IF I COULD SAVE TIME IN A BOTTLE

Commentary by Joseph T Major on Robert A. Heinlein's THE DOOR INTO SUMMER



I. THE FUTURE IS NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE

The science fiction that early Fans knew and loved as scientifiction was highlighted by a parade of Technological Wonders; the paper-thin Man of the Future Sam IM4SF+ stood in awe and stared at the marvels of the Omnibus, the Sky-Scraper, the Subway, and all the other amazing, thrilling wonders of the masters of the metropolis. This came to, if not an absolute end, at least a turning point when John W. Campbell started requiring something approching a real story.

But then, in 1956, as if to confound his thesis, the writer who had been the lead actor in turning away from gadget stories wrote a gadget story! Nevertheless, the conception of this work began in a more pacific mode, as Heinlein described it:


Note: I wrote this in the shortest time, 13 days, that I have ever done a book-length job. One snowy day in Colorado our tomcat refused to go out his cat door and led my wife from "people door" to "people door" (ca. 7), refusing each in turn. Mrs. Heinlein said, "He's looking for a door into summer!" and I ducked into my study at once and came out 13 days later with a finished novel.


It received a curious reception, a blending of dislike and admiration. For example, after disassembling the plot, Damon Knight said:


. . . [When] the story opens, the hero is a morally defeated man with a galloping case of self-pity and a cumulative hangover, looking in the bottoms of shot glasses for the Door Into Summer. If anybody else had written it, this guy's oozing sorrow for himself would have dripped until it made you sick. (Turn the average writer onto the subject of self-pity and you have an immediate autobiography.) But Heinlein's hero, even in this sad state, has so much sheer gusto left over, it's a pleasure to identify yourself with him.

Damon Knight, In Search of Wonder, p. 80


As Knight points out, our hero is "staring into the bottoms of shot glasses" because he has been rendered irrelevant, robbed of the products of his mind. Alexei Panshin discusses this other feature of the book, the novel of gadgetry as opposed to the novel of character that it also contains:


. . I imagine that it was a very enjoyable story for Heinlein to write, particularly the nicely-developed engineering ideas. It was as though Heinlein the engineer said, "If I had the parts available, what little gadgets would I most enjoy building?" and then went ahead and built them fictionally. A good story.

Alexei Panshin, Heinlein In Dimension, p. 78


And now, of course, an additional factor in the reading of the book can be taken from the re-titling of another work of Heinlein's from this period: "Where To? (And Why We Didn't Get There)". Not all the gadgets described exist today; it can be said pretty confidently that the May 2, 2001 newspapers will not have announcements of withdrawals from hypothermic suspension any more than they will have news of the discovery of a great black monolith on the Moon.

Yet what is interesting is to note where Heinlein was right, where something of the sort that he described actually exists now. Not just things like the water bed (actually described here for the first time in his works (not the first time ever, either; Graham in When the Sleeper Wakes (1899) undergoes his long nap on one, for example); he may have lifted this idea from The Man from Mars during one of the long suspensions that this work had during its journey towards becoming Stranger In a Strange Land) but more complex technical matters.

II. THE FIRST THING THAT I'D LIKE TO DO

But what is the backstory to this "morally defeated man with a galloping case of self-pity and a cumulative hangover", sopping up whiskey in bars? Coming somewhere between Andrew Jackson Libby and Johann Sebastian Bach Smith, not to mention Woodrow Wilson Smith, Daniel Boone Davis emulates his namesake in intent if not in field of endeavor; the new frontiers that this D. Boon strikes off for are the frontiers of technology.

Not that everything about D. B. Davis's world in 1970 is as advantageous as the 1970 to come in which he was merely a character in a book was. For example, there had been a nuclear war in 1965; Washington had been destroyed, and New York nearly so. As a result, the U.S. has shifted towards being a "Pacific Rim" nation; Dan's company is based in Los Angeles, for example, while the new national capital is Denver.

Company? Well, perhaps in that context the present tense is improper, as we shall see. One of the technologies employed during that conflict was automation. Davis decided to fill a niche market, namely the automation of household chores.

Another technology that was in reserve was that of induced hypothermic hybernation also called "the Long Sleep", "cold sleep", and whatever else the public relations staff can dream up. Which is what Dan Davis is considering, as a solution to his problem. Him and his cat Petronius the Arbiter ("Pete" for short), though the cat's consent is more implied than explicit.

Cat protocol has been a recurring theme throughout Heinlein's books, from the honored members of the Asgard's crew in Starman Jones (1953) to Pixel, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in that book (1985) and To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987). Pete, the irascable tomcat in this story, is a touchstone for the characters in the book.

"William Atheling, Jr." (i.e., James Blish) complained in More Issues At Hand that the characterization of Dan Davis is just too slender, and that the cat protocol is not that meaningful [pp. 52-6]. For Davis per se that criticism is not without some merit; his characterization could be worked out in more detail, but this is as much a problem of first-person exposition as anything else. As a more general view it has less utility, and indeed the reactions of other characters to the cat are illustrative of their natures. And indeed, as you will recall, Heinlein's methodology of characterization has always been to stress function over appearance; what the people and things do is more important than what they look like. Arguably, this involves the reader in the book, in the sense that readers can form their own ideas of what the people look like without having to struggle through explicit physical descriptions.

So, cat carrier under arm, Dan Davis sets out to jump into the future. The commercialization of cryogenics has made it, well, commercial. Davis mulls over several publicity stunts for the promotion of cold sleep; to the reader, these will be reminiscent of the sidebars in Stranger In a Strange Land (1961, 1991) if not the eccentricities of "The Year of the Jackpot" (Galaxy, March 1952) or the wild extremes of "the Crazy Years" cited in Methuselah's Children (1941, 1958). One is amusing:


. . . There had been a news story about a café-society couple who got married and went straight from city hall to the sleep sanctuary of Western World Insurance Company with an announcement that they had left instructions not to be called until they could spend their honeymoon on an interplanetary liner . . . although I had suspected that it was a publicity gag rigged by the insurance company and that they had ducked out the back door under assumed names. Spending your wedding night cold as a frozen mackerel does not have the ring of truth about it.

The Door Into Summer, p. 8


Nevertheless, there are some more serious uses. Don Harvey's father (Tunnel In the Sky (1955)) might have used this means to live until his illness became curable, had it been available in his universe, instead of the Ramsbotham time-suspension he did use, for example. The insurance companies are pushing Graham's case, getting rich while one sleeps. (It is to be hoped that such aspiring Masters of the World don't end up getting into fatal arguments with their trustees.) And then there is Dan Davis's reason.

Some other things seem never to change, such as how insurance agents get on customers' nerves. It is interesting here to observe the degree to which Heinlein works out the system of committal. The reader hardly sees the technology at all; but there is a convincing description of the legal and financial matters involved. Heinlein had done this sort of thing before: discussing the complex ramifications of the Stone twins' attempt to sell bicycles on Mars in The Rolling Stones (1952), Knight characterizes this as "Heinlein's usual detailed, plausible picture of the future" [In Search of Wonder, pp. 81-2], because of the details. This plot thread included not only the engineering details of the Lunar bikes, but the problems of transporting them, the legal requirements of importing them, and the costs of using them. It even ended with a laugh.

Dan Davis could probably use a laugh now, as he goes through an inquisition of choices. Lacking voice mail, the insurance agent here has to present a twisty little maze of services, all of them alike, in person. About the only complexity involved has to do with the committal of Pete the cat, and even then it turns out that the government callously ignored the wishes of PETA and experimented on cats before determining how to put humans on ice.

(It does seem odd that the U.S. could have "divisions stashed away at Thule and other places that no one suspected" [p. 19]. This arrangement seems straight out of Hin Abtol of Panar's army on ice in Edgar Rice Burroughs's Llana of Gathol (1941, 1948). Didn't these people have connections families, friends, and such?)

Cocking a snook at the spirits of Miss Dalgleish and Miss Tarrant, Heinlein proceeds to pass off one actual description of appearance:


The receptionist at the Mutual Assurance Company was a fine example of the beauty of functional design. In spite of being streamlined for about Mach Four, she displayed frontal-mounted radar housings and everything else needed for her basic mission. I reminded myself that she would be Whistler's Mother by the time I was out and told her that I wanted to see a salesman.

The Door Into Summer, p. 12



(Sounds like he forgot he was Dan Davis for a moment and thought he was Sam Nivens.)

A last obstacle to Dan's wish to crawl into a different sort of bottle: his pre-freeze checkup. Having seen it all before, the doctor is appropriately cynical and wise; a familiar pattern. The doctor's plot role here is to urge Dan to reconsider, and he does, or at least decides to meet his foes for one last confrontation, to resolve things one way or another. Surprisingly for him, it turns out to be a third way. To take a subsequent example, think of Jobs and Sculley at Apple. Dan's army service was extremely fortunate for his plans, in that he acquired a buddy who possessed certain skills he lacked. Dan was an electronics tech and while he absorbed the basic ideas that would make his fortune, he also encountered the complement to his worker. Army buddy Miles Gentry had had the organizational skills needed to make entrepreneurship more than just a dream. After the war, and their discharges, Miles and Dan got together and realized some of those dreams (including, as we shall see, some of the dreams that perhaps shouldn't be realized), creating a startup company (yes, Virginia.com, there were startup companies that didn't have those four magic characters in them) to work on household automation.

You could well say that Dan Davis also asked, "If I had the parts available, what little gadgets would I most enjoy building?" Among the parts available to him are some very fancy electronics. And among the gadgets he enjoyed building were housekeeping tools.

Product development involves sometimes anticipating the market. In this case, it happened to be automated vacuuming. This automated vacuum cleaner, styled Hired Girl, will clean floors without supervision. (Resisting the temptation to cite the meta-author, Davis refers to "those 'hands' they use in atomics plants to handle anything 'hot,'" [p. 21] instead of saying "Waldos".)

Startups sometimes boom without running losses. Hired Girl, for example, sold well enough to be a cash cow for Dan's next project, an automatic window cleaner. This is not something that has been developed but his methodology for maintaining it has:


It is a moronically simple idea: don't repair, replace. I wanted to make every part of Window Willie which could go wrong a plug-in unit, then include a set of replacements with each Willie. Some components could be thrown away, some sent out for repair, but Willie himself would never break down longer than necessary to plug in the replacement part.

The Door Into Summer, p. 23


Admittedly, this black box technology, as it is now called, is more common in aircraft.

