Critical Overview

(Short Stories for Students)

While Heinlein has long been considered the ‘‘dean of science fiction,’’ some critics debate whether or not ‘‘Waldo’’ is really a work of science fiction. For example, Charles N. Brown, in his introduction to the 1979 edition of Waldo and Magic, Inc., maintained that ‘‘Waldo’’ is obviously a work of fantasy by the inclusion of details like the following: ‘‘aircars that look like broomsticks. When Waldo shouts, ‘Magic is loose in the world!’ he is not being facetious. The power failures turn out to be caused by people worrying; the solution is to believe and be able to tap the power of the ‘other world.’’’

While Brown is certain that ‘‘Waldo’’ is a work of fantasy, Alexei Panshin in Heinlein in Dimension, claimed that ‘‘I am certain that ‘Waldo’ is a science fiction story rather than a fantasy story.’’ Panshin suggests that the very scientific way that Waldo goes about solving his technological problems, and even their magical solution, make the story more science fiction than fantasy. Bruce Franklin, in his Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction, claims that Heinlein is preoccupied by ‘‘two quite contradictory conceptions of the relations between mind and matter. On one side he has faith in science and technology. . . . On the other side, he rejects science and embraces wishful thinking, the direct, unfettered immediate...

(The entire section is 554 words.)