Tags: heinlein

green leaves

Notes on The Pursuit of the Pankera (5)

Chapter X

It's worth looking at how authority is handled, including smooth transitions between Zeb (mostly in change) and Hilda.

I don't have a lot else to say about this so far, but the Black Hats are terrifying. I'm hoping this book handles them better than NotB.

Chapters XI, XII, XIII

Reasonable actions in response to threats and deduced threats

Going to Barsoom is an exhilarating idea.

Chapter XIV

Does "us girls should stick together" actually make sense?

It's clear that they've arrived at a Mars which isn't the Mars of our home solar systrm, but does that mean it's Barsoom rather than some other variant or fictional Mars?


Pleasant enough chapter, but not much to say about it. I wonder whether Heinlein would have shortened it.


Mostly fun with being intelligent.

Did they go back to the *same* Barsoom, or a very similar one? Could it matter if they're changing places with other crews on other Gay Deceivers?

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green leaves

Notes on The Pursuit of the Pankera (4)

Chapter X

It occurs to me that this is Heinlein showing what ideal family life is like, at least if the family is all adults. If he wrote any extended passages of parents and their children-- especially with small children-- I can't think of them.

I think it's fairly rare to have people being pleasantly drunk in sf.

Here we have something which also appeared in Puppet Masters-- an assumption that any man who doesn't react to a beautiful woman isn't a human. Heinlein was more accepting of homosexuals in his later books-- and takes sex change operations as normal in this one-- but he doesn't think of the obvious exception for that test.

Blue-green blood should affect skin color. Just saying.

Deety has an accurate time sense. Zeb notices, and Deety says, “I’m sorry, Zebadiah— I don’t mean to be a freak.”

That's a very sad reaction, and I'm not sure if I should hate Heinlein or the world or what. Why is Deety so insecure? I could say "emotionally abusive father" considering his temper, but Jake likes Deety's intelligence.

Or just a subtly abusive emotional situation where Jake is difficult, Jane manages him smoothly, and the constant message is "be like Jane".

Form another angle, Deety's insecurity could be in the story as a contrast to Hilda's self-assurance.

All this being said, the discussion of where to dissect the alien is an example of people treating each other well.

I hate the custom of women hiding their ages.

"Something like tattooing— or maybe masking I haven’t been able to peel off— to make the face and other exposed skin look human instead of blue-green."

So that does get addressed, but I think it would be very difficult to stay out of the uncanny valley.

"A permanent substitution might fool anything but an X-ray— and might fool even X-ray if the doctor giving the examination was one of Them"

A bit of an echo of Puppet Masters. You could probably write a book about paranoia in Heinlein.

One more thing about Deety and psychological issues-- why doesn't she let her feelings show on her face? I assume she's afraid they'll be unwelcome. Form one angle, it's good to show that being beautiful isn't prevent psychological problems. Nor cause them. They are independent characteristics.

I'm not sure if this is reasonable, but I think beautiful women are frequently presented as landscape, and Deety has an emotional (if somewhat fucked up) and intellectual inner life. So it could be Heinlein doing well even if her particular problems are getting on my nerves. I've seen people complain about how much Deety worries about how she smells, but not about how much she worries about being good enough in general.

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green leaves

Notes on The Pursuit of the Pankera (3)

Chapter VII

Figuring out that there was a forged letter inviting Jake to the party. More cute talk about being naked.

The only thing I liked about this chapter is the bit where Deety takes some time to figure out this situation.

If there's anything else good about the chapter, let me know.

Chapter VIII

Some backstory for Hilda. This and the previous chapter seem unfamiliar to me-- I'd heard that the first third was identical to NotB, but I'm only at 13%.

Evidence that some version of this chapter was in NotB. I was looking for the cadence, but didn't find it.


Otherwise, pleasantly intelligent but not much else to say about it.

It's a good point that just helping the very smart people can take a good bit of brains, and I don't think it's said very often.

Zeb is an interesting character-- normally being big and strong and good at being protective is enough for a stereotypical male character, but Zeb's notable feature is how much he thinks ahead and prepares for things going wrong.