We see here the first clash between R&D and marketing: "I held Willie out of production much longer than suited Miles. He wanted to sell it as soon as it was cheap enough, but I insisted on one more thing: Willie had to be easy to repair." [p. 22] And this stress continued over the next product.

Hired Girl, Inc., now has a market base. Realizing that you can't stand still, Dan then turned to developing a more advanced household automaton. U.S. Robots & Mechanical Men, Inc., would probably sneer at his efforts, but he has a more achievable goal in mind. "Just what did I want Flexible Frank to do? Answer: any work a human being does around a house." [p. 27] And the state of the art is such that Dan has available the tools with which to do this.

One of them even exists today, after a fashion: ". . . the point is that you can hook a Thorsen tube into a control circuit, direct the machine through an operation by manual control, and the tube will 'remember" what was done and can direct the operation without a human supervisor a second time, or any number of times" [pp. 28-9] using its progammable read-only memory. (But does Heinlein get credit for predicting PROM chips?)

Which in turn leads to another crisis on the expansion front. But explaining this requires going back some.

III. JUST TO SPEND THEM WITH YOU

In the era of millionaire secretaries, vested with options from their startup workplaces (this is not just a Silicon Valley or Internet phenomenon; to take a local example, Kentucky Fried Chicken had that, too), the example of Belle Darkin does not seem all that odd. So it seems unusual to the contemporary reader that Dan Davis should be puzzled that "With top-notch office girls as scarce as they were, when one of the best turns out to be willing to work at a shoestring company at a below-standard salary, one really ought to ask 'Why?' but we didn't even ask where she had worked last, so happy were we have her dig us out of the flood of paper work that marketing Hired Girl had caused." [p. 23] Nowadays it would be assumed that Belle wanted to get in on the ground floor of this hot startup.

And, except for a couple of little problems, she is more than just a super-efficient office manager. So efficient, then, that Dan soon thinks he has a perfect way to keep her around: he proposes to her. Rather than tie up capital in an engagement ring, he even gives her stock in the company as a betrothal gift.

But there are those little problems . . . for one, Pete the cat doesn't take to Belle. This can be changed, but Dan begins to wonder about his beloved when she suggests that the cat change. Or be changed. One has to wonder about Heinlein's romantic attitude towards romantic cats when he has Dan Davis object so vehemently to Belle's suggestion that Pete be neutered. Presumably Dan Davis has certain constraints on his sense of smell, but you would think that having circuitry being shorted out by feline scent-marking would not only hamper development, but use up Pete's nine lives at a prodigious rate.

And for another, Dan's other girl doesn't take to her. Anticipating the convoluted family structures of eras to come, Miles Gentry has set one up. He married a widow with a daughter. Then he himself was widowered, leaving him as a single parent raising his wife's daughter by her first husband.

So Frederica Virginia (and don't you bet Mrs. Heinlein appreciated the reference) "Ricky" Gentry has become fixated on the nearest available male. Not her stepfather (for all of Heinlein's opinionating on non-traditional families, the example of Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, and Soon-Yi Previn Allen is not particularly stable or admirable) but his friend. Ricky's being attached to Dan can be written off as a juvenile crush, which makes her dislike of Belle only a case of romantic rivalry. Damon Knight refers to "the curious paedophile plot Heinlein used in The Door Into Summer" [In Search of Wonder, p. 85] and there is something perhaps a trifle unwholesome about Dan's feelings towards Ricky. Or is it that our society is so sexualized?

So Dan Davis is on top of the world; he has an affianced who is not only useful but also beautiful, he is a majority stockholder in a hot new company, and he is developing his dreams. If it were only so simple as an iceberg ahead . . .

Hired Girl, Inc. is at a crunch; the company is too large to be directed "hands-on", yet it is too small to really handle its market. Dan has been working nights in order to evade the interruption of production questions, and been signing documents in bunches. This is not his idea of an inventor's way of life.

So one evening Belle comes over and takes Dan to an impromptu stockholders' meeting. As he comments, he began to suspect things when she produces a printed agenda.

What we have here is a clash of visions. Dan wants to move forward into the era of the virtual corporation, contracting out all that bothersome manufacturing while focusing on what he considers their core competency, research and development. Miles has a different vision, namely to get bought out by a conglomerate and expand.

The subsequent vote is not as complex as the huge stockholders' meeting of Rudbek & Assoc. in Citizen of the Galaxy, but it is as decisive. Mostly because Belle votes with Miles on the proposals, giving Miles's plan a majority. Worse yet (from Dan's point of view), she informs him, "Dan Davis, if you think we are still engaged after the way you talked to me, you are even stupider than I have always known you were." [p. 34] Given that Dan had expected to control and vote Belle's stock, perhaps he is, not stupid, but unobservant.

And his naïveté continues; the next evening, he goes out to the plant, only to learn that he has been fired. (I suppose I should count it another prediction of Heinlein's that he wrote in a hommage to me, even though I was just over a year old when he wrote it in January 1956: the security guard who keeps Dan out is, "Nobody you'd know. Name of Joe Todd, with the Desert Protective & Patrol Company." [p. 35]) Not only that, he seems to have done a lot of signing away of his rights, including his patents and right to compete. That's what he gets for signing things without reading them.

Dan was without recourse, morally defeated and without an immediate future. It is understandable that the prospect of getting out of the way looks good. So does a confrontation with the perpetrators. Perhaps he should have reconsidered that idea, too. But that would require a perspective not ordinarily obtainable. On the way to face down Belle and Miles, Dan has two ideas in the field of revenge.

One is technological: actually, it's two different gadgets. "One was a drafting machine, to be operated like an electric typewriter." [p. 41] One wonders why he didn't go a step further and have it direct manufacturing machines, either. CAD/CAM (Computer Assisted Design/Computer Assisted Manufacture) software is available at your local computer store, or a click away over the Net. And described here, too, at a time when a computer was a device the size of a small truck and about as powerful as today's digital watch.

The other gadget is the-road-not-taken on Flexible Frank. Dan had designed in certain limits while working on it; but these were neither necessary nor ultimate. Living well is the best revenge but outdesigning the thieves, he figures, is next-best and he hopes to reverse the new relationship between them with his new design.

But it won't do any good if they get hold of his stock, he figures. He has no safe place to keep it . . . well, maybe one. Perhaps he can win back Ricky's affections with a somewhat more generous gift, or at any case keep his stock safe in her hands. So he sends her a letter, with a sealed envelope inside. This contains the stock certificate and a letter assigning it to Ricky.

This seems questionable on several levels. The assumption Dan is making is that Ricky is personally honest. Which, as far as we are shown, is the case. But, she is a minor. Miles is her stepfather; he could file for guardianship (as we learn, for some reason he is not her legal guardian perhaps his wife saw something in him that Dan didn't) and get control of the stock that way. Or, as management making a deal, they could transfer the assets of Hired Girl to another company and leave Ricky with 40+% of nothing. Dan needs someone to handle legal matters; unfortunately for him, his first choice was not quite up to par.

Indeed, he soon finds that out . . . along with some really unwholesome discoveries. By good or bad luck, Belle is at Miles's house. Just as well, since Dan has decided that they had had to have been in on it together. As fast as Dan makes assertions about suspicious actions, though, Miles creates plausible interpretations of said actions. The stock transfer, for example, was no betrothal gift, but a bonus for a loyal and valuable employee. (Again, nowadays this is not only common, but for a hot startup, nigh mandatory for employees even at Belle's level.)

Except that Miles had done so, too. And, making a wild guess, Dan figures out that it was for the same real reason. Indeed: "Meet Mrs. Gentry," [p. 47] Miles says of Belle.

Which bit of girl-snatching provokes Dan just a little too much. He points out, quite reasonably, that Belle could cheat Miles tomorrow just as she has cheated Dan today, and then asks her a dangerous and portentous question:


. . "Well, Belle? If I took the highball glass sitting beside you and had the fingerprints checked, what would I find? Pictures in post offices? Or bigamy? Marrying suckers for their money, maybe? Is Miles legally your husband?"

The Door Into Summer, p. 48


Never get newlyweds mad at you. They start shouting back and more than just shouting: "Then I felt the stab of the needle," [p. 49] Dan observes as he falls to the carpet.

Not out cold; one of the little discoveries of that late war was a one-shot brainwashing chemical, what they call the "zombie" drug. In fact, it is referred to as "Uncle Sam's answer to brainwashing" [p. 49], which does not sound particularly good; it was developed by American researchers. The comment that "we never used it on a prisoner" [p. 49] seems like a naïve residue of the fifties nowadays.

(How convenient it was that Belle happened to have some of it on hand. A well-prepared woman, that. What else might she carrying?)

The drug has paralyzed all of Dan's voluntary functions, but left him amenable to orders. "He'll do what I tell him to do . . . When he comes out of it he'll do what I told him to do," Belle says [p. 50], the ultimate in posthypnotic commands. However, under the influence of this drug Dan is ironically even more like a computer; he only answers what he's asked, and in the interrogation there are a couple of times when Belle doesn't ask quite the question she needs to ask.

However, there is a small interruption before the questioning. Pete the cat had jumped into the bag when Dan had parked and was brought in; now Belle is showing how much she would do to get a position in the firm. Or maybe she just got off on the wrong paw.

Anyway, Pete is upset by this strange new demeanor in his slave, and begins complaining. To which Belle, contrary to Miles's advice, screams, "I've wanted to kill that damned cat for months," [p. 51] and provokes a cat fight. Evidently Pete is both belligerent and lucky; it is easy enough for a cat to outrun two people (this is something that I have observed personally), but he also manages to wound them both seriously in the process before escaping outside. (It can be noted that cruelty to animals is a early warning sign of serial killers; with the right circumstances, Belle's savage wish that "I wish I had killed your cat" [p. 58] might only be the beginning.)

Sensibly, Miles proposes leaving well enough alone at that point; forget the cat, deal with Dan. And after patching up their numerous wounds (small wonder that Dan kept on moving from rented room to rented room [p. 38] with him keeping an un-neutered (smell) un-declawed (material damage) tomcat) they set out to do so.

Against the background music of an enraged feline, Belle begins questioning Dan about recent events. His now-abandoned decision to enter cold sleep becomes a fortutious bonus for them; they can park him away, safe and secure, unable to answer inconvenient questions. In a hasty interrogation, interrupted by Belle's jumping from question to question, Dan reveals most of his motivations.

