Being Several People

No, I’m not going to confess to long bouts of schizophrenia.  Besides, for a writer having other people’s voices in their heads (either as thoughts or as actual auditory hallucinations, I understand, though, thank heavens I never got the second.  It would freak me out) is perfectly normal.

The difference you could say is between listening to a voice telling you to cut up the neighbors and put them in trash bags and doing it – or at least considering doing it – and listening to a voice telling you to cut up the neighbors and putting them in a trash bag and going “ooh.”  Then starting a story with “That was the day I cut up the neighbors—”

The second is perfectly normal for writers, though I’ve heard of certain lost souls who don’t get these and have to do every one of them, step by step by skull sweat, with no freebies from the subconscious.  Of course those people might be lying.  They might think it makes them sound smarter or more important to say that they have to sweat every little detail.

It’s always unwise to take as gospel truth the word of a pack of people who lie for a living.  Particularly when they’re telling you about the process by which they construct those lies.  The magician always keeps some secrets, etc.

But, at any rate, it is not this peculiar problem – or ability – of writers that I wish to address.  It might be freaky or neat to have several voices in you head.  They might or might not be variations of you (I hope not.) BUT in the end you have them or you don’t.  And if you do you learn very early on not to talk about them or people freak out.

The problem I want to talk about – which is right now hitting me with the full baseball bat with nails in it – is something we all face, arguably more so (though it’s debatable) in our present day, with present ways of living.

You know the thing about people being several persons: father, son, brother, husband, worker, etc.

Of course, to an extent this has always been so – I remember being shocked at watching my father being dressed down by his mother, as though he were about five years old, all authority gone.  Because he was my father, but her son, and in a traditional society like Portugal that means currents of authority.

Every man – or woman – alive has always faced this.

It applies, too, in relation to work.  You might be facing a disaster with drains at home, but when you enter the office building you’re supposed to forget about it.  If it’s something really important, and if you’ve worked for the company for a long time, you might (or not) be able to get time off to deal with it, or the fact that you’re working with a quarter brain might be forgiven.  For instance, my husband got time off to deal with my being in ICU with pneumonia, back when the kids were little.  And Baen has put up with delays caused by my uncertain health with not a complaint.  (Though occasional with prods with a sharp stick.)

To a certain extent, as I said, it always was like this.

The problem is this – since the beginning of the twentieth century – give or take twenty years – we’ve been blurring those lines some more.

It started with two things, both of them good: first the disappearance of domestic service.  (Don’t want to hear it.  People didn’t leave to go work in factories because factories were worse.  I’ve read about the drudgery of domestic service.  A lot of my mom’s friends had maids of all work, some of them as young as ten or twelve.  (Mom had a daily while she was actively working.  The problem was her dailies were usually sixteen or older – she dislikes the idea of child labor.  [Unless it was mine, and that’s because she thought she was training me.] — She always felt sorry for these girls and would – in her spare time – make them a full wardrobe.  They would then, in a highly class conscious society, “look like ladies.”  Next thing you knew they were married off and mom was minus a daily.  Fortunately there was a line waiting to work for her…) Heck, I’ve done it myself for a summer in Germany.  While a lot of those books about Victorian “servitude” are exaggerated and aim to horrify us and make us feel soft and fuzzy about our sensitivity, the real thing was no picnic.  Of course people left when another opportunity offered.  For one, in factories – particularly as the century progressed – there was an opportunity for advancement, which was lacking in domestic service.  Unless you married the boss, you as a servant would never become the boss.

The second good development was that people had more free time (in large part because factories made things cheaper.  It makes a huge difference.  All these books I’m reading from early century talk about women spending their evenings mending clothes or altering them, even well-to-do women.)

The free time gave people time to pursue what they really wanted to do – aka to have lives beyond work.  A lot of these involved things that wouldn’t pay, like volunteering at church or being secretary of some club.  (The vibrant club-life in America from sewing circles to the local group of the exchange student program that brought me over amazed me in the early eighties.  Is it still that way?  Doesn’t seem that way to me, but maybe it is I who am isolated and overworked and other people have more normal lives.)  But some people started developing second careers in their free time – which in the late twentieth century often turned into a first career when the first suddenly collapsed.

The problem is that the first development created what the whipper snappers of the sixties interpreted as the domestic servitude of women.  Since there were no servants, mom stayed home and did the house work.  Yes, many of these women would have been maids, without the tech developments made maids obsolete, but they were living middle class lives and had no household help.  So they were the household help.

This created the backlash among children who grew up with this and the idea that housework was horrible and demeaning and EVERYONE should work outside the home.

