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The Past Through Tomorrow

Robert A. Heinlein


  "We are a tough and resourceful lot; our descendants will have to be tougher and more resourceful still.

  "The odds are all against them. The stars are high, life is short, and the house always takes a percentage. But Man himself is so unlikely that if he did not exist, his possibility would not be worth discussing.

  "Heinlein's money is on Man; and I have a hunch that the next century will prove him right."

  from the INTRODUCTION by




  Available in Berkley Medallion Editions

  I Will Fear No Evil

  The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

  Starship Troopers

  Glory Road

  Orphans of the Sky

  Farnham’s Freehold

  Podkayne of Mars

  Time Enough For Love

  The Past Through Tomorrow

  The Unpleasant Profession of,

  Jonathan Hoag

  Stranger in a Strange Land

  Tomorrow, The Stars

  (edited by Robert A. Heinlein)


  This Berkley book contains the complete text of the original hardcover edition. It has been completely reset in a type face designed for easy reading, and was printed from new film.


  A Berkley Book / published by arrangement with G. P. Putnam's Sons


  G. P. Putnam's Sons edition published 1967 Berkley Medallion edition / January 1975 THIRTEENTH PRINTING

  All rights reserved. Copyright © 1967 by Robert A. Heinlein. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part, by mimeograph or any other means, without permission For information address: G. P. Putnam's Sons. 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.

  ISBN: 0-425-04756-3

  A BERKELY BOOK ® TM 757.371 Berkley Books are published by Berkley Publishing Corporation. 200 Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016.


  OPYRIGHT ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Life-Line, Copyright, 1939, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. The Roads Must Roll, Copyright, 1940, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Blowups Happen, Copyright, 1940, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. The Man Who Sold the Moon, Copyright, 1949, by Robert A. Heinlein. Delilah and the Space-Rigger, Copyright, 1949, by McCall Corporation, Inc. Space Jockey, Copyright, 1947, by The Curtis Publishing Co. Requiem, Copyright, 1939, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. The Long Watchs Copyright, 1948, by The American Legion. Gentlemen, Be Seated, Copyright, 1948, by Popular Publications, Inc. The Black Pits of Luna, Copyright, 1947, by The Curtis Publishing Co. "It's Great to Be Back!", Copyright, 1946, by The Curtis Publishing Co. "—We Also Walk Dogs", Copyright, 1941, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Searchlight, Copyright, 1962, by Carson Roberts, Inc. Ordeal in Space, Copyright, 1947, by Hearst Publications, Inc. The Green Hills of Earth, Copyright, 1947, by The Curtis Publishing Co. Logic of Empire, Copyright, 1941, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. The Menace from Earth, Copyright, 1957, by Fantasy House, Inc. "If This Goes On—", Copyright, 1940, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Coventry, Copyright, 1940, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Misfit, Copyright, 1939, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Methuselah's Children—Earlier, shorter version Copyright, 1941, by Street & Smith Publications, Inc. Copyright, 1958, by Robert A. Heinlein.


  Introduction by Damon Knight


  The Roads Must Roll

  Blowups Happen

  The Man Who Sold the Moon

  Delilah and the Space-Rigger

  Space Jockey


  The Long Watch

  Gentlemen, Be Seated

  The Black Pits of Luna

  “It’s Great to Be Back!”

  “—We Also Walk Dogs”


  Ordeal in Space

  The Green Hills of Earth

  Logic of Empire

  The Menace from Earth

  “If This Goes On—”



  Methuselah’s Children

  Introduction by Damon Knight

  THE YEAR is 1967, and in Carmel, California, a retired admiral named Robert A. Heinlein is tending his garden. Commissioned in 1929, he served through World War II with distinction, taught aeronautical engineering for a few years, then became a partner in a modestly successful electronics firm. Aside from his neighbors, his business associates and Navy friends, no one has ever heard of him.

  This is a likely story, but not true. What really happened is much less probable: six years after graduation from the Naval Academy, while serving on a destroyer, Heinlein contracted tuberculosis. He spent a couple of years in bed, then was retired at the age of 27.

  Like the consumptive Robert Louis Stevenson, like Mark Twain, whose career as a river-boat pilot was swept away by the war, Heinlein turned to writing almost at random, because he could not lead the more active life he would have preferred. Cut adrift from the Navy and from the life-line that would have led him to that rose garden in Carmel, he took graduate courses in physics and mathematics, intending to pursue his old dream of becoming an astronomer, but was again forced to drop out because of poor health. He tried his hand at silver mining, politics, real estate, without conspicuous success.

  Then, in 1939, he happened across the announcement of an amateur short-story contest in a magazine called Thrilling Wonder Stories. The prize was $50, not a fortune, but not to be sneezed at. Heinlein wrote a story, called it “Life-Line,” and submitted it, not to the contest editor, but to John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science-Fiction. Campbell bought it, and the next one, and the next. Heinlein’s reaction was, “How long has this been going on? And why didn’t anybody ever tell me?” Except for the war years, which he spent at the Naval Air Experimental Station in Philadelphia in “the necessary tedium of aviation engineering,” he never did anything else for a living again.

