ROBERT HEINLEIN – WALDO AND MAGIC, INC.

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

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 Audible.com.

ONE LAW TO RULE THEM ALL

It’s a matter of definition. I say, magic is nowhere — or magic is everywhere. 

I prefer to believe it is everywhere. When I click the lights and a room is illuminated; when I flip the switch and the coffee begins to brew; when Amazon delivers and packages appear neatly piled by my back door. That’s magic.

Magic circleWhen the winter snow melts and the earth wakes up, bringing green leaves and flowers, nothing else can explain it. It is magic. I count on it.

Ultimately, when I turn on my computer and connect. I write, you write. I read you and you read me. That is magic. How is it possible for you, on the other side of this spinning globe, get my messages in real time?

circle of life teepee door

Just because we don’t stand in a circle and chant, we might as well be doing that. I understand about as much of how my computer uses all its written code to do what it does.

Chrysanthemum autumn

Why should all that “code” (read “magic”) make it work? I know how to write code — not well, but enough to understand its intent. That said, why do computers obey such writing? These codes?

British author Arthur C. Clarke formulated three laws:

  1. When a distinguished, but elderly, scientist states something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

My Corollary to Clarke’s Law: Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

Life is magic to me. All of it.

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 – 21: NO PLACE LIKE HOME

SERENDIPITY PHOTO PROMPT 2015 – 21
2 September 2015: NO PLACE LIKE HOME

It’s Frisbee Wednesday again and suddenly, it’s September.

We’re off on vacation for the next three weeks. Therefore, this prompt will be missing for the next three Wednesdays — September 9, 16, and 23. I’m sure I’ll post something, pictures for sure, but I’m taking a long-delayed and much-needed vacation from daily blogging.

portrait marilyn by cherrie

My right shoulder has been sending shooting pains to remind me I’ve been huddled too many hours with the computer. Since we’ll be away, it’s a perfect opportunity to give my neck, shoulder, and wrists a rest.

This is my 21st prompt. Twenty-first? Yup, you got it. That means my prompt is old enough to drink. I’m going to send Serendipity to a bar tonight. Give it a vacation. Let it relax for a while. I might join it for a night-cap.


I’ve taken this week’s cue from my friend The Ladybug. She started her own prompt in which I have not participated because I’m brain-dead right now. It’s not just my muscles that need a break. All of me needs R&R.

Her prompt gave me pause for thought.

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TOO OLD TO GO ADVENTURING

I never thought I’d say this, but I don’t want to.

Narnia is too … well … Christian. For me. Aslan is a great lion and a hero, but Narnia’s no place for a nice Jewish girl from Queens.

Neverland is charming I’m sure, but it’s for children. Or maybe grownups who want to be children — not me. Even with flying and pixie dust, I get tired thinking about all the zooming energy. Too many lost boys!

Hogwarts is a school. I’m done with schools, even magic school. I know I would not fit in with the hormonal, pubescent population of the school. I’d be a terrible wet blanket.

Wonderland is the only place which makes it to my vacation column. I’d like to visit there for a while, if only for the chance to finally meet the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, and that big White Rabbit — all favorite characters.

Camelot, Middle Earth, Westeros … aah me.

There was a time when I’d have hot-footed it to Camelot or Middle Earth without a second’s thought. These days, I want comfort. Hot and cold running water in-house. Good showers. Flush toilets. My adjustable bed and reclining love seat. Big, bright television and good sound. I want my husband next to me, our dogs around me.

I need a world that fits. Me. I would not fit into any of those beautiful, magical locales nor would they  be happy with me. In a world full of adventure and magic, I would not be an asset.

Truth is, I am no longer seeking adventure. I’m avoiding it.

Sorry to miss such glorious photo opportunities, though. I hope whoever amongst you ventures forth to other dimensions of delight will return with pictures and stories to tell.

I’ll be waiting for your reports!


As usual, should you accept the challenge, you may use any picture — and this week, you have plenty of choices — or any of your own pictures and write something about the picture. This has got to be the easiest prompt in the world since basically, that’s what we all do as bloggers anyway.

I will be back in October, hopefully well rested and without that ugly pain in the neck and shoulder. And with lot of photographs taken in upstate New York and Vermont. Have a great September my good friends.

A SECRET LIST

I don’t have a bucket list. Until I saw the movie of the same name, the concept had never occurred to me. The things I have wanted to do — which were doable — I’ve done.

Then, there are the Other Things. My hidden agenda. My secret list. The things I terribly want to do but somehow think are unlikely given the current state of reality.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND US 1977 THE MOTHER SHIP CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND US 1977 THE MOTHER SHIP Date 1977. Photo by: Mary Evans/COLUMBIA PICTURES/EMI FILMS COLUMBIA PICTURES INDUSTRIES I/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection(10307178)

The Mother Ship — from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” 1977. Photo: Mary Evans – Columbia Pictures/EMI / Ronald Grant/Everett Collection (10307178)

WAITING FOR THE MOTHER SHIP

Since I first read a science fiction story, saw “Forbidden Planet” and “The Red Planet Mars,” I’ve been waiting for the big ship to come and take me away. I have slightly modified this so that they will come and take both of us away. To wherever they went in “Cocoon.” Where we get to be young again. Leave the mortgage, the bills, the problems behind. But we bring the dogs so they can be young again, too.

MEETING THE ANCIENT ONE

Somewhere out there in the dark of night, there is an ancient vampire. So old, he is nearly made of stone. He remembers Egypt, perhaps even ages before that. He will offer me eternity in exchange for living in eternal night. Will I accept? I’ve only gotten as far as the offer. I have yet to determine my answer … but I’m thinking about it.

