I’m always surprise at how many people have not read these two novellas at all, or read them, but completely missed the point. Some readers apparently can’t see any connection between the two stories. They apparently believe the two novellas are in one volume “to fill up space.” Since this is among my favorite stories in science fiction, allow me to remind everyone how good Heinlein was in his prime..

heinlein waldo magic inc cover

Originally published by Doubleday in 1950, Heinlein’s point was that all technology is a based on our belief that it will work. As long as we believe in it, all is well. If or when we cease believing, it will cease working. Everything is magic.

The stories proceed from that axiom. Humans lose faith in technology. Magic jumps into the void left by vanished technology …  and becomes technology. The difference between one and the other is effectively nonexistent.

I read these books at least 50 years ago. I hadn’t read them since, but remembered them. I bought them for Kindle and was glad to re-acquaint myself with them.

These were unique and original concepts when they were first introduced in the 1940s. They were still original 25 years later when I read them. They aren’t stale today, more than 60 years after the stories first publication.

The best science fiction is concept-driven. The ideas in these two novellas have stuck with me for a lifetime. Both are based on a single concept: we believe in what works — and what works is what we believe.

“Nothing is certain anymore. Nothing. Chaos is king and magic is loose in the world.” — Robert Heinlein

Available on Kindle, in paperback and from

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all plus a big helping of cynicism.


  1. I was a huge Heinlein fan as a young adult but never read these stories until about a year ago. I think you mentioned them in another post and I ran out and picked them up (OK, downloaded them to my Kindle). I had never realized that Waldos, devices to handle objects inside of a dangerous/toxic environment like a nuclear power plant, were named after this story. Many scientists are/were Heinlein fans…*-+-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I first read Heinlein’s short stories back in the early 1960s, then I read what was then his current offerings “Stranger” came out in 1964 or thereabouts). Then I backtracked and read most of the rest. I never liked his juvenile stuff (not much of a fan of juvenile anything, even now), but almost everything else he wrote was at least interesting and original. He handled concepts differently than other writers. He had a unique perspective with which I didn’t always agree, but always appreciated. He was a bit too much of a Republican for me. He modified a lot of that as he got older and moved from the political right to almost dead center.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He was often very conservative, but then he also had females being empowered when the rest of Sci-Fi was a males only club (to my sister he ruined it by making all of his strong females also sexy and liking older men). He also had gay, bi and trans characters long before they were accepted in the mainstream. But then there was the small government stuff, his extreme social Darwinism, etc. So perhaps he was a true Libertarian (as opposed to the types we find today) instead of a Republican.


        1. He was an original thinker and I think you are probably right: Libertarian in the original sense of the word. He would have a hard time finding a political home today. On the other hand, I bet he wouldn’t be surprised at the mess we are in. He predicted it half a century ago.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Have not heard of these books and thus never read them. Now and again I like some science fiction, as long as it has an original story, so I might try it.


    1. They are old, but part of the foundation literature of sci fi. Anyway, they are two novellas, published under a single cover. Amazon has them. They are VERY good. Heinlein was extremely prolific. This is some of his “early-middle period” – (1950, Doubleday).


  3. Thanks for bringing those books to my attention. I like RH but haven’t read those in years – and probably missed the point when I did read them.
    They’re now on my ‘To Read’ list.
    Great post!
    ‘We believe in what works,’ is one of those great lines which can be debated for hours with every interpretation a worthy one.
    It’s lines like that, I believe, we’re all hoping to land in our own pieces.


  4. I have the book, have no memory of reading it so Ill see what it’s about and if I have any recall at all. My go to books for Heinlein include Door Into Summer and The Puppet Masters, as well as Glory Road, which I’ve read and reread. For me, Heinlein was either spot on or way off the mark, in his writing…Not sure if it had to do with him getting older or my own tastes, but many of his books just didnt make it for me.
    And yeah, I liked the short story collections and the early novels which were almost all closer to novellas in length–once the blockbuster novels began to emerge I lost interest.
    Bradbury, Zelazny, Heinlein, Asimov, Sturgeon, Leiber, Poul Anderson, on and on and on. And if it had time travel in it, well, I was lost, lost…


    1. His very late books were odd, though interesting. His earlier material was more innovative, I think. But your list is my list. These guys really invented modern science fiction and today’s writer stand on their shoulder. Most modern writers freely admit , too.

      Zelazny is another favorite, as is Bradbury (who was one of Stephen King’s strongest influences as a writer).


  5. My oldest brother Richard was a huge SciFi fan – had a very large library of SciFi books – everybody. I think he started with Tom Swift and advanced to Heinlein, Bradbury, Clarke …
    I read all the Dune books. That’s about it for me.


Talk to me!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.