Heinlein Reader’s Discussion Group Thursday 5-24-2001 9:00 P.M. EDT “Humor”–its place and purpose in Heinlein’s Writings

Heinlein Reader’s Discussion Group

Thursday 5-24-2001 9:00 P.M. EDT

“Humor”–its place and purpose in Heinlein’s Writings

Click Here to Return to Index

Here Begin The A.F.H. postings
To start with a metaphor from American baseball, in 1958, Robert A. Heinlein checked the runners, went into a full windup, and drilled a fastball just above the knees and straight across the center of the plate, striking out the side again, when he published the latest in his long series of very successful juvenile science-fiction novels, Have Space Suit–Will Travel, the story of Clifford “Kip” Russell, a seventeen-year-old, who for the past few years prior to the adventure of the novel, despite little encouragement to do so from an indifferent educational system, and a complacent society, had been preparing himself–and being prepared–for adult life.

It received the Sequoia Award, as the best juvenile novel of the year.

At the same time he released that fastball, Mr. Heinlein also let loose a second pitch, a long slow curve (or screwball, which to explain for denizens of the former empire upon which the sun never set, curves the perhaps even more deceptive other way), which is–to continue my strained metaphor–just about to arrive at the plate now for us of the reading group.

In 1889–almost seventy years earlier–newly wed sometimes essayist, playwright, actor, railway clerk, teacher, and journalist Jerome K. Jerome, who was proud to pitch his writings to the educational and popular tastes of emerging lower and lower middle-class ‘philistines’ of Late Victorian Britain, began writing what was intended to be a serialized light guidebook-cum-history of the Thames River, with occasional flurries of humorous relief, seeking to take advantage of the then extremely popular pastime among all, but especially the same lower middle classes, of recreational boating on that same river.

That serialized novel became Jerome’s one famous book: Three Men in a Boat–To Say Nothing of the Dog!

So what does that have to do with this reading group? Or with that second slow pitch now about to pass over the plate Heinlein released back in 1958?

Two things: one now, and one later.

For now, we can return to the opening lines of Have Space Suit–Will Travel.

Kip narrates:

“You see, I had this space suit.

How it happened went this way.

‘Dad,’ I said, ‘I want to go to the Moon.’

‘Certainly,’ he answered, and looked back to his book. It was Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, which he must know by heart.

I said, ‘Dad, please, I’m serious.’

This time he closed the book gently on a finger and said, gently, ‘I said it was all right. Go ahead.’

‘Yes, but how?’

‘Eh?’ He looked mildly surprised. ‘Why that’s your problem, Clifford.'”

The ‘juvenile novel’ then commences to relate a bit Clifford’s preparation for just that object–going to the Moon, involving such unlikely items as entering in the summer before his high school graduation a slogan-writing contest for a television advertiser, Skyway Soap, which offers as first prize, a trip to the Moon.

“I like Skyway Soap because–it … is … as … pure … as … the … sky … itself!”

Kip is one of eleven contestants who submit that winning entry, but his entry is postmarked tenth or eleventh, and so he ‘wins’ a worn-out space suit once used in construction of one of Earth’s artificial satellites.

With time on his hands, awaiting answers to his applications for college scholarships, Clifford puts the suit back into operational shape. And the ‘adventure’ contained in this juvenile novel then ensues …

Okay, fine. Now the second thing: Three years ago, in 1998, author Connie Willis wrote: To Say Nothing of the Dog, or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last. She dedicated it: “To Robert A. Heinlein, Who in Have Space Suit–Will Travel, first introduced me to Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, To Say Nothing of the Dog”

It ultimately won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel of the year.

Last Saturday, Miss Willis was kind enough to agree to be a guest author and visit our reading group chats. I will be setting up the specific dates and times of her specific visit with her later this week. Meanwhile, to prepare for that later visit, I suggest, in this preliminary meeting, we take a look at these three works to see what binds them–and perhaps other works of both authors–together.

I submit one thing that may bind them is ‘humor’–humor with a specific purpose–and that purpose is important to an assessment of Heinlein’s juvenile and adult writings.


Theme: “Humor”–its place and purpose in Heinlein’s Writings.

Date and Times: Thursday, May 24, 2001, and Saturday, May 26, 2001, hours of each meeting TBA.

Place: On Aim in the “Heinlein Readers Group chat” room, as ever.

Suggested Reading: Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Space Suit–Will Travel; Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat; and Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, and perhaps excerpts from other Heinlein writings, such as the passages in Stranger in a Strange Land involving Michael Valentine Smith’s efforts to understand human ‘humor.’

Regards, and I hope to see you all at these two chats, and the soon upcoming one with Miss Willis, which I will be hosting.

David M. Silver

“I expect your names to shine!”
AGplusone wrote:

>Suggested Reading: Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Space Suit–Will Travel; Jerome K.

>Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat; and Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, and

>perhaps excerpts from other Heinlein writings, such as the passages in Stranger

>in a Strange Land involving Michael Valentine Smith’s efforts to understand

>human ‘humor.’

At the risk of being accused of self promotion, a further link between Heinlein, Willis and Jerome is Number of the Beast. I once wrote a short piece for the Heinlein Journal looking at the thematic similarities and links between Three Men and NOTB.

It’s open to opinion as to whether NOTB is funny or not but there is a certain dry, wry, humour in Heinlein poking fun at himself and the clichés of pulp fiction.

In fact, a lot of the humour in Heinlein is rather caustic; he often uses it as a weapon, making Jill and Mike’s realization that human laughter is often cruel, very apt. He makes us laugh at people by presenting them as ridiculous; consider the description of the woman who wins the soap contest with Kip’s slogan (” Beaten by a postmark. A _postmark_!”)

‘”_ present the lucky winner, Mrs Xenia Donahue, of Great Falls, Montana…Mrs _Donahue_!”

