing to part with Darrell C. Richardson's book, which may have come from the library of his late friend, Larry Ivie (1936-2014).

Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley