1949 Hubbard and Heinlein Letter Correspondence


March 1949. L. Ron Hubbard was about to leave Savannah, Georgia, when he wrote to Robert A. Heinlein, who was residing in Colorado Springs with his wife, Ginny. The wit and verve in the ensuing exchange between the two authors will undoubtedly make you smile.

Amid the friendly banter, Heinlein expresses his admiration for Hubbard’s space-pioneering stories, proclaiming that his heart belongs to “Ole Doc Methuselah.” Hubbard, in turn, offers excellent advice to Heinlein on panning for gold in his backyard, complete with a lesson on distinguishing pyrite from real gold―should you want to know.

The letters are included here for your enlightenment and enjoyment.

Savannah, Ga.
Mar 8, 1949

Dear Bob—

Work stares me in the face and urgent letters have been stacked here for answer and so, with laudable industry, I take my pen in hand to chin-chin.

Markets were flooey in NY three–four mos ago and have just now broken open, looks like. But slick is particularly capricious even yet, advertising and such not being very flush, making the quill pen-blue-slip regiments rather noxious in their nervousness. Argosy ordered a re-write on a 10,000 worder (I’m the Great Dallas Strudemeyer there) and I re-wrote exactly what they said, adding not one word to their ms, just cutting several lines as ordered. Got the ms back couple days ago with the comment that they couldn’t use it because the ending was suddenly improbable. Hadn’t been touched. So we wasted 10,000 words of re-type. Sure sore. But that’s the way the Ritz Boys act. Pulp was stagnant for a long while but now I’ve got several orders—Standard western & s/f.

Got a series at Standard—The Conquest of Space—in Startling. One an issue. Two other series going elsewhere but less steady. That damned Shasta Pub in Chi is trying to pay me percentage on their wholesale book price. Fantasy Pub, unless it swamps or something is the best book pay.

Some serious fiction is in the making around here.

With this cheerful thought, I leave Savannah the beautiful. If you sniffed quick when you opened this you smelled sunshine.


1313 Cheyenne Blvd.
Colorado Springs, Colorado

26 March 1949

Dear Ron,

I wish you were around today. Ginny and another girl have been out panning for gold in the creek across the street from us. I patted them on the head, told them to have fun, and paid not much attention. Now they have come back with what they believe to be a nugget—and I don’t know enough about it to tell real gold from pyrites. It looks like gold, but I can’t be sure.

Long ago you were going to write down for me the so-many principles of the agent saboteur and the thus-many principles of the agent provocateur. You talked about them, but you never did. From a famous German work on Geopolitick and Realpolitick I believe. How about coming through on it?

I’ve seen some, maybe all, of your space-pioneering series. Two, I think. They are good—but my heart belongs to Old Doc Methuselah. I’ll keep my eye open for Dallas Strudemeyer; I usually see Argosy since I sell them occasionally. Oh, yes! I hit a new market for me and the last in the world I would ever expect to hit. CALLING ALL GIRLS, a mag for bobby-soxers—with a short containing no fantasy and having a teenage girl as the central character. Now they want a series and I am a little bit dumbfounded. “Dod, oh Dod! What I do now?” I don’t know anything about teenage girls; the story was a freak, a random idea which I wrote in an hour and a half, then tossed on the market.

Your warning about Shasta appears to have saved me from signing a trick contract. Thanks!

No real news at this end. I work away at the machine, with enough success to keep us eating but nothing startling. We skate, we read, we sleep, we chew the fat. The surroundings remain a constant joy but I am wondering seriously whether or not my lousy sinuses can stand the dry climate. Nevertheless I am happier than I have been in ten years.

Love and kisses,


Box 1796
Savannah, Ga.

March 31, 1949

Dear Bob;

Just wrote John W. a letter and gave him hell, the air-conditioned sort. I sent him an athletic sort of yarn and he bounced it—just a lousy old short. But his emphasis on the esoteric these days graveled me, since he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Which is what I told him. So to take the editor taste out of my mouth I am writing a love letter to thee.

Glad if I really was of service in any Shasta matter, not because I want to hurt them but because it might aid the profession a bit—which is all too full of pitfalls as ’tis. A greased pig is non-skid compared to those lads.

Fascinated with this CALLING ALL GIRLS business. My lord! But it’s a good idea, though. Personally lately I have another tekneekew. (That’s a French word meaning “methods employable in getting into things.”) I completely apprehend your idea. You write a story. Then you get fan letters. Then maybe some of the fan letters are close to home. Then maybe….

Your request about the agents techniques recalls me that this here area is shore revolutionary, pard. They just ain’t fergot nothin’ about Reconstruction. Down at the library, all the way back in the vault, are four full length shelves of books such as the PSYCHOLOGY OF REVOLUTION, ERRORS MADE BY ROBESPIERRE, THE POWER OF THE RABBLE, LAWS GOVERNING LEVEE EN MASSE, HOME BOMB MANUFACTURE, ASSASSINATION AS A POLITICAL TECHNIQUE, etc. etc. for about three hundred big, authoritative volumes. And I’ve never before seen a single one of them.

Robert, if I hadn’t heard your last plan for Armageddon, I wouldn’t even think twice about separating myself from this data. But what would you do with it? You’d go and put it in books. And then maybe the conservatives would pick it up and what would right wing people like myself do then? No spoofing, though, I’ll dictate them off one of these days when I get this condemned southern girl up to a point where she can spell elementary English. I get a phone call every couple hours when she’s working with a long list of words. Then she plays a record back over the phone so she can fill in the first draft. And loddie, she can really stretch a point, which is to say a syllable. Pretty, though. Awful pretty.

I’d sure like to help pan that gold. By golly, of all the things I do poorly I pan gold the least poorly. I can pan gold where they ain’t no water, without a regular pan, without proper dirt and even without gold. Although I often find gold, that is the poorest part of it because then I have to stop looking and start working. So don’t let Ginny find herself a gold mine. It would be entirely fatal on your typewriting. You got any idea of how much a shovelful of wet blue clay weighs? Don’t find out. Just keep on telling her everything is pyrites but save it. Actually you can tell the two apart too easy to worry about. If it’s yellow and you can dent it with your nail or knock a corner of it flat (an ounce of gold will thin out to a sheet an acre in extent) and if she flattens, she’s gold. If she breaks, she’s pyrites. Also get yourself a little nitric or hydrochloric acid. Put a little in a saucer, put in the article to be tested. If she stays there, even if she stays black, she’s gold. In one or the other everything else under the stars dissolves. Gold dissolves only in aqua regia, a combination of those two acids. But once you see a piece of gold even if it’s tiny, in a pan, you’ll never make another mistake.

Boy, I’m sure not typing worth shucks. But that’s because I’m just plain weary. Or maybe lazy.

Sure would like to hit the road, but I’m planning to have a little fun anyway.

The worst of this moving is shifting my working setup which is pretty exact. But there’s a dog that howls all night out here and I haven’t been able to catch him and give him any therapy. So I give up.

Consider yourself wrote to.

My very best to Ginny and my love to you both.


PS: Too tired to proof. You’re a cryptographer anyway.

3 replies
  1. Peter Byrne
    Peter Byrne says:

    Really love this exchange between ‘Red’ and ‘Bob’. I can well imagine the trickery they dealt with in the publishing industry back then. Same as the movie industry, the music industry and just about any other industry. The more things change…


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