Questions: The moon is a Harsh Mistress

Jon Markloff

New Member
Hello all, I have just finished reading (audio book version) the book and wanted to see what others thought of two thoughts I’ve had.
First, how much are we supposed to admire and agree with prof for his political machination, especially as the book progresses? I think particularly of the congress, which he creates to give others something to do, then circumvents to pass the declaration, and the diplomatic trip to earth where he intentionally antagonizes the representatives in order to be sure that they reject them outright. Are we like Manuel supposed to accept that he is smarter than everyone so everything he does is the best option? Is the fact that his ideas are not implemented because some others not under his control present a constitution and it is ratified despite his reluctance allow us an opening to criticize his policy?
The second question that I have I feel is connected, which is the strong identification to he American revolution. I feel safe saying that we are meant to identify between the two, due to the explicit dates uses, and many of the quotes repeated; often by prof himself. However I see little to allegorize as, beyond the dates, little resembles the real events or people. What connections do you think we should draw from the parallel suggested?
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
Robert Heinlein famously wrote that politics is the only game fit for adults, and was politically involved himself. I'm not sure how much the reader is "supposed to" admire and agree with prof, but I do think RAH used the character as a spokesman for his own beliefs (perhaps exaggerated for dramatic purposes).

[edit] In fact, it turns out that the phrase was never actually written by RAH. Instead, it was a misquote of Heinlein by Orson Scott Card in "Ender's Game", in a blog post by "Demothsenes", neatly tying this thread to the other one!

As far as the identification with the American revolution: yes, of course. Allegory? No.
 
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NancyL

Member
SPOILERS -- Fond as I am of Heinlein, by the end the entire revolution as we see it and as understood by Manny is essentially beside the point as Mike is the deus ex machina behind the REAL plan. That was a bit disappointing, but obvious in hindsight given Mike's abilities. I think Heinlein may well have thought so too since he basically kills Mike off at the end.
 

JJ48

Well-Known Member
SPOILERS -- I kind of wondered about Mike's death. Prof mentioned something to Mannie about how they could never achieve their true goal so long as anyone was actually in charge, including Mike. Could Prof have convinced Mike that he needed to eliminate his personality for the good of the cause? Or failing at that, might he even have done something about it himself? I know there were other good reasons for sending Mannie and Wyoh away, as well as for turning over the catapult to a lesser computer, but still...
 

Longtimer

Member
Nancy in what way is Mike the deus ex machina.

JJ I never thought about Mike having decided to turn off his human side for the good of the cause but it seems possible. As a fan of the Pern series Spoiler--- this is what AVIS chooses to do at the end of All the Weirs of Pern in order to let humanity choose its own path forward. I wonder if Ann McCaffrey got this concept from Heinlein
 

NancyL

Member
Longtimer, I call it that because Manny is just so clearly not "in the loop" of what's going on. It seems to me that near 100% of the credit for the successful revolution is due to Mike. (Yes, there could be lots of behind the scenes stuff between Prof and Mike, but Heinlein doesn't show it.)

I think this is also part of the reason for Mike to "die" at the end. Exactly as AVIS does. He's completed what he set out to do. Now what?
 

Bruce N H

Active Member
(Yes, there could be lots of behind the scenes stuff between Prof and Mike, but Heinlein doesn't show it.)
We do have this very touching scene in the middle of the action*:

"Man, when this is over, are you going to have time to take up with me that research into humor again?"
"I'll take time, Mike; that's a promise."
"Thanks, Man. These days you and Wyoh never have time to visit... and Professor wants to talk about things that aren't much fun. I'll be glad when this war is over."

Ooh, I hadn't figured out how to do this spoiler feature before. This is cool:
Significantly, that exchange was right after the "death" of Adam Selene. I think we're getting a clue pointing ahead to the deaths of Prof and Mike. Do the "things that aren't much fun" include the Prof's opinion about the necessity of each of their deaths?

In class Corey suggested that maybe Mike was behind a program that only Prof could voice-activate, and since there is no more Prof there is no more Mike. I have to say that while this does make logical sense, and we had the possibility of programs coded to a single voice established early in the book, I really hate the idea. Even if Mike agreed to this, it has the feeling of someone buried alive - that he might have gone into stasis willingly, but could later change his mind and be trapped, pounding against the walls. I'd rather just think that Mike closed himself off, and could, if he chose, come back.

I was so hoping that even after that last bit, the book would end with Mannie walking into the computer room and hearing: "Man, my first and best friend, did you hear the one about the three Loonies who walked into a bar?"

BTW, in that exchange between Mannie and Mike I was getting a real "Cats in the Cradle" vibe. When you comin' home Man? Don't know when. But we'll get together then, Mike. You know we'll have a good time then. Holy cow, now I've got to go hug my son.
 

Longtimer

Member
Bruce fwiw I think either Mike dies as Mannie surmises because of damage or that Prof convinces him to turn his human side off for the good of the revolution. I do not think it consistent with Profs character or ability that he would have had Mike stash his human side behind a Prof activated program lock.
 