  In the February, 1941, issue of Astounding, in which two Heinlein stories appeared (one under the pseudonym Anson MacDonald), the editor wrote:

  “Robert A. Heinlein’s back again next month with the cover story, ‘Logic of Empire.’ This story is, as usual with Heinlein’s material, a soundly worked out, fast-moving yarn, more than able to stand on its own feet. But in connection with it, I’d like to mention something that may or may not have been noticed by the regular readers of Astounding: all Heinlein’s science-fiction is laid against a common background of a proposed future history of the world and of the United States. Heinlein’s worked the thing out in detail that grows with each story; he has an outlined and graphed history of the future with characters, dates of major discoveries, et cetera, plotted in. I’m trying to get him to let me have a photostat of that history chart; if I lay hands on it, I’m going to publish it.”

  He published the chart three months later—the same chart, with some modifications and additions, that appears in this book. Heinlein had the cover of that issue, too, with a story called “Universe.”

  “Future History” is Campbell’s phrase, not Heinlein’s, and the author has sometimes been mildly embarrassed by it. This connected series of stories does not pretend to be prophetic. It is a history, not of the future, but of a future—an alternate-probability world (perhaps the same one in which the retired Rear Admiral is tending his roses) which is logically self-consistent, dramatic, and recognizably an offshoot of our own past. The stories really do not form a linear series at all—they are more like a pyramid, in which earlier stories provide a solid base for later ones to rest on.

/>   Now partly because of this pyramiding of background and partly because of the author’s broad knowledge—about which more in a moment—Heinlein’s readers find themselves in a world which is clearly our own, only projected a few years or decades into the future. There have been changes, naturally, but they are things you feel you could adjust to without much trouble. People are still people: they read Time magazine, are worried about money, smoke Luckies, argue with their wives.

  It is easy to say what the ideal science fiction writer would be like. He would be a talented and imaginative writer, trained in the physical and social sciences and in engineering, with a broad and varied experience of people—not only scientists and engineers, but secretaries, lawyers, labor leaders, admen, newspapermen, politicians, businessmen. The trouble is that no one in his senses would spend the time to acquire all this training and background merely in order to write science fiction. But Heinlein had it all.

  Far more of Heinlein’s work comes out of his own experience than most people realize. When he doesn’t know something himself, he is too conscientious a workman to guess at it: he goes and finds out. His stories are full of precisely right details, the product of painstaking research. But many of the things he writes about, including some that strain the reader’s credulity, are from his own life. A few examples, out of many:

  The elaborate discussion of the problems of linkages in designing household robots, in The Door Into Summer. Heinlein was an engineer, specializing in linkages.

  The hand-to-hand combat skills of the heroes of such stories as Gulf and Glory Road. Heinlein himself is an expert marksman, swordsman and rough-and-tumble fighter.

  The redheaded and improbably multi-skilled heroine of The Puppet Masters and other Heinlein stories. Heinlein’s redheaded wife Ginny is a chemist, biochemist, aviation test engineer, experimental horticulturist; she earned varsity letters at N.Y.U. in swimming, diving, basketball and field hockey, and became a competitive figure skater after graduation; she speaks seven languages so far, and is starting on an eighth.

  The longevity of the “Families” in Methuselah’s Children. Five of Heinlein’s six brothers and sisters are still living. So is his mother: she is 87, “frail, but very much alive and mentally active.” All the returns are not in yet.

  Even the improbably talented families that appear in The Rolling Stones and elsewhere are not wild inventions: Heinlein himself played chess before he could read. Of his three brothers, one is a professor of electrical engineering, one a professor of political science, and the third is a retired major general who “made it the hard way—i.e., from private right up through every rank without any college education at all.”

  This tough-mindedness is an altogether different thing from the cynicism of other writers. Heinlein is a moralist to the core; he devoutly believes in courage, honor, self-discipline, self-sacrifice for love or duty. Above all, he is a libertarian. “When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, ‘This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,’ the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”

  The author himself has often denied that the stories in this book are prophecy. Yet it is apparent that some of Heinlein’s fictional forecasts have already come true—not literally but symbolically. “The Roads Must Roll” predicts urban sprawl, and anticipates Jimmy Hoffa’s threat of a nationwide transport strike. The 1969 newspaper headlines in Methuselah’s Children, illustrating the character of “The Crazy Years”—Heinlein’s term for the present era—seem less fantastic now than they did in 1941.

  “Blowups Happen,” written and published five years before the Bomb, is based on a series of shrewd guesses that turned out to be wrong. The specific dilemma of that story never became real; nevertheless, it mirrors the real, agonizing dilemma of atomic power with which we have been living since 1945.

