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Stories: Citizen of the Galaxy (Opus 128/G.134) (Nov. 1956) 
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Post Stories: Citizen of the Galaxy (Opus 128/G.134) (Nov. 1956)
Over at the terrific new Tor.com site, Jo Walton is writing a column (blog?) on "re-reading." Yesterday she turned her attention to Citizen of the Galaxy, so correspondents here might want to take a look.

http://www.tor.com.vhost.zerolag.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=blog&id=2128

Jo has won the Campbell Award for best new writer, the World Fantasy Award, and the Prometheus Award. Heinlein has influenced her plenty.

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Tue Jul 29, 2008 4:46 pm
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Post Re: Stories: Citizen of the Galaxy (Opus 128/G.134) (Nov. 1956)
beamjockey wrote:
Over at the terrific new Tor.com site, Jo Walton is writing a column (blog?) on "re-reading." Yesterday she turned her attention to Citizen of the Galaxy . . .

I see she's going to be on one of the Heinlein panels at Denvention -- and I also see they didn't get your spacesuit presentation in the list of Heinlein programming. *sigh*

I printed out that entire blog entry and found a really good example of what I think of as "phony flaws" in the first comment by "NullNix":

NullNix wrote:
"What I find most impressive about Citizen of the Galaxy is the way it rises above its structural flaws. The plot is, well, 'wandering' at best, and more questions are raised than answered, entire cultures being drawn in detail only to be abandoned as the plot moves on . . . [sic] but the pacing is so good that I at least could entirely ignore this, and then dash back to the start and reread it again."


Ok -- its structure is not "wandering" at all: Thorby is exposed to four environments that are nominally "home" to him and in which he finds out something different about family, in order to shape the master learning of the ending.

It is a core characteristic of the story that Thorby is repeatedly jerked out of an environment to which he has become attached -- in fact, that is what set the story in motion, out of the frame of the book. It cannot logically be a "flaw" since it's intrinsic to the story arc. It can only be regarded as a flaw if you have some straight-through model as the "only" way to make a story. I.e., it's an artifact in a rather inexperienced and somewhat inflexible mind, not a flaw of the story.

In the second place, picaresque stories are supposed to move from locale to locale. Change of setting cannot properly be a "flaw" when it's a defining characteristic of the form.

The "entire cultures being drawn and discarded" bit is just astonishing as much for what it does not say as what it does: that he expects and is prepared to find cultures and backgrounds properly being sketched hazily if they are on-stage but briefly. He has managed to cast a writer's greatest technical strength -- a feature which is normally a matter of extraordinary comment and praise -- as a "flaw" of the story.

And more questions being raised than answered is usually translated as "provocative" and is usually regarded as a Good Thing.

Phony flaws. Too goddamned many of them in Heinlein criticism.

Another commenter notes that the "food fight" while Thorby is with the Hegemonic Guard is a telling incident but misreads what it tells -- he gathers it's a sign that thorby is still immature as he is unable to resist rising to the bait. What he seems to miss -- and what a lot of people miss about this and incidents in, e.g., Farnham's Freehold and in Farmer in the Sky, two examples that come easily to mind, is that they are telling us the character is emotionally disturbed, not merely immature. He's sick and it also tells us what he has to cure himself of.


Mon Aug 04, 2008 4:02 pm
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Post Re: Stories: Citizen of the Galaxy (Opus 128/G.134) (Nov. 1956)
Yes, an interesting post by Jo Walton. And definitely too many "phony flaws" in Heinlein criticism.

Heinlein says in Grumbles from the Grave that "I want to cut and slant the serial (adult) version [of Citizen of the Galaxy] slightly differently from the Scribner's (juvenile) version. ... I am going to try this time to improve it a little for each market with some changes in emphasis."

I read the Astounding version several times before reading the Scribner version, but my last reading of the former was quite a while ago.

Has anyone done a close comparison of the Astounding and Scribner texts? And if so, is it public and accessible?

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Wed Sep 03, 2008 7:55 am
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Post Re: Stories: Citizen of the Galaxy (Opus 128/G.134) (Nov. 1956)
Robert W Franson wrote:
Has anyone done a close comparison of the Astounding and Scribner texts? And if so, is it public and accessible?

I think there was one person interested in doing such a thing, and I sent him a set of the Astoundings for that purpose several years ago, but nothing came of the project. That's the kind of thing that needs to be done for the presumptive eventual "scholar's edition" of Heinlein. The Virginia Edition doesn't actually serve that purpose. I suspect we're talking about something for which a market will clear in about ten years.


Thu Sep 04, 2008 6:14 am
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Post Re: Stories: Citizen of the Galaxy (Opus 128/G.134) (Nov. 1956)
Hmmm ... I have a complete run of Astounding/Analog from 1946-1963. :) I have considered donating it to the SF library at the KU English Department. I managed to damage one of the issues while the magazines were in storage, but I can likely replace the damaged one. I have tried not to do too much to them because they are pretty fragile.


Fri Sep 05, 2008 6:19 am
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Post Topic Split
I have split this topic into two parts so that the original discussion of Citizen can proceed. The Centennial/VE/misc posts are now in a thread in the general RAH forum. Please continue that discussion there, and this discussion here.

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Mon Sep 08, 2008 9:29 am
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Post Re: Topic Split
James Gifford wrote:
I have split this topic into two parts so that the original discussion of Citizen can proceed. The Centennial/VE/misc posts are now in a thread in the general RAH forum. Please continue that discussion there, and this discussion here.

I want to take just a line or two here to thank our host for his responsiveness and prompt attention to this forum. I know he has many other irons in the fire. Thanks!

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Tue Sep 09, 2008 5:03 am
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Post Re: Stories: Citizen of the Galaxy (Opus 128/G.134) (Nov. 1956)
I agree with Bill that the structure of COTG is most definitely not wandering, unless you insist a novel remain in the same setting. It's actually quite sophisticated, not least of all which is the following: the novel heads in ever-spreading circles outward, physically, as it moves back to earth, while at the same time boring deeper inward, as Thorby comes to know who and what he is.

Quite a feat, that.

Robert


Fri Jul 24, 2009 6:44 pm
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Post Re: Stories: Citizen of the Galaxy (Opus 128/G.134) (Nov. 1956)
Came across this piece on COTG,and thought you might like to see it

http://members.iglou.com/jtmajor/Citgalxy.htm

Very good essay.


Sat Jan 30, 2010 1:43 pm
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Post Re: Stories: Citizen of the Galaxy (Opus 128/G.134) (Nov. 1956)
Joe Major wrote a very thorough, if somewhat uneven book on the juveniles. I think this is one of the parts he published as an essay as well.

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Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:44 pm
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