The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This collection of short stories examines aspects of a potential human future as Robert Heinlein envisioned it in his Future History. The term “future history” was first used to describe Heinlein’s work by John W. Campbell, Jr., editor of Astounding Science-Fiction (which became Analog in 1960).

This 830-page book contains twenty short stories and ends with the novelette Methuselah’s Children (1958; serial form, 1941). “Misfit” (1939), an example of Heinlein’s earliest work, is the story of the early career of the mathematical genius Andrew Libby, who appears again in Methuselah’s Children, the story of the formation of the Howard Families Foundation for the promotion of long life. The Howard Families are a genetic breeding experiment that works. Because of the success of their breeding program, the families must hijack a spaceship and escape persecution from the normal-lived inhabitants of Earth by fleeing the solar system. Methuselah’s Children is the precursor to Time Enough for Love (1973) and is the closing piece of this future history collection.

The first story in the collection, and Heinlein’s first published story, is “Life-Line” (1939). It examines what would happen to commerce and society if it were possible to predict anyone’s date and time of death. This story acts as an introduction to the concept of science fiction as future history and introduces a...

(The entire section is 484 words.)

The Past Through Tomorrow Bibliography

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Aldiss, Brian. Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction. New York: Atheneum, 1986.

Franklin, H. Bruce. Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980.

Gifford, J. Daniel. Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader’s Companion. Sacramento, Calif.: Nitrosyncretic Press, 2000.

McGiveron, Rafeeq O. “Heinlein’s Inhabited Solar System, 1940-1952.” Science-Fiction Studies 23 (July, 1996): 245-252.

Nicholls, Peter. “Robert A. Heinlein.” In Science Fiction Writers: Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day, edited by E. F. Bleiler. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982.

Olander, Joseph D., and Martin Harry Greenberg, eds. Robert A. Heinlein. New York: Taplinger, 1978.

Panshin, Alexei. Heinlein in Dimension. 1968. Reprint. Chicago: Advent, 1974.

Patterson, William H., Jr., and Andrew Thronton. The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land.” Citrus Heights, Calif.: Nitrosyncretic Press, 2001.

Stephens, Christopher P., comp. A Checklist of Robert A. Heinlein. Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Ultramarine, 1994.

Stover, Leon. Robert Heinlein. Boston: Twayne, 1987.