Hubbard bubble, dianetics trouble: an evaluation of the representations of dianetics and scientology in science fiction magazines from 1949 to 1999

Menadue, Christopher Benjamin (2018) Hubbard bubble, dianetics trouble: an evaluation of the representations of dianetics and scientology in science fiction magazines from 1949 to 1999. SAGE Open, 8 (4).

PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (662kB) | Preview
View at Publisher Website:


Dianetics was unveiled to the public in the May 1950 edition of Astounding Science Fiction. Dianetics was the brainchild of science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, and became the foundation for scientology toward the end of the decade. Dianetics was marketed as a “scientific” method for mental improvement—a robust alternative to conventional psychiatry—and was strongly debated in science fiction (sf) magazines. This article follows the trajectory of this cultural phenomenon from 1949 to 1999 as it appeared in this form of popular culture. A proximal reading method was applied to analyze 4,431 magazines, and identified 389 references to dianetics and scientology. References were found in advertising, reader letters, stories, feature articles, and editorials. Significant fluctuations in the prominence and perception of dianetics became clearly visible in the source material across a broad spectrum of content. Negative criticism was present from the outset, and based on logical and scientific arguments. This was countered by obfuscation, or attacks on the authors of these critiques. The followers and promoters of dianetics did not provide scientifically rigorous proof of their claims, and by the mid-1980s, dianetics and scientology were no longer serious topics in the magazines but had been added to other fads and fallacies of sf history. This article demonstrates the effectiveness of a digital humanities proximal reading method to underpin objective classification and analysis of this culturally significant phenomenon.

Item ID: 55975
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2158-2440
Keywords: scientology, dianetics, science fiction, digital humanities, religion, cult, magazines
Related URLs:
Copyright Information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (
Additional Information:

A version of this publication was included in the following PhD thesis: Menadue, Christopher Benjamin James (2019) Science fictions, cultural facts: a digital humanities approach to a popular literature. PhD thesis, James Cook University, which is available Open Access in ResearchOnline@JCU. Please see the Related URLs for access.

Projects and Grants: Australian Research Training Program Award
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 30 Oct 2018 23:22
FoR Codes: 50 PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES > 5004 Religious studies > 500405 Religion, society and culture @ 40%
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470523 North American literature @ 30%
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470530 Stylistics and textual analysis @ 30%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9504 Religion and Ethics > 950404 Religion and Society @ 50%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9502 Communication > 950203 Languages and Literature @ 50%
Downloads: Total: 1183
Last 12 Months: 62
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page