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 Crèche. 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 Idaho—before 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.