To the fanfare a little dumpy woman teetered out.”‘

Kip is not beaten by just anyone; the contest gives the ultimate prize to someone totally unsuited to a moon trip, making it a travesty. This is, perhaps, because although Kip worked very hard at the contest, it was never going to be a suitable way for a hero to get his dream. Peewee’s off hand and scornful dismissal of it later on puts it in its true light;

“It was just a publicity gag, like that silly soap contest recently.” Hmm…I’m wandering off topic and this is only the second post in the thread! OK, off to read about a house built from a tesseract 🙂

Jane Davitt pointed out that perhaps Number of the Beast would be a good object of study, alongside Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, and Heinlein’s Have Space Suit–Will Travel, and others.

I think it excellent for study, not because the humor has similarities with the later three: it isn’t in tone or mood; but then neither is Willis’ or Jerome’s the same always in tone or mood.

The humor in Number is directed, however, at some of the same objects as the humor in Have Space Suit. For example: Kip’s father is one of those mildly subversive adults sometimes found in Heinlein’s juvenile fiction that so delight adults. He insists on paying his taxes in cash, he delights in annoying the bureaucrats by listing his occupation as spy, then compromises with “retired” spy, he doesn’t keep the conforming sort of records they would prefer. He’s his own man, marching to his own drummer, regardless of the consequences–having stepped out of the fast lane that so appeals to many to a backwater for the benefit of raising his child. Contrast Deety (and Jane before her) in Number. Viewed one way they are more than merely mildly subversive–they are criminals with their second and third sets of books for tax purposes, their hidden accounts, their delight in outlawry. And they pile up piles and piles of filthy lucre, so that Jake can pursue his own invention–which will ultimately benefit no one in his own world but himself, his wife-to-be, his daughter, and her spouse; and them only incidentally, because they go along for the ride. They leave their world behind for the black hats, who soon erase it.

There’s a difference here: Kip and Dr. Russell live in our world in our universe–and Kip doesn’t abandon it, while Deety and Jane and Jake live in a world that while it does indeed have a “J” is patently in not our world or universe, but one inhabited with beasts that may include none other than the author himself. Their world is built therefore to include only a cynical sort of humor perhaps appropriate only to certain dark- and bloody-minded adults–even, dare I say it, most appropriate to those who tend to suspect the true existence of unmarked black helicopters operating from secret bases intent on taking over our democratic institutions.

The humor in Have Space Suit was only “good-humored” mild subversion of the system, against government bureaucrats, against misguided educators, against inept teachers, against others perhaps. It’s a chuckle of laughter against human foibles that are swept aside once serious business needs be undertaken.

The humor in Number is far from good-humored. Overpay the false amount your books show due is Deety’s motto–confuse the beasts! Well, yes, sure, if you believe it’s a world inhabited only by beasts other than yourselves, then you may let them drag the beast back to his cave, ignore the nobility of Iunio, take up the offer made by the Mother Thing and go live in a luxurious zoo with her species while they rotate your world right next there to the world of the wormfaces. That’s not the ending Heinlein wrote to go with his good humor, was it?

Now look at Willis: To Say Nothing of the Dog is a delightful romp. Its inherent humor is this: someone invented time-travel about 2018 intending to gain fame and fortune by obtaining financing from multinationals intent on looting the treasures of the past–you can imagine how just as easily as I can, e.g., empty out the library of Alexandria just before it burns, or get to the Comstock lode a generation or three before 1850 and remove more than just a little bit, then dynamite the tunnels and erase traces, or whatever variant of exploitation you choose. It turns out, however, that this cannot be done because you cannot bring things of the past back with you into your present–if you attempt to do so, the ‘net’ simply doesn’t open and you remain in the past. The reason for that, supposedly, is it would change the future if something significant were removed from the past. Therefore, you cannot get back to your own present, the future that no longer exists with your loot. So this scientific wonder has been turned over to academics–the historians–as a not commercially feasible invention, and they go and send others–mainly students–back to verify or establish dry statistical data.

Oxford is where this time travel operation centers itself in academic backwaters. Along comes this billionaire widow–an American for goodness sakes–with a dream of exactly restoring Coventry Cathedral to its glories before the 1940 bombing by the Luftwaffe. With her billions she offers enough to keep the operations of the history department going far into the future. They take her offer, and then find themselves so enmeshed into her desire for exact restoration that, by the time the story opens, they find themselves, all their resources, time-travelling staff, and operating budget, wholly involved to exhaustion in determining the exact dimensions and precise form of an absurdity–some atrocity of the furnishings of the Victorian Age known as “the Bishop’s bird-stump” which was a minor object d’art–forgive my use of that term: “art”–of the interior of Coventry Cathedral.

To Say Nothing is a romp of good humor, humor of manners, humor of allusion containing referents to Wodehouse’s Jeeves, to other writers of the period, to the idiosyncrasies of Victorian Britain itself.

Yet, there’s another story Willis wrote employing this time-travel gimmick that also won the Hugo Award–six years earlier–the Dooms Day Book. There’s humor of a sort in it–darkly cynical humor that chills your bones. A young lady recently become a graduate student has been sent back on the first effort to explore medieval England by an acting department head more concerned with protecting his own reputation than her safety–after all, she should be safe, they made sure to send her well before the time of the Black Plague that depopulated most of Europe, to say nothing of England itself. His reaction against a suggestion that perhaps there’s been a mistake is to deny anyone access to the laboratory to check the computations. And until he dies himself of a ‘modern-day’ plague, there it stands. And she’s left to her own devices in the past. And guess what? They did make that mistake. It’s not 1320 AD, as they thought. She’s back in the year of Our Lord, One Thousand, Three Hundred and Forty-Eight, as a clerk who fled the town of Bath finally tells her, licking his lips with his feverish swollen tongue.

So amid the humor of Dooms Day, not damned near, but everybody around her dies, before her final rescue. A different sort of humor for a different story.

The nice thing about obtaining an in-print copy of Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, today, is that it comes within a volume containing the sequel: Three Men on a Bummel, written about twenty years after. Perhaps we might find like contrasts and comparisons in Jerome’s writings of humor before Thursday’s meeting?

