Today’s Birthday Boy 7/7

Who’s birthday is it today? Here are a couple of hints.

He copy-edited Niven and Pournelle’s A Mote In God’s Eye:

All that I suggest doing to the last half is a) cut as many words as possible, and b) search for places to insert essential featherdusting from pp 1–100, using any device appropriate—including dialogue, in narration, or as flashback. Both are tedious carpentry, neither is revision. Don’t change the story line at all—save that I hope that you will do something about p. 444. I suggest cutting with a ¼” feltpoint (which I use because it blots out completely and leaves no temptation to put it back in later—I use up 4 or 5 on every book MS)—use a feltpoint and cut to the bone…adjectives, adverbs, phrases, subordinate clauses, whole sentences, and sometimes paragraphs, anything that does not move the story line. Then do the whole tedious job over again. And again. And pass it back and forth between you to sweat out the last ounce of fat before you reach the starting gate…without eliminating any of the bone and lean.

He had Ray Bradbury do volunteer work for the Red Cross during WWII…

From Jerry Pournelle on Chaos Manor

Ray was of an age when he was required to take a physical examination for the World War II draft. The story is that he went to the physical and they said what’s the lowest line you can read on that eye chart, and Ray, blinking behind his thick glasses, said “What eye chart?” I can well believe it: I know for a fact that Ray could not recognize me from five feet away unless I spoke. He always remembered friends’ voices, but he could not recognize faces beyond a yard or so.

Ray later told [today’s birthday boy] about his military physical exam, and [he] is said to have said “You didn’t try hard enough.” I have no idea whether this is true – [today’s birthday boy] never told me that story – but it is a matter of public record that Bradbury did volunteer Red Cross work during the war.

By now you’ve probably guessed the answer.

Born 1907: Robert Anson Heinlein

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13 thoughts on “Today’s Birthday Boy 7/7

  1. I had it at “copy-edited Niven and Pournelle’s A Mote In God’s Eye.” I’ve read that before. I wish more authors would edit their books down these days. It’s a common thing for me to read a thick book today, and even I liked it, to think how much better it would have flowed if it had been cut down by a third or even sometimes by half.

    I’m a reasonably fast reader, but I don’t like reading dull and unnecessary filler.

  2. For JCW I think he’d have suggested simply dipping the manuscript in a barrel of ink.
    Followed by sealing the barrel and finding a job instead.

  3. I hadn’t realized his birth date was 7/7/07.

    In broad terms, Heinlein was a young contemporary of my grandparents. He was born into a USA where agriculture still the dominant employer. He read World War I as contemporary events in the newspaper, if he read the paper as a boy. He lived through all the great transformations of material life which characterized the first 60 years of the American Century. I’m just digging into the Bill Patterson biography.

  4. I recall that he and Asimov, as well as others, worked for the military–in Philadelphia? I don’t remember the details.

  5. Repeat, less sarcasm: given Heinlein didn’t man up enough to overcome his health issues and fight overseas, from what lofty perspective did he then criticize other people’s service?

  6. I thought Heinlein had tried repeatedly to return to active duty and was turned down.

  7. Apparently being nearly blind wasn’t enough to get Bradbury off the hook so how did Heinlein justify being an REMF merely because RAH was a tubercular petri dish?

  8. @James Nicoll: Never fear, the sarcasm was not missed. The Kirkus article says that Heinlein requested a return to active duty after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Navy turned him down.

    Still from Kirkus: the Navy needed engineers to create aircraft in Philadelphia. That’s a solid contribution in a total-mobilization war, in my book. “Assistant Mechanical Engineers” (Heinlein’s job title) who are also retired naval officers don’t grow on trees.

  9. Heinlein didn’t use his TB to justify not returning to the Navy; he was frustrated that TB ended his naval career for what he considered an unjustified reason, especially after WWII started. He didn’t blame his TB for his failure to serve in the war; he blamed Naval bureaucracy.

    The reality, as Ken pointed out, is that Heinlein did the war service the Navy wanted from him, rather than what he wanted. Blaming or mocking him for it is bizarre.

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