You did it right, cobber!
I just finished reading Variable Star. I've been waiting for this day since you first sent the news--and I had to write and tell you--it's everything I hoped for!
It has elements of a classic Heinlein juvie--but with all the maturity of his later novels. It has the dark, somber, urgent warnings that Heinlein rarely indulged (but which he was too honest to sugarcoat or ignore), yet it sustains an unconquerable hope that is the hallmark of any Spider tale. It is a true collaboration--created across time. It is, in every possible sense of the phrase, death-defying.
I laughed out loud at times--Lawrence Cott and Perry Jarnell! (I had dinner with them the night they
received their Heinlein awards). And I mourned in Chapter 17, when all seemed lost. And even though I
knew you would leave us with hope, you didn't soften the tragedy--you showed us the true horror and
despair--absolutely essential--and kicked our butts with all the Admiral's authority ordering us "To the
It will take a few days to come off the high.
I'll be writing a review for The Heinlein Society, and I want to write a paper for the Popular Culture
Association and the SF academic journals. But tonight, I'll be sailing beyond the sunset with a new novel by my two favorite visionaries.
Thank you for fulfilling the dream, so magnificently. This was such a marvelous and unanticipated gift!
Jeanne is so blessed. Give her my love and thanks for sharing such joy with us.
Bowling Green, Ky
Marie is a noted Heinlein scholar and critic, whom I consider both intelligent AND smart; her RAH bibliography was definitive for some time. I value her opinion highly, and am warmed by her words.
I just finished VARIABLE STAR and I was blown away. If Mr. Robinson's name had not been on the cover, I would have fully accepted it as a lost RAH novel, other than a few references that weren't in the language when RAH died. The content was slightly more adult, but no more adult than I'd expect to see RAH write if he was still around in the 21st century.
The many, many references to Future History almost made me weep. And while the nova caught me totally by surprise, I instantly remembered "World as Myth" and knew this was not the universe of Lazarus Long but likely an analog where "Year of the Jackpot" took place. Is there any chance of a sequel?
When I wrote a few days ago, I forgot to mention I named my boy cat Heinlein (my girl is McCaffrey) so if I ever get another kitten, he'll probably be Spider.
Variable Star arrived in the mail a week or so ago, and either I've been out of touch, or I somehow forgot you were doing it, but I was very surprised when it arrived. Two of my favorite authors, and even better, NEW Heinlein. I jumped it to the top of my to-read pile, and just finished it today. I was bummed several years ago, when I realized I had read all of Heinlein's novels. So reading this was definitely a bittersweet experience: the one additional Heinlein novel I hadn't read, and yet quite definitely the last I'll read (for the first time).
It was wonderful! Thank you so much for writing it. I liked your comment about wanting to read a new Heinlein even if you had to write it -- I got that joy without writing it. There are lines that felt completely like
Heinlein had written them... except they refer to things that happened after he died, so you must have written them. You were definitely channeling him in sections. And yet there was so much of you in the book that it was like a duet of masters. But the novel itself had me so caught up in it that it wasn't until the third reference to the Prophet that I realized you meant Scudder. Then the other references to Heinlein's
universe came through loud and clear (I did get Leslie LeCroix on the first mention), though after the mention of the New Frontiers, I thought I was going to read a tie-in to the Howard families.
That's why the explosion of Sol threw me so much. I couldn't work it into the framework of the Heinlein universe. But now I've decided it fits perfectly into the world-as-myth; it exploded when Heinlein himself died (damn the calendars).
Can it truly be 115,000 words long? I thought it was a very short novel that I was merely savoring, knowing it would be the last. It was a very quick, easy read (as I remember Heinlein's others are).
Thanks, again, for writing it for us. You did a great job.
Ian Randal Strock, News Editor
Chronicle: SF, Fantasy, & Horror's Monthly Trade Journal
1380 East 17 Street, Suite 210
Brooklyn, New York 11230-6011
I have just finished reading “Robert Heinlein’s Variable Star by Spider Robinson.” A mouthful, to be sure, but worth every letter.
When asked (which is rare), I usually name Robert Heinlein as my favorite author overall, and Spider Robinson as my favorite still working, so when news of their “collaboration” broke I was, well, giddy. I did have mixed feelings, though, about whether Spider’s style would mesh well with Heinlein’s story. Would Spider just write “a Heinlein story”, would he take Robert’s plot & do his own twisted thing with it? Would the result be better than the sum of the parts, or an unholy mess? As it turns out, I worry too much.