David M. Silver

“I expect your names to shine!”
AGplusone wrote:

>The nice thing about obtaining an in-print copy of Jerome’s Three Men in a

>Boat, today, is that it comes within a volume containing the sequel: Three Men

>on a Bummel, written about twenty years after. Perhaps we might find like

>contrasts and comparisons in Jerome’s writings of humor before Thursday’s




David, Three Men on the Bummel is to me, a book that combines humour with sadness. Its take on the German society of the time is chilling when you read it with a knowledge of the events to come.

I made the point that a lot of Heinlein’s humour can be tinged with a spice of mockery; in this book, Jerome is observing in a neutral manner but there’s no doubt that he is worried too. He was born not many miles from my birthplace, in Walsall Staffordshire but he was very fond of Germany and travelled there often. His death in 1927 spared him seeing what became of the people he describes with such affection in his books.

ddavitt wrote:

> AGplusone wrote:


> > The nice thing about obtaining an in-print copy of Jerome’s Three Men in a

> > Boat, today, is that it comes within a volume containing the sequel: Three Men

> > on a Bummel, written about twenty years after. Perhaps we might find like

> > contrasts and comparisons in Jerome’s writings of humor before Thursday’s

> > meeting?

> >

> >


> David, Three Men on the Bummel is to me, a book that combines humour with sadness.

> Its take on the German society of the time is chilling when you read it with a

> knowledge of the events to come.

> I made the point that a lot of Heinlein’s humour can be tinged with a spice of

> mockery; in this book, Jerome is observing in a neutral manner but there’s no doubt

> that he is worried too. He was born not many miles from my birthplace, in Walsall

> Staffordshire but he was very fond of Germany and travelled there often. His death

> in 1927 spared him seeing what became of the people he describes with such

> affection in his books.

Yes, editor Lewis’ excellent introductory essay to the edition I’m reading does refer to that; and so I inferred that the humor of Three Men on the Bummel which I haven’t yet read might vary a bit.

I did want to mention one thing before Thursday’s meeting about Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, however. I don’t wish to give the impression that it is solely a hilarious misadventure.

Kip’s dad, the shadow behind HSS–WT, isn’t the sort to be enthralled by a comic book. There’s something else there. Perhaps this:

In Chapter 10, at pp.85-6, [Penguin Classic ed., 1999, London, NYC, Victoria, Ontario, and Auckland, with copyrighted introductory essay by Jeremy Lewis] that part subtitled:

“–A Restless Night”

“The boat seemed stuffy, and my head ached; so I thought I would step out
into the cool night-air. ”

“It was a glorious night. The moon had sunk and left the quiet earth alone
with the stars. It seemed as if, in the silence and the hush, while we her
children slept, they were talking with her, their sisteróconversing of
mighty mysteries in voices too vast and deep for childish human ears to
catch the sound.
“They awe us, these strange stars, so cold, so clear. We are as children
whose small feet have strayed into some dim-lit temple of the god they have
been taught to worship but know not; and, standing where the echoing dome
spans the long vista of the shadowy light, glance up, half hoping, half
afraid to see some awful vision hovering there.
“And yet it seems so full of comfort and of strength, the night. In its
great presence, our small sorrows creep away, ashamed. The day has been so
full of fret and care, and our hearts have been so full of evil and bitter
thoughts, and the world has seemed so hard and wrong to us. The Night, like
some great loving mother, gently lays her hand upon our fevered head, and
turns our little tear-stained face up to hers, and smiles, and, thought she
does not speak, we know what she would say, and lay our hot flushed cheek
against her bosom, and the pain is gone. ”

The lyrical passage carries on another full page and one-half into a lesson that to a contemplative sort might be worth looking up and reading. I think it fair to say that Heinlein told the same story in another context in “The Green Hills of Earth” and then again in _Time Enough for Love_. Editor Lewis tells us Jerome’s father, Jerome Clapp Jerome, was of “Puritan stock,” and while trained as an architect and never ordained, nevertheless displayed an aptitude for preaching, frequently doing so in Congregationalist pulpits, many of which were located in churches he designed. He evidently passed some aspects of that talent on to his elder son.

There are other passages worth noting–many; but one in particular, of some little merit, is the pageantry and importance of a historical description of a then-considered slight event occurring some six hundred and fifty years earlier around the town of Staines, in a meadow, and on, perhaps, an island adjacent thereto in the River Thames on which they three and their dog camp [e.g., Cp. 11, at pp. 93-6, under the seeming preposterous subtitle; “Historical retrospect, specially inserted for the use of schools.” Had we not ‘met the enemy and found them us,’ perhaps Walt Kelly might or Art Buchwald would insert such aid for use in our time in their little books of light humor.].

Looking forward to seeing everyone Thursday. Three Men in a Boat is in the public domain and available on-line, BTW. Try gutenburg. [Editor’s Note: Click here for Download]

“David M. Silver” wrote:

>I did want to mention one thing before Thursday’s meeting about Jerome’s Three Men in

>a Boat, however. I don’t wish to give the impression that it is solely a hilarious



>Kip’s dad, the shadow behind HSS–WT, isn’t the sort to be enthralled by a comic book

. >There’s something else there. Perhaps this: snip



Some of those bits are moving and poetical but some strike me as being a little sentimental. What did you think of the incident where they find the body of a woman in the river, who killed herself after becoming pregnant?

Perhaps it is a view I formed as a cynical youngster ( and I read these books when I was in my early teens IIRC, spurred on by HSSWT) but I always thought Jerome wrote those bits with his tongue in cheek. Notice how in general he descends from the sublime to the ridiculous;

“The little sail stood out against the purple sky, the gloaming lay around us,
wrapping the world in rainbow shadows; and behind us crept the night.
We seemed like knights of some old legend, sailing across some mystic lake into the
unknown realms of twilight, unto the great land of the sunset.
We did not go into the realm of twilight; we went slap into that punt, where those three
old men were fishing.”

