Letting the cat out of the cellophane bag, the Village Voice reports that the Church of Scientology has a handle on the Writers of the Future Contest. It’s unlikely anybody in sf will be surprised at the connection being documented.
What’s news is that in Scientology’s Writers of the Future Contest: Troubling Ties to Abuse in the Church the Village Voice also purports to show several individuals with oversight of the contest allegedly have participated in imprisoning and physically abusing of out-of-favor Scientology executives.
People in the sf field engaged with the WoTF contest, now in its 29th year, have long expressed satisfaction with the divide between the contest and the Church.
Here’s what Tim Powers told the reporter:
“When the winners get there, they get to attend how-to-write lectures from people like Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Orson Scott Card. It’s a hell of a lineup,” Powers says. “They maintain very deliberately a solid firewall between Scientology and the contest. There was even a time when a winner asked about Scientology and he was told, ‘Not this week.'”
Powers admits that in his years of involvement, he’s “never looked behind the scenes — I don’t know what the logistics of it are,” he says. But the effort that Author Services puts into keeping things separate is something he appreciates.
“I like the firewall. As a Catholic, I’d have to quit if it turned into proselytizing,” Powers says.
Frank Wu’s favorable account of his experience with the WoTF’s counterpart Illustrators of the Future Contest is quoted in the article, too.
I forwarded the link to Jerry Pournelle for his response and he answered:
I’ve seen it. I got into the contest because AJ Budrys, an old friend since 1960 (his father was an official in the Lithuanian exile government and I worked with them when I was part of the Captive Nations Committee back when I was active in politics) invited me and assured me there was no connection with Scientology; it was something Hubbard wanted to do for writers. So far as I am concerned the contest is a good thing. It tends to glorify Hubbard, of course, but I have never heard any mention of Scientology in any of the lectures, awards, ceremonies, or indeed anything else connected with the contest. As to glorifying the founder, I seem to remember a man named Smithson…
Although the relationship between WoTF and various pros, and its organized presence at Loscon, was defined ages ago, I wonder if the news reports might lead people to reconsider lending their names to the event? In addition to this Village Voice article, sf novelist Deirdre Saoirse Moen, a former Church member and staff member, posted in February about harassment she personally experienced. Is the “firewall” proof against such heightened scrutiny?
[Thanks to Gary Farber for the link.]
The fact that fadom is willing to tolerate this connection with the “Church” has always been a source of shame to me. It’s been 25 years since Dave Langford summed up my feelings about that relationship — surely it’s time to throw beer in Scientology’s face again?
It’s already too much the spirit of the times to treat as acceptable behavior various rude or violent expressions so long as they are directed at a group outside any particular tent. Besides, I liked Fred Harris. However, he was unrealistic to think Bridge Publications’ involvement — invited by the Worldcon committee, let’s not forget — would be embraced by people who had been critical of its Hubbard books and promotions for years. We also tend to forget Fred threw his drink on Dave first, otherwise I doubt Dave would have even thought of making that historic gesture.
There have been rumors for a long time about cells in lower levels of the Los Angeles Scientologist HQ in which people were allegedly imprisoned. I don’t know the truth of that, but it does fit in with what was done on Hubbard’s SeaOrg yacht about locking people in the anchor chain space, or the death of Lisa McPherson in Florida.
Would “Writers of the Future” be accepted if instead of Scientology, there was a firewall between it and the Institute for Historical Review (holocaust deniers) or the Tobacco Institute (cancer deniers) or the government of Iran or BP Oil? Or would it still be okay with one of those as its sponsor?
Would “Writers of the Future” be accepted if instead of Scientology, there was a firewall between it and the Institute for Historical Review (holocaust deniers) or the Tobacco Institute (cancer deniers) or the government of North Korea or BP Oil? Or would it still be okay with one of those as its sponsor?