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"Watch out for stobor." (spoilers)

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Nick de Vera Anybody else get thrown by that? I read Tunnel in the Sky in high school, saw that sentence and click, ok, "robots" spelled backwards. Got to the explanation near the end and, ehh, what? No robots?


David Rose Yeah, me too. But I didn't mind because the story was so great! I'm a huge fan of Heinlein's earlier and middle period work, not so keen on the later ones except, maybe, Stranger in a Strange Land. And Friday.


Nick de Vera It baffles me because Heinlein's smarter than me, of course he knows stobor is robots backwards, it can't be unintentional, so why leave it in there if there aren't any robots?


David Rose I've always thought it was a joke. He was never shy about sharing his personal pov, so why not his sense of humour?


Phil Maybe it was a nod to Asimov and his robot stories.


Richard Irwin Near the middle (shortly before/after they get dumped) there is a reference to the teachers mentioning "stobor"- it meant, watch out for the unknown! I think robots backwards was just an RAH joke! There is no such creature as a "stobor"' until they find something bad that they decide is a stobor. There Would be "Something"- no one knew just What, though! Hope this helps clarify- it wasn't meant literally.


Nick de Vera "Rod, every planet has its 'stobor' . . . all different. Sometimes more than one sort." He stopped to tap his pipe. "You remember me telling the class that every planet has unique dangers, different from every other planet in the Galaxy?"

"Yes. . ."

"Sure, and it meant nothing, a mere intellectual concept. But you have to be afraid of the thing behind the concept, if you are to stay alive. So we personify it . . . but we don't tell you what it is. We do it differently each year. It is to warn you that the unknown and deadly can lurk anywhere . . . and to plant it deep in your guts instead of in your head."

So yeah, I did read the book all the way through. But young me was very proud of spotting the clever clue early on in the story, and still disappointed and baffled when it turned out to be a shaggy dog/red herring. Nonsense words cost nothing to make up, RAH could have had Deacon say Beware of Snarks or Boojums or Jabberwockys or any other made-up word. Let's break it down.

1. Stobor is quite definitely robots spelled backwards.
2. RAH is smarter than all of us put together, he absolutely certainly knew that stobor is robots backwards.

So it's a weird, inexplicable choice, definitely not unintentional, an unfunny joke that doesn't make sense, goes nowhere.


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