It may be that I didn’t take into account the time of writing….something to discuss tomorrow


Have you read his earlier work, “The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow”? Hilarious stuff….the editor recommends the article “On Babies” and it is a gem.

Go To Postings

Here Begins The Discussion Log

You have just entered room “Heinlein Readers Group chat.”

ddavitt has entered the room.

ddavitt: Hi there

DavidWrightSr: Hi Jane. I was beginning to wonder if anyone was going to show up.

ddavitt: AG is hosting

ddavitt: So he should be here soon

ddavitt: Are you OK with the thinking on the Saturday chats?

ddavitt: Only Bill, me and Andy were at the discussion so it was difficult

DavidWrightSr: It’s all the same to me.

ddavitt: AG said he will host on Saturday so they will continue for a little longer

ddavitt: It really is hard in the summer especially; we do a lot at the weekend as david doesn’t get home from

DavidWrightSr: That’s good. But I wonder where he is now. I may have to leave abruptly. We are gettting a lot of

ddavitt: work till late

DavidWrightSr: thunder in the background

ddavitt: It’s not leting me write much

KMurphy165 has entered the room.

geeairmoe2 has entered the room.

ddavitt: weird. can usually get a few more lines than that on

ddavitt: Hi people

DavidWrightSr: Me too, I can only write a line and a half before it stops. ?

ddavitt: We are having a few problems with AIM; won’t allow more than a sentence or 2

DavidWrightSr: Hi Will, Hi Murphy

KMurphy165: Good evening. I have just a few minutes and thought I’d drop in to see what’s going on.

geeairmoe2: Hello, all.

ddavitt: It wanted me to upgrade and I didn’t; punishment from the AIM god obviuosly 🙂

[Editor’s Note: I tried the latest version of AIM and it also has the same problem. It has an additional feature, (I mean bug). which makes it worse. The older version stopped at the limit and wouldn’t let you type further. The new version lets you keep typing past the limit, but then gives you an error message that your message is too long or too complex when you send it and you have to do the whole thing over!]

ddavitt: We are waiting for AG to show as he is hosting

DavidWrightSr: You may be right..

ddavitt: We are discussing humour tonight

ddavitt: With reference to jerome K Jerome

ddavitt: Who is linked to both Have Space Suit and, obliquely, Number of the Boat, sorry Beast

geeairmoe2: Couldn’t find any Jerome at the local library.

ddavitt: All are online

ddavitt: Project Gutenberg

DavidWrightSr: Hang on a sec. I have a URL for his books.

[Editor’s note: Link to Jerome’s works at Project Gutenberg]

ddavitt: Its hard reading on a screen though

ddavitt: I have 3 men in Boat, 3 men on Bummel and Idle Thoughts; owned them for years so this wasn’t hard for

ddavitt: once. darn this!

geeairmoe2: That’s not what I wrote.

ddavitt: Sorry; you are saying he’s not available you mean?

ddavitt: That’s sad

ddavitt: Will, Murphy, can you try typing a long sentence to see if you have problems?

geeairmoe2: Yes.

ddavitt: It will beep at you when you reach your limit

DavidWrightSr: Jane. I just tried posting the link, but this dumb AIM wouldn’t let me send it. Too long

geeairmoe2: Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy. A kid’ll eat ivy, too, wouldn’t you?

ddavitt: Never mind!

ddavitt: You can usually get 3 or 4 lines

ddavitt: Was that all you were allowed?

ddavitt: It says max is 2000 on the chat room info; not sure if that is the whole chat or what

geeairmoe2: I did about 3 lines. I never wrote “Message, etc.”

geeairmoe2: Didn’t AOL just bump their prices?

ddavitt: I dunno; I’m not with them

geeairmoe2: I have Netscape IM.

ddavitt: Me too

KMurphy165: I just did about 100 words of meaningless drivel and it didn’t send it.

KMurphy165: Could there be an intelligence filter inherent?

ddavitt: Hmm..OK, as long as it’s not an individual problem, then there’s not much we can do

ddavitt: Nope!!

DavidWrightSr: It’s only allow me 97 characters

ddavitt: Or we’d have noticed 😉

ddavitt: Have to work round it

geeairmoe2: My computer knowledge extends to “push button, hope it works.”

ddavitt: Well, guess we should start then. AG isn’t online yet

geeairmoe2: Brevity is the soul of wit, after all.

ddavitt: So, has everyone read some JKJ then?

geeairmoe2: Nope.

DavidWrightSr: Negative. I just downloaded the first one today.

ddavitt: They are very funny

ddavitt: Some of the Idle Thought of an Idle Fellow, a series of essays, are very full of LL type quotations

DavidWrightSr: I may have to bail in a hurry. Thunder getting very close. Jane keep the log please. If I have to go,

DavidWrightSr: I’ll get back on as soon as possible.

ddavitt: Will do

ddavitt: OK, then, what do you think of H as a humorist?

ddavitt: Has he ever made you laugh?

ddavitt: Bits of Rolling Stones are quite amusing…especially the dialogue between the family members

geeairmoe2: Thninking.

geeairmoe2: Thinking, I mean.

