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Book Of the Month Discussion > May 2015 - Siblings -- Podkayne of Mars -- spoilers allowed

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message 1: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 2158 comments Mod
Free discussion of any element.

message 2: by mobius (new)

mobius wolf (mobiuswolf) | 75 comments Huh... I thought Poddy was last month's. I just rushed to finish it yesterday.

The copy I got has both endings, which I had never seen before.

message 3: by Joanne G. (new)

Joanne G. (joannegd) | 2 comments Thanks for letting me join. I'm busy reading Hugo material, so I may opt out for a month or so.

message 4: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 2158 comments Mod
mobius wrote: "Huh... I thought Poddy was last month's. I just rushed to finish it yesterday.

The copy I got has both endings, which I had never seen before."

Yeah, it can be a bit hard to juggle the months.

But you're ready to discuss freely. 0:)

message 5: by mobius (new)

mobius wolf (mobiuswolf) | 75 comments I actually liked the original ending better, though they weren't so different. It was a bit of a jolt to lose the MC, but I like to be surprised.

message 6: by Will (new)

Will (wlinden) | 49 comments Is the "orignal" ending anywhere online?

message 7: by Jerry (new)

Jerry (capvideo) | 37 comments Poddy definitely has a way with words. “I don’t dare ask him because of the remote possibility that he might tell me.”

I also wryly enjoyed Mrs. Garcia complaining about how Mars should have been left primitive and beautiful rather than commercialized. Some complaints about other people’s progress are apparently timeless.

message 8: by Jerry (new)

Jerry (capvideo) | 37 comments I have the second ending in mine. It was a jolt, but mostly that, imo of course, the quality of writing seemed to drop heavily on that last page. Uncle Tom’s rant against the parents seemed way out of place, and other than mentioning it in passing, Heinlein makes no use of the 20-minute delay; the argument doesn’t sound any different than a non-delayed one.

Other than that, the writing elsewhere was phenomenal; I didn’t mind that nothing was really happening, and all we were getting was the diary of a precocious and manipulative teen.

message 9: by Sheryl (new)

Sheryl Tribble | 72 comments Will:

The original ending is identical up to, "It cuts off there. So we don't know whom she loved.

"Everybody maybe."

Then it ends with one more paragraph:

"Mr. Cunha made them hold the Tricorn and now Uncle Tom and I are on our way again. The baby fairy is still alive and Dr Torland says it doesn't have radiation sickness. I call it "Ariel" and I guess I'll be taking care of it a long time; they say these fairies live as long as we do. It is taking to shipboard life all right but it gets lonely and has to be held and cuddled or it cries."


My copy had both endings as well. I don't like either ending, because to me they both feel contrived. Poddy going back for the baby fairy didn't seem out of character, but losing the tracker did. Particularly the way Clark implies she lost it, "between the gun and her purse and the baby fairy and the tracker she must have dropped it in the bog."

Poddy knew full well her life depended on that tracker, and anyone of sense would have abandoned the gun and the purse if they put the tracker at risk. Poddy was noble-reckless, not stupid-reckless, and there's nothing noble about choosing the gun or the purse over the tracker.

Not that Poddy losing the tracker was completely out of the realm of possibilities, but coming from an author who'd written Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, The Door Into Summer and any number of other novels I had read where the heroes overcome insane odds with ridiculous ease, Poddy losing the tracker and therefore getting killed/severely wounded seemed contrived.

Heinlein's letter to Lurton Bassingame doesn't help any. Why should the reader -- in particular, a reader of Heinlein's past works -- assume that Poddy's dream of being a space ship captain is "a preposterous ambition"? It wouldn't have been a preposterous ambition for a guy, and certainly Poddy's mother has achieved spectacularly in what appear to be traditionally male fields, so why should the reader assume Poddy's ambition is utterly absurd?

I actually agree with Heinlein that people who have kids have a responsibility to them that should be more important than a career, but what we mostly see of Poddy's mother is her being "atavistically maternal," which rather undercuts the message that she's a particularly neglectful parent. I didn't think she was a great parent, true, but I've seen far worse.

message 10: by Jerry (new)

Jerry (capvideo) | 37 comments In the context of this story, I think it would have been a preposterous ambition for a boy as much as for a girl. First, there are only a handful of spaceship captains and becoming one is going to be heavily dependent on chance and probably connections. But, mainly, being a spaceship captain is not a reasonable ambition in the same sense that being CEO of one of the top 10 businesses is not a reasonable ambition. Loving the skills of business and being the best businessperson you can, that’s a reasonable ambition.

As we see in the story, Podkayne isn’t really enamored of the skills of being a spaceship captain. She just wants to be one, and studies them only for that reason.