Altering the contract, however, is a necessity. That doctor back at the original company would notice that Dan was not quite all right, so a new selection was in order. And fortunately, Belle happens to have connections with a cold-sleep insurance company that would ask no questions. Indeed, it was her connections that made their entire deal possible. Perhaps relying too consistently on the effectiveness of the sedation, Belle spills a lot about her personality in the course of this planning. She seems to have all sorts of shady, backroom connections. One of which will get Dan committed to a freezer under the auspices of a subsidiary of the conglomerate that they are working at selling Hired Girl, Inc. to. (This hints at an easier way to get Dan out of the way sell off the manufacturing and tie him up with contracts in a remnant R&D subcontractor that would be nominally separate.) Not only that, it seems she can alter secure documents. This makes her an example of the highly and broadly competent Heinlein character, though not otherwise a role-model.

In fact, she comes across as very much the dominant player in this relationship, ordering around Miles as she prepares to put Dan on ice. Think of Mrs. Keithley in "Gulf" (1948) this may be a sinister comment on Heinlein's view of assertive women.

Moreover, in this scene Heinlein actually provides more physical descriptions. Dan notices that Miles is "wearing one bandage like a scalp lock, fore and aft on his bald head" [p. 53] and Belle constantly calls him "Chubby" [pp. 50-56 passim].

So, like a good little boy, the fat and balding Mr. Chubby Darkin runs out to the plant and gets a typewriter, lets his superior do some top-level forgery, and then, later that day, as per order, Dan Davis is committed to cold sleep if not quite in the way he planned it. However, he isn't the only one whose plans will be going awry . . .

IV. TO SPEND EVERY DAY THAT ETERNITY PASSES

Perhaps because of the involuntary nature of Dan's being put away, he has a rather unpleasant time in cold sleep, with dreams full of loaded symbolic material. As in the one where he "went back to climbing that icy mountain. It was all white and beautifully rounded and if I could just climb to the rosy tip they would let me sleep." [p. 61] Or did Heinlein put in a breast symbol just to show what he could get away with?

The less overtly sexual images cluster around Belle abusing him and Ricky helping him, which seems to accord with his waking emotional state. This passage about a page is an example of dream-logic, with shifts in logic and setting. Not a very pleasant dream, either; perhaps the reference to the "icy mountain" symbolizes also the rejection Dan has suffered. The dreams moreover have a substantial theme of helplessness, again taking off from the initial state.

Fortunately or not, all dreams must end. The sleeper awakes into a hospital room and begins investigating. Here is where the real fantasy begins; trying to summon a nurse, Dan accidentally hits the call button (he was looking for it, but it wasn't what he was expecting, and he pressed it by accident) and a nurse comes almost right away. All she can really say is to order Dan to go back to bed, and then leave to summon a doctor and he is a doctor, not a "transition specialist", so we are not yet in the era of jargon and title inflation.

The door opens and closes automatically and not for him at that, which spurs his engineering curiosity. Some of the ensuing comments are dated and were dated even by the seventies; presumably the nurse's "orchid-colored hair" [p. 63] is merely a shade of red, and the doctor's outfit that is "a cross between a Harlem Sunday and a picnic" [p. 63] is only multi-colored and informal.

Dr. Albrecht seems to have a lot of patience with lost people from the past, not to mention some special training. However, you would think that his course on "Linguistics of the 1970's" could have been a little more careful. As when he says "malorientation can be extreme no matter how much we lackweight the shock" [p. 65], that is "disorientation can be extreme no matter how much we mitigate the shock". This seems to be an unusual word-shift; new words generally appear to describe new circumstances, relationships, or items. Or new qualifications: "personal computer"; "snailmail"; "video game". And in fact Heinlein abandons references to new vocabulary after this chapter, with one exception.

A more interesting concept is Dr. Albrecht's reference to the change in cinema: "The word is 'grabbie' now, not 'movie'." [p. 65] Unfortunately, Dan never seems to have time or motivation to take in a "grabbie", but from the description it seems to out-cinemascope CinemascopeTM; "They null the theater on some shots." [loc. cit.] Cinema in the round? All we have is IMAX.

But what's more interesting is the doctor's assistant. Not the red-haired nurse, either: "I stopped thinking about it when I saw the orderly. . . it was Flexible Frank!" [p. 66] Or maybe it wasn't his all-purpose household robot, since it turns out to be Eager Beaver, a product of Aladdin Autoengineering Corporation, as Dan learns when he unintentionally investigates its range of responses to oral commands. Being interested in the state of the art, Dan records the patent numbers conveniently available on the robot's nameplate before it departs for its next patient. The first one was granted in 1970, an interesting coincidence, and he begins wondering if this isn't another version of Flexible Frank.

Eager Beaver brought breakfast and the newspaper. Breakfast includes what looks like bacon, but Dan Davis is even worse off than Bill Lermer of Farmer In the Sky (1950), who at least had real bacon to garnish his synthetic chops. (Heinlein had a combination of optimistic notions about synthetic foods and pessimistic ones about population; see "Where To?" in Expanded Universe, particularly pp. 319-320 and 331.) While eating the "grilled yeast strips, country style" he reads the Great Los Angeles Times for Wednesday, 13 December 2000, noting first its appearance, then its news.

While color pictures are now commonplace, the stereo ones are not quite here even yet. That trick of holding the pages together and having them curl up one at a time is also not quite out of the shop.

As Dan notes, some things never change: "Your Horoscope Today, Mayor Dedicates New Reservoir, Security Restrictions Undermining Freedom of Press Says N. Y. Solon, Giants Take Double-Header, Unseasonable Warmth Perils Winter Sports, Pakistan Warns India" [p. 69]. The last two are particularly close to the mark. As for "Your Horoscope Today", the man who denounced increasing belief in astrology [Expanded Universe, pp. 547-9] must have thought that some things never would change.

"Some of the other items were new but explained themselves," he says [p. 69] and some of them are all too close. Breaking the items up, headline-style, for convenience of presentation, we see:



LUNA SHUTTLE STILL SUSPENDED FOR GEMINIDS

Twenty-Four-Hour Station Suffers Two Punctures, No Casualties



References to advanced space travel impinge on the fringes of Dan Davis's attention several places in the 2001 section of the book. This is not quite the booming interplanetary civilization of the Second "Green Hills of Earth" Future History, but it is an advanced one in the field of spaceflight. And true to his realization that SF will likely not be as impressive as we think it is, as he elided the reference to "those 'hands' they use in atomics plants to handle anything 'hot'," [p. 21] so did he pass over the original description of the uses of a "Twenty-Four-Hour Station" by none other than (certainly by the 2001 of that universe) Sir Arthur C. Clarke.

And the Geminid meteor showers peak around December 13, so it looks as if the Luna Shuttle may be suspended for quite a while. (Dr. Floyd may have to wait a bit longer to go investigate TMA-1.)



FOUR WHITES LYNCHED IN CAPETOWN

UN Action Demanded



Through what must be a slipshod reading of the South Africa-set section of Tramp Royale (1992), some critics have accused Heinlein of insensitivity towards the plight of the Native population of that unhappy land. And similarly, the ethnocentric believers have stigmatized the portrayal of the black people in Farnham's Freehold (1964), where they turn out to be as oppressive towards their slaves as white people were towards theirs, if not more so. (It should be noted that the livestock issue is a bit over the top there.)

That in Tramp Royale Heinlein discusses in some depth the very real problems of a system that utterly destroys any hope of advancement for the racial underclass and in Farnham's Freehold makes the point that power corrupts without regard for race seems to have slipped some people's attention. At that he is being optimistic; most writers never imagined that the apartheid regime would have ended so soon, or that if it had, that there would be any blankies left to lynch. We can only hope that the post-apartheid government in South Africa remains stable.



HOST-MOTHERS ORGANIZE FOR HIGHER FEES

Demand "Amateurs" Be Outlawed



So far there has not been any unionizing or even professionalizing of surrogate mothers (though there have been lawsuits, particularly when the mother bonds to the child she has carried). On the whole this can be counted as a good prediction.



MISSISSIPPI PLANTER INDICTED UNDER ANTI-ZOMBIE LAW

His Defense: "Them Boys Hain't Drugged, They're Just Stupid!"



On the other hand . . . this does follow from the already postulated existence of such a drug, and some agricultural work can be mind-numbing enough to make the prospect of docile low-cost labor attractive, never mind them outsider civil-rights people.

These were the items Dan understood, of course. Among those he didn't quite understand included a report about les wogglies spreading in France, and how the King had ordered the use of poudre sanitaire. (Interestingly, this passage seems to have been cut from the French translation.) "Oh well, French politics might turn up anything," [p. 69] he says, a credible observation when considering the unstable governments of the Third and Fourth Republics (not to mention Vichy), but one less so in the light of the quasi-monarchical Fifth Republic (instituted after 1956).

(For the record, the current Bourbon-Orléans pretender, the man most likely to have been King [there is also a Bourbon-Anjou pretender, Louis-Alphonse de Bourbon/Luis-Alfonso de Bórbon y Martínez-Bordiu, first cousin once removed of King Juan Carlos of Spain and great-grandson of el Caudillo, Francisco Franco y Bahamonde], is Henri d'Orléans, comte de Paris et duc de France, "Henri VII", descendant of King Louis-Philippe. His father, Henri d'Orléans, comte de Paris, "Henri VI", claimed that General de Gaulle had hinted at a restoration, but that was what he said.)

The reader can be reassured that there are still advertisments in the newspaper, and Dan particularly notes the ones for Hired Girl, Inc. the old firm is still in business! This reminds him that he needs to follow up what happened to Belle and Miles and Ricky. Which in turn reminds him that Belle did figure out how to get her wish Pete wandered off and died, alone and unwanted.

And on this depressing note he thinks further and realizes that by now, Ricky must be married herself, with a family, uninterested in that odd memory from the past. With such a heartwarming thought in mind, he goes to bed for the night.

In the morning, he starts being brought up to date. (Evidently, it is possible for someone to absorb thirty years or so of history fairly quickly, as opposed to Mack Reynolds's nigh-absurd theory about having to learn all of human knowledge since then, which doubles on an annual basis, as set forth in his Looking Backward, From the Year 2000 (1972).) Some of the changes are interesting, some merely amusing. Having a "Panic of '87" can only be a coincidence, but this crisis was caused by more than just a stock drop; transmutation, that is, which is why gold is now a common constituent of electronics. (Unlike most writers on the subject, Heinlein is well aware of the other uses for gold.)

