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  #501  
Old 08-24-2013, 12:13 PM
Fenris Fenris is offline
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
And smwrimes it's quie simper. "Gulf" was written as a poece pg yhr 'prophesied' future issue of Astounding, abd as a result had to matchh the letter commenting on it, The character given Kettle-Belly Baldwin was displeasing to Heinlein's friend and former boss at the Philadelphia Naval MaterialsLab, J. Hartley Bowen, who stated that Friday was his favorite novel.
Heinlein's original idea for "Gulf" was to going to be the book that turned into Stranger--Ginny suggested it ("Write a Mowgli story") but Heinlein and Campbell thought the idea was too big for a short story.
  #502  
Old 08-24-2013, 12:24 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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And the other thing I find interesting about The Star Beast is that, out of all of the many juvenile novels where the young male protagonist is oblivious to the young lady who's scheming to marry him, it's the only one where the marriage is actually stated in the book, instead of just being implied to be an eventual certainty. Is this perhaps related somehow to John Stuart Thomas's passivity?
Might be that, or it might be a sop to the times.

Remember, in most of the juveniles where there's a significant romantic interest, the ending implies something in the future while the lead is contemplating what he's going to do next.

In TSB, John Thomas Stuart and Betty Sorenson are moving off to a hell of a long way off to be semi-isolated with a small cadre. It might have been easier for Heinlein to 'make an honest man/woman of him/her' as they head out to begin adult lives. Remember, too, that Betty has agreed to her role of producer of the next generation of John Thomases. That implies some banging in their future.
  #503  
Old 08-24-2013, 12:27 PM
Fenris Fenris is offline
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But The Star Beast isn't like that at all. Despite having the trappings of the rest of Heinlein's juveniles - there's a boy, a Heinlein matron mother, an alien, some danger, and so forth - the boy doesn't learn anything. Hell, he's terrible at pretty much everything he does. There's not a situation in the book where he doesn't allow himself to be pushed around or simply makes bad decisions on his own. Even the sequence where he's reviewing his ancestors (who share his name) and their acts of courage, he takes nothing from it except to form a pointless and ineffective plan.
He's not quite that bad--the few times he stands up for himself (at Lummox's first trial, for instance), he Does The Right Thing, despite everyone objecting. (Where he offers to pay for the roses and the greenhouse.) He shows a bit of character there, a bit when arguing with his mom when she wants to sell Lummox (but he's stymied every time she says "We'll talk about it later" or "We'll say no more about it"...he has no defense against those phrases)

The problem with JT is that he's spent his life being a professional descendant (to swipe a phrase from Pratchett). His ancestors are so illustrious that I think he feels it's pointless to strive--why bother? Anything he could do that interests him, his ancestors have done first and better. And his mom (who's up there in the "Worst Heinlein Mother" competition*) doesn't help matters.

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Lummox - The alien of the title - is also a interesting character, but s/he's not really developed all that much. She starts as an alien with a childish point of view and even later when it's revealed that s/he's some sort of ET royalty she still behaves petulantly. She's demanding and abusive of her followers and very insistent in a 'my way or the highway' attitude. Heck, she even has the other ETs crawling around her on their bellies.
Keep in mind that Lummox is only 200 years old or so. They're near-immortals. I got the feeling that she's about an 8 year old to them.


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And Kiku is portrayed of being worthy of the position. Kiku runs his department while dealing with appointees and underlings and random events from across light years, all without raising his voice and often without needing to give his staff explicit orders. In truth, there's Qmost of a lesson in management in how Heinlein portrays Kiku and many people could learn how to approach problems by paying attention to how Kiku is presented here.
Kiku is also a nice antidote to the silly Damon Knight/Panshin criticism that there are only three Heinlein males. Kiku is absolutely nothing like the Knight/Panshin claim of what the elder Heinlein male is like--he doesn't bluster, he doesn't lecture, he doesn't pontificiate and he's not always perfectly correct.




*Overall, in the bad Heinlein mom category, JT's mom is only third runner up--she's a money-hungry moral-less person who wants to keep JT tied to her apron-strings, but given the choice between money (or her happiness) and JT, she'll sell him out every time.

Second runner-up is Max's mom in Starman Jones--who's willing to let an incredibly abusive creep beat the crap out of her son, if it'll keep him in her bed.

Winner is Momma Farnham, who is willing to whore herself out so her son can be lobotomized and castrated (as such) to keep him tied to her.
  #504  
Old 08-24-2013, 01:54 PM
The_Peyote_Coyote The_Peyote_Coyote is offline
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Johnathan Chance: At the end of The Star Beast, Mr. Kiku speculates that John Thomas is starting to grow a backbone because Betty doesn't wear one of her fantastic patterns of makeup at the wedding.


I think myself that John Thomas is like Don Harvey of Between Planets. He's a typical middle-class kid, of above average, but not genius intelligence, and sheltered upbringing, who is put in a situation where he must deal with major events happening very quickly. I don't think he did that bad a job.

Glad to see all this discussion. I've always thought The Star Beast was a wonderful novel.
  #505  
Old 08-24-2013, 01:54 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Gotta admit, I'm avoiding Farnham's Freehold for a reason.
  #506  
Old 08-24-2013, 01:58 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Originally Posted by Polycarp View Post
And smwrimes it's quie simper. "Gulf" was written as a poece pg yhr 'prophesied' future issue of Astounding, abd as a result had to matchh the letter commenting on it, The character given Kettle-Belly Baldwin was displeasing to Heinlein's friend and former boss at the Philadelphia Naval MaterialsLab, J. Hartley Bowen, who stated that Friday was his favorite novel.
The "prophecy" issue of Astounding is an interesting story - here's some background information http://www.andrew-may.com/asf/prophecy.htm (basically a fan wrote a letter to Astounding about an issue from the next year - and Campbell made sure that he had stories of the right titles by the right authors, to fulfill the prophecy). Here's a contemporary account from Time magazine http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ar...801009,00.html

P.S Hope you're okay, Polycarp. I recently read about a sudden spurt of typos being a sign of trouble http://www.slate.com/articles/techno...e_symptom.html
  #507  
Old 08-24-2013, 02:02 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance View Post
Lummox - The alien of the title - is also a interesting character, but s/he's not really developed all that much. She starts as an alien with a childish point of view and even later when it's revealed that s/he's some sort of ET royalty she still behaves petulantly.
By the way, Robert Asprin's Myth books feature a character that appears to be inspired by Lummox (the main characters see the character as an unintelligent animal, but from its own point of view, it's clearly highly intelligent, amused by the behaviour of its apparent owners, and capable of manipulating them and their circumstances)
  #508  
Old 08-24-2013, 02:04 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
3) It's interesting that Heinlein's "terminals" are essentially the Internet* and Friday's first day with them leads her to exactly the sort-of link-following that happens on the internet--at one point she starts with searching for Louis XI and ends up spending the afternoon listening to old Broadway musicals she's downloaded. Nice bit of extrapolation on how addictively time-wasting (and educational) following random links can be.
Yeah, that's one of the bits of "Friday" that has the old Heinlein feel.
  #509  
Old 08-24-2013, 02:42 PM
aNewLeaf aNewLeaf is offline
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Originally Posted by Jonathan Chance View Post
Gotta admit, I'm avoiding Farnham's Freehold for a reason.
Leave it until last. Maybe you'll win the lottery and be able to pay someone else to read it.
Or perhaps you'll die first. Assuming you end up in the appropriate afterlife, you're safe then.
Of course, if you go the other way you might end up reading it over and over and over. And discussing it.
  #510  
Old 08-24-2013, 03:03 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Oh, come on, Farnham wasn't the worst thing Heinlein ever wrote.

Yeah, I'll grant that it's pretty bad. But it's still better than any of the world-as-myth garbage.
  #511  
Old 08-24-2013, 03:22 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Well, we can agree to disagree, Chronos, ol' buddy. I always found the WaM books pretty entertaining.
  #512  
Old 08-24-2013, 04:16 PM
Fenris Fenris is offline
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Don't save it for absolute last--save a really good one for your finale Have Spacesuit, maybe. You'll want to wash the taste of Farnham's out of your mouth and finish on a high note.
  #513  
Old 08-24-2013, 04:19 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Farnham has it's good points. There's a cat in it, for one. And......





A little help here.......
  #514  
Old 08-24-2013, 04:28 PM
aNewLeaf aNewLeaf is offline
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James Peak is a cool local reference to an alternate-timeline Pikes Peak.
Other than that, I can't help.
  #515  
Old 08-24-2013, 11:50 PM
Ranger Jeff Ranger Jeff is offline
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Farnham has it's good points. There's a cat in it, for one. And......





A little help here.......
I learned about what you get when you mix ammonia with iodine.
  #516  
Old 08-25-2013, 12:03 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Farnham has it's good points. There's a cat in it, for one. And......





A little help here.......
Depending on your edition, the spelling is good.
  #517  
Old 08-25-2013, 12:28 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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Farnham is a Hugo-Nebula-Locus-Pulitzer winner up against For Us, The Living.

I think there are points of value in it for the serious Heinlein aficionado, but it's at the very bottom of the list - even after FUTL - for pleasure reading. I think I've had more interesting discussions about Heinlein's early-1960s writing and Hugh Farnham than many, many other more common topics.

Last edited by Amateur Barbarian; 08-25-2013 at 12:29 PM.
  #518  
Old 08-25-2013, 05:52 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Farnham has it's good points. There's a cat in it, for one. And......





A little help here.......
The ending with him giving food in exchange for books in his second fallout shelter?
  #519  
Old 08-25-2013, 06:08 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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The ending with him giving food in exchange for books in his second fallout shelter?
You could have stopped after the first one and a half words, you know.

Last edited by silenus; 08-25-2013 at 06:08 PM.
  #520  
Old 08-25-2013, 06:11 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Oh, stop, you guys.

Yeah, it's a weak one, and an uncomfortable read as well. But it's still out there and we'll have to deal with it sooner or later.

Kinda like a prostate exam.
  #521  
Old 08-25-2013, 07:10 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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You could have stopped after the first one and a half words, you know.
Well, he too is "still going on."
  #522  
Old 08-26-2013, 05:14 PM
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Just read it and get it over with, comment all the things that bug you, then move on to better things.
  #523  
Old 08-26-2013, 05:22 PM
Dallas Jones Dallas Jones is offline
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Originally Posted by silenus View Post
Farnham has it's good points. There's a cat in it, for one. And......





A little help here.......
It's not as long as some of his other works.
  #524  
Old 09-10-2013, 04:44 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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I, too, was inspired by this thread and picked up Friday for a reread. It's been, like, 20 years. I'm currently to the part where she's becoming the World's Leading Expert.

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Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
2) The rape scene is just ghastly-bad. She doesn't sound like a woman, she sounds like a man writing not what he thinks of as a woman (which Heinlein usually does) but a man writing a tract on what a woman should be like and how she should deal with a rape. This goes into the Farnham's Freehold category of "His heart was in the right place, but epic fail".
It's an odd depiction, for sure. On the other hand, Friday seems able to discount the rest of her torture as meaningless time filler, where she has bones broken and her nipple cut off and whatnot. So Heinlein's description seems to be that Friday can focus her mind and separate herself from the things happening to her. In that perspective, rape is just another form of violence taken against you, it doesn't permanently scar your internal being or anything. It's not a statement about you, but about your attacker. And it fits right in with Friday's mantra that "humans" are all silly about sex. To Friday, the rape is just one more indignity out of a list of indignities, not some special form of violation above and beyond the violation of her autonomy and health otherwise imposed. Notice that her rescuers are not as dismissive of the rape as Friday is.

Then he has her think to one of her rapists "you don't slap someone with whom you copulated", which is just bizarre. First off, the guy is not slapping someone who would choose to copulate with him, so it's not like he cares what her opinion is of him or if she will choose to do so again. Second, that ignores the whole BDSM category of sex. Apparently, it's just rude.

Quote:
3) That said, I'd forgotten how damned whiney Friday is. My god, she never stops snivelling. She's possibly the most passive main character/good-guy* (and certainly the most passive female character) Heinlein ever wrote. Ignoring a physical confrontation, Peewee or Ricky (both pre-teens) have more spunk and would shred Friday in a battle of wills.
Yes, like when Georges has discovered she's an artificial person, and she suddenly goes all stupid about it. "Yes sir" and all that jazz. And he's trying to shake her of that nonsense. I wonder what would have happened if he'd threatened to sell her off. Would she have reacted "Wait, you don't have the right to sell me" or if she'd have just meekly given in.

Georges: If you don't stop this nonsense, I'm going to sell you to the highest bidder.

Friday: Wait, you don't own me, you don't have the right to sell me, I may be an artificial person, but I'm a free person.

Georges: Damn straight, I don't have the right to sell you, I don't own you, and nobody has the right to treat you like trash. Stop that nonsense right now.


Quote:
4) There's something...off...about the dialogue. I can't put my finger on what, but it was off the same way in Number of the Beast and it stopped being off in Job and Sunset.
It seems to me she never finishes a conversation. She's always interrupted by events or incoming phone calls or the boss telling her to shut up, she blabbers too much.


