“L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31”

(Various authors)

I’m not a big fan of the whole ‘death of the author’ thing, and this book really drove home just why I feel that way. It’s a great example of it, really. It’s a collection of stories written by different authors, so surely we can view it separately from the name on the cover, right?

But to set aside the name on the cover, you have to set aside a great deal of context. The people choosing which stories made it into this collection… work for the L. Ron Hubbard foundation. They chose to work there. They looked at that name, and the legacy of it, and thought “yes, I want to be associated with this.” And, a step beyond that, everyone who submitted a story to this contest did so having, again, looked at the name L. Ron Hubbard and thought “yeah, I’m fine with being associated with that.”

That’s a lot of context to throw away, is it not? And it provides a certain amount of explanation for why some of these stories were the way they were. There’s one in here that reminded me of what I don’t like about Orson Scott Card—it treats the female protagonist as if her only purpose for existence is to make babies. Given that the setting feels like it started from the inspiration “what if Handmaiden’s Tale, but in space?” it takes some gall to have the story end with “anyways then she found the right man and they had kids and then happily ever after!”

When it comes to science fiction, I’d rather read hopeful things. This anthology did not deliver on that; I think the most hopeful story in there was one that’s a man in a mental institution, starting to recover from the fact that his sister responded to their parents dying by trying to murder him for the inheritance. Cheery!

Unlike most of my reviews, I’m not gonna end this with a call to action. This wasn’t a good book. Don’t pick it up—Hubbard’s legacy doesn’t deserve that kind of support. Go look for an anthology of queer fiction instead, those are usually better.

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