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July 25, 2009

Robert A. Heinlein, technological nostalgist
Posted by Teresa at 02:36 AM *

I note with disapprobation that the Wikipedia entry on The Roads Must Roll credits Heinlein with having invented moving slidewalks. The Technovelgy website also gives him credit for the idea, though they admit that H. G. Wells included a version of it in When the Sleeper Wakes, published 1899.

They’re both wrong. The idea was already forty years old when Heinlein put it into his story. The first slidewalk was used to move pedestrians at the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris. Here’s some actual footage of it in operation—one, two, three—and some good photos of it from the Brooklyn museum.

Addendum:

Amend! First debuted at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, in Chicago, Illinois. Thank you, Chris Eagle and Chip Hitchcock.

Comments on Robert A. Heinlein, technological nostalgist:
#1 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 06:48 AM:

Some of Brooklyn Museum's Flickr images are maps also showing the route of a "Plate-forme mobile" at the "Exposition Universelle de 1900".

Idea for a traveller's database printable as a personal guidebook, showing places related to SF&F like this. Follow an author & their works, or find everything in a particular place, &c, depending on which set of tagged items you printed out. Has that been done for other subjects?

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 07:15 AM:

I wonder if the people who came up with the concept imagined a Future where things like this broke down and took months to fix.

#3 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 07:28 AM:

Ah, Wikipedia. Wired informs us that NIH scientists are getting a lesson in Wiki culture. One may only hope it does not take.

Serge, #2: hee.

#4 ::: Total ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 08:33 AM:

Doesn't 1899 come before 1900? I.E. Wells does get credit?

#5 ::: Melody ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 09:11 AM:

Total @4: I'd venture a guess that the plans for the Paris slidewalk were conceived and put on paper before 1899?

#6 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 09:18 AM:

Wiki "culture" and NIH? As if scientists want to spend time arguing about NPOV or original research?

#7 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 09:35 AM:

Speaking of technological nostalgia... My wife found a YouTube film about a medieval helpdesk.

#8 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 09:41 AM:

Randolph @ 3 ...
Ah, Wikipedia. Wired informs us that NIH scientists are getting a lesson in Wiki culture. One may only hope it does not take.

Heh! Somehow that sentence seems more apropos when I translate 'NIH' as 'Not Invented Here' ...

#9 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 10:40 AM:

Serge @ 2: I don't know if Heinlein was the first to write about "pocket phones" or the equivalent -- probably not. But he may have been the first to write about the annoyance factor. In "Lost Legacy" (1941), he had a character leave his pocket phone in his other suit, in an unsuccessful attempt to get "a little peace and quiet".

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 11:01 AM:

Joel Polowin @ 9... That sounds like a Bradbury story I read years ago. I can't remember the title, but it was adapted for TV series The Bradbury Theater.

#11 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 11:49 AM:

Serge #2: Yeah -- Heinlein had a big corps of engineers devoted to maintaining it... but really, that's the basic problem with mobile roads. What you have is a potentially very large stretch of machinery, all of which has to be maintained and defended from abuse. And a breakdown anywhere along the length pretty much kills the whole thing. Even the partial failure described in the story is disproportionately nasty compared to, say, a rail break -- let alone a highway blockage.

In contrast, ordinary roads (and railroads) allow for a fair bit more in terms of redundancy. Both tend to graceful degradation, and even a rail break is a lot easier to fix than a load-bearing, high-speed, machine.

#12 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 11:53 AM:

I've always felt that what Heinlein predicted wasn't really "moving sidewalks" but the Interstate Highway System and its consequent sprawl, fast-food places, etc.

#13 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:11 PM:

David Harmon @ 11... Some things sound neat, but you implement them, maybe on a small scale, then you go hmmm-maybe-not. And even if we had unbreakable moving carpets, how do old people deal with them, or klutzes, or people talking on their cell phones, as they go from one strip to a faster one? Oh, and can you imagine the fun of the 70mph strip suddenly breaking down?

Me, I think the Future is in flying cars and rocket backpacks.

#14 ::: Chris Eagle ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:19 PM:

Where does that claim appear in the Wikipedia article? I don't see it, and the Wikipedia article on moving walkways mentions both Paris 1900 and the earlier example at Chicago 1893.

#15 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 12:34 PM:

Serge #13: Oh, you mean the one in the middle of Heinlein's speed range? ;-)

Ur npghnyyl unq gur snfgrfg bar fuhg qbja ol (VVEP) n ynobe qvfchgr.

#16 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:29 PM:

David Harmon @ 11:

In contrast, ordinary roads (and railroads) allow for a fair bit more in terms of redundancy. Both tend to graceful degradation, and even a rail break is a lot easier to fix than a load-bearing, high-speed, machine.

I've noticed how different it is when a bus breaks down, versus a lightrail problem. That whole can't-just-drive-train-around-that-other-train problem really messes things up.

I still desperately wish that Portland could build a subway. It's lovely to zip around town independent of the traffic snarls. Of course, this isn't feasible here, because many Portlanders believe that the city is built on an ancient unicorn burial ground.

#17 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:38 PM:

#16
It's easier to deal with if there are multiple tracks with crossovers - and good systems will have them so they only have to single-track a few stations at a time.
The problem is when the breakdown is in a single-track section: no bypasses available. (How do you tow a train, anyway?) Or, like the one I saw Monday, the train broke down just as it was entering a station, partly out of a tunnel.

#18 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 01:55 PM:

You "tow" a train by driving another train up behind it, colliding *very* slowly, and then shoving it along.

(This is one of the reasons that anti-collision systems have manual overrides. See recent discussions re DC Metro and Disneyworld.)

#19 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 02:21 PM:

I see from the 2nd clip (the view of the slidewalk and it's denizens from a stationary position) that even in that early stage of moving pictures, people were prone to mugging for the camera - witness the two messenger boys who are told (at least twice) by some officious person in a uniform to buzz-off, and the fellow who hops aboard and doffs his hat for the camera.

I also see that the slidewalk had both low-speed and less-low-speed belts.

#20 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 02:26 PM:

#18
I've seen enough heavy rail train show up with two engines on one end to know that they do things like that. It's more the poor system design that doesn't allow them to bypass bottlenecks like dead trains, or make understandable announcements (that is, not 'garble garble garble problem garble garble sorry garble inconvenience').

#21 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 02:54 PM:

David Harmon: IIRC, vg jnf npghnyyl na nggrzcgrq grpuabpengvp pbhc q'rgng.

#22 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 03:24 PM:

David/Clifton: Nyfb, gur puvrs ratvarre ernyvmrf (irel oryngrqyl VZB) gung gur flfgrz arrqf fnsrgl vagreybpxf fhpu gung fybjvat n fgevc sbeprf fybjvat bs vgf arvtuobe(f). (playing along, but I have to wonder about "spoiling" a 69-year-old story....

I'd argue that there's a qualitative difference between something that helps pedestrians and something that replaces trains etc.; but either I'm blind or the Wikipedia page has already been edited to remove any claim of Heinlein's primacy. contra Teresa, the linked article Slidewalks says that the Paris instance was preceded by the Columbian Exposition in 1893 -- suggesting that Wells was not original even if the Paris plans and his writing schedule did not overlap. The article has some interesting comments (for whatever Wikipedia facts are worth) on a Parisian attempt at a slightly-faster-than-usual moving walkway which they say is being slowed down, and a Toronto-airport design which seems more successful.

And wrt the safety issues they discuss, people who have used these will have noticed the announcements made near the end of the ride. I don't know whether the Las Vegas airport has changed, but in 2000 they had a large collection of celebrities speaking in succession (on the belt that lead to the Frontier gate). My favorite: "This is Penn Gillette, more than half of Penn & Teller and the only celebrity here who won't insult your intelligence. It's a moving walkway; get on it, don't get hurt, get off." (You'll have to imagine the intonations -- very Penn, but I can't do them in type.)

#23 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 04:11 PM:

PJ Evans #17 et seq.: Yeah, I've been on an AMTRAK train when the engine died -- they had to send a "rescue engine" (that's what they called it) to get us to a station where they could replace the engine car properly.

Clifton #21: Could be -- it's been a while since I read it, and I passed on my battered collection to my nephews a year or so ago.

CHip #22: Yeah, very belatedly... of course, that raises a host of other issues! You do have a point about "spoiling" a story that's close to my parents' age! Call it reflex... ;-)

#24 ::: Total ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 05:21 PM:

Total @4: I'd venture a guess that the plans for the Paris slidewalk were conceived and put on paper before 1899?

And Wells probably _wrote_ the book before 1899 as well, so I remain unconvinced about the Expo taking precedence.

