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Encyclopedia > Gulf (Heinlein)

Gulf (1949) is a novella by Robert A. Heinlein, originally published as a serial in the November and December 1949 issues of Astounding Science Fiction. It concerns a secret society of geniuses who act to protect humanity. (One of their lesser exploits is to exterminate the Ku Klux Klan with a well-placed lightning bolt.) The novel Friday, written in 1982, was loosely a sequel. 1949 (MCMXLIX) was a common year starting on Saturday (the link is to a full 1949 calendar). ... This article is becoming very long. ... Serial is a term, originating in literature, for a format by which a story is told in contiguous installments in sequential issues of a single periodical publication. ... Astounding Stories was a seminal science fiction magazine founded in 1930. ... Friday is a 1982 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. ...

The story postulates that humans of superior intelligence could, if they banded together and kept themselves genetically separate, create a new species. In the process they would develop into a benevolent and hidden "ruling" class. The story invokes the notions of the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski and the work of Samuel Renshaw to explain the nature of thought and how people could be trained to think more rapidly and accurately. Critics have said that both systems are misrepresented in this story, and never claimed the kinds of results shown in the story; fans would postulate that the story is, after all, science fiction. General Semantics is a school of thought founded by Alfred Korzybski in about 1933 in response to his observations that most people had difficulty defining human and social discussions and problems and could almost never predictably resolve them into elements that were responsive to successful intervention or correction. ... Alfred Korzybski Alfred Korzybski was born on July 3, 1879 in Warsaw, Poland, and died on March 1, 1950 in Lakeville, Connecticut, USA. He is probably best-remembered for developing the theory of general semantics. ... Samuel Renshaw was a psychologist. ...

The material on human intelligence and self-guided evolution is intermixed with a more standard "secret agent" adventure story, which is supposed to show the new "smarter man" in action. Whether the characters as shown are in fact more superior than the heroes of most adventure stories has been much debated.

One of the key characters in the story, "Kettle Belly" Baldwin, appears as a much older man in the later novel Friday, there known mostly as "Boss." In the later novel, Boss appears to categorically deny the basic premise that smarter people are, and ought to be, separate from the human race in general. The earlier version of that character had strongly argued for this premise. It is, of course, risky to assume that the stated beliefs of fictional characters are those of the author. But if they are in this case, then Heinlein's had changed drastically on this issue. It may be, however, that he simply chose for narrative or artistic reasons to show the other side of the argument, or perhaps