Galaxy Press – affiliated with Author Services, the literary agent for L. Ron Hubbard – some time back launched a series of paperbacks and audio books they call “Stories from the Golden Age.” This is intended to be a complete collection of all his pulp fiction writing.
It includes a number of stories in the following genres:
Air adventure – 16.
Far-flung adventure – 29.
Sea adventure – 11.
Tales from the Orient – 15.
Mystery – 16.
Fantasy – 9.
Science Fiction – 23.
Westerns – 34.
And you thought LRH was just a science fiction writer?
Nevertheless, science “fiction” remained one of his most potent tools for dealing with the larger issues of society and technology. And as such, these stories in particular are compelling for a reader such as myself.
On a recent extended weekend, I took the time to read the three stories in the issue of Stories from the Golden Age entitled “When Shadows Fall.”
A dying planet
The title story is very short, but extremely strong. It envisions a time when Earth is far past its peak as a local imperial power, and its former colonies have discontinued all their support to it. As a consequence, Earth is dying.
The few remaining rulers decide to make one last effort to re-connect Earth with its colonies.
One goes out to remind the far-flung worlds of Earth’s military might.
A second ventures out to offer financial deals, following another old tradition on Earth.
And a third – not trusted by the rest – goes out and does “nothing.” Actually, he meets old friends and wastes all his time reminiscing about the good old days.
Which Earth emissary do you think is effective in his mission?
Surprise “futuristic” technology mentioned: Terraforming.
This story makes a very effective point, particularly considering its brevity.
Stories of robots who look and act like people abound in science fiction. And two such stories are presented here. I think that even if you know they are robot stories when you read them, you will be hugely entertained – and perhaps even tricked – by their plot twists and denouements.
Tough Old Man – a newly-trained space “constable” goes out for his first apprenticeship.
Battling Bolto – a rural artisan gets wrapped up in a quick-buck scheme that nearly gets him killed.
The role of fiction in a fictional world
Story telling is one of the oldest social activities on earth. Where does its strength come from? Perhaps it reflects a truth which we tend to forget, because it is a truth that can be very difficult to realize.
And that truth is that imagination has always led the way in the progress of Mankind. There is no more powerful force in one’s personal life nor in our group existence than creative imagination. We shape our futures by first imagining them. And it will always be that way.
Beyond that, fiction gives us a way to “play around” with the problems we face in life in ways that sober analysis of “facts” seldom does. It helps us to realize that we share patterns and habits with all those of our kind, yet there always exists the possibility of rising above old patterns that no longer serve us to invent new ones that are more workable. Thus, fiction can be a tool to help us solve real-life problems.
I have also recently seen “fiction” used as a way to tell true stories that would be embarrassing, or perhaps unsafe, to tell as fact. This seems, somehow, devious. But in a world where deviousness has become the norm, it may at times be the only way left to get some truth out. While the label “fiction” protects the author from being accused of getting his “facts” wrong, it also – we may suppose – protects him or her from getting them right! This last use of fiction may in fact be much older than I imagine it to be. People have been killed for telling the truth for more centuries than I can count!