DavidWrightSr: Very definitely, but I can’t remember off hand

KMurphy165: Star Beast is another

ddavitt: I don’t see him as being funny in the same way that some Asimov short stories are; few puns or punch lines

ddavitt: Ues; but it’s subtle, like the lead’s name

ddavitt: Yes I mean

ddavitt: Not laugh out loud, more inner smile stuff

DavidWrightSr: Asimov’s puns are painful >:o

KMurphy165: BRB 5 minutes

geeairmoe2: My humor goes more toward absurd, over the top.

ddavitt: Some are forced, some are funny. ‘It only stands to reason’ was good

geeairmoe2: Monty Python.

ddavitt: You were a Douglas Adams fan then?

ddavitt: Oh yes. MP is so British…

geeairmoe2: Always meant to get to him. Time, time.

ddavitt: That’s the thing about books; they live on

ddavitt: His later ones, I didn’t like but the first 3 HHG ones are great

geeairmoe2: I’ve dozens of books I have on my shelf I havn’t got to yet.

ddavitt: I suppose, the tesseract one is the most meant to be funny one

ddavitt: Me too.

geeairmoe2: He Built a Crooked House?

ddavitt: Which is good. I panic if I’m bookless

ddavitt: Yes.

ddavitt: That is written to be funny; all humour, little seriousness

EBATNM has entered the room.

ddavitt: Hi Andy

EBATNM: Howdy, I was here earlier but *sniff* nobody else was

ddavitt: We are looking at Heinlein as a humorist

ddavitt: No and the host is missing 🙁

geeairmoe2: Strange doings. Long messages are getting cut off.

ddavitt: Hopefully David will be here soon

EBATNM: That’s OK, I’m blowing my own bassoon!

KMurphy165: me back

ddavitt: I’m half way thru your book.

ddavitt: WB!

EBATNM: I would say WB, but I wasn’t here when you left

ddavitt: It is making me feel pitifully inadequate but that’s OK I suppose…..

EBATNM: Has the epic raising of “John Thomas’ ” been discussed?

ddavitt: We touched on it 😉

geeairmoe2: I touched nothing!

ddavitt: Just looking at He Built a Crooked House;

ddavitt: only one I can think of that was pure humour

EBATNM: Chat hates me.

ddavitt: ?

EBATNM: Jane – you just haven’t waded through all the LitCrit BS

EBATNM: (It said my message was too long or too complex)

geeairmoe2: We’re all having that trouble.

ddavitt: maybe not. Bits of it I grok..other bits I don’t. S’OK, it’s a learning experience

ddavitt: It seems to be all of us so we can’t do anything

geeairmoe2: Gremlins limiting message length tonight.

ddavitt: Just going to have to write little bits at a time

DenvToday has entered the room.

ddavitt: Hi Denv

DenvToday: Evening everybody!

DavidWrightSr: We might need to use protocol to keep things from being too split.

ddavitt: See how it goes

geeairmoe2: Hi Denv.

DenvToday: Hi 🙂


ddavitt: Denv, Andy, Jerome K Jerome was to be part of the chat; have either of you read him?

geeairmoe2: We’re having gremlins, Denv. Message length being limited.

EBATNM: Only 3 Men in a Boat

DenvToday: I see.

ddavitt: Did you like it?

ddavitt: Or, to keep topical, can you see why Kip’s dad liked it?

EBATNM: As I remember (it was at least 15 yr ago) I thought it was a major hoot

ddavitt: I love it and the other books by him I’ve read; been reading them almost as long as Heinlein.

DavidWrightSr: Kip noted that he must know it by heart. Somewhat like what I do with RAH.

ddavitt: Space Suit put me onto him, as it did Willis

ddavitt: Yes; I read it in a sort of fog, I know it so well, I don’t have to really read it, more immerse in it

EBATNM: JKJ – played around with levels – he describes a real cad

EBATNM: until you discover he is talking about his dog

ddavitt: Montmorency is cool

EBATNM: Kip’s dad reads him the epic can opening scene

ddavitt: I need AG; I want to argue that the poetical bits are tongue in cheek, not serious

geeairmoe2: I bypass author dedications. If I’d seen it before in “Dog” I’d have looked for ‘3 Men” sooner.

EBATNM: I haven’t read anything else by JKJ

EBATNM: dunno why

ddavitt: Really? Wonder if that book will prompt a resurgence of interest in 3 men?

ddavitt: The sequel to 3 men is quite weird


ddavitt: It’s just as funny but because it’s about germany in 1900, you keep reading deep significance into it

ddavitt: For instance, he finishes with this:

ddavitt: They are a good people, a lovable people, who should do much to make the world better

ddavitt: The irony is all unintentional but…

EBATNM: Wasn’t that before the great German/England naval (as in Warships) arm’s race?

ddavitt: He describes the Mensur; the swordfights that oscar Gordon mentions

ddavitt: Yes, possibly

ddavitt: It sickens him; they scar themselves deliberately, blood pouring everywhere. Very gruesome

ddavitt: He also goes on and on about how law abiding they are and how they will do anyhting they are told by

ddavitt: someone in authority

EBATNM: around 1900 Germany was actually considered the Wave of the Future

EBATNM: Cutting edge Modernism (tho’ they didn’t use that word)

ddavitt: JKJ loved Germany. In fact, i think one of the 3 men was german; they were real people but he changed

ddavitt: them a bit

EBATNM: “blood everywhere” is the good ol’ Prussian way

ddavitt: It seems barbaric

geeairmoe2: What year were “3 Men” and the sequel published?

ddavitt: Oscar wanted some heidleburg scars but I wonder if he really would have?

EBATNM: RAH also talks about them in “Glory Road”

ddavitt: Hang on

ddavitt: 1900 for sequel

ddavitt: 1889 for Boat

DavidWrightSr: Not just Prussians. Heidelberg is in Bavaria and they did much the same. Remember Zim’ question —.

ddavitt: Yes, oscar from GR

DavidWrightSr: He asked the recruit if he picked up his scars from Heidelberg and the answer was “nein- no sir, Koenigsberg”.

ddavitt: Oh yes!

ddavitt: Wonder if that was related to the JKJ lecture on it?Maybe, maybe not

ddavitt: Kip’s dad seemed to like their resourcefulness with the tin

ddavitt: Kip has to show a lot of that; rigging up the air bottles on the moon for example

ddavitt: He also makes a long trip and comes home after seeing the sightsa

EBATNM: rats, just going to say that

ddavitt: Perhaps we should apply 3 men to it a little more closely?

ddavitt: 🙂

ddavitt: I did a piece about 3 men and NOTB once but I only just thought of it this way

ddavitt: With regard to HSS…hmm, interesting!