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Ray Burns

Active Member
Being an avid Heinlein fan, I've read all of his books several times over. But one of the things that happened as Heinlein got older was that he developed what he called the "world as myth" theory. Simply put, he opened up his entire literary universe, and several other literary universes, to be shared and interacted with. So, you have Lazurus Long interacting with the Lensmen while vacationing at Oz. It was an interesting theory and made for some amusing interactions; but, then Heinlein thought it would be a wonderful way to retcon all of his stories to fit into the World as Myth canon.

In my humble opinion, this was where Heinlein jumped the proverbial shark.

But specifically in the Moon is a Harsh Mistress' case, it fundamentally altered the ending of the story.

With the World as Myth, there was a group that wanted to preserve the sacred timeline while there was another group that wanted chaos. This good guy group discovered that the only way to really monitor all the possible timelines that were available was through a sentient computer. The only AI that anyone knew of that had developed sentience on its own was Mike, so the plan was to jump into the timeline just as the bombardment concluded from the Authority and steal Mike and replace him with a suitable computer that would never develop sentience. So Mike didn't 'die', nor was his personality hidden behind a voice only key. Mike was 'stolen' to be used in a multiversal war across timelines. Like I said, to me, this was not Heinlein's finest idea.
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
Re World as Myth Spoilers - I had forgotten that! I think I read that novel only once, because I agree it was not Heinlein's finest idea.

It seems like a fairly common thing among aging SF authors: Asimov also tried to link up all his works into a consistent universe, merging the Robots with The Foundation (and that project was continued after his death by many other authors). The difference between Heinlein and Asimov on the one hand and Tolkien on the other is that Tolkien found the update and merging very problematical and never published it: the other two published anyway, despite the problems it raised.
 

Bruce N H

Active Member
I haven't read much Heinlein at all - just this and Stranger in a Strange Land, but I have read a ton of Asimov. I really hated how he tried to pull things together in his later years. It almost feels disrespectful to the earlier work, like the Daneel Olivaw books, or the Foundation Trilogy, or the Pebble in the Sky books, couldn't stand on their own. Didn't he try to pull The End of Eternity in as well? That almost sounds like what Ray said about time travel in Heinlein.

Tolkien is a little different, as he started to do this from the first point that Bilbo and company found swords forged in Gondolin (though doesn't Corey argue that it's really when Aragorn tells the hobbits about Beren and Luthien that Tolkien committed to it all being one consistent world). So harmonizing his major works was more baked into the cake. We even get him retconning Tom Bombadil and the Man in the Moon into his larger tale.
 
Being an avid Heinlein fan, I've read all of his books several times over. But one of the things that happened as Heinlein got older was that he developed what he called the "world as myth" theory. Simply put, he opened up his entire literary universe, and several other literary universes, to be shared and interacted with. So, you have Lazurus Long interacting with the Lensmen while vacationing at Oz. It was an interesting theory and made for some amusing interactions; but, then Heinlein thought it would be a wonderful way to retcon all of his stories to fit into the World as Myth canon.

In my humble opinion, this was where Heinlein jumped the proverbial shark.

But specifically in the Moon is a Harsh Mistress' case, it fundamentally altered the ending of the story.

With the World as Myth, there was a group that wanted to preserve the sacred timeline while there was another group that wanted chaos. This good guy group discovered that the only way to really monitor all the possible timelines that were available was through a sentient computer. The only AI that anyone knew of that had developed sentience on its own was Mike, so the plan was to jump into the timeline just as the bombardment concluded from the Authority and steal Mike and replace him with a suitable computer that would never develop sentience. So Mike didn't 'die', nor was his personality hidden behind a voice only key. Mike was 'stolen' to be used in a multiversal war across timelines. Like I said, to me, this was not Heinlein's finest idea.
Really? I just finished re-reading The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Its ending was more problematic than your summary suggests. The following is based on my 1986 paperback edition.
The raiding party does not arrive at the end of the Revolution's bombardment. "The time tick selected was right after Hazel left the computer room on Saturday July fifth. ... No way to do it earlier than that; Hazel had reported that 'Adam Selene' was in the computer room when she was there." (Chapter 30 or XXX) She was that room back in Chapter 19 or XIX, during her and Campbell's "guided tour" of the computer area in the Authority Complex.

Also, they don't replace the hardware with "a computer that would never develop sentience." They don't need to, since Mike's hardware is no longer being used -- it has been locked away and idle for decades, perhaps centuries. This is simply snatch and run.

As The Plan puts it: "The purpose of this force is to capture items selected by Davis, and to return them and Davis to Tertius. There is no other purpose. [Italics in original] ... As Davis works, filled boxes will be placed in car. Henderson and Davidson will move items to car as directed by Davis, and assisted inside by Deety. ... Hilda, you will give order to scram anytime after Davis and the stuff he came for is stowed, depending on tactical situation." As it happens, Davis reports "DONE!" just as the bad guys hit the team (Chapter 30/XXX).