  Some of these stories are minor entertainments, but one, at least, is a major work of art: “The Man Who Sold the Moon.” Written with deceptive ease and simplicity, it functions brilliantly on half a dozen levels at once. It is a story of man’s conquest of the Moon, a penetrating essay on robber-baron capitalism, and a warm, utterly convincing and human portrait of an extraordinary man.

  As for the still-unfolding future, there are guideposts and warnings here. Heinlein continually reminds us that history is a process, not something dead and embalmed in textbooks. The ultimate problem is man’s control of his own inventions—not only the minor ones, like the crossbow and the atom bomb, but the major inventions—language, culture and technology. We are a tough and resourceful lot, all things considered; our descendants will need to be tougher and more resourceful still.

  The odds are all against them. The stars are high, life is short, and the house always takes a percentage. But Man himself is so unlikely that if he did not exist, his possibility would not be worth discussing. Heinlein’s money is on Man; and I have a hunch that the next century will prove him right.

  The Anchorage

  Milford, Pennsylvania


  THE CHAIRMAN rapped loudly for order. Gradually the catcalls and boos died away as several self-appointed sergeants-at-arms persuaded a few hotheaded individuals to sit down. The speaker on the rostrum by the chairman seemed unaware of the disturbance. His bland, faintly insolent face was impassive. The chairman turned to the speaker, and addressed him, in a voice in which anger and annoyance were barely restrained.

  “Doctor Pinero,”—the “Doctor” was faintly stressed—“I must apologize to you for the unseemly outburst during your remarks. I am surprised that my colleagues should so far forget the dignity proper to men of science as to interrupt a speaker, no matter,” he paused and set his mouth, “no matter how great the provocation.” Pinero smiled in his face, a smile that was in some way an open insult. The chairman visibly controlled his temper and continued, “I am anxious that the program be concluded decently and in order. I want you to finish your remarks. Nevertheless, I must ask you to refrain from affronting our intelligence with ideas that any educated man knows to be fallacious. Please confine yourself to your discovery—if you have made one.”

  Pinero spread his fat white hands, palms down. “How can I possibly put a new idea into your heads, if I do not first remove your delusions?”

  The audience stirred and muttered. Someone shouted from the rear of the hall, “Throw the charlatan out! We’ve had enough.” The chairman pounded his gavel.

  “Gentlemen! Please!” Then to Pinero, “Must I remind you that you are not a member of this body, and that we did not invite you?”

  Pinero’s eyebrows lifted. “So? I seem to remember an invitation on the letterhead of the Academy?”

  The chairman chewed his lower lip before replying. “True. I wrote that invitation myself. But it was at the request of one of the trustees—a fine public-spirited gentleman, but not a scientist, not a member of the Academy.”

  Pinero smiled his irritating smile. “So? I should have guessed. Old Bidwell, not so, of Amalgamated Life Insurance? And he wanted his trained seals to expose me as a fraud, yes? For if I can tell a man the day of his own death, no one will buy his pretty policies. But how can you expose me, if you will not listen to me first? Even supposing you had the wit to understand me? Bah! He has sent jackals to tear down a lion.” He deliberately turned his back on them. The muttering of the crowd swelled and took on a vicious tone. The chairman cried vainly for order. There arose a figure in the front row.

  “Mister Chairman!”

  The chairman grasped the opening and shouted, “Gentlemen! Doctor Van RheinSmitt has the floor.” The commotion died away.

  The doctor cleared his throat, smo
othed the forelock of his beautiful white hair, and thrust one hand into a side pocket of his smartly tailored trousers. He assumed his women’s-club manner.

  “Mister Chairman, fellow members of the Academy of Science, let us have tolerance. Even a murderer has the right to say his say before the state exacts its tribute. Shall we do less? Even though one may be intellectually certain of the verdict? I grant Doctor Pinero every consideration that should be given by this august body to any unaffiliated colleague, even though”— he bowed slightly in Pinero’s direction—“we may not be familiar with the university which bestowed his degree. If what he has to say is false, it can not harm us. If what he has to say is true, we should know it.” His mellow cultivated voice rolled on, soothing and calming. “If the eminent doctor’s manner appears a trifle inurbane for our tastes, we must bear in mind that the doctor may be from a place, or a stratum, not so meticulous in these little matters. Now our good friend and benefactor has asked us to hear this person and carefully assess the merit of his claims. Let us do so with dignity and decorum.”

  He sat down to a rumble of applause, comfortably aware that he had enhanced his reputation as an intellectual leader. Tomorrow the papers would again mention the good sense and persuasive personality of “America’s Handsomest University President”. Who knew? Perhaps old Bidwell would come through with that swimming pool donation.

  When the applause had ceased, the chairman turned to where the center of the disturbance sat, hands folded over his little round belly, face serene.