So the vast majority of people do.  And housework largely goes undone – I’ve always thought that we should be able to create the machines from The Door Into Summer.  We probably have the tech.  The problem is that most people have got used to living in a mess.  This is btw, how history/science don’t progress in a logical way.  SF writers in the fifties would look at our houses and go “why didn’t they create machines to do that?”  Well, first because the tech wasn’t quite there, and then because people got used to the mess and stopped seeing it – but a minimum must still be done.  We still have to feed ourselves and most of us clean at least the minimum not to have vermin.

So, where there used to be division of labor, there is now one person doing two jobs.  That’s at the very minimum.  First, the amount of jobs that get piled on us by a society that waves “oughts” in our face are mind-boggling.  Glenn Reynolds has pointed out, and I second, that being a parent these days is a ton more work than it was even when we were kids, partly because laws (which I think aim at all of us running away screaming and putting kids in daycare.  And partly, I think, because we have a lot fewer kids and so are obsessed with keeping them safe) make it so.  For instance, we couldn’t leave the kids alone in the house for more than two hours, until one was over 14.  Both of my kids COULD be left in the house for a day or so at age ten.  And they could reach me on the phone with any questions instantly.   But the law wouldn’t allow it, and if something happened and a neighbor found I’d left a ten year old and a six year old alone for a day, I’d have to face Social Services.

Contrast this with my mom who would go and deal with business (she administered finances for several relatives abroad) in town for entire days by the time I was eight, and who not only expected the house still standing and me unscathed at the end of it, but who would have been very shocked had anyone suggested the other possibility.  (She did have this litany she did when she went out, which she started doing for a couple of hours by the time I – and before me, my brother – was five “Don’t open the door to strangers, don’t tell anyone on the phone that you’re alone, don’t play with knives, don’t light matches. If you have any trouble, call grandma.”  By the time we were ten or so, we took great delight in telling her that when WE were leaving her alone in the house.)  Likewise, it was not unusual to turn vacationing kids out the door in the morning with a packed lunch, and only see them again in the evening.

Now being a parent is a nitpicky job.  You’re supposed to watch them every second, in case they spontaneously combust or something, and the government stands over your shoulder to make sure you DO.

Then there are taxes.  If you do anything more than the standard 9-5 (and sometimes even then) your taxes become a nightmare that consumes months.  My husband does it, but I see how much work it is.

And then there’s our jobs.  At least for those of us in skilled/technical professions, they’ve been taking more and more time since the early nineties.  For writers this was due to our dysfunctional industry offloading a bunch of work on us, stuff they used to do: proofing became so spotty we had to either proof twice or pay proofers; publicity as expected to be on our lap.  Etc.

But I see a lot of it with my husband too —  let alone that since late 07 those still employed are doing three or four jobs and getting paid for one – if he wants to stay relevant and useful, he has to learn continuously.  This is nobody’s fault, just a consequence of the rate of change.  However learning, no matter how much you like doing it – particularly highly technical/scientific learning – requires a heck of a lot of outside-the-hours study.  So there’s that.

And then, well… my family are Odds.  I don’t know if other people are like this.  I suspect a lot of people reading this blog are.  My older son, the pre-med student writes novels and does cartooning on the side.  He’s also teaching himself animation AND (at last) trying to learn Portuguese.  His aerospace-engineering-student brother is cartooning, doing art and apparently modding/designing games, while teaching himself programing.  He also writes, but I’m not supposed to know that.  My husband writes, of course, but also composes music and creates programs-of-use-to-indie-publishers.

Then there’s me.  Do I need to tell you the sad tale?  This extended whine comes about because yesterday I “didn’t do anything” which means I spent the afternoon redoing the cover of Death of A Musketeer – as in drawing a cover for it, with an Icarus board and oil pastels.  This is because we’re reissuing it, and taking it paper at the same time, and then hopefully in April doing The Musketeer’s Seamstress, then in May The Musketeer’s Apprentice, and in June A Death In Gascony (retitled to the original The Musketeer’s Inheritance, with a note that it was originally published under another title.)  In July The Musketeer’s Servant (formerly Dying By The Sword) which needs serious edit because I was very ill when I let it out of my hands.  This brings my due date to finish and bring out The Musketeer’s Confessor to August.

Coincidentally this is the same date Through Fire is due.  There are also six stories I’m contracted for before May.

Yes, I can do a short story in five hours, and that means I can push it to the weekend.  Unfortunately, I’m also pushing to the weekend artwork.  And when it comes to the musketeers, for instance, I don’t have much choice.  Until I have  a substantial number up, I don’t have the money to pay an artist, and while Dreamstime has LOVELY fantasy paintings (and SF) no one draws musketeers – or at least no one does them in a style suited for mysteries.  There are any number of pictures of women dressed and musketeers, children dressed as musketeers, and dogs dressed as musketeers (!) and there’s any number of anime musketeers.  There just aren’t many illustrations of musketeers.  I can do it (I think.  I’ll run the finished product by y’all in case I’m deluding myself.  If I get a ton of courage, I’ll ask Dave Mattingly if it’s horrible.)  But it takes time.

