From Grandmaster Robert A. Heinlein comes a long-lost first novel, written in 1939 and never before published, introducing ideas and themes that would shape his career and define the genre that is synonymous with his name.
July 12, 1939 Perry Nelson is driving along the palisades when suddenly another vehicle swerves into his lane, a tire blows out, and his car careens off the road and over a bluff. The last thing he sees before his head connects with the boulders below is a girl in a green bathing suit, prancing along the shore....
When he wakes, the girl in green is a woman dressed in furs and the sun-drenched shore has transformed into snowcapped mountains. The woman, Diana, rescues Perry from the bitter cold and takes him inside her home to rest and recuperate.
Later they debate the cause of the accident, for Diana is unfamiliar with the concept of a tire blowout and Perry cannot comprehend snowfall in mid-July. Then Diana shares with him a vital piece of information: The date is now January 7. The year...2086.
When his shock subsides, Perry begins an exhaustive study of global evolution over the past 150 years. He learns, among other things, that a United Europe was formed and led by Edward, Duke of Windsor; former New York City mayor LaGuardia served two terms as president of the United States; the military draft was completely reconceived; banks became publicly owned and operated; and in the year 2003, two helicopters destroyed the island of Manhattan in a galvanizing act of war. This education in the ways of the modern world emboldens Perry to assimilate to life in the twenty-first century.
But education brings with it inescapable truths -- the economic and legal systems, the government, and even the dynamic between men and women remain alien to Perry, the customs of the new day continually testing his mental and emotional resolve. Yet it is precisely his knowledge of a bygone era that will serve Perry best, as the man from 1939 seems destined to lead his newfound peers even further into the future than they could have imagined.
A classic example of the future history that Robert Heinlein popularized during his career, For Us, The Living marks both the beginning and the end of an extraordinary arc of political, social, and literary crusading that comprises his legacy. Heinlein could not have known in 1939 how the world would change over the course of one and a half centuries, but we have our own true world history to compare with his brilliant imaginings, rendering For Us, The Living not merely a novel, but a time capsule view into our past, our present, and perhaps our future.
The novel is presented here with an introduction by acclaimed science fiction writer Spider Robinson and an afterword by Professor Robert James of the Heinlein Society.
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December 09, 2003
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Excerpt from For Us, The Living by Robert A. Heinlein
"Look out!" The cry broke involuntarily from Perry Nelson's lips as he twisted the steering wheel. But the driver of the green sedan either did not hear him or did not act. The next few seconds of action floated through his mind like slow motion. He saw the left front wheel of the green car float past his own, then the right wheel of his car crawled over the guard rail, his car slid after it and hung poised on the edge of the palisade. He stared over the hood and saw facing him the beach a hundred and thirty feet below. A blonde girl in a green bathing suit was catching a beach ball. She had jumped in the air to do it, both arms outstretched, one leg pointed. She was very graceful. Beyond her a wave broke on the sand. The crest hung and dripped whipped cream. He glanced back at the girl. She was still catching the beach ball. As she settled back on her feet, he drifted clear of the car and turned in the air away from her. Facing him were the rocks at the foot of the bluff. They approached as he watched them, separated and became individuals. One rock selected him and came straight toward him. It was a handsome rock, flat on one side and brilliant while in the sunshine. A sharp edge faced him and grew and grew and grew until it encompassed the whole world.
* * *
Perry got up, shook his head, and blinked his eyes. Then he recalled the last few seconds with startling clarity and threw up his hands in convulsive reflex. But the rock was not in front of his face. There was nothing in front of his face but whirling snow flakes. The beach was gone and the bluff and the rest of his world. Nothing but snow and wind surrounded him -- wind that cut through his light clothing. A gnawing pain in the midriff resolved into acute hunger. "Hell!" said Perry. Hell. Yes, hell it must be, cold instead of hot. He commenced to walk but his legs were weak under him and a giddiness assailed him. He staggered a few steps and fell on his face. He attempted to rise, but was too weak and decided to rest a moment. He lay still, trying not to think, but his confused brain still struggled with the problem. He was beginning to feel warmer when he found a solution. Of course! The girl in the green bathing suit caught him and threw him into the snow bank -- soft snow bank -- nice warm snow bank -- nice -- warm--
"Get up" the girl in the green bathing suit was shaking him. "Get up! Hear me Get up!" What did she want -- to hell with games -- just because she wanted to play games was no reason to slap a fellow's face. He struggled to his knees, then fell heavily. The figure beside him slapped him again and nagged him until he rose to his knees, then steadied him and helped him to his feet. "Easy now. One arm over my shoulders. It's not far."
"I'm all right."
"Don't be a fool. Lean on me." He looked down at the face of his companion and tried to focus his eyes. It was the girl in the green bathing suit, but what in hell was she doing dressed up like Admiral Byrd Complete to the parka. But his tired brain refused to worry and he focused all of his attention on putting one icy leaden foot in front of another.
"Mind the steps. Easy. Now hold still." The girl sang one clear note and a door opened in front of them. He stumbled inside and the door closed. She guided him to a couch, made him lie down, and slipped away. Presently she returned with a cup of liquid. "Here. Drink this." He reached for it, but his numbed fingers refused to grasp, and he spilled a little. She took the cup, lifted his head with her free arm, and held it to his lips. He drank slowly. It was warm and spicy. He fell asleep watching her anxious face.