Read Ole Doc Methuselah Online

Authors: L. Ron Hubbard

Tags: #Science Fiction

Ole Doc Methuselah

Also by
L. Ron Hubbard

Buckskin Brigades

The Conquest of Space

The Dangerous Dimension

Death's Deputy

The End is Not Yet

Fear

Final Blackout

The Kilkenny Cats

The Mission Earth Dekalogy*

Volume 1: The Invaders Plan

Volume 2: Black Genesis

Volume 3: The Enemy Within

Volume 4: An Alien Affair

Volume 5: Fortune of Fear

Volume 6: Death Quest

Volume 7: Voyage of Vengeance

Volume 8: Disaster

Volume 9: Villainy Victorious

Volume 10: The Doomed Planet

Ole Doc Methuselah

Slaves of Sleep & The Masters of Sleep

To the Stars

Triton

Typewriter in the Sky

The Ultimate Adventure

 

* Dekalogy—a group of ten volumes

 

For more information on L. Ron Hubbard and
his many works of fiction visit
www.GalaxyPress.com
.

 

Galaxy Press
7051 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA
90028

OLE DOC METHUSELAH

©1992 L. Ron Hubbard Library. All Rights
Reserved.

Any unauthorized
copying, translation, duplication, importation or distribution, in whole or in
part, by any means, including electronic copying, storage or transmission, is a
violation of applicable laws.

Cover Art: Gerry Grace
Cover artwork: © 1992  L. Ron Hubbard
Library. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59212-599-9

Introduction

It was the autumn of 1947—the tenth year of a golden age for John W. Campbell's
Astounding Science Fiction,
the
magazine that had reshaped and redefined science fiction into its modern form.
Campbell, coming to the editorship of
Astounding
at the age of 27 in
October, 1937, had tossed out within a year or two most of the old-guard
writers who had dominated the magazine, and had brought in a crowd of bright
and talented newcomers: such people as Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, L. Ron
Hubbard, A.E. van Vogt, L. Sprague de Camp, Theodore Sturgeon, Fritz Leiber,
Lester del Rey. They—and a few veterans like Jack Williamson and Clifford D.
Simak—wrote a revolutionary new kind of science fiction for Campbell, brisk and
crisp of style, fresh and lively and often irreverent in matters of theme, plot
and characterization. The readers loved it.
Astounding
was the place
where all the best stories were—many of them now classics, which have stayed in
print for fifty years—and both the magazine and its larger-than-life editor
were regarded with awe and reverence by its readership and by most of its
writers as well.

Hubbard—whose famous writing career had
begun in the early 1930's in such wild-and-wooly pulps as
Thrilling
Adventures, Phantom Detective, Cowboy Stories,
and
Top Notch,
and
the more prestigious magazines as
Argosy, Adventure,
Western Stories, Popular Detective
and
Five Novels
Monthly,
had been especially commissioned by
publishers Street & Smith to write for
Astounding
magazine's editor
John W. Campbell Jr. in 1938. At 27, just a few months younger than Campbell,
he was already the author of millions of published words of fiction, and
Campbell wanted him for his knack of fast-paced story-telling and his bold
ideas. Soon Hubbard was a top figure in the
Astounding
of the 1940's and
in its short-lived but distinguished fantasy companion,
Unknown,
with
such Hubbard stories and novels as “The Tramp” (1938), “Slaves of Sleep”
(1939), “Typewriter in the Sky” (1940), “Final Blackout” (1940), “Fear” (1940),
“The Case of The Friendly Corpse” (1941) and “The Invaders” (1942). But then
Hubbard too went off to military service, and his contributions to Campbell's
magazines ceased for five years.

The extent of Hubbard's popularity among
the readers of
Astounding
and
Unknown
in the first few years of
Campbell's Golden Age was enormous. No better proof of that can be provided
than a letter from a young reader that was published in the April, 1940 issue
of
Unknown,
listing his ten favorite stories of 1939. Three of them—“The
Ultimate Adventure,” “Ghoul” and “Slaves of Sleep”—were by L. Ron Hubbard. (The
young reader's name was Isaac Asimov, who would soon be one of Campbell's
Golden Age stalwarts himself.) So when Hubbard finally returned to the pages
of
Astounding
in the August, 1947 issue with a grim three-part novel of the
postwar atomic-age world, “The End Is Not Yet,” reader response was
enthusiastic.

