The Quadratic Franchise

Many, many years ago I read an essay by the science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein about civics.  He was making the case that democracy was the proposition that a million men were smarter than one man or a few men.  And he batted that idea around.  His point was that the average man might not be the right decision maker for society.  And then he thought of how we could rig things to make democracy better.  Now, being an engineer, his first idea was based on the type of tests that would appeal to a technical mind.  He imagined the voting booth being equipped with a visual display of some sort that communicated a problem to the voter to solve before being allowed to vote.  Heinlein favored solving a quadratic equation as the qualifying test.  I can’t remember if it was a multiple-choice question or not but at the time, I saw the sense of it.  Pick some minimally difficult standard of intelligence and make it a condition for voting.

But intelligence is not the only criterion for citizenship.  Moral fitness may be even more important.  You may be smart enough to know something is a bad idea for society but if you think that you’ll personally benefit from it then you might go along with it.  So, another way to rig the franchise is disqualify people who have chosen to live antisocially.  Currently, most states disqualify felons from voting.  That seems a reasonable measure.  But I think there are other larger voting blocks that should be looked at.  Perhaps civil servants should not be allowed to vote.  After all, teachers and prison guards have controlled politics in California and other states like Illinois and New Jersey for decades based on their habit of voting in Democrats to keep their pensions and salaries robust.  Maybe anyone on welfare should be taken off the voters’ roll because they’ll vote for the liberal who will keep their gravy train flowing.

Or maybe we should go the other way around.  Maybe people’s votes should be weighted according to how much taxes they pay.  So, Elon Musk pays on average ten million dollars in taxes a year and I pay fifty thousand so his vote should count for two hundred of mine.  And the guy who pays no taxes has no vote or maybe some minimal fraction of a vote.

But of course, the absurdity of this whole discussion is that none of this matters because as Dementia Joe recently pointed out, it’s not who votes but who counts the votes, that counts.  Even when unheard of numbers of Americans came out to vote in 2020 the people who rig elections in Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Madison and Phoenix simply ran the photocopy machines ten times as long and manufactured the votes needed to fake the election result they wanted.

We can talk about who the least responsible voters are.  My favorite is women because they vote with their emotions and because they’re gullible and easily flattered into thinking their self-interest is equal to the good of the country.  But even they will recognize grim reality when it comes in the likeness of a BLM mob.  So ultimately trying to fix representative government means absolutely nothing when the ballot box is being stuffed.

I think the attempts to fix this situation and the simultaneous attempt to codify fraud by the Democrats is the biggest struggle going on right now in our country.  I don’t want to overblow the criticality of the result because the bad guys never run out of ways to degrade our country.  Literally they never quit.  But I think the attempt to fix this problem is a fair test of whether there is enough strength left in our system and in our will to turn the country around.  If after what happened in 2020, we don’t solve this problem then we’re not going to have the strength to survive the diseases that afflict our country.  They will overwhelm the system like a parasitic disease that saps its host’s strength and eventually leads to death.

Heinlein thought about civics and ways that we could improve citizenship.  But he also predicted the decay of our society under the influence of progressivism.  I think he would have recognized the symptoms we are currently suffering from but he still might have been sad to see it happen to the country he loved.

War Pig’s Feedback

I prefer the government of “Starship Troopers”. I also like the idea he postulated in “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” – that any law passed can be nullified by I believe a 1/3 vote of the People. After all if a law is so poorly written or unnecessary that a full third of your citizens despises it, it is a bad law.

I do NOT trust the form of voting in Sam Clemen’s “The Curious Republic of Gondour”, since we have seen what craziness is professed in western colleges and universities. What was it William F Buckley Jr said;- “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.”

 

(Good to hear from you War Pig.  All the best.

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When Does the Break Occur?

When I was just a young kid, I started reading science fiction.  And why not?  Science fiction was all about rocket ships and there were real rocket ships going into real space right before my eyes.  And one of my favorite authors was Robert Heinlein.  He wrote all about the early days of man’s conquest of the universe.  And he built his own fictional universe with a “Future History” timeline that talked about how all this progress would effect mankind.  And one of the things he “predicted” was “The Crazy Years.”  These were tucked into the 1960’s and would involve the breakdown of social mores and widespread confusion and anti-social trends.  Reading it makes it sound very much like what the actual sixties were like.  And the prediction was that this breakdown of societal stability would lead to wars and revolution and dictatorships to address the lack of order.  By the 1980’s I was feeling bad for old Pops Heinlein when we didn’t fall into chaos.  After all Ronald Reagan had reestablished order on the shining city on a hill.

Well, time has shown me that I was too impatient.  I didn’t wait long enough for the end of the Crazy Years.  And who better to officiate at the climax of the Crazy Years than a dementia patient?  Good Old Joe Biden.  Joe has taken it upon himself to finish off the American republic for good and all.  He’s not working around the edges like his boy Obama.  No, he’s got his knife right at the throat and is just waiting to have Congress put the bowl out to catch the blood so they can pass it over to their vampires to gorge on.

But the Future History timeline also showed that eventually the Crazy Years would be ended by serious men.  They would organize and topple the insane governments that allowed their people to be victimized by the insane and the lawless.  Usually in Heinlein’s stories they would be military or former military men.  Only after order was restored would civilian government be restored.  But even then, things wouldn’t go back to the way they had been.  A lesson had been learned.

So, I have two questions.

  • How long, if ever, will it take for men to emerge who will say this has gone far enough and we’re going to fix this?
  • Will any changes be put in place to prevent the madness from coming back?

I’ve been trying to answer these hypothetical questions.  Probably it’s just a fantasy with little or no science to it.  But it makes me feel better to think I’m at least looking ahead.  If I was going to guess I’d say that it will happen in some area of the country where the proportion of normal people is still fairly high.  And how it will happen is that some city in this healthy area will start causing serious damage to the people in the suburbs and rural areas.  After that, the state government will try to address this situation and the federal government will try to prevent them.  And that’s where the flashpoint will occur.  If the state gets Washington to back down that will set the pattern for greater and greater state autonomy and less and less power by Washington.  And once the other Red States see this, they will follow suit.  That will be the tipping point to changing what is happening across the country.  New laws will be made to address the underlying causes of the instability and lawlessness and at some point, the Red States and the Blue States will have to recognize and formalize the changes to the way they interact.

But if the federal government crushes the state’s attempt to end urban lawlessness, then it will take a much longer time for vigilantes to start self-policing their local areas.  It will be a grassroots movement and it will be fought by the FBI investigating disappearances of known felons who went too far out of their home turf and just vanished.

Now, how long will it take to reach these places?  For something to be done by the states, that could happen tomorrow.  Let’s say anytime in the next few years.  For grassroots vigilantism to become a widespread phenomenon, I guess it depends on how violent the attacks become.  But I’d say it might take five or ten years for people to get desperate enough to stake their lives on it.  These are just guesses.

As for my second question, what changes will be put in place in a new national government.  I would say that the biggest changes would be mandatory gun ownership, codified right to state secession from the Union and permanent migrant control policies.  If I were to add anything to these three things, I’d add outlaw affirmative action and female suffrage and restore an all-normal male armed forces and finally start taxing companies based on what percentage of their workforce is in the United States.

So, the bad news is, unless some governor successfully backs the federal government down on the lawlessness they’ve unleashed, it could take a decade for a grassroots vigilantism movement to mature into something powerful enough to take hold and move us toward the restoration of order.

So, there’s my crack at being a right-wing Nostradamus.  In most of Heinlein’s books revolts went along with a lot of bloody battles.  And there was no guarantee that outside forces wouldn’t lob in some nukes to make it interesting.  But I gave you my best shot.  What’s your thoughts?

Mutiny in Space – The Thousand Worlds – A Science Fiction Book Review

Back in 2015 and thereafter there was a titanic struggle to liberate science fiction and fantasy books from the iron grip of the social justice school of fiction writing that controlled the publishing and awards for writing in these genres.  You can read about these things here.

Vox Day has a publishing firm called Castalia House and he has attempted to promote authors who practice old time science fiction and fantasy story writing.  Mutiny in Space is published by Castalia House and is the first volume in the author, Rod Walker’s “The Thousand Worlds” series.

