Commentary by Joseph T Major

In the March 1941 Astounding John W. Campbell pointed to something his new superstar had done as an example of the kind of background he wanted to see in science fiction, and in May 1941 he displayed the item in question. The readers of that wondrous time were enthralled to learn that "Life-Line", "Misfit", "Requiem", "'If This Goes On'", "The Roads Must Roll", "Coventry", "Blowups Happen", "'And He Built a Crooked House'", "Logic of Empire", and "Universe" were all scenes from a greater whole. Other writers took up this concept, and so you had Poul Anderson's tales of the Polesotechnic League of Nicholas van Rijn and of Dominic Flandry, laboring in the Empire that succeeded it, and of the UN-Men of the Psychotechnic League; H. Beam Piper's tales of Verkan Vall of the Paratime Police, and of the Fuzzies and Space Vikings of the TerroHuman Future History.

But the chart published in Astounding is not the chart published in The Past Through Tomorrow and Grumbles From the Grave. Several of the promised stories have been deleted: "The Sound of His Wings" and "The Stone Pillow", the tales of the rise of Nehemiah Scudder to power and the beginning of resistance to him; "Eclipse", the story of revolution in Antarctica; "Da Capo", the coda to the chart; and the unexplained "Word Edgewise" and "Fire Down Below!" Others had been published; "Commonsense", the followup to "Universe"; and Methuselah's Children, the tale of the Howard families. Some new ones have been added, like "The Man Who Sold the Moon", the story that explains "Requiem". "'And He Built a Crooked House'", which didn't quite seem to fit, has been dropped. (The story is an elaborate joke Heinlein is telling on himself; the architect who builds the tesseractal house of the title is living at 8775 Lookout Mountain Avenue in Hollywood, "across the street from the Hermit the original Hermit of Hollywood" or to put it another way, across the street from where Heinlein was living then.)

And some stories that don't quite seem to fit have been added. Alexei Panshin discusses some of this fitting on pages 123-4 of Heinlein In Dimension. "'We Also Walk Dogs'" was as by "Anson Macdonald" [Astounding, July 1941] an indication at the time that this was not a Future History story. Panshin adds "the advances that are the subject of the story appear neither in the chart nor in the later stories." [Heinlein In Dimension p. 123] Since the story involves developing gravitational control, an advance significantly not available, for example, in Methuselah's Children, you can see his point.

"Searchlight" (Scientific American, August 1962) and "The Menace from Earth" (F&SF, August 1957) are not much related to either. (In fact, if anything, "The Menace from Earth" is the real follow-up to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress Prof talked up human-powered flight which is significant in the earlier story.) Which leaves a block of stories, written in the late forties and published in the collection The Green Hills of Earth. These are consistent with each other but not particularly so with the earlier stories, or the ones written to combine with those. And you know what? They had a common origin:

If possible, I want to build up a background, as I did in Astounding, for a series of interplanetary shorts, laid in the near future (the coming century, to about A.D. 2050). The series will follow the formula, somewhat modified, of the SEP [Saturday Evening Post] series such as Earthworm Tractor, Tugboat Annie, Gunsmith Pyne, Blue Chip Haggerty, etc. stories laid against a particular occupation or industry. My series will be laid against the background of commercial (not exploration nor adventure) interplanetary travel. Continuity will be maintained by names of places Luna City, Drywater, Venusburg, New Brisbane, New Chicago, How-Far?, Leyburg, Marsopolis, Supra-New York, etc., and by consistent use of techniques, cultural changes, and speech changes. Characters will shift for each story, but a major character in one story may show up in a bit part in another.

Grumbles from the Grave, letter of October 25, 1946, p. 105

The Saturday Evening Post was then, in those pre-television days, the premier market for short fiction. Imagine, if you will, the pay rates of Playboy combined with the distribution (and respectability!) of TV Guide and you can see what a rewarding market it was to crack. And Heinlein did indeed make it. But history repeated itself:

. . Stuart Rose's rejection of "Broken Wings" is decidedly a disappointment, for I had believed that "Broken Wings" was up to standard. Still more disappointing is his statement "These space ship stories didn't do too well in our reader surveys." I interpret this as meaning that the Saturday Evening Post is no longer interested in my interplanetary stories unless they are utterly terrific, superior in every way to a story with a customary contemporary down-to-earth background . . .

Grumbles from the Grave, letter of Nov. 24, 1947, p. 154

And only one further story of Heinlein's was published in the SEP, probably because it had been sold previous to this rejection. The rejected story sold to another market, but Heinlein's focus shifted after this. History repeats itself, the first time as farce, the second time as tragedy. Heinlein had had a similar breakup with John W. Campbell, after Campbell had rejected "Goldfish Bowl". For various reasons Heinlein went back to writing for Astounding, but a precedent had been set. (See Expanded Universe, pp. 93-4 and Grumbles from the Grave, letter of September 6, 1941, pp. 11-15 for more on this.)

War work had diverted his interests and focus; unlike his co-worker Isaac Asimov, Heinlein was not able to do engineering and write fiction. In a new age, Heinlein decided to try new interests. The above-mentioned sales (which he had been hoping for back in 1941, see Grumbles from the Grave, p. 13) were one; another was branching out into writing detective stories, of which only one was published ("They Do It with Mirrors", Popular Detective. May 1947, by "Simon York"; reprinted in Expanded Universe pp. 182-206).

A third was writing novels. Heinlein had written one novel in the thirties that was never published (its title seems to have been For Us the Living) and some novel-length works that had been serialized, like Beyond This Horizon and Methuselah's Children. The progression to other markets was a natural. As with the Saturday Evening Post stories, Heinlein's hopes were to encourage knowledge and understanding of science, to prepare people for the future. And he decided that a certain kind of market would be a more suitable choice; he said that some discussions "convinced me that my own propaganda purposes will be served best by writing a series of boys' books . . ." [Grumbles from the Grave, letter of February 19, 1946, p. 41]

What were his "propaganda purposes"? In a letter to the SEP, Heinlein was remarkably optimistic about the future of space travel. After predicting a manned base on the moon by 1962, he went on to anticipate "Several decades of exploring the solar system with everyone falling all over each other to do it first and stake out claims." [Grumbles from the Grave, letter of March 13, 1947, p. 148] This is in accord with the planned background for the stories. This was a Future History that he thought would be real, that he hoped would come about, and that he wanted very much to make come about.

When trying to sell the first of these novels, he explained what he had in mind for them:

. . We have entered a period of extreme change. I see two major possibilities either a disastrous atomic war which will destroy for a long time the present technological structure, followed by a renaissance, the nature of which I am unable to predict, or a period of peace in which technical progress will be so enormously accelerated that only short range predictions can hope to be reasonably accurate.

Grumbles from the Grave, letter of March 16, 1946, pp. 41-2

And to do this he envisioned a certain kind of Future History. The same letter in Grumbles from the Grave lists a series of titles for the forthcoming books. In the light of later works (and the thesis of this article) two are particularly interesting: "The Young Atomic Engineers on Mars, or: Secret of the Moon Corridors" and "The Young Atomic Engineers in the Asteroids, or: The Mystery of the Broken Planet" The particular storytelling plan Heinlein envisioned in this letter did not work out as he had expounded it. Yet he did use such themes in other, not so directly connected novels.

And he connected them to his short stories, the ones for "adult" markets. A common thread of ideas connected his the bulk of his work in this period, implicitly where not explicitly. To use a certain phrase, concepts, settings, and characters connected these works.

What works comprised this "Second Future History"? These are the bulk of the short stories published in the collection The Green Hills of Earth (1951), and all but one of the juvenile novels he did before 1952. The stories in that collection are presented in a manner that can be confusing to the exposition of this theory, since it contains one original Future History story, "Logic of Empire", one story not in those stories that was also retrospectively inserted into the original Future History, "'We Also Walk Dogs'", and one ambiguous-in-placement story, "Delilah and the Space-Rigger'.

So, to list the component stories and detail their connections:

Rocket Ship Galileo (Scribner's, 1947)

The archetypical, indeed stereotypical pulp story, in which three boys and an uncle build a spaceship and fly to the Moon, transferred to the post-pulp book trade. Heinlein said that to him the main assumption in the book was having four people do what should really take forty. The Young Atomic Engineers (the original title of the book) build their ship and fly to the Moon, only to find that they really aren't all that original . . .

And in fact not at all original. As a side-element, casually dragged in, the explorers discover an underground city of the extinct people of the Moon. Now Heinlein had considered that idea before, in "Blowups Happen" (Astounding, 1940), but this was only a hypothesis referenced in the context of discussing why atomic power plants should not be on the Earth's surface. There is a corresponding reference to intelligent Lunar life is in Space Cadet.

In that proposal to his agent Lurton Blassingame of his intent, Heinlein had mentioned the other stories. Secret of the Moon Corridors is a clear follow-on to the "Moon Corridors" discovered here, and later on in the juveniles we will find a Mystery of the Broken Planet. These tantalizing hints are pointers to the matters set forth in Space Cadet. This is a more fitting beginning than "The Man Who Sold the Moon", which will be discussed later.

One of the "three boys" says he hasn't seen his uncle since "just after the war," and he was "just a kid then." The ex-kid is eighteen as he reminisces, which implies the passage of at least ten years, perhaps more. In his letter to the Saturday Evening Post dated March 13, 1947 (printed in Grumbles from the Grave, pp 147-148) Heinlein confidently predicted: "First manned rocket [to the Moon] in ten years." This gives us a general period in the late fifties.

"Space Jockey" (Saturday Evening Post, April 26, 1947)

Commercial aviation has demonstrated that there are certain stresses on pilots and on their families. An era of commercial space flight would entail more stresses and different kinds of stresses. The pilot of this flight to Supra-New York and Space Terminal is having marital problems. As if that wasn't enough, he has troublesome passengers. As if those weren't enough, he has to handle a real emergency, a loss of oxygen at the Richardson Research project. (This last is a tie in to "Gentlemen, Be Seated!".) In the end the pilot and his wife find out how to reconcile, in a manner evoking the pioneer women of Heinlein's own personal past history, and displaying the depth of their feelings for each other.

This is one of a set of stories dated in the final quarter of the twentieth century in the revised [First] Future History chart. It can be assumed that this dating is intended.

"Gentlemen, Be Seated!" (Argosy, May 1948)

Heinlein valued extraordinarily the improvisational mind, and in this example showed how the most dedicated of people could improvise sealers for, say, leaking tunnels on lunar research bases. And they never met Pemberton, the pilot from "Space Jockey", either.

This story is related to "Space Jockey", see above, and so is similarly dated; the closest relationship of any two stories in this series. It is interesting to note that one of the characters is "the best sandhog in four planets" and discusses the problems of working on Venus an indication of how far interplanetary commerce has spread by the time of this story.

"The Black Pits of Luna" (Saturday Evening Post, January 10, 1948)

Beyond the Richardson scientific base, there is a large colony on the Moon with the natural name of Luna City (one of the names given in his letter to his agent) and at least one other colony called Rutherford City. The colony is established enough to have tourism. And tourists, particularly Nasty Young Weasels, will get lost on surface tours. Which resultant search turns out to be a testing ground for prospective colonists . . .

There is a date of sorts here; the tourists see a memorial to an experimental disaster that happened on August 11, 1984. (The inscription is itself an interesting balance between the past and the future; the memorialized are a varied lot, including one woman named of all things "Hazel Hayakawa" and saying that they "DIED FOR THE TRUTH THAT MAKES MEN FREE" in the Memorial Day methodology of Heinlein's youth. Perhaps not all change leaves people better off.) So it has to be somewhat after that, since the site (a nuclear explosion is implied) is not lethal.

"It's Great To Be Back!" (Saturday Evening Post, July 29, 1948)

"Space Jockey" dealt with the stresses of space travel, which were not unlike (and the point was made) those of earlier travelers. This story depicts an unprecedented kind of change and stress therefrom. For the first time in human history it would be easy for colonists to return home. But the ex-colonists find that the discontents of the Moon are nothing to the discontents of home . . .

There are cross-references to "Rutherford City" (cf. "The Black Pits of Luna") and Luna City. A subplot deals with the differing needs of clothing (though not quite as far as Asimov's lunar colony in The Gods Themselves which had near total nudity), which will recur later in the excluded sections of Red Planet. The dating is indefinite but because of the "Rutherford City" reference it is presumably around that of "The Black Pits of Luna".

"The Long Watch" (American Legion Magazine, December 1949)

Alexei Panshin inexplicably sneered at this story of a soldier sacrificing himself to resist illegal actions. Patrol weapons officer John Ezra "Johnny" Dahlquist found himself the only man between a nascent coup and its total domination of Earth. In his efforts to stand in the path of history and cry "halt", he discovered that the radiological effects of plutonium can be even more inimical under some circumstances than its chemical ones. You would think that people would in this post-Nuremburg era appreciate a soldier resisting illegal orders.

This is very definitely dated to 1999. As Panshin in his less-nasty mood points out the story derives from a background element in Space Cadet. Though the date there differs for some reason.

Red Planet (Scribner's, 1949; Del Rey, 1990)

The settling impulse carried on beyond the Moon. However, on Mars the settlers found new and different hazards. The problems of colonialism recurred; domination by the home country and crossing up the natives. And this time the natives had powers and abilities far beyond those of humans and were quite willing to say "Leave our planet, Earth Creatures, or be destroyed."

The development of interplanetary travel, infrequent though it is, implies that this is sometime after the period of the previously-listed stories, which only had Earth-Moon travel. The Martian fauna appearing in the book provide several interesting links. The predators, the "water-seekers", will be mentioned again in The Rolling Stones.

The intelligent Martians also turn up. This book is contemporaneous in composition with the first draft of The Man from Mars, which might have turned out to be a related volume. After many revisions that book became Stranger In a Strange Land, a book retaining many marks of its long and laborious progression towards publication. The Martians in it were to all appearances the same but the history was different. The reference to Martians in "Ordeal in Space", Space Cadet and The Rolling Stones also match.

These Martians also had interplanetary travel and gave it up this might have been pursued more interestingly; it certainly fits in with the Lost Horizon view of Ancient Wisdoms popular in that era. Perhaps even as far as traveling to the moon city found by the bold crew of Rocket Ship Galileo.

At one point Dr. MacRae observes that it has been more then fifty Terran years since humanity landed on Mars. This corresponds with the figure given in the later edition of Space Cadet. Given the circumstances of its publication, this may have been the originally intended date.

Finally, the publication in 1990 of the uncut version of this book allows us to learn that the people of the Martian colony wear as little indoors as the people of Luna City in "It's Great to Be Back!", and as the inhabitants of the terran controlled-climate homes of "Where To?" Galaxy, February 1952) do. This is a consequence of the circumstances, but nevertheless it is a recurring theme.

"The Green Hills of Earth" (Saturday Evening Post, February 8, 1947)

Heinlein is back to parallels drawn from seafaring experience in this story; think of Rhysling as a ship's engineer being cooked alive while shutting down boilers. However, he is an injured spaceman who finds himself able to satisfy a need of others through his singing. In the end, he composes his masterpiece while dying.

In the revised [First] Future History timeline Heinlein put this story in the first quarter of 2000. Mars is developing economically, which would seem to place it after the time of Red Planet. There is interplanetary travel, even out to Jupiter (Rhysling was blinded on a trip there). The era of "commercial (not exploration nor adventure) interplanetary travel," seems to have come to full flower. Many of the names Heinlein listed in his letter to Blassingame appear here. The scheduling for Jovian travel seems to be a little off; perhaps Heinlein had not worked out the figures yet. There is also a reference to a "Three Planets Treaty", which will crop up again in "Ordeal in Space". It is explained that "The Green Hills of Earth" has never been translated into "the lisping Venerian speech" or for the Martians

It is interesting not to mention an indication of the connection that Rhysling's songs recur in Farmer In the Sky. (They were inserted into Methuselah's Children and the later works of the Grand Unified Future History, what we can call Heinlein's works with relation to the works of the seventies and eighties when he began combining all his works and others' into one combined body of work. That this was not the original intent can be surmised from the fact that Mary Sperling in Methuselah's Children (1958) was "Mary Risling" in the original serialization in Astounding (July-September 1941).

"Ordeal In Space" (Town and Country, May, 1948)

This is "Broken Wings", the story rejected by Stewart Rose. "Space Jockey" described a stress of piloting. This describes a different kind of stress. It is proverbial that a fear of falling is instinctive among humans. Space can provide a far farther sort of falling, and if someone were to survive it, the stress of that instinctive reaction would kick in. It would take a greater impetus to overcome such a powerfully-reinforced phobia . . .

This story, too, has been placed in the first quarter of 2000 on the [First] Future History chart. There is regular spaceship service to Mars and some human contact; the pilot was on a trip to Mars when the accident happened. Moreover, he knows a Martian and they have been "growing together", a term that would be reused in Red Planet. Also, the Martians had signed the "Three Planets Treaty" of "The Green Hills of Earth".

The Rolling Stones (Scribner's, 1952)

Captain John Sterling had wild adventures from one end of the solar system to the other. His writers did some field research, too. In the poster case for Heinlein's ill-reconsidered judgment, the story of the Space Family Stone (its alternative title) contains some of the most skilled writing and interesting characters around. This tour of the solar system from the Moon to the Asteroids ends with a moving tribute to the indomitable nature of the human spirit. This is the mature phase of the period of expansion, those "decades of exploring the solar system with everyone falling all over each other to do it first and stake out claims."

The Stone family leaves the burgeoning lunar colony, where vacuum is merely the outside, to see the solar system, running into tariff barriers at Mars and frontier politeness in the asteroids. Along the way they encounter disease and desolation. It's all very much the "ordinary novel of the future" that Campbell wanted, for it is spiced with nonhuman encounters and sparked by the sheer wonder of a frontier that could never be closed.

In a throwaway line describing the asteroid belt the all-seeing Swami Heinlein [see Grumbles from the Grave p. 147] discusses "destroyed Lucifer, long dead brother of Earth" [Rolling Stones, p. 197] which ties in with the description in Space Cadet. One of the considerations the Stones have to consider in their gravity-well maneuver around Earth are the Patrol's orbiting nuclear weapons, as Matt Dodson of Space Cadet had to discuss and maintain. Finally, the fauna of Mars seems to be that found by the young scholars of Red Planet, the three-legged intelligent Martians and the malicious "water-seekers". An interesting glimpse into the early history of this Solar System comes from the off-hand comment that the water-seekers were not native to Mars.

(In later years Heinlein would attempt to develop the story further by creating both prequel and sequel to it. Confusingly, his plots and backgrounds did not correspond with the settings established here. It seems he ended up being better doing things off-handedly than he was at doing them deliberately.)

Farmer In the Sky (Scribner's, 1950)

"Far drives the thundering jet,/Up leaps the race of Earthmen,/ Out, far, and onward yet " Bill Lermer sang to his family and friends on Ganymede, to comfort them as they endured the stresses of pioneering a whole new world, unrestrained by the presence of indigenous intelligent life. But restrained by the need to make soil. The stresses of the settlers of the Great Plains are joined by an entirely new set of problems; homesteaders did not have to worry about Antarctic temperatures, for example. However, a whole new world is necessary, for some saving remnant of humanity. And this whole new world has even more exotic mysteries of its own, ones with a certain saving grace at least the characters think so.

This story dates to about 2050. The principal connection is Rhysling's songs, but there are other tie-ins. Bill Lermer sees TV relayed from Supra-New York (cf. "Space Jockey" and "Green Hills of Earth") and notes that the colonization of Ganymede had heretofore been carried out by atomic-powered rocket ships (from the description not all that advanced above that of Rocket Ship Galileo) while he and his family are going there in a fusion-powered ship.

Space Cadet (Scribner's, 1948)

Far from being the schizoid, fantasizing type implied in the subsequent evolution of the term, Space Patrol cadet Matt Dodson is very much down to Earth, even in space. In going through the first few years of his training he finds that he has a lot to live up to and a lot of growing to do. Sheer fortune, learned devotion, and hard work lay the foundations for serious discoveries in the solar system and in Matt's self-image as well.

One of those discoveries was the shocking one that the asteroid belt had once been an inhabited planet, and that the inhabitants had blown it up themselves. This discovery is cross-referenced, if somewhat vaguely, in The Rolling Stones. Here the Patrol officers refer to the Lunarian diggings, which we may assume are the sub-surface city found on the Moon in Rocket Ship Galileo.

In a variation of the unsatisfactory solution presented in "Solution Unsatisfactory" the Patrol maintains orbiting nuclear weapons around Earth, and presumably the other inhabited planets. Matt Dodson does some maintenance work on one of these. In The Rolling Stones the Stone family very nearly wound the book up in Chapter Seven; the captain knows that it can't be a Patrol orbiting bomb that threatened John Sterling with a change in writers, because they orbit lower.

