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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Analysis of "Columbus Was a Dope" by Robert A. Heinlein

First appeared in Startling Stories, reprinted by Isaac Asimov, Groff Conklin, Frederik Pohl, Carol Pohl, Peter Haining, Martin Greenberg.

A short tale with an effective gut-punch for a finale.

At a bar, Barnes, a "fat man" who drinks old-fashioneds, harangues a starship builder for this hair-brained multi-generational scheme, doomed to fail.  Heinlein gives him a convincing if sketchy argument (it could have used a few more supporting details).  He suggests Columbus was a dope for leaving home.

The bartender says the world needs explorers--naysayers of Kitty Hawk are dragged out on the table as evidence for fools against progress--and (spoiler) the bartender's happy to live on the moon.

Fools against progress have been numerous throughout history, and the story does a fine job convincing the reader of the desire if not the necessity of humanity's next steps.

The naysayer here is fat--perhaps too easy a target--but the old-fashioneds are a nice touch.  Rubbing shoulders with "By His Bootstraps", the frictional energy might lead us to think the future presses on, with or without us.  In "The Menace of Earth", more of the moon's technology is on display, making Barnes look more the fool in the reader's eyes.  The title, like many stories here, are meant the opposite of what they say.

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