This novel should be the example held forth when writers collaborate. Spider has perfectly captured the pacing, feel and stature of a Robert Heinlein story while retaining his own identity. It doesn’t feel like someone trying to “write like Heinlein”, but like someone who’s read every book the man’s written so many times it’s second nature.
As for the story itself, it is indeed classic Heinlein. The young, talented protagonist, the strong, intelligent female(s), the “life on board” sequences…all things we’ve seen before. And yet, it’s all new. My feelings of déjà vu vanished quickly as I became engrossed in the life of Joel Johnston. Spider was able to reproduce Heinlein’s penchant for telling us the classic tale of a boy running away to join the circus without feeling like we’ve seen that show already. At first glance there seems to be less of the hard science than usual, but really Heinlein only told us as much as we needed to know to keep the story moving; Spider does the same here and even points it out with his numerous comments about what really goes on inside the Relativistic Drive—we don’t know, because they don’t. Simple, logical and has nothing to do with the man behind the curtain…
The one thing that separates “Variable Star” from other Heinlein books is Spider’s “voice”. I don’t just mean the puns, or the focus on music, but the underlying humor even in dark moments is classic Spider. Few writers can get you to chuckle while reading about the End Of Life As We Know It, but he managed. By the same token, I found myself tearing up at the end, and didn’t realize why at first. It finally dawned on me that my reaction was normal for someone whose friend finally gets a happy ending to his story. Bittersweet, yes, but somehow still happy.
I had often felt that the New York Times quote about Spider being “The next Robert Heinlein” was at least a few parts hyperbole. Spider’s stuff, while fantastic in its own right, was just different enough from Heinlein’s to make the comparison dubious. “Variable Star” has changed that. Spider Robinson has proven, once and for all, that he is the true successor to the Grand Master.
I can think of no greater praise to give him.
Las Vegas, NV
Name: Laurie Atwater
Just that. Really big, though.
That's more than enough, Laurie. Thank you much,
Dear Spider -
Taking to heart your web site's diary entries exhorting people to contact your favorite author or musician or whatever and let them know how much you appreciate their work....and having just finished
"Variable Star", I wanted to write and say:
You Done Good!
Best book I've read in a long time, and that's saying something considering how much I read. I had been reading the sample chapters of "Variable Star" as they were posted on the www.variablestarbook.com site these last few weeks and having a ball with them.....and having a LOT of trouble waiting for the whole book to appear. I'd been vibrating with anticipation for months since I heard about the book. The sample chapters made it worse. I didn't know torture could be so pleasant!
And then I had to force myself to put the book down last night and got to bed because I had an early meeting I couldn't miss. More pleasant torture! I tried to force myself to slow down and make it last, but sometimes you just can't, y'know?
Like you, I got my early start reading on Heinlein's juveniles and then all the rest of his work. Both you and RAH have taught me a lot, and given me hours and hours of great enjoyment. You and he are among only a handful of authors whose works I appreciate so much that I've read and re-read many times over the years and will continue to do so (and thanks for turning me on to the Travis McGee novels in "Callahan's Key", by the way). I'm about to re-read Baen's re-issue of the Stardance novels in e-book form, in fact. Thanks, by the way, for allowing Baen Books to release your works in DRM-free e-book form. I love e-books, and was glad to see your work issued in that form. Don't get me wrong, I love paper books (as my overflowing basement will attest) but e-books are just so danged convenient. Sure wish Tor hadn't backed out of the e-book market after barely getting their toes wet recently, so I could've gotten Variable Star that way too. I'd have probably bought it twice!
Now I've only got two problems....(1) having to decide if "Variable Star" or "Callahan's Key" (my favorite of yours up until now) is now my favorite among all your works. ;-) Perhaps I'll just say that C.K. is my favorite Spider solo work and V.S. is my favorite Spider collaboration! Yeah, that's the ticket....
And (2) having to decide whether or not I want you to do a sequel to Variable Star! Part of me says yes, yes, yes, now, now, now!...and part of me would be fine if you didn't, too. Certainly there's plenty of places you could take it....but if you don't, then my imagination has been highly trained by you and RAH over the years to let me have hours of fun speculating on where things could lead. And yet wanting to hear more about What Happens Next to Joel and Evelyn is more pleasant torture! (I think it's starting to get good to
me! ;-) That's the mark of a good book and good author, I think: they make you care deeply about the characters in the book they create. Heinlein did it constantly....you always want to step into the book and have a LOOOOONG discussion with his characters.....or be invited to join their group marriage! You do it too, in your works. I'd love to find myself in Callahan's and in The Place, or in orbit stardancing.
