Mama Deb (mamadeb) wrote,
Mama Deb

Heinlein and Rowling

Two things that do not go together, although I suspect Heinlein might have enjoyed those books.

I just finished rereading The Door Into Summer, which was the first Heinlein adult novel I'd ever read, and that at the age of eleven, thirty years ago.

SF is not a crystal ball and the writers are not seerss. Occasionally, the writers guess right - Asimov with pocket calculators, Clarke with satellite communication, Heinlein with water beds - but most of the time, they can only extroplate from things they have at the time.

SF is a mirror of the times in which it was writing. TDIS is perhaps one of the best examples. It was written in 1956, and set in two time periods - 1970 and 2001. We didn't spend much time in 1970, but socially it was still 1956 - a woman did not live openly with a man to whom she was not married, which was already happening at that point. A woman did not run a company and certainly didn't do technical things. (Something I found interesting because the woman in question had some highly technical skills, especially with an electric typewriter.) And there was no sense that women would ever use drafting tools (which is confusing, because interior and fashion design used such things, and were done by women.)

The technological/scientific advances were also - well, not as they had gone. His big "inventions" - cold sleep, which never happened, and "Thorsen tubes" for memory storage. I'd have to check, but that sounds right for 1956. I'm nos so sure about 1970, and clearly not since then. Still, a reasonable extrapolation.

(He did manage to invent the Roomba, though. :))

It was the 2001 cultural stuff that kept tripping me up - the first thing the doctor does upon awakening the protagonist from cold sleep was to offer him a (self-lighting)cigarette on the grounds that it couldn't hurt him. The fact that when he used the word "kink" (from context, equaling the f-word) in front of a lady, her husband nearly punched him in the mouth. That there was still the assumption that women would not be interested in technical things at all, and would go all, "Not my silly brain."

And then there was the squick factor. Now, this is purely personal, but it bothered me in 1974 and it bothers me now. In the story, the protagonist (Danny) makes friends with his partner/best friend's ten year old stepdaughter Ricky. They share a lot in common, given he's about twenty years older than she is, including a love of his cat. He seeks her out in the future, and then goes back to the past and ensures it happening, including agreeing to marry her. The day she comes out of cold sleep, at the physical age of twenty-one, he does so. Which means that, however beautiful she was an adult, he essentially married a woman he'd last seen as prepubescent and whom he probably thought of in that way. And it means that she chose to give up any other possible options for her life. And it just squicks me.

I'll do the wizarding thing in another post, because this is long.

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