At the same time I’m editing two books for indie publication and it’s work no one else can do, since it involves my internal feel for how the books should be.  I’m still publishing back list short stories.  I’m finishing up – but still involved in – a blog tour for AFGM.  I’m still (sporadically at least) working for PJMedia, and would like to do more.

And through all this, I must still be wife, and mom and household manager.  (This is not to say I don’t enjoy the first two.  I do.  That’s why I take time to spend with the guys.)

And then there’s the mentoring.  This, like the wife/mothering is stuff I enjoy and also things I feel I SHOULD do.  I got a lot of help coming up, and I’m paying it forward.  But it too takes time, and I’ve been shirking it.

Those who’ve wondered why my web page is atrociously out of date, or why I forget to answer emails, now have somewhat of an idea.  I’m being several people.  And when Sarah D’Almeida is editing musketeers, she’s not drawing a cover for the books.  Worse, when I’m being Sarah D’Almeida, I’m not writing space opera.  When Sarah Hoyt is writing Space Opera, Sarah Marques isn’t writing the second vampire book.  When Sarah Marques is writing the vampire book, “romance” writer Sarah Hoyt is not planning her War of The Roses series.  When Sarah Hoyt is planning her War of the Roses from the distaff perspective series, she’s not writing the sequel to A Flaw In Her Magic.

And while I’m writing or doing art, publishing isn’t happening.

And when all this is going on, that course on the history of medicine sits unwatched.  Worse, so does the course on Game Theory.

What to do?

Yes, I could punt back, do only the traditional publishing.  Baen has a very good chance of surviving this upheaval (unless S & S crashes so spectacularly it takes Baen with it, and I don’t see that happening or not in a way Baen can’t find other distribution.  Advantages of being small and nimble.)

That would mean writing books and doing blog tours, which is insane but doable.  BUT…

But I am a Heinlein girl.  The chances of Baen crashing are minimal, but I believe in always having an escape hatch and in always, always, always having it in my power, not someone else’s.  Belt AND suspenders.

And then there’s the fans.  There are fans who still send me weekly emails asking for the next musketeer mystery.  What am I to do?  I know the pain of unfinished series.

And there’s the books themselves.  They were planned.  They want to be written (as do the next three to finish the Shakespeare series.  No, I’m not promising that any time soon.)

And there’s the concept of building under – more on that later.

But more than all that, there’s the fact that doing these, indie, on the side, can bring me the money to relieve the load a little.  If this works out, these backlist and indie books will bring in enough to get a cleaning lady, to send clothes to the laundry service, to maybe take the one week a month away to just write, which I need (honestly) to keep on schedule.

Yes, traditional publishing brings in money too, but even though that’s growing it has well-known boundaries.  The indie stuff can add to it markedly.  And I can write four/six books a year.  I’ve done it before.

It’s just that right now it’s a lot of insane work.

And I don’t know any way around it.

You know, it’s like all the Building Under strategy.  It’s going to make you insanely overworked – let this be a warning – because you still have your regular work, and then you have another under.  And you have all the other insane demands of life, still.

Don’t give up.  It’s doable.  You might be very tired for a few years, but it’s doable.

Things that might help are a good planner system (I don’t have this, and I desperately need it.)  Scheduling and – paradoxically – taking breaks.  (Try to plan these if your spouse/partner/best friend is also building under.   My husband claims with some justice that I always need time at the museum/park when he’s slammed under stuff.  I need to get better.)  Find inexpensive amusements that DO work for you.  Yes, to an extent rotating what you do provides refreshment, but not that much.  For me, I like the Natural History Museum and a cheap Greek diner in Denver.  It’s not happening as often as I’d like it, partly because of gas prices, but we try to do it every so often.

One thing I’m trying to learn is how to “rest in mini increments” – a walk around the block but thinking of no work.  That sort of thing.

I hear exercise helps, and I need to find time somehow.  It’s hard to remember we live in bodies sometimes.

And if you’re going “this just doesn’t work.  I’m insanely busy.” No, that means you’re doing it right.  In any building-under scheme, where you create a structure to take the load when the other collapses, you will be insanely busy.  But it should be only two/three years at most and then either this will be your main occupation, or you can hire contractors to help.  Hopefully.

