Twilight of the Pulps


      With the advent of the Second World War, and Ron’s commission in the United States Navy as skipper of antisubmarine corvettes, his literary life sadly ground to a halt. “I am even unwilling to write these days,” he confessed in the winter of 1944. Then wistfully added, “but more and more I am beginning to be determined about writing.” What immediately followed from that determination were two historical romances, “written in bits” as a “practice run,” and presently unpublished. By late December 1945, however, we find him rather more determinedly informing New York agent Lurton Blassingame, “I have begun a writing business once more.”

      It was a fairly heroic effort. For notwithstanding his claim to “normalcy,” he still suffered grievously from wounds sustained in action. To wit: the muzzle flash of a deck gun had left him legally blind, while shrapnel fragments in hip and back had left him all but lame. In consequence, he could barely seat himself at a typewriter, could not focus on a printed page and, for that matter, could not discern the pages of his own books.

      His immediate solution was the Soundscriber Dictaphone and hired stenographer remarked upon in letters to the ever-loyal Leo Margulies of Standard Magazines. With the restoration of his health – pursuant, incidentally, to his application of early Dianetics techniques – he continued to employ both Dictaphone and typist in the interest of high-speed production. (Although even at his physical worst, he had still managed some thirty thousand words a month; while by 1947, he healthily resumed his prewar rate – an astonishing seventy thousand words at barely three days a week).

      As further evidenced in letters here, however, these were plainly transitional days, with Unknown by the boards, Astounding in hiatus and the pulps soon drowning in a wash of paperbacks – hence, the LRH requests for a Street & Smith release of rights for republication in hardback. Then, too, and even if letters to the likes of Campbell scarcely allude to the fact, Ron was soon to entirely devote himself to final steps of research towards Dianetics. Hence, the references to his Commodore Deluxe trailer, “tricked up as a writing office,” and otherwise the perfect vehicle with which to crisscross the country in search of test cases. Hence, too, the reference to his “writing schedule” as separate to an unmentioned research schedule.

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