September 23 - 26, 1999

Hollywood, California

A Chaos Manor Photo-Essay Report
Monday, October 04, 1999

10:37 AM






The Writers of the Future Awards are held each year. The judges include myself, Larry Niven, and in no particular order, Algis Budrys, Jack Williamson, Fred Pohl, Robert Silverberg, Charles Sheffield, Greg Benford, Tim Powers, Eric Kotani (Dr. Yoji Kondo), Anne McCaffrey, and a number of other well known science fiction writers. The awards are rather gaudy. The ceremonies are impressive. The winners get publication (with payment) in the annual Writers of the Future Anthology, and enrollment in a writers workshop that I haven't been part of but which is taught by people like Tim Powers, Orson Scott Card, and Algis Budrys; that can't do anything but good for those attending. The grand prize winner gets a substantial check, publication (with additional payment) in the annual, and a lot of lionizing for a weekend. If I have any objections to the whole process (clearly I don't have a lot of objection or I wouldn't continue to be one of the judges) it's that it perhaps makes a bit too much of beginning writers: the real world is a bit tougher, and after the weekend is over the new writer has to face that blank screen again. On the other hand, it sure is a fun boost to new careers.

If you think I am not aware of the sponsorship of these awards, I have an afterword below.



  These were mostly taken on the roof of the Manor Hotel, which is owned and operated by one or another of the Hubbard foundations. It has been magnificently restored, and is an island of safety and sanity in a pretty rough Hollywood district. My wife was impressed by the number of youngsters sitting in the restaurant reading books and drinking soft drinks in comparison to the liquor and drug scenes not fifty feet away.

This was a preliminary get-together dinner Thursday night. I always enjoy going to those. The views from the hotel roof are magnificent.


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Frank Kelly Freas and Dr. Laura Brodian Freas. Kelly is the senior judge of the Artists of the future, and I suppose the most popular illustrator of all time; certainly so for science fiction.

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Algis Budrys, who was the founding judge of the contest and is now coming back to being chief judge again. Algis is one of the most respected authors in science fiction.

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Algis again, with Mrs. Edna Budrys to his right. The hills are the Hollywood Hills, and Chaos Manor is almost dead ahead on the other side of those hills. It was a grey evening, but a nice view.

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Fred Pohl and his son. That's Dr. Elizabeth Hull, sometimes known as Betty Pohl, facing away from us. Same hills.

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Dr. Yoji Kondo, who writes under the name Eric Kotani for reasons I never understood, but might have to do with his status as a senior scientist and project manager at NASA. He's also a karate master, and like most of these people, a very old friend.


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A better view of Betty. She's a professor of English among other qualities.

   The rest of these were taken at the awards ceremony. I didn't take these.


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Me with Tim and Serena Powers. Powers is the best "real" fantasy writer since C.S. Lewis; by "real" I mean concerned with treating Western myth and legend as if there were truth embedded in them.


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And that's me with Joni Labaqui who deftly administers the contest.

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Algis and Edna Budrys.

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Me with Frank Kelly Freas. Most writers and artists love to play dress-up. Kelly got a well-deserved lifetime achievement award of immense proportions.


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Roberta Pournelle with Dr. Yoji Kondo and Mrs. Ursula Kondo. Yoji and I are almost precisely the same age. Clearly our wives are much younger than we are.

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Dr. Doug Beason, Col., USAF. I first met Doug when he was a professor at the Air Academy. He now heads an important USAF laboratory. He also writes darned good science fiction.

  So. It was a great party, and you can find out more from the Writers of the Future web page, where they probably have photographs as good as these. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and the winners were radiant.


  An Afterword:

Before anyone bothers to send me hate mail on this, I know that the contest was set up by L. Ron Hubbard. Hubbard was a colorful old time science fiction writer. Robert Heinlein counted him as a good friend through his whole life. Hubbard was highly prolific but still broke most of the time.

Then he made it big with a book called DIANETICS. Dianetics was the first of the really popular self-help books, and the techniques described in it weren't a lot different from some of the unorthodox branches of psychoanalysis, while the psychological theories presented were a rather interesting synthesis of Alfred Count Korzykski's Science and Sanity, an early book on general semantics, and Jung's psychoanalytical theory of a collective unconscious. In place of Freud's id, ego, and superego, Hubbard postulated a reptilian "reactive mind" in addition to the rational conscious mind; like Freud, he postulated that hidden memories were responsible for many mental health problems.

"General Semantics" was a theory of the relation of language to reality (and thus a branch of epistemology) and had -- still has -- some highly respectable adherents, including Wendell Johnson of the University of Iowa, and Dr. S. I. Hayakawa who was later President of San Francisco State and after that a US Senator. Despite its rough treatment by Martin Gardiner in his Fads and Fallacies in the Name Of Science, General Semantics was taught in universities, and while it had its woo-woo adherents, it had some academic heavyweights behind it as well; and like Freudian analysis, it's still around although not so popular as it once was.