#25 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 05:34 PM:

Serge, #13: Oh, and can you imagine the fun of the 70mph strip suddenly breaking down?

That was in fact a major plot element in "The Roads Must Roll". Along with a little gratuitous sexism, but The Custom of the Country and all that...

#26 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 05:36 PM:

It may be that there was quite a bit of talk about the Fair's plans for a slidewalk and Wells might have decided that this was going to be the Future - the Future before the workers moved underground until they came back up to eat the surface's wealthy ones.

#27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 05:42 PM:

Lee @ 25... Did comedy ensue? By the way, how did Heinlein's slidewalks deal with snow and rain and all those other pesky tantrums that Nature throws out outside of California? Did it show kids deciding that standing still while going at 70mph is borrriiiiinnnnng, so they put on rollerskates?

#28 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 05:59 PM:

Serge, Heinlein never got into that. Kids in most of his stories were boringly well-behaved (and nearly invisible) or they were constantly into trouble (and at the center of the plot). He also didn't go into the potential for weather taking out the rolling highways. So much for foreseeing the future!

(I remember the slidewalks at Gatwick. They had gaps at each gate so you had to step off, walk ten or twenty feet, then step back on. Not a big problem, since they weren't moving all that fast, about escalator speed.)

#29 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 06:14 PM:

P J Evans, #28, Dulles has slidewalks like Gatwick. I was being pushed in a wheelchair on the regular hallway next to it, but I noticed all the gaps also had emergency doors and equipment.

#30 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 06:29 PM:

I dunno, but I had the impression that the rolling roads were covered.

#31 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 06:48 PM:

At #18, Andrew Plotkin wrote, "You "tow" a train by driving another train up behind it, colliding *very* slowly, and then shoving it along."

True. But some engines can be attached to the train just as the cars are attached.

When I was a kid I used to watch the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) trains go past our house -- it was not much more than the length of a football field from our front windows to the tracks -- and saw trains with engines in the rear, or more than one engine in front, or even both, more than once. These were always or nearly always frieght trains; I don't remember seeing these on passenger trains. Once I asked my dad, who was a yardmaster for the PRR, why the extra engines, and he said they did that if the train was especially long and/or heavily laden, and/or to help it get up the grades in the mountains. (We lived about 15 miles east of Pittsburgh, about two miles east of the rail yard where Daddy worked (Pitcairn), and just a few miles west of the "foothills" of the Allegheny Mountains, where those steeper grades would start.)

Back to the main topic: I've used the slidewalks at the Pittsburgh airport. They're fun, but I'm not sure I'd want to use them for very fast speeds or for very long distances. Definitely not at 70 MPH or so *unless* I were sitting down and enclosed, and probably wearing seat belts just in case of an accidental sudden stop. In which case it becomes, effectively, a train with a different system than rails and engines, not a big jump from the tech available in Wells's day, except it would still have to stop and start to let people on and off.

#32 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 07:27 PM:

Rather than the unimaginative heavy rail system in the planning stages out here, I'd love to see hi-speed slidewalks. Our climate might be more conducive to them, too.

#33 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 11:06 PM:

Wasn't there something in the Oz books about a road that unrolled?

#34 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 11:17 PM:

Erik @ 33

There was a magic carpet that various people used to walk over the surface of the Deadly Desert. It rolled out before, and re-rolled behind, the walkers. It's been too many years, and I can no longer remember which books. (It doesn't help that I've read 15 or so Ruth Plumly Thompson Oz books, as well.)

#35 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2009, 11:59 PM:

#16 janetl: "I still desperately wish that Portland could build a subway. It's lovely to zip around town independent of the traffic snarls. Of course, this isn't feasible here, because many Portlanders believe that the city is built on an ancient unicorn burial ground."

No, but Portland *is* on a decently large fault line. It goes right through the stadium.

And heaven help you if Hood ever goes into active mode.

#36 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 01:10 AM:

B. Durbin @ 35: Yup, based on history, Oregon is due for a big quake, for some value of "due". I've lived here about 20 years, and recall 3 quakes that were big enough to notice, and none of which did any damage in Portland. The epicenter of the last one was a half mile from my house. The Did you feel that?" website is great for occasions like that. If you're wondering if the doors really did just rattle, you go to the site, enter the location, and then watch for reports from the area.

One of my relatives lives on the Gulf Coast and gets hit with hurricanes on a regular basis. She thinks I'm nuts to live here, which amuses me no end.

#37 ::: anaea ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 01:35 AM:

#33 and #34, It was in Ozma of Oz, the third book in the series.

#38 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 03:28 AM:

Cally writes in #34:

There was a magic carpet that various people used to walk over the surface of the Deadly Desert. It rolled out before, and re-rolled behind, the walkers.

We know Heinlein loved Oz books. Maybe this carpet inspired his transcontinental slidewalks? I doubt any proof of this speculation can be found, though.

(I looked over the 1940 correspondence between Heinlein and Campbell and they say only a little about "The Roads Must Roll." The title is Campbell's changed from Heinlein's "Road-Town.")

#39 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 06:08 AM:

Moving sidewalks are nice, but the point in When the Sleeper Wakes that really made me go "wow!" was when Wells apparently predicted that at some time in the future, there would be soap operas on TV. (Of course the casual racism was less impressive.)

#40 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 06:36 AM:

Of course the casual racism was less impressive.

With older works you have to overlook stuff like that, and similarly prolematic attitudes towards women, if you want to enjoy them. They were of their time and you have to make allowances for that. I remember Asimov writing of his love of Agatha Christie's work despite him being both American and Jewish. He overlooked her unfortunate attitudes in order to appreciate other qualities in her work. Of course, this leads to inevitable questions about whether or not you should excise questionable passages in older works where the loss of same doesn't materially affect a work. I vote not, though I certainly understand why, say, the dedication of the book to Hitler was removed from later editions of 'Tarka the Otter'.

#41 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 10:18 AM:

Rob, #40: I wish someone would put out a new collection of Ogden Nash's work, with the viciously racist WWII propaganda excised. I don't think we should forget that he wrote those things, but there's no absolute need to include them in a book of light verse.

#42 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 10:20 AM:

Rob Hansen @ 40: I've recently been watching The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin on DVD. I was startled to notice that some scenes were removed from the third season. Originally, in an effort to scare away a couple of bigoted and snobby neighbors, one (white) main character appeared briefly in blackface and another was made up as a Sikh. That scene, and a couple of later references to it, don't appear on the DVDs. There's one remaining "dangling reference", in which Reggie mentions having bought the houses by "questionable means".

To some extent, I can understand a desire to remove offensive material (though I think that if this is done, buyers should be warned about the editing). But in this case, the intention was to poke fun at the racism of the neighbors; the cut material was anti-racist. Or so it seems to me.

The show's treatment of homosexuality seems a bit awkward and dated now. I don't think that any of that stuff was cut.

#43 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 02:53 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 42: I've recently been watching The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin on DVD.

So have I, although I'm still just halfway through the first season.

It transcends the sitcom format less than I remembered, and there are episodes that are just placeholders, but I'm mostly enjoying it. Certainly it's quite a time capsule of Seventies Britain.

#44 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 03:06 PM:

Oh, I'd never support cutting stuff without a trace from older materials (except perhaps in special children's editions). That's too Orwellian.

#45 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 03:53 PM:

Whereas there was a recent issuance of Theodore Geisel's WW2 cartoons.

Whoa! Some seriously racist stuff there; though to be fair he seemed to be no more vile to the Japanese than he was to the Germans.

#46 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 04:04 PM:

Terry Karney @ 45:

For the most part Geisel basically portrayed Hitler as a bit of a bumbling fool and the didn't really portray the German people all that much.
The Japanese, however, he portrayed as all being squint-eyed and the same. He didn't have a leader stand-in for Japan as a whole.

My impression was that he treated the Germans with no more than the usual amount of wartime propoganda, but he was overtly racist toward the Japanese in his cartoons.

Caveat: it's been a couple years since I read through Dr. Seuss Goes to War, so I may be misremembering a bit. He certainly had an incredibly interesting career beyond kids' books, that's for sure.

#47 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 04:14 PM:

I recall the content of the things Hitler was saying as being about par for the way he protrayed the Japanese. His caricatures of Hitler/Mussolini were a bit more over the top than the generic that I recall (say from Looney Tunes) and his Japanese no more than average; taking the culture in which they were drawn into account.

Bob Smith (AF pilot) did some cartoons, after the war, about the Japanese, which were about as bad, to look at, as Geisel's, and didn't have the advantage of the active conflict (I am not sure when he did them, but was cartooning from the late forties, into the mid-'70s).