I always enjoy your musical references in your writing and have learned a lot from them, too and found plenty of new artists to try. As another way of saying thank you, I wanted to turn YOU on to MY favorite jazz singer and saxophonist (who happen to also be a well- matched husband and wife team like you and Jeanne). The saxophonist, Jim Tomlinson, recently won the 2006 BBC Jazz Awards "Best Album" honor for his latest work, "The Lyric". He's often been compared favorably to Stan Getz, who you have Joel mention in "Variable Star". His wife, Stacey Kent, sings on most of his albums (especially "The Lyric") and has quite a few of her own. She has a glorious voice. If you don't already know their work, check them out
at www.staceykent.com and www.jimtomlinson.net. I know Stacey has a free MP3 on the Amazon.com Free Music Downloads area, and they are also availble on iTunes, eMusic.com, and you can listen to them on Pandora.com too (a WONDERFUL way to find new music - build your own radio station by example.) Stacey also occasionally hosts jazz programs on BBC Radio 3.
I can see I'm going to have to spend a lot of time checking out Colin MacDonald's web site, after seeing the mention of it on your web site just now. I listened to the sample cut from Thaumaturgy already on his site. Whoa!
Thanks again, and best regards from Des Moines, Iowa. I enjoyed getting to meet you when you and Jeanne were the guests of honor at DemiCon here a number of years back. Your readings from Callahan's Key were marvelous, and I'm glad to see you recording audiobooks....you've got a talent for it! I don't normally buy audiobooks, but I'm probably going to have to do so in this case! I was glad to find your readings on your "Belaboring the Obvious" CD, too. I hope you'll be attending the Heinlein Centennial in Kansas City next July. I hope to attend that as well.
- Bill Davis
(new Heinlein Society member as of last week, looking forward to your sequel to Very Bad Deaths)
Please allow me to thank you for bringing to light a work I could not have imagined - *did* not imagine were possible - from the fused minds of RAH and yourself! Herb spake soothly when he opined that the
Master was standing at your side.
Around here, it went on sale yesterday (2006-09-19); I immediately purchased two copies, and am glad to say that both will be intensely appreciated. (My best girlfriend received her copy yesterday as an only-slightly early birthday gift ... your timing was indeed perfect.)
I confess that my expectations were reserved - and after reading the Aferword, I only dimly begin to realize the paucity of material with which you had to work. Suffice it to say that all of my expectations have been blown out the ramjet and I am enjoying one hell of a rush. And it is my fond hope that you are enjoying one as well!
Somewhere out to sea, numerous scattered molecules of the Master are gently smiling down upon you. For whatever it's worth, your nomination as the successor is hereby confirmed.
May a benevolent deity keep you in good health and chained to your desk in productive writing mode for many, many years.
- Chris Hawley
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Robinson,
I just want to let you know how much I've enjoyed your writings. Visions of a hopeful future are always in order and your visions (versions?), in particular, are wonderful, wonder-filled, and offer everyone a better
Thank you so very much. I look forward to your next endeavors. (I'll start Variable Star tonight!)
Greetings to you and your family, and I hope this email finds you all well. My copy of "Variable Star" should be zooming to my doorstep right now. I'm sure I speak for a great number of fans when I tell you how much I'm looking forward to reading this book!
My good friend Pat and myself used to joke that Heinlein did not pass, he just picked up and moved to Secundus, and new and exciting novels would be forthcoming. With the release of the second novel since his "passing" in the late 80's, it's now become clear that our blind optimism and patience is being rewarded!
I haven't emailed in a long while, but a while back we had an interesting debate about the public perception of smoking after "The Crazy Years" was released and I responded to some of your essays. I've been longing to continue that debate, and perhaps I'll send another email at some point.
Finally, I hear tell you'll be in New York City at the end of this month. I'm very much hoping my schedule allows my to stop by and say hello, and to thank you personally for all of the pleasure, and all of the wonderful insight I've gotten from reading your work over the years. Here's hoping that "Very Hard Choices" will hit the market soon as well!
Best of everything Spider!
Working in NYC
Residing in the Jersey suburbs
I have been reading Heinlein for 55 years -- I started when I was 8. I just finished Variable Star. Certainly there is much Spider Robinson in it -- the experience of our generation is echoed in the book -- but the hand of the Master is clearly there. Had I not known when it was written, I would have placed it among RAH's novels of the mid or late 1960's.
My heart is so glad to have another fine Heinlein -- and Robinson -- novel to read and reread. Thank you.
Lynn David Miller
Having been a fan of RAH since I was too young to understand the implications of being so tragically, emotionally scarred by his writings, I can't tell you the depth of the shudder that passed through my mind when I saw the new book. I've also been a fan of yours since StarDance, and, not religiously, but certainly with intent, acquired most of your writings.
