osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Need to gear up for work tomorrow

Two weeks of "staycation" now over. Did not do anything I had planned to do. Hopefully I am rested up.

Among time-wasting exercises was re-reading, for the first time in some years, Podkane of Mars. This was the 1999 reprint with the ending as originally written, a number of essays on whether to use the original published ending or the original ending as written. Some spoiler thoughts below cut.

I have generally had fond memories of Podkane for an odd reason -- it is one of the places where Heinlien gives an eloquent defense of politics (a theme he sounded on a number of occasions in the 50s) and one of his heroes is a professional politician. (When was the last time anyone saw that?) But my reread is disappointing.

Heinlien is inexcusably sloppy in setting up the situation in which Poddy gets captured by Evil Villain. After setting up that Poddy is supposed to alert her Uncle Tom at any news of missing Clark, Tom then goes and makes himself (and any other character that could help) unreachable. This is simply bad writing to force the character to be in the situation the author desires. Heinlien repeats this for his desired ending. Poddy doesn't have to die, but Heinlien wants her to die. So for no good reason she loses the tracking device that would have saved her. I could forgive this the lesser act of authorial interference to reach the desired ending had Heinlien not used a rather blunt instrument to create the situation in the first place.

On the plus side, Heinlien continues being racially subversive for the 1950s. The adult hero (who admittedly is background) is black as well as a Senator. It is interesting to look at Heinlien's use of non-white characters, particularly in juveniles, given the rules under which he operated to get his books published. He has a number of black characters, but no African Americans. Same thing with Latinos. He brings in a number of South and Central American characters in his writings, but none native to the U.S. This is a ripe subject for another essay.

But what do we make of Heinlien's expressed views on women in the book? It is noteworthy that his original ending did not include the bit about how it is a laudable thing for women to have a career until they have children, whereupon they should drop everything to take care of their "real" job of ensuring the next generation gets nurtured and educated. But the basic idea permeates the book in a number of ways. Is Heinlien a revolutionary for his insistence that women could learn what we now call STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) as well as men? Or his insistence that their ultimate, highest best destiny was mommies? The phrase that comes to mind for me is the one used to describe Noah in Genesis: "righteous in his generation." Given the number of essays I've seen written by women who were young girls when Podkane was published (or soon after) who found Poddy an inspiration for STEM careers, Poddy was at least a beacon of light in an otherwise vast wasteland. But I would hope we can do better today.

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