The thing I was trying to point out is the cartoons were re-issued, instead of being allowed to be forgotten. I wonder (since I saw them in Germany, in June 2003) if they were redone because we had a new "other" target in cartoons, so they had some ability to be tolerated through transferrence.

#48 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 04:21 PM:

Terry Karney @ 47:

The first printing of Dr. Seuss Goes to War appears to be 1999. Still, you're right, it's important not to forget these things.

I seem to recall that one of the Looney Tunes collections has an introduction on the front about the casual racism in some of the cartoons, and how, yes, that's how things were but that's not how we want them to be now. That seems like a better approach than the Tom and Jerry one of just cutting it out.

#49 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 04:51 PM:

KeithS @46: [..] it's been a couple years since I read through Dr. Seuss Goes to War, so I may be misremembering a bit. He certainly had an incredibly interesting career beyond kids' books, that's for sure.

Quite. I had just finished reading this book about Geisel (with a lengthy title so I'm letting the link do the heavy lifting), and I was impressed how much of a career he had before he wrote most of the books he's famous for now.

Interestingly, after the war, he became quite appreciative of Japanese culture. His wartime experience also got him more interested in children's education: he thought that the German and Japanese people had been miseducated into intolerance, so tolerance was a lesson he thought children needed to learn early on.

The book covers Geisel's career from high school on, and there is much that is embarrassing. I think it is fair to say that he continued to grow.

#50 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 05:08 PM:

CHip @22:
The article has some interesting comments (for whatever Wikipedia facts are worth) on a Parisian attempt at a slightly-faster-than-usual moving walkway which they say is being slowed down

The high-speed moving sidewalk in the Gare Montparnasse metro station was inaugurated to much fanfare in 2002. It wasn't on my usual route, but every time I was in the area with a few minutes to spare, I'd go to that wing so I could try it out. Alas, my every attempt (over a two-year period) was thwarted - it was always out of order - and I could only content myself with the dark mutterings of some of its victims, fellow students all, to get an idea.

I just read this account and it seems the builders had never managed to get it to function properly at all. It's been shut down for good now, and will be replaced by a regular moving sidewalk in 2011.

#51 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 06:21 PM:

Janet@36:
Or the official site:
http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/recenteqsus/

The idea that you would be 'due' for a large earthquake isn't a very exact one - you're better off with the Gutenberg-Richter law - earthquake sizes (using the MMI scale) in a specific area are distributed so that over a given time frame, there are approximately 10 times as many earthquakes of magnitude X or greater than there are EQs of magnitude X+1 or greater.

By looking at the incidence of low-magnitude earthquakes in your area over a decade or so, you should be able to find the approximate frequency of large ones. (I've recently been training as an expert in such things, as it turns out.)

#52 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 07:28 PM:

Joel Polowin @42:

My recollection is that the Fry and Laurie "Bertie Wooster" series (from BBC?) had at least one episode where they appeared in blackface. All the episodes were purchased sight unseen by WGBH in the US for PBS and there was a minor financial scandal when it was realized they couldn't broadcast them all here.

That was much more recent than Reginald Perrin (of fond memory). I think that PBS showed the Sikh episodes uncut back in the day, but my aging memory may be playing tricks on me.

#53 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 07:38 PM:

@ #27: In Asimov's The Caves of Steel, the detective, Lije Bailey, loses a pursuer with L337 $K11L$ he learned as a teen running the slidewalks of New York.

#54 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 07:40 PM:

Of course, this was written after Heinlein, but he accepts the mischief potential as normative.

#55 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 08:06 PM:

David Manheim @ 51: Interesting! I was just using "due for a big quake" in the very rough sense that this area has had big quakes, on average, every 350 to 500 years for the past 10,000 years. So I'm not setting my watch for the next one, but I assume that a dangerous earthquake is one of the things that could happen. The stash of bottled water and canned goods that I'd think of as supplies for a blizzard or hurricane elsewhere in the States, here I think of as the earthquake supplies. (Waves to Jim MacDonald. Yes, my gas tank is more than half full, thanks!.)

It's the coastal areas that worry the most about a quake, due to the tsunami risk:
Big earthquake coming sooner than we thought, Oregon geologist say

#56 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 09:10 PM:

DaveL @ 52: I remember seeing the Sikh/blackface scenes, and I was watching the series on PBS. I think the cutting was special for this DVD release. I don't know if the recent UK release of the DVDs also had the same edits, but I have a contact whom I'm going to ask. There was also a UK DVD set a few years ago; I don't know how to check that.

#57 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 09:36 PM:

Leonard Rossiter (Reginald Perrin) in a scene about 6:21 into this clip:

Dr. Andrei Smyslov: Well, Dr. Floyd, I hope that you don't think I'm being too inquisitive, but perhaps you can clear up the mystery about what's going on up there.

#58 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 10:07 PM:

In #53, Theophylact writes:

#27: In Asimov's The Caves of Steel, the detective, Lije Bailey, loses a pursuer with L337 $K11L$ he learned as a teen running the slidewalks of New York.

Now I have an earworm.

East Slide, west Slide
All along the town... (etc.)
Tripping the light fantastic on the Slidewalks of New York!

#59 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 10:41 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 58... I'm suddenly drawing a blank. Is that from West Slide Story?

#60 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2009, 11:39 PM:

Serge @ 59
It's a song from the 1890s called The Sidewalks of New York.

And thanks loads Bill Higgins--Beam Jockey, now I have the earworm too.

#61 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:23 AM:

Rainflame @ 60... Thanks. So, this is not about the story of Romeo & Juliet set inside the Caves of Steel.

When you're a Jetpack,
You're a Jetpack all the way
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin' day.

#62 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:24 AM:

Raphael (#39), Rob (#40) Racism in HG Wells. I've mentioned this before. From page one of War of the Worlds, just after the famous section about "minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes".

And we men, the creatures who inhabit this earth, must be to them at least as alien and lowly as are the monkeys and lemurs to us. The intellectual side of man already admits that life is an incessant struggle for existence, and it would seem that this too is the belief of the minds upon Mars. Their world is far gone in its cooling and this world is still crowded with life, but crowded only with what they regard as inferior animals. To carry warfare sunward is, indeed, their only escape from the destruction that, generation after generation, creeps upon them.

And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races. The Tasmanians, in spite of their human likeness, were entirely swept out of existence in a war of extermination waged by European immigrants, in the space of fifty years. Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit? [Emphasis mine.]
Doesn't the rapid repetition of "inferior animals" and "inferior races", along with the argument, sow a niggling seed of doubt? Much of the rest of the book can be seen as an Other Side's view of invasion by Superior Weaponry (formerly European). And it's not even the Superior Qualities (pluck, can-do, courage, ingenuity, etc) of humanity that Triumph Against Overwhelming Force (see Independence Day, Ewoks, etc.). Note spoiler avoidance <g> The narrator in WotW is an Everyman, representative of the average reader, not an omniscient opinion-giver,

Wells was very down on "primitive" nationalism, war-loving attitudes and the like. I suspect he could see the "primitive" and "progressive" aspects of many different cultures across space and time. To me he's criticising the racist "Social Darwinism".

Actually, I suspect my favourite part of this section is another:

"With infinite complacency men went to and fro over this globe about their little affairs, serene in their assurance of their empire over matter. It is possible that the infusoria under the microscope do the same."
<squish>

#63 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 01:35 AM:

Serge #61: When you're a Jetpack,
You're a Jetpack all the way
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin' day.

They told us all they wanted
Was a sound that could kill someone
From a distance. So we go ahead,
And the meters are over in the red.
It's a mistake in the making....
And suddenly I found
How wonderful a sound can be
Samira
Say it loud and there's music playing
Say it soft and it's almost like praying
Samira
I'll never stop saying
Samira
The most beautiful sound I ever heard
Samira....

[vertigo zoom shot of Hugh Laurie singing in a straitjacket]

#64 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 04:38 AM:

Re: broken-down trains:
Over here in Britain, due to a serious lack of joined-up thinking between train companies and train builders since privatisation, we've ended up with different fleets of passenger trains running over the same tracks that have incompatible couplers. Which often means that when a train breaks down, they can't just couple up the one behind to push it out of the way, because the couplers don't match.

As for rescue locomotives, Virgin Trains have a dedicated fleet of rescue locomotives, all of which are names after characters and machines from Gerry Anderson's "Thunderbirds".

#65 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 05:06 AM:

Like Chris Eagle @ #14, I can't see anywhere in the Wikipedia article that credits Heinlein with having invented moving slidewalks. (I even checked the edit history to see if it had been recently removed - nope.)