I'm ~85% through Variable Star, having just read (most of) Hideo's Star Chamber speech. I had to stop and look up your email address to thank you (and to take care of my morning coffee, but that's not
entirely germane to this email).
For the last five years, I've been saying "Bush leads to Scudder" but, of course, who but a handful understand my reference to a quasi-obscure character by a two-decade-dead author. And, given that not
many of my friends are aware of my less-than-sophisticated reading tastes (pity them not, for they know only scoreboard numbers and are satisfied), I've been the lone voice with a deeper insight. We are in The Crazy Years. Scudder may have been The Prophet but RAH was a prophet (and it's too late to give him the cassandra-like kicking around)
I can't believe that your fan base doesn't intersect with RAH's. Consequently, my gift(s) this holiday season for my non-literary friends will come from a case of Variable Star.
[KISS-ASS-on]The story is quintessential RAH, from the Juveniles-era storyline to the 80's-era adult-level story elements. The writing is a natural blend of yours and RAH's voice. You have done a priceless job of channelling RAH. You have given the world one more outstanding RAH novel. It's like listening to the new Who music and seeing it on tour - half of the "classic" line-up is gone but what remains demonstrates that ideas transcend performers. The classic music carries itself, and the new music is the natural evolution. Paul and Ringo could never resurrect the Band, but Pete and Roger... It's a classic mid-80's hologram: shatter the glass and each part retains the whole.
My daughter chided me for reading the book so intently, so...slowly; I had to inform her I was savoring a 1787 Chateau Lafite which will never be seen on the face of the earth again, unlike her unending
MD 20/20 Cirque du Freak series (beautiful analogy, totally wasted on a 13-year old). I don't want this book to end. Please go dig through the rest of RAH's files and find some more, please, please, please... I promise I'll go buy second copies of all my Callahan books, please...[KISS-ASS-off]
Most sincerely yours,
Dear Spider and Jeanne;
Thank you. Variable Star is everything I hoped it would be after two years of waiting, and so much more.
In your After word you said something to the effect that the executors didn't want an imitation Heinlein, they wanted the best Spider Robinson book ever, using Heinlein s ideas and notes. Variable Star is truly the best Spider Robinson* book ever, and I genuinely believe Mr. Heinlein was and is so proud of what you created together.
I recently had to make an emergency cross country move from California to Ohio and I could only take with me what would fit into a '71 VW bus, along with my Spice, my son and our 2 cats. Of a library of approximately 600+ books I had room in the bus for 2 medium sized boxes. All of your books, including original editions of Melancholy Elephants, Telempath, and Antinomy as well as the Stardancers and the copy of Starmind autographed by both of you, and my complete Heinlein collection made up the larger of the 2 boxes. As I said, we packed only essentials; your books contained my hope for a positive future, not just for my family, but for all of us.
I am in your debt. I will continue to pay that debt forward by raving in every medium I have available to me what a treasure your books are and seeing that my nearest and dearest read them too.
Again I give you greatest thanks and applause,
With all my heart;
Kit Cook, fan.
*I must add here, that in my opinion, with greatest respect for Mr. Heinlein, your absolute best best writing is still the Stardance series with Jeanne, but VS is your best "solo" work to date.
Dearest friend Spider,
Earlier today, at about 12:05 PM, I completed chapter 7 of Variable Star. I closed the book and held it to my chest.
A tear flowed down my cheek.
My wife Caroline, sitting across from me in our living room, looked at me and asked if anything was the matter? I shook my head and croaked "No"...and proceeded to cry, full boar (sobs and everything.)
She asked if it was the book, I said "Yes" and continued to expell any hint of manly composure.
Of course I began to mist for the obvious reason - the letter from Evelyn that guaranteed she would ultimately marry Joel. But my more exaggeratedcrying jag this afternoon was my thanks to the universe
for my having the extreme good fortune to be reading a collaboration by my two favorite authors - and have the resultant piece be so amazingly superior than anything I could have hoped or imagined. My sobs were sobs of joy, crying happy (I'm talking more than "Man Who Traveled in Elephants" crying.) Spider, I am a man of very few wants. I am enormously successful in business and have a beautiful, genius wife and wonderful, intelligent children. I am the proverbial "man who has everything" (I'm still looking for that proverb, it's here somewhere.)
All my Maslovian needs are taken care of, I plan to start self actualizingany second now, but you gave me a gift so profound - that cry was also a cry of relief and mourning for a void in my heart that I didn't know
existed until you filled it.