In the description on the back cover of the paperback edition Castalia House explicitly states that Mutiny in Space is written in the style of Robert A Heinlein’s series of books for young adults (or juveniles, as they were described in the old days).  Now Heinlein wrote some really excellent fiction back in his day.  Here’s a link to my thoughts on his writing.  In a nutshell if someone were to successfully write science fiction in the style of Heinlein’s juveniles, I would think these stories would be very sought after.  So I bought Mutiny in Space intending to see if it lived up to this representation.

I’ll cut to the chase.  It does.  Now I don’t mean it reads exactly like Heinlein.  In fact, far from it.  Rod Walker has different characters and different plots and a different voice.  There are similarities in the universe that he has built.  The way that his interstellar drive works approximates the multi-jump method used by Heinlein in his book “Starman Jones.”  And the emphasis on technical skills among his heroes as opposed to the dependence on rhetorical ability among his villains is also reminiscent of Heinlein’s style.  And the pairing of a father figure and an orphaned young man is also familiar to Heinlein readers.

The story is the adventure of sixteen-year-old Nikolai Rovio leaving his unhappy life on New Chicago for the promise of a new life as a technician on an interstellar freighter the Rusalka.  But the unsettled politics of New Chicago aren’t left behind when he boards his ship and he quickly learns that trouble can find you even after you stop looking for it.

I won’t dig into the plot details.  The book is short by today’s standards, about 180 pages.  But that is actually very much like the length of Heinlein’s juveniles.  It isn’t deathless prose but it is a straight up adventure story very much in the tradition of the older style of science fiction from the nineteen thirties, forties and fifties.  I can recommend this book for a young reader or anyone who like the old style of science fiction that I grew up on.

Star Trek – The Original Series – Complete Series Review – Season 2 Episode 15 – The Trouble with Tribbles

Ah, so much to say, so much to say.  The Trouble with Tribbles is a comic episode.  It allows Shatner and the rest of the regulars to ham it up outrageously.  And as it turns out that is the highest and best use of the series.  Uhura, Chekov, Scotty, McCoy, Spock and of course Kirk are provided dialog and space to flesh out their characters with some comic verve.  Finally, something to enjoy.

The plot has the Enterprise summoned by an emergency distress call to Deep Space Station blah blah blah  where they find that there is no emergency but that a space bureaucrat is worried that his space wheat seeds will be sabotaged before it can be delivered to a planet in dispute between Klingons and the Federation.  Kirk is outraged by this high-handed use of a distress call and insults the Under-Secretary of Wheat.  Then Kirk is called up by his boss and told to do what the bureaucrat tells him to do.  Kirk obeys with bad grace and assigns guards to protect the wheat from the Klingons who are on board the space station for rest and relaxation.  The Klingon commander is played by the actor who showed up on the episode, “The Squire of Gothos” as the titular character Trelane.  So Kirk uses the opportunity of the stay at the space station to allow his whole crew to take shore leave on the space station.  Scotty is the only crewman who doesn’t want to take leave but Kirk forces him to go and keep an eye on the rest of the crew and avoid trouble with the Klingons.

A space trader named Cyrano Jones shows up at the space station and among the things he is selling are tribbles.  These are fur balls that purr around humans and hate Klingons.  Jones gives one to Uhura while she is seated at the bar in the space station lounge.  She takes it back to the ship and we find out that tribbles are prolific breeders and within a few days the Enterprise and the space station are both becoming overrun with the fuzzy creatures.

Meanwhile, Scotty, Chekov and some red shirts are having drinks in the lounge when one of the Klingons starts insulting Kirk.  Chekov is incensed and wants to start a brawl with the Klingons but Scotty restrains him explaining that it isn’t important and everyone is entitled to his opinion.  But when the Klingon starts insulting the Enterprise as a ship Scotty punches him in the head and a huge brawl breaks out.  The fight alarms the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat and he rants and raves at Kirk about dangerous Klingons and rowdy Federation spacemen and tribbles.  Kirk is annoyed and promises to discipline his crew.