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Originally Posted by Fenris View Post
But her super-power is that she isn't willfully blind. And in the 8 years she was with the family, she never once noticed anyone ever saying "Those darkies are subhuman" or hell, told her (as did whatshername) "Oh, when I say "darkies", I don't mean you dear, you're Cherokee...that's almost as good as being white." (close paraphrase). I can't buy that she was THAT blind--the kind of virulent poisonous talk that we got from the family members doesn't just suddenly happen--you can't know someone for 8 years and then be shocked to see that they're frothing bigots. Especially when your magic power is exactly to notice things like that.
I chalk it up to a series of things. First off, while she was married to them for 8 years, she really didn't spend a whole lot of time with them. Doing the math for how much she paid during that 8 years that Anita stole and her calculation for how much that is per day, she only spent about 40 days total with the family. That's less than 6 days a year. I can imagine that she spent a good deal of that time ensconsed at home, having sex with the men and playing with the children and the pets, and just generally belonging. Just not being exposed to other people of color or other reasons for the topic to come up.

Second, I suspect that the group was being a bit circumspect around her, given her own skin color. Anita is definitely the kind to cover over that kind of disharmony for the sake of appearances. She was outvoted, so she manipulated the situation to the best she could and then pretends everything is great. There's no gain in rubbing Marjorie's face in it. That would just cause friction.

Third, Friday was being a bit willfully blind. Her obsession with not being "a human" and not having a family and feeling included makes her bask in the glory of her short visits and not look at the family as a whole. Heinlein seems to want us to realize there was an undercurrent of trouble there all along. At first, it's not visible to us via Friday's viewpoint, because he's promoting the idea of group marriage and family. But later, Friday makes comparisons of how the sex was a thing worked out between the men and always with some tension, rather than the situation when she's at the Boss's compound will all her "kissing friends" and how understanding everyone is about it all.

Friday had to grow up and learn before she could see through this. And that's probably why the Boss had her running courier for all those years, rather than putting her directly into the analyst spot. She needed experience and maturity before those abilities could really come to fruition. She needed a better grasp of how the world worked, and how people work, not lessons taught in a classroom but actual experience.

Quote:
I dunno--I would have liked to see just a bit more. I don't want/need it to recap "Gulf" entirely, but it would have been neat to see Baldwin train Friday in one of the techniques from "Gulf" (wasn't one of them "not needing to sleep"? That would have been useful when she was becoming an expert in everything.)
Didn't she already have a lot of lessons, like being able to hold her breath under water and be active for 10 minutes, and being able to distance her mind from what was happening to her and focus on what she wanted to project outward, and staying awake for that long stretch between heading up the Mississippi into the Imperium until she made it through the fence to Canada?


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Also, after this book, I think he stopped using "slitch" and "spung!". Humanity thanks him for that.
Yea, verily.
  #525  
Old 09-10-2013, 05:06 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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*spunnngggg* <fx Muttley snicker>

I think - think - that with Friday's submissive dialogue Heinlein was trying to give us an image of how the world looks to a slave - the automatic duck-and-yassuh that supposedly never quite goes away. Shawshank Redemption did it better in the scenes where Red is working in a grocery store.

Unfortunately, Heinlein didn't give it adequate anchoring or context, so it's just one more bizarre bit of behavior on Friday's part.
  #526  
Old 09-11-2013, 02:14 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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Thinking about it, I think slitch is supposed to be a concatenation of "slutty bitch". Just a guess.

Something else that's bothering about Friday. When the boss dies, he doesn't make any provisions for the company to continue beyond him. "The boss is dead, the company is dissolved, everybody you're free to do whatever, here's your severance. Now shoo." I know part of the rush job is that shyster lady, but it still doesn't feel like he put much effort. It's like he figured, "once I'm dead, there's no point in fighting it any more". I know he kinda said that to Friday, and maybe dissolving the company was part of his way of ushering her off planet, instead of handing her the reins. Because at the end it sure seemed like he was grooming her to run the show.

And second, it's kinda discomforting to see everyone just wander off to hire on with whatever mercenary company they can find. It's almost like they don't care what kind of company or what kind of jobs the companies do, just get work in their field of expertise. I guess that says something about that world, where mercenary companies are just another element of doing business, so it doesn't matter who you work for. "This week, Coke needs us to take out that Pepsi bottling plant in South Detroit. Next week, we'll bomb Acupulco. Yeah, it's a nice city, but we gotta eat. Whatta you want to do, overthrow the Mexican government? That would take some real effort. Bombing gets the point across, no need to waste time with a coup."
  #527  
Old 09-11-2013, 02:17 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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Something else that's bothering about Friday. When the boss dies, he doesn't make any provisions for the company to continue beyond him. "The boss is dead, the company is dissolved, everybody you're free to do whatever, here's your severance. Now shoo." I know part of the rush job is that shyster lady, but it still doesn't feel like he put much effort. It's like he figured, "once I'm dead, there's no point in fighting it any more". I know he kinda said that to Friday, and maybe dissolving the company was part of his way of ushering her off planet, instead of handing her the reins. Because at the end it sure seemed like he was grooming her to run the show.
I think there are two things wrong there. First, Boss did not set things up fool-proofedly enough, and the lawyer lady handled it badly. Second, it's another area where Heinlein started one train in motion and then sort of forgot about it once it served as a rather staged reason for Friday to be on the move and on her own (again).

