CLOSE
Chris Ware/Getty Images
Chris Ware/Getty Images

10 L. Ron Hubbard Stories With Fantastic Titles

Chris Ware/Getty Images
Chris Ware/Getty Images

As the founder of the Church of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard has been called “a great philosopher” by some and “a cult leader” by many others. But two decades before he introduced the concept of Scientology, and even 20 years before he unleashed Dianetics on the world, Hubbard was busy churning out up 100,000 words per month as one of the most prolific pulp fiction and sci-fi writers of the 20th century. (In 2006, he was awarded a Guinness World Record for Most Published Works by One Author.)

After getting his start in 1931 as a reporter for The University Hatchet, the student newspaper of George Washington University, where Hubbard was an undergrad, he abandoned school altogether in order to nurture his burgeoning writing career. It didn't take long for Hubbard to find work. By the end of the decade, Hubbard had published approximately 140 stories—many of them under his own name, but others under a variety of inventive pen names, including Winchester Remington Colt, Bernard Hubbel, Legionnaire 148, and even Captain L. Ron Hubbard. Even more imaginative than his pseudonyms were the titles he conjured up for these stories.

1. DEAD MEN KILL (1934)

Long before Rick Grimes existed, Detective Terry Lane learned the hard way that the dead don’t always stay that way. Thinking that he’s on the trail of a killer, Lane instead is forced to fend off an onslaught of pugilistic corpses who want to put him six feet under. Publishers Weekly calls it a “rollicking horror yarn [that] just happens to tap into the current craze for zombies.”

2. STARCH AND STRIPES (1936)

Originally published in Dime Adventure Magazine, Starch and Stripes mixes politics and pacification as a group of Marines enact a plan to take down a dangerous warlord at the same time that a group of high-powered political figures arrive to inspect their camp.

3. CARGO OF COFFINS (1937)

After escaping from Devil’s Island, Lars Marlin manages to land himself a gig on a luxury yacht. And it’s there that he comes face to face with Paco Covino, the man who put him away in the first place. With nowhere to go but overboard, Marlin attempts to unravel whatever plot he knows Covino is hatching.

4. TYPEWRITER IN THE SKY (1940)

One of Hubbard’s most critically acclaimed efforts, Typewriter in the Sky is a novel that takes a meta approach, telling the tale of a piano player who unwittingly becomes a character in his friend’s adventure novel and whose future then lies in how the novel ends. In the years since its publishing, both Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo and Marc Forster’s Stranger Than Fiction have been compared to Typewriter in the Sky.

5. THE CASE OF THE FRIENDLY CORPSE (1941)

Regardless of what Dead Men Kill said, not all corpses are mean. Just as the title indicates, in The Case of the Friendly Corpse, they’re downright hospitable. Jules Riley is a student of ancient languages who inadvertently gets trapped in another dimension when he switches places with Achmed el Abd Mahmud, a sorcerer and recent graduate of the Order of Necromancers.

6. HE DIDN'T LIKE CATS (1942)

An alley cat exacts revenge on sheepish Jacob Findley, the titular feline-hater, after Findley sees to it that the cat meets his end under the wheels of a passing car.

7. HER MAJESTY'S ABERRATION (1948)

This story, published in Astounding Science Fiction under the pen name René Lafayette, is the third in Hubbard’s “Ole Doc Methuselah” series. And while it may sound like a Bizarro version of a James Bond tale, it’s actually a sci-fi yarn that sees our hero, Ole Doc, save the planet of Dorcon from its mad queen—and restore the queen’s sanity, too.

8. THE AUTOMAGIC HORSE (1949)

Hubbard based The Automagic Horse partly on his own experiences writing for Hollywood. It tells the story of a special effects wizard, “Gadget” O’Dowd, who builds a mechanical version of the great thoroughbred Man O’ War for a movie, then enters it into an actual horse race at Santa Anita—and wins. But the plot thickens when it’s discovered that all of this is an elaborate ruse to hide what Gadget is really building: a spaceship.

9. MAN FOR BREAKFAST (1949)

Originally published in Texas Rangers Magazine under the pseudonym Winchester Remington Colt, Man for Breakfast is a vigilante story about Johnny Purcell, a robbery victim who will stop at nothing to see that he gets justice for his suffering.

10. THE WERE-HUMAN (1981)

Following the release of Dianetics in 1950, most of Hubbard’s literary output was Scientology-based texts. The Were-Human, published in The Fantasy Book in October of 1981, is one of his rare late fictions. It’s about the transformation of a human into something entirely different, not unlike a werewolf, but technically a were-human.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
arrow
literature
12 Facts About Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
George C. Beresford/Getty Images
George C. Beresford/Getty Images

Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella about venturing into the moral depths of colonial Africa is among the most frequently analyzed literary works in college curricula.

1. ENGLISH WAS THE AUTHOR’S THIRD LANGUAGE.

It’s impressive enough that Conrad wrote a book that has stayed relevant for more than a century. This achievement seems all the more impressive when considering that he wrote it in English, his third language. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in 1857, Conrad was a native Polish speaker. French was his second language. He didn’t even know any English—the language of his literary composition—until age 21.

2. HEART OF DARKNESS BEGINS AND ENDS IN THE UK.

Though it recounts Marlow's voyage through Belgian Congo in search of Kurtz and is forever linked to the African continent, Conrad’s novella begins and ends in England. At the story’s conclusion, the “tranquil waterway” that “seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness” is none other than the River Thames.