One wonders what it is that keeps the people content with this ever-potential reign of terror. Invoking the spirit of Patrol Martyr Dahlquist, who while on "The Long Watch" gave his life for the honor of the Patrol, is a placation. (Annoyingly, Heinlein changes his name to "Ezra Dahlquist" and his death date to 1996. Copyrights?)

Along with the memorials to Dahlquist and the other Patrol Martyrs, the Patrol academy contains a self-memorial, a wrecked spaceship with the affectionate name Kilroy Was Here. (This is more in the spirit of gruff Gus Grissom facetiously memorializing his Mercury misfortunes by naming his Gemini capsule The Unsinkable Molly Brown than the leaden multicultural non-offending official blandness that named a Mars probe after someone who had nothing whatsoever to do with Mars, space, or science.) In the original hardback edition, the Kilroy Was Here went to the Moon in 1955; in the paperback it went to Mars presumably about 1970, since it is described as the first interplanetary ship and the failed Venerian expedition found by the cadets lifted off in 1971. Given Heinlein's relations with his hardback editor it can be assumed that the latter is his intent.

As a amusing side note Matt at one point remembers his juvenile reading. One of the books he mentions is titled The Young Rocketeers. Atomic Engineers couldn't make the grade?


"Harriman": In the various short stories "Space Jockey", "The Black Pits of Luna", "Ordeal In Space", "The Green Hills of Earth" there are references to a "Harriman". In retrospect they are seen to apply to D. D. Harriman, the spatial entrepreneur whose epiphany is the climax of "Requiem", Heinlein's third published story (Astounding, January 1940), and one reading "The Man Who Sold the Moon" (1950) would see this.

Now this would seem to indicate that the decision to incorporate the stories at the expense of the novels predated the last two novels indicated as part of the series (i.e. The Rolling Stones and Farmer In the Sky). It certainly indicates a change of heart and intention. Sticking to the cross-references between the juvenile novels would, however, seem to show a certain ambiguity of intent.

Moreover, there are other Harrimans in the world. One of them had, just before the stories were written, succeeded in seducing the British Prime Minister's daughter-in-law.

"Logic of Empire": In this First Future History story it is on the initial chart, and contains references to Nehemiah Scudder, the never-seen messiah who leaves a black mark across the worlds the peons of Venus sing a string of melancholy songs, including two titled Since the Pusher Met My Cousin and That Redheaded Venusburg Gal. "The Green Hills of Earth" contains a listing of some uncollected Rhysling songs, including Since the Pusher Met My Cousin and That Redheaded Venusburg Gal.

This would seem to be a far more substantial connection, yet the general theses do not match. There are also small but significant differences in the portrayal of the Venusians here and the ones in Space Cadet. This may well be if nothing else an example of the Shackley Theory of the Branching Tree, the presence of common factors in different time lines (cf. Imprisoned in a Tesseract: The Life and Work of James Blish by David Ketterer, pages 254-263).


Two of the earlier juveniles are not connected to this, but they are connected to each other. In Between Planets (1951), a band of desperate, daring revolutionaries set out to unlock ancient scientific secrets, to overthrow an oppressive oligarchy that is spreading its rule over three planets and three intelligent races. The Martians and Venusians of this work are not the Martians and Venusians of any previous book, but the theme of the withdrawal by the elder races from a more extroverted state of civilization, capped by aggressive young Terrans sparking off a renewal, returns.

Then in Starman Jones (1953), that vigorous race had expanded beyond the bounds of the solar system. This particular tale was an incident of that expansion, an encounter with an alien race so different that communication was nearly impossible.

The common ground; that rediscovered science, begins in Between Planets with the Underground's study of the "Horst-Milne" equations, and their implementation by physicist Roger Conrad. Evidently he kept up the work, as Starman Jones flies to the stars in a ship powered by "Horst-Conrad" drive, along with a dazzlingly intuitive prediction of the later-postulated "wormhole" theory. But while science has gone upward and outward, other fields of human action have not fared so well.

