Future History

:"This article is about Robert A. Heinlein's "Future History" series. For other future histories, see Future history."

The "Future History", by Robert A. Heinlein, describes a projected future of the human race from the middle of the 20th century through the early 23rd century. The term "Future History" was coined by John W. Campbell, Jr. in the February 1941 issue of "Astounding Science Fiction". Campbell published an early draft of Heinlein's chart of the series in the March 1941 issue. [http://members.tripod.com/templetongate/rahchart.htm]

Heinlein wrote most of the "Future History" stories early in his career, between 1939-1941 and between 1945-1950. Most of the "Future History" stories written prior to 1967 are collected in "The Past Through Tomorrow", which also contains the final version of the chart. That collection does not include "Universe" and "Common Sense"; they were published separately as "Orphans of the Sky".

The "Future History" was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series in 1966, along with the "Barsoom" series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the "Lensman" series by E. E. Smith, the "Foundation" series by Isaac Asimov and "The Lord of the Rings" series by J. R. R. Tolkien, but lost to Asimov's "Foundation" series. [ cite book | last = Asimov | first = Isaac | authorlink = Isaac Asimov | title = I. Asimov: A Memoir | date = 1994 | month = April | id = ISBN 0-553-56997-X ]


For the most part, "The Past Through Tomorrow" defines a core group of stories that are clearly within the Future History category. However, Heinlein scholars generally agree that some stories not included in the anthology belong to the Future History category, and that some included are only weakly linked to it.

James Gifford [ cite web | last = Gifford | first = James | title = The RAH FAQ | date = 2005-03-29 | url = http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/rah/rahfaq.html | accessdate = 2006-09-18; Gifford, Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion, 2000, p. 11-16 ] adds "Time Enough for Love", which was published after "The Past Through Tomorrow", and also "Let There Be Light", which was not included in "The Past Through Tomorrow", possibly because the collection editor disliked it or because Heinlein himself considered it to be inferior. However, he considers "Time Enough for Love" to be a borderline case. He considers "The Number of the Beast", "The Cat Who Walks Through Walls", and "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" to be too weakly linked to the Future History to be included.

Bill Patterson [usenet posting on rec.arts.sf.written, 10/19/06 07:15, "Re: definition of Heinlein's Future History"] includes "To Sail Beyond the Sunset", on the theory that the discrepancies between it and the rest of the Future History are explained by assigning it to the same "bundle of related timelines" in the World as Myth multiverse. However, he lists a number of stories that he believes were never really intended to be part of Future History, even though they were included in "The Past Through Tomorrow": "Life-Line" (which was written before Heinlein published the Future History chart), "The Menace from Earth," "We Also Walk Dogs," and the stories originally published in the "Saturday Evening Post" ("Space Jockey," "It's Great to Be Back!," "The Green Hills of Earth," and "The Black Pits of Luna"). He agrees with Gifford that "Let There Be Light" should be included. The story "—And He Built a Crooked House—" was included only in the pre-war chart, and never since.

The Heinlein juveniles do not hew closely to the Future History outline. Gifford states that "Although the twelve juvenile novels are not completely inconsistent with the Future History, neither do they form a thorough match with that series for adult readers. It is not often recognized that they are a reasonably consistent 'Future History' of their own... At least one major story specified in the Future History chart, the revolution on Venus, ended up being told in the framework of the juveniles as "Between Planets"." [Gifford, Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion, 2000, p. 24] The novel "Variable Star", written by Spider Robinson from Heinlein's detailed outline, incorporates some elements of both the Future History (e.g., references to Nehemiah Scudder) and the universe of the Heinlein juveniles (e.g., torch ships and faster-than-light telepathic communication between twins). The adult short story "The Long Watch," generally considered to be a Future History story, connects to "Space Cadet" through the character of (John) Ezra Dahlquist, the central character of the first, memorialized in the second. [Gifford, p. 116]


The following is a chronology of the "Future History". Years are included (where known) to indicate when each story takes place within the narrative timeline. Stories that were planned but never written are noted; see explanatory comments below.

*Life-Line (1939 in the original published version, 1951 in book collections)
*"Let There Be Light" (soon after "Life-Line"):"Word Edgewise" (Never written)
*The Roads Must Roll
*Blowups Happen
*The Man Who Sold the Moon
*Delilah and the Space Rigger
*Space Jockey
*The Long Watch (1999)
*Gentlemen, Be Seated!
*The Black Pits of Luna
*"It's Great to Be Back!"
*"—We Also Walk Dogs"
*Ordeal in Space
*The Green Hills of Earth:"Fire Down Below" (Never written)
*Logic of Empire
*The Menace from Earth:"The Sound of His Wings" (Never written):"Eclipse" (Never written):"The Stone Pillow" (Never written)
*"If This Goes On—"
*Universe (prologue only) (2119)
*"Methuselah's Children" (2136-2210)
*Universe (~3500)
*Common Sense (~3500)
*"Time Enough for Love" (4272- and earlier time periods)
*"To Sail Beyond the Sunset"

tories never written

The chart published in the collection "Revolt in 2100" includes several unwritten stories, which Heinlein describes in a postscript. "Fire Down Below," about a revolution in Antarctica, would have been set in the early 21st century. Three more unwritten stories fill in the history from just before "Logic of Empire" in the early 21st century through the beginning of "If This Goes On—". "The Sound Of His Wings" covers Nehemiah Scudder's early life as a television evangelist through his rise to power as the First Prophet. "Eclipse" describes independence movements on Mars and Venus. "The Stone Pillow" details the rise of the resistance movement from the early days of the theocracy through the beginning of "If This Goes On—".

These stories were key points in the Future History, so Heinlein gave a rough description of Nehemiah Scudder which made his reign easy to visualize—a combination of John Calvin, Girolamo Savonarola, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, and Huey Long. His rise to power began when one of his flock, the widow of a wealthy man who would have disapproved of Scudder, died and left him enough money to establish a television station. He then teamed up with an ex-Senator and hired a major advertising agency. He was soon famous even off-world—many bonded laborers on Venus saw him as a messianic figure. He had muscle as well—a recreation of the Ku Klux Klan in everything but name. "Blood at the polls and blood in the streets, but Scudder won the election. The next election was never held". Though this period was integral to the human diaspora that would follow several hundred years later, Heinlein stated that he was never able to write them because they featured Scudder prominently; he "dislike(d) him too thoroughly".


External links

* [http://www.troynovant.com/Franson/Heinlein/Future-History.html A review of the Future History by Robert Wilfred Franson]
* [http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Corridor/8611/rah2.htm A timeline of the Future History by Alberto Monteiro]
* [http://members.tripod.com/templetongate/rahfuture.htm A review of the Future History by Galen Strickland at The Templeton Gate]
* [http://members.tripod.com/templetongate/rahchart.htm A copy of the timeline of the Future History published in The Past Through Tomorrow at The Templeton Gate]

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