Dan had called for his clothes the day before; today they give him more current ones. Colors are more vivid now, and closure is achieved by a unspecified development refered to only by the obvious trademark of "Sticktite". "I thought I was going to have to hire a little boy to help me go to the bathroom before I got through my head that the pressure-sensitive adhesion was axially polarized," [p. 72], he describes it; or, Velcro without the hooks.

Now that he's dressed, Dan goes to see how his investments are doing. He should have realized that Belle would muck up his financial plans, but even if they had gone through he would still be in trouble: the insurance company she picked has gone bankrupt. And indeed the whole conglomerate has gone bankrupt. At least Hired Girl was never part of it. It's more than just his plans that have gone awry.

V. TO DO THE THINGS I WANTED TO DO

You might well say that in his current state, Daniel B. Davis has been dumped on even worse than he had been at the beginning of the book. Now, all the people he knew are separated from him by thirty years of time, all his accumulated wealth has vanished, his knowledge of his trade is virtually useless, and his cat has died. He doesn't even have enough money to start drinking again. Quite a Y2K crisis.

In Red Planet (1949, 1992), Smythe (who, mind you, is not one of the more sympathetic characters in that book) responds to a crisis by saying "I've got a brain.: [op. cit., p. 56] Dan might say as much himself. His actions during the course of the book, so far, have been aimed at pulling himself out of the nadir of moral defeat that he had been in back in chapter one.

He has a ways to go. The insurance company that Belle had had those connections with had gone bankrupt during the Panic of 1987. This was no 500-point Dow Jones correction, it was a serious financial scandal; the company had been terminally asset-stripped. Indeed, the entire conglomerate of which it was a part had been terminally asset-stripped. No Chapter Eleven bankruptcy here; instead of assets being usefully diverted into the pockets of lawyers and accountants, they went to the managers of the firm, who themselves relocated to more salubrious climes. The cold-sleep sanctuary's treasurer Mr. Doughty says, in an attempt at reassurance, "[It] could not happen under our present laws." [p. 75] Dan doesn't believe it; he might have quoted Doc MacRae: "Every law that was ever written opened up a new way to graft." [Red Planet, p. 49/47]

This financial realignment somewhat bothers Dan in a less immediately personal fashion as well, since Miles and Belle had been planning to sell Hired Girl out to this outfit. Even though he had been euchered out of the firm, there was still Ricky's interest to consider. Or perhaps things were different, since the deal did not go through.

Which still leaves Dan on the skids. Not entirely, though. In a scene reminiscent of the Paymaster's financial manipulations in Citizen of the Galaxy (1957), Mr. Doughty offers him some help. Rather than take the resettlement loan ("[Borrowing] money is like trying to swim with a brick in each hand . . . and a small loan is tougher to pay back than a million" [p. 76]; a well thought-out idea, but one that must have made it hard for Hired Girl, Inc. to expand) Doughty offers him, Dan asks what the room costs per day are. Doughty gets his point and cancels his remaining four-days adjustment stay, paying the balance to him. (Of course, $100 a day, which is what it is said "equivalent room and board in a hospital" [p. 76] covers, is far less than what that costs now, in the era of $8.72 aspirins.)

So, with cash in his pocket and a song in his heart ("Hallelujah, I'm a Bum" given his performance to date, the British meaning of "bum" is not without relevance under the circumstances, for Dan has so far indeed been a prime ass) Dan sets about reclaiming his legacy. However, there are many traps along the way in the brave new world of 2000, a world where Y2K is a sci-fi curiosity.

Not that other items of the alternate timelines aren't. Thanks to the explosive growth of Great Los Angeles there is a housing shortage, and Dan has to sleep out. Or not, as the police round up these homeless (saying they are "barracking", a rather sly comment on the quality of life in military housing) for labor camp work. Except that poor lost Dan has some explaining to do.

Fortunately, the judge knows something about his financial crisis; his mother had had insurance with that company, too. Showing a greater appreciation for equity than most justices in any era, he points Dan in the direction of a job and lets him off.

Scrapping cars. Or, actually, watching while robots scrap cars. For which he gets paid $21 a day, netting $16 after taxes. As noted previously, writers somehow never imagined how inflation would affect things.

But Dan affects not to understand economics. The cars he is scrapping aren't even workable cars. It's a note on the California climate that he finds that "they lacked essential details like instrument dials or air conditioners." [p. 79] Air conditioners were not really standard in the fifties, or even later for some time. It turns out that these were price-support cars, built as collateral for government loans to the auto industry. (Obviously Lee Iacocca did not read The Door Into Summer.) Naturally, they weren't very finely made. As James Blish points out, this is a (somewhat clumsy) attack on the agricultural price-support system [More Issues At Hand, p. 55].

Instead of economics, he studies engineering. He has a fixed self-image, seeing himself as an engineer, and is honest enough to realize that he has to work to keep that image. So he spends his nights catching up on the state of the art.

Those winter nights in the library turned up some interesting matters for this involuntary time traveler:


Two things impressed me most, one big, one little. The big one was NullGrav, of course. Back in 1970 I had known about the Babson Institute gravitation research but I had not expected anything to come of it and nothing had; the basic field theory on which NullGrav is based was developed at the University of Edinburgh.

The Door Into Summer, p. 83


Like Samuel Renshaw of Citizen of the Galaxy, the Babson Institute [technically, the "Gravity Research Foundation"] actually existed. Stock-market tipster Roger Babson was a friend of Thomas A. Edison who funded an institute to study gravity after Edison [possibly after having read The First Men In the Moon] told him "You've got to find something that isolates from gravity." (See Fads and Fallacies In the Name of Science by Martin Gardner, pp. 92-100 for a not altogether sympathetic portrait of the institute.)

The theory and principles of NullGrav set forth in this brief paragraph are developed in accordance with the accepted procedures of science fiction, where what is known to be true is not contradicted Dan referring to "so they changed the shape of space" [p. 83] and of science, where a new discovery is a more general case of the laws of nature Dan pointing out that "gravitation . . . is inherent in the very shape of space" [loc. cit.]. One would think that this idea is presented, then dropped; but a closer inspection of the text uncovers a deeper subtlety in Heinlein's writings, that such control is taken for granted. This will be noted again in the proper place.

The "little thing" is, however, rather less well handled. "I was not startled by mere skin on bathing beaches; you could see that coming in 1970. But the weird thing that the ladies could do with Sticktite made my jaw sag." [p. 83] James Blish practically frothed at the mouth over this passage; see More Issues At Hand, p. 55.

Besides, when did Dan get time to go to the beach? He was trying to catch up on his engineering.

One of the things he did with that study of engineering was to do some preliminary design work for a new kind of device. "I had expected there would be automatic secretaries in use" [p. 84] he says, disappointed that there weren't, and determined to fill that lack. For the rest of the page he discusses the particular specifications of this hypothetical device, another of those "what kind of gadgets would I build" in this story. (Now available on the same platform as our real-life CAD "Drafting Dans", from Dragon Naturally Speaking, for less than $300 (even less if an upgrade) with WordPerfect. Or IBM's Lotus WordPro but not, curiously, MicrosoftTM WordTM.)

Which leads him to go take a look at Drafting Dan. This dedicated CAD machine impresses him (curiously, the description of his initial conceptualization of it does not quite seem to be consistent; from the comments on page 85 it would seem that he had had the idea some time ago, presumably well before his being shipped into cold sleep, while on pages 41-2 it was clear that he had had the idea while going to see Miles and Belle for that calamitous encounter). In fact, it impresses him a lot; he feels he couldn't have done it better himself.

As a matter of fact, he feels that he did do it himself. There is a certain style to engineering, and the style of this is very familiar. So he wants to meet the inventor. This machine was made by Aladdin Autoengineering, makers of the Eager Beaver that waited on Dr. Albrecht in the recovery room, Mr. Doughty in the business office, and Dan himself at the scrap yard. And both of them were originally patented in 1970. Dan wants very much to meet the inventor.

There are some other people he wants to meet, but Miles and Belle and Ricky aren't anywhere in Great Los Angeles, apparently. Or so the telephone company says, anywhere in the country. (Their corporate headquarters is in Cleveland [p. 87], which may say something about decentralization, or how badly the East Coast has been affected by the Six Weeks War.) You might think that they would have kept an eye on him, and someone sure has been trying to reach him, but there doesn't seem to be any connection.

Similarly, Ricky has vanished. The bank he assigned his stock to for her has no record of such a trust; she left the local school system in 1971. There's another dead end. One has to begin somewhere. In this case, Dan begins by trying to get a job at Hired Girl. They aren't hiring, at least they aren't hiring nominally elderly, clearly outdated engineers. Displaying a clever, if somewhat obnoxious use of psychological manipulation seemingly at odds with the unworldly technician of previous chapters, Dan bluffs his way into the General Manager's office.

So, two and a half months after he was jerked into the new world, Dan finds himself back at Hired Girl, a guy hired as an advertising gimmick. Hired Girl will trumpet in ads the return of its cofounder, as "Research Engineer Emeritus". Meanwhile, Dan will be filling in his familiarization with real on-hands work.

Hired Girl has gone stale; it does little new research, preferring to license patents. The Chief Engineer is rather backwards in his attitudes (the fact that he and Dan seem to have formed a mutual dislike doesn't help). Nevertheless, Dan's inquiring attitudes find him a worthwhile assistant in the person of, apparently, the only actually researching research engineer at Hired Girl. Chuck Freudenthal takes on the role of the mentor here, guiding his brighter if less experienced friend past the hidden pitfalls of the contractual shoals of the corporation. You'd think Dan would have learned already.

Dan realizes that his position is only a publicity stunt, with only a brief tenure. However, it does give him the opportunity to finish getting up to date on engineering technology. Even to acquire a more trustworthy partner than Miles; Chuck is as lonely for friends as Dan is, and Dan thinks he would like to do some real engineering for, say, an independent contractor like Daniel B. Davis.

Then, on May 3, 2001, Dan's new life falls apart. In response to having been publicized, he observes, "I got a certain amount of crank mail" [p. 92] and otherwise is concerned about what are in our Y2K called "stalkers". One of which, a Mrs. Schultz, has been trying again and again to reach him. He never quite seems to wonder if this is someone from his past, married or remarried. Now, he finally caves in and takes Mrs. Schultz's call.


Well, I owed it to Mr. Doughty to shut her up. "Put her on."

"Is this Danny Davis?" My office phone had no screen; she could not see me.

"Speaking. Your name is Schultz?"

"Oh, Danny darling, it's so good to hear your voice!"

