Waldo and Magic, Inc. Critical Essays

Robert A. Heinlein


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Both novellas deal with the relation of magic to science. Magic is science in one; magic is a different aspect of the same material continuum in the other. “Magic, Inc.” is the less complex novella. Heinlein places his reader, without explanation, in a world where one key element is changed in relation to the known world: Magic is unquestioned in every aspect of life. Magic, as a means of performing tasks, is first and foremost a commodity. It can be subject to regulation or made a matter of free use, which, for Heinlein’s Everyman protagonist Archie, means responsible use. If this story is an indication, Heinlein’s cosmogony does not include a Satan, or even demoniac hordes bent on using evil magic to destroy humanity. When Archie’s cohorts take their fight against Magic, Inc. to the legislature, they get nowhere. In the underworld, they find an analogous legislative chamber, equally governed by respect for a constitutionally guaranteed balance and order. In that world, as in reality, certain elements arise that seek to monopolize the process. Heinlein celebrates individual resolve and due process of constitutional law in this story.

“Waldo” is far more intricate. It qualifies as a genuine philosophical tale. Throughout his long career, Heinlein grappled with the mind-body problem. Recognizing this duality—typified perhaps by the stigma of original sin and the Fall—as the source of the major impediment to human evolution, Heinlein strives to resolve it by reforging a dynamic bond between the brain and its functioning “home,” the physical body in which it was born. In Heinlein’s later works incorporating Lazarus Long, the...

(The entire section is 678 words.)