But I think you're right in that while Boss was unable to give up the fight, he saw no point or future in any of his successors continuing the attempt, and wanted Friday to pick a new planet and go.

Last edited by Amateur Barbarian; 09-11-2013 at 02:18 PM.
  #528  
Old 09-11-2013, 06:21 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quoth Irishman:

It's an odd depiction, for sure. On the other hand, Friday seems able to discount the rest of her torture as meaningless time filler, where she has bones broken and her nipple cut off and whatnot. So Heinlein's description seems to be that Friday can focus her mind and separate herself from the things happening to her. In that perspective, rape is just another form of violence taken against you, it doesn't permanently scar your internal being or anything.
Heck, she even (mentally) critiques their technique, like when she asks one of the captors if she can use the restroom, and is disappointed in him when he lets her, since by the book, he should have made her wet her pants.
  #529  
Old 09-11-2013, 06:29 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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Well, wet herself at least. By that point she wasn't wearing any pants.
  #530  
Old 09-21-2013, 12:18 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Stranger In A Strange Land
Volume VIII of The Virginia Edition

Introductory Note: The text of this book is taken from the 1991 re-release of the original text put forth by Virginia Heinlein after RAH's death. In effect, this is the actual 'Virginia Edition'.

Anyway...

Without doubt the most famous of Heinlein's books. More than the juveniles and more than the Hugo winners et al, Stranger in a Stranger Land dominates the public's perception - where it has any - of RAH. Having been an influence on the baby boomer generation probably doesn't hurt in terms of global reach.

In SiaSL, we get a spin on the fish-out-of-water tale. A young man, raised on Mars by martians through a series of odd events, finds himself on Earth and forced to adapt and ask questions about Earth society that he doesn't understand. This brings the reader to the point of having - hopefully - to examine his or her own innate assumptions. It's worthwhile, certainly, to lead an examined life, but it's not what you'd call breaking new ground.

The life-arc of VMS is clearly meant to mirror the messiah arc. He grows, learns and becomes his own man. However, what differentiates him is that - unlike all men before him - he knows the fundamental truths of the universe. He knows about life-after-death and the place for humans in the universe. Alone, of all people, he knows that answer to, "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?"

As Heinlein would say in other works, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is in for one hell of a rough time." Having a hold on THE TRUTH turns out as well as one might hope, with VMS being - essentially - martyred by a mob in a set up both he and his followers compare to a carnival show and finale. For his own purposes, Mike needs to be killed - and in a gruesome way. He gets it, and there's an implication that his work - educating the mass of humans in the truth - will continue on following his death. It's a classic arc, actually.

I've always been of two minds about SiaSL. It's barely science fiction at all. It handwaves at space flight and certainly has martian influence, God knows, but it's really more of a satire in the Lemuel Gulliver mode than anything else. RAH could have made the same points and such without ever having Valentine Michael Smith be from anywhere other than Earth, so long as he was raised in isolation. Still, RAH was a science fiction writer - as he considered himself and as he was perceived - so that's what it is, regardless of whether it's necessary or not.

While RAH may have taken the genesis of SiaSL from Virginia's suggestion that he wrote a Mowgli story it became more than that. It's actually more of a critique of American culture of the mid-twentieth century than anything else. Note that it's not really aimed at the rest of the world. The one character - other than Mike - that isn't a part of American culture is treated very well in the text. Dr. Mahmoud, linguist and devout muslim, is a character both respected by others in the text and respected by the text itself.

Several of the characters are largely underserved. Mike is certainly there, and Jubal Harshaw is unarguably the best defined character in the book. However, the other two characters that could go well defined, Jill Boardman and Ben Caxton, don't get such good treatment. Jill makes an early bid to be a real character in the opening chapters and is - by and large - the one driving the plot until she gets Mike to Harshaw's place in the poconos. Following that, however, she becomes either an entirely background character or one of two types of generic female characters. First is the assistant...the helper to the great man. Second is the attainment of feminine perfection that provides drive to a male character.

