Heinlein’s future history stories of the 30s and 40s

Jo Walton:

In these early stories, Heinlein wrote about the future as if he’d been there. He wrote the most absurd things—the rolling roads of “The Roads Must Roll” and the mathematics of psychology in “Blowups Happen,” but he wrote them with a kind of authority and authenticity that made them seem real. It’s partly the way he drops the details in and writes about it as if it’s routine: “The rockets roared on time; Jake went back to sleep” (“Space Jockey”). Of course he did. Lazarus Long wears a kilt because there’s a fashion for wearing kilts—because that’s the kind of thing that happens. People say they live “in the Moon,” only a groundhog would say “on the Moon.” Of course they do, and of course people from Earth are groundhogs. There’s an inevitability to Heinlein’s futures, however inherently implausible they are, and however much the real future has overtaken them. It’s the inevitability of having people do the kind of things people do, and the kind of thing anyone would do, in the new circumstances. There was more to him than that, but this was Heinlein’s genius—making you read along, making up the world in your head, and saying “Of course.”


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