3. THE PROTAGONIST MARLOW IS CONRAD.

The well-traveled Marlow—who appears in other Conrad works, such as Lord Jim—is based on his equally well-traveled creator. In 1890, 32-year-old Conrad sailed the Congo River while serving as second-in-command on a Belgian trading company steamboat. As a career seaman, Conrad explored not only the African continent but also ventured to places ranging from Australia to India to South America.

4. LIKE KURTZ AND MARLOW, CONRAD GOT SICK ON HIS VOYAGE.

Illness claimed Kurtz, an ivory trader who has gone mysteriously insane. It nearly claimed Marlow. And these two characters almost never existed, owing to their creator’s health troubles. Conrad came down with dysentery and malaria in Belgian Congo, and afterwards had to recuperate in the German Hospital, London, before heading to Geneva, Switzerland, to undergo hydrotherapy. Though he survived, Conrad suffered from poor health for many years afterward.

5. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY ALLEGED KURTZES IN REAL LIFE.

The identity of the person on whom Conrad based the story’s antagonist has aroused many a conjecture. Among those suggested as the real Kurtz include a French agent who died on board Conrad’s steamship, a Belgian colonial officer, and Welsh explorer Henry Morton Stanley.

6. COLONIZING WAS ALL THE RAGE WHEN HEART OF DARKNESS APPEARED.

Imperialism—now viewed as misguided, oppressive, and ruthless—was much in vogue when Conrad’s novella hit shelves. The "Scramble for Africa" had seen European powers stake their claims on the majority of the continent. Britain’s Queen Victoria was even portrayed as the colonies' "great white mother." And writing in The New Review in 1897, adventurer Charles de Thierry (who tried and failed to establish his own colony in New Zealand) echoed the imperialistic exuberance of many with his declaration: “Since the wise men saw the star in the East, Christianity has found no nobler expression.”

7. CHINUA ACHEBE WAS NOT A FAN OF THE BOOK.

Even though Conrad was no champion of colonialism, Chinua Achebe—the Nigerian author of Things Fall Apart and other novels—delivered a 1975 lecture called “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness” that described Conrad as a “thoroughgoing racist” and his ubiquitous short classic as “an offensive and deplorable book.” However, even Achebe credited Conrad for having “condemned the evil of imperial exploitation.” And others have recognized Heart of Darkness as an indictment of the unfairness and barbarity of the colonial system.

8. THE BOOK WASN’T SUCH A BIG DEAL—AT FIRST.

In 1902, three years after its initial serialization in a magazine, Heart of Darkness appeared in a volume with two other Conrad stories. It received the least notice of the three. In fact, not even Conrad himself considered it a major work. And during his lifetime, the story “received no special attention either from readers or from Conrad himself,” writes Gene M. Moore in the introduction to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness: A Casebook. But Heart of Darkness managed to ascend to immense prominence in the 1950s, after the planet had witnessed “the horror”—Kurtz's last words in the book—of WWII and the ramifications of influential men who so thoroughly indulged their basest instincts.

9. T.S. ELIOT BORROWED AN IMPORTANT LINE.

Though Heart of Darkness wasn’t an immediate sensation, it evidently was on the radar of some in the literary community. The famous line announcing the antagonist’s demise, “Mistah Kurtz—he dead,” serves as the epigraph to the 1925 T.S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men.”

10. THE STORY INSPIRED APOCALYPSE NOW.

Eighty years after Conrad’s novella debuted, the Francis Ford Coppola film Apocalypse Now hit the big screen. Though heavily influenced by Heart of Darkness, the movie’s setting is not Belgian Congo, but the Vietnam War. And though the antagonist (played by Marlon Brando) is named Kurtz, this particular Kurtz is no ivory trader, but a U.S. military officer who has become mentally unhinged.

11. HEART OF DARKNESS HAS BEEN MADE INTO AN OPERA.

Tarik O'Regan’s Heart of Darkness, an opera in one act, opened in 2011. Premiering at London’s Royal Opera House, it was reportedly the first operatic adaptation of Conrad’s story and heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now.

12. THE BOOK ALSO SPARKED A VIDEO GAME.

In a development not even Conrad’s imagination could have produced, his classic inspired a video game, Spec Ops: The Line, which was released in 2012.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Dan Bell
arrow
Design
A Cartographer Is Mapping All of the UK’s National Parks, J.R.R. Tolkien-Style
Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park
Dan Bell

Cartographer Dan Bell makes national parks into fantasy lands. Bell, who lives near Lake District National Park in England, is currently on a mission to draw every national park in the UK in the style of the maps in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Kottke.org reports.

The project began in September 2017, when Bell posted his own hand-drawn version of a Middle Earth map online. He received such a positive response that he decided to apply the fantasy style to real world locations. He has completed 11 out of the UK’s 15 parks so far. Once he finishes, he hopes to tackle the U.S. National Park system, too. (He already has Yellowstone National Park down.)

Bell has done various other maps in the same style, including ones for London and Game of Thrones’s Westeros, and he commissions, in case you have your own special locale that could use the Tolkien treatment. Check out a few of his park maps below.

A close-up of a map for Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park in central England
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Cairngorms National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Cairngorms National Park in Scotland
Dan Bell

A black-and-white illustration of Lake District National Park in the style of a 'Lord of the Rings' map.
Lake District National Park in England
Dan Bell

You can buy prints of the maps here.

[h/t Kottke.org]

All images by Dan Bell

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios