A friend of mine once said, memorably, “Heinlein’s women are men with tits.”
She was referring, of course, to Robert A. Heinlein, author of some of the best and most influential science fiction in the genre. It didn’t mean she wasn’t a fan, because she was. She was also right. Mostly.
But The Rolling Stones, the story of the Stone family’s unintended odyssey through the Solar System, discovering tribbles, oh, I’m sorry, of course I mean flat cats, along the way has some great women characters. Hazel, the matriarch of the clan, is an engineer, one of the founders of the colony on Luna, a successful parent if her son Roger is any measure, and knows how to shovel literary gore with the best of them, thereby financing said odyssey. Edith, Roger’s wife and the mother of his four children, is a doctor who takes the Hippocratic oath seriously, as witness her deep space mission of mercy to a cruise spaceship plagued with the, uh, plague. Meade, the teenage daughter, is motivated by more than hormones and fills out the astrogator’s chair on the good ship Rolling Stone quite nicely, thank you.
The book really belongs to Castor and Pollux, the twin teenage boys, and for that matter to Buster, their youngest sibling, who gets to go visit a Martian and then won’t talk about it. Annoying little brat. Cas and Pol were going to light out to the territory on their own until Hazel wangled it into a family exodus, Luna getting a little crowded for comfort. The following adventures are many and various, risking everything from life and limb to the family finances (those Martians are tourist-fleecers of the first water), and introducing tribbles, oh I’m sorry, of course I meant to say, flatcats to us all.
Hazel gets the last best line. “After we get to Titan we might — “ and Heinlein continues
The blast cut off her words; the Stone trembled and threw herself outward bound, toward Saturn. In her train followed hundreds and thousands and hundreds of thousands of thousands of restless rolling Stones…to Saturn…to Uranus, to Pluto…rolling on out to the stars…outward bound to the ends of the Universe.
Oh, let it be so.
But here and now, if you’ve know someone who thinks they don’t like to read, child, adolescent or adult, try them out on this novel. You won’t regret it, and neither will they.
And just for fun…
Also for fun…
I include that last video clip because long ago and far away I was invited to talk at the Kenai Community Library on the topic of science fiction. Before I got there I had them read H. Beam Piper’s Little Fuzzy and then in class we watched “The Measure of a Man.” After which we talked about sentience.
Sentience, who is sentient, and how we decide is one of sf’s greatest tropes. I’ve been watching Star Trek: Discovery‘s Season Four, and in “…But to Connect,” the seventh episode, there it is again, when Discovery‘s computer manifests consciousness. The discussion between Stamets, Kovich, and Zora is all those things that Betty Smith said great dialogue should be: Characterizes the person speaking (including the new life form, computer Zora), advances the plot, and is interesting in and of itself. It is, admittedly, the B story of the episode, but it is by far the more important. You really, really hope that 900 years in the future we are those people.
Author and founder of Storyknife.org.