Message from discussion "John Thomas" and Dalgliesh
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Subject: Re: "John Thomas" and Dalgliesh
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On 7 Sep., 05:54, Chris Zakes <donti...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, 6 Sep 2012 17:46:05 +0000 (UTC), =A0an orbital mind-control
> laser caused mstem...@walkabout.empros.com (Michael Stemper) to write:
> >In article <d796a201-2882-43b8-98be-71611f978...@ql4g2000pbc.googlegroup=
s.com>, bpral22...@aol.com writes:
> >>On Jul 22, 11:49=3DA0am, Joel Polowin <jpolo...@hotmail.com> wrote:
> >>> I've heard a number of times that Heinlein was intentionally slipping
> >>> a dirty joke past Alice Dalgliesh when he named _The Star Beast_'s
> >>> protagonist "John Thomas". =3DA0Is there any documentation of that,
> >>> such as a letter or a note in his files?
> >>Heinlein definitely did bury gimmicks like that in his texts: =A0in a
> >>1965 letter he wrote: =A0"In another book (Tunnel in the Sky, 1955) I
> >>used a Negro boy as my hero -- but never mentioned his skin color and
> >>buried the proof like clues in a detective story =A0Intentionally.
> The version *I* recall is that, in replying to a fan letter accusing
> him of being a racist, Heinlein pointed out that he had a Negro hero
> in "Tunnel", but didn't specify the hero's gender. I've always taken
> that to mean Caroline Mshiyeni, not Rod Walker.
> Is there another, more specific letter, because there's a fair bit of
> evidence suggesting that Rod *wasn't* Negro.
> =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 -Chris Zakes
> =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 Texas
> Overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out.
> =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 =A0 -Arthur C. Clarke, "The Nine Billion Name=
s of God"
Heinein mentioned it only a few times, for the reason that if it
became widely realized, it would have subjected him to a very
inconvenient persecution. So far as I can tell, Miss Dalgliesh never
indicated whether she was as annoyed as Heinlein believes (but her
archivist has been in touch recently, and we'll see if she wrote to
someone else about it) -- but she did write things that indicate she
was sensitive to the possible impact on sales of a racially
heterogenous book. In reference to Tunnel in specific, she had
already worried that the vague implication that Australia had been
overrun by Asians might adversely affect sales in the Commonwealth.
The quotation I posted is rhe dispositive one for Rod being black..
(I don't think you can reasonaby construe him as saying that Caroline
Mshiyeni might have been the "hero" of the story -- In the simplified
story format of those juveniles, "hero" has to mean "viewpoint
character" (that is the character the story centers around) in the
parlance in use in the 1950's when he was doing them.) I don't think
there could have been any "smoking gun" for this, the way Starship
Troopers has, at the very end, a smoking gun for Johnny Rico being a
Filipino, given the mores of the time.
What is notable about the names in the classes of Tunnel is that it
implies a mix of race/cultural types that would have been quite
startling in the 1950's. In the world of America up to the 1960's,
(a) schools were still segregated; (b) there hadn't been quite so much
moving around yet, and there tended to be for any given locale _one_
minority that was the focus of community loathing (for my father, for
instance, who was born in 1932, in rural Missouri, it was "hunkies" --
Hungarians). Curiously, there were others, but they tended not to be
much on the radar.