Ben Caxton - at the start of the book - is a solid investigative reporter type. He's determined, cynical and he knows where the bodies are buried. He's been around the block enough to be able to predict the actions of the people in power and to prepare means by which to counter them.

Then, like Jill, he largely vanishes from the text. Unlike Jill, he reappears towards the end in a scene in which he and Harshaw have a sort of dialog that allows for Ben to be outraged and fearful of the changes Mike is proposing for society and for Harshaw to make clear that it is BEN who is not dealing with things properly. In this scene, Ben is representing the conservative force in a civilization while Harshaw is advocating for the rights of people to pursue their own path. In effect, Ben is Mrs. Grundy. Not a good place to be. Fortunately, he returns to Mike and co and recants his conservatism - possibly by getting to bang super hot chicks.

It's easy for a reader of SiaSL to get swept up in considering it as centering on the things that most people yammer about as regards to Heinlein. Moral license, libertarianism, sexual mores and so forth. But I've often thought the theme of the book was that self-examination should be the center of life. Combine that with the bedrock notion that each person is god in one of god's aspects

The center point of any satire - and SiaSL is branded that way - should be to point and laugh. To make clear the inner contradictions and hypocrises that people of all societies live with to get through their days. SiaSL certainly does that, with Mike Smith and his lack of comprehension on one side and Jubal Harshaw's cynical determination to understand the impulses that drive his own hypocrisy (even is he throws them off when necessary). That part, the self-examination of self and actions, is the part I took away from the book when I was young. It's not too strong to say that has become a defining part of how I approach the world. In the political arena I was often accused of not having any convictions, instead I believe that I had them, but I'd always be willing to challenge them with others.

Still, for all this book is Heinlein's most famous, it's also an oddball as a written work. It *is* societal criticism, just as much as For Us, the Living. The big difference there is that RAH is a few decades further along in his growth and how he presents his criticism and he's also a MUCH better writer than he was. While both books suffer a bit from the two dimensional character syndrome (characters put there to illustrate a point rather than be humans) there's at least some life in the characters in SiaSL. Had he tried to do this earlier, or not done a good job with it, we might view this in the same mold as Rand's Atlas Shrugged: as an interesting book that is flawed by the author's desperate need to present a point of view instead of telling a story.

As an aside, this is one book where the research material presented by William Patterson - unlike the rest of TVE, Dr. Robert James is not credited as writing the intro for Stranger - is just downright sycophantic. It seems a little over the top to launch into the background material with "Stranger in a Strange Land is Heinlein's undoubted masterwork - technically ambitious, complex, funny and yet completely serious." For God's sake, get some kneepads, will you?

Sorry.

Books Completed:
Vol 1: I Will Fear No Evil
Vol 3: Starship Troopers
Vol 5: The Door Into Summer
Vol 8: Stranger in a Strange Land
Vol 9: How to Be a Politician
Vol 10: Rocket Ship Galileo
Vol 11: Space Cadet
Vol 14: Between Planets
Vol 17: The Star Beast
Vol 18: Tunnel in the Sky
Vol 20: Citizen of the Galaxy
Vol 22: The Future History of Robert Heinlein Vol. I
Vol 23: The Future History of Robert Heinlein Vol. II
Vol 24: Friday
Vol 26: Job: A Comedy of Justice
Vol 30: Sixth Column
Vol 32: Creating a Genre (short stories)
Vol 35: Glory Road
Vol 36: The Puppet Masters
Vol 44: Screen Writing of Robert A. Heinlein Vol. I

Up next: My God, it's full of twins...
  #531  
Old 09-21-2013, 12:34 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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SIASL was never intended to be sf.

Nor do I think Bill Patterson is going over the top. Stranger is a deeply misunderstood book, has been since first print. Those who came to it from the juveniles or the 50s adult works or even backwards from later works tend to come in with a set of expectations that just don't lead a useful direction.

It is Heinlein's second of three attempts to write a deeply structured book with important social observations; I think it succeeds beyond admirably in that respect but it tends to piss off, confuse and annoy his regular readership.
  #532  
Old 09-21-2013, 12:57 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Stranger in a Strange Land is the only Heinlein book I've started but found myself unable to finish. Maybe I ought to try again one of these times.
  #533  
Old 09-21-2013, 01:18 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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I didn't have any trouble finishing it. And I got a lot out of it. As mentioned, though, I'm always skeptical of anything held up to that sort of a standard.
  #534  
Old 09-21-2013, 01:19 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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When I was 18, I recommended Stranger to my college English professor.