EBATNM: I’ll have to re-read it to find the parallels

ddavitt: Could be fun

ddavitt: Hey; he eats tinned stuff doesn’t he?

DavidWrightSr: I’m not up on RAH’s sources, (insprirations?), but I suspect that you will the same ones in most of —

DavidWrightSr: his works

EBATNM: and there is a bit about finding a can opener


DenvToday: pineapple!

ddavitt: Just checked; he says the cans open themselves Rats

ddavitt: That’s what i based my theory on. Has anyone read it?

ddavitt: Plaintive query?

ddavitt: It was in the Heinlein Journal a year or so ago

geeairmoe2: Didn’t “Dog” have something about a missing tin opener?

ddavitt: I think it did; I will have to re read it in time for the chat

EBATNM: uh, er – um (no)

ddavitt: Shucks! as Sir Isaac would say

DenvToday: I remember the disappearing pie.

ddavitt: I like it when George is laughing because someone’s shirt falls overboard..until he discovers it’s his

ddavitt: 3 men has so many stories that are classic jokes..but I don’t know if JKJ invented them or not

ddavitt: Like the fish made out of plaster of Paris

ddavitt: That’s an old chestnut…but how old?

ddavitt: The pie bit was good…they think he’s gone to heaven and regret that the pie went too

DenvToday: yes

EBATNM: I’m going to HAVE TO re-read it

ddavitt: Yep.

ddavitt: I think H is rarely funny in the JKJ mode…I see him as using humour as a weapon more than to amuse

ddavitt: Sir isaac is funny mind you and so is Lummox..

ddavitt: But they are also very intelligent and dignified at other points in the story

ddavitt: H often makes us laugh AT people which can be a bit unkind

EBATNM: RAH really only used humor as a change of pace, it wasn’t a regular tool

ddavitt: Yet so many of his influences were humorists.Twain for instance

geeairmoe2: http://members.nbci.com/3MenBoat/

EBATNM: But Twain can be extremely bitter – almost an angry humor (or humour)

ddavitt: Not that that means he has to copy them of course…

ddavitt: true..

ddavitt: back to humour as a weapon

ddavitt: You’ll have to put up with my English spelling:-)

EBATNM: go for it, eh?

ddavitt: I have enough trouble typing and trying to correct typos, never mind anything else.

ddavitt: Yes, Canada is quite sensible. And they say zed not zee

ddavitt: :-):-)

geeairmoe2: About becomes aboot.

ddavitt: Well, sort of. i suspect it depends on regional accents.

ddavitt: Tho canada does seem to be less prone to that than Britain.

ddavitt: Apart from Newfoundland apparently

ddavitt: Everyone else sounds the same.

ddavitt: I wouldn’t know; they all sound canadian and I suspect all us Brits sound the same to them

geeairmoe2: In “Diamonds Are Forever” CIA agent Felix Leiter tells James Bond, pretending to be American …

ddavitt: I have a cute accent and they could listen to me all day

ddavitt: Or so I’m told.

geeairmoe2: … Never say “actually”, it would give him away as a Brit.

ddavitt: True.

ddavitt: And we say I suppose, not I guess

KMurphy165: well, it’s time to go, so ‘bye

KMurphy165 has left the room.

ddavitt: Thanks for dropping in!

ddavitt: In Stranger, h makes a lot of humour being a touchstone of a human

ddavitt: ‘man is the anmimal that laughs”

ddavitt: Does it follow that someone with no sense of humour isn’t human?

EBATNM has left the room.

geeairmoe2: Didn’t someone claim humor has its roots in pain.

ddavitt: In Stranger Jill decides something like that

ddavitt: All jokes are cruel at base

ddavitt: But it’s also our way of coping

ddavitt: I used to hate the sick jokes that circulated after a disaster

ddavitt: I wonder now if they are a method of reducing a tragedy to manageable proportions

geeairmoe2: “Chuckles the Clown Bites the Dust” on Mary Tyler Moore. Classic.

ddavitt: I still don’t like them though.

ddavitt: Know her name, don’t know that. More?

geeairmoe2: A man dressed like a peanut crushed to death by an elephant.

ddavitt: Not a pun!

ddavitt: Ah…

geeairmoe2: Everyone keeps joking about it except Mary.

ddavitt: There’s something very satisfying about a good joke…but I can never remember any.

ddavitt: Wasn’t there an Asimov story about that?

EBATNM has entered the room.

ddavitt: They trace the origins of a joke , find out it was aliens experimenting.

EBATNM: sorry, got bumped

ddavitt: All humour goes

ddavitt: Happens!

geeairmoe2: I remember the Monty Pthyon bit; the deadly joke that …

geeairmoe2: … made people die laughing.

ddavitt: Yu missed a lot of wild excitement.

ddavitt: That rings a bell. I have laughed until it hurt and tears were pouring down my face..

ddavitt: Not terrible nice really!

ddavitt: Ever been tickled? That can be really nasty!

geeairmoe2: In the movie “Porkys”, a scene in the principal’s office.

ddavitt: The feeling of helplessness is awful

ddavitt: ga

geeairmoe2: A male student had exposed himself through a hole in the girl’s shower.

geeairmoe2: The woman’s PE teacher wanted a “line-up” to identify his member.

geeairmoe2: The funny part is her earnestness while the others are trying to keep strait faces.

geeairmoe2: One teached suggests a police artist come sketch it and they hang up wanted posters.

ddavitt: A Canadian movie IIRC. But maybe they’d rather forget that

ddavitt: Hmm…

geeairmoe2: I literally ended up rolling on the floor.

ddavitt: Is most humour sexual? Most adult humour anyway/

ddavitt: Is that the funniest subject there is?

ddavitt: Apart from dying?

geeairmoe2: Sex and death. Covers both ends.

ddavitt: Depressing thought is so…

ddavitt: But why are they funny?

geeairmoe2: Becuase we take them so seriously.

