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the Idea Machine

2013-04-08 19:15:53.455599+00 by petronius 4 comments

Via Instapundit is an interesting site called Letters of Note, which offers here a great 1955 letter from Robert Heinlein to Theodore Sturgeon. Sturgeon was passing through a bout of writer's block and asked Heinlein for some advice. Robert rattles off a large number of great ideas, some of them very detailed and others just notions. Its great to see the master at work, and it is instructive to see another good writer at a loss. Heinlein favorably mentions Sturgeon's More Than Human, with is a great book, and it's startling to see the person who could do that suddenly dried up.

In a parenthetical note, Heinlein mentions "JWC and Ron Hubbard" in his letter, referring to the creator of Dianetics before the founding of Scientology, and John Campbell, famous SF editor and Hubbard's original champion. I just finished reading Lawrence Wright's Getting Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, and this era of close friendships between the best Science Fiction writers forms an important part of the story. It's great when the whole story fits together so well. Highly recommended.

[ related topics: Books Scientology Writing Work, productivity and environment Heinlein ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2013-04-08 20:32:43.258279+00 by: other_todd

In his autobiography Isaac Asimov notes that one of the reasons he gradually broke with Campbell was Campbell's continually chasing after what Asimov deemed crackpot ideas, $cientology being among them.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-04-09 10:52:24.782795+00 by: meuon [edit history]

$cientology is a great idea, supposedly founded on a bet at a sci-fi con and made "L-Ron" a lot of money. For the record, I find L. Ron's science fiction writing to be cliche and un-memorable.

Coincidentally, I'm founding a church based on one found in Cory Doctorows Rapture of the Nerds "First Church of the Teledildonic" whose catchphrase: "No skin, no sin" made me laugh out loud.. It would at least be a great way to sell "toys" in Alabama and soon maybe Tennessee. I can see the pious bathrobed clerk in the store now:

"No ma'am, we can't sell you that unless you are a member of the church, sign here and it becomes a ritual religious symbol and sacrement. Amen sister, Amen."

#Comment Re: made: 2013-04-10 21:15:57.441101+00 by: petronius

I think the bet story is a legend. I have only read one Hubbard story, Final Blackout, which is pretty good. Wright's book makes an interesting division between the Dianetics side of Scientology and its fascistic internal disciplines. He calls it an extensive theory of human behavior, and apparently a lot of people think themselves bettered by it. The problem is that the organization is run like a complete racket, and it isn't like any other religion in the world, no matter what they say.

Maybe the strangest thing is that the locking up and psychological abuse they are accused of is not visited on the rank and file believers, but rather on the Sea Org, their priestly and administrative cadre. Most of them could escape but don't; they are already true believers. It reminds me of the gulag prisoners in Solzhenitsyn, who never waver in their admiration of Stalin, but consider their arrest and punishment all a dreadful misunderstanding.

#Comment Re: made: 2013-04-14 19:30:07.654617+00 by: brennen

Thanks for the link. I see a lot of what goes by on Letters of Note, but had missed this one somehow.

I can't remember if it's come up on Flutterby in the past (maybe there was a post about it?), but people who enjoyed this might want to have a look at William H. Patterson's Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century. It's got some of the problems of any authorized bio, but in general it's a really well- researched and fascinating piece of work. I'm hoping the second volume is out before long.