#66 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 06:05 AM:

I read this short story for the first time last year and I was struck by how it was premised on a future shortage of fossil fuels.
Was peak oil already a widespread worry in the 50's or was Heinlein prescient?

Pendrift @50:
I've had the priviledge of riding on this high-speed moving sidewalk and it was a thrill! It did not feel like a puny 11 km/h, more like a 20-25.
The feel of your feet being accelerated at the start of the ride was...interesting; I can understand how it could be dangerous for old ladies.

To go on a tangent, I've just started reading Heinlein and The Past Through Tomorrow really blew my mind in an old-school-SF way.
I discovered Skiffy when I was 12-13 through a dusty box of paperbacks in my grandparents' attic. It was a real treasure trove - Asimov, Clarke, Van Vogt, Anderson, Sturgeon, Bester, ... - but there was no Heinlein book, and twenty years later I sill hadn't read anything from him.
So I decided to remedy this situation last year, when we were backpacking through South-East Asia and I began exploring second-hand bookstores in search of Heinlein (very good ones in Chiang Mai and Sihanoukville by the way). I got my hands on Friday and Starship Troopers and my reaction was...meh, chockful of nifty ideas but going off the wall in important ways, what with the gender issues treatment and the political lecturing...
But The Past Through Tomorrow really blew my mind with its creativity and the diversity of ideas the stories explored.
It made me wonder also why Heinlein is regarded as a libertarian. There is a short story about a guy leaving (well, being banished from) the peaceful, liberal society and striking out on his own with his seeds, cattle and guns...and he lasts five minutes before the organized thugs rob him blind and put him in a cell.

Anyway, I'm thinking the early works may be more to my taste and I've ordered Starman Jones and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress from Amazon.
May I profit from your refined and enlightened tastes on all matters SF and ask for the Fluorosphere recommendations on Heinlein works?

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 07:13 AM:

Earl Cooley III @ 63... If ever one of the costumers I know asks for masquerade-presentation ideas, I'll mention this to them. Heheheh...

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 07:17 AM:

Tim Hall @ 64... rescue locomotives, all of which are names after characters and machines from Gerry Anderson's "Thunderbirds"

Hopefully there isn't one nmed after the Fireflash, which has to to be the futuristic plane with the worst safety record. (At least its designers made it airtight, in case it sinks to the bottom of the ocean - which it did.)

#69 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 07:29 AM:

KévinT #66:

For earlier work -- clearly, don't forget the juveniles! Novels like Space Family Stone, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, and Farmer In The Sky are still fun adventures, and the latter has a bit of foreshadowing for his most famous "adult" work, Stranger in a Strange Land.

SiaSL itself was so much of a hit that many people apparently didn't realize it was meant to be a satire of religion, and so popular that it eventually started showing up on high-school reading lists. (Arguably, it was Heinlein's introduction to what I call "Swift's Lesson...".)

Citizen Of The Galaxy, and Glory Road are more adventures, while The Door Into Summer is a classic "old-school yarn".
Obviously, you'll want to keep an eye out for collections of his short stories and novellas, too!

For the late stuff, Number Of The Beast and Friday represent an anomalous period in his work, variously rumored to represent a brain tumor or a wager with some publisher. Job marks a return to style, and (IMHO), his last two books kind of "re-Heinleinize" the milieu of #otB, though I still wouldn't put them among his best.

#70 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 07:57 AM:

I never thought much of Stranger in a Strange Land

For early Heinlein, I'd recommend Tunnel in the Sky and Citizen of the Galaxy, both adventure yarns.

Middle Heinlein would probably be, for me, Podokane of Mars and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (his absolute best, in my opinion.)

Late Heinlein is probably best represented with Friday and left at that.

#71 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 08:17 AM:

Space Family Stone is also called The Rolling Stones, and it's one of my favorites. The Star Beast is also pretty good, if you can ignore the most annoying girlfriend in the history of literature.

#72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 08:21 AM:

Was Heinlein's imagination tapped for Hollywood, aside from Destination Moon, Puppet Masters, and 1953's Project Moon Base?

#73 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 08:51 AM:

Serge, 72: They were talking about a Starship Troopers movie, but nothing ever came of it. OTOH, there's a pretty decent CGI cartoon called Roughnecks.

#74 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 09:00 AM:

TexAnne @ 73... Starship Troopers. Argh. By the way, I never saw the movie. Is that a situation I should remedy? As for Roughnecks, I never even heard about it.

#75 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 09:05 AM:

Well, Serge, since you're fond of bad movies...but this one is SO bad I'm not sure you'd like it. The director thought the MI was a bunch of fascists, jackboots and all. The cartoon is much, much better.

#76 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 09:07 AM:

TexAnne @73 – They were talking about a Starship Troopers movie, but nothing ever came of it.

Is this like it being too bad they never made sequels to Highlander or The Matrix?

#77 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 09:13 AM:

TexAnne @ 75... Even I have limits where it comes to Bad Cinéma. Where Troopers's director was concerned, I reached it early on, thanks to RoboCop 2 and Total Recall.

#79 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 09:28 AM:

Which nonexistent movie is worse: Starship Troopers or Total Recall?

#80 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 10:09 AM:

TexAnne, Serge:
Actually, I liked both movies.
They are somewhat schlocky for sure but they have some redeeming qualities.

Starship Troopers works as a satire of a military-industrial-infotainment imperalistic system, a little bit in the vein of Dr. Strangelove. Well, it's not subtle but Verhoeven is not Kubrick. I found it funny all the same.
I like to call the movie Fascist Ken and Barbie get slaughtered by Giant Spiders in Space.

Total Recall manages to keep a balance - for a time anyway - where you are not sure if you are watching a bona-fide action hero or if he's living through a Dickian schizoid fugue. This is rare enough in movie adaptations of P.K. Dick books.
And then Schwarzie grabs an axe and goes Medieval on Mars.
Plus, it has Michael Ironside as a villain, which is redeeming enough...NOT.

#81 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 10:41 AM:

Serge @ 77 - The directorial blame for Robocop 2 falls on Irvin Kershner instead of Paul Verhoven. But the problems with Robocop 2 are more script-related than anything else.

Kershner also directed The Empire Strikes Back, the best of the Star Wars movies.

Robocop 2 was filmed in Houston, and I remember taking the bus downtown to work at that time, and seeing the fake bullet holes and other pseudo-damage in the buildings from the prior night's shooting.

#82 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 10:43 AM:

As for Heinlein's best, I like Double Star and Methuselah's Children.

#83 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 10:58 AM:

I stand corrected about Robocop 2. Not sure why I blamed Verhoeven for that one. As for Total Recall, it was ok until Arnie and Rachel Ticotin got tossed outdoors on Mars and, because of the low pressure, their eyeballs swelled up to the size of oranges until the alien machine kicked in and generated an atmosphere. Not even one burst vessel.

#84 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:15 AM:

My take on Starship Troopers (the movie).

#85 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:28 AM:

TexAnne @73: They were talking about a Starship Troopers movie, but nothing ever came of it.

That's probably just as well, as they'd have been sure to make two sequels, and Starship Troopers 3 would almost certainly have featured a singing Sky Marshal.

I'm glad none of us had to watch this, especially after attending a beer festival earlier that day.

#86 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:18 PM:

For my taste, Heinlein best work is his early short stories. My favorites are "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" and "By His Bootstraps."

#87 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:20 PM:

Heinlein best work

Walters worst editing.

#88 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:21 PM:

Neil, 85: I would feel sorry for anyone who had to go through that. What a relief to know it's all imaginary!

#89 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:22 PM:

Heinlein, like Kipling, is wonderful for generating discussions about what's "the good stuff". Which is not surprising, since Kipling wrote some of the best Heinlein juveniles ever (Captains Courageous and Kim, for starters).

#90 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:25 PM:

85: I watched that entire film just because Xopher (IIRC) told me it had a singing Sky Marshal and linked to the clip. The rest of the film was utter rubbish. But the singing Sky Marshal made up for it.
I think that ST is probably best watched post-beer festival. Like "Tremors".

#91 ::: Zed Lopez ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 12:28 PM:

At the Heinlein archives, you can buy hundreds of pages of PDFs of Heinlein's scripts and treatments for TV work. (And seemingly just about every other piece of paper to cross Heinlein's desk this side of dry cleaning receipts.)

#92 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 01:46 PM:

"I know where I came from, but where did all you zombies come from? – 'All You Zombies' (1959)

A short story that kinda turned me inside out for a time, when stumbled over in an anthology.