At this point the tribble infestation on the Enterprise becomes a catastrophe.  The tribbles have managed to infiltrate the food production systems and we see the spectacle of Kirk staring at his lunch tray covered with tribbles muttering “my chicken sandwich and coffee” to anyone who will listen.  When Scotty explains that the tribbles have managed to get into the air ducts, Kirk immediately realizes that the space wheat storage bins have air ducts too.  Kirk, Spock and McCoy rush over to the space station and when the storage bins doors don’t open easily Kirk fiddles with it and the overhead bin opens up and pours down hundreds of tribbles onto Kirk.  They’ve eaten all the space wheat and the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat, who was there to witness this debacle, blows a space-gasket and starts heaping abuse and threats on Kirk.  Meanwhile Spock, after first estimating the number of tribbles as something north of a million, observes that many of the tribbles are dead.  Bones then diagnoses the cause of death as a poison that the wheat contains.  A virus has been added to the wheat which renders the eater unable to ingest nutrition and therefore subject to death by starvation.

Using the tribbles’ hatred of Klingons Kirk is able to discover that the  Under-Under-Secretary of Space Wheat is a disguised Klingon and poisoned the space wheat.  This of course shuts up the Under-Secretary of Space Wheat and allows Kirk to walk away as the hero.

Finally Kirk returns to the ship and finds it cleared of tribbles and after a lot of hemming and hawing we find out that with the approval of Spock and McCoy, Scotty beamed all the tribbles onto the Klingon battleship just as it was about to warp out of orbit.  His words were, “I beamed them into the engineering section where they’ll be no tribble at all.”

Other than the fact that writer David Gerrold stole the concept of the tribble from Heinlein’s martian flat cats as they appeared in the novel “The Rolling Stones” I wholly approve of this episode.  It is obvious that a comical take on the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise is the only good purpose the show can be put to.

Kirk spends the whole episode outraged about everything.  The Under-Secretary is a truly annoying character.  For once you actually sympathize with Kirk.  The Klingons mock Kirk in front of his crew describing him as a strutting autocrat.  When Scotty tells Kirk about it and further admits that he didn’t bother to defend Kirk from the insults but did become enraged when the ship was insulted Kirk is cut to the quick.  And when the tribbles start discomfiting Kirk at every turn he is irritable and petulant.  This was indeed Shatner’s finest hour on Star Trek.

And Uhura, Scotty, Chekov get much more screen time than on any other episode I can remember.  Uhura gets to play with the tribble and converse with the rest of the crew.  Scotty and Chekov get a barroom brawl scene.  Even Spock gets to ham it up a little.

I won’t quibble about the tribbles.  I’m just going to give this episode a 10  //  10.

Citizen of the Galaxy by Robert A Heinlein – A Science Fiction Book Review

When the story opens an adolescent boy named Thorby is being sold on the slaver’s block in the ironically named Plaza of Liberty in Jubbulpore, the capital of Jubbul, which is itself the capital of the Nine Worlds ruled by the Sargon.  The Nine Worlds is presented as an oriental despotic empire complete with a caste system that includes slaves, beggars and thieves as acknowledged roles in the society.  Now this is embedded in a future that includes interstellar space ships, faster than light communication and a human civilization that has spread hundreds of light years from Earth.

Baslim the crippled beggar manages to purchase the boy.  He overcomes the boy’s ferocious hatred of his owners and uses kindness and fatherly discipline to raise the boy to be an honest and resourceful man.  As time goes on Thorby figures out that Baslim is a lot more than just a beggar.  Inside his lodgings in the underground slums of Jubbulpore, Baslim has modern teaching equipment that he uses to teach Thorby languages and mathematics and the history of the world he lives in.  Also, Baslim seems to be a spy, collecting information on the slave trade on Jubbul.  Eventually Baslim tells Thorby that someday Baslim would be gone and Thorby must leave Jubbul to escape from the squalor and injustice that was life in the Nine Worlds.  He uses hypnotic suggestion to implant a message in Thorby, that when delivered by the boy, would tell one of Baslim’s friends, who was a starship captain, that rescuing the boy would be the payment for a favor Baslim had done for the captain’s family.

And one day Thorby finds that Baslim has been arrested and executed as a spy and that the Sargon’s men are after Thorby.  Luckily Thorby had spotted Captain Krausa of the starship Sisu.  The message and the implied debt are acknowledged the Captain and by clever subterfuges performed by Thorby’s friends he is smuggled aboard the Sisu and escapes Jubbul.

