All the recent not-playing has left me with lots of time to read (oh, what a wild life I lead!) and I’ve continued on with my “Heinleins That Don’t Get Enough Attention” list. It seems I’m not the only one to realize what a great book Double Star is:
Whatever your viewpoint on SF, the fact that an award-winning book from a man generally named as one of the genre’s founding fathers (alongside Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke) is so little known amongst otherwise knowledgeable cultural journalists says something about the way the genre has been marginalised by the UK press. Now that I’ve read the book, such ignorance also seems a shame.
The replication in question concerns an egotistical actor who is called in to act as a double for a political leader after the man himself is kidnapped. The actor (The Great Lorenzo) successfully performs a tricky diplomatic mission on Mars and is then called on to encore after encore after it becomes clear that Joe Bonforte – the man he is pretending to be – is unlikely to be able to appear in public again.
So far so simple. The story moves at a sharp pace, helped along by Heinlein’s slick prose and the kind of wry good humour demonstrated when he describes the multi-consonant names (Rrringrill) he has ascribed to his Martians as sounding like “a leaking faucet”.
In common with much of the best SF, it’s not just the scientific ideas that make this book worthy of investigation. History does too. The political concerns and philosophy that Heinlein chooses to project onto his imagined future also provide an intriguing barometer of his times.
The book’s impassioned pleas for understanding and tolerance with regard to Martian culture, for instance, might not make for a subtle allegory, but it is moving given the book’s context in 1950s America. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that a few of those impressionable teenage white males who comprised the books original target audience went on to stand with Martin Luther King on the Washington Mall a few years later.
And, here, finally, is the quote that this whole post is about!
As my father used to say, ‘Larry, you are too durned pretty! If you don’t get off your lazy duff and learn the business, you are going to spend fifteen years as a juvenile, under the mistaken impression that you are an actor – then wind up selling candy in the lobby. “Stupid” and “pretty” are the two worst vices in show business – and you’re both.’
Then he would take off his belt and stimulate my brain. Father was a practical psychologist and believed that warming the glutei maximi with a strap drew excess blood away from a boy’s brain. While the theory may have been shaky, the results justified the method…
The images in this post are from Northern Spanking Institute’s epic space opera “Schoolgirls In Space”, which you should go watch immediately! Heinlein would have entirely approved of it!