#93 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 01:51 PM:

In #72 Serge writes:

Was Heinlein's imagination tapped for Hollywood, aside from Destination Moon, Puppet Masters, and 1953's Project Moon Base?

Among the responses was Zed Lopez in #91:

At the Heinlein archives, you can buy hundreds of pages of PDFs of Heinlein's scripts and treatments for TV work. (And seemingly just about every other piece of paper to cross Heinlein's desk this side of dry cleaning receipts.)

Another good resource is James Gifford's New Heinlein Opus List (PDF), which sprang from the research on his book Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader’s Companion.

Around 1953 Heinlein adapted several of his short stories as TV screenplays for an SF anthology series Jack Seaman was planning to produce. He also wrote two original episodes. The project never made it to the airwaves, but the pilot morphed into the feature film Project Moonbase.

Not long ago, Subterranean Press issued a fancy limited-edition book containing most of these scripts, Project Moonbase and Others.

Here's a review of Project Moonbase and Others.

Again, in the early Sixties, Heinlein wrote a TV pilot, Century XXII, which never got made. The producer was William Dozier, later famous as not only the producer but also the overwrought narrator of Batman ("Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!").

In 1994, an animated three-episode miniseries version of Red Planet aired. Not real good.

With TexAnne at #73, I too would recommend the CGI-animated series Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles. It's out on several DVDs.

#94 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 02:49 PM:

Quite irrelevantly, the Wikipedia article on Action Park linked in the sidebar is a thing of beauty, and made me laugh. I suspect it was a great deal of fun...until someone lost an eye.

#95 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 03:28 PM:

Crediting Heinlein: if they're saying he foresaw future highway systems, there's only one story they can be talking about. I'll grant him some of the social implications, but that's all.

Wartime propaganda images aren't intended to be fair. For instance, here's an inventively nasty WWII German image of American culture, in black and white and color.

Let us not forget Red Mike's review of that Paul Verhoeven flick that by coincidence is also titled Starship Troopers.

#96 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 03:41 PM:

Neil Willcox #85: Thankfully, both the sequels were direct-to-video. I actually saw a DVD of ST3 in a store, and was duly horrified by the thought.

Tom Whitmore #89: Snorfle! But yeah, Heinlein was definitely channeling Kipling on occasion.

#97 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 03:50 PM:

Like I said above, I've nver seen "starship propeller", but that didn't prevent me from recognizing their soldier suits right away in the first episode of "Firefly".

#98 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 04:58 PM:

I stopped reading at "The Cat Who Walked Through Walls". I am leery of re-reading Job. I made the mistake of glancing at some of "Number of the Beast".

ST, the film... I almost left. It's possible that it's bearable as 1: a satire, and 2: if one has no idea about the book.

But since most of the really important aspects of the book were inverted in the film... no. Just no.

My mother refused to read any Heinlein for years after (as a teenager in Catholic school) stumbling on "All You Zombies".

#99 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 07:24 PM:

Teresa@94: I boggle at that Ku Klux Klan hood on top of the dark-skinned arms and shoulders. Sheesh.

#100 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 10:24 PM:

Kevin@66: Heinlein moved towards small-l libertarianism over time; IIRC he actually ran for office on a leftist ticket sometime in the 1930's. I think he had enough awareness of how easily society can fall apart that he never walked the Randite or survivalist line (e.g., in Beyond This Horizon most people carry guns, but he has fewer of the fantasies about armed societies than, say, L. Neil Smith), which makes him seem mild next to the younger and more extreme voices. However, if you read the Professor in MiaHM as the voice-of-the-author (as is commonly argued for most of the other books, starting with Stranger, in which there is a crotchety unattached older male), the thinking is clearly there -- I recall a passage during the ]constitutional convention[ about "How \few/ rules can you make?" It has been argued that his shift was pushed partly by his last wife (who he married several years into his career) and partly by unpleasant experiences (IIRC, he was visiting the USSR when they shot down Gary Powers, which probably put all unofficial visitors under suspicion).

wrt recommendations: as you can see from the previous, his later works have partisans and departisans. (I'd say the late period starts no later than 1970; reportedly the mess that is I Will Fear No SexEvil was what he produced \after/ tearing up what he'd done just before an operation to improve cerebral blood flow.) I like Double Star and The Door Into Summer (two very different works from nearby years); from the later work I tolerate Job for much the same reason that I like the original Bedazzled (with the plus that the book doesn't cop out and the minus that it takes forever to get there), but I wouldn't recommend anything after Moon to anyone lacking a desire to know how self-indulgent he got.

#101 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 10:57 PM:

What, no mention of Time Enough for Love? I think it's my favorite late Heinlein, and it too contributed to his libtertarian reputation, as best as I can remember from having read it 30+ years ago (life is too short to reread everything).

#102 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:00 PM:

Reyy & KeithS: Although Geisel had a lot of squint-eyed Jap cartoons, he also had no patience for US armaments factory managers who wouldn't hire blacks.

#103 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:19 PM:

But what's that LP doing in the right hand of the America figure, T@95? I can't figure that out at all.

I gave up on Heinlein after the cheat at the end of I Will Fear No Evil. At that point, I realized I couldn't trust him as an author any more. So I never finished Time Enough for Love, barely managed Friday (or was it Job?) which struck me as a lame rewrite of Glory Road, and have no interest in the other late works. His experiences in Russia around the Powers flight are mentioned in detail in Expanded Universe, which I've just been re-reading.

#104 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2009, 11:36 PM:

Tom, 103: If my German serves, the little sign at the bottom says something like "watch out for American cultural imperialism." I bet the LP is supposed to symbolize jazz, that Pernicious and Decadent Music of the JUNGLE OMG THEY'RE COMING FOR YOUR WOMEN. (You know. Like rock'n'roll, and rap, and whatever the kids are listening to these days.)

#105 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 02:16 AM:

TexAnne@104: That was my take too, it symbolized American n**** music. (Note the dark skin on the upper pair of hands, one of which is holding up the LP, and the dancing n***s in the cage that makes up the body.)

Tom@103: Having read all of the '80s Heinlein books at least once, I can definitively tell you that you're not missing anything. (I expect you knew that.) My guess at the book you read is Job, as I don't think Friday would read like a rewrite of Glory Road.

(I remember buying The Number of the Beast from Other Change. I still count that as the single biggest disappointment of my life as a reader.)

#106 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 03:01 AM:

TexAnne #104 that sign says 'The USA wants to save European culture from going under'. That's from the Danish on the colour picture, it's Dutch on the b/w, so I'm sure someone can confirm that translation.

#107 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 04:49 AM:

104: is it an LP? I thought it was a cymbal. (Jazz either way, I suppose.) But it's odd that the Nazis thought so poorly of the KKK. Twin souls, I would have said.

#108 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 05:09 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @ #95: Crediting Heinlein: if they're saying he foresaw future highway systems

I can't see where the Wikipedia entry on "The Roads Must Roll" says that, either.

#109 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 05:28 AM:

Terry @98:

Points 1 and 2 were true for me and I found the movie not only bearable, but enjoyable.
I understand of course the feeling - that most people here share - that it's a complete betrayal of the book.

It seems the book has reached cult-like status in the US whereas almost no one has heard about Heinlein in France. The most well known SF author here must be P.K Dick, and Asimov barely registers a blimp with Foundation.
It is hard to judge these things, but I think SF is even more disregarded in France - "pays des belles lettres", Proust, etc... - compared to the US. It is seen as deeply unserious and wholly suspect in terms of taste (I mean, who likes it and writes it? Les Américains! 'nuff said.) Jules Vernes gets a nod, for inventing the genre.

#110 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 06:35 AM:

KévinT @ 109... One thing I noticed when I was in Québec City in 2004, after a 9-year absence, was how most of the genre's titles available in the bookstore I went to were fantasy, not SF. The trend was alway there, come to think of it, but it had become more pronounced since I had left the country in 1989 and no, it's not my fault (as Han Solo would say).

#111 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 07:25 AM:

KévinT (#109) "Asimov barely registers a blimp"

Indeed, I remember few, if any, blimps, zeppelins or dirigible airships in Asimov's work.

Serge (#110) There's one major general trade bookstore where the sign on that section says (as close as I can render in what's allowed here)

SCIENCE FICTION
    & FANTASY
Except maybe 80% of the books are what I'd call Fantasy.

#112 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 09:09 AM:

Mez @111:

Haha, I was wondering at this turn of phrase myself. As is often the case, when such English expressions come to my mind I don't have the slightest idea if they are correct or not.
A quick search on Google shows both "register a blimp" and "register a blip" are used. Which one is correct? Would a blimp register on a radar screen?

