Tag Archives: Heinlein

Science Fiction and the Car

science ficion cars

I love writing and technology. Naturally, I’ve read a lot of science fiction over the years. Looking back, the technological hits and misses astound me. I’m talking about ‘Near Future Science Fiction.’

For example, Heinlein wrote a number of stories about the world less than a hundred years in the future. In 1940 he wrote a short story called ‘Let there be light’ in which the hero had invented a 99% efficient solar panel. Still waiting on that one, aren’t we?

Transportation seems one area science fiction writers have neglected. You can find lots of stories with spaceships, but very few with commuters. About the only form of transportation that seems to inspire stories is teleportation. I’m thinking about ‘Granny won’t knit’ by Theodore Sturgeon, ‘The Stars My Destination’ by Alfred Bester and the Known Space universe of Larry Niven.

For some reason Science Fiction writers were convinced that personal helicopters would replace cars. I agree that would solve the highway problem, but the potential for fender benders makes me shudder. Others posited antigravity sleds, helicopters without the revolving blades in effect.

However, the automobile has been pretty much ignored. Automated taxis have popped up as a sideline. The one in the original ‘Total Recall’ was amusing. The only story that I can remember that focused on future cars is ‘Code Three’ by Rick Raphael. It revolved around the lives of a couple of highway patrol men in a future where automobiles travelled on roads at speeds up to 400 MPH.

I think that the reason automobiles have been ignored, is that nobody has found anything that could be done to create an interesting story with them. Roads are another matter. Whether we are talking about ‘The Roads must Roll’ by Heinlein, or ‘Roadmarks’ by Roger Zelazny, the appeal of the road is about the journey. Since all stories are journeys of one form or another, this makes sense.

How about a story with an automated taxi cab? I can think of a great opening. The taxi pulls up to the police station, but no one gets out. A cop looks inside the cab and sees a dead man.

If I write it now, would it be science fiction or a modern mystery?

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

 

 

Science Fiction Poetry

Poet

Since I enjoy poetry (I don’t write it) and enjoy Science Fiction, my research into the Hugo Wars uncovered an interesting fact. There’s no Hugo for Science Fiction poetry.

Now science fiction magazines have published poetry for almost a century now. The Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) created its own awards, the Rhysling, to make up for this oversight. This award had been handed out continuously since 1978. If you look the award up, you’ll recognize some of the winners as authors you know.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Poetry and speculative fiction have a long association. The medieval poetry of gods and monsters hold the stories of Siegfried and Beowulf. Bryon’s Childe Harold inspired two multi-book stories, one from Gordon R. Dickson and the other from Stephen King.

This, of course, begins another of those continuous discussions of ‘What is Poetry’ with an additional twist. What makes it SF poetry?

I won’t try to answer that. I don’t want to start any flame wars. However, I think I can point to a shining example that all of the SFPA would agree with. Their award is named after a fictional character, a poet, in a Robert Heinlein story, ‘The Green Hills of Earth’. The story is a biography of “Noisy” Rhysling and includes a song with the same name as the story. Here’s a bit of it:

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet —

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the fleecy skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.
–Robert A Heinlein

Is it poetry? I think so. Is it SF poetry? With rockets and space flight throughout the solar system it definitely is. What gives it such power? The poem’s strength lies in the emotional impact. Heinlein manages in a few lines to capture the homesickness of every person who has left his familiar world for another.

Go and search the Internet and find more Science Fiction poetry. With English the most spoken language in the world there must be a few thousand who will like Science Fiction poetry.

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net

Turning The Moon is a Harsh Mistress into Uprising

They plan to make Robert A. Heinlein’s Book, ‘The Moon is a Harsh Mistress’ into a movie. They have a producer (Bryan Singer) and a screen writer (Marc Guggenheim) in place as of a few days ago. This isn’t the first attempt. In 2004 a screenwriter Tim Minear started a screenplay based on the novel. It was shopped around but never got off the ground.

If you haven’t read the novel, I would recommend it. It’s written in an easy style. It has enough action to keep a reader interested. The characters, while one dimensional, are interesting. It also has just a touch of sin, and paints an interesting picture of lunar colonies.

Heinlein wrote the novel in 1965, and it was first serialized in the ‘Worlds of If’ science fiction magazine. That’s where I first read it. It has a computer (not a robot) that talked, and became sentient. It had revolutionaries, and a completely new culture set on Luna.

I’ve written several stories about the moon, in part inspired by Heinlein’s attention to detail; ‘Crash’, ‘Nothing but Vacuum’, ‘No place for a Cripple’, and a few that have not yet sold.

To libertarians this book is one of the ten best in the twentieth century. Milton Friedman praised the novel as a “wonderful” book. Another element of the novel is the line marriage structure Heinlein describes in the novel. In 1966 we hadn’t heard of polyamory. There’s also the key issue that is driving the revolution, and his stark position that you can’t cheat natural laws, just because you want to. That makes Heinlein an early conservationist.

So there’s a lot in the book. Well it’s 115,000 words. So how do they plan to turn that into a 2 hour screen play of 120 pages? Obviously, they plan to cut something, but what?

Here are some hints. They plan to title the movie ‘Uprising’. Marc Guggenheim’s previous screen plays were ‘Green Lantern’ and ‘Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters’. (Before that he wrote comics – ‘Spiderman’ and ‘The Flash’. ) Bryan Singer has some excellent credits. He directed ‘The Usual Suspects’ as well the ‘X-men’ movies. So from this meager information I will predict that movie will concentrate on the revolution, and probably drop all stuff that made the book so controversial.

To see some of my short stories go to www.edwardmcdermott.net