DISCOVERING MY POWERS

Because magic is real and I can do it. I just never realized it until one day, in the kitchen, while mixing up a batch of my internationally renowned chili, I accidentally conjured a spell of enormous, overwhelming power. No longer a sickly senior citizen on a fixed income, I could rule nations. At the very least, I can probably make enough money to pay the bills and have something left over. Money or not, magic would be the greatest adventure of all, would it not?

wormhole

THE WORMHOLE

There it is, the time tunnel. It has been there the whole time and I never knew it. That’s the problem with having such a heavy bed. I can’t move it aside, so I didn’t see the wormhole. It’s a good one that will let me travel to other dimensions or any-when. Talk about adventure!

I promise not to try to change anything. I just want to go hang out in the past and watch. I’m sure Garry would be happy to join me. Does anyone have a couple of Babblefish they can spare?


While I’m waiting for these things to happen, I’m still hoping someone will invent a workable transporter. Because however unlikely it may be, nothing is entirely impossible.

MAGIC IS EVERYWHERE – THREE QUOTES, DAY THREE

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

I’m astonished how many people have either never read these two novellas, or read them and manged to miss the point.

If you haven’t read them, you really should, if you are any kind of science fiction fan. They are fundamental to the mythology of science fiction. The concepts Heinlein posits have become axiomatic to later writers.

"Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942." Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942

“Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942.” Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – Waldo Astounding SF Aug 1942

Many readers — I take this from the reviews I’ve read by people who say they have indeed read the two novellas — apparently don’t see a connection between the stories. They think they are in one volume “to fill up space.” Either they didn’t really read them or they are conceptually challenged, unable to connect two related ideas.

The point is that technology is a based on our belief it will work (see Clarke’s Three Laws). As long as we believe in it, it works, whatever “it” may be. If or when we stop believing, it won’t work. It is all magic. Science is incantation. Witchcraft codified.

When we lose faith in technology, magic becomes the new technology. The difference between one and the other is style, not substance. The stories’ plots are irrelevant. It is all concept.

The best science fiction is concept-driven. Characters and plot usually take a back seat. These two stories 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.

ZIPPY TRIP TO THE ZONE

In 1965, I was first married. We lived in an apartment in one of two identical brick buildings. Our flat was 2 Q at the far end of the hall. A corner apartment, nice because we had better than average light.

I didn’t drive yet, but it wasn’t a problem. There was a bus stop right in front of our building and the university was just a 5-minute walk. When I wanted to go into town, I just hopped a bus. No parking problems, either.

One sunny day, I felt like going shopping. I did. Had lunch, bought a few things. Having taken the bus home, I took the elevator to the second floor, balancing my packages. I walked silently down the long carpeted hallway to apartment 2Q.

I tried to put my key in the lock, and it didn’t fit. Odd. Hmm. A nameplate was firmly attached to the middle of the door.

2 Q

KINCAID

My name was not Kincaid. I didn’t even know anyone named Kincaid. It was Apartment 2 Q. But not my place. Or maybe it was, but what was with the nameplate? Hmm.

Feeling increasingly dazed, I made a quick u-turn and walked back to the elevator. I pressed the button and rode back down to the lobby. I stood there for a few minutes, breathing. Then got back into the elevator back to the second floor. Should I have taken the stairs?

 

75-BricksBoston

Ding! I arrived. Clutching my packages against my chest, I — slower than before — walked down the hall. The pattern in the paint on the wall paint seemed cleaner and brighter. I was feeling a bit light-headed when I got to the end where that pesky nameplate still read “Kincaid.”

There was no question in my mind what had happened. I’d expected it all along.

I had slipped through an invisible wormhole. I was now in a parallel universe, another dimension. Everything was identical in this dimension to the world I knew except that in this place — I didn’t exist. Where I had been, someone named Kincaid was living. Maybe Kincaid was my husband. Perhaps I did exist and Jeffrey had gone missing.

I stood there. Breathing. Staring at the nameplate. Pacing a little down the hall and coming back.  Until finally, I looked out the window. And realized I was in the wrong building.

I’d made a simple mistake and gone into the wrong building.

I have forever since harbored a sense of disappointment. However weird, I wanted the magic to be real. I wanted an adventure in The Twilight Zone.


WHOA, DAILY PROMPT – This is at least the third time this prompt has appeared in one form or another. Maybe more. So if this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the third version of this story I’ve published. Because there are only so many ways to answer the same question.

FLATTENING THE LEARNING CURVE

Daily Prompt: I Have Confidence in Me – Are you good at what you do? What would you like to be better at?


Funny you should mention this. I was thinking, yesterday evening, that I’ve been writing for so many years … my entire life except for a few years before I knew which end of the pencil made marks … it has become like breathing. I just do it. I don’t plan projects, don’t struggle to say what I mean. Don’t get writer’s block. I can’t remember any time when I couldn’t write, though I have gone through periods when I didn’t want to write.

I blog because I’m going to write regardless and I need something to do with all those words. I love blogging. It’s the only writing I’ve done which isn’t a long-term project.

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“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” is my motto these days. For writing and other stuff. What I don’t write today will wait. Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh slate. I can choose to write what I want. No thousand pages of unfinished manuscript is lurking on my desk while a printing deadline glows menacingly in the background.

Photography is a bit different. Pure pleasure. I’ve been an enthusiastic amateur photographer since I was in my early 20s. Although I earned a few bucks taking pictures here and there over the years, calling myself a professional photographer would be a considerable stretch. I gave it a brief try and hated it. I love taking pictures, but when there was a client in the mix, it stopped being unfettered fun and became work. Which, as we all know, is the original four-letter word. Just ask Maynard G. Krebs.

What else would I like to be good at? I’d like to get better at casting magic spells. I need more and better magic in my life. Otherwise? I’ll do my best to keep my existing skills sharp. Everything else? Nah. I’m retired.