Authors: Robert A. Heinlein
Tags: #Science Fiction, #General, #Adventure, #Fiction
Revolt In 2100
By Robert A. Heinlein
With an Introduction by Henry Kuttner
Copyright, 1954, by Robert A. Heinlein
Copyright, 1939, 1940, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved. This book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced in any manner without written permission, except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
For Stan and Sophia Mullen
The Innocent Eye: An Introduction
Robert A. Heinlein is probably the best story-teller in the science-fiction field today. If I were backed into a corner and forced to tell why in one sentence, I'd say, "Heinlein's got a sense of proportion." Well, how does one get a sense of proportion? By experience, I think. And there is only one kind of experience that counts as necessary to a competent writer: experience of mankind.
Literary and scientific techniques are very useful to a writer, but I don't think the study of them is necessary. They are intellectual concepts. Man is also an emotional animal. And a good story must be about man-not man after a lobotomy, but about the irrational part of him as well as the rational. Sentimentality is no substitute; it degrades man instead of treating him with the respect that, God knows, he deserves. Unfortunately, too many science-fiction stories might have been written by robots or spirits.
Now Heinlein does something that is vitally necessary to good writing: he perceives people. He knows how they feel. He has felt that way himself. He has even bridged the difficult gap of realizing that people feel much the same way everywhere, allowing for constitutional differences.
He has accepted membership in the human race.
I don't think you can be a good writer unless you do that. I'm biased, I know; I like good writing, and I have a great deal of respect for it. Good writing is well proportioned. Basically, it treats of man in his environment, and both of those elements must have verisimilitude. That's where Heinlein's sense of proportion comes in. He's eclectic. He follows the principles but not the rules. His stories have verisimilitude because they are about people, and he uses other materials only insofar as they affect those people. And here is the precise point where his sense of proportion appears. The story-elements he uses, technological, sociological, psychological, are chosen according to their natural relation to the center of interest: man. These elements are symbolic of man's values. But it is man, realistically handled, who is the nucleus of each Heinlein story.
If I had to pin a label on Heinlein, I'd call him a romantic humanist. He deals with the relation of man to science. His attitude to science is to my mind a rational one: neither idolatry nor panic, and this may be because he knows something of the social sciences, the link between man and machine.
Man as a dynamic part of a dynamic society is a concept rarely treated in science-fiction. Large faceless masses surge in the background, in an outrageously homogeneous fashion, and against this scene unqualified protagonists perform incredible and unmotivated deeds, through logical processes slightly beyond the utmost bound of human thought. No society has ever been homogeneous, even in Sparta. There will always be Coventries. Heinlein knows this, and is perhaps the only science-fiction writer who has seen the real purpose of creating a temporal frame for stories which by definition deal with the movement of man and society through time. The use of this method of dynamic continuity is one of Heinlein's major contributions to the field of science-fiction.
Imaginative literature ideally reflects and interprets reality. Future "realities" have often been handled by means of what is actually symbolism. That is, of course, one way to do it. It is not the only way; an integrated mirror of a future reality which can be accepted as three-dimensional rather than as a background of "flats" may be achieved by Heinlein's method of dynamic continuity. Once that is achieved, the writer is free to tell a story about the values of men and women which is significant to the men and women who read the story. Since the future societies which Heinlein postulates are workable societies, he can concentrate upon the important problems of human beings in relation to their culture. Those problems may affect the society, but their importance rests in how they affect the individual. And Heinlein understands that the personality is as complex as the society. The same man who wrote
All this, however, does not entirely explain why Heinlein is such an excellent story-teller. C. L. Moore calls Heinlein's work the result of "the innocent eye and the sophisticated mind," which seems to me an accurate analysis. The term, "a sense of wonder," has been too often profaned for me to profane it, but I will go so far as to say that nobody who knows Heinlein could call him blasé. Since I have known him, his attitude has always been, "If this goes on-." And from that, it's only a step to "Once upon a time-."
Los Angeles, California
"If This Goes On-"
It was cold on the rampart. I slapped my numbed hands together, then stopped hastily for fear of disturbing the Prophet. My post that night was just outside his personal apartments-a post that I had won by taking more than usual care to be neat and smart at guard mount . . . but I had no wish to call attention to myself now.
I was young then and not too bright-a legate fresh out of West Point, and a guardsman in the Angels of the Lord, the personal guard of the Prophet Incarnate. At birth my mother had consecrated me to the Church and at eighteen my Uncle Absolom, a senior lay censor, had prayed an appointment to the Military Academy for me from the Council of Elders.
West Point had suited me. Oh, I had joined in the usual griping among classmates, the almost ritualistic complaining common to all military life, but truthfully I enjoyed the monastic routine-up at five, two hours of prayers and meditation, then classes and lectures in the endless subjects of a military education, strategy and tactics, theology, mob psychology, basic miracles. In the afternoons we practiced with vortex guns and blasters, drilled with tanks, and hardened our bodies with exercise.
I did not stand very high on graduation and had not really expected to be assigned to the Angels of the Lord, even though I had put in for it. But I had always gotten top marks in piety and stood well enough in most of the practical subjects; I was chosen. It made me almost sinfully proud-the holiest regiment of the Prophet's hosts, even the privates of which were commissioned officers and whose Colonel-in-Chief was the Prophet's Sword Triumphant, marshal of all the hosts. The day I was invested in the shining buckler and spear worn only by the Angels I vowed to petition to study for the priesthood as soon as promotion to captain made me eligible.