I didn't answer right away. She went on, "Don't you know me?"

I knew her, all right. It was Belle Gentry.

The Door Into Summer, p. 92


VI. IF I HAD A BOX JUST FOR WISHES

The shock of this discovery seems to have driven Dan round the bend. "I made a date with her," he says [p. 92]. The last time he did, he ended up getting doped up, then shipped out in cold sleep. Prudence would suggest at least telling Chuck and perhaps some others (Albrecht and Doughty at the sanctuary, and even the managers at Hired Girl) where he was going. But Belle might be able to provide some closure. So, foolishly but (it turns out) luckily, this Daniel steps into this lion's den.

Or, as he sees when she opens the door, perhaps "cow's den":


Belle . . . was fat and shrill and kittenish. It was evident that she still considered her body her principal asset, for she was dressed in a Sticktite negligee which, while showing much too much of her, also showed that she was female, mammalian, overfed, and underexercised.

The Door Into Summer, p. 93


(But what does she wear to the beach?)

Dan takes the trouble to point out that this need not have been, since another technological advance has been in prolonged youth. "Between geriatrics and endocrinology, a woman who bothered to take the trouble could stay looking thirty for at least thirty extra years, and many did." [p. 93] (Perhaps he should have added surgery to that. While Sophia Loren (for example) does not play ingénue leads, she still qualifies as "looking thirty for at least thirty extra years". Cosmetic surgery may be involved.)

But the now herself chubby Belle has let herself go in other ways. She is no longer as clever as she was, albeit she thinks so. In a long, self-pitying whine she brings Dan up to date on the careers of herself and her late spouse. Miles Gentry did not survive the committal of his ex-partner by much, dying in 1972.

Neither had the deal they were working on. Someone (Belle accuses a bewildered Dan) had stolen the prototype Flexible Frank from Miles's garage, development specs and all, ruining the merger deal. (Which Dan had indeed tried to do, but as you recall couldn't get into the plant [pp. 34-5].) After trying to run the business for a while longer, they gave in and licensed out the existing patents.

Since then, obviously, things have gone downhill for Belle. She is drinking and taking drugs, habits not conducive to long life. She also slobbers over the memory of her latest husband and makes a pass at Dan. "A woman isn't old at thirty-nine," she says [p. 96] in a Jack Bennyesque reference but Dan has finally learned better.

About the only reason he tolerates this bovine spectacle is to learn the wherabouts of Ricky. Belle unwillingly blubbers out hints, between drinks and passes: "She went to live with her grandmother," [p. 94] Belle says, and vaguely remembers the woman's name, "Oh, Hanolon . . . or Haney . . . Heinz. Or it might have been Hinckley." [loc. cit.]

After pumping Belle as best he can, he finally (miraculously, even), extracts himself from her pen, with the closing comment, "'I won't be seeing you again, Belle.' I left. . . I never did see her again," [p. 97] but not for lack of trying on her part.

He has someplace now to start, but even so is hampered by a lack of firm details, and to be honest some contrived situations. For example, he can't find out about Miles's death, since the County Hall of Records is moving and (conveniently for the plot) has its files packed up; and a search of the (Great) L.A. Times records is as fruitless.

(I find it hard to believe that there would not be statewide records available in the library. It seems unlikely that the death of a leading industrialist in a rising new industry would not attract some notice, if not in the newspapers at least in more specialized publications.)

At work the situation is no better. The clash of the PIO and the Chief Engineer is leaving Dan very much on the outside. Perhaps the fact that he is doing so much outside work doesn't help. One of these things is something you would think he would have done a long time ago; checking the fate of his stock.

Not surprisingly, given the wreck he himself has just seen, Belle had sold the wedding-gift stock. But, he wonders, who is this "party named Heinicke" [p. 100] whose trust owned the rest of the stock? Was Belle double-dealing Miles even then?

He didn't pay that much attention to the stock matter, inasmuch as the patents for Eager Beaver and Drafting Dan have finally arrived, and he can't wait to see who this genius is. Eager Beaver turns out indeed to be the "road not taken" of Flexible Frank that he had imagined on the way to Belle's, over thirty years ago. (The comment is phrased as if the earlier discussion had not been in the book; an auctorial curiosity.) Perhaps it is; the patent is in the name of "D. B. Davis". Something funny had gone on then, he thinks; perhaps the thieves had been falling out even as they were plundering him.

Inspecting the Drafting Dan patent is even more interesting. This dedicated CAD machine is a marvel of design, and Dan is lost in admiration of its designer's genius.


I had to know who this brainy boy was, so I turned to the papers.

It was D. B. Davis.

The Door Into Summer, p. 102


At this point, you might expect the doorknob to open a blue eye and look at Dan. Or for him to find, in a search through his desk, an ancient issue of Life with a current date, featuring an actress who is obviously a Big Star, yet one he doesn't know and who isn't in any grabbies being shown. Or worst yet, for him to look out the window, see it is raining hard, only to go out the door into a blazing sun from a cloudless sky. They have indeed put time out of joint with the move of a fairy chessman. Dan's reality is definitely coming apart.

Not having Cameron, Ragle Gumm, or James McGregor to fall back upon, Dan begins by calling Dr. Albrecht, who mentions the possibility of amnesia psychological, traumatic, induced, or alcoholic. Chuck is even more dismissive, while he and Dan are trying to bring about that last form. There are, after all, three entries for "Daniel B. Davis" in the Greater L.A. phone book you would think that Mrs. Schultz would have called them all by now. [A search reveals two entries for "Daniel Davis" and one for "Daniel P. Davis" in L.A.; an older listing shows fifty-two entries for "Daniel Davis" in California and sixteen entires for "Daniel B. Davis" nationwide.]

It would have been so easy to untangle this on-site, but Dan is separated from those events by the gulf of time. Or is he?


". . . . All the things that are worrying me happened thirty years ago. I'd go back and dig out the truth . . . if there were such a thing as real time travel."

He stared at me. "But there is."

"What?"

The Door Into Summer, p. 106


Chuck proceeds to unfold a tale of wondrous and complicated detail, where the fringes of science became tangled in the snarls of security and the coils of management. He had been a research assistant on a Beyond Top Secret project, the sort of thing where even the code name is classified. And small wonder, for this was a project touching on the fundamental nature of reality.

If space and time are merely functions of the same item, then modifying one opens the possibility of modifying the other. Because he had faster-than-light travel available to him, Lazarus Long went back in time to seduce his mother in Time Enough for Love (1973). The control of space here is through NullGrav; and, back in 1980, Dr. Hubert Twitchell of University of Colorado at Boulder was doing something similar, though he didn't have designs on Maureen Johnson or even the senior Mrs. Twitchell.

Twitchell was looking for a space drive; in the reverse of the goal and result that Jesse Evelyn Ramsbotham of Tunnel In the Sky (1955) achieved, he found time travel. However, there turned out to be one or two little difficulties.

One was a random factor; the transfer required equal and opposite masses to be dispatched, and it is a random choice which one went which way in the time stream. Graham can't hitch a ride with the Time Traveller and plan on talking Isbister into not setting up a trust; he might end up instead in the twenty-fourth and a half century.

The other was an all too predictable one. The military liason with the Department of Defense, who was simultaneously a colonel and a botany professor, proves to be all too reminiscent of Colonel Calhoun of Sixth Column/The Day After Tomorrow (1941, 1949), managing to kill the program in order to save it, or something like that.

Far better to check with the people at Aladdin, something (again) that Dan should have done some time ago. On that cheery thought, Dan goes home, glances through the paper, and goes to bed.

It seems like they had been drinking late, yet after some sleep Dan wakes up at three A.M. with a curious feeling of missing something. He hasn't yet disposed of the week's papers, so starting, as we shall see, presumably with Sunday's, he begins a search through the vital statistics for that nagging whatever.

There it is, under "Withdrawals", from the Times for May 2: "F. V. Heinicke". It all comes together now; the "party named Heinicke" who owned his Hired Girl stock, the Hanolon or Haney, Heinz or Hinckley that Belle boozily remembered, fit here with the "Frederica Virginia" that Dan knew so well. Ricky is out there!

But Dan needs proof. He calls the Sleeper sanctuary listed, and to his amazement "F. V. Heinicke" is indeed "Frederica Virginia". So he goes there, and argues them into letting him see a file picture of her she looks like Ricky. He is definitely on to something here.

(While having only one 24-hour banking facility in as large a place as Great L.A. would be inconvenient, and having "radioactive coding" on his checkbook sounds downright frightening, nevertheless Dan has available to him something close to the convenience of our timeline's bank ATM's. He doesn't even have to pay a fee for using another institution [p. 114])

Miss Heinicke had checked out and gone to Brawley. Glossing over his subsequent efforts, Dan describes how he dropped everything to search for her there, much concerned because now "she had a man with her" [p. 116]. His quest takes him to Arizona, where he finds out that she got married which has something that really stuns him.

From this point on, Dan is operating on a hidden agenda. Seeing that something leaves him in a state akin to Spider Robinson's description of the mental state of a character in a Robert Sheckley novel, who was figuratively hanging on to his asshole by his fingertips (or perhaps it was literally, Sheckley being as he is) to keep from falling.

Going back in time had been a wish; now it has become his obsession. Dr. Twitchell had been most ill-served by the DoD liason officer. Indeed, if Dan thought he had been a boozer after being kicked out of Hired Girl back then, he learns here that he knows nothing from drinking. But then, Dr. Twitchell is now a veteran of twenty years (no doubt being grateful for tenure) of hitting the bottle.

Dan made one other preparation; he went to a dental supply house and bought ten kilograms of gold wire. The Panic of 1987, as has been said before, had nothing to do with a 500-point drop in the Dow; rather, one of those hardly-mentioned technological advances triggered it off. Transmutation did rather harm the commodities industry, even if it made electronics all that easier and cheaper. There has been a currency reform/change since 1970 (1980 in fact, since Chuck refers to using silver dollars) and gold tends to be more convertible.

(Given that it is later on established that they do have regeneration, why do they even have dental supply? There can't be that many people wanting gold-capped teeth. It's also interesting to note that Dan says he paid a premium, buying his gold for $86.10 a kilo, which works out to $2.68 an ounce. In our world, gold prices have broken the hearts of goldbugs in fluctuating around $300 an ounce.)

Also, things can't quite have been so bad back at Hired Girl, at least on the renumeration front. Dan tosses off casually a comment that "the transaction mortally wounded my last thousand-dollar bill" [p. 117]. What with all the travel expenses and so on entailed in his quest, he must have put back a good bit of money.

