Monday, October 29, 2007

Linebarger in China

I recently commented to Kate Elliot that Paul Linebarger (aka Cordwainer Smith) was a college classmate of L. Ron Hubbard. I decided to dig up my source for this tidbit, a review of a Hubbard biography, Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller, that appeared in issue #2 of NYRSF back in 1988. Here's an excerpt from the review, written by Alan C. Elms, about Hubbard's college years:

"Hubbard had earlier engaged in modest embellishments of his personal history, but the exaggerations flowered luxuriantly during his second year at GWU. Only then did he begin to claim those years of independent travel and mystical studies in the Orient -- claims based in reality upon two brief tourist excursions with his parents to several cities in Japan and China, plus a year's residence in Guam when his father was stationed at the U.S. naval base there. No explanation is given for Hubbard's sudden explosion of autobiographical creativity at this time; one might assume he was merely trying to offset his poor academic performance. But another factor was involved, not mentioned by Miller and probably unknown to him.

"The editor of the literary supplement during Hubbard's final semester at GWU was Paul Linebarger, two years younger but a year ahead of him in school. Another member of the literary supplement's staff has told me that Hubbard and Linebarger soon became intensely competitive toward each other. Linebarger made good grades, wrote as fluently as Hubbard, and was equally ambitious. Linebarger held a major advantage in their bragging sessions: he really had traveled extensively by himself, not only in China but in Russia; he really had studied the classics of Oriental wisdom and sat at the feet of Chinese sages, including the great Sun Yat-sen. Linebarger had also conducted a passionate romance in Peking with an exiled White Russian woman several years his senior, had narrowly survived a suicide pact with her, and had participated directly in high-level secret negotiations between the U.S. and Chinese governments -- all before he was 18. Further, Linebarger was not above adding a bit of embroidery to these genuine experiences, to make them even more colorful. Is it any wonder that Ron Hubbard might thereupon dramatically expand the scope and drama of his own exaggerations, simply in order to stay competitive? And is it any wonder that when such exaggerations appeared to gain acceptance, Hubbard would try more of the same in the future?"

Doesn't a biography of Linebarger sound like something you'd want to read?