Then I had the misfortune to turn 19.

Meant to hit preview. Anyway, while I find your discussion fascinating, any contribution of mine would be threadshitting. I've grown to hate Heinlein. And there are kneepads all over this thread.

Last edited by Exapno Mapcase; 09-21-2013 at 01:21 PM.
  #535  
Old 09-21-2013, 01:23 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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It's possible this should wait until there has been more discussion of the book proper...

It's worth noting that the many attempts, large and small, to form "nests" and "water brotherhood" groups up to the formal Church of All Worlds seriously missed two points.

One is that SIASL is a satire and the evolution of the nests into the church is not meant as a literal, practical notion; the book certainly wasn't meant to be a holy book or instruction manual.

The other is that you can only form a working, sustainable "nest" if you happen to have a literal superman at hand to run it - one who also happens to be so insanely rich money becomes a meaningless abstraction. Nothing about the nests or Church in the book is possible without Mike's paranormal abilities and trust fund.
  #536  
Old 09-21-2013, 01:26 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
When I was 18, I recommended Stranger to my college English professor.

Then I had the misfortune to turn 19.
Class 3 Heinlein Reader ("outgrew" him), likely Class 3A ("...because of a fundamental misunderstanding of his work").

Most 3A's thought Heinlein Had All The Answers and ditched him completely when they found out he neither did, nor claimed to. You're in some quite famous company, though.
  #537  
Old 09-21-2013, 01:34 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Then, like Jill, he largely vanishes from the text. Unlike Jill, he reappears towards the end in a scene in which he and Harshaw have a sort of dialog that allows for Ben to be outraged and fearful of the changes Mike is proposing for society and for Harshaw to make clear that it is BEN who is not dealing with things properly. In this scene, Ben is representing the conservative force in a civilization while Harshaw is advocating for the rights of people to pursue their own path. In effect, Ben is Mrs. Grundy. Not a good place to be.
As I recall (and it's been a long time since I've read the book), one of the places where the differences between the edited version of SiaSL and the unedited version matter is in Ben's later scenes (in particular, the circumstances leading to Ben's panicky departure from the nest play out differently (again as I recall) depending on which version is being read).
  #538  
Old 09-21-2013, 01:42 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy L View Post
As I recall (and it's been a long time since I've read the book), one of the places where the differences between the edited version of SiaSL and the unedited version matter is in Ben's later scenes (in particular, the circumstances leading to Ben's panicky departure from the nest play out differently (again as I recall) depending on which version is being read).
The important thing to keep in mind when evaluating the two versions is that there is very little change to the story in the original, edited version. Heinlein was long past editing the work to suit himself; he was under the gun to get the book to what was considered a salable length and he did it one word, one phrase at a time. There are few places where entire sentences were cut (and then, it was a matter of telescoping two or three into one).

The scene where Ben's departure is being discussed is one of the few places where the cuts make things exceedingly murky. In the long version, it's clearly homophobic panic; in the cut version, you have to have a fairly sophisticated eye to see exactly why he freaked and ran. But there's no difference in the act or the outcome.
  #539  
Old 09-21-2013, 03:47 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Originally Posted by Amateur Barbarian View Post
The important thing to keep in mind when evaluating the two versions is that there is very little change to the story in the original, edited version. Heinlein was long past editing the work to suit himself; he was under the gun to get the book to what was considered a salable length and he did it one word, one phrase at a time. There are few places where entire sentences were cut (and then, it was a matter of telescoping two or three into one).
Understood.