Admittedly, he was saving up to set up his own firm, after Hired Girl's publicity budget ran out. He was living very cheaply (the telephone was in the hall; it's interesting to note that he had a calling card for it [p. 113], a prediction Heinlein is not given, ah, credit for) so presumably would have had a reserve fund. Also, as we have seen and will see, Dan Davis's definition of luxuries is not what most people would mean by the term.

If Dan had used on Miles back then the persuasive technique he demonstrates here, none of this would ever have happened (well, that's the point, but). He plays up to Dr. Twitchell's damaged self-esteem, presenting an apparently quite valid cover story, and manages to break through twenty years of neglect and hiding. But Dan was driven; he spent, he says, four days intensively researching Twitchell at the university library [p. 118]. Twitchell was nearby the whole time, but in the faculty lounge, so not in a condition to notice.

Perhaps the good doctor just appreciated a good drinking buddy. Approached by this eager researcher (he doesn't know how eager, not yet) at a bar, he opens up and begins dictating his autobiography. It takes a while for Dan to get around to the topic at hand.

A week, in fact; and when Twitchell gets Dan into the lab, a lecture and demonstration are in order. It seems that when the would-be biographer started probing a certain sore tooth, Dr. Twitchell was moved to investigate. And he found something in the lab. The janitors, assuming they could be allowed into the lab in the first place, probably wouldn't be so generous as to leave what the doctor found.

Twitchell asks Dan to mark two coins and place them on his apparatus. Then, with a twitch of a lever, they disappear; whereupon he takes one out of his pocket and hands it to Dan. What he had found was a marked coin (interestingly enough, a plastic coin worth $5; one wonders what they did to prevent counterfeiting) and now here it is being marked, then sent. Admittedly fakery is possible. Chuck had described a similar experiment, with guinea pigs [pp. 107-8], as well as with coins, and you would think Dr. Twitchell would have taken steps to secure that test and mark the animals. No one seems to bother drawing a time-line diagram as something did (the time-line diagram is a paradox in itself) in Harry Harrison's The TechnicolorTM Time Machine (1967). It would have helped later, too.

Twitchell then confirms the stories about human experimentation that Chuck had recounted, including one that does not stand up, unfortunately. The third experimental sample was an instructor in architechure named Leonard Vincent, who asked to be sent back five hundred years. Unfortunately for the theory, and the excellent tropes of loneliness discussed, not to mention the later parallel, the career of Leonardo da Vinci previous to 1493 is comparatively well recorded, including a stint as Cesare Borgia's military engineer and a trial (case dismissed) on charges of sodomy.

But Dan wants to be number four, for personal reasons, and he begs Dr. Twitchell to do it. The doctor agrees, at least as far as rehearsing the setup. (He weighs Dan and counts out enough weights to balance his "hundred and seventy pounds." [p. 122] What about that 22 pounds of gold wire wrapped around his waist? [p. 117])

Dan wants the rehearsal to be even more live-fire, which requires more power for the boost. Twitchell agrees, and calls the power plant for more voltage, uncorking a masterpiece of insult:


. . "I am not in the least interested in your opinions, my man. Read your instructions. I have full facilities whenever I wish them. Or can you read? Shall we meet with the president at ten tomorrow morning and have him read them to you? Oh? So you can read? Can you write as well? Or have we exhausted your talents? Then write this down: Emergency full power across the bus bars of the Thornton Memorial Laboratory in exactly eight minutes. Repeat that back."

The Door Into Summer, p. 123


Dr. Twitchell, like Sergeant Zim of Starship Troopers (but with more reason), is "not dependent on profanity; he could avoid it entirexly and be more biting than most artists can be when using plainer words." [p. 123] One wonders what eloquent lambastings Chuck had to go through whenever he bungled something, and why the moronic Colonel Thrushbotham ("a fat, fatuous, flatulent, foot-kissing fool incompetent to find his hat with it nailed to his head," is Twitchell's description of his tormentor [p. 119]) couldn't be bulged by such rhetoric. Heinlein must have enjoyed writing Twitchell's dialogue.

Now, with everything set to go, Dan switches from flattery to taunting, insulting Twitchell and piercing that majestic ego. Anger needn't be done in words, and Twitchell acts: "Even as he stabbed at the button I tried to shout at him not to do it. But it was too late; I was already falling. My last thought was that I didn't want to go through with it." [p. 124]

VII. BUT THERE NEVER SEEMS TO BE ENOUGH TIME

Part of that Friday night beer bust with Chuck Freudenthal was a long argument about time paradoxes. There had not been an explosion at the future site of the Thornton Memorial Laboratory in 1970, Dan Davis said; therefore, he did not demonstrate one of the perils of co-location in his time trip. That, Chuck maintained, was, rather, proof that Dan had not gone in the first place [p. 111]

Now that he has insulted Professor Twitchell into pushing the button, Dan hopes that Chuck's memories are right about that. They may have been. Or perhaps not, given that Dan figures he is in the future, going by his welcoming committee: "Because neither one of them wore anything but smooth coats of tan." [p. 125]

Now Heinlein constantly predicted that the people of the future would shed this meaningless inhibition about wearing clothing; from the edited-out Martian (un-)dress codes of Red Planet to the happy bareskin home of the Year Two Thousand of "Where To?" [Expanded Universe, pp. 317-8] and on beyond to Lazarus Long's residence (cf. The Number of the Beast). A case of the author projecting a personal belief to the world; see L. Sprague de Camp's memoir Time and Chance (1998), pages 209-10, for Heinlein's nudist beliefs.

Believing he has gone forward, Dan asks the good people of the year 2032 "Where am I?" [p. 125], quoting Graham. (Remember, he had read When the Sleeper Wakes [see p. 9].) They should be forthcoming about it, since obviously they have nothing to hide.

However, he is the intruder and he has to explain himself. Or maybe not, since they first tell him when it is May 3, 1970. Just when he told Dr. Twitchell to send him. And where is he? "These are the grounds of the Denver Sunshine Club." [p. 126]

(It gets explained here when, where, and how Dan saw "those weird things the ladies could do with Sticktite" [p. 83]. When he got the "Research Engineer Emeritus" job at Hired Girl, he had time to go to the beach [p. 127]!)

Having nothing to hide implies a certain acceptance here, and John and Jenny Sutton, the couple who saw a man with something to hide and wearing cerise bell-bottom trousers, too! appear out of nowhere, should be asking questions, but they don't. Even more so when he sets out to conform to the local dress codes, and reveals his unusual foundation garment. It's still not quite legal to own gold (even though it has been revalued from the 1933 figure of $35 a troy ounce to $60 [p. 127]), and Dan has to do some fine hairsplitting to get John to agree that he found it in the mountains. After all, this is (he suddenly realizes) the earliest date that he has ever seen it. Time travel requires a certain mental adjustment.

It turns out that John is a lawyer. This is an amazing turn of events; what makes it even more fortuitous is that he is a honest, decent man. (Recall that this was written before the era of legislation by court decision and management by tort law.) Perhaps he was a bit bewildered by this opportunity that not only figuratively but literally dropped almost into his lap; he sells Dan's gold and helps him get set up in the design business.

For Dan has to do some designing under full-power draft, working like a beaver. D. B. Davis had patented Eager Beaver and Drafting Dan in 1970, so D. B. Davis has to design them first. Not to mention staying away from old friends and acquaintances or anyone who might talk to them. The quick-thinking Dan of the post-freeze period manages to avoid one problem, only to bump right into another.

It's a matter of time-line crossing; while the Dr. Twitchell in the past of Dan's own time-line, but his own future, outdrank fish, this one, un-humiliated by fat, fatuous, flatulent, foot-kissing fools, doesn't need to inquire into the bottom of a shot glass in order to forget. The contrast between the eloquent, embittered Hubert Twitchell of 2001 and the self-assured, serene Twitchell of 1970 is striking. The anticipatorily guilty response of Dan Davis to his modest self-assessment, regretting the insults Dan had given him before (in a sense) they had been made, is a small gem of Heinlein's prose.

There is one more problem to clean up, and John Sutton, Atty. at Law, manages to handle it. A detective investigation of Belle Darkin turns up some very interesting matters. When Dan had mockingly taunted her with the question, "Is Miles legally your husband?" [p. 48] during their last meeting in 1970, it was the anger talking.

But it turns out that he had unwittingly stumbled on to something. Belle had been married at least six times before, usually for some fradulent end, and only bothered to get divorced once. On top of that, Dan's guess about her age was right; she had been twenty-nine, not the twenty-three she claimed [p. 9], which makes the sixtyish-appearing Belle of 2001 follow, and the clever, skilled Belle of the manipulations far more plausible. Quite a Blythe spirit.

And small wonder, since she has a long rap sheet, albeit with only one actual conviction. (Historical note: Belle was convicted of being the "lure in a badger game" [p. 135] For those bemused by antiquated historical references, what that meant was that she seduced men, then an accomplice appeared and demanded compensation for the seduction of his significant other. This isn't too far, really, from what Belle did to Dan.)

One iteration back, perhaps, Dan could have used this information. Yet Miles seemed to be as besotted as Dan had been. Perhaps Belle's intent was to show up, make a survey of the situation, and latch on to the most suitable target.

Or maybe not. In many ways Dan seems to be more the archetypical techonerd. His personal hygiene is atrocious. In the few months since he returned to 1970 he managed to get a cavity in one tooth [pp. 134-5], for example. Not to mention bathing, or rather its absence: "[Creative] work makes a man stink like a he-goat. After a hard night in the lab shop nobody could stand me but Pete." [p. 30] Small wonder that he didn't notice Pete's scent-marking. And, as Jenny Sutton comments on the domestic front, "Danny, you've been living like a pig, to put it gently." [p. 138] This was before the era of microwave pizza, albeit fast-food takeout was common in our 1970 and not unknown even when the book was written, so Dan might well be surrounded by a proper technonerd litter of food wrappers.

Her chance to make this observation comes about when Dan has to eschew his monthly weekend at the nudist colony. As it happens, the Suttons also end up passing on the chance for sun. (It is getting to be September. In the mountains. One wonders.) Dan's work schedule is slipping, not helped by the fact that he has had to do it all himself. Nevertheless, he has the prototype models up and running; he built Drafting Dan so he could use it to design Protean Pete/Eager Beaver. Now they are working and he has to do the paperwork patent descriptions, incorporation, financing, and so on.

