Author Jim C. Hines recently posted a thoughtful blog about connections between Writers of the Future and Scientology. There are a number of folks who have issues with Hubbard’s metaphysical claims and the church he started. Some folks claim that supporting Writers of the Future (WOTF) in any way supports the Church of Scientology (CoS) and the abuse of the young, the innocent, those who are vulnerable, and the stupid.
I won a first prize in the Writers of the Future. I received $2,000 cash for the prize and subsequent publication. I also recieved a paid trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida to workshop with the other winners and pro writers. I tell new writers to submit to the contest all the time. I do not feel I’m supporting any wickedness. Let me walk you through this. You tell me if I’m killing any puppies.
A. What underlies the continued operation of WOTF?
- Hubbard wanted it (I don’t know why, although he states it was to help new sff authors and illustrators).
- The folks who run it have a very HIGH esteem of Hubbard and so have huge motivation to make it successful.
- A trust was set aside, although without looking at the books we can’t know exactly if it’s an independent thing or if money is being funneled from other CoS holdings. You do not pay many to enter the contest, so all of the money to run the contest and pay prizes etc. comes from this trust, sales of the WOTF anthologies, and perhaps other CoS holdings.
- It’s used for positsive PR for Hubbard’s brand name.
- The judges, who don’t give a fig about CoS, want to help new writers.
B. What are the effects of the contest?
- No documented writer conversions to CoS.
- No documented WOTF anthology conversions of young skulls full of mush to CoS. Someone please show me some evidence of the WOTF antho being a gateway to anything, despite the rumored statements of some Scientologists someone’s uncle overheard.
- No documented donations to CoS that I know of.
- New writers get paid a whole bunch of money, get to network, and receive instruction from pros for a week.
- The winners, on average, think better of Hubbard, as do their friends and family.
- Most winners report it was a great experience and encourage other new writers to submit.
- WOTF sells some anthologies and makes a little bit of cash to offset expenses. I can’t imagine they’re ever in the black, are they?
- WOTF tracks winners and uses those who have done well as PR shiny for . . . WOTF and the Hubbard brand name.
I was a first place winner. I had a marvelous time. This was the one held in Cocoa Beach, Florida. One night I needed to go to a convenience store to get something (tooth paste?). One of the WOTF folks drove me there. A nice woman. It was raining. It was just the two of us in the SUV.
I’m a VERY CURIOUS guy. I’ve read most of DIANETICS. I stopped by a Scientology place in Seattle to chat. I like hearing people talk about their faiths, about their lives, about whatever. If you spend any amount of time with me, you will tell me your life story. You will. It just happens.
I tried my dangest to get something out of that woman, but she was as tight as a clam sealed in four feet of concrete.
Nobody talked Scientology. Everyone involved went out of their way to avoid it. End of story. I’ve talked to many other winners. They report the same.
On the other hand, they did have a PR guy there.
Mr. PR intereviewed us about the contest and Hubbard’s works and took footage. Our one-on-one interviews were on camera. We took still photos. He asked us in our acceptance speeches to thank Hubbard by name.
He was a PR guy.
It was very clear his job was to generate PR content for WOTF and Hubbard. How do I KNOW this? Because his questions all centered around WOTF and/or Hubbard. But never CoS.
Some of the winners did not like his solicitation for a mention of Hubbard’s name. There was some reality show behind the scenes grumbling and scheming, and they did not mention Hubbard in their thanks at the awards event.
That’s fine, although it didn’t make much sense to me. Maybe they felt gratitude needs to be spontaneous, not asked for. And I can agree with them on that. At the same time, why would I take $2,000 cash for the prize and publication, and the paid hotel, and workshop, and airfare and then slap the folks who gave it to me? I was indeed grateful. So I mentioned Hubbard in my thanks (oh, look at how noble I am; somebody should saint me).
What did the contest do for me?
- Gave me some cash.
