I have been reading nothing but science fiction these days because there is so much out there from 50-70 years ago that is speculative sf about the future of humankind. Here are some of the things I have picked up in books I apparently never read.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein. The moon has been settled, but the people want their freedom from Terran oversight. So they deliver a message, and several of the characters actually go to Earth (which is difficult because of the weight it puts on their hearts by going into the gravity, much stronger than their own). The attend peace meetings, and talk over things, and add people to their cause. Naturally, politicians want to keep the Lunites under their rule. And they send their prisoners to the moon to do the work. But they all want to be free.
The story is an epic, consisting of three books. Book one introduces us to everyone, and starts the Free Luna organization. Three main characters spring out of this: Manny (Manuel), the Russian; a Spanish professor, and a computer named “Mike”, who has very human interactions with Manny and the Prof. There are, of course, many second level important characters, but these three are the drivers of the storyline.
Book two then carry us through all the steps it takes politically to bring a Free Luna about; meetings with upper echelon politicos on Terra, and threats of embargoes and wars and power plays. Sound familiar yet? This book was written in 1946. Heinlein definitely had his finger on a pulse of what was to come. And he wrote this right at the finish of World War II.
Chapters 15 and 16 cover the “Congress” to write a Declaration of Independence, but guess what. Practically every person on the Moon is involved with one group or another in a desire to make the Declaration include their own personal choices of living, including adding things about religious rights, human rights, prejudices, biases of their own, and moralistic ideals. But, of course, even the groups fall into chaos because all of the people in them have wants of their own, which don’t also agree with the next person to them.
In book 3 they go on to war with Terra. Missiles flying from Terra to the Moon, the moon sending rockets containing tons of rocks, enough to beat sites down to bedrock. The scientists on the moon do try to keep from dropping rocks on cities and shorelines, so they won’t be killing people. And they made announcements days before hand, over and over, to tell the citizens where they were going to do this, so they can clear out. But, of course, the people close by decide to take picnics and friends and families to these sites, thus getting killed, and then Earth politicians accuse the Lunites of killing off large numbers of people – making it the moon’s fault. In many cases, some of those rock bombs were falling on military units, but they were warning them ahead of the shots.
Terra on the other hand was shooting missiles directly onto areas full of people, and manufacturies, and underground cities. And this is where I finally found out where tanstaafl came from – a word I had been familiar with 30 years ago, but never knew where it came from. The people I would ask were secretive. I found that most veteran sf readers think you only get to know things if you started reading at a very young age. I didn’t get involved in the genre until I was about 46, in 1987, brought about by the Star Wars trilogy.
But I digress. Basically the book ends with many nations on Earth (not including the US) suing for peace, and the moon got its freedom. One of the three main characters dies, one goes on to become president/emperor/king, and one disappears completely.
To be continued in the next blog………..
Carol Stepp, Austin, TX