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Year of the Jackpot 
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Year of the Jackpot
I just finished a delightful rereading of Potiphar Breen's adventure. In the vein of criticism done lite (this doesn't meet the criteria Jim posted for the Tertius U arena), I wish to start a discussion on the ending of the story.

Does the deus ex-ex-ex-ex machina ending of, literally, everything, strike you as in any way forced? I have always found it natural before, but this time it occurred to me that, gee, things were improving for the world at the time, why did Heinlein feel it necessary to kill it off?

How does the final sentence sit with you? It has always seemed to me rather sophomoric or at least, jarring with the style of the remainder.

Is there any evidence to suggest that the location marked by the "three pillars" actually exists? The route until then is factual.

Overall, it's a nice little character study of the end of the world and in Heinlein's favorite style of killing off his protagonists, perhaps to remind us, Robert Louis Stevenson-like, that "happily ever after" has many dimensions not necessarily preceded by "and they lived". The dialogue is increasingly archaic - more's the pity - and the conversation with the cop even more so (and even more regrettably). Try even looking at a L.A. cop in the business of apprehending a perp and see how long before the taser comes out. Although Potiphar did know the cop - again, increasingly archaic, to know your local cop in a big city.

Heinlein's early version of The Crazy Years is a much more polite one than what he later came to realize would be more accurate. He sees them as populated by people doing weird things without knowing why. By the '80s he saw that the craziness would be more due to the collapse in civility that in the '40s was taken for granted as permanent.


Sun Apr 20, 2008 1:10 pm
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Post Re: Year of the Jackpot
Peter Scott wrote:
Is there any evidence to suggest that the location marked by the "three pillars" actually exists? The route until then is factual.

I have faint recollection that the route leads to a hunting cabin either owned by or occasionally borrowed by his agent Lurton Blassingame. Heinlein was not a hunter but accompanied LB on a few such trips for companionship.

There is something quite charming about this story, at least until the end. I found a resonance in Lucifer's Hammer, in that I wondered if Potiphar and the girl were somewhere in that mad exodus from LA...

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Sun Apr 20, 2008 2:47 pm
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Post Re: Year of the Jackpot
I'll not attempt to answer all the questions Peter posed. I did a quick read of the last sentence he mentioned ( regarding "The End" of mankind and earth - finuti). I referenced this to the copyright date (1952) of the story. A quick glance up the page revealed RAH's paragrapgh asking "what good is the race of man?" "Monkeys with a spot of poetry in them, a second string planet near a third string star".

In a historical context IMHO RAH was despairing in mankinds future and questioning his right to survive due to the catastrophe and death of WWII, the fragile detente of the cold war and our possible annihilation by the A-Bomb-where his other novels featured his protagonists dying, it was usually for a cause/the common good. Here I believe he felt despair at mankinds futilie efforts towards peace and his sanity as a whole- while we might take ourselves out, that perhaps it would be our just desserts (sp?) and universal justice that our sun should go "poof" and be done with mankind and the mess he had made of the world (see above reasons) - mankind was irrelevant and unnecessary in the universe. to be done with a deadend species.

what was going on in his personal life in approximately 1952 ? This could also explain what appears to be a cold picture of mankind in this story.

anyone else?

Nick


Sun Apr 20, 2008 6:31 pm
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Post Re: Year of the Jackpot
Could it possibly be a story inspired by an editor saying something like "ok, Bob, we need an end of the world story; everyone's doing them. Can you give me one with your unique viewpoint?"
I loved that story...and by the way, I know more than a few local police officers by name...and I live in Detroit, where the police do not patrol on foot.


Sat Jan 24, 2009 10:18 pm
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Post Re: Year of the Jackpot
fafrd50 wrote:
Could it possibly be a story inspired by an editor saying something like "ok, Bob, we need an end of the world story; everyone's doing them. Can you give me one with your unique viewpoint?"
I loved that story...and by the way, I know more than a few local police officers by name...and I live in Detroit, where the police do not patrol on foot.

Actually, we know the origin of this story pretty well: In 1949 there was a book published by the title Cycles, about all the strange things that show cycles of growth and decay (the 17 year locust, for example, women's hemlines, that kind of thing). Robert Cornog read the book, mentioned it to RAH, and loaned him the book in October 1949. Five days before RAH acknowledged receiving the book to Cornog, he wrote to his agent saying he wanted to do a story based on the book. RAH got interested in the idea because a lot of the cycles mentioned in the book either troughed or peaked in 1952. I've run into mentions of this observation in various news and entertainment media in 1951 and 1952, so it may be an actual observation in the book.

The idea was offered to Argosy in 1951, but Heinlein didn't actually write the story until September 1951, and his letter to Lurton Blassingame suggests he wrote it then because of market pressure (i.e., it was a topical story with a decreasing time to sell it for 1952).

The writing doesn't seem to be related to anything else in his biography; it was apparently just a story gimmick that had a short marketing fuse, during a time when he was still convinced he needed short story sales to keep his reputation up. That's how it looks to me, at any rate. The end of all things is simply one way -- possibly the most dramatic way -- of working a story out of the cycles idea. So that naturally leads to all sorts of apocalyptic thoughts, including that reference to Canbell in that monkey-with-the=oversized-braincase stuff.


Sun Jan 25, 2009 9:29 am
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Post Re: Year of the Jackpot
Sorry -- correction: The story was offered to Argosy in 1950 (i.e., to follow up Destination Moon --which was originally offered to Argosy but miscarried -- and "Water is for Washing")


Sun Jan 25, 2009 9:32 am
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Post Re: Year of the Jackpot
Has anyone here seen the version of this story in the Robert Silverberg-edited anthology Windows into Tomorrow (1974)? Silverberg omits the entire final section, so that the story ends with "I, Meade, take thee, Potiphar--"

Given the discussion here, this may have been a justifiable decision. I wonder whether Silverberg notified Heinlein before publication, or if not, whether he gave any thought to how Heinlein might react.


Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:19 pm
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Post Re: Year of the Jackpot
JJGarsch wrote:
Has anyone here seen the version of this story in the Robert Silverberg-edited anthology Windows into Tomorrow (1974)? Silverberg omits the entire final section, so that the story ends with "I, Meade, take thee, Potiphar--"

I'm aware of two versions, one which specifies the final year as 1952 and the later RAH edit in which the year is not mentioned. I can see AgBob going with the latter... but wow, eliminating the whole punchline changes the story entirely.

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Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:17 am
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Post Re: Year of the Jackpot
James Gifford wrote:
JJGarsch wrote:
Has anyone here seen the version of this story in the Robert Silverberg-edited anthology Windows into Tomorrow (1974)? Silverberg omits the entire final section, so that the story ends with "I, Meade, take thee, Potiphar--"

I'm aware of two versions, one which specifies the final year as 1952 and the later RAH edit in which the year is not mentioned. I can see AgBob going with the latter... but wow, eliminating the whole punchline changes the story entirely.

He accidentally left off the entire last third of the story, iirc


Mon Jan 26, 2009 3:13 pm
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Post Re: Year of the Jackpot
Bill Patterson wrote:
He accidentally left off the entire last third of the story, iirc


Holy smoke. That's the only version I've read.

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Mon Jan 26, 2009 4:03 pm
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