Hence his concentration. Which impresses John, even as he is less positively impressed by this mysterious stranger's hidden agenda. The fiscal work will take months, but Dan has to catch up with his time-line (they don't know that, of course):


"I mean I can't change my schedule. That's beyond my control . . now." I put my face in my hands. I was dead with fatigue, having had less than five hours' sleep and having averaged not much better for days. The shape I was in, I was willing to believe that there was something, after all, to this "fate" business a man could struggle against it but never beat it.

I looked up. "Will you handle it?"

"Eh? What part of it?"

"Everything. I've done all I know how to do."

"That's a big order, Dan. I could rob you blind. You know that, don't you? And this may be a gold mine."

"It will be. I know."

"They why trust me? You had better just keep me as your attorney, advice for a fee."

I tried to think while my head ached. I had taken a partner once before but, damnation, no matter how many times you get your fingers burned, you have to trust people. Otherwise you are a hermit in a cave, sleeping with one eye open. There wasn't any way to be safe; just being alive was deadly dangerous . . . fatal. In the end.

"Cripes, John, you know the answer to that. You trusted me. Now I need your help again. Will you help me?"

"Of course he will," Jenny put in gently . . .

The Door Into Summer, pp. 137-8


As the comment before a catastrophe goes, "Oh no, not another learning experience!" Dan has had a "learning experience", and yet, as he says, "you have to trust people." In his original dealings with Belle, he showed himself to be overbearing and self-centered; traits that made her manipulation and deception easier to do and easier to justify. Perhaps Miles was himself a bit fed up with the geek.

Being dumped has forced Dan to take stock of himself, and realize that the skills that make him a good inventor can be turned to human relations. The Dan Davis who was seduced by Belle and defrauded by Miles was too one-dimensional; hardly the man who glibly talked himself into a job at Hired Girl, into the offices of a Sleepers' Sanctuary, and into the lab of a bitter, dispirited genius. He has grown under stress, as John Lyle joined a revolution, as Sam Houston Jones became an activist, as Hamilton Felix discovered a purpose for life, as Don Harvey found a political and a personal commitment. And now, he has found what he thought he had already had, but hadn't. In the "what little gadgets would I most enjoy building" department, the discussion of Eager Beaver as a hand dishwasher is not without interest. Jenny's comment that "I'm certainly glad to find that at least one man understands housework", [p. 138] may come across as patronizing, to those who live that way because they aren't into that Janitor In a Drum thing. But then the different road taken with dishwashing might not have appealed to Dan Davis. Throughout the book he shows a marked dichotomy between concept and realization; somehow, a man who "lives like a pig" and worries about the need for a really modern home doesn't quite seem to come together.

By giving in on everything else, he manages to get the past he has built to accord with the future he has seen (and it works); knowing who is the brains behind the outfit, John wants to make it "Davis and Sutton" but concedes letting it be "The Aladdin Autoengineering Corporation". Which also has to be headquartered in Great (to be) Los Angeles a decision that Jenny provides the capper for.

Dan realizes that it could have been "Sutton and Davis" or even "Sutton & Co."; John might have been as exclusionary as Miles had been (or, when you think about it, was being). But "you have to trust people." Did Dan meddle too much in the management of Hired Girl, Inc.? From some of his earlier comments one wonders. He had had 51% of the stock [p. 21] until he gave some to Belle, because he "wanted to be certain that [he] retained control of the shop" [p. 22]. In spite of his claiming to have granted Miles an equal amount of authority in the business end, given the use of "control" one wonders. This may not be unconnected to his lack of concern about the shares in Aladdin Autoengineering. (And besides, he knew that the company would prosper.) So Dan can enter Cold Sleep now, leaving a secure company, if a profoundly puzzled partner, behind him.

On his last night in Colorado, he finally breaks down and finishes the story for John's sake. Who doesn't quite believe it; one of them is crazy, and he knows it's not him. But twenty-two pounds of pure gold, and a potential fortune in robotic home appliances, are hard things to argue against. On that somber note, the Suttons let their strange new friend go off to fight his own private demons.

Dan's time-lines have themselves to come together, right now. But before he can go back to the future, he has to tie up the other loose ends in his redoubled life.

Miles and Belle must have been pretty calm, waiting to bait their trap; if one of them had looked outside they might have seen Dan arriving too early. The later Dan (who is early) is waiting for the earlier Dan to come later and get the established past going. He does.

Miles had wondered where Dan's car was, and wondered if he had taken a cab [pp. 57-8]. Just a little matter of time travel involved, as Dan now takes the car (it was only a matter of waiting thirty-one years to pick it up) and proceeds to prove the truth of one of Belle's accusations. Breaking into Miles's garage (and they must be preoccupied, to not hear that) he proceeds to smash the Flexible Frank prototype into transportable bits, and lift the notes. That part of his experience fulfilled, he proceeds to go rescue Pete. (You do remember Pete the cat, last seen clawing Belle and Miles to shreds?)

Perhaps not; the screen door is latched, and Dan has to unlatch it under extreme stress, such as the fear of being seen by the human inhabitants of the house. This isn't quite the scene from Farnham's Freehold (1964) where Hugh Farnham saw this bald intruder outside his house, and, a nuclear war and a like set of time-trips later, now bald himself, requisitioned his new wife's car (Come to think of it, since the time-line at the end of the book is not the time-line at the beginning of the book, just who was that guy?), but it's getting there.

(But Miles had blamed Belle for leaving the screen door unhooked [p. 52]. He himself had let Dan in [p. 42] and Belle had not left the room until they started chasing Pete. Weak character but you would think they might have thought about it, once the fun was over. And noticed the hole cut in the screen, where the later Dan had had to get access to unhook the door [p. 142].)

In The Number of the Beast (1980) Ted Bronson would brag that he deserved credit for not killing that little monster Woodie Smith in Time Enough for Love (1973) all of them being, of course, Lazarus Long. Dan has been careful not to break the continuity, but the prospect of sneaking in and cutting his own throat morbidly energizes him [pp. 142-3]. If Heinlein had gone on beyond To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987) he might've had Dan and Laz work it out, horrid thought.

Pete the cat is about as uncontrollable as any version of Lazarus Long, if somewhat shorter-timed, so it takes a few minutes for him to be calm enough to be carried. The next step is a trip to camp.

Here is another problem. Ricky has been stowed away in a Girl Scout overnight camp. But it is the first week in December, when she should be in school; the cat fight took place on the night of Thursday, December 3, and Dan will see Ricky the next day, Friday, December 4. What kind of school has month-long Christmas holidays?

It takes all Dan's newly-acquired persuasiveness and a bit of deception as well to get through the senior Girl Scout leaders at camp. (In a side note, it might have been interesting to read about Puddin' joining the Girl Scouts, perhaps eating more cookies than she sold, but maybe "R. A. Heinlein" did not want then to combine his franchises.) Dan understands that they should be cautious: "[Strange] men who want to visit little girls just turning into big girls should always be suspected." [p. 144] Nevertheless the staff sends for Ricky, and Dan gets to explain the situation.

Somehow the guy is always the last to know. Ricky had already known that Miles had married Belle, since Miles had written and told her. He must have felt pretty cocksure that Ricky wouldn't turn around and tell Dan. Fortunately, she doesn't have to live with them, either, since Miles never bothered to formally adopt or even become the legal guardian of Ricky. Instead, she is going to live with her grandmother, just as Belle had said, thirty-one years down the line.

Continuing the fulfillment of the future past, Dan now writes out a formal assignment of his stock to Ricky, whose real legal name, to no surprise, is "Frederica Virginia Heinicke". (As you know, the writer's wife was Virginia Heinlein.) But he already knew that.

Then he explains his situation; how he has now to go into cold sleep. He really wants to go back to the future, since as he often observes he has become acculturated, and doesn't want to do without the many advances he has become accustomed to. (In 2001, Dr. Albrecht had eulogized the wonders of 1970 [p. 103] but that was then and this is now.)

Ricky is heartbroken, sobbing "You're going away forever" [p. 149], and at her age (eleven) thirty years is close to that. This doesn't faze Dan, who has the experience of some eight months worth (on his personal time-line) of knowledge, and he suggests that she bring her time-line up to match his, by cold sleeping once she becomes of age. At which point she figures out how to keep him from going away forever, or at all:


She would not look up and her voice was so low that I could barely hear her. But I did hear her. "If I do . . . will you marry me?"

My ears roared and the lights flickered. But I answered steadily and much louder than she had spoken. "Yes, Ricky. That's what I want. That's why I'm doing this."

The Door Into Summer, p. 150


This is not one of the less controversial parts of the book. Damon Knight referred to "the curious paedophile plot Heinlein used in The Door Into Summer" [In Search of Wonder, p. 85; this is from the discussion of a similar circumstance in Time for the Stars, which was published in 1956, the year before]. Alexei Panshin called the romance "a very interesting, very odd one" [Heinlein In Dimension, pp. 149-50].

One does have to wonder. "When I'm big, we'll send away Mommy and I'll marry Daddy," is a not uncommon wish of young girls, not quite knowing what to do with their emotions, and too early to consider sex. Yet a child of Ricky's age can feel love. Panshin cites the case of singer Jerry Lee Lewis, who had married an eleven-year-old girl [Heinlein In Dimension, p. 150] Going into literature, Lolita in her eponymous novel was twelve but then, Nabokov said that it was an unnatural and sick relationship. There is a certain pedophile element about it, as Knight argues, but with a certain touch of wish fulfillment. Little Ricky can send away Mommy (Belle) and marry Unca Dan, but she has to become big Ricky first.

A recurring theme in Heinlein's works is that the woman seems to have figured it out first. Isobel Costello had taken to Don Harvey before he had taken to her [Between Planets], Bill Lermer is unaware that Gretchen Schultz has decided [Farmer in the Sky], and most disadvantageous of all, Thorby Baslim (technically at that point "Baslim-Krausa") is targeted by two different young women [Citizen of the Galaxy]. And then there is Peewee Reisfeld and her choice, the hapless (in that alone) Kip Russell [Have Space Suit Will Travel]!

Or maybe he was just figuring the market. In the Puddin' story "Cliff and the Calories", written for young women, Cliff is drawn to Puddin' when she thinks he isn't. [Though one could argue that both Cliff and Daddy are manipulating Puddin' keeping her fat so she can live up to their images.]