General Semantics was a bit of a fad among science fiction writers in the 40's (Null-A by van Vogt was one major series, but there were plenty of others). Jung was of course perfectly respectable in those days, and is still held in some reverence by those who cling to the psychoanalytic tradition. Freudian theory and psychoanalysis changed the world. (Not in my judgment for the better, but it was certainly "respectable").

Dianetics is easily shown to be a synthesis of Jung and Korzybski. A rather good synthesis, in my judgment, remarkably good for someone of Hubbard's limited academic education -- but then many of the old line science fiction writers were self taught. Heinlein with his engineering degree from the US Naval Academy was one of the better educated early SF writers. Fred Pohl, for example, never went to college and was a weather chart draftsman for the Army Air Force in WW II. (Now the field is lousy with Ph.D. types, like Greg Benford, David Brin, Charlie Sheffield, Yoji Kondo, Robert Forward, etc.  Even Niven has an honorary Ph.D.) In any event, Dianetics was readable, and presented a synthesis of fairly respectable psychological theories. It was written in a breathless style, and it's now pretty clear that Hubbard couldn't possibly have collected the patient record data he claimed -- but then it is now known that Freud made up most of his case histories, too.

Like many theories and techniques of psychological self-help, Hubbard's Dianetics "worked" in the sense that you could easily see improvements in those who stuck the course. Of course you could also see improvements in patients who stuck the course in almost any non-insane system of therapy, from Freud's authoritarian and structured analysis with the god-like therapist, to Rogerian non-directed therapy, to Glasser's Reality Therapy, to Reich's psycho-drama if not his later "orgone energy" therapy. Dianetic auditing worked better than many of the more orthodox shrink programs, and its practitioners didn't need expensive college degrees and years of psychoanalytic therapy before they could practice it. It became quite popular, and that was its undoing. 

The American medical establishment came down hard on Hubbard. Lawsuits drained his profits, and a host of detractors made destroying him a campaign objective; if Wilhelm Reich or Karen Horney had been subjected to such a campaign they'd have gone under, as indeed would almost anyone else. (Recall that Ignatz Semmelweiss, the Austro-Hungarian physician who discovered that childbed fever was caused by physicians and midwives not washing their hands between patients and thus spreading salmonella was locked in a madhouse by his colleagues).

Hubbard reacted by founding a church on the theory that the First Amendment would protect him. At this point I lose track, because I haven't followed the vicissitudes of the story, and I have no real knowledge of what Scientologists believe or purport to believe. I have heard stories of a rather fanciful pre-history of the human race, but how much of that practitioners believe, and how much is a smoke screen I do not know: like the Druze religion, apparently only the adepts know the actual arcana at the heart of the belief system. If that sounds a bit like gnosticism, I expect the similarity is intended.

The part I do know is Dianetics. I've read that book, and it doesn't seem reasonable to me for the same reason that I find Freud's theories untenable: no one has ever been able to find anything like the brain structures postulated by Freud, Jung, or for that matter Hubbard. That hasn't put all the Freudians out of business, although unlike Scientology, the numbers of Freudian true believers seem to be dwindling; but it does make psychoanalytical theories, to which Dianetics is closely related, rather suspect in this era of new understanding of real brain structures. 

There are many stories about Scientology, some rather frightening, but they don't all have equal credibility. Some are amusing, such as the story of the ship with the dirty rag tied around its stack to indicate that it was somehow in disfavor with Hubbard. I once asked Algis Budrys, who was one of the founders of the Writers of the Future and whose integrity, credibility and good sense have never been questioned by anyone I know, about the truth of those stories. His reply: "I don't know either, but I do know that all that happened a long time ago." Which is self-evidently true. Hubbard has been dead, or discorporated, or ascended, for some time now. In any event I haven't observed anyone being mistreated, and all the adherents to Scientology I have met seem contented to be there; and as my wife observes, they're sure better off reading books and drinking coffee in a safe environment than out on the very dangerous streets not fifty yards away.

I have friends who are fanatic Scientology haters, and I have friends who are, I think, members in good standing of the Church of Scientology (and in the case of one of them, also a member in good standing of his Reform Jewish Temple, so apparently there's no conflict there). I have good friends who hate the Mormon Church, and other friends including Orson Scott Card who are members in good standing of it (as is one of the current presiding judges of the Writers of the Future contest).

 I don't insist that my friends like each other.

I also don't have to have an opinion about the Church of Scientology, because it doesn't operate the Writers of the Future, and has no influence over who wins it. That much I can guarantee. The contest isn't rigged. Algis Budrys wouldn't have anything to do with it if there were the slightest chance of that. Nor would I.

Hubbard founded and left money for the Writers and Artists of the Future contests, and those are at least as legitimate as most of the other foundations people leave as their memorials. I find the company congenial, my fellow judges are all both friends and people I respect, it helps new writers, and I know the contest is conducted fairly. And I have a lot of fun at the awards, which are pretty much open to the public. I think  you need a ticket but they're free.