enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Robert A. Heinlein, Waldo and Magic, Inc. (#3)

I read this book about 24-Dec-2016. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1950. This note was last modified Sunday, 15-Jan-2017 21:16:51 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


These got picked for a Facebook Heinlein Forum reread, so I reread it yet again sooner than I might otherwise.


"Waldo" appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in August 1942 (under the "Anson MacDonald" byline), and doesn't seem to have been republished until Doubleday published the book combining it with "Magic, Inc." in 1950.

Page references are to Signet T4142.

The book starts long after the main story is over. We see Waldo performing his ballet tap-dancing act. I view this as ancestral to Buckaroo Banzai, who you will remember is a musician and researcher, engineer and doctor. Waldo after the performance has to go perform brain surgery.

P.14 Grimes home informs him that he has a visitor, somebody who has his code, in the house.

Published 1942, a very rare during-the-war story. Was the reference to the united Nations added later? What about atomic explosives? It wasn't republished in magazines, but a revision for the 1950 book publication would be normal.

Page 20 mentions a nuclear super-explosive. Added later?

For the amusement of James Nichols, p.20 Also gives He3 as a decomposition product of copper releasing nuclear power.

P. 21 "go back to oil-powered and steam powered vehicles get rid of these damned radiant powered death traps." Now, there's an enthusiast. And not enough evidence, yet.

P. 22. "The sweat and muscle fad died." Discussion around here nicely parallels Waldo's argument for why he's superior, and cuts it down. (Smooth Apes, p.25ff).

P.26 training actual machinists. P.28 "... Turn this mad-house of yours into a modern plant."

P.27 what's a three-way nurse? Not as dangerous a search as I would have expected.

P.31 the discussion of orientation nicely pre-figures what Niven & Pournelle do in The Mote in God's Eye (#2) when they're first visiting the Motie ship and noticing the lack of orientation.

I wonder how much experience in zero gee Waldo had when he designed Freehold? There could have been much interior remodeling between initial build and what we see.

P.34 So why does Waldo have a voder keyboard? Heinlein seems to have been stuck on the "voder" concept, but it never caught on. Hawking uses a different approach.

Books held to wall with magnets? Orientation not clear. Not spine out? Density or access issues, depending, it seems to me.

P.36 Oh look, a use for the voder (calling Ariel, his canary). And he misses a very good one later.

Baldur, Ariel, and their predecessors look to have been viewed as expendable when the experiments started, but Waldo seems to relate to them emotionally now.

P.37 Jimmie never remembers to ask about resident staff. The answer is zero, though, of course. He doesn't think of non-resident staff, though.

P.45 Jimmie's discussion with MacLeod, his assistant. No deference, quite a bit of snarling both ways.

P.46 and introducing Gramps Schneider!

The waving antennas may be partly to instantly sink the "spontaneous remission" theory. The de Kalb's didn't just start working again, they picked up this completely inexplicable behavior.

P.51 Possible manufacturing defect? Waldo makes no effort at epidemiology; he doesn't look for similarity or difference of production or use history of the affected de kalb receptors. (And they bear a man's name; do we ever hear what he did?)

P.55 nothing is certain. There's a reference earlier to the fall of quantum mechanics (they found a less-weird explanation); this sounds related to that.

P.56 Waldo calls Stevens while on the phone with Rambeau and Rambeau doesn't notice. Using the voder could have avoided the risk, and it's clearly a thing Waldo would do fairly often.

P.60 Waldo regards going to Earth as worse than death, and it must be a huge risk for him. But his evidence suggests that Schneider knows something, and apparently he has no belief that he can discover it himself. I note he doesn't think about other hex-doctors he might learn from.

17 years since he had been down.

P.67 Waldo makes his own coffee (from syrup extract). Slight hint about lack of staff.

P.69 Waldo had come in humility—and apparently knows it. Also something about teaching, which makes sense.

P.72 Waldo decides to take Schneider really seriously. Waldo may really be a genius, not just a clever engineer.

P.73 Accessing the Other World is a matter of mental outlook.

And we don't know how the brain works but it is laughable to think it's just the mechanics of colloids. Hate this mystic shit.

So people being tired and depressed was making their cars fail.

Weird history of mental influence on machines in sf, including thought as the only possible controller of this and that (Gunther drive in Smith's The Galaxy Primes (#2) for example), up to John M. Ford's Growing Up Weightless.

P.75 "Been some polio around." We miss the horror of that today.

I guess this is part of the outbreak of taking magic seriously in SF. That was a tactic across a lot of years. Subspace Explorers, Stranger in a Strange Land, Operation Chaos. Spread over enough time not to be an outbreak. Oh, Black Easter, though that's not quite the same thing.

P.76 modern many-valued rather than old-fashioned Spencerian two-valued logic. Have computers changed this story? Logic kind of means boolean algebra and the two valued nature is the whole point. At the same time, we recognize sheafs of probabilities more, but as a way of describing lack of knowledge.