But there was more to Hubbard's return than
the readers of that season suspected. Even while “The End Is Not Yet” was still
being serialized, Campbell began to offer them the start of another major
Hubbard enterprise—the first of a series of high-spirited space adventures
under the pseudonym of Rene Lafayette. Entitled “Ole Doc Methuselah,” it
appeared—without any of Campbell's customary advance build-up—as the lead story
of the October, 1947
Astounding,
which also carried the final segment of
the Hubbard novel.

The “Lafayette” pseudonym was not new.
Hubbard had used it at least once before, in the April, 1940 issue of
Unknown,
on a short novel called “The Indigestible Triton.” The name was simply a
variation on Hubbard's own—(the “L.” in “L. Ron Hubbard” stands for
“Lafayette”)—and almost certainly was used on “The Indigestible Triton” because
of the extraordinary number of Hubbard stories that had been appearing in
Campbell's magazines in 1940: editors often get uneasy when one writer appears
to be too prolific. Very likely the pseudonym was revived for “Ole Doc
Methuselah” for much the same reason. With “The End Is Not Yet” already running
in
Astounding,
Campbell would not have wanted to use the same author's
byline twice in the same issue.

“Ole Doc Methuselah”—the first of the seven
galactic exploits in the book you are now holding—is an entertaining adventure
hearkening back to Hubbard's other genre writing—perhaps reminiscent of one of
his classic westerns: The glamorous, mysterious young doctor and his comic but
highly effective sidekick come riding into town to set things straight. The bad
guys have set up a phony land-development scheme, saying that the railway will
be coming through soon and everybody in town will get rich. But of course it's
a swindle, and it will be up to the young doctor and his buddy to defeat the
villains and set everything to rights.

The readers loved it. “The Analytical
Laboratory,” the reader-response poll that Campbell published every month,
reported in the January, 1948
Astounding
that it had been the most
popular story in the October issue. (The conclusion of Hubbard's “The End Is
Not Yet” serial finished in second place.) Campbell himself noted, in
commenting on the results, that he personally would classify the story “as fun
rather than cerebral science fiction—and its position [in the poll] testifies
that any type of science-fiction, well done, will take a first place!”

Cartier's lively,
boldly outlined drawings provided images of Doc and his alien slave Hippocrates as definitive
as those that Tenniel did for Lewis Carroll's “Alice in Wonderland,” and gave
the reader a cue not to take the story
too
seriously. Everyone knew
right away that Ole Doc was a high-spirited romp—Campbell and Hubbard in an
unbuttoned mood, sharing some fun with their readers for some great
entertainment.

Cartier, who illustrated more stories by
Hubbard than anyone else, has written fondly of his association with Hubbard's
work and with “Ole Doc Methuselah“ in particular. “Illustrating Ron's tales was
a welcome assignment,” he said, “because they always contained scenes or
incidents I found easy to picture. With some writers' work I puzzled for hours
on what to draw and I sometimes had to contact Campbell for an idea. That never
happened with a Hubbard story. His plots allowed my imagination to run wild and
the ideas for my illustrations would quickly come to mind. . . . It was Ole
Doc's adventures that many people, including myself, recall most fondly.
Readers like my depiction of Hippocrates and I always enjoyed drawing the
little, anten-naed, four-armed creature. Oddly enough, in 1952 my wife, Gina,
found a large five-legged frog in our yard. . . . Needless to say, the mutant
frog was instantly dubbed Hippocrates or Pocrates, for short. He resided with
honor in a garden pool and was featured in many local newspaper articles. The
frog's existence was as if Ron's writings and my illustrations had come to life
to prove that science fiction's imaginative ideas are quite within the realm of
possibility.”

A month after his debut, Ole Doc Methuselah
returned, with “The Expensive Slaves“ in the November, 1947 issue. Again praised
in the letter column of “The Analytical Laboratory,” there was no question that
the series had been successfully launched, and the readers of the era—I was
one-looked forward eagerly to the next episode.