My sense of this book is that Heinlein was trying to write what would really happen if two precocious kids with unreasonable ambitions found themselves in a space adventure. The answer is that they’d probably die, precocious or not.

I agree about the loss of the tracker. It's the kind of thing that makes more sense as the start of an adventure than the end of one. I don’t even think it was necessary for the ending Heinlein wanted. Which makes me continue to wonder a bit about why he wrote it that way.

message 11: by Sheryl (new)

Sheryl Tribble | 72 comments Jerry;
Only one person among hundreds of millions becomes president, but for some, the first step on that journey is the determination to become one. I’d be very surprised if Bill Clinton wasn’t aiming for the Presidency from the day he shook John F. Kennedy’s hand, if not before.

I do agree with you that Podkayne isn't cut out to be a spaceship captain, but since few kids are realistic about their own abilities at her age, that alone doesn't make her ambition preposterous to me.

My sense of this book is that Heinlein was trying to write what would really happen if two precocious kids with unreasonable ambitions found themselves in a space adventure. The answer is that they’d probably die, precocious or not.

Yah, the only way I can enjoy this book as a whole is reading it as kind of as an ironic commentary on some of the stuff his characters pull in other books. And I think it works pretty well from that mindset.

But that is not where Heinlein was coming from. Heinline compares the book to Romeo and Juliet -- "it took the deaths of Romeo and Juliet to show the families Montague and Capulet what dammed fools they were being. Poddy's death (it seems to me) is similarly indispensible to this story. The true tragedy in this story lies in the character of the mother, the highly successful career woman who wouldn't take time to raise her own kids -- and thereby let her son grow up an infantile monster, no real part of the human race and indifferent to the wellbeing of others... until the death of his sister, under circumstances which lay on him a guilt he can never shake off, gives some prospect that he is not going to grow up."

But Poddy's somewhat foolish devotion to the young fairy causes her demise; if her mother's devotion to her career is a tragic flaw, so is Poddy's devotion to an animal only twice as intelligent as a cat! He wanted to show the reader "that the only basic standard for an adult is the welfare of the young" and that, “death is the only destination for all of us and that the only long-range hope for any adult lies in the young,” but for me the story constantly undercuts that message.

I read the rewrite initially, which bangs you over the head with this theme through Uncle Tom’s scold to the kids’ dad, and it’s always rung false to me.

message 12: by Jerry (new)

Jerry (capvideo) | 37 comments Sheryl, for your presidential example, I’d argue that this plays to Heinlein’s point (assuming for the moment that my guess as to his point is correct, an assumption I am very unsure of); that Young Clinton’s ambition to be President very likely was extremely similar to Podkayne’s desire to be Starship Captain: that he wanted to be it rather than do it, and this is why he was a poor choice for one.

I also didn’t see Podkayne’s going back for the cute fairy creature as undercutting the “moral”. She was only fifteen years old. Cuteness mattered a lot to her, and she didn’t have any sense of her own mortality; she’s a sheltered kid who wants to be a Spaceship Captain.

That said, I absolutely agree with you about Uncle Tom’s scolding. It rings false not just on the social aspects, but on the character aspects (it’s so far outside of Uncle Tom’s character up to that point) and on the technical aspects. There’s a twenty minute delay between what Uncle Tom says and what Poddy’s father says, and yet this is a heated argument just like any other where people are saying things they wouldn’t likely say, certainly not in the same manner, if they just were forced to think about it. I can’t come up with any way of making sense of the rewrite ending.

If it weren’t for Heinlein telling us that he agrees with Tom, I’d almost be inclined to think that Uncle Tom is your typical politician, royally screwing things up and then blaming someone else who wasn’t there! With Heinlein showing us that even nice politicians can’t be trusted.

After reading the portion of Heinlein’s letter you quote, I was reminded of the Bartledanian novels that Arthur reads in Mostly Harmless, because the parental lack of supervision seemed such a trivial side note in the beginning of the book.

He had just read an entire book in which the main character had, over the course of a week, done some work in his garden, played a great deal of netball, helped mend a road, fathered a child on his wife and then unexpectedly died of thirst just before the last chapter. In exasperation Arthur had combed his way back through the book and in the end had found a passing reference to some problem with the plumbing in Chapter 2. And that was it. So the guy dies. It just happens.

Replace “plumbing” with “parental care” and that’s pretty much Podkayne of Mars, with the rewrite ending. I enjoyed Heinlein’s writing a lot in this book, excepting the final part of the final chapter, and didn’t mind that nothing really happened until the end because getting there was enjoyable. But I do think the rewrite ending was simply bad writing all around, and that the original (non-rewrite) ending was a much better choice.

For one thing, if the original ending had been kept, I would be left with my fantasy that this was a story about the silliness of plucky child heroes.

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