In the meantime, de-clutter your life.  You know the things you do that you neither enjoy nor help you or anyone else. And do schedule fun/stuff you love in HARD.  Try a variation of the Heinlein dictum “Budget Luxuries FIRST” – I’ve found this works when we’re broke.  I don’t mind eating soup two days a week, if we can go to Denver once every couple of months and molest dinos.  The same seems to apply emotionally.  I don’t mind working like crazy sixteen hours a day if I get an hour to cuddle my husband and watch old mysteries with him in the evening.

And good luck.  This is very much a work in progress.  I’m still learning how to be more than one person.


94 thoughts on “Being Several People

  1. (The vibrant club-life in America from sewing circles to the local group of the exchange student program that brought me over amazed me in the early eighties. Is it still that way? Doesn’t seem that way to me, but maybe it is I who am isolated and overworked and other people have more normal lives.)

    No, things like TV and the Internet have destroyed a lot of American club spirit. Entertainment is too easily found and that’s pulled the core out of a lot of society, clubs, fraternal orgs etc.

    1. But the wheel turns and technology has allowed us to create communities around entertainment, most of them global. There is any number of websites where fans of TV shows, movies, books, or authors from all over the world get together. We’ve gone from socializing with people primarily on the basis of physical proximity to socializing with people who share common interests.

      1. There’s a psychological difference, however, between interacting with people online and doing so in person. It’s partly because of the pace and nature of the interaction (online, typically text, which requires more thought and effort than talking, and also alters the usage of language filters) and the speed (again, with online ranging from that of a chat room to that of a comment section on a blog).

    2. Club life depends on where you are. In this area, there are at least eight reading groups, several quilting and blanket-making groups (some church-related), food clubs, the Junior League, CowBelles, Rotary, Lions, Shriners, Elks, Eagles, VFW, rodeo clubs, a geology club, the western history club, and a few profession-related social groups. Plus several community choirs, bands, and orchestras, and the usual barbershop and gospel sorts. And those are just the ones I know about. But this area seems to run about 20 years behind the times, socially.

        1. Service clubs that I’ve visited, average age is 50. Rotary is a bit older, but, yeah. Book clubs vary, sewing circles tend to be older (60s.) As I said, this area tends to run behind the times when social matters are involved. Plus the local culture gives more social status points to charitable work than to conspicuous consumption. You can have a mink and a Hummer, but you’d better chip in to the Salvation Army, school band trip, or parish find raiser, too. It’s been that way since the early 1900s. Yeah, it’s strange.

            1. When Jean was in the Colorado Lace Guild, the average age was about 60, but a third of the members were young singles. Making bobbin lace is a special skill not many people have, or wish to have, but those that do are quite clubbish (Yeah, it’s a word!). I noticed that the stamp club I used to belong to was running older and older. The one book club I belonged to was mostly young, with a few oldsters like me. Most of the veterans’ organizations run to older people, simply because you’re still serving when you’re young. I belong to several groups online, and most of them have both young and old members. The ‘tweens”, those between say, 30 and 50, are represented, but sparsely — that’s a very busy age. I do agree, though, that online groups tend to replace “in person” groups for a lot of people.

    3. I live in middle america. Now that our cash inflated lifestyle is coming to a close, about %70 of all the old clubs in our area have been *nicely* renovated. They are credibly advertising for new membership. I don’t think this is just people dying off and leaving money for repairs– because there are also packed parking lots. This, for the first time in 20-30 years, from what I’ve been told.

      I think that some people have recognized that humans are social creatures– clubs are cheaper, and the internet while augments our social umbrella, it doesn’t replace it. Anyone else see this happening?

  2. Sharper than a serpent’s tooth is Toni’s scorpion like sting dripping with editorial venom.
    But in a good and encouraging way of course.

    1. Meant to quote your comment on Baen giving you a sharp poke, but html ate that bit of it.
      And I firmly believe that Heinlein believed in belt, suspenders, and a hank of rope in case both failed. But then again he did express a belief that the only true test of survival skills was to drop one naked as a jaybird into unfamiliar territory and see who made it to the other side. Naturally, one of his characters would finish up well dressed, fully armed, and quite adequately fed.

      1. Oh yes. Metaphorically speaking, I’m trying for the same.

        Actually Baen is very polite about my being late, when I am — I just get a feeling they’re wringing their hands…

  3. So, where are the best places to go look at dinosaurs in Colorado? I feel a bit silly for asking, but I suddenly have a lot of free time to fill.