Overcoming his grief at the death of his adoptive father Baslim, Thorby is adopted into the family that is the crew of Sisu.  A complex phratry and moiety arrangement connects the “family” on Sisu with the other Trader ships with their own “families.”  Thorby struggles to adapt to the strange ways of his new family but the connection to his ship mates stabilizes the boy and gives him the sense of belonging he needs.

But what Thorby doesn’t know is that Baslim had told Captain Krausa that Thorby probably had a family somewhere out in the free worlds beyond the Nine Worlds.  Krausa was committed to hand Thorby over to the authorities of the Space Guard, when he could, for reunion with his family.  But Thorby’s relation to Baslim means that the Sisu would gain great status with the other Trading families by keeping Thorby in their family.

After many adventures including shooting a space pirate ship out of the skies Thorby is finally returned to the Space Guard.  He learns that Baslim was a highly decorated officer in the Guard and he was doing espionage to help destroy the slave trade.  For someone associated with Baslim the Guard does everything humanly possible to help Thorby and finally finds his true family.  The details of this final chapter take him back to Earth and solves the mystery of his years as a slave.

Heinlein has crafted a story that combines facets of adventure stories from many sources.  Others have noted that there are some elements of the story that are reminiscent of Kipling’s novel Kim.  But mostly it contains the elements of Heinlein’s Future History Universe.  I especially found the world of the trader ship Sisu very imaginative and enjoyable.  But the whole book keeps the reader engaged, the characters are excellently drawn and the plot is lively.  Once again this is a Heinlein juvenile that is highly recommended.

Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert A Heinlein – A Science Fiction Book Review

“Have Space Suit – Will Travel” is probably the most whimsical of all Heinlein’s juvenile novels and also one of the most entertaining.  The protagonist is Kip Russell, a high school senior who more than anything wants to go into space.  But his high school doesn’t have the rigorous curriculum necessary to qualify him for a top engineering college.  But exhorted by his father to show initiative he enters the “Spaceway Soap” tag line contest that has a first prize of a free trip to the Moon.  He enters hundreds of phrases and one of his wins but it turns out another contestant sent it first so he gets a consolation prize of a real (but used) space suit.  Kip spends his summer repairing and installing the equipment needed to make the suit a functional piece of equipment.  As the summer is ending, he decides he will send the suit back and get the cash refund that will help him try to enter the local state college that is Kip’s only option.

But before returning it he takes it out into his rural neighborhood and using the functional radio transmitter that he’s installed in the suit he sends some fake messages.  He broadcasts, “Junebug to Peewee, come in.”  And when, surprisingly, Peewee answers him he tells her to home in on his position.  And then a flying saucer lands in front of him.  And then another one lands.  And then an alien comes running out of the first one and gets shot.  And then Kip gets shot with a ray gun.

When Kip wakes up, he is aboard one of the flying saucers and he meets Peewee.  She is a ten-year-old girl and a genius.  He finds out that she is being held prisoner by bug-eyed monsters that have also captured the alien that he saw earlier.  Peewee calls this alien the Mother Thing because of her empathetic abilities.  When Kip met them, Peewee and the Mother Thing had stolen a ship from the bug-eyed monsters (that Peewee calls the Wormfaces for obvious reasons) and been chased to his location.  Peewee had thought that because Kip had called for Peewee by name that it was her father trying to save her.  Her father is a very important scientific expert working with the government and academia.  She was kidnapped by some human agents of the Wormfaces while she was a tourist on the Moon.  And the Moon is where the flying saucer is taking them.

The story is extremely compelling with plenty of exciting exploits with planetary, interstellar and even intergalactic travel that expands the plot into higher and higher levels of extraterrestrial civilization.  By the end of the story Kip is representing Earth in a trial for the very future of the human race.

The story is a tour de force to showcase Heinlein’s ability to combine all of the tropes of the Golden Age Science Fiction space opera stories into an engaging adventure featuring a young adult protagonist that fits the Heinlein juvenile specification of an up by his bootstraps achiever who wants to go into last frontier of outer space by hard work and clean living.

I won’t give away all the details but I will say that this story is immensely entertaining and the protagonist is a wonderfully Heinleinesque narrator for this romp through the outer reaches of our solar system and beyond.  Very, very highly recommended for young and old alike.

