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Character Names 
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Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2008 12:40 pm
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Post Character Names
I just re-read "The Black Pits of Luna". In it is a memorial with a list of names of people who were killed on the far side of the moon:
Kurt Schaeffer -- Germanic, just like Heinlein
Maurice Feinstein -- Jewish? Not unique in the canon -- see Rocket Ship Galileo
Thomas Dooley -- nondescript
Hazel Hayakawa -- nice combination of western first name and Japanese surname. "Hazel" shows up again in the canon (Rolling Stones and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress). "Hayakawa" may be an homage to S.I. Hayakawa, the semanticist.
Sam Houston Adams -- one of many characters whose name is based on an historical figure from American history.
G. Washington Slappey -- See above. But "Slappey"? Why not just name him Stepin Fetchit?

(Note that the explosion was to have happened on 11 Aug 1965 -- a little optimistic).


Fri Aug 22, 2008 8:42 am
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Post Re: Character Names
RAH did "ethnic slice" name lists like this a couple of times, but this is the archetype. Do remember that the story was written in 1948; you have to cut him some slack for what are very un-PC naming assumptions.

There is more there than meets the eye, too. While "Slappey" might seem like Stepin's dumb cousin, there was a series of short stories and other works about a "colored" detective in Harlem in the 1920s - Florian Slappey. Here:

http://www.thrillingdetective.com/slappey.html

As much as RAH might have been playing off a stereotyped name for race recognition, he might have been gently elevating the name to a loftier position as well.

Think "G. Stephen Fetchit, the doctor who found the cure for cancer."

PS - while noodling around for info on Slappey, I came across an Atlanta personal injury law firm named Slappey and Sadd. *Serious* keyboard.

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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Fri Aug 22, 2008 9:37 am
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Post Re: Character Names
Thanks for the info. Octavus Cohen published "Florian Slappey" stories in the Saturday Evening Post up until 1944, so RAH was almost certainly familiar with them.

Interesting to look back at someone with 21st century eyes. Heinlein seemed to be progressive on race for his times, but it doesn't always look so today.


Sat Aug 23, 2008 6:15 pm
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Post Re: Character Names
Umm- yeah. Remember that less than ten years later his editor at Scribner's was assuring him that having an obviously Negro character in Tunnel in the Sky would lose them all sales in the South. He waited a few years to tell her that Rod Walker was also a Negro. She was upset with him because he had put the Scribner's name and reputation at risk.


Sun Aug 24, 2008 7:57 am
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Post Re: Character Names
James Gifford wrote:
RAH did "ethnic slice" name lists like this a couple of times, but this is the archetype. Do remember that the story was written in 1948; you have to cut him some slack for what are very un-PC naming assumptions. ...
H. Beam Piper in the 1950s and early 1960s also employed this ethnic slicing and splicing of his character names, and also without making it feel politically correct.

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Wed Sep 03, 2008 7:29 am
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Post Re: Character Names
Well, HBP was the (perhaps first) "New Robert A. Heinlein!!!"

(Muses... how many have there been now?)

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Wed Sep 03, 2008 7:54 am
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Post Re: Character Names
I'll venture that Piper came closer than most, simply because he was starting with some similar virtues, not least being the portrayal of competent characters via clear writing.

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Wed Sep 03, 2008 8:00 am
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Post Re: Character Names
Bill Patterson wrote:
Umm- yeah. Remember that less than ten years later his editor at Scribner's was assuring him that having an obviously Negro character in Tunnel in the Sky would lose them all sales in the South. He waited a few years to tell her that Rod Walker was also a Negro. She was upset with him because he had put the Scribner's name and reputation at risk.


I think it's sad that the cover art still portrays Rod as a white. I just recently re-read this work and the only character that is obviously black is Carol, but the clues about Rod are there if you look for them.


Fri Sep 05, 2008 7:32 am
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Post Re: Character Names
That's nothing....you should have seen the reaction when I told a group of folks discussing "Starship Trooper" at a con that the hero was philipino.


Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:33 am
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Post Re: Character Names
The name Thomas Dooley is not nondescript. It is the name of the title character, a murderer, in the song "Tom Dooley" or "Hang down your head Tom Dooley," recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1958. The song is older than that but RAH certainly heard the KT version. The song, oddly enough, was about someone named Tom Dula, not Dooley.

The name Dooley itself isn't non-descript either. It is certainly from the British Isles and very likely of Celtic origin.


Fri Jan 23, 2009 8:17 am
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