    1. Well, the DMNS has a pretty good collection and I loved Dinosaur ridge. I haven’t had time to explore the other places. They seem geared for littles, anyway…

    2. There’s the place in Woodland Park, and an auxiliary in Canon City. If you’ve got the time AND the money, there’s Dinosaur National Park over on the Utah border (off the Interstate a bit). I’ve heard, but can’t confirm that Grand Junction has a Dinosaur Museum also. I’ve got to get my physical problems under control so I can go to DMSH. Retirees and guests (2, I believe) get in free… 8^)

      1. I tried posting this earlier, but my computer locked up. I left out Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. It’s not dinosaurs, but there are dozens of preserved species from a lake bed buried in very fine volcanic ash from about 35 million years ago. The trails are nice to walk, too, and you’ll have the chance to see lots of wildlife and birds.

    3. If you feel like braving the interstate through Trinidad (the never-ending construction zone is an outpost of purgatory, or so I’ve been told), the city park in Raton, NM has a place where you can see the K-T boundary layer.

      Dinosaur National Park is very good if you like seeing them as they are found, plus there are nice hiking trails if you enjoy high-desert scenery. Fruita, CO, not far from Grand Junction, has the Dinosaur Journey Museum as part of the Museum of Western Colorado (Grand Junction).

      If you are into paleo-mammals, and skiing, there’s a new exhibit up at Snowmass about the mastodons, mammoths and other mammals that they found there.

  4. This isn’t exactly on-topic, but speaking of Heinlein–may I solicit The Essential Heinleiner’s Reading List In 240 Characters Or Less?

    1. Er… for what? As a post? To guide you on what to read? My very favorites? Heinleiners disagree. Steve Green and I are both fanatics, but each of us has a different list. I can give you mine, tho.

      1. Is there a link to Heinlein’s “Notebooks of Lazerus Long” online? I’d love to read it. My daughter borrowed my copy of the book… 8^( I’ll probably never get it back, and I haven’t found another copy anywhere.

        1. Mike, “The Notebooks Of Lazarus Long” are available in eformat on B&N and on Amazon.

      2. I want to get in on the Heinleinian mojo, so to speak. I gobbled up Starship Troopers (it was the obvious choice, maybe too obvious) and I think I need some guidance, a roadmap if you will to the Grand Highway of Heinlein. A handful of essential reads perhaps, a survive-and-thrivers guide, maybe five or six of the title you think would have the largest impact on young impressionable Millenial mind. Or maybe even–aw, heck, just chuck some reading suggestions at me.

        1. IMO if you give a bit of leeway for the datedness of the older ’40’s era stuff, you can’t go wrong with any Heinlein. But the later stuff (80’s) might not be best to dive straight to.

          This is what I’d recommend starting with:

          The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
          Starship Troopers (please don’t see the film)
          The Door Into Summer
          Farnham’s Freehold
          Citizen of the Galaxy
          Podkayne of Mars
          Methuselahs’ Children + Time Enough for Love

          Then fill in the ’50’s stuff in any order.

          1. Pretty damn close, but I’d add The Puppet Masters, and also Have Spacesuit Will Travel and Revolt in 2100.

            Robert’s favorite is Starman Jones. (MY Robert.)

            I’ve got a perverse liking of Sixth Column.

            Mind you, I like the eighties stuff, but reading them as a published author makes me want to reach for the editing pen. What bugs me is not the sex or even the irrelevant bits, but the seventies lingo that fell in.

            1. Puppet Masters and Have Space Suit have special places to me, but sometimes I think that was of an age I was when I read them. I don’t send a new Heinlein reader to them too early as, IMNSHO, they each have a flaw or two in structure or anachronistic things too close to the plot point. Just my opinion.

              And I just never really got into To Sail The Sunset / Cat Who Walks Through Walls / Job.

            2. And for pure sword and sorcery adventure, Glory Road. Magic by way of science as described by an engineer.
              Heinlein’s works break logically into three areas: early days including all the juveniles and Boy’s Life serializations, mid range where he begins to delve into more blatant adult areas (Stranger, Mistress, et al), and the later years where I’ve always felt he was intentionally pushing the envelope. There towards the end I suspect he had that Rowling like power of any publishing house fighting over the privilege of printing his grocery list knowing anything from his pen would be an instant best seller.

                1. Are you referring to something other than the last 15 years of crap with his name slathered on the cover to fleece the ignorant?

            3. Oh, I love Sixth Column (Also known as The Day After Tomorrow – that’s the title of the copy I have), and Starman Jones, but I’m a math geek.

              The short stories in Universe (I think) are also a great sampling from different eras.

          2. Yes, I can second the “don’t read late Heinlein first” dictum from personal experience.

            Sometime in the mid-90s a friend was gushing about Heinlein and loaned me her copy of Friday. I read it and thought good grief, what’s all the fuss about? This is nothing but warmed-over 70s SF (open marriage, oooooo!) from some old guy who’s trying desperately to stay with the times.