I am proud to say I finished Variable Start today and only teared up two more times.
Brazil Novo, Spider, Brazil Novo!
P.S. I hope you are not upset with me Spider, I may have been rude a few emails back and suggested you strive to have better covers on your books (which could be construed as snooty and elitist). I only say this because your signature in my copy or the book includes no note, not even to "the intelligent designer".
P.P.S. The cover design is fantastic!
P.P.P.S There is no reason, at all, to have P.S. on an email.
P.P.P.P.S. We are opening an office of Sposto Interactive in Manhattan,and need to staff it with REALLY SMART folks with an advertising background, if you know someone who might be interested, hates glass
ceilings and is incredibly smart, tell her.
Oh, and check out our newest site http://www.lifethroughtime.com
I've just finished reading Variable Star. While there's a lot of stuff in there that I don't think RAH would've written, especially in a juvenile (the destruction of the Solar System, for example!), I think that you and Robert between you have written the best Heinlein novel ever. I only wish that the two of you had had the
opportunity to do more collaborations. Like Niven and Pournelle, the collaboration has created a better book than either one could write solo.
Like you, Spider, I grew up on the Heinlein juveniles. And ever since you appeared on the SF scene ("The Guy With the Eyes", Analog) I've greeted each of your new stories and books with the enthusiasm formerly reserved for a new Heinlein. Between the two of you, you are about fifteen per cent of my all-time favorite writers.
I don't normally write fan mail. It's generally counterproductive, since reading it takes time that the writer ought to be using to write MORE stuff for my enjoyment! But in this case I just had to say thanks...not only for all the fine stories that each of you have given us over the years, but for the wonderful way that you,
Spider, have taken that bare, half-finished outline, added your own sweat, inspiration, and voice...and yet still produced a work that unmistakably bears the hallmarks of RAH as well.
Variable Star could, like For Us, the Living or Grumbles from the Grave, have been largely a curiosity -- a bit of the Heinlein canon that was of interest primarily to collectors and fans. And it certainly is a part of the canon. But it's much more than that, thanks to you. It's a story that stands up on its own two legs and
says "Read me! And re-read me!"
Well done. VERY well done. Thank you!!!!!!!! (You may assume as large a number of exclamation points as you wish!)
They say that you are the next Heinlein... wrong. He was great, you are better.
In my efforts to write SF, my characters always seem two dimensional -- at best. I think that you have a hard time keeping them at only 4 dimensions. The guys a Callahans live in my mind...Always look forward to your books.
Looking for the place I can get an autographed copy, however lame that it has only yours...
Keep up the great stories!
Dear Mr. Robinson,
The oldest book I possess is an English law book in Latin, printed in London in 1682. It is on my shelf, but wrapped up. Occasionally I wash my hands, dry them thoroughly, take the book down and fondle it.
I have just put down Variable Star. I expect to treat it with as much reverence. I have been on the point of tears for over an hour, as I reluctantly raced to the ending. Sir, what a magnificent job you have done! What a magnificent, tragic story. You got under my defenses and crawled all the way inside, where I keep the raw material. I got drawn into the story early and stopped looking for suture marks. Variable Star is going to live forever and be read by countless millions. Lots of them are going to download English chips to enjoy it in the original. (Yes, I live in California. No, I don't belong to a cult [I can't afford the fees]. I'm guessing, but I think I'm accurate.) The story was also bittersweet because I found so many echoes of Mr. Heinlein's earlier works, as you intended. Today is October 26, 2006, and I am also sad--it is the last time I will read a new work of his.
But not of yours. In the past I've read Telempath and a couple of others, and now I intend to take a closer look at what else you've done.
I also checked out Alex Grey on the Internet, and was happy to find he does exist. I will look at his work later; I am still too full of Variable Star to want to dilute its impact with other art right now. I can't even play music right now.
As you live in B.C., I will add that I have been to Canada several times and always enjoyed myself--the people there are friendly, and the pressure seems to drop the moment you cross the border.
My dear new friend (whom I will probably never meet), I live in Santa Rosa, an hour north of SF and Berkeley. I also have a few acres at the 4000 foot level 90 minutes north of here, in Lake County. I have a homemade cabin (500 sq. ft.) with a pot-bellied stove, mountain views, deer, lions, and peace. (Along with a good sound system.) You and your family are invited to crash anytime. I know you won't, but I want to make the offer. (E-mail for directions, as well as for a current list of the best bars and pool halls in the vicinity.)
Rhysling left us another ballad after all. And he had a damn fine co-writer to add the stanzas it needed to stand completed.
