Monday, August 20, 2007

Heinlein Centenary -- The Green Hills of Earth

At one time, I listed this as one of my favorite SF books. Reading it again after 50 years, I can see why. Mainly because of two stories, the title one and "The Long Watch."

When I was a teenager, I wanted more than just about anything to be a poet. I loved all kinds of poems, and of course I wrote my own. (Little known fact: my first national publication was a poem in a magazine called
The Runner, and I published poems in a few "little" magazines, too. Not to mention one in Grit.) So it's no wonder that I loved "The Green Hills of Earth," the story of Rhysling, the Blind Singer of the Spaceways. I loved Rhysling's poems, too, and I'm sure I wrote more than one in painful imitation of them.

"The Long Watch" undoubtedly appealed to me for another reason. I admired the protagonist's sacrifice to prevent a military coup, and I still get a sentimental thrill out of this paragraph:
He was not alone; there were comrades with him -- the boy with his finger in the dike, Colonel Bowie, too ill to move but insisting that he be carried across the line, the dying Captain of the Chesapeake, still with deathless challenge on his lips, Roger Young peering into the gloom. They gathered about him in the dusky bomb room. Even as a kid, I knew I could never be a hero, not that kind, but it was great to read about one and pretend for a little while that I might be.

The other stories are still fun to read, if not quite as wonderful as I thought they were 50 years ago. They might not even be among Heinlein's best. But I recommend them highly. This is what SF was all about at one time, at least for me.

9 comments:

  1. Todd Mason8:58 AM

    This was his first slick collection, no? "Green Hills" was certainly in SATEVEPOST, iinm, or was it COLLIER'S? (Think SEP, will check.)

    Not having read "Jerry Was a Man" beforehand, I wasn't aware to what extent the story was dumbed down for MASTERS OF SF on Saturday...I am beginning to hear from the RAH fans and readers, Damien Broderick and folks on the TV GUIDE board, who Were Not Pleased.

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  2. Judging by the copyrights, this was indeed an all-slicks collection.

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  3. Todd Mason9:04 AM

    Or at least, pretty much, with ARGOSY and BLUE BOOK not yet quite slicks (and a couple of congenial, accessible Campbell sales):

    The short stories included in the book The Green Hills of Earth are as follows, in the order they appear in the book.

    "Delilah and the Space Rigger" (1949; originally published in Blue Book)
    "Space Jockey" (1947; originally published in The Saturday Evening Post)
    "The Long Watch" (1949; originally published in The American Legion Magazine)
    "Gentlemen, Be Seated!" (1948; originally published in Argosy Magazine)
    "The Black Pits of Luna" (1948; originally published in The Saturday Evening Post)
    "It's Great to Be Back!" (1947; originally published in The Saturday Evening Post)
    "—We Also Walk Dogs" (1941; originally published in Astounding Science Fiction)
    "Ordeal in Space" (1948; originally published in Town & Country)
    "The Green Hills of Earth" (1947; originally published in The Saturday Evening Post)
    "Logic of Empire" (1941; originally published in Astounding Science Fiction)

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  4. Todd Mason9:09 AM

    (First RAH book I bought, a secondhand Signet edition similar to yours only with yellow masses rather than blue...I was Really Old, musta bin twenty years or so at the time! Me being 13, this being 1978.) (Oddly enough, my first national publication, not factual nor a review, was a poem as well, in Janet Fox's SCAVENGER'S NEWSLETTER. Truly, can we pre-emptively create a new THE STUFFED OWL?)

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  5. The world isn't ready for that.

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  6. I knew you had the sensitive soul of a poet. Okay, okay, I wrote a few when I was young, but I never had any ambition to BE a poet. Come to think of it, I never had any ambition at all.

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  7. Richard Heft3:25 PM

    Bill, I re-read THE DOOR INTO SUMMER over the weekend (I read it the first time during the Reagan Presidency), and was creeped out by the same plot point as you; I was also disturbed by the fact that an honest attorney literally drops into the protagonist's lap (or vice versa) at precisely the moment he desperately needs one. The second time around, TDIS showed some signs of being plotted in haste.

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  8. Rumor has it that Heinlein wrote it in two weeks.

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  9. When will we see THE COLLECTED POEMS OF BILL CRIDER?

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