 

The Star Beast by Robert A Heinlein – A Science Fiction Book Review

When I got a Newfoundland dog many years ago there was never any doubt that his name would be Lummox.  Because that is the name that Heinlein gave to his star beast.  When we meet Lummox, he’s living in the backyard of John Thomas Stuart XI.  He’s lived there for over a century under the present owner’s father, grandfather and great grandfather.  Over the course of his tenure he’s grown from about the size of a chihuahua to something larger than an elephant.  He’s equipped with eight legs and an appetite for a menu that ranges from rude neighborhood dogs to a Buick automobile.  His personality is friendly, enthusiastic and energetic but his discipline and attention to his master’s orders are decidedly inconsistent.  And for a creature with such an imposing size he has the voice of a baby girl.

Johnnie and Lummox are best friends, almost brothers, and even though his mother doesn’t share his feelings for the beast his girlfriend Betty is on their side.  So, when Lummox gets into trouble for going off reservation and busting up a lot of stuff, Johnnie and Betty do everything in their power to save Lummie from the clutches of the unsympathetic local sheriff who wants to have Lummox terminated as a public menace.

Heinlein weaves together the two threads of Lummox’s past and present to provide a future that wouldn’t have been guessed at the start of the story.  Mixed in with this is the story of Mr. Kiku, the Under Secretary of the Department of Spatial Affairs and his fear of snakes.  Heinlein builds up the little constellation of characters in the Department very nicely and gives us his ideas about how the permanent career bureaucrats in a government department interact with the political appointee that supposedly manages them.

And this is a typical Heinlein trait.  He likes to build up little self-consistent “worlds,” like Westville, the small town where Lummox lives or the Department of Spatial Affairs.  In another book you’ll find that the small-town people act and talk a lot like the people in Westville in this story.  I’m guessing that these small towns were like the small towns in Missouri that Heinlein remembers from his childhood.  And his descriptions of life on a space ship in several of his books comes from his own experience of shipboard life in the U. S. Navy.  Likewise, his ideas of government bureaucracy came from his experience as a government employee.

And throughout we get to know Johnnie and learn about his struggle to weigh loyalty to his friend against fighting insurmountable odds. He is the Heinlein young man character who has been raised to respect authority, is socially conventional, polite and honest.  But he runs smack dab into the injustice of the bureaucratic machine.  In the ensuing turmoil he discovers that a man sometimes has to break the rules to do what’s morally right and protect his own.  And mixed in with this is his relationship with his overprotective and domineering mother and his hyperactive and ambitious girlfriend.  This is another part of his growth as he finally asserts himself against these women jockeying for control of his life.

In this book Heinlein creates a few extraterrestrials types.  And he provides both sympathetic species and other less friendly from a human perspective.  And this lack of empathy allows for a plot device that has since been “borrowed” by the makers of the movie “Men in Black.”  See if you notice it when you read the book.  But the most interesting extraterrestrial is Lummox and Heinlein’s description of Lummox’s internal point of view is highly entertaining.  From my experience as the owner of a Newfoundland I found the beast’s motivations for some of his mistakes extremely familiar and plausible.

I won’t ruin the story by giving away any surprises.  They’re too good.  I would call this one of Heinlein’s most original novels and definitely highly successful as entertainment.  Once again, highly recommended for young and old.

The Rolling Stones by Robert A Heinlein – A Science Fiction Book Review

After rereading Starman Jones and writing a review it occurred to me that the Heinlein juveniles are better than ninety percent of all the Young Adult (YA) science fiction that’s come out since.  So my idea is not to just look at plot but really give a thorough analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of these classic stories.  Let’s look at “The Rolling Stones.”

The Stones are a family of “Loonies.”  That’s what the human inhabitants of Earth’s Moon call themselves.  In his Future History Heinlein has decided that the Moon is officially named Luna.  Roger and Edith are the parents of Meade, Castor, Pollux and Lowell (or as he’s nicknamed Buster).  And Hazel Meade is Roger’s mother.

Roger is an engineer by profession but lately his job has been writing a television (or whatever they call it) serial called Scourge of the Spaceways.  He despises the vapidity of the show but the hefty paycheck has hooked him.