Discussion of using the continua tech for terraforming, including forced aging. Start the adjustment of Venus' atmosphere. Since there is no energy cost for travelling between variant worlds or moving things between them, you could have a million years or whatever is needed take place without having to wait for them yourself.

I'd like to see the story where someone tries that and finds that life has evolved independently from the bacteria or whatever which was seeded, including an intelligent species.

Extended story of how and why Zeb got himself a meaningless PhD. Studying professors probably does pay off.

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green leaves

Notes on The Pursuit of the Pankera (2)


Chapter V:

Deety decides to wear clothes and there is discussion of how to treat husbands. There may be women like that. I'm not one of them and I thought it was sort of wearisome.

Hilda is forty-five, which is younger than I expected.

Chapter VI

Jake talks with Jane. The bit about Jane (who is dead being more real than the reader is quite interesting in terms of the later part (at least in NotB) about fictons, fictional universes, being real. And the the earlier stuff about the importance of pulp magazines also fits in.

More about wearing clothes or not. More about pleasing spouses. Ghu knows, it's important for married or otherwise coupled people to be good to each other, but I'm not sure that's naturalistic way of talking or thinking about it.

Breakfast "was a gourmet specialty that would enrage a Cordon Bleu chef". Would it really? I have no idea, and I don't get as much fun out of the idea of outraging people as I used to. Sounds like an excellent breakfast, though.

"Are men and women one race? I know what biologists say— say— but history is loaded with “scientists” jumping to conclusions from superficial evidence. It seems to me far more likely that they are symbiotes. I am not speaking from ignorance; I was one trimester short of a BS in biology (and a straight-A student)"

I've wondered what Heinlein had in mind when he wrote that-- I expect he had a specific theory.

"I am strong for women’s rights but was never taken in by unisex nonsense. I don’t yearn to be equal; Sharpie is as unequal as possible, with all the perks and bonuses and special privileges that come from being one of the superior sex."

"Who's in charge here?" is one of Heinlein's biggest themes. He's the only author I know of who *likes* manipulative women so long as they're of good will, and he apparently thought a lot of them are of good will.

"Some people don’t let their left hands know what their right hands are doing. Zebbie doesn’t let his thumb know what his fingers are doing.”

After complaining about a lot of the humor, I feel obliged to say I like that bit.

I'm comprehensively squicked by the extent to which Hilda was concealing her intelligence.

The part about additional dimensions reminds me of part of Egan's Diaspora-- characters spend some time in a higher dimensional universe, but can remember it when they get back. I'd like Elf Hill.

I have no idea why Revelations was included in the Christian Bible. For a while I thought that the number of the beast on the hand and forehead which was needed to buy and sell was an example of very early science fiction, but I've since decided it was a satire of Roman bureaucracy and control. On the other hand, there's a lot of overlap between satire and science fction.

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green leaves

Notes on The Pursuit of the Pankera (semi-new Heinlein novel)

The Pursuit of the Pankera is an early draft of Heinlein's The Number of the Beast. The first third is the same, the rest is material which wasn't previously published.

I'm not sure when Pankera was written-- Number of the Beast came out in 1980.

I'm hoping for a better answer about who the Black Hats were, but don't tell me.

My plan is to post notes about what I notice as I read, and I'm starting at the beginning.

I'm not sure how much I liked Zeb and Deety's aggressive style of flirting when I first read the book. Did I like it or just tolerate it? In any case, I find it somewhat wearing now.

On the other hand, I find the descriptions of dancing a lot more interesting than I used to-- I've gotten deeper into tai chi and qi gung.

There's a mention of transexual operations being common. I would count that as pretty good speculation.

Zeb's rapid takeoff and evasive maneuvers remind me of John Lyle's piloting in If This Goes On--.

The John Carter/Denah Thoris bit still works for me emotionally though I'm not especially an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan. The geek background is still strong stuff. But not so strong that I left off the Edgar Rice, since I don't want people be caught short by thinking it might be William Burroughs.

Minor failure of prognostication. Long distance phone calls are still expensive. Pay phones are still common.

Prognostication win: Personal news filtering.

NotB and Pankera could possibly be paired with Friday and Job and possibly others as being about searching for a home.

Current plan is to comment on about 5% of the book at a time, rounded to the end of a chapter.

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