Petronius the cat provided the initial hook, having been a key consideration for Daniel Boone Davis, Heinlein’s protagonist in his tale of The Door Into Summer. Petronius made me laugh right out loud, playing the penultimate Tom Cat whilst still embodying the essence of the cat-human connection that I, too, share with my feline friend Bubba.
Then came the question of Heinlein’s portrayal of women, his images of the not always so much fairer gender, echoes of angry feminism sounded through a young male friend who rather timidly admitted his love of Heinlein despite having been informed of the man’s sexist and unacceptably male perspective on life. While some of Heinlein’s adventures in incest over the years disturbed me just a titch, for the most part, I find no great fault with his portrayal of women and male female relationships; certainly not in his Door Into Summer.
Belle, the bitch, is a character that I imagine some women might find offensive. Hell, I imagine lots of men would find her to be pretty offensive, too. She is pretty offensive. Lots of women are. She’s also extremely intelligent and apparently quite sexy. She uses all of those characteristics is ways that are kind of awful. Lots of women do. Heinlein did not invent something new with the character. Nor did he in any way denigrate the feminine in her portrayal, or in the role she played in the book.
If anything, he denigrated the masculine. Dan was enthralled by Belle and her big boobs. While the book was written in an era and for an audience that did not permit explicit sexual content, it’s pretty clear that Belle bedded her boys and made them her slaves. I imagine that was a pretty effective life strategy for lots of women during that era, when sex was so much more constrained than it is today. That our hero, a very smart man, an inventive genius, an engineer, is so completely taken in and taken over by “the weaker sex” certainly takes nothing away from the feminine. Not unless one has all sorts of defensive triggers about such things.
But the next big hook of the book, the time jump, it kind of grabbed me, too. I was so tickled that the book was a futuristic version of my past. I liked revisiting 1970, that year I turned 11, and wanted to see how the jump to 2000 would go. Dan was going into cold storage, he wanted to escape his world gone wrong, even made plans to take Pete the cat along with him. I so grokked that. There were just a few things Dan needed to take care of before he left, and one of those things was the girl.
Not Belle the Bitch. No, it was Fredericka, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the girl who was 11 years old in 1970, just like me. She was a kid who loved the Jungle Book, just like me. Heinlein didn’t lust after her, and it fact made it very clear that he did not lust after her. His love of her was purer than sexual love. Ricky was just “it”; fun, innocent, full of smarts and idealism and energy and potential. She was the only other person who had a great relationship with Petronius, an orphaned child who happened to end up in the care of Dan’s friend and business partner. It was Ricky, the character modeled after Heinlein’s own wife Virginia, the sacred feminine sans the sacred sexuality of it.
How any woman could find that to be offensive is beyond me.
Yes, Ricky was such an innocent that she wanted to marry 30 year old Dan. Girls start thinking about such things early in life, or at least I know I and my girlfriends did. My first engagement was to Kevin Monoghan at age 5. Dan did not take such things seriously, but since he loved the child, he played along. She called him Uncle. She didn’t know about sex and he connected sex with Belle, the woman who used it against him so brutally.
Ricky didn’t turn 41 in Y2K like I did. She did a sleep of her own and stayed young, just like Dan did. She fell in love as an idealistic child and had the good fortune of having the love of her life disappear into a deep sleep. She didn’t have to live the reality of life with Dan, at least not until the end of the story.
Of course Dan didn’t have to live the reality of life with Ricky, either. Partnerships take at least two, something that Dan learned the hard way in his search for the Door Into Summer. He and Pete had a great one, and Dan’s time jumping involved taking care of all of those he loved, Pete and Ricky and even himself. His relationships that were sex centered didn’t work out so well for him. He was no less captivated by them. After he worked things out and made things right, he didn’t find any need at all to punish Belle the bitch. Go figure.
But it was the last hook really brought a smile to my face, though: my time jumping friend Leonardo.
Dan’s time jump to the future was an easy little trip into the biological realms of science fiction. Cool a body down, slow its metabolism to a near-dead stop, and one can “travel” into the future. His jump back (he does a few jumps) requires movement beyond the biological into the realms of physics and gravity fields and ways of going and knowing that require leaps beyond my grasp of science and its understanding of the cosmos. That’s okay. The story is a good one.
The first guy to try the gravitation time travel was named Leonard. Leonard Vincent. While Ricky might have been modeled after Heinlein’s wife Virginia, he himself the engineer would have definitely been attracted to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci, a man whose ideas were hundreds of years “ahead of his time”. And really, it’s perfect.
Perhaps next time I'm snowed in, I’ll do more Heinlein. Perhaps I’ll see if I can find what angers some women about his writing. I know I loved Stranger in a Strange Land, it spoke to me way back when. Perhaps I'll skip winter altogether this year pack up Bubba and head out looking for that Door Into Summer, and being 11 years old and childhood dreams of bright futures.
It’s my story, after all, and only I can write it.