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Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio 
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Post Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
Over at the blog, Joe Walton's blog entries have turned into a discussion of errors, which gives me a chance to set up this errors and omissions thread. Some of the criticisms are errors-that-are-not-actually-errors, and some of them are in my opinion simply unreasonable, but there were some real errors detected, and this is a good place to memorialize them.

First off, I confused two speeches Churchill gave in 1940 and wrongly attributed the "Never has so much been owed by so many" speech to the evacuation from Dunkirk. I can't lay hands on my marked-up advance copy, but on the uncorrected bound galleys, it's on page 256.

The "never have so much been owed..." speech does appear to have been a genuine slip-up; in my mind I had associated that with the evacuation from Dunkirk, but actually Churchill said that about the RAF in the battle of Britain in a speech before the Commons given in August 20, 1940 -- a bit more than two months after the Commons speech with the "we shall fight them on the beaches" lines (June 4, 1940)

Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:40 am
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A more serious error was placing an incident in WWII at Iwo Jima when apparently it happened elsewhere. Again the bound galleys,Chapter 25, "Stabilizing, Somewhat," at page 342, the last three lines of the paragraph.

My reply acknowledging the error:

OK -- I've been going over sources and doing research for the last six hours, and here's what I've found about what I've been calling the "Mt. Suribachi incident."

1. It didn't happen on Iwo, which means not Mt. Suribachi.

2. It didn't happen on Okinawa. None of the civilian suicides in Okinawa are ringing bells at all. Understandable as I know I didn't research the Okinawa campaign at the time this was written.

3. I'm having the same problem James Nicoll reported re tracking down the incident and reconstructing my original sources. It's hard to find information about Japanese civilian casualties without reliable keywords to work with.

So, yes, it does appear to be an error -- and an embarrassing one. I think I know how it happened, from the fact that there is no source noted in my original draft.

The text in question was written six years ago. I used my chronology of notes (35 mb by now) as the basis for whatever I was writing, but that essentially covers only stuff that was going on in Heinlein's life and a scattering of other contextual information. In the middle of composition it often happened that I needed to look up additional contextual data using online sources. Somehow I conflated information from different sources together.

I have a vague recollection that I picked up that particular incident from a USMC history of some kind -- but it's six years ago and the page I thought I noted in the original draft is now something else, confusingly having to do with a national park.

I think the best "fix" is simply to omit the Mt. Suribachi part of the discussion there -- the rest of the passage on how the Japanese defense hardened is correct and necessary for the overall thrust of the rest of the chapter.

I want to thank you for catching that. It's an embarrassing mistake, to be sure, but in some weird way I'm glad it was a kind of mistake it was, if it had to be a mistake.

Fri Aug 13, 2010 8:57 am
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Jo Walton points out that Heinlein could not in fact have met Edna St. Vincent Millay in summer 1930 when he was in Greenwich Village because she was off writing sonnets. Bound galleys, p. 122, ". . . he would naturally also have run into Edna St. Vincent Millay.

This is not really an "error" of fact (because it's in a passage clearly marked as speculative by its language, in Subjunctive Mood), though I'm darned if I can figure out exactly what kind of counterfactual to call it. Jo Walton found the information in a biography of Millay published in 2002. At the time I wrote that passage, in 2003, the university library would not have yet had time to get the book on the shelves -- and none of the half-dozen sources I did look at for bohemian Greenwich Village suggested otherwise. I've requested the Millay biography from the LA Public Library and will consider exactly how to make the revise once I find out whether, in fact, Millay was in New York in that period stretching from spring (May) into early summer (June). Walton says only that she was not in New York that summer.

The essence of that passage is to portray how Bohemian Greenwich Village in the 1920's probably felt to the young Heinlein, and Millay was an example that brought the society's polymorphous perverse sexuality of the first sexual revolution of the century to life for the reader. So I think the evocation has to stay in one way or another, but the exact way the evocation is stated probably does need to change in some way.

Fri Aug 13, 2010 9:07 am
NitroForum Oldster

Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:05 am
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Bill- the Mt Surbachi incident you speak of may well instead have been Saipan- an estimated 20 to 30 thousand Japanese civilians committed suicide there when it became apparent to them that the americans would prevail- whole families jumped off seaside cliffs

I verified my recollections on our old fav wikipedia

Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:16 am
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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.

Fri Aug 13, 2010 2:02 pm
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Good catch, Nick and Jim. How did you recover the information? I looked through a couple of narratives about Iwo and Okinawa and ruled them out. But once you eliminate those keywords, I was floundering trying to find what I had conflated with Iwo.

Jim, can we eliminate the confirmation code, or at least get a different character generator? These characters are so degraded that it sometimes takes me four or five tries to get an acceptable confirmation -- and I'm pretty darned good at reading degraded stuff. I want to lower the frustration threshhold for people to post here.

Sat Aug 14, 2010 7:38 am
NitroForum Oldster

Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:05 am
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WWII has always intriqued me- the mass civilian suicides at saipan was something i recalled due to their horrific nature - the documentary footage of whole families leaping from the cliffs- i shudder thinking of it even now

i did verify my info via wikipedia <ducks Jim's roundhouse> LOL


Sat Aug 14, 2010 11:48 am
Heinlein Biographer

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:33 pm
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
Ah, wetware!

Sat Aug 14, 2010 2:38 pm
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
Gertrude Whitney Vanderbilt (p. 122) should be Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Thanks.

Helen Schinske

Sun Aug 15, 2010 10:04 am
Heinlein Nexus

Joined: Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:05 am
Posts: 375
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Post Re: Errors and Omissions, Volume 1 of the Bio
An excellent place to list all this, Bill, as well as on your own web page. I suspect there shall be more nitpicking.

Let us remember that Niven had the earth rotating in the wrong direction in Ringworld, and that the Ringworld in its original incarnation would have shaken itself apart.

People make mistakes; readers catch them; this is what second editions are for :)

That, and more royalties....

Sun Aug 15, 2010 9:41 pm
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