Scouts Prepare for a Science Fiction-Filled Future
Believe it or not, Boys’ Life—the monthly magazine of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA)—used to be a hotbed of science fiction storytelling. During the 1950s and 1960s, works from luminaries like Arthur C. Clarke, Poul Anderson, James Blish and Robert Heinlein regularly graced the pages of the publication. The periodical’s speculative fiction forays have admittedly been less impressive in recent years, but if Ed Mulholland and John Goodwin have their way, it could one day become a breeding group for the next generation of great genre writers.
That’s because the pair, through a pilot program with the BSA’s Muskingham Valley Council in Zanesville, Ohio, are using vintage sci-fi and fantasy stories to once again get boys interested in reading and, if all goes as planned, writing. Using the 80-volume Stories from the Golden Age book series from Galaxy Press, which reprints 153 classic pulp tales from author/adventurer L. Ron Hubbard, the “Adventures in Reading” initiative seeks to spark an interest in futuristic fiction in youngsters who frequently spend more time immersed in video games and movies than the imaginative worlds offered by well-written narratives.
“We see Scouting as a doorway to adventure, and these sci-fi/fantasy stories are also a doorway to adventure,” says Mulholland, the scout executive of the Muskingham Valley Council, which serves approximately 3,000 boys. “They are quick, action-packed adventures that capture the imagination and carry the reader off to new places and new experiences, which is exactly what we hope to accomplish in Scouting. Boys join Scouting to face new challenges and learn new things—just like the characters in these stories.”
For the past three years, Galaxy Press has worked with Mulholland and his team to encourage older scouts to earn their Reading Merit Badges (or, for younger Cub Scouts, belt loops) by, among other activities, reading and discussing with others at least six books. The Stories from the Golden Age volumes provide comparatively brief, high-energy tales that, although written nearly three-quarters of a century ago, remain both timely and timeless.
“We chose to launch this program specifically with the Boy Scouts in Ohio because it was the region where Hubbard spent time as a barnstorming pilot,” explains Goodwin, the president of Galaxy Press. “This, along with his many other adventures, provided for the rich authenticity that marked so many of his stories. They are also written primarily as people stories, and people don’t really change that much over time. Bad guys are bad guys, whether the story was written in the early 1900s or the early 2000s. Likewise, good guys will be good.”
So far this year, over a hundred boys have earned their badges or belt loops through the program and, not surprisingly, some have even begun writing their own adventures. Although it may be a while before their yarns start gracing the pages of Boys’ Life, thanks to Galaxy Press and the Boys Scouts bookworms had best, to borrow the group’s famous motto, “be prepared” for a sci-fi-filled future.