            Then about fifteen years later I read a brief excerpt from Tunnel in the Sky online (without knowing it was by Heinlein). I was hooked… and skated through all his YAs in a few months. And I had to admit that yeah, Heinlein’s work is amazing.

            Still haven’t re-read Friday though.

            1. Friday grows on you. Like Fungus. I started out with “where’s the plot” but then it became one of my favorites. Same with I Will Fear No Evil. But it helps if you’re grounded in Heinlein first.

              1. I think it helps to know that Friday is a retelling-and-expansion of Gulf. And to have read the earlier story first.


              2. I’ll have to work my way through the rest of the Heinlein corpus, then circle back to Friday fifteen years from now and see if it’s more palatable (heh).

                One of the interesting things about middle age is re-reading books that I didn’t quite like or was “meh” about ten or twenty years ago. Sometimes I find that they’ve grown on me, sometimes I absolutely loathe them and toss them on the re-sale pile. I rarely have the same reaction as the first time.

                Just another excuse to keep books hanging around, whether in dead-tree mode or e-format.

            2. Tunnel in the Sky is one of my favorites among the juveniles. There’s a lot of good stuff in there about survival, self-reliance, and even small societies.

              There’s a lot of deeper layers even in the Juveniles. I started off with Orphans of the Sky when I was merely 8, and at 21 I re-read it and saw so much more that I wasn’t able to absorb when I was little.

              1. On the matter of deeper layers, for all of his independence and cussedness, Heinlein produced one of the most sympathetic portrayals of a career bureaucrat in the person of The Star Beast‘s Mr. Kiku.

                He provided some pretty good practical lessons in poker there, as well.

        2. Heinlein was my introduction to SF (dad dropped me and my sisters off at the library on Saturday afternoons), starting with Red Planet. Then Starbeast, Tunnel in the Sky, Starman Jones, Farmer in the Sky … through the rest of his juveniles. Hey, I was 10 years old, where’d you expect me to start? Then there were various short stories collected in miscellaneous collections.

          The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Puppet Masters, Glory Road, Starship Troopers followed them up through Time Enough for Love, where I sort of wandered off from SF for a while, somewhat, kinda. There *were* other authors you know.

          Heinlein shaped a good deal of my attitudes, such as personal responsibility, and didn’t end up affecting others, such as personal religion. All in all, a pretty positive influence on a kid just growing up.

      1. I am not at this time inclined to engage in serious consideration of the question, but in preparation for doing so I would prepare two lists.

        The first list contains the Heinlein books everybody ought to read to be conversant in Heinlein. Off the top of my head I would list The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, The Door Into Summer, Citizen of the Galaxy and Glory Road. Possibly Stranger In A Strange Land, if only because it is his best known novel. If you polled 10,000 Heinlein readers for their five most recommended (not favorite, most highly recommended) I expect Three of those books would be on 99% of the lists, and 95% of those surveyed would recommend four of the five.

        The second list is a “pick three” list — a dozen or so of his books that pretty much every Heinlein fan would say you couldn’t go wrong on. Personal tastes will differ in the ranking of these, but any three would reward the reading. This list would include his juveniles (YA before the genre changed its name) with a few exceptions, and even those excepted (Rocket Ship Galileo, e.g.) would have their advocates. For most Heinlein fans their favourites depend on with which they entered Heinlein’s universe. There would also be a smattering of his Fifties novels — did anyone mention Double Star? — and early Sixties books. By the Seventies & Eighties most of what Heinlein wrote was for his fan base and should be read only after making the acquaintanceship of his earlier work. All of the books on this second list would be worthy and favourites will vary according to personality and circumstances of the reader.

        Third list? I s’pose. The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag is an example of these books. Good reads, important for reading later (70s onward) books but not critical to appreciating Heinlein. A lot of people would debate whether the books here belong on the second list, a few people will demand top ranking for one or another, but there will be much variance of opinion.

        Fourth ranked? These would include those late career books mentioned above. Enjoyable, entertaining, thought-provoking but, as with Shakespeare*, works generally recognized as optional.

        Fifth rank: for completists only. See comments by others on Variable Star, For Us The Living.

        Thinking of Shakespeare, that suggests an example of the process: there are the works you must read, those you should read, those which would be good to read, and the rest. If you are structuring a course on Heinlein, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers would be King Lear and Macbeth.

    2. To be a little less flippant, you could do worse than starting at the beginning — with Lifeline — and going all the way to the end. Read the entire oeuvre in order of publication. The first volume would be the current incarnation of a collection called The Past Through Tomorrow in the ’60s, but which has probably been re-rolled, re-mixed, and re-mastered since.


