Review: “When Shadows Fall” by L. Ron Hubbard

3 of 5 stars.

This space parable appearing in the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31 that showcases new and emerging writers of fantasy and science fiction is included due to the author’s hand in creating the Writers of the Future series. The tale was first published in 1948 and is fascinating, not for its vision of the future, as even when it was written its sci-fi aspect would have been dubious, but rather for its window into immediately post-WWII America in that it shines a light on the relationship between Motherlands and post-colonial lands with regard to what is owed.

Earth has been depleted of food, water, fossil fuels, atomic fuels. The core is cooling. The atmosphere is thinning and nearly deplete of oxygen. The plains are barren and rust red not unlike Mars. For hundreds of years, the 600 off-world post-colonial empires have failed to show to the galactic counsel housed on Mother Earth. Mankind has stretched its lifespan to over a thousand years, but the aged people of Earth have nearly quit breeding, and are now starving.

The parable tells the tale of three simultaneous missions to the outer worlds to secure help and hope for Earth. The first mission is led by Earth’s CFO that had heavily taxed the galactic empires in the past. He begs to borrow on credit from these empires, but to no avail. He returns sick and dying from the ridicule and scorn heaped upon his entreaties. The second mission is led by a former warrior. He is aggressive in his defense of Earth and engages in battles to defend her honor, but receives no help in return. Finally, the third mission is led by Lars who asks for nothing and asserts nothing upon his contact with the empires. Instead, he joins people in tours and drinks and tales of all they have accomplished. In return, he offers old songs and tales and poems of Earth. He returns empty-handed, but not disappointed. And in his wake are the armadas of the empires here to restore the glory of the homeland.

One can imagine that this gives some insight into America’s entry into the European front of WWII. And yet the parable also stands as a cautionary tale toward the use of resources and the environment.

At one point, July 4th is celebrated–not as the day of American Independence, but rather the anniversary of the first mission to the moon that started the entire outward expansion. It’s not a bad guess for a tale published 21 years before Apollo 11 rocketed off to Earth’s barren satellite–on July 16th, 1969.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


One response to “Review: “When Shadows Fall” by L. Ron Hubbard

  1. Pingback: Short Story Review: “The Devil’s Rescue” by L. Ron Hubbard | Jaffalogue

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