Since I mentioned this novel recently — and because I still don’t have any new reviews written, you get this.
Raw Feed (1998): Final Blackout, L. Ron Hubbard, 1940, 2991.
Algis Budry’s “Introduction” is somewhat incredulous about Hubbard’s purported accomplishments but has interesting things to say about this novel’s importance. Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1941 (March through May I believe), this novel is remarkable. It’s not just a novel of future war. They existed before this novel. Budrys finds the novel original in its political sophistication. He explicitly compares it to George Orwell’s 1984 which was to come years later. (Though he doesn’t specifically mention it, both feature worlds under the thumb of constantly warring totalitarian states.) It was also one of the first (maybe the first) US novel to feature US Marines suppressing the “hero”.
Hubbard’s own “Preface” is for the 1948 postwar edition of his novel. (Unfortunately, I don’t know how it varies from the magazine edition.) Hubbard’s account of the controversy around the novel (he was called a Fascist and a Communist) is true. But the preface is a bit too fulsome and coy. Still, as Hubbard points out, when he wrote this novel Britain banned its publication and was not Socialist (as it became post war) and Russia was sitting out the war. It also predicted (no great trick) civilian casualties and atomic warfare (H. G. Wells did that first). His most awkward moment is when he thinks most of the novel’s critics were Communists.
This novel stands, I suspect, at the fount of modern military science fiction. There were certainly future war stories before. H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds springs to mind immediately. But the modern incarnation of military men in science fiction, the no-nonsense mercenaries of David Drake and Jerry Pournelle immediately come to mind, probably all go back to Hubbard’s Lieutenant. (He is never called anything else.)Continue reading