They didn't have long to wait. Doc was back
in the March, 1948 issue with “Her Majesty's Aberration.” The fourth in the
series—“The Great Air Monopoly”—appeared in September, 1948. The April, 1949
issue brought “Plague,” a long lead story which gave the series its first
display on
Astounding's
cover. Two months later came “A Sound
Investment.” (Campbell, announcing that story in the previous issue, commented,
“This is one series in which the continuing hero is frankly and directly
labeled as being deathless, incidentally; you won't  often  find an author
admitting that.” January, 1950 saw publication of “Ole Mother Methuselah,” the
seventh of the Ole Doc Methuselah series.

And there the series ended. Hubbard had
other projects of a whole new scope. In the May, 1950
Astounding
Campbell
published Hubbard's non-fiction essay, “Dianetics, the Evolution of a Science,”
and shortly afterward came Hubbard's book,
Dianetics, The Modern Science of
Mental Health.
It would be many years before Hubbard would write science
fiction again.

Ole Doc Methuselah—the seven stories
collected here is Hubbard's most genial book. We see amiably miraculous events
described in broad, vigorous strokes. Ole Doc, in three hours of deft plastic
surgery, undoes an entrenched tyranny and restores an entire world's social
balance. Space pirates, land barons, vindictive Graustarkian queens, sinister
magnates who make air a marketable commodity—nothing is too wild, too
implausible, for the protean Hubbard. The immortal (but human and sometimes
fallible) superhero and his wry, nagging alien pal are plainly destined to
succeed in everything they attempt, and the key question is not
if
but
how
they will undo the villain and repair the damage that he has done.

That having been said, though, it would be
a mistake to minimize these seven stories as light literature turned out by a
great science-fiction writer in a casual mood. They have their roots in
pulp-magazine techniques, but so did nearly everything that Campbell published
in that era. In a time before network television and paperback books, the pulp
magazines were the primary source of entertainment for millions of readers, and
the best pulp writers were masters of the art of narrative.

The action in the Methuselah stories is
fast and flamboyant and the inventiveness breathless and hectic. The mind of a
shrewd and skilled storyteller can be observed at work on every page, and the
stories grow richer and deeper as the series progresses—note, particularly, the
touching moment in “The Great Air Monopoly” when Doc enters Hippocrates'
working quarters aboard their ship. (“A bowl of gooey gypsum and mustard, the
slave's favorite concoction for himself, stood half eaten on the sink, spoon
drifting minutely from an upright position to the edge of the bowl as the
neglected mixture hardened. A small, pink-bellied god grinned forlornly in a
niche, gazing at the half-finished page of a letter to some outlandish world. .
. . Ole Doc closed the galley softly as though he had been intruding on a
private life and stood outside, hand still on the latch. For a long, long time
he had never thought about it. But life without Hippocrates would be a
desperate hard thing to bear.”) And though a lot of Doc's medicinal techniques
look more like magic to us, I remind you of Arthur C. Clarke's famous dictum
that the farther we peer into the future, the more closely science will seem to
us to resemble magic. Ole Doc is nine hundred years old—he took his medical
degree from Johns Hopkins in 1946—and looks about twenty-five; but who is to
say that people now living will not survive to range the starways nine hundred
years from now? It may not be likely, but it's at least conceivable—and fun to
think about.

The stories are good-natured entertainment;
and they give us something to think about. As Alva Rogers pointed out
in A
Requiem for Astounding,
his classic history of John Campbell's great
magazine, “The ‘Ole Doc Methuselah' stories were immensely enjoyable; there was
nothing pretentious about them, they were full of rousing action, colorful
characters, spiced with wit, and yet, underneath it all, had some serious
speculative ideas about one possible course organized medicine might take in
the future and a picture of medical advances that was very intriguing.” They
were well-loved stories in their day, rich with their sense of wonder; and here
they are again, to delight, amuse and amaze a new readership now.

—
Robert Silverberg

Award-winning
author, Robert Silverberg, has written over 100 books and numerous short
stories—and is equally renowned as a top editor of science fiction anthologies.

— The Publisher

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