DavidWrightSr: Recall Mannie, Mycroft, Wyoming and Michelles discussion on jokes.

ddavitt: Because they are our most honest moments and we need to cloak them in laughter?

ddavitt: Yes…they decided men and women have different takes on it..which fits I suppose

geeairmoe2: Sex embarasses us; death frightens us?

EBATNM: RAH says in SIASL that humor is the why humans deal with tragedy

ddavitt: I think so.

ddavitt: Humour once again as a weapon, a nighlight against the darkness

EBATNM: That’s the importance of the scene in the Monkey House – When Mike learns

EBATNM: he is human

ddavitt: If you do something embarrasing and laugh it off, you preempt the mockery. it’s a defence too

EBATNM: or a defensive attack

ddavitt: Not very edifying though. Or is it? If only the highest life form laughs, then it has to be good…

ddavitt: I think.

ddavitt: Ultimate lie; ‘Sticks and stones may break…”

geeairmoe2: We poke fun at ourselves so others see how we’re not uppity and full of ourselves.

ddavitt: It;s multipurpose

EBATNM: And to bring in MIAHM that is the conclusion Mannie and Wye come to when they discuss jokes

ddavitt: Very useful!

ddavitt: What is their conclusion then?

ddavitt: trying to recall, memory going

geeairmoe2: memory … gone.

EBATNM: I used to have a good memory – I think

ddavitt: Does Mike ever learn to laugh? He has an orgasm when he drops the bombs, so he’s half way there..

EBATNM: sex is a way of “growing closer” humor is a way of separation

ddavitt: That he even wants to learn is maybe proof of his emerging humanity

ddavitt: We can’t bear too much intimacy…insecurity

ddavitt: Isn’t there something in Stranger abaout the Nest being quiet..lots of smiles but not much laughter?

ddavitt: Or am I thinking of Lost legacy?

ddavitt: Which had a similar set up

ddavitt: A colony of like minded elite

EBATNM: In Stranger – Jubal never sees them laugh.

geeairmoe2: Sounds familiar, can’t place it.

EBATNM: In the Nest. That’s because they have transcended Life-as-Tragedy

ddavitt: They don’t need humour anymore?

EBATNM: Mike can laugh only when he groks the Tragedy of human existence – if you live in

EBATNM: joy you don’t need humor

ddavitt: Interesting…

geeairmoe2: Bothersome to me in “Stranger” is the absence of grief among his followers when Mike is killed.

geeairmoe2: No humor, no grief.

ddavitt: JUBAL was sad…couldn’t undersatnd why they weren’t

geeairmoe2: Both are human essentials.

ddavitt: Then he went away and was finally healed, THEN he wasn’t sad either

ddavitt: Weird. But I’m not martian

ddavitt: The Nest people weren’t human. They were hybrids

ddavitt: It didn’t appeal to me much.

EBATNM: grieving is a part of the Life-as-Tragedy mindset. Mike didn’t die, he just went back to Heaven

EBATNM: the early Christians, some early Christians, didn’t grieve either

EBATNM: they thought the “dead” were going home to Heaven

ddavitt: Yes; going to a better place.

ddavitt: Sorry, that’s too …hard to grasp for earthbound little me.

ddavitt: Someone i love dies, I won’t see them again. I will feel sorry darn it!

EBATNM: That’s because you don’t have the Martian/English Secret Decoder Ring

ddavitt: I’m just a primitive 🙂

geeairmoe2: They’re in a better place, but you’re still subject to tribulations.

EBATNM: If RAH, and I have no idea what his private thoughts were, really thought humor was linked

ddavitt: I think the Nest people gave up a lot when they transcended that humour/sadness bit

EBATNM: to tragedy maybe that’s the reason he didn’t use it more

ddavitt: Possibly.

ddavitt: Ok, turn it round. Look at his sad bits

ddavitt: Death of Dora, Man Who travelled…no humour?

ddavitt: Does it only work one way?

EBATNM: Mary Sperling going over to the Little People

ddavitt: Not funny though?

ddavitt: It’s possible to be sad without any vestige of humour but not to be funny without a tinge of sadness

ddavitt: a=b but b doesn’t equal a

ddavitt: Illogical..

EBATNM: Dora’s death is an interesting little bit and I’ve never thought about the implications

ddavitt: Well, it has lots for LL; it’s a pivotal moment but there is absolutely no smiles about it.

ddavitt: Or maybe it’s bitter sweet…

ddavitt: There should be a better word for that.

EBATNM: so humor only a sometime help for dealing with Tragedy

ddavitt: Maybe only for use in large scale tragedies or ones that don’t affect you personally

ddavitt: Going back to Space Suit

EBATNM: or a shifting of cognitive/emotional levels, puns for example

ddavitt: They trek over the moon; only to be caught and flown back.

EBATNM: Why Not?

ddavitt: KIp says, he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry

ddavitt: Both equally apt reactions yet opposites

geeairmoe2: You laugh when you understand the inevitablity of failure.

geeairmoe2: can be overcome with renewed effort.

geeairmoe2: becuase success is invitable, too.

geeairmoe2: You just never know which is coming up next.

ddavitt: Just noticed Andy; Anatomy of Melancholy gets mentioned in Space Suit too.

ddavitt: True, Will.

geeairmoe2: Laugh at failure when your secure in the knowledge all failure is temporary.

ddavitt: “You have to laugh, don’t you?”

ddavitt: Loomat the end of Life of Brian; Always Look on The Bright Side of Life

ddavitt: Look

EBATNM: one definition of insanity is repeating actions and expecting different results

ddavitt: hah, i do that all the time!

ddavitt: What about when your car won’t start and you keep turning the key?

ddavitt: Eventually it might kick in…or the battery will go dead

geeairmoe2: Push the button harder when something doesn’t work.

ddavitt: If you hit someone once, you will get a different reaction than when you hit them three times

ddavitt: I guarantee it!

