My first introduction to science fiction came in the Portales Junior High School Library around 1958. One of the first of the hundreds of Sci-Fi books read over the course of a lifetime was Red Planet, by Robert A. Heinlein. Probably Keith, one of the readers of this blog, stood beside me in PJHS Library and argued over who’d get to check it out first.
The library didn’t include a lot to select from and we pored over them all. Thunder and Roses, by Theodore Sturgeon. City, by Clifford D. Simak. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. The Stars are Ours, and Star Born, by Andre Norton. And anything by Robert Heinlein.
Written in 1940, Waldo must have been one of Heinlein’s earliest novels. By the late 1950s it was still too early to be profound. Most of the setting, plot, concepts Heinlein visualized in 1940 hadn’t yet come to pass. Hadn’t made their way into human reality in a form more concrete than a pleasurable indulgence in imagination set to words. My memories of reading it were vague compared to hundreds of other works by Heinlein and other visionaries who hammered and blasted the new genre into mainstream readership.
So when Waldo showed up in a box of books in the Saint Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Kerrville for a dime each and I bought them all, noticing Waldo among them, I was only mildly interested. Another couple of hours of something to read before dropping off to sleep, I figured.
I was wrong and discovered how wrong I was roughly 20 pages into the book. Squinted, read and re-read it far past my normal sleep time. Read it again the next day. Twice.
Aside from a goodly other phenomena Heinlein described in 1940 that eventually came to pass decades later, he discusses others that haven’t yet made it into mainstream thinking. One of which includes something I’ve been examining with insane intensity during the past several years, began experimenting with during the late 1990s. Dropped, partly because of Y2K, partly because the Internet and home computer RAM didn’t yet allow the accumulation and examination of sufficient evidence to arrive anywhere beyond conjecture and assertion.
Thankee, Saint Vincent de Paul Thrift Store. And thankee Robert Heinlein, particularly for this one.
I keep Waldo close at hand, thumb through it when I’m pondering where things are going as I go through my daily downloading rituals, working my way through the maze to the center.
You mightn’t, probably won’t be as impressed with this tome as I am. But I’m betting if you can find it you’ll be more than mildly surprised. Find yourself asking, “How the hell did Heinlein figure all that out in 1940?”
If not, you’ll at least enjoy a fun plot, good characters, a couple of hours of science fiction back when that’s what it was.