"The evidence was overwhelming" Yeah? Since then we've pretty much shown all those things to be in fact nonsense.

P.80 making sure the sender is dead by partially disassembling it—this shows Waldo had long practice doing his own assembly and debugging, he doesn't trust even his own work. He didn't acquire that as a child, either, it had to come later. All his work as a child was turning designs over to pros.

P.81 neither he nor MacLeod said anything to Schneider about the caster part of the broadcast power system.

P.84 selling free and unlimited power. Damned capitalists. Also, he speculated on the Other World being inhabited, but now pays no attention to possible effects on those inhabitants. Also he mentions energy new to our universe (p.81) but doesn't mention imbalances or overheating.

P.86 Waldo does know free power has come, he just had a short-term need there.

P.89 so Waldo sets out to order the Other World as he wishes by power of mind. He had a preference for order.

P.90 Occupants of the Other World again, and no thought for their well-being. Apart from ethics, what are their powers?

Hey, aren't inhabitants of the other side the obvious explanation of demons? So, tradition of their existing, and powerful. (However, the entropy egg model is rather against inhabitants.)

P.92 Vivisection of a cat and a kitten. In a Heinlein book!!! Joel Rosenberg didn't allow cats in his universes because they were too dangerous for cats.

Maybe just one not two? The experimenting started on a kitten, which grew up?

P.102 The etiquette of fisticuffs, contemporary American. I never learned it either, it was out of fashion in my bubble. What little I learned is about self-defense, which is very different.

This is an interesting area of cultural change. I know quite a few people who, in hindsight, are very very glad they weren't ever actually attacked at school—because they would have taken the attack seriously, and defended themselves seriously, and thus very likely have done serious harm to their attacker. And the schools probably would have seen them as the ones misbehaving, for responding with excessive force. Apparently you're just supposed to let them hurt you? As I say, never did get any uderstanding of this etiquette, and I suspect it was very local—this bar, this small town, this school.

Waldo doesn't read much fiction, so has NO idea of human behavior.

P.104 Baldur appears right at the end, walking on his own on Earth. No idea about Ariel though. Waldo taught him to walk earlier—he was never weak, remember.

Magic, Inc.

First appeared in Unknown Fantasy Fiction (which Campbell edited) in Septempter 1940, and again wasn't republished until the 1950 Doubleday hardcover where it joined Waldo for, apparently, all time.

Page 105. We start with a classic Shakedown scenario familiar to mystery readers and uses that to introduce the magical economy at the same time.

P.106 Gun as cold iron. But hood was holding a knife, material not specified.

P.107 Building materials use less magic because durability is important.

P.108 Zadkiel Feldstein's religion of course prevents him from practicing magic. That half hints Christianity is just gone, too.

P.110 Laws of homeopathy and contiguity.

Lots of embedded war stories, all explaining magic and that society to us.

P.113 They make movies on that timeline! The water King's daughter.

With star Earl Carroll. That mean anything to anybody?

P.114 Magic carpet. Cruising by, like a taxi. It's then described as a taxi, and as a Cadillac. Just barely floating, "not 6 inches of the ground."

City ordinance against apportation, and that's surprising. Legacy of A messy accident.

P.115 There's a Baptist Church.

P.116 Biddle's suite is on the 14th floor. Renumbered 13th? Would that fool magic? Would it be seen as a good gesture?

P.119 Second new magician's association (earlier reference without details, Ditworth), this one not obviously criminal.

Biddle is in it and tries to charge a survey fee.

P.122 Magic is taught at the same places that are major universities now, with extra respect for Germany as in Glory Road. Not my experience in real life.

Jack Bodie, licensed magician first class, Harvard and Chicago, but really learned magic from his father.

And he refers them to Amanda "Granny" Jennings.

P.127 a sign like a long flat Z, with a loop in it, woven in and out of a Maltese Cross.

P.147 black men and their culture.

P.156 Practical politics and the regulation of magic, and the formation of a monopoly.

P.166 Prohibition never works in any field.

P.173 Ditworth is a demon! (No mirror image.)

P.178 All 48 States sewn up the same way. Demons don't have our temporal limitations.

Basically, the demons have pissed people off badly enough they're willing to take risks. I would think people in other states would be also; there might be a crowd in hell!

P.184 Custom governs in the half world, not physical law. The ideas about how the magical world could operate are probably some of the best world building around.

Eep! Amanda is going to face the old one directly rather than looking for the demon responsible. Going straight to the top!

P.185 Satan knows Amanda well, of course.

So they are reviewing 7 million demons. And find nothing. Only the highest ranks left.

They do find him, and the demons help them subdue him—their kind of Honor. Custom tops all. Or no, that demon is an undercover federal investigator. Now there's a high risk job.

[dd-b] [dd-b's books] [book log] [RSS] [sf] [mystery] [childhood] [nonfiction]
[dd-b] [site status] [pit]

David Dyer-Bennet