- Validated that maybe I had some chops. No, I wasn’t competing against pros. But I was competing against all those wanting to break in. I talked to Wolverton, who was a coordinating judge for many years and was the first reader, about the numbers of submissions they received. Hundreds upon hundreds each quarter. Huge boxes full. Were some drek? Of course. Who cares? Others weren’t. I won.
- Planted an idea in me that maybe I could do this.
- Gave me great connections with some pros and other authors.
- Allowed me to tell people I won a big international award for my writing. A little PR for my own brand. Who doesn’t want to engage in a bit of puffery now and then (and so you see, Fred, I am a little fabulous, aren’t I . . . )?
So the contest, as far as I’m concerned, is a GREAT contest for new writers.
But am I supporting CoS? And is that a bad thing?
Every time I purchase a Kraft Foods or Nabisco product, I directly fund Phillip Morris tobacco company and their efforts to hook children on smoking abroad. Some of the tomatoes I purchase in Walmart and other grocery stores are tainted by slavery that occurs today in Florida and California’s central valley with migrant workers. Some of those tomatoes end up in various restaurants like Pizza Hut or Papa Murphy’s. Every bite of chocolate you eat funds slavery in the Ivory Coast, where the vast majority of cocoa beans come from. Not a few slavers here and there, but widespread slavery and abuse. There are many situations like this.
What do you do when you like a product or service, but don’t necessarily want to lend aid to an affiliated cause?
In many situations, I don’t do much.
Alas, there goes my sainthood.
I admit that I should and should probably think more about this. At the same time, with regards to CoS, I don’t know that it is a wicked and exploitative organization.
I’ve seen nothing that suggests they’re into crime. Or systemic abuse. Or fraud. Or that they have a vendetta against dumb people. I don’t share one iota of their faith in Hubbard or his metaphysical teachings. But I do share other values and beliefs with them. Just as I do with Catholics, Muslims, Pagans, Athiests, Communists, and Realtors.
Besides, I never did PR for them. I’ve always said I DISAGREED with their theology, which is negative PR, if you think about it. Furthermore, I’m fairly confident the contest DOES NOT funnel large amounts of money to CoS.
What can they be making after taking out the expenses of the award week for all those authors, illustrators, judges, “luminaries,” etc. that they fly in and house, all in addition to the prize and publication monies? I’m confident they make nothing at all, but actually lose money each year.
So the net net is that they get some PR for WOTF in the SFF community and some for Hubbard’s name. That’s it. That’s what I’m giving them.
But I don’t see any documented stories of that leading to any donations or conversions to CoS. Or positive PR for CoS. Which, again, I’m still not convinced is a systemically exploitative and wicked organization.
But even if it were, am I really supporting CoS when I promote WOTF?
I don’t think so. I’m not giving them cash. I’m not giving them any positive PR. It seems to me purchasing one bag of Oreos or a Lindt chocolate bar does more harm than this ever could.
I feel so much better now. I am saving the puppies.
Of course, if you disagree, please post a comment. If you have reliable documentation, not hearsay and tabloid clamor, that can add to the discussion, feel free to share it. I’m all for good data. And if you see issues with my logic, share that as well. But no wild-eyed, Chicken Little, my mother was eaten by CoS aliens rants please.
As for that Twix I just ate. . .
EDIT 1: I just learned the Phillip Morris spun Nabisco and Kraft off in 2007. So that frees up my Oreo conscience, but the principle remains.
EDIT 2: Okay, so I just learned that the CoS planned and authorized crimes in Operation Snow White. What to make of that? Comments? Talk about your corporate espionage. I know there are governments and organizations around the world and in the US that engage in that all the time. But this is the first I’ve seen from a “church.”
EDIT 3: Read through the links on this post by Deirdre Saoirse Moen where she explains why she no longer supports the WOTF contest. Primarily, she just can’t stand some of the CoS practices.
Of note is the link to the court report by the Village Voice at the Debbie Cook hearing. One question I have is why all those leaders were in the Hole to begin with? Was it some routine church program? Yeah, it sounds awful, but the military puts the SEALs and Special Forces through awful things. So I’m not clear on all of that. And why haven’t more come out to complain? The unlawful detainment aspect of these allegations is disturbing. But are they really doing this? Are these isolated experiences, or SOP? I don’t know.
