Writers of the Future, the Church of Scientology, and Killing Puppies

Posted by John Brown on February 18th, 2012

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?

  1. Hubbard wanted it (I don’t know why, although he states it was to help new sff authors and illustrators).
  2. The folks who run it have a very HIGH esteem of Hubbard and so have huge motivation to make it successful.
  3. 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.
  4. It’s used for positsive PR for Hubbard’s brand name.
  5. The judges, who don’t give a fig about CoS, want to help new writers.

B. What are the effects of the contest?

  1. No documented writer conversions to CoS.
  2. 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.
  3. No documented donations to CoS that I know of.
  4. New writers get paid a whole bunch of money, get to network, and receive instruction from pros for a week.
  5. The winners, on average, think better of Hubbard, as do their friends and family.
  6. Most winners report it was a great experience and encourage other new writers to submit.
  7. 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?
  8. 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?

  1. Gave me some cash.
  2. 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.
  3. Planted an idea in me that maybe I could do this.
  4. Gave me great connections with some pros and other authors.
  5. 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. . .

(sigh)

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).

Dear Frank,

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

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6 Responses to “Writers of the Future, the Church of Scientology, and Killing Puppies”

  1. Josh Morrey Says:

    John, I whole-heartedly agree with you on this. I have been submitting to WoTF for about six years. In that time I have garnered two Honorable Mentions, but nothing more, yet.

    In 2007 , I think it was, perhaps 2006, I payed my way down to LA to attend the awards celebration for that particular year, mostly to get a feel for the contest and schmooze with the likes of Kevin J Anderson and Tim Powers. It was a fantastic experience. I spent the entire evening chatting with not only the winners and judges, but also many of the guests and other attendees of the event. AT NO POINT did ANYONE even bring up Scientology in any way. Granted a few of the guests I sat next to during the ceremony seemed to be discussing something to do with Dianetics, but, even though I spoke with them for a good deal of time later, they did not broach the subject with me.

    The entire WoTF contest is focused solely on helping emerging writers to break into the business. Even the emails, snail mail, and other correspondence I get from WoTF and Galaxy Press are all about Hubbard’s writing, his stories, and his devotion to assisting young authors.

    Writers of the Future is a wonderful contest pushing a wonderful cause. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either ignorant or being pernicious.

    I fully support the WoTF contest. I will be my way into the business someday. Watch for it, :)

  2. Deirdre Saoirse Moen Says:

    If you haven’t seen documentation about Scientology’s systemic abuses, you really have been avoiding looking, frankly. I’ve got some links on my WotF-tagged posts.

    How can Galaxy Press afford to keep the anthologies in print, you might ask? Because I assure you, they benefit from the church’s own internal human trafficking to do so.

    You may not know that Scn owns their own presses, operated by Bridge Publications. There’s frankly no way, despite their claims of massive sales, they could afford to keep the anthologies in print using commercial printers, especially the older anthologies where the sales have tapered off.

    Here’s a lawsuit from a former Bridge staffer who, as a minor, severed a finger in a guillotine that had no safety guards. Minors are prohibited by federal law from operating such equipment, and Montalvo was offered no compensation.

    Meanwhile, workers at Bridge Publications? Are Sea Org, and Sea Org women are prohibited from having children and coerced into abortions. I have a post about that here.

    The camera crew for the event come from Gold Base, where the security is insane. Look at the inward-facing motion detectors, razor wire, spikes — all designed to keep people in (granted, as well as out).

    These are the working conditions for the people who actually make the bright shiny anthologies so that people can say there’s no connection. It’s not just about the surface details, that’s just gloss.

    Here’s the California penal code for human trafficking.

    d1: Scn does this with Sea Org staff. Don’t believe me? Look at the spikes in the link above.
    d2: Scn controls passports and IDs of its Sea Org staff.
    e: Scn does this with Sea Org.

    Watch the testimonies from the Human Trafficking Conference. Of these, Will Fry’s is most relevant as he was actually Sea Org at Bridge Publications.

    Look deeper. I will be.

    Until then, ponder: what social costs are you willing to pay to get a check for a few hundred or a few grand and have your story perpetually in print?

    As Nick Mamatas has pointed out, you have been recruited. Your post is proof that you are indeed doing PR for them with this post.

  3. John Brown Says:

    Deirdre,

    I appreciate the comment and links. I have indeed seen the pictures of the inward facing spikes etc., read the police report filed about the person leaving (fleeing?) the compound, and read about the lawsuit that was settled out of court with the young man who lost part of his finger at Sea Org. I will read Fry’s testimony at the human trafficking conference.

    Having said that, one law suit and a police report don’t indicate systemic abuse. They just don’t. What’s needed is corroborating evidence that demonstrates widespread slavery. Perhap’s Fry’s testimony begins to provide that.

    I will admit I’m totally baffled and a bit perplexed by the practice of “the hole” with executives in CoS. But, again, are these folks really prisoners being held against their will? If so, why? And if it is a prison camp, why aren’t more of those who experienced it speaking out? Why haven’t the authorities cracked down and raided the place? Or is this something those folks have chosen to do? And what’s the whole theory behind its existence? There are just too many questions right now for me to come to any conclusion. And before I rise up in indignation, I need corroboration from trusted sources, not hearsay and internet rumor.

    I hope that makes sense.

    As for me providing WOTF positive PR, you bet. In the post above I argue that’s exactly what they get for the contest–positive PR for WOTF and Hubbard’s name as it is associated with the contest. And why wouldn’t they? It was a thoroughly POSITIVE experience. They do NOT get positive PR for the CoS. As this blog demonstrates. Nor has anyone shown me that positive WOTF PR has any effect on CoS recruitment.

    So as I find more evidence for or against, my opinion on the matter will develop. And I always welcome links to more substantive reports and testimony.

  4. Deirdre Saoirse Moen Says:

    For the people in The Hole, they are indeed prohibited from leaving, as are people on the Rehabilitation Project Force. Debbie Cook was kept there for seven weeks against her will (see her Nightline interview from 2/29). Others, including Heber, have been kept for years.

    I’d recommend you read any of the recent autobiographies from the ex-Sea Org people who’ve left. I was a normal staff at a relatively large Church, but those people aren’t subject to the RPF or The Hole (which are reserved for the Sea Org religious order).

    In order, I’d recommend:

    1) Marc Headley’s Blown for Good – http://blownforgood.com/
    2) Amy Scobee’s Scientology, Abuse at the Top – http://www.scobeepublishing.com/

    The best overall book is Janet Reitman’s http://www.janetreitman.com/ — which is far more accessible to someone who’s never been a Scientologist.

    I don’t really give a spit about CofS recruitment. You’re being used as a PR tool to whitewash the fact that Hubbard used to put kids in chain lockers and threw his crew overboard. If that’s what you want your name associated with, it’s your life.

  5. John Brown Says:

    Deirdre,

    Thanks for the additional links. As for the allegations you mention at the end against Hubbard, again, I can’t make any conclusion without seeing everything laid out. But I will certainly read.

  6. Deirdre Says:

    Fair enough.