"Asimov barely registers a blimp"
This reads like the subject for a short story writing contest:
"In 1934, Isaac Asimov, aged 14, designs a revolutionary new aircraft powered by his mighty brain-waves. He manages to have it approved by the FAA using Heisenberg uncertainty principle (Will it crash and burn? Or will it fly true? Both!). Meanwhile, his friend and adversary Robert Heinlein is still working on his jetpack prototype..."

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 09:21 AM:

KévinT @ 112 Did somebody say something about airships and jetpacks?

#114 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 09:43 AM:

Asimov barely registers a blimp with Foundation.

Blimp: an immensely inflated object with no rigid structure, most of whose volume is nothing but gas.

I think that's a little harsh. Though the later volumes could do with editing, it's true...

#115 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 11:20 AM:

KévinT: For me it's not the that book, but any book. I appreciate that film and text are very different media, and some changes have to be made to convert a book to a film.

But wholesale rewrites, (as with Kubrick and "The Shining") where all that remains is are the various names, piss me off.

Sort of like "historical" films which aren't (see, "Elizabeth").

I also commend Jim's review for why I almost left the theater. "The Shining" may have pissed me off for the changes, (and some things, like the topiary, just weren't doable at the time), but it held together as a film. ST:The Film, didn't.

#116 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 11:42 AM:

Kévin, #112: The correct phrase in this case would be "registers a blip," as in the blip on a radar screen. The "blimp" versions on Google are the equivalent of "for all intensive purposes" -- someone who doesn't understand the idiom has mangled it.

#117 ::: Zed Lopez ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:02 PM:

I think the best Heinlein is a number of stories in The Past Through Tomorrow (but the first couple in that collection, including "The Roads Must Roll" is pretty bad.)

For novels, I'd agree with most of the specific recommendations here... The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, The Door Into Summer.

If you read Stranger in a Strange Land, get an old copy that's not the full, unexpurgated text. It reads even better if you quit halfway through... it's kind of two books in one, and the second one retroactively makes the first one worse.

Time Enough For Love is the only novel subsequent to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress that I wouldn't specifically advise against. As a novel, it's not great, but I find a couple of the self-contained novellas within it, "The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail" and "The Tale of the Adopted Daughter" to rank among Heinlein's best.

#118 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:24 PM:

People that use "Register a blimp" are the sort that would use "Skid Row" instead of "Skid Road." It's a known specific location (and thank you Wikipedia--you should quit redirecting Skid Road to Skid Row and switch to redirecting Row to Road) spread by a known individual, and Wikipedia's weasel worded assertion that the term originated in Vancouver is nothing but undiluted horse crap.

#119 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:35 PM:

Bruce, there comes a point, I think, where you have to concede that folk-etymology has won the day. While it may have originally been called Skid Road, the term today, known virtually everywhere, is 'Skid Row'. Once there are songs about it, the cause is lost.

You may be right about its origins. But the world has moved on, and now the altered (or "corrupted," if you're feeling judgemental) term is "correct," if there is such a thing.

In any case, 'Skid Row' is in wide use, and that's not going to change. 'Register a blimp' is not, and may it never be, but if it becomes widespread, it will become the correct expression. That will be after I'm dead, happily.

#120 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:38 PM:

Bruce, #118: You may well be right, but the other form of the idiom has gotten the upper hand; a Google search on "Skid Row" vs "Skid Road" reveals some 2,590,000 occurrences of the former (which is also the second entry on the suggested list at "skid") and only 89,000 of the latter. I had literally never heard anyone say "Skid Road" until we had the last conversation on this topic -- and still haven't, anywhere but here. At this point, it appears that "Skid Road" has the status of a regionalism.

#121 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:48 PM:

Lee @116:
Thanks for providing the information. I'm always happy to improve my knowledge of the English language.
I learned it by reading SF/F books and political blogs. Sometimes the result is a bit surprising, even to me.

Terry @115:
I guess it depends on the book and on your expectations for the movie adaptation.

I'm sure I would have been pissed if Peter Jackson had mangled the LOTR like Verhoeven did ST. I wanted to see Tolkien's story, as I saw it unfold in my mind, splashed on a big screen.
I'm one of the rare few that would have loved to see Tom Bombadil!

But, The Shining? I'd read the book previously and liked it. And I found the movie creepier and I liked it even better, even if it was a different story.
The same goes for Blade Runner: very different from the short story, but brilliant in its own way.
And Davis Lynch's Dune: not in the same league as Herbert, by a huge margin, but, man, it was trippy!
OK, I'll stop now.

#122 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:55 PM:

"Register a blimp" brings to mind my favorite maloprop, that of "wreaking haddock".

#123 ::: KévinT ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 12:56 PM:

Lee @120:

Google Search:
"register a blip" 2280 vs. "register a blimp" 30000.
"registers a blip" 1340 vs. "registers a blimp" 1110.

This specific battle is not lost yet apparently but things do not look good for the forces of correct idiom...

#124 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:07 PM:

That's funny, I only get 13 for "register a blimp" and 12 for "registers a blimp". Your blip figures seem OK though.

#125 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:08 PM:

I confess, somewhat sheepishly, to enjoying the Starship Troopers movie. This is not because it was a good movie--it wasn't--but because 1) it was an occasionally entertaining movie, and 2) it made me feel much better about having originally read the book as deliberate satire. Finding out that the book hadn't been meant as a vicious satire of military-obsessed cultures came as a deep disappointment when I was informed of this fact.

#126 ::: lorax ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:15 PM:

@123

The "1-10 of about $N" counts that search engines give aren't always reliable, and this appears to be a particularly dramatic case; you'll notice that down at the bottom of the search results for "registers a blimp" there's only a "2", not further numbers, and that in fact there are only 15 results that show up.

#127 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 28, 2009, 01:20 PM:

Fade Manley @ 125... I confess, somewhat sheepishly, to enjoying the Starship Troopers movie.

As for myself, I liked Wing Commander.

#128 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 07:02 AM:

Terry Karney @ #115: Sort of like "historical" films which aren't (see, "Elizabeth").

I think you meant to say, 'don't see "Elizabeth"'?

(Read history_spork instead.)

#129 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 08:06 AM:

I am appalled that no one has suggested Waldo and Magic, Inc. for the new Heinlein reader.

#130 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 09:41 AM:

ajay @107, the Nazis made a movie that strongly condemned British concentration camps during the Boer War, too. Apparently they had a thing for saying "They did it first! And it's really bad when they do it!".

#131 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 02:11 PM:

Zed@117: Wow, somebody who seems to agree with me on Heinlein. Probably best not to dig deeper, this can't go on indefinitely :-).

I think TEfL is the most ambitious of his books. I don't think it's the most successful, but I give him some credit for being ambitious still at that point in his career. And, as you say, it has some wonderful parts in it. I actually like the historical chunk as well, except for the incest theme. But incest is bad largely because of power imbalances; the situation as played out in the historical section doesn't have those power imbalances, so it's not, to me, morally reprehensible, merely pretty creepy (I'm fairly sure being creeped out by the idea is socially trained, as a way to keep the power imbalances from being exploited). And Heinlein is old enough to have been pretty thoroughly conditioned by Freud, so how can he not explore mother-son incest at some point?

#132 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 05:45 PM:

KévinT at 121:

I won't see the LOTR movies; I refuse to lose the pictures in my head. I know what everything looks like, and to see someone else's vision would destroy mine. I understand why Bombadil and Goldberry, and Glorfindel were cut, and why Arwen's role was changed, but it just would not be right to me.

[pedant] Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep is a novel, not a short story. [/pedant]

#133 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 06:56 PM:

I just searched for 'register a blimp'. It said there were approximately 31,000 results, but when I went through them there turned out to be only 12. (Not 12,000: 12.) This is a weird problem that Google has sometimes. There is a reason for it, but I forget the details.

#134 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 07:36 PM:

Um, a Blimp on the radar screen would make it very hard to see the radar screen, since blimps are so much larger than the screens.

#135 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 07:52 PM:

"It seems to be a fly, but with an atomic warhead!"

#136 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 09:25 PM:

I think Coventry and Beyond This Horizon should be required reading for would-be libertarians. Both dramatize the point that libertarian non-states (or anything close to them) are at the high end of the "energy curve", and it takes continuous and collective effort to keep them there. Far more so than for liberal democracies, I think. [Which is why libertarian states don't exist in the Real World.] I started to write more on this, and realized I was about to try to paraphrase Aristotle's Politics on legitimate and corrupt forms.

I note that neither of Heinlein's states is actually one of disgovernance; both have police "proctors".