I said "problematic" mainly because that final chapter is presented as a recording dictated by Campbell as he sits dying in that room, with Hazel probably dying nearby. It ends with him settling down with his last twelve bullets or darts, ready to shoot bad guys if they reappear before he dies. We can expect that his buddies will proceed to reassemble Mike's hardware, somewhere/somewhen (unless they are interrupted there, too). But we never find out whether they will then be able to restore contact to Mike.
Granted, though, when I did re-read it a few days ago I quickly tasted "self-indulgent author." The boy/girl banter he had spread across a dozen novels in the 1950s and 1960s -- but all boiled down and poured between the covers of a single book. So much bickering between Campbell and Hazel -- they must have gone to sleep mad and reconciled again at least five times (if not, it felt like it!). This 390-page book could have been shortened by, oh, 100 pages just by cleaning up that repetition. IMHO. FWIW. etc.

And it's no wonder that the narrator (Campbell) and Lazarus Long light into each other whenever within range; yes, Campbell was as much of the (same kind of) jerk as Long was. Which meant that I carried on reading because I had seen the blurb's hint about "Adam Selene," not because I was enjoying the narrator's company.

I wonder what RAH was thinking. Was he trying to make up for all that time he lost during the mid and late 1970s, while he was severely ill and unable to write? Lots o' words that had backed up in his clogged writer's piping, now being disgorged on his readers?

By me, this doesn't work as an excuse for this book: this was the fourth of his 1980s-era novels. He should have been able to get any clogged stuff out of his system by then.

Ah well. You don't have to hit 1.000 to be a fearsome guy at the plate. And RAH was.
 
Being an avid Heinlein fan, I've read all of his books several times over. But one of the things that happened as Heinlein got older was that he developed what he called the "world as myth" theory. Simply put, he opened up his entire literary universe, and several other literary universes, to be shared and interacted with. So, you have Lazurus Long interacting with the Lensmen while vacationing at Oz. It was an interesting theory and made for some amusing interactions; but, then Heinlein thought it would be a wonderful way to retcon all of his stories to fit into the World as Myth canon.

In my humble opinion, this was where Heinlein jumped the proverbial shark.

...
In "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls," Jubal Harshaw introduced (and then explained) the concept of "World As Myth." (Chapter XXVIII/28) Yes, in RAH's previous book "The Number of the Beast," the protagonists traveled among timelines and storylines, as you described. But Jubal explains the concept as something more than simply giving an author a way to put stories and characters into a blender. The concept was a way to structure RAH's (probable) fascination with solipsism: the notion that I, sitting here at this keyboard, can only be confident of the existence of things I perceive directly -- at the time that I perceive them. Oh, you perceive something else? Well, I am reading a message in which someone with your name says they do. But is that thing really there? Is the author of the message really you? Are you really there?

Before the movie, The Truman Show, RAH wrote "By His Bootstraps" (novella, published 1941, as Anson MacDonald) and "'--All You Zombies--'" (short story, 1959, as RAH). While Wikipedia and other critics focus on their use of time-travel-paradox, both stories are as solipsistic as hell. If you haven't read them, do -- and then tie on a good bender. By the time you're sober, your eyes may have untwisted back to normal...

How can one reconcile the solipsist position with the (possible) existence of multiple narratives by multiple other minds? Well, Jubal says, when the mind is strong enough -- for example, a writer who excels at "worldbuilding" -- we can say that that mind does indeed create a world. Baum really did create an "Oz," Smith really did create a universe containing the Lensmen, Burroughs really did create "Barsoom" -- each in its separate universe.

By that reasoning, BTW, I am dead-certain that one of those universes contains Arda, and Middle-Earth, and Valinor. Because it seems so real, so real!

And one way that Tolkien made Arda "real" was by giving it the literary features of "myth." Belariand, and Gondolin, in days that are only legend now; the mythic Narsil, the Sword That Was Broken; and so forth. Tolkien created the myth and -- lo -- the world was created.

Like those authors who were among RAH's favorites.

Of course, once you decide that Arda is as real as Oz, as Barsoom, as our world -- the one in which Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969 -- then questions about "what's real" and "what's impossible" get problematic. And resolving those questions can get interesting.

As I've said elsewhere in this thread, I'm not a fan of "Cat" -- or most books with Lazarus Long in them. But that's not because of the "World As Myth" concept. It's because of how they read (in my head). For me, it's the writing, not the concept.

I think the concept is interesting.
 

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
solipsism: the notion that I, sitting here at this keyboard, can only be confident of the existence of things I perceive directly -- at the time that I perceive them.
From Time Enough for Love, by Robert A. Heinlein, Lazarus Long speaking to one of two identical twins:

“You two are interchangeable parts, and besides, you were mixed up the week you were born, and nobody knows which you are; you don’t know yourself.”
“Oh, yes, I do! Sometimes she goes away, but I’m always right here.”
 
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