Written by: Robert A. Heinlein
Published by: Tom Doherty Associates
Copyright: © 1999
Robert A. Heinlein, the dean of science fiction writers during his lifetime, the first among equals, the first among the 20th century big three: Asimov, Clark, and Heinlein; began his writing and publishing career with short stories and novellas. He first appeared in print with a 1939 short story titled Life Line, published in the pulp fiction magazine, Astounding Science Fiction. He published 29 short stories and novellas before publishing his first novel in 1947, Rocket Ship Galileo. (Heinlein did write a novel in 1939, For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs, but it remained unpublished until 2003, 15 years after his death.)
The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein is a collection of 8 short stories and novellas written between 1940 and 1959, illustrating why he was selected as the first Grand Master, in 1974, by The Science Fiction Writers of America. The line between fantasy and sci-fi is a fine one: the majority of these stories have one foot in each realm with the scales tipping towards the fantastic. I had read all these stories individually many years ago, and I enjoyed them then, but they are still fresh and fun to read today, maybe more so, since they are all packaged together, chronologically, allowing the reader to assess Heinlein’s progression as a writer and story-teller through the years. Below are the short stories and novellas contained in this compilation.
Magic, Inc., © 1940, with an alternate title of The Devil Makes the Law. Magic, Inc. makes the rules until Amanda and Archie take charge.
–And He Built a Crooked House, © 1940. You may run out of time when building your house or maybe your house will run into time. The title to story was a spoof on the English nursery rhyme:
There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.
He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile.
He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a little crooked house.
They–, © 1941. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean your mentally ill.
Waldo, © 1942, written under the pseudonym of Anson MacDonald. Anson was Heinlein’s middle name. Magic makes the world go around.
The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, © 1942. Artistic endeavors usually need some touch up paint.
Our Fair City, © 1948. It’s hard to dance with a whirlwind when you have crooked feet.
The Man who Traveled in Elephants, © 1957. A good life, a few good friends, great beginnings. Heinlein considered this his best story.
“–All You Zombies–“, © 1959. Punctuation-wise, word-wise, a strange title; you need to read a few words short of the end to figure it out. While you are reading, Ella Fitzgerald may be appropriate background music; spring, …time, can really hang you up the most.