#137 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 09:31 PM:

#122, 123 - check also the 83,000 "blip on the radar" hits vs 902 "blimp on the radar".

#138 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2009, 11:34 PM:

What bothered me most about the search results for "register a blimp" was that no one, no one at all, operates a blimp registry.

#139 ::: Zed Lopez ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 12:33 AM:

David Dyer-Bennet @117: Probably best not to dig deeper, this can't go on indefinitely :-).

"Original or uncut Puppet Masters?"

"Original."

"Me too! Tunnel in the Sky or Farmer in the Sky?"

"Tunnel."

"Me too! Kettle Belly Baldwin or Kip's Dad?"

"Kip's Dad."

"Me too! Originally published ending to Podkayne of Mars or Heinlein's intended ending?"

"Original."

"DIE, HERETIC SCUM!"

#140 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 08:18 AM:

Fade Manley @ 125

I really enjoyed Verhoeven's movie precisely because I hated the book - it remains the only book I've thrown across the room in disgust. It was the obsession with corporal punishment rather than the militarism that really annoyed me; that's always been a fetish for the reactionary right in Britain. Reading it felt like being stuck in a lift with Lord Tebbit.

I still think the world of ST resembles the end-point of the world envisioned by Dick Cheney.

#141 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 09:24 AM:

John A @ 138 -

While not specifically mentioning blimps, the FAA does certify and register airships.

http://www.faa.gov/aircraft/air_cert/design_approvals/airships/

#142 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 10:28 AM:

I still think the world of ST resembles the end-point of the world envisioned by Dick Cheney.

Er, if I recall, Cheney wasn't exactly in favour of military service as a precondition for participation in politics. He had "other priorities", remember?

#143 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 10:29 AM:

I Will Fear No Evil has the dubious distinction of being the second novel I ever threw against the wall.

#144 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 01:21 PM:

I would love to have heard what Cyril Kornbluth would have to say about Starship Troopers.

He didn't live long enough to read it, but I'd bet he'd have a lot of strong opinions.

Unlike Heinlein, Kornbluth actually was a soldier who served in actual combat.

The fact that he never, as far as I know, ever wrote a war story says a lot in itself. Maybe someday he'd get around to it. I suspect it would be a lot more like Slaughterhouse V than Starship Troopers.

#145 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 03:36 PM:

C. Wingate@143

So what was the first novel?

#146 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 07:03 PM:

Offhand, I can't recall a single military SF movie that was even remotely believable about military operations, command structure, use of intelligence, or personnel interactions. ST is an extreme case, but there are a lot of others that were clearly written by people who hadn't ever visited a military base, let alone read any military history. Some of these writers probably got their notions about the military from other movies, resulting in a kind of "relaxation" of tropes into a de facto canon, similar to the way vampires and werewolves have been standardized by too many borrowings from previous writers. This applies to TV shows as well (I'm thinking of you, "Space Marine"!).

#147 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 09:01 PM:

Bruce Cohen (StM) @146: I felt that ST:TOS and ST:TNG went too far in the 'family feeling' of the cast: there should have been some shuffling of crew assignments.

Perhaps ST:TOS was out there for 5 years without a visit to 'dry-dock' or returning to home port (suggested by the intro). ST:TNG was a generation or two later; we saw them returning to home port — there should have been some crew reassignments.

Of course, speaking as one without contemporary military experience, not to mention Star Fleet.

#148 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 09:04 PM:

Oh, and for those following at home (and to belabor the obvious), Bruce's ST = Starship Troopers, while my ST = Star Trek.

#149 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 09:46 PM:

re 145: A Separate Peace. The deus ex machina at the end was just too much in a book that was already getting on my nerves anyway. Worse-- I had to read it twice for school.

#150 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 10:14 PM:

re ships: For the British Navy of the century before last, the very top command structure would change, but lots of the lesser officers (warrants, some of the petty officers) and some number of the crew (cook, midshipmen), would stick with a commander, as he changed ships.

As I understand it, the modern navy doesn't change out crews until the cruise is over. Amittedly those cruises are shorter than the periods of the Trek cruises, but the same principle could be reasonably applied.

For purposes of dramatic structure, swapping out crew/cast isn't the best of things.

#151 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2009, 10:55 PM:

The USN used to have two crews for submarines: Blue and Gold. They'd swap out after each cruise, I think. I don't know if they still do that in the nuclear and boomer age, though.

#152 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 01:03 AM:

Bruce Cohen #146: Offhand, I can't recall a single military SF movie that was even remotely believable about military operations, command structure, use of intelligence, or personnel interactions.

Well, you'll have your next chance to analyze the trend with the new G.I. Joe movie. That should be a bit of fun. heh.

#153 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 01:18 AM:

The problem TOS might have is the nature of series TV in that time. The order of episodes has to be irrelevant. So they didn't explain where Ensign Chekov came from, he was just there. You couldn't have Kirk commenting on the qualities of the new crew, but Chekov could have been a replacement rather than just being hidden away on a different watch.

Roddenberry, incidentally, was a USAAF bomber pilot during the war, and then an officer in the LAPD. So I don't think the Trek miltary style comes from ignorance. Might be an over-reaction—they do things differently in the future.

#154 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 01:51 AM:

The Enterprise visited at least one Federation space station during its five-year tour of duty in TOS, so they weren't utterly isolated.

#155 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 02:10 AM:

Oh, there were plenty of colony and starbase visits in TOS. They delivered vaccines and ambassadors and such.

There were also occasional "new guys." The fellow who turned out to be an android, for example. A visiting technician of some sort whom Scotty fell in love with. These were gone by the end of the episode, of course.

There was a bit of a frontier feel to TOS early on, but Trek seemed to be less and less about exploration as the seasons and series went on. Less and less of the new civilizations thing, and more and more clash of empires stuff.

#156 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 04:55 AM:

144: I thought that what you get when a real war veteran reads Starship Troopers is Joe Haldeman's The Forever War?

#157 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 07:47 AM:

re 152: When I was driving home yesterday, there was a banner on the front of the 7-11 advertising the GI Joe tie-in: LIQUID ARTILLERY SLURPEE. And all I could think was, "I love the taste of cordite in the morning; it tastes like victory."

#158 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 08:24 AM:

ajay, 156: With the female soldiers doubling as comfort women. No thanks! (Although from what I hear about rapes in Iraq, they might as well be.)

#159 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 08:33 AM:

TexAnne, I'm pretty sure that the world of The Forever War wasn't intended as an ideal...

#160 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 09:02 AM:

I don't think so either, ajay. I was just pointing out the reason I've only read it once.

#161 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 09:30 AM:

Tom, the LP is undoubtedly evil jazz music, with its throbbing jungle beat.

Registering blimps, and wreaking haddock -- I did a post about those, some while back, and ever since then have been using the original entry to stash new ones I've found. The list has gotten long.

#162 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 10:52 AM:

Minor point--the record would not be an LP but a 78, as LP's (and 45 RPM singles) were not developed until after WWII.[/niggling pedant]

#163 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 11:00 AM:

160: I honestly didn't even remember that part of the book, but it's been a few years since I read it.

Actually, I think a better response to ST is probably Armor by John Steakley - even though I don't think he's actually a war veteran.

#164 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 12:21 PM:

Teresa - I heard a reporter on WNYC yesterday referring to a bunch of major, culturally-significant buildings as "ironic structures." I wanted to reach through the radio and wring his scruffy neck.

...though I guess the building you work in is an ironic structure, isn't it?

#165 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 01:02 PM:

[hurls something at Xopher]

#166 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 01:27 PM:

[dodges]

#167 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 04:11 PM:

[catches Janet's something and ironies it]

#168 ::: Rob T. ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 04:25 PM:

Is Making Light turning into an irony board?

#169 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 04:28 PM:

I just remembered - there are some bits in Leiber's A Spectre is Haunting Texas which are a direct satire of Starship Troopers. ("I'm a thirty-second bomb!" "And I'm a seventy-year man!", tossing it back out the window and ducking.)

#171 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 05:27 PM:

Well, Rob, we certainly pump irony here. We are not little girly men!*

___
*Well, some of us are, depending on how you define 'girly', 'men', and 'girly men'.

#172 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 06:42 PM:

Linkmeister@151: The ballistic missile and guided missile submarines (boomers) do have Blue and Gold crews; the official Navy explanation is for maintenance of strategic deterrence.

The fast-attack boats don't switch crews in the same manner.

#173 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 06:54 PM:

Xopher@171

We might not want to keep pressing the irony puns. Wouldn't want anyone to get steamed...