Quote:
The scene where Ben's departure is being discussed is one of the few places where the cuts make things exceedingly murky. In the long version, it's clearly homophobic panic; in the cut version, you have to have a fairly sophisticated eye to see exactly why he freaked and ran. But there's no difference in the act or the outcome.
I remember it the other way around - to me, in the shorter version, Ben's reaction is homophobic panic, and Jubal's explanation that it was jealousy seemed really weird, but in the longer version, there's more justification for the jealousy theory.
  #540  
Old 09-21-2013, 09:31 PM
Amateur Barbarian Amateur Barbarian is offline
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I remember it the other way around - to me, in the shorter version, Ben's reaction is homophobic panic, and Jubal's explanation that it was jealousy seemed really weird, but in the longer version, there's more justification for the jealousy theory.
You may be right. In any case, it's one of the very few cases where the edits change the story much, other than in "texture."
  #541  
Old 09-21-2013, 09:33 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Indeed, my first reaction, after reading the expanded text in 1991 was 'so?'. There just wasn't enough changed to make the extra effort worth it. That and it's not quite as tight as the original release.
  #542  
Old 09-21-2013, 11:19 PM
silenus silenus is offline
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This has always been one of my favorite of RAH's books, but not for the usual reasons. I love the secondary characters: Becky, the crew that "rescued" Mike, the Fosterite escort and the description of how the back of the altar turns into the world's largest 3-D set for football after the services...all of them are just perfect. That and Jubal is such a perfect curmudgeon.
  #543  
Old 09-22-2013, 01:07 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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I just finished reading Heinlein's account of a round the world trip he made in the 1950's-sorry, forgot the title. very entertaining-read his chapter about new Zealand hotels and "restaurants"-hilarious!
  #544  
Old 09-22-2013, 01:11 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
I just finished reading Heinlein's account of a round the world trip he made in the 1950's-sorry, forgot the title. very entertaining-read his chapter about new Zealand hotels and "restaurants"-hilarious!
Tramp Royale
  #545  
Old 09-22-2013, 01:23 PM
SCAdian SCAdian is offline
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Stranger in a Strange Land is the only Heinlein book I've started but found myself unable to finish. Maybe I ought to try again one of these times.
One of two for me. The second time I tried reading it I got as far as the second chapter.

At least with Job I made it about two-thirds of the way through the book....
  #546  
Old 09-22-2013, 01:43 PM
squeegee squeegee is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy L View Post
I remember it the other way around - to me, in the shorter version, Ben's reaction is homophobic panic, and Jubal's explanation that it was jealousy seemed really weird, but in the longer version, there's more justification for the jealousy theory.
I just peeked at the uncut version - Caxton turns away from Jill and Mike for second, and when he turns back they're naked and about to have sex, "like monkey's in a zoo," in front of a room full of people including Ben. Ben departs, "so shocked I almost lost my breakfast."

I don't have the original text at hand, and it's been many years, but my recollection is it was far less clear why Ben flipped and ran. I first read the book in my teens, and found that passage confusing as hell.
  #547  
Old 09-22-2013, 03:19 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeegee View Post
I just peeked at the uncut version - Caxton turns away from Jill and Mike for second, and when he turns back they're naked and about to have sex, "like monkey's in a zoo," in front of a room full of people including Ben. Ben departs, "so shocked I almost lost my breakfast."

I don't have the original text at hand, and it's been many years, but my recollection is it was far less clear why Ben flipped and ran. I first read the book in my teens, and found that passage confusing as hell.
Thanks for checking...
  #548  
Old 09-22-2013, 07:34 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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I've got SiaSL on audiobook, and one of the things that struck me on listening to it rather than hearing it is a bit of chiasmus I'd missed when I read it in print (more than once).

When Michael is at Jubal's house, early on, Jill says something about having to get him dressed, and Jubal retaliates by asking why, saying that they shouldn't warp him by our social norms. "next you'll be having him carry a briefcase".

At the end, as Mike prepares to go out and meet the Mob for the final time, he takes his time getting very properly dressed in a white suit, all the way down to a Panama hat. He certainly has learned the social norms, and adheres to them -- when he wants to. He asks "Do I need anything else?" and someone suggests a briefcase. He asks if he needs a briefcase. He is told that he doesn't

The two mentions of dressing to satisfy society's expectations and being told he doesn't need the briefcase bracket his Miracle Man career. It first occurs just before he demonstrates his levitation and other skills to Jubal, the last after he has demonstrated again, but before he conspicuously doesn't use them (except perhaps for some stage-setting) before he is killed. An interesting bit of opening and closing from a writer who claimed he didn't plan things out.
  #549  
Old 09-22-2013, 08:07 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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I read SIASL in high school and just didn't take to it. Finished it, and liked the bits about ancient Martian culture and religion's role in modern society, but it's nowhere the top of my personal Heinlein-favorites list. It wasn't too long afterwards that Nancy Reagan's use of an astrologer for scheduling some of her husband's political activities thrust the book back into the public eye, as the president of the North American Confederacy (or whatever the polity was) in the book did the same.
  #550  
Old 09-22-2013, 10:05 PM
Jonathan Chance Jonathan Chance is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
When I was 18, I recommended Stranger to my college English professor.

Then I had the misfortune to turn 19.

Meant to hit preview. Anyway, while I find your discussion fascinating, any contribution of mine would be threadshitting. I've grown to hate Heinlein. And there are kneepads all over this thread.
You see, I would value those contributions, Xap. We've certainly discussed such things in the past and I think your knowledge and opinions would be much valued here.

So don't be shy. The thread could use you.
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