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A Matter of Matter
L. Ron Hubbard
Multi-cast performance, unabridged
Galaxy Audio, 2 hours

L. Ron Hubbard
Lafayette Ron Hubbard was born March 13, 1911, in Tilden, Nebraska and died January 14, 1986 in San Luis Obispo, CA. In the 1930s and 40s, he produced a large number of westerns and science fiction stories and novels, some under the pen-name René Lafayette. Among these, some were well regarded, including the fantasy Slaves of Sleep (1939), the novel Typewriter in the Sky, the well-regarded militaristic post-apocalyptic novel Final Blackout (1940), and the horror novel Fear (1940). In 1950, he published Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, and in 1954 he founded the Church of Scientology to promote his "applied religious philosophy." Between 1954 and the early 80s, Hubbard published no further science fiction or fantasy. His Battlefield Earth was published in 1982 and eventually spawned the movie of the same name. The ten part ultra-pulpish Mission Earth series was published largely posthumously, and as with Battlefield Earth received rather poor reviews. Further biographical information can be found on the official L. Ron Hubbard website and in Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard by Russell Miller -- I'll let you decide what to believe.

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A review by Gil T. Wilson

A Matter of Matter Once again, Galaxy Audio offers the opportunity to visit the Golden Age of science fiction with their audio release of selected short stories written by L. Ron Hubbard for pulp magazines such as Astounding Science Fiction, Startling Stories, and Thrilling Wonder Stories.  This audiobook contains four stories brought to us by a cast of performers and narrated by R.F. Daley.  Daley delivers the narration in a manner that immediately blasts the listener back to a simpler time, when these stories could have been aired on a nightly radio broadcast.  The entire production reminds me of the old radio shows, yet they still have a fun, modern feel to them. 

  Here's a rundown of each story in this collection.

  "A Matter of Matter": First appearing in Astounding Science Fiction in August of 1949, this story tells of a young man eager to become king of his own world and, through an advertising flyer, he finds he can purchase a planet.  There are many planets out there so the capitalists on Earth have decided to sell them off.  Chuck Lambert is one of those suckers, er... uh... I mean customers.  The day comes when Chuck's final payment is made and he blasts off for his planet.  According to the contract, he must spend 11 years on the planet.  He lands on the planet to find out he's been suckered.  Everything is opposite for him on this planet.  The air suffocates him, yet there is green grass and plants, the water is refused by his stomach and the gravity makes him float.  Chuck has been suckered.  Or has he?

  "The Conroy Diary": Published in Astounding Science Fiction in May of 1949, this story tells of a man whose outer space adventures are a series of tales so outlandish and comical that there is no way they can be real.  Everyone laughs at the stories being published, but when the author of these stories is taken to court for unpaid taxes, he is forced to reveal his sources of income.  His revelations could lead to the fall or surge in the exploration of space, depending upon how the case comes out.

  "The Planet Makers": First appearing in Thrilling Wonder Stories October, 1949, this is the perfect story of how some folks will do anything to get out of a contract.  A major corporation has paid to have a planetoid terraformed, with the contract stipulating that if the contractors stay ahead of schedule, they will be paid millions in bonuses. However, if they are late, the corporation gets the planet for free.  Sleepy Mcgee, the head engineer, never gets upset when delays happen and equipment breaks down. Even when the corporate big wig yells and screams, McGee just goes on playing poker via radio link with another engineer.  Will the planetoid ever get completed?

  "The Obsolete Weapon": First appearing in Astounding Science Fiction May, 1948, this is a great time travel story.  A young soldier fighting Germans in World War II Italy is blasted back to the time of Nero, where he finds himself as a spectacle in the Colosseum.  The lions, elephants and slaves are no match for his modern weapons, but when Nero feels threatened and sends out the legions, he finds himself needing a miracle to survive.

One observation about these classic stories is that Hubbard knew how to throw a twist into a story.  While the stories are great tales in and of themselves, Hubbard's talent for throwing a wily twist at the end could put an old Twilight Zone episode to shame.  This collection of four stories makes for a great two hours spent listening to some "old timey" science fiction that is very enjoyable.

Copyright © 2011 Gil T. Wilson

Gil T. has spent a quarter of a century working in radio and has lots of spare time on his hands and reading or listening to books takes up all that time. Check out his blog to find out what he's up to at any given moment.

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