But this night, months later, though my buckler was still shining bright, there was a spot of tarnish in my heart. Somehow, life at New Jerusalem was not as I had imagined it while at West Point. The Palace and Temple were shot through with intrigue and politics; priests and deacons, ministers of state, and Palace functionaries all seemed engaged in a scramble for power and favor at the hand of the Prophet. Even the officers of my own corps seemed corrupted by it. Our proud motto
"Non Sibi, Sed Dei"
now had a wry flavor in my mouth.
Not that I was without sin myself. While I had not joined in the struggle for worldly preference, I had done something which I knew in my heart to be worse: I had looked with longing on a consecrated female.
Please understand me better than I understood myself. I was a grown man in body, an infant in experience. My own mother was the only woman I had ever known well. As a kid in junior seminary before going to the Point I was almost afraid of girls; my interests were divided between my lessons, my mother, and our parish's troop of Cherubim, in which I was a patrol leader and an assiduous winner of merit badges in everything from woodcraft to memorizing scripture. If there had been a merit badge to be won in the subject of girls-but of course there was not.
At the Military Academy I simply saw no females, nor did I have much to confess in the way of evil thoughts. My human feelings were pretty much still in freeze, and my occasional uneasy dreams I regarded as temptations sent by Old Nick. But New Jerusalem is not West Point and the Angels were neither forbidden to marry nor were we forbidden proper and sedate association with women. True, most of my fellows did not ask permission to marry, as it would have meant transferring to one of the regular regiments and many of them cherished ambitions for the military priesthood-but it was not forbidden.
Nor were the lay deaconesses who kept house around the Temple and the Palace forbidden to marry. But most of them were dowdy old creatures who reminded me of my aunts, hardly subjects for romantic thoughts. I used to chat with them occasionally around the corridors, no harm in that. Nor was I attracted especially by any of the few younger sisters-until I met Sister Judith.
I had been on watch in this very spot more than a month earlier. It was the first time I had stood guard outside the Prophet's apartments and, while I was nervous when first posted, at that moment I had been no more than alert against the possibility of the warden-of-the-watch making his rounds.
That night a light had shone briefly far down the inner corridor opposite my post and I had heard a sound of people moving; I had glanced at my wrist chrono-yes, that would be the Virgins ministering to the Prophet . . . no business of mine. Each night at ten o'clock their watch changed-their "guard mount" I called it, though I had never seen the ceremony and never would. All that I actually knew about it was that those coming on duty for the next twenty-four hours drew lots at that time for the privilege of personal attendance in the sacred presence of the Prophet Incarnate.
I had listened briefly and had turned away. Perhaps a quarter of an hour later a slight form engulfed in a dark cloak had slipped past me to the parapet, there to stand and look at the stars. I had had my blaster out at once, then had returned it sheepishly, seeing that it was a deaconess.
I had assumed that she was a lay deaconess; I swear that it did not occur to me that she might be a holy deaconess. There was no rule in my order book telling me to forbid them to come outside, but I had never heard of one doing so.
I do not think that she had seen me before I spoke to her. "Peace be unto you, sister."
She had jumped and suppressed a squeal, then had gathered her dignity to answer, "And to you,
It was then that I had seen on her forehead the Seal of Solomon, the mark of the personal family of the Prophet, "Your pardon, Elder Sister. I did not see."
"I am not annoyed." It had seemed to me that she invited conversation. I knew that it was not proper for us to converse privately; her mortal being was dedicated to the Prophet just as her soul was the Lord's, but I was young and lonely-and she was young and very pretty.
"Do you attend the Holy One this night, Elder Sister?"
She had shaken her head at that. "No, the honor passed me by. My lot was not drawn."
"It must be a great and wonderful privilege to serve him directly."
"No doubt, though I cannot say of my own knowledge. My lot has never yet been drawn." She had added impulsively, "I'm a little nervous about it. You see, I haven't been here long."
Even though she was my senior in rank, her display of feminine weakness had touched me. "I am sure that you will deport yourself with credit."
We had gone on chatting. She had been in New Jerusalem, it developed, even less time than had I. She had been reared on a farm in upper New York State and there she had been sealed to the Prophet at the Albany Seminary. In turn I had told her that I had been born in the middle west, not fifty miles from the Well of Truth, where the First Prophet was incarnated. I then told her that my name was John Lyle and she had answered that she was called Sister Judith.
I had forgotten all about the warden-of-the-watch and his pesky rounds and was ready to chat all night, when my chrono had chimed the quarter hour. "Oh, dear!" Sister Judith had exclaimed. "I should have gone straight back to my cell." She had started to hurry away, then had checked herself. "You wouldn't tell on me. . . . John Lyle?"
"Me? Oh, never!"
I had continued to think about her the rest of the watch. When the warden did make rounds I was a shade less than alert.
A mighty little on which to found a course of folly, eh? A single drink is a great amount to a teetotaler; I was not able to get Sister Judith out of my mind. In the month that followed I saw her half a dozen times. Once I passed her on an escalator; she was going down as I was going up. We did not even speak, but she had recognized me and smiled. I rode that escalator all night that night in my dreams, but I could never get off and speak to her. The other encounters were just as trivial. Another time I heard her voice call out to me quietly, "Hello, John Lyle," and I turned just in time to see a hooded figure go past my elbow through a door. Once I watched her feeding the swans in the moat; I did not dare approach her but I think that she saw me.