Heinlein had a general thesis about the spread of legalism in the wake of settlement. Thus, for example, several incidents in Time Enough for Love deal with the problem of civilization advancing, bringing in its wake a stultification of society, a regimentation of the individual. Twice, Lazarus Long is caught in such a trap; twice he escapes metaphysically by escaping physically, going to the frontier. Again, in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, we are forewarned that the success of the revolution recounted in the book will be abated; the opening chapter begins with the protagonist complaining about a new tax and new regulations, which makes the anarchistic promise of the later story all seem in vain.

And so, much the same may be said of the struggle of the heroes of Beyond Planets, as their liberation struggle against the old oligarchy paved the way for the guild-ridden new oligarchy of Starman Jones, where the frontier this time was not the raw streets of Venus, but the wide open spaces of the new colony planets. These were places where a man like Sam Anderson, who knew of a Marine named Richards, or Roberts (and how well he knew of the man), could follow through on his starting again in life.


So there we have it; about a hundred and twenty years of history, in which humanity burst the surly bonds of Earth and spread itself among the planets, repeating (some of the lesser) the crimes and errors of the previous century on a greater and broader scale, but having learned from those mistakes, and so repeating on a greater and broader scale the greatnesses of the human spirit. In the pessimism of Farmer In the Sky, with its fears of a final destructive war, and the guarded concerns of Space Cadet, where the Patrol puts itself on the edge between humanity's brighter and darker sides, we see reflected the positive and negative aspects of Heinlein's view of the damned human race.

There exist hints of a greater history, one outreaching and even ignoring the rude uncivilized Terrans until they burst their way out of their gravity well. The shadowy Selenites of Rocket Ship Galileo and Space Cadet; the mysterious Martians of "Ordeal In Space", Red Planet, and The Rolling Stones, who once had had spaceflight but renounced it; the lost folk of dead Lucifer, who somehow destroyed their planetary home (this was not an uncommon theme in fiction of the time; fears of final, obliterating wars were common then, and asteroidal speculations were convenient as fictionalized treatments of this); and the cryptic and incomprehensible beings who left a cavern-full of gear on Ganymede so as to provide a happy ending for Farmer In the Sky; there are multitudinous hints at a broader interplanetary design, a schema of older and occasionally wiser races out there. Humanity, in this scheme, was only the latest and not always the brightest (consider, for example and completeness, the Venerians of Space Cadet, with their immensely advanced chemical skills) of the races of this system. It makes our situation seem boring. Sometimes one wonders how it was that humanity got left out.

These shadows of a vast sweep of history lead the reader's thoughts out beyond even the wonders of the reality of the stories. The emergence of humanity becomes another phase in a greater story. This raises the story above the level of its kind, ordinary action-adventure stories, whether "Captain Future", John Sterling's counterpart, or the mass-produced works of the Stratemyer Syndicate and its imitators, the "Tom Corbett" types. In these stories and novels, and in the other novels of the fifties, juvenile and otherwise, Heinlein's potential was more fully expressed, his initial promise having gained experience and richness, but still restrained from the extravagances of the much later works.

In one sense, Heinlein's original intention was not fulfilled; he only wrote the one book of stories and most of them were published in smaller markets. The wider audience did not get its exposure. But consider that "Earthworm Tractor, Tugboat Annie, Gunsmith Pyne, Blue Chip Haggerty," and so on are out of print, their authors forgotten except among a small band of nostalgia-lovers. The Green Hills of Earth is still in print, fifty years later. And likewise with the children's novels; he argued with the editor there too, but his works are still going.

This mixing was an omen for the future; the germ of the extravaganza that was The Number of the Beast was planted in this combination of works. This may give an interesting alternative perspective.



First flight to the Moon (Rocket Ship Galileo)

"Space Jockey"

"Gentlemen, Be Seated!"

"It's Great To Be Back!"

"The Black Pits of Luna"

First Mars Expedition (Space Cadet)

1971 First Venus Expedition (Space Cadet)

Aug. 11, 1984 Rutherford Disaster ("The Black Pits of Luna")

1985 First expedition to Ganymede (Farmer In the Sky)

1993 (Lunar) Epidemic of '93 (The Rolling Stones)

1998 Ganymede atmosphere project begins (Farmer In the Sky)

1999 "The Long Watch"


"The Green Hills of Earth"

"Ordeal In Space"

Red Planet

2031 Big [Lunarian] Quake of '31 (The Rolling Stones)

The Rolling Stones


Farmer In the Sky

2075 Space Cadet