All the best to you and yours, Nathan Howe
The first book I read on my own was also “Rocketship Galileo” and was quickly followed by every other R.A.H. writing I could find. As a now 52 year old kid who still walks by the stacks of books hoping for another one, this has been a dream come true. Thank you for your work seems faint praise. I loved every page and I finished it in one sitting. I’m sure Mr. Heinlein would be pleased.
Just finished Variable Star last night – it was worth the wait.
In the meantime, having acquired several of your earlier works, the ones read so far have far exceeded the nice things your many fans have said and written. Now I need several more hours added to the day to enjoy your books.
Mr. Robinson --
I'm writing this at 3am, and can probably get a some small amount of sleep before I get go to work today. But first, I'm compelled to offer a heartfelt thank you for Variable Star. Such a collaboration, by two of my favorite authors, approaches the level of mystical. I think it may be proof that the universe is not as random as I've feared, and in fact may actually be run by some force approaching benevolence.
I was introduced to the work of Robert A. Heinlein as a young adult, starting with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. I read all of the later works first, and then, through the fortunate acquaintance in college read through all of the Juvenile novels. A different college friend introduced me to Callahan's Crosstime Saloon. That started me on my journey of your own published works. At the time, I was completely unaware of your own relation to RAH.
Little could I comprehend that two such seemingly minor and disparate (I thought) events could proceed through the years and intersect in a single, magnificent and magical novel.
What can I say about the experience? Variable Star is undoubtedly a Heinlein novel. Without benefit of cover or title page one could instantly recognize it. A young man faces hardship, and in the process of overcoming it finds that he is a far better man than he suspects. The archetype is unmistakable. Joel is Heinlein, cut from the same cloth as so many other characters, all of them reflections of the man himself. Yet, equally, it bears your own distinctive mark. The music, the puns, the compassion and laughter and the quiet wisdom are equally unmistakable. I greatly enjoyed identifing what I felt were Heinlein parts and Robinson parts.
And yet, what I enjoyed far more were those parts where I could could see no distinction. One example -- Hideo's speech in the Star Room nearly moved me to tears. "We don't have time for this crap, for self-pity or hate or anger. The enemy cannot be ourselves; the enemy is out there. For now we survive, bide our time, and prepare. When we're ready, when we're able, then we come down on the fuckers like the naked, intelligent apes we are. And may God have mercy on them." Heinlein sentiment and purpose, delivered with Robinson temperance and resolve. For me, it was like a Tantric climax.
I am a true fan of both Robert Heinlein and Spider Robinson, and I consider Variable Star one of the finest works by both.
For my 20th Birthday on December 4th this year my mom bought me a copy of Variable Star and had it signed by you. Since she is a good person, and also does not want to incur the sort of wrath that withholding a new book can produce, she gave it to me early. I read it and was absolutely astounded. I could see parts of the novel that were Heinlein, and part of it that were you, and parts of it that were you playing off of a riff of Heinlein's and it was the most gorgeous symphony. I had to take the time out of my day to tell you how much I enjoyed it and how much I treasure the fact that you signed it. I also wanted to relate to you what a special gift this was coming from my mother. My mother and I have always been very close and had a good relationship, but as I am sure you know being a parent yourself, this means that often we fight and argue like cats and dogs. She was raised on Heinlein, and I was raised on Robinson, and the fact that the two of you collaborated on this novel bridges the generation gap in a way that is unique and special to so many die hard science fiction families like mine. During the day that I read Variable Star here in my dorm room in Wisconsin there were parts where I just squealed with joy reading what was clearly a collaborative work between my two favorite authors, something I thought could never happen. My only complaint about the book is that it is another book that I have to take with me in my traveling library every time that I move. I am going to have to invest in a house or apartment or permanent style living arrangement someday just to have a place to keep all of my books, and you are not helping the situation by continuing to write wonderful books that I can't bear to leave behind.
You do wonderful things Mr. Robinson, and my trip around this planet earth has been made much more joyous by your works. Keep up the good work brother, we need you out here.
Sarah E. Belknap
I grew up reading Robert A. Heinlein in Boys' Life. All of the novels by 24.
Spider Robinson has captured the Voice perfectly.
I've never taken the time to write to an author. I like their books and buy them. But this amalgamation is outstanding!
GOD BLESS YOU, SIR!!! I've just finished reading Variable Star over my lunch hour, and that's the first thing that came to mind. I put the book down (which I alternated between reading quickly because I wanted to see how the story progressed and ended, and reading slowly and carefully, because I wanted to savor it as long as possible) and had tears in my eyes and a huge grin on my face.