EBATNM: Talking to an inanimate object “Give me back my money, you thief!”

geeairmoe2: You can also laugh after failure because you’re a little smarter. You know what doesn’t work.

ddavitt: It’s a learning tool

DavidWrightSr: I push the button harder on the elevator to make it go faster 🙂

geeairmoe2: Ah-ha becomes ha-ha.

ddavitt: Nice!

ddavitt: Tell that one to Sean:-)

EBATNM: There’s the bit with the cheap spaceship in CAT

EBATNM: it thinks 4 (?) is 3.99999999999999999999999

ddavitt: Thta’s funny, yes. Slapstick

ddavitt: But deadly; it crashes and nearly kills them.

ddavitt: Gwen fixes it with a swift thump IIRC

EBATNM: how about the guy in the rolligon who has his handweapon on the inside of this p-suit

EBATNM: and dies trying to get it out

geeairmoe2: Darwin Award nominee.

ddavitt: Well, that’s stupid; darwin’s award type behaviour

ddavitt: GMTA

EBATNM: what does IIRC mean?

ddavitt: Do we laugh at him? Or just feel scornful?

geeairmoe2: If I Recall Correctly

EBATNM: Iowa-Illinois Railroad Cars?

ddavitt: What about the mum who wants bloodhounds to search for her child…on the moon?

geeairmoe2: I used to think GMTA had something to do with tome zones.

geeairmoe2: time.

ddavitt: I was all at sea with them when I first joined the net.

geeairmoe2: I still refuse to use TiTS for Tunnel in the Sky.

ddavitt: My first ever post and someone answered with a terse, “URL”. I thought he was being insulting

ddavitt: Me too. Tunnel will do just as well

DavidWrightSr: You just did!

geeairmoe2: To demonstrate a point I’ll equivocate.

EBATNM: what about male vs. female humor?

ddavitt: Well, I’m the only female so you won’t be getting a representaive spread of opinion

EBATNM: Wye thinks Michelle knows some really funny jokes Mannie wouldn’t get

ddavitt: But will all you guys think the same things are funny?

ddavitt: Oh very probably.

EBATNM: I don’t know a single female that likes the 3 Stooges, I think their a hoot

ddavitt: We get raunchier than you.

EBATNM: oops, “they’re”

ddavitt: We had a girls’s night out once..with one boyfriend who tagged along

ddavitt: He was terrified by the end of the night

ddavitt: We forgot he was there and talked naturally..

EBATNM: he was a wimp

geeairmoe2: Terrified? or disillustioned.

ddavitt: Dunno. Not met many men who can cope when we really let our hair down

ddavitt: Alcolhol helps but isn’t mandatory

ddavitt: See, we TALK, you don’t

ddavitt: 🙂

ddavitt: We discuss stuff and we’re honest about it.

EBATNM: that’s because men are, uh, -like – ya’know inarticulate

ddavitt: Sex isn’t sacred.

geeairmoe2: We do well enough with monosylabalic grunts.


ddavitt: And it’s something we share a lot of talking about.

ddavitt: You men just lie about it

ddavitt: We swap details and ask for advice

ddavitt: Gosh, I’m probably breaking all sorts of rules here…

ddavitt: You all shouldn’t know this stuff…

DavidWrightSr: Remember DeeDee and Hilda in NOTB. They said much the same

ddavitt: OK, back to H then; does he incorporate the female POV well?

geeairmoe2: I suspect you just CLAIM those things just to keep us off stride.

ddavitt: Did Ginny help maybe?

ddavitt: Wonder away…

ddavitt: My lips are sealed again.

ddavitt: Yes, they did. It’s true. At least by my experience it is

EBATNM: Virginia Heinlein’s contribution to the corpus is an area that really needs research

ddavitt: Ok, out on a limb; did you ever ask a mate how to do oral sex?

ddavitt: I remember many a discussion about that as a teenager…

EBATNM: My lips are sealed.

ddavitt: darn useful too…


geeairmoe2: Didn’t he write Podkayne after someone claimed a man couldn’t First Person a female character?

ddavitt: Puddin I think

ddavitt: It all goes back to embarrasment again

ddavitt: Men have got more chance of being embarrased during sex than us so they take it more seriously

EBATNM: Yes, the Puddin’ stories are, according to rumor, the result of a major fight with John Campbell

ddavitt: I thought it was a female editor?

ddavitt: I assumed Alice?

EBATNM: an agent submitted Podkayne to Campbell mistakenly and Campbell sent a large letter back

ddavitt: Oops, baby is stirring, She’s stopped sleeping through:-(

EBATNM: telling RAH all the mistakes he made

ddavitt: I will have to go.

ddavitt: We didn’t have a break did we?

ddavitt: Sorry, you had to put up with me, not the original host.

geeairmoe2: The Campbell-Podkayne episode was mentioned in Grumbles.

ddavitt: Actually, maybe David is doing Saturday and thought I would do tonight…

geeairmoe2: You done good.

ddavitt: Doesn;t matter.

ddavitt: Thank you! Dave are you OK for the log then? No missing bits?

EBATNM has left the room.

DavidWrightSr: Yeah. Igot it

EBATNM has entered the room.

ddavitt: OK, enjoy the rest of the chat and thaks everyone. There will be a Saturday chat for this one.

EBATNM: bye –

ddavitt: After that, maybe only when we have a guest. No volunteers yet 🙁

ddavitt: Night all.

ddavitt has left the room.

EBATNM: I’ve got to go, also – talk to everyone later

EBATNM has left the room.

geeairmoe2: I’ve hit my time limit, too. Night, all.

geeairmoe2 has left the room.

DavidWrightSr: Night Will.

DavidWrightSr: Well, nobody left but us chickens.

DavidWrightSr: I guess I’ll close the log then.

DavidWrightSr: Log officially closed at 10:56 P.M. EDT
Final End Of Discussion Log

Click Here to Return to Index

Leave a Reply