#174 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 06:58 PM:

Speaking of ironing:

#175 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 07:29 PM:

Mary Aileen #174: Aha, I was looking for that one! I apparently missed bookmarking that irony board. (Now remedied -- I've got a whole folder for "Captions and Croggles". ;-) )

#176 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 08:42 PM:

Ginger @ #172, Thanks. It's been a long long time since I was in the Navy, and my memories of sub sailors are mostly of loud boisterous souls who were so happy to be on the surface that they livened up the bars in Yokosuka considerably.

#177 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 09:58 PM:

Stephan Jones @ 144: Cyril Kornbluth and Fredrick Pohl wrote "The Quaker Cannon" and that tells me everything I need to know on that question. I hunted for the 7th Merrill anthology with that story in it for decades before Mrs. Arkansawyer turned me up a copy.

Clifton Royston @ 169: I remember that (Guchu said it, right?), but I never noticed any other references, sideways or otherwise. Do tell more. (When I feel kindly toward my rotten ex-business partner, I remember that in a better world he might've been El Toro.)

#178 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 10:00 PM:

Terry Karney at # 150:

Whose new crews cruise whose new rocket, sir?
I can't say that, Mr. Spock, sir.

#179 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 10:05 PM:

Bruce Cohen 146 re military trope accuracy. One person interested in the topic (though not a writer of stories; he designs games), is Chris Weuve.


Chris Weuve (on his website) says:
"I'm a naval analyst and wargame designer by profession. Along the way, I've learned an awful lot about how militaries -- and especially navies -- operate. My hobbies consist taking that information and applying it to fictional settings. In my off hours, I'm a naval analyst who analyzes navies that don't really exist."

#180 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 10:28 PM:

Mary Aileen at #174

"As you know, Bob, in centuries past, people used to wear these things they called clothes, instead of the spray-on plasti-fluid we use now. And this apparatus was used in conjunction with a special heat-treatment device for removing wrinkles from clothes."

"But wouldn't people burn themselves with these heat-treatment devices if they used them while wearing the clothes? And if you lie down on this ironing board while wearing the clothes, you would certainly fall off."

"But you don't iron clothes while you're wearing them. You would iron them between wearings."

"You mean they were re-usable? Wouldn't that be unsanitary?"

etc. etc.


#181 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 10:32 PM:

C. Wingate @ 143: On the other hand, I Will Fear No Evil is the only one of Heinlein's sex-drenched novels that's actually sexy. Say what you will about it (and I'm finding more good to say about it these days), there are sections that are actually kinda hot.

#182 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 10:36 PM:

Linkmeister, #176, have you seen Mister Roberts where the men come back from liberty? Here's what they look like.

#183 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 10:49 PM:

Why is there a blimp on your radar screen? To fly across the moat in your eye, of course.

#184 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 10:54 PM:

TexAnne @ 158: I haven't read the book in a long time (and I'm not certain I read it twice), but I don't recall the female soldiers being comfort women. The gender egalitarianism I recall was one of the better things about the book.

(The less said about its heteronormativity the better.)

#185 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 11:02 PM:

Really? I read it long enough ago that the details are fuzzy, but I remember being upset about how the women were expected to sleep with whoever asked them. I didn't get the impression that they could say no.

#186 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 11:22 PM:

TexAnne @ 185: You may be right. What I recall is that it was a mutual obligation for both genders. I wish I had the book at hand.

#187 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 11:37 PM:

John, 186: Huh. I missed that completely. But requiring both genders to have sex on demand isn't any better than requiring it of only women. Lack of choice is lack of consent.

#188 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2009, 11:49 PM:

TexAnne @ 187: Well, it's a little better, as it removes the sexism, at least in theory.

Is there someone out there who can determine whether I'm full of it in my recollection? I'm getting really curious.

#189 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 12:57 AM:

Again with the people having more scrupulous taste than I. I liked everything by Heinlein while growing up in rural Indiana, and of the things I've read in recent years, while I see the seams a lot more clearly now, I still like it all. I've recently reread I Will Fear No Evil, The Number of the Beast, and Time Enough for Love, and still liked all of them.

I will say, though, not having read TNotB since college lo these many years ago, I was struck by the fact that it is actually two shorter works stuck into a single volume. I'd never noticed that before. And when I say "stuck", I mean that they were clearly written separately and no effort whatsoever was made to sand the spackle off and paint it.

I also like Starship Troopers the movie. I'm so sorry. I have no particular taste when it comes to space opera.

#190 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 01:59 AM:

Starship Troopers: as I recall, one of the fan disappointments with the movie was 'no power armor' (the directors said, we could afford to do bugs, or we could afford to do power armor — and the movie would have looked silly with power armor and no bugs).

My favorite Heinlein novels would be The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Double Star.

Citizen of the Galaxy was interesting, in that you had a character who progressed from slave to aristocrat.

Have Space Suit—Will Travel was fun, but you had a stereotypical Heinlein near-omnicompetent character (who as it turns out was the son of a pair of geniuses — forget deviation to the mean).

Archie comics and Starship Troopers explains 55% of Japanese manga and anime.*


*Yes, that is an arbitrary percentage. I am trying to capture 'big eyes' (made popular by Osamu Tezuka), with power-armor, which is also very popular. Many stories have characters with big eyes, and no power-armor at all.

#191 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 03:55 AM:

Rob, #190: When we went to see the new Trek movie, there was a trailer for G.I. Joe -- and the first thing I thought was, "Hey, THEY have power suits! Why couldn't they have done that for Starship Troopers?" The movie not having started yet, that thought went from mind to mouth with no intervention from the brain... and there was a smattering of applause from the people around us. Guess I wasn't the only one thinking it!

#192 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 03:56 AM:

John A. Arkansawyer @ 188: Is there someone out there who can determine whether I'm full of it in my recollection?

You're mostly right. In basic training, the soldiers are paired up with different, random members of the opposite sex every night; after basic training they can choose whom they want.

In real life, of course, this would be horrific, but that's true of any absurdist satire, isn't it? The conceit is that this juvenile fantasy of sexual liberation (remember "smash monogamy"?) turns into just another Army chore ("why do I always get the tired ones when I'm horny, and the horny ones when I'm tired"?), just as replying "Fuck you, sir" to all orders doesn't actually do anything to raise their morale. In another satiric touch, the characters are drafted under the "Elite Conscription Act", so they should be stereotypical space opera über-competent heroes, but in fact they're pawns, completely helpless in the face of bureaucratic bungling.

#193 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 04:04 AM:

I seem to recall that the number-one western influence on Tezuka's art style was Disney rather than Archie.

(And now, because after all I'm the kind of person you get on Making Light, I'm trying to picture what manga and anime would be like if Tezuka's number-one Western influence had been Don Marquis.)

#194 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 08:55 AM:

Forever War (Tim Walters #192 et prev.) and the mandatory sex partners:

Besides it being an absurdist satire, note that in FW, the human race would eventually develop into a clone species, having dispensed with sex altogether.* I suspect the nominal reasoning also included crushing out sexual tensions and politics within the armed forces. (Not that it would do that, either....)

* Which magically ended the war -- that's one of my bugaboos. Ever see two nests of ants fighting? No quarter, even if the hives are of the same species!

#195 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 08:59 AM:

Lee @191, isn't Starship Troopers over 10 years old? There've been big advances & price reductions in some film techniques since then.

#196 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 09:20 AM:

Linkmeister @176: I went to college in Maryland. Two of my friends who married their newly-minted Ensigns had husbands in the Silent Service, one of each type. They're both retired from the Navy now.

#197 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 12:33 PM:

I adored Heinlein's books when I was a teenager, and read everything I could get my hands on. I recently re-read Podkayne of Mars and was horrified. My copy did offer both endings, and I hated both. The misogyny is stunning: a woman's only role is to nurture children, and if she doesn't her children will end up either dead or murderous sociopaths. Yeah, right. The big, undigested blobs of preachy exposition are pretty amazing, too. I only finished it out of morbid curiosity.

#198 ::: Zed Lopez ::: (view all by) ::: August 01, 2009, 03:03 PM:

Stefan Jones @144: [Kornbluth] never, as far as I know, ever wrote a war story

I think Not This August could be reasonably counted as a war story.

#199 ::: Laura from Faraway ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2009, 06:58 PM:

I played Rock Band at a friend's house Sunday. It was all I could do not to comment upon how Heinlein anticipated this--- teaching auditory reproduction via electronic games with visual feedback--- in "Gulf."

And speaking of original Podkayne ending versus its revision, am I alone in thinking the end of Job may have been a rewrite and seemed rather the result of a hasty colonoscopy?

Ah, never mind, not worth talking about without an Isley handy.

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