Anyway, Dan Davis's psychological needs require going back to the future now. There was an already paid-for cold sleep contract out there waiting for him, complete with cat, and Dan simply went back there and took it, complete with cat. That friendly doctor evidently never looked into his mouth [note what the dentist said about Dan's tooth regeneration on pp. 134-5] in the course of passing him fit, very fit, to which Dan says "Doc, you don't know the half of it." [p. 151]

No breasts in these dreams, or hopelessness, either; and when the sleeper wakes this time he has taken control of his fate. The two circumstances may be connected.

Dan must have sent a note to the Suttons giving his plans for his return, for John has waited thirty years to send his partner a letter. "We've done pretty well, I think," [p. 153] John says, but then Dan had already known that. But if he lacked proof there is always the substantial draft against accumulated dividends enclosed. Nice of them to let him have an interest in the company.

There is one final thing to do to finish reconciling his time lines, and the more forceful Dan proceeds to do it. But then, unlike other Sleepers, he had experience. He takes Pete and proceeds to the sanctuary where Ricky is, where he gets yet another shock: "[She] wished not to be waked at all until you showed up." [p, 153] Now that's dedication! But then, he had had a hint. Considering that, the subsequent scene where Ricky wakes up, her childhood crush fulfilled and her dream made real, while moving, is to be expected.

Finally, the reader is shown what had so stunningly appalled Dan his first time around, in his investigation of the whereabouts of F. V. Heinicke [p. 116]; "I signed the county clerk's book in a fine round hand, using my full name 'Daniel Boone Davis,' so that there could be no possible doubt as to which D. B. Davis had designed this magnum opus." [p. 154] Or marriage, anyhow. That's obvious by now.

The Dickian theme might have been better served if Heinlein had written up Dan's original investigation in more detail. Presumably the people at the Yuma courthouse would have recognized him, and he might even have had to flee under suspicion. A portrayal of the mental turmoil provoked by seeing the unbelievable proof that he had to have done something he could not have done would have taken the themes of "By His Bootstraps" [Astounding, October 1941, by "Anson MacDonald"] a bit farther forward.

But not wanting to emulate that scene of "By His Bootstraps" where the character gets into a fistfight with himself while he watches from the sidelines, Dan hides out from himself on a ranch near Tucson the fact that the ranch is secluded and the vacation is their honeymoon is just a bagatelle.

After all is clear and his previous time-line self has been shipped into the past, Dan emerges and settles his life properly. In spite of his unique financial position, he chooses to encourage competition, getting a perfect research and development position, with no Miles Gentrys to sell him out and no deadlines to go before he must Cold Sleep.

VIII. I LOOKED AROUND ENOUGH TO KNOW

What if Dan had seen his own name, from his second awakening? He wonders himself:


But what would I have done if I had seen it? Gone there, met myself and gone stark mad? No, for if I had seen it, I wouldn't have done the things I did afterward "afterward" for me which led up to it. Therefore it could never have happened that way. The control is a negative feedback type, with a built-in "fail safe," because the very existence of that line of print depended on my not seeing it; the apparent possiblity that I might have seen it is one of the excluded "not possibles" of the basic circuit design.

The Door Into Summer, p. 157


More plausibly, he might have not paid attention to it, in line with Chuck's comment on the number of people in Great Los Angeles named "D. B. Davis" [p. 105] he would have no reason to assume that that entry in the listings of withdrawals was anything more than an interesting coincidence.

Panshin says: "Time travel stories are generally so complicated that they have to be tightly plotted if they are to be successful . . . [this] one is no exception." [Heinlein In Dimension, p. 78] It is very well plotted. It takes a few readings to note the subtleties. For example, at the Sanctuary where "F. V. Heinicke" has just been released, the doctor asks Dan, "Haven't I seen you before?" [p. 116]. The first thing Dr. Twitchell says to him is "You again," [p. 117]. His response is the same in both cases; he has a commonplace face.

But, as further reading reveals, both of them had indeed seen him before; Twitchell in the drug store in Denver [pp. 132-3] and the doctor, presumably, had passed by when Dan came in to get Ricky [pp. 153-4]. "Before", that is, on their own (normal) time-lines; from Dan's point of view, these meetings were still to come those times. The meeting with the doctor isn't even mentioned, the reader has to conclude that something of the sort must have happened.

This is, again, a more subtle course of action than that of the fist fighters in "By His Bootstraps" and more plausible than the seducer in "All You Zombies" (which admittedly has a different intent). These little things, far more than the string of collisions of Dan with his record, make the twisted timelines work. Indeed, one wonders about certain problems. Dan says about not going to see the director of the sanctuary that "I may have made a mistake" [p. 116]. Thinking about it, it seems far more likely that going there would have been the mistake, a big mistake. Consider it from their point of view: D. B. Davis shows up on Monday and takes away Ricky Heinicke (who just happens to be the Hired Girl heiress). On Saturday morning, he shows up again (or so they see it), unkempt and hung-over, demanding to know "Where is she?" If the Sanctuary did not assume that she was in fact dead, killed during a drunken frenzy, and now the killer was in a state of alcohol-induced amnesia, still believing that his victim was not yet in his hands, they would be being extremely remiss in their responsibilities. But again, it didn't happen because then the causes would not have happened.

There are even more problematic possibilities to be considered. Suppose, for example, that in 1971, while Miles and Belle were trying to keep Hired Girl going, they had bothered to check the state of the art? It seems hard to believe that any company in a developing market would be unaware of the doings of the competition.

Finding out that a competing startup was using inventions made by D. B. Davis at a time when D. B. Davis was supposedly under exclusive contract to Hired Girl would be the fulfillment of Belle's dreams. One can imagine her saying to Miles, "Not only do we get our original deal, Chubby, and this new design thingamajig, but we can get a fat settlement from this lawyer bum."

But of course that didn't happen because it didn't happen; Dan only did the designs for Eager Beaver and Drafting Dan because they were made by another company. This nevertheless implies a certain carelessness of vision on the part of some very clever planners.

There is a plausible variation of this, set after the end of the book. Suppose that someone at the Justice Department notices an interesting concatenation of circumstances. There are two leading companies in the home robotics business. The largest stockholder in one is the wife of a partner of the other. Since Justice Department antitrust lawyers aren't paid to not file antitrust suits, you can bet that this would be taken as proof of collusion between Hired Girl and Aladdin.

The trial could have been amusing, going on the basis of the law suits in The Star Beast and "Jerry Is a Man", or grim, going on the basis of the legal scenes in Citizen of the Galaxy and "Requiem". One could be reasonably sure that the testimony would bring out that Dan Davis was undeniably in California from May to December 1970, working for Hired Girl and just as undeniably that Dan Davis was in Colorado from May to December 1970, designing the start-up products for Aladdin.

"'If This Goes On'" is internally justified as being John Lyle's autobiography, his explanation for joining the Cabal. Double Star is its narrator's personal psychohistory, written to clarify his feelings at having to assume a permanent role, discarding one identity for another. Heinlein seemed to find such justifications less necessary in his later years. Perhaps this work is meant to be another of that sort, but he dropped the justification. "Your Honor, we would like to introduce into evidence this statement by Mr. Davis in explanation of the testimony of Mr. & Mrs. Sutton, Mrs. Schultz, and other witnesses."

IX.YOU'RE THE ONE I WANT TO GO THROUGH TIME WITH

The Heinlein Individual is always growing up. From the naïve but talented youth (think Andy Libby to Kip Russell) to the confident, but searching adult (Hamilton Felix to Professor Curt Reisfeld), to the worldly, wise elder (D. D. Harriman to Richard Baslim), he is always wanting to learn something new, to experience the different.

Dan Davis is growing up in a different sort of way. Commentators have observed that he is self-centered, unfeeling; he is more interested in his cat than any human, and egocentrically expects that his wife will follow his will. This is true at the beginning.

The book is about what happens to him as a result of his self-centeredness. In the aftermath of being thrown down, Dan develops a talent for persuasion, showing it on many occasions through the book. If he had been half as persuasive as this before all these events began, Miles would have agreed to everything he had suggested. (Of course, then we wouldn't have had the book and Dan would have married Belle, a course not conducive to long life. Hm.)

The rites of passage for a Heinlein character from level to level are often painful. Thorby Baslim Krausa Rudbeck lost his identity twice before he finally found it; Tom Bartlett had to see his friends and comrades die horribly; Max Jones was the only choice between certain death and probable death (but possible survival) for a shipload of people. Dan Davis was also tried in such a harsh proving ground, robbed of the products of his mind and labor. Damon Knight makes an interesting comparison of his situation: "as original as the Grimm fairy tale 'The Golden Bird' (in which the good brother does all the work while the bad one gets all the credit)" [In Search of Wonder, p. 79], forgetting that the Grimm fairy tales were often pretty grim.

They represent certain literary archetypes, human situations that are intensified in the world of story. It is because of this nadir in his life that the process of building the final Dan is such a revealing procedure of growth. Dan is shedding the technonerd shell of indifference to become a more complete person; and change is always a painful process.

The book ends with an evocation of the power of human ingenuity, a summation of the end for which the means of the gadgets described are intended to achieve. Those who derogate technology, the physical extention of ideas, are angry, and perhaps deserve an example of what the real thing is like, Dan opines, and then ends with a poetic coda:


But I am not mad at anybody and I like now. Except that Pete is getting older, a little fatter, and not as inclined to choose a younger opponent; all too soon he must take the very Long Sleep. I hope with all my heart that his gallant little soul may find its Door into Summer, where catnip fields abound and tabbies are complacent, and robot opponents are programmed to fight fiercely but always lose and people have friendly laps and legs to strop against, but never a foot that kicks.

Ricky is getting fat, too, but for a temporary, happier reason. It has just made her more beautiful and her sweet eternal Yea! is unchanged, but it is uncomfortable for her. I'm working on gadgets to make things easier. It just isn't very convenient to be a woman; something ought to be done and I'm convinced that some things can be done. There's that matter of leaning over, and also the backaches I'm working on those, and I've built her a hydraulic bed that I think I will patent. It ought to be easier to get in and out of a bathtub than it is too. I haven't solved that yet.

For old Pete I've built a "cat bathroom" to use in bad weather automatic, self-replenishing, sanitary, and odorless. However, Pete, being a proper cat, prefers to go outdoors, and he has never given up his conviction that if you try all the doors one of them is bound to be the Door into Summer.

You know, I think he is right.

The Door Into Summer, pp. 155-9


The greater tragedy is that there came a time when Heinlein was no longer capable of writing this.

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