      1. I’d agree if the person one was advising had at least some exposure to the early pulp SF age for context. But then I love E.E. “Doc” Smith, so what do I know …

        1. I think I tried to read it but not sure. I’ve heard people who had read it say “no wonder it didn’t get published”. [Wink]

          Mind you, I wonder why he didn’t try to get it published when publishers would anything he submitted.

          Maybe, he didn’t think it was worth publishing.

          Oh by the way, IIRC after it came out John Ringo commented that he hoped nobody published one of his un-published books after his death.[Wink]

            1. The fact that he attempted to destroy all the copies *should* have told them something. [Frown]

                    1. From what John Ringo had said, “Arthur King” was partially before the first Council War book but he ran into major problems with it.

                      Briefly, Arthur King was the creator of “Mother” and mysteriously disappeared from his time.

                      He finds himself on Earth after the Council War is over and “Mother” has shut down.

                      After he finally realizes *when & where* he is, he finds out that Mother (before “her” shut-down) had brought him forward in time in order to reboot “her”.

                      So there’s a quest to find all of the Keys to do the reboot.

                      Mind you, John Ringo said that there were major problems (possibly unfixable) with the story and he didn’t want anybody to print it after his death.

                    2. First story/stories written in the setting. Written earlier in his development as a writer. Takes place well after the fall, and apparently had huge issues. As Paul said.

                    3. In which case he should either destroy the MS now, or go ahead and publish it under a pen name, possibly as a vanity, and then make a splashy attempt to sue himself for infringement of Universe. By the time everyone has everything sorted out, and the lawyers fed, he will be as dead as Kilgore Trout.

                1. Louis L’amour PUBLISHED in his memior that he did not want some stories he had written to ever see the light of day, even after his death. Also he stated that he had written the Hopalong Cassidy books when he needed money, he wrote them originally how he thought they should be, then rewrote them according to the editors script, and that he would never allow his name to be attached to them, because in his words they were not his books, and they were terrible. Ignoring his published wishes his family later published not only unfinished manuscripts but also the Hopalong Cassidy novels under his name after his death. I have to say he had good taste when he refused to have his name associated with the Hopalong Cassidy novels.

                  On the other hand Bantam had a good marketing ploy when publishing short stories and novellas after his death. In each collection they would include several good stories, and then flesh it out with the drivel that should have never been published. They contained enough good stories to keep the faithful fans coming back, but by fleshing the books out with the garbage they managed to print about twice as many volumes as they would have by only picking out the good stuff. On the other hand their habit of publishing every different variation they could find of a story, in succeeding volumes, under various titles was more than annoying.

  5. My grandfather died when my mother was a little girl. Which meant that my grandmother went back to teaching school and had to take some college classes. Because she could deduct her gas as long as she went right from work, she did, and on those two nights, my mother cooked for the four kids, and on the other, her twin sister did. They were nine.

  6. It’s interesting to delve into ancient issues of Popular Mechanics and see their predictions for the future. One from the 50’s predicted that the “Housewife of the Future” wouldn’t have to vacuum or spend so much time cleaning because all household furnishings would be made of plastic, and she would merely have to hose everything down and be done with it.

    The thing that makes it interesting is not the idea that we’d all have plastic furniture, but the unexamined assumption that the woman of 2000 would still be a housewife.

    As for Heinlein, reports about his Colorado home were that he had everything so tightly organized that he couldn’t fit a new thing into it even if he wanted to. When someone started making waterbeds based on his descriptions of acceleration couches, they sent him one, and he was never able to set it up, it just went into a shed, unopened.

  7. Not to stir the pot, but as much as I admire and respect Spider Robinson, above all else avoid like bubonic plague that travesty he “co-authored” with Heinlein posthumously from some preliminary notes found in the Grand Master’s papers. Someday I may decide to forgive Spider for that, but not yet.
    OTOH, for a fascinating look at the world as it was back in the ’50s, locate and peruse a copy of “Tramp Royale” a non fictional travelogue of the Heinlein’s trip round the world. I’ve heard that when published it got him banned from several of the countries mentioned.

    1. I didn’t notice that “Tramp Royale” was particularly bad. It wasn’t as good as Twain’s work, “Following the Equator”, but it didn’t seem inflamatory.

      1. No, no. Tramp Royale is great. The one you should not read is For Us The Living. It might also be a good idea to avoid Variable Star — at least for me, due to BP issues.

        1. I actually didn’t mind “For us…” TOO much, I recognized it for what it was, and saw the seeds of a lot of Heinlein’s important ideas in it. He also predicted the Internet in a way, in 1939.

