Names for the Rolling Stone

In Heinlein’s The Rolling Stones, there’s discussion of what to name the ship the family is purchasing, and a list of suggested names is assembled.

I realized some time ago that Susan B. Anthony being the only real name of a historical person might mean something; specifically, that the feminist content (Hazel’s rant about the glass ceiling for example) is not an accident.

This also lead me to thinking about the other names more, eventually. (At least two others are definite references to historic people, but not their actual names).

So, here are the names, and what I’ve found out about them.


A common naval ship name (Royal Navy and American), and also in Doc Smith’s Lensman universe.


The Jabberwock is a fearsome and fictional beast from Lewis Carroll. It was in Through the Looking Glass.

H. M. S. Pinafore

Title of (and ship in) one of the “big three” Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.

The Clunker

I don’t know any particular history for this name. It obviously suggests they don’t have high expectations of their ship.

Star Wagon

Again, I know no particular history for this. This seems much more optimistic than The Clunker.


Again, I don’t know the reference. There’s a piece of oil pipeline equipment, a logging sled, an infantry regiment (60th Infantry Regiment starting in 1942), and a brand of outdoor equipment, none of which look especially relevant. It does suggest aggressive forward movement, which fits.


Another name suggesting aggressive forward movement; Out far, and onward yet!” (from Rhysling / Heinlein’s poem The Green Hills of Earth).


Reference to early human flight, but with a tragic outcome. But they’re heading away from the sun, so maybe they’ll be safe.

Susan B. Anthony

Important feminist and suffragist.

Iron Duke

A nickname for Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (probably most famous for winning the battle of Waterloo, which was the turning point in the Napoleonic wars).

Morning Star

Nickname for the planet Venus, and also for Lucifer.


Blows around at random in the wide open spaces, I guess.

Oom Paul

Nickname for Stephanus Johannes Paulus “Paul” Kruger, a 19th century South African politician. Seems strange that anybody in the family would want to name their ship after him, all things considered.

(This one I had to have pointed out to me, in a private Facebook group).


Yet more wanderers, though these often returned home (though they did sometimes colonize).

The Same Hazel?

People have wondered, and debated, for decades whether the Hazel in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress could be the same as the Hazel Meade Stone who is the grandmother in The Rolling Stones.

Later on, Heinlein has said that they are, both in his later World As Myth works (which I personally don’t consider a definitive answer; when he brings back old characters they never feel like themselves, which leaves me doubting everything else he says about the older works also), and in private letters to people (no, not me; I never wrote to him).

TRS was published about 15 years before TMiaHM. So, if they are the same character, Heinlein decided when he wrote TMiaHM to build things so that Hazel Meade could become Hazel Meade Stone.

I’ll refer to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as ‘TMiaHM’, and The Rolling Stones as ‘TRS’, for brevity.

I have just happened to read those two books, at the same time, this last week, so I have opinions. (I should probably say that I think TMiaHM is Heinlein’s best book, and that TRS is probably the book of his that I’ve re-read the most times, which means dozens.)

In TMiaHM, the character Hazel Meade is a young girl, 13 at the start, living at Cradle Roll Crêche. She was transported as an infant, and then lost her father and mother on Luna. Manny first notices her at the meeting where he meets Wyoming Knott; she’s rolled in a ball, on a ballistic trajectory to hit the knees of one of the Warden’s police at the door to the hall when the raid happens. Her parents may both have been under sentence for subversion, but it’s not certain.

She turns up throughout the book, sometimes a bit gratuitously (Manny notices her in the crowd after their mission to Earth, for example). She does play an important role as captain of the Baker Street Irregulars, and she is adopted into Manny’s family.

It’s noted in TMiaHM that Slim Lemke Stone is courting her, prepared to “opt” her when she’s willing. Later Manny reports “Slim got Hazel to change name to Stone, two kids and she studied engineering.” So her becoming Hazel Meade Stone by name and by profession is pretty clear. (That paragraph goes on to say “All those new free-fall drugs and nowadays earthworms stay three or four years and go home unchanged. And those other drugs that do almost as much for us; some kids go Earthside to school now.”)

She does sign their declaration of independence; Manny signs right below her (and she hadn’t been able to write when his family adopted her). She claims to have written free speech into the Lunar charter herself, and that’s not contradicted by anything I’ve noticed in TMiaHM.

So, what’s the problem? Seems clear-cut pretty much.

The problem is that Hazel Meade Stone’s story as told in TRS isn’t fully compatible with this. Now, she’s definitely a bit of a tall-tale teller; early on there’s this bit:

“Don’t try to bring me up, Roger. At ninety-five my habits are fairly well set.”

“Ninety-five indeed! Last week you were eighty-five.”

“It’s been a hard week.”

So, maybe it’s entirely a matter of her being an unreliable narrator in the book where she speaks directly to us a lot. (Right near the end, she says to Roger “I finished with you when you were in short pants. You’ve been bringing me up ever since.”)