I'm a voracious reader (My mother will tell you I tried to teach myself to read around 4 or 5 and haven't stopped since. I tell people I'm like a junkie looking for my next fix when I'm between books.) and a huge fan of both you and Mr. Heinlein. I must say though that I was exposed to Mr. Heinlein much earlier than yourself. I was probably the only 7th grader in my small (conservative) town who snuck her parents' copy of To Sail Beyond The Sunset out of the house (with a post-it note over the picture of the woman on the cover) to read it during English class!
I've enjoyed every one of your books I could get my hands on. A lot of them more than once. Yours is the first name I look for in the library or book store in the SciFi section to see if there's something I haven't found yet. The Callahan series (in all it's shapes and forms) always feels like a good time shared with good friends and family. The Stardance books were a wonderful window to the stars. I think my favorite recently (past five years or so) was The Free Lunch. I think I reread it as soon as I was finished the first time because I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to Mike and Annie.
Now Variable Star has taken the favored spot. When I first read that you were working on a novel that Mr. Heinlein had left unfinished, I wasn't surprised, merely comforted (Pixel went to Key West with Erin, so it just made sense). I thought that if anyone could do justice to a novel of Mr. Heinlein's it was you. Thank you so much for proving me right! No one else could have ever written this novel successfully.
Anyway, thank you again and again and again. I do apologize for the length of this, but I'm afraid I'm a frightened writer. I'm frightened that if I ever did try to write something fictional, I'd end up inadvertently plagiarizing about 50 authors before I was finished. Oh well, those who can, do and those who can't (or don't) damn well appreciate those who do it so well.
Again, God bless you, your wife, family, friends, and support systems.
Please sir, may we have some more?
Joy Bereolos, MT (ASCP)
Mother of Two Short People
Science Fiction Junkie
Hello! I recently posted the below review of Variable Star on Amazon.com, and would like to thank Mr. Robinson for writing the best book published in decades. Incidentally I was a member of The Heinlein Society a couple years ago. I haven't read any of Spider Robinson's other books, but I'm purchasing them now!
Here's my review:
To Spider Robinson: Thank you for writing Variable Star! A diehard Heinlein fan since I read Rocket Ship Galileo in 3 days at age 10, I've read nothing else as absorbing, satisfying, and inspiring as his novels. Several books have come close, a few by Del Rey, Foster, Clarke, and Kornbluth but none have matched - until now.
Heinlein wrote an outline for Variable Star in 1955, and 50 years later the final work reads like the master finished it himself, in terms of characters and style as well as plot, which is a hybrid of Time For The Stars and The Door Into Summer. In a nutshell it's about a young man, Joel Johnston, in the future who learns his fiance, Jinny, is heir to the richest man in the solar system, rather than the orphan she portrayed to him, to win his heart without her money. After learning this he bumps into her cousin Evelyn, a young girl who gets a crush on him, an important plot point later in the story. But when Jinny refuses to leave her fortune for Joel, after a lost weekend he signs up to emigrate to the stars, a persistent Heinlein theme with echoes of Starman Jones and Tunnel In The Sky.
It seems obvious why Heinlein didn't finish this one in '55: He took the same plot device - the young girl who grows up to marry the hero who hasn't aged in the meantime - in two different directions in the novels mentioned above, one "juvenile," Time For The Stars, the other "adult," The Door Into Summer, both published the next year. Robinson's treatment may actually be closer two what Heinlein originally intended than either, though, incidentally, those two are in my top 5 favorite books of all time.
Robinson has done a terrific job of telling the story just as Heinlein would, with the same Future History background, including references to Coventry, the Prophet, Nehemiah Scudder and a city on Ganymede named Lermer, for the protagonist of Farmer In The Sky, one of the original colonists on that moon. Robinson even quotes Caleb Saunders on Anson MacDonald Day (both names are almost forgotten Heinlein pseudonyms).
Let me make it clear how pleased I am with this result, and grateful to Mr. Robinson for it, before presenting my petty nitpicking. 109% pleased and 110% grateful. Now, there were just two pages where I thought Mr. Heinlein would not have written what Mr. Robinson did. One had to do with the hero's casual attitude toward "recreational" drugs, and the author clarified that attitude satisfactorily in the following pages. The other was an injection of political opinion regarding current terror wars, due to my own bias and belief that Heinlein would not share that opinion. In both cases I humbly admit Robinson knew Heinlein, I did not; and Robinson is smarter than me - he read Rocket Ship galileo in one day at age six. Also in both cases I was right back on board on the next page, absorbed with the story, very pleased and very grateful. Many of Heinlein's books have at least a few controversial pages, so this is appropriate. Chances are 50 to 70% of readers will disagree with my nitpicking and thoroughly love every word of Variable Star ecstatically, and the rest, all but one or two pages.