There’s another one farther down that lists alleged harassment of folks posting some CoS theology documents on the internet. I sampled the documents linked to there. Most of those are just copyright violation letters. SOP for anyone trying to protect copyright.
Looking at Operation Snow White, the Debbie Cook hearing, and the copyright violation stuff, it’s becoming fairly clear that the CoS has taken an extremely aggressive approach against some of those who speak out against them (maybe it’s over the top) and a similar approach with protecting their materials. Although I think they’ve lost the battle about their materials on the internet.
Instead of trying to win public opinion with the truth, it seems in some cases they’ve instead attempted through various methods to try to silence detractors.
Anyone have any more links to substantive material?
EDIT 4: Here’s a letter from Joni Labaqui, a Scientologist and the person who runs the whole WOTF shooting match, to Frank Wu, who was an illustrator winner, and had posted some stuff about WOTF and CoS here: http://www.frankwu.com/illo.html (I found the letter at the bottom).
Hi! It’s Joni Labaqui here. Haven’t seen you since you blew me off at LA Con a few years ago and now I know why. I didn’t understand why you didn’t want to talk to me for very long. I loved your write-up on your site about the contest until you got into talking about Scientology. I know what you mean about feeling hurt when people put down your church. I happen to think you are NOT stupid because you are a Christian. I have many Christian friends and I respect their beliefs and even fight for them. But then you get into my religion on your site and putting out falsehoods, then I realized you didn’t have all of the info. We don’t sue people for bad mouthing our religion. The Church sues when there is slander and liable of considerable magnitude involved. Lets use an analogy here – lets say someone accused you of raping the girl next door, but you didn’t do it. Would you be upset? Lets say the parents then sued you or had you put in jail or both. Would you be upset? Would you hire an attorney? Gee, you’d be involved in a legal suit wouldn’t you? What if the father of the girl made sure you were lied about in the newspapers and on TV and he tried or succeeded in ruining your reputation? How would you feel? On top of that, lets say what really happened is you simply talked to the girl and were trying to help her and she turned around and accused you. How would you feel? And how about all those people who love to gossip? (I personally hate people who gossip as all they are doing is hurting others and they are basically low-life losers – lots of people fit into this category, I’m afraid). How would you feel?
You were actually wrong in that Scientology pays for the writers and illustrators awards. The Hubbard estate (which is not the church) makes so much money on royalties from his hundreds of published fiction it would make your head spin. You were right about the fact that every one of us who works at Author Services is a Scientologist, but the judges of the contest are not. They share the same goal that Mr. Hubbard did in starting and paying for this contest – to help the new guy, just like yourself back then when you won. So I don’t understand, a nice person like you has to even bring up the subject in your write-up. You think we are interested in “converting” any of you winners just because we have you tour the Life Exhibition? The answer from the horses mouth is NO. We are simply showing you more about his life and works so that you have the facts about the other part of his life, not the bullshit and lies that has been put out by vested interests of multi-billion dollar drug companies and the psychs that can’t stand us. Have you received tons of unwanted, unsolicited mail? The answer is no. Trust me, if we wanted to convert you, you would sure know it. Believe it or not, Mr. Hubbard in founding this contest just wanted you guys to be seen and heard because he knew how hard it is to get started. Period. Its not about Scientology. That is the simplicity of this contest. Anyone reading anything else into it has their own issues and I feel sorry for them. I guess maybe you ran into someone bad mouthing us and you listened to them. If someone badmouthed you – to this day – I wouldn’t buy it. I’d tell them to take a hike. Do you know why? Because I know you are a good person. I met you, I shared some of that joy you experienced when you won, and I was truely happy for you because I like people being happy, winning in life and doing well and winning this contest. I still like you, but I’m a bit disappointed that you felt compeled to write what you did. I don’t get it. I personally put in hundreds of hours of work to help give you the event that you won your award at, so how do you think I feel?
I hope to hear from you. Best, Joni