      2. Tramp was not bad per se, though it does wear a thick 1950s ish skin. What got Heinlein invited to never return from several locales was his criminal act most high, he told the truth as he observed it. As I recall he found most of Africa and pretty much all of Australia lacking in numerous qualities he valued. Not the scenery so much, but rather what the blokes there had made of it.
        Side note, handy tip known by most professional authors. As a writer, if you write about your trip or use material gathered on a vacation in your stories you can deduct some or all of your expenses as business related. Thus the basic rationale for Tramp even existing. Heinlein never made any bones about being a workman and writing was his craft and his livelihood.

  8. My problem is that when I work hard for a week, the body does a shut down and I have to rest (in bed) for at least a day– Good luck in your work– I am rooting for you.

      1. So more breaks then. 😉 Anyway– I do get aural hallucinations too– (since I have been on prednisone). It can be scary sometimes. I think because I have been close to death a few times, I feel things other people don’t.

  9. Funny thing regarding household help – the woman from South America who rides my bus sometimes JUST told me the other day how big an adjustment she had to make when she moved here. In her home country, she had a woman who cleaned house for her, another who did the wash for her, and she didn’t drive – she used what could be considered an “on-call chauffeur” or perhaps a semi-dedicated taxi service, where they had a few clients who almost always rode with the same drivers.

    She met a classmate of mine and married him, moving to America, and had severe culture shock when she was expected to do all these things herself. Apparently, my classmate wasn’t very good at easing the transition. She told me she almost divorced him and went back, except she got pregnant and her daughter was what kept her here. Now she’s an executive at a local company, and very well adjusted.

    1. Well, I KNEW what I was getting into, but this was why I didn’t know how to cook. See, I went to college, which in my day was a miniscule minority. NO ONE expected me to do something as mundane as cook and clean.

      I adjusted.

    2. When I was 12, my mother grabbed me by the arm and hauled me down to the basement room where she watched masterpiece theater and ironed, and thrust me in front of the ironing board. “When I was twelve, the maid took me by the ear and made me learn how to iron. She told me I must know, because when I first got married, I’d be too poor to afford the maid, cook, and gardener for the first year, so I must learn to iron my husband’s shirts. You, you will not even have a maid! So you must learn to iron your husband’s shirts, and all of the laundry! We will start with the handkerchiefs!”

      My dear darling Calmer Half wears t-shirts, and sadly, he’s the housekeeper while I put in too much time at work. We live in a state of housekeeping that would make my mother’s maid weep, and sleep on wrinkled sheets. It’s all good.

  10. Politicians make shameless (and shameful) use of this “One person, Several people” fact.

    For example, Sarah is a woman and politicians want to assert and defend her rights as such. She is also a mother, and politicians want to provide aid and support of her child-rearing (even to the extent of underwriting the out-sourcing of virtually every element of motherhood once the babe is born.) Sarah has two sons, whose rights the politicians want Sarah,(woman) to trample on lest they impair her rights as woman.

    They also defend your rights as a worker to charge above market prices for your labor while they defend your right as a consumer to pay low prices to buy the stuff you produced.

  11. On the matter of Child Protective Services, I recommend most highly Sterling North’s memoir of life as an eleven year old boy growing up in Wisconsin of 1917. Reading the book while imagining the reaction of contemporary bureaucrats while provide great amusement, above and beyond this wonderful tale.

  12. ” For instance, we couldn’t leave the kids alone in the house for more than two hours, until one was over 14.”

    Wait. What?!

    Friends of mine were riding their bikes to the local mall at that age. “Local” in that it was the closest — 30 miles away. They also had firearms, ammunition, fireworks, and all manner of unchaperoned time.

    They all lived.

    1. Oh, yes. The Gub’mint pretty much forces everyone to be helicopter parents, these days. They’ve had children taken away into Social Services for leaving children who would have been considered old enough to babysit OTHER people’s children 40 years ago alone for too long at a time. With “too long” ranging anywhere from 8 hours down to 2, depending on what State you’re in.

      We nearly had our oldest taken away from us because he was a very energetic child who had several (4) bruises on him when he went to visit his grandmother one time.

  13. The difference you could say is between listening to a voice telling you to cut up the neighbors and put them in trash bags and doing it – or at least considering doing it – and listening to a voice telling you to cut up the neighbors and putting them in a trash bag and going “ooh.” Then starting a story with “That was the day I cut up the neighbors—”

    So what popped into my head upon reading this was a snapshot of one extremely frustrated novice demon – His first assignment ‘upstairs’ was supposedly simple, just drive his human target mad, but when he tries the standard ‘voices’ bit right out of the demonic handbook he belatedly discovers the head office has neglected to tell him his target is… a writer. No matter what he tries via the voices, all he ends up doing is acting as a rather dark muse.

    I’ve never actually had a go at comedy, but this is tempting me…

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