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Interesting take on Variable Star 
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Post Interesting take on Variable Star
http://jameswharris.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/heinleins-13th-scribners-novel/


Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:18 am
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Post Re: Interesting take on Variable Star
I don't think there's much question that Spider tied down all the non-Heinlein keys on his typewriter, leaving him a limited palette from which to work.

Variable Star reads not so much like a 13th juvenile - and I note the blogger is omitting the quasi-juveniles ST and Podkayne - as it does like a very well-done Heinlein pastiche. Anyone who's read a sweep of Sherlock Holmes pastiches will find themselves in familar territory reading VS.

...

I have sketched at an analysis of Spider's novels over the years, but the truth is that it's unavoidably uncomplimentary and I will likely never complete or publish it. It would be received as Robinson in Dimension - not wanting my name and Apie's to ever appear in the same dependent clause, besides liking Spider too much (for the good parts of his writing, and personally) to deal him any dirt, pretty much nails the box shut.

I will say that the chapter on VS would be long, but not by any means the longest.

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Wed Apr 29, 2009 9:13 am
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Post Re: Interesting take on Variable Star
I'll give the writer of this post points for earnestness, but his analysis of Heinlein's career is quite shallow and focuses on irrelevant aspects IMHO. I can't comment on his analysis of Spider's career and style because I've never read Spider's stuff, except VS. I did meet and listen to Spider at the Centennial though, and enjoyed that very much.

I thought the first several (pre-launch) chapters of VS were very well executed. They really did read like a more contemporary Heinlein juvenile. After the launch, though...ZZZZZZZ.

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Wed Apr 29, 2009 12:47 pm
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Post Re: Interesting take on Variable Star
James Gifford wrote:
Variable Star reads not so much like a 13th juvenile - and I note the blogger is omitting the quasi-juveniles ST and Podkayne - as it does like a very well-done Heinlein pastiche. Anyone who's read a sweep of Sherlock Holmes pastiches will find themselves in familar territory reading VS.


Um, say what? Could you elaborate on that a bit? It's not registering with me, perhaps because I haven't read more than at most one Sherlock Holmes pastiche.


Wed Apr 29, 2009 8:44 pm
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Post Re: Interesting take on Variable Star
James, I always considered Heinlein in Dimension to be a love letter to RAH, so if you wrote Robinson in Dimension it would imply a different book to me than what I think you're implying.

By the way, have you seen the outline that Robinson used for Variable Star, and how does it match the book? And I can't help but believe that RAH wrote Time for the Stars from the same kind of brainstorming that he might have been doing when he wrote that outline. Does the outline contain telepathic communicators? If it does, it would seem very strange that Heinlein didn't abandon that outline for one for Time for the Stars.


Thu Apr 30, 2009 4:09 am
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Post Re: Interesting take on Variable Star
JimHarris wrote:
James, I always considered Heinlein in Dimension to be a love letter to RAH...

I know that that's how A.P. has tried to present it over the years and I believe that's the gist of his long, self-exculpating and oh-so-puzzled essays of recent years, but... well, HiD is a love letter to RAH the way a mash note scrawled in blood nailed to Angelina Jolie's door is a love letter to A.J.

HiD is better regarded as a polite but veiled shot from a snubbed suitor.

In any case, what I meant was that an extended look at SR's work would likely produce the same polarization (moreso, since he seems to be blindly beloved by a larger percentage of his readers than Heinlein) and the same critical consensus that I was somehow out to get the man. I don't need the grief. Got plenty, thanks. Neither does he.

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Thu Apr 30, 2009 6:49 am
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Post Re: Interesting take on Variable Star
JimHarris wrote:
By the way, have you seen the outline that Robinson used for Variable Star, and how does it match the book? And I can't help but believe that RAH wrote Time for the Stars from the same kind of brainstorming that he might have been doing when he wrote that outline. Does the outline contain telepathic communicators? If it does, it would seem very strange that Heinlein didn't abandon that outline for one for Time for the Stars.


I asked Spider at the Centennial about the notes or outline that he was given to use for VR. Spider said that the material consisted of no more than a few notecards with character names, situations, etc. and not an outline at all. So, 90% of the story was spun by Spider without explicit guidance from RAH.

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Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:39 am
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Post Re: Interesting take on Variable Star
Peter Scott wrote:
Could you elaborate on that a bit? It's not registering with me, perhaps because I haven't read more than at most one Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

Well, then, read more. :)

As a lifelong Holmesian, I at one time read every SH-inspired novel and pastiche that could be found. Such pastiches, often modeled on cases referenced in the Canon but never written, ranged from short to book length and from execrable to purt' damn good.* Today, we'd call it fanfic... but these fans were professors, published authors and some of the biggest names in mid-20th literature.

After you read a dozen or two, you begin to detect (hah - pun - gad I'm clever after my second cup of coffee) a certain sameness. Some writers went to extremes, but most carefully recycled existing bits, taking a reference here, a name there, a suggestion there and weaving them into their own story pattern. Since there is a finite number of such bits, they get a bit shopworn after the nth usage. A little too much respect for ACD and his character kept them from inventing truly new supporting cast, settings, situations, etc.

VS falls squarely into that mold. Spider didn't want to stray too far from the center, so he carefully and cleverly constructed his tale from recycled Heinlein bits. Where he didn't he used recycled Robinson bits... which, being derived largely from Heinlein raw materials, add to the allee-samee feel and - unfortunately - to the dull sameness.

I think "Heinlein pastiche" is an exact identification, especially as SR worked from much the same starting point as most Holmes fan writers - a few references and scraps not filled out by the original master.


* The Seven Percent Solution perhaps being the best. There were at least two that portrayed SH as a traveler from the future - the cleverest portraying SH as a policeman chasing an evil clone of himself who had escaped into the past (Moriarty, of course).

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Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:51 am
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Post Re: Interesting take on Variable Star
Jack Kelly wrote:
I asked Spider at the Centennial about the notes or outline that he was given to use for VR. Spider said that the material consisted of no more than a few notecards with character names, situations, etc. and not an outline at all. So, 90% of the story was spun by Spider without explicit guidance from RAH.

I've heard varying stories about the state of the archive material, but I believe it's more than a few cards. There was, IIRC, about a six to ten page outline that covered the first two thirds of the story, leaving nowhere to go and no ending. I read this in SR's own words but can't recall where; the back cover copy on my prepress edition of VS says much the same thing. (While cover copy is notoriously bad, it is very specific about "a detailed outline" and other materials.)

Bill can no doubt ring in with the facts.


Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:01 am
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Post Re: Interesting take on Variable Star
James Gifford wrote:
Jack Kelly wrote:
I asked Spider at the Centennial about the notes or outline that he was given to use for VR. Spider said that the material consisted of no more than a few notecards with character names, situations, etc. and not an outline at all. So, 90% of the story was spun by Spider without explicit guidance from RAH.

I've heard varying stories about the state of the archive material, but I believe it's more than a few cards. There was, IIRC, about a six to ten page outline that covered the first two thirds of the story, leaving nowhere to go and no ending. I read this in SR's own words but can't recall where; the back cover copy on my prepress edition of VS says much the same thing. (While cover copy is notoriously bad, it is very specific about "a detailed outline" and other materials.)

Bill can no doubt ring in with the facts.


Well, maybe Spider had been puffing the magic herb, but that's what he told me. ;) Bill will certainly know the facts.

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Thu Apr 30, 2009 8:06 am
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