I've read everything ever published by Heinlein, most twice. Next on my list is to buy and read Robinson's other books.
I have not written to any author or personality or been involved in any "fan" club since Huckleberry Hound left the stage, with his buddy, exiting "Stage left...( I still have the club card) so please bear, with me.
Similarities run strong in many of us who have become voracious readers. I too had a forward thinking person in the form of a lbrarian, and her influence changed the way I thought and formed opinions.
That Librarian first introduced me to The Hardy Boys, and when that had run it's course, Tom Swift. The Library was missing one volume,( I had to read them in sequence, even then) and she sat down and talked with me about it.
An adult, who actually spoke with me and not to me. When she knew all about me she recommended a book called "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" and Starship Troopers.
If I were old enough I should have married that Librarian, but I am glad I waited. I never got back to Tom Swift.
Your book brought both tears and laughter and it has been a long time since both came in the same paragraph. Not being a writer, I am not sure how to say anything but Thank you.
I think Mr. Heinlein would have and maybe is, very proud. I could hear him, and when they
..sailed beyond the sunset...I cried. Thanks again.
Dear Mr. Robinson:
My daughter purchased a signed copy of your novel Variable Star on Oct. 22, 2006. She had you sign it for me and gave it as an Xmas gift. She showed exemplary patience, fortitude and endurance in refraining from reading it until I had first crack at it. I am no longer concerned about her well-being because the nervous twitches and eye rolling have now stopped since she finished her opportunity to devour it. Her first SF book was Podkayne of Mars at about thirteen years of age and an addict was born. What an excellent way to enter puberty! Now that we've finished it I will pass it on to two of my other kids and
my wife. I have five children and two of them don't read SF. I'm considering having their DNA tested.
Mr. Heinlein has always been my most favourite author. He is the example of what every author should strive to achieve. IMHO, in SF, you come incredibly close; closer than any other, although I have always had a soft place for Ballroom of the Skies by John D. MacDonald, he doesn't quite meet your talent in this genre. Over the years Mr. Heinlein and you have entertained, amused, enlightened, and informed me. I have haunted bookstores and libraries for anything new by either of you. When I received "For Us The Living", I hung from the chandelier, gibbering like an ape until my guests left and I could settle down to read. /Settling isn't really the verb that fits./
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! for VARIABLE STAR!!! You have written an incredible and enthralling story. I was spellbound from beginning to end, (Foreword to/ and including Afterword). Spider Robinson and Robert Heinlein is a combination that, unlikely as would have believed it possible, is more than the sum of the participants. Thank You! Thank You! The plot and the writing are seamless. At no time was I able to recognize either influence or any separate philosophies. I was gratified to find that the "Good Guys" win in the end. People in other parts of this continent have been amazed to find that I live in the same general area as you. They discard me like a used Kleenex when they find that we're separated by mere kilometers and have never met. I will have to attend the Planetarium to correct this so that I can bask in reflected glory.
Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Sincerely, Sincerely, Sincerely
Port Coquitlam, B.C.
Subject: Just finished Variable Star...
Wow, I want Spider Robinson to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize! Variable Star has all the magic of Robert Heinlein's early juveniles, with the musically magic touch of Spider at his best.
I grew up with Heinlein's juveniles, was a young married woman before I was introduced to the Lazarus Long books and the first of the Callahan stories, and I mourned with the rest of sf fandom at Heinlein's death. I rejoiced, though, when Pixel showed up on the way to Callahan's Key.
My first husband couldn't understand why I liked Lazarus Long so much; my new husband is enjoying the heck out of "Rangy Lil." At the core of both of these authors' works--what really strikes a chord with me--is the internal honesty and integrity they demonstrate in their writings as they acknowledge so many of humanity's flaws while reserving a special section of hell for people who fail to return library books.
Only one thing could have made Variable Star better for me...if Joel had been a doubler on both sax AND flute, and if his flute had been a Lopatin with square tone holes. I'm not making this up; see the attached picture.
Please forward my warmest thanks (preferably, this entire letter!) to Spider, wherever he may be. I wasn't kidding about that Nobel Prize nomination; Variable Star not only gives hope that humanity will survive long enough to reach the stars, but it intelligently defines the problems we faced after 9/11 and how STUPID (yet human) we were to try to stomp back.
All my best, with hopes for a sequel,
Jackie Britton Lopatin