Fear (Hubbard novella)
Illustration for Fear by Edd Cartier in Unknown magazine
|Author||L. Ron Hubbard|
|Publisher||Unknown Fantasy Fiction (in magazine form)|
Fear is a psychological thriller-horror novella by American writer L. Ron Hubbard, which first appeared in the magazine Unknown Fantasy Fiction in July 1940. While previous editions followed the magazine text, the 1991 Bridge edition reportedly restores the author's original manuscript text. The novella is ranked 10th on Modern Library 100 Best Novels - The Reader's List.
University professor James Lowry is a disbeliever in spirits or witches, or demons, so much so that he publishes an article in a newspaper denying the existence of them. He is warned of the possible repercussions by his friend Tommy Williams. That same afternoon his hat disappears. Lowry also discovers that four hours of his life have gone missing. Lowry is pursued by an omnipotent evil force that is turning his whole world against him while it whispers a warning from the shadows: "...if you find your hat you'll find your four hours. If you find your four hours then you will die..." Lowry is suspicious that Tommy may be having an affair with his wife, Mary, even in his dreams of demons.
Lowry goes about his day-to-day life, but increasingly begins seeing demons, ghouls and odd things around him. He wakes up in the middle of the night to shadows that are leading him out of his bedroom and out into his garden which has transformed into a vast creepy slope. At this point, he is led down a long winding staircase in the middle of his lawn that seems to disappear. He goes out looking for the four hours of his life that he has lost and his hat.
He both finds the hat and realizes what he has done in the four hours in a final twist of the book, where the reader comes to realize that he had a psychotic break early on (the missing 4 hours) and most of the plot never happened. The truth is, Lowry has murdered his wife and friend Tommy.
Groff Conklin, reviewing the novella's first book publication, praised it as "a totally unexpected masterpiece of horror". Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas described it as a "nearly perfect psychological terror novel, and by far the best writing we've ever seen from Hubbard". The New York Times reviewer Villiers Gerson cited the novella's "horrible and eerie denouement". Algis Budrys wrote that the novella "exercised an uncommon power over the minds of its readers." Stephen King described Fear as "a classic tale of creeping, surreal menace and horror".
- Algis Budrys, "Books", F&SF, April 1991, p.28-29
- Modern Library 100 Best Novels - The Reader's List
- "Galaxy's Five Star Shelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1951, p.113.
- "Recommended Reading," F&SF, October 1951, p.59
- "Spacemen's Realm", The New York Times, August 5, 1951
- George W. Beahm. Stephen King from A to Z: An Encyclopedia of His Life and Work.
- E. F. Bleiler, The Guide to Supernatural Fiction, Kent State University Press, 1983, p.265