Edith is a medical doctor and housewife who manages to keep the individualistic personalities of her children from wreaking havoc with her husband’s ideas of domestic sanity.

Meade is the oldest, recently graduated from high school and a social butterfly.  Castor and Pollux are identical twins high school juniors.  They are precocious engineering inventors who have made a good amount of money on an invention and are aching to break out on their own and make their fortune out in the far flung reaches of the solar system.  Buster is a four-year-old who is either a chess prodigy or can read his grandmother’s mind.  Finally, Hazel is one of the original “Founding Fathers” of the Luna Revolution (which Heinlein later back filled in his novel “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”).  She is a senior citizen but because of the preservative effects of living on the low gravity Moon she is quite lively and also extremely outspoken on everything from child-raising to larceny.

Heinlein creates a story about a middle-class family leaving their comfortable but boring environment in order to head out into the frontier of the solar system and experience life as a family and a crew.  Roger and Castor (and later Meade) handle the astrogation.  Hazel and Pollux run the engines.  Edith is the ship’s doctor, cook and also Buster’s mom.  Buster is (as his father notes in the crew list) supercargo.

But really what Heinlein is trying to point out is that the family hasn’t fared well under the modern lifestyle and living life together as a team can allow a father to get to know his children.  And allow them to find out more about their parents than just how much they are willing to spend on useless junk.  All the children benefit from the skills, talents and experiences of their parents and grandmother and the adults are enriched by the challenges of the trip and the chance to influence the choices their children make.

Of course, this is an altogether outlandish odyssey that they are on and apparently bankrolled by the amazingly lucrative writing contract for Scourge of the Spaceways.  Perhaps this is in a way a stand-in for Heinlein’s own lifestyle which was made possible by his well-paying books.  And considering the paucity of other money coming in from the commercial enterprises that the Twins attempt you could be excused for thinking the whole trip was a bust.  But it’s the setup we’re supposed to enjoy.  Seeing the Twins through the eyes of their grandmother as she attempts to extricate them from a legal mess that their ingenuity and inexperience combine to create, we see that this family is resourceful and interesting even when they fail.  These are the story elements that give the book its character.  The action, such as it is, is light and only occasionally rises above familial squabbling.  But Heinlein paints an entertaining picture of his Swiss Family Robinson in space.  Despite the futuristic backdrop and the extraordinary qualities of the individuals, the ethos and character of the family is mid-twentieth century American and it is a charming world that Heinlein has reimagined in the unrealizable future of his era.  The children despite their precocity are decidedly normal and compared to today’s versions, decidedly a breath of fresh air.

And whereas he did manage to tie Hazel somewhat into his other books, I had hoped he would have had a follow-on novel of the brothers in their grown-up stage pursuing fame and fortune while trying to avoid execution.  Some more exciting adventures in this frontier environment wouldn’t wear out the welcome for the Stone family among Heinlein readers.  In fact, one day I might write some of those stories, although if the copyright forbids, I’ll have to alter them to the extent of calling them Castor and Pollux Rock or Boulder or Pebble.  Either way the characters are too good to waste.

A remarkable thing about this book is that it introduced the science fiction creature the flat cat that was stolen by Star Trek and turned into the Tribble.  Of course, Heinlein was gracious enough to permit the theft but it just goes to show you how impoverished Hollywood really is.

The Rolling Stones is different from the other Heinlein juveniles in that the adventure is muted.  But I believe it has its own charm that is completely character driven.  The showcasing of a normal functional family is especially enheartening today when they are almost completely missing in books and films.

Highly recommended for children and adults.

04AUG2019 – OCF Update

Well, the madness continues without abatement.  Two mass shootings in two days.  I have a theory that when the political news is bad for the Left, as it’s been the last few weeks, it triggers the most unstable of the left-wing crazies to mass murder.  Of course it could just as easily be a random maniac but let’s see.  It’s hard to get reliable information on these mass murders but perhaps some unbiased journalist will see it as a worthwhile project.

Recently I put out a review of Starman Jones.  Rereading the old Heinlein juveniles is quite enjoyable and I’ve decided to reread and review the rest of them.  They are very well written and where they show their age it actually seems to be to their advantage.  Those were much happier and healthier times than the world we live in today.