At the end of TMiaHM Manny says she and Slim had two kids (so Roger has a sibling; never mentioned in TRS) and she studied engineering. Manny doesn’t say she went to Earth to study, and he does discuss the drugs to help with gravity changes in that very paragraph; that’s quite a bit like saying she didn’t go to earth to study, to my mind. It does at least set a rough limit on the length of one trip to Earth, no more than 3 or 4 years (the drugs for high gravity work less well than the ones for low gravity, and earthworms visit Luna for 3-4 years without harm).

There are problems, though. In TRS, when Roger is discussing baseball with the twins, Castor says

“But you grew up in a one-g field; you’ve got a distorted notion of physics.”

Which seems to say Roger Stone grew up on Earth, was old enough to play baseball there. That’s clearly more than 3 years.

This seems to suggest that Hazel Meade Stone spent more time on earth than the drugs would have allowed, at least in one trip. (Yes, they could have been apart some of his childhood; but there is no slightest suggestion in either book that they were.) And if Roger spent his childhood bouncing back and forth from Luna to Earth and back, it doesn’t really make sense to say he grew up in a one-g field.

At another point, Hazel claims to have been a lawyer in Idaho at one point.

“Who’s not a lawyer?”

“You aren’t.”

“Of course I am!”

“When and where? Be specific.”

“Years and years ago, back in Idahobefore you were born. I just never got around to mentioning it.”

Her son looked her over. “Hazel, it occurs to me that the records in Idaho are conveniently far away.”

“None of your sass, boy. Anyway, the courthouse burned down.”

“I thought as much.”

Roger doesn’t claim this is obviously impossible, only that he thinks it’s unlikely. So maybe she did spend an extended period on Earth.

But to study engineering, and law, to professional levels (she’s worked as both, she claims, and Roger confirms the engineering), while raising two kids, on a planet where you weigh 6 times what you’re used to, is getting on towards super-human. Particularly if you have to do it in 3-year stints.

More likely that she’s never actually been a lawyer. But why Idaho? Well, hard to check for one thing. But if she hadn’t spent a lot of time on Earth, it would be an obvious lie, and Roger’s reaction feels more like “possible tall tale” than “obvious lie”.

Another possibility is that Manny understates the power of the drugs. But…why would Heinlein have him do that?

TMiaHM starts in 2075, the revolution succeeds in 2076. The framing story around that, though, is not dated. Manny says he isn’t 100 yet (discussing going out to Asteroids, right at the end). We know his birthday is Bastille Day, but what year? Best I and others have managed as of this instant is we all think he’s 40 plus or minus quite a few years, i.e. not very certain. So, “not 100 yet” means fewer than 60 years later. Up to 60 years is a wide window, doesn’t really constrain Hazel’s story much.

I’m finding the “grew up in a one-g field” moment the bit that’s hard to get past. That’s clearly the story as known to his family, and it seems unlikely that it’s a lie (and with his mother living with them, she’d know).

They might well be intended to be the same; perhaps Heinlein forgot or couldn’t find a way around that one bit. I do think it’s that one bit that made it completely clear to me that they weren’t actually the same character, not from the same universe anyway. Heinlein does that a lot; tripedal martians with similar characteristics occur in Double Star, Red Planet, The Rolling Stones, and Stranger in a Strange Land. He recycles aspects of his world-building a lot in stories that clearly aren’t actually part of the same universe.

Reading Order for Lensman Series

That is, the Lensman series by Edward E. “Doc” Smith; the one my license plate is from.

I wrote this originally elsewhere, but it’s so long, and represents things I’ve been thinking through for decades, I decided to record it here to keep it around.

So. My thoughts on the best reading order:

You can’t win. (Also the first law of thermodynamics; but I digress.)

They were written and published in the magazines, as has been explained, as Galactic Patrol through Children of the Lens. Original publication order is nearly always a reasonable choice for anything famous—that order is how it earned its fame, so it can’t be a horrible choice.

I personally love a few things in Triplanetary all to bits (Rome and WWII), and rather dislike the actual story Triplanetary. And it’s certainly not an introduction to the real series. Plus it gives away in the first introduction all the secrets that were kept through the original 4 books, and gradually released to great effect.

First Lensman is a huge favorite of mine—largely because I love watching him back-fill all sorts of things given us in the basic 4-book series without explanation. That might be okay as a starting point also, or people might wonder why time was being spent on where weird names came from.

(Those two were assembled and published starting in 1950, when the series was first published in books, the Fantasy Press hardcovers.)

The versions of the basic 4 books have been revised to also give away the things that were kept secrets in the magazine versions—so you can’t have the experience of reading them as people really first read them, without tracking down the magazines (hint: the issues with Lensman novels in them are kind of expensive).

(And The Vortex Blaster as published in book form at least is solidly set in the Lensman universe, but is not fully compatible with it and it’s not a Lensman story. I love it all to pieces too, for its own reasons, though.)

So—my recommended approach is to read Galactic Patrol, Gray Lensman, Second Stage Lensmen, Children of the Lens, Triplanetary, and First Lensman. And The Vortex Blaster. But every possible reading order has some points against it.

Progress Scanning Minneapa

For a lot of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society members, including me, Minneapa was an important part of what kept the club going.

(An “APA” or Amateur Press Association can maybe best be described today as an early, dead-tree type of social media.  Each member submitted the required number of copies of their “zine” for each issue, which were then collated together, stapled into one or more sections, and sent to all the members. Our zines contained whatever we wanted, which was often our nattering / essays / rants on things important to us, plus comments on the other zines in the last issue. A new issue was collated every 3 or 4 weeks. The membership ran interestingly beyond just people from Minneapolis, and included quite a number of heavy-hitters from the SF community.)

Minneapa ran for 400 issues (not all with me involved), from 1972 to 2003. Some of these issues ran up to 400 pages (in 3 sections).

So, I’ve been working on scanning these for the Minn-StF archives.  (They aren’t going to be published to the web; privacy and copyright issues don’t seem to allow that. They’ll probably be available on some terms to former members, though, and with luck will eventually be transferred to an institutional archive.) A couple of scanning sessions at Minn-StF meetings, plus a few more with the (borrowed) scanner at home, has produced this:

Scanned Minneapas

Today I got done with the boxes I had organized previously, and dug into the next three boxes.  Here they are sorted by issue number decade:

Four more boxes of Minneapa sorted for scanning; Issues 9x through 2xx

Issues 5x through 8x




There is some duplication; this is my and Pamela’s old copies, and I joined before she did (may have dropped out sooner, not sure about that).  And after this I have almost another 200 on the high end that neither of us was a member for (Dean Gahlon and Beth Friedman have agreed to provide those for scanning), and a bit of fill-in on the low end (about 1-55) (Martin Schafer has agreed to provide these for scanning).

A very rough estimate places this somewhere around 50,000 pages (a worst-case estimate gives 160,000 pages, but not all 400 issues were 400 pages). And especially in the early days, few of those pages were photocopied or offset printed; some were mimeographed, but most were dittoed, often using multiple master colors and on paper other than white.  Purple on blue is one of my least favorites to try to OCR. Not all the printing was particularly good, either.  Then there are the hand-written zines.

I keep fussing with ways of adjusting the scans to make them more legible (and to OCR better), and that’s an infinite task (rather like the Augean Stables in fact). But I may be improving the results somewhat (and I’m aiming for methods that can then be applied easily to groups of pages in later issues).

Archiving Minneapa

Or, for those not from this part of science-fiction fandom, just think of it as some rather challenging scanning and OCR issues. (Read about APAs.)

I sorted through three boxes from upstairs and got this:

The first three banker’s boxes, plus extras

Back cover on top of the stack of extras

And there are four more boxes up there waiting.

Now, there is probably a lot of duplication (mine plus Pamela’s copies).

Minn-StF owns an Epson duplex auto-feed scanner, which is kind of tailor-made for this job (“duplex” means it scans both sides of the sheet in one pass through). And it’s amazing how good we’ve gotten at handling individual sheets of paper using just a few plastic rollers. Still, when the paper is 40 or so years old and the stack includes many different kinds of paper intermixed, it can be a challenge. (Most Minneapas had at least offset paper, mimeo paper, ditto paper, and often twilltone. And the covers are sometimes card stock.) Luckily, restarting after a jam is easy, so long as you didn’t let it reset the page numbering to 1 automatically.

I made some test scans at 300 dpi and 400 dpi, and tried saving them as JPEG and TIFF files. The scanner was nearly twice as fast at 300 dpi than at higher resolutions, so I left resolution there. I was pleased, though a bit surprised, to find essentially no visible JPEG artifacts (at 80% quality) on all this text. You’re seeing a lot of the paper texture at full res, and it’s enough to satisfy the OCR software…and the JPEG file is 2 MB or less, the TIFF is about 34 MB. So I actually stored the images as JEPGS.  (Nearly 5000 pages from Saturday’s session, looks like; which was one of those three banker’s boxes.)

Many pages show some browning around the edges. It’s interesting how much variation there is among the different kinds of paper people used.

The print density and clarity varied quite a lot to begin with, as I remember. It certainly varies a lot today.  Here are some examples at 100% size.

OCR of this sort of material ranges from chancy to hopeless. The volume involved is such that no real quality control or proofreading pass on the OCR is possible, either. However, by using a clever PDF feature we can produce “PDF/A” files which, when opened, show you the image of the page, but when searched by the computer let it search the OCR output (including the images of every page does make the files big, though). Even when OCR is bad, it catches words correctly a lot of the time, so searching for a name or a topic keyword will find you many of the references. And important words in a discussion tend to be repeated, so you’ll be brought to most of the pages the discussion occurs on. (My OCR work on this is being done with an old version of ABBYY Finereader.)

There are legal and privacy issues that make it unlikely that the collection of scans will be posted publicly. They may well be available to people who were in Minneapa. Scanning them gives us backup copies and protection against further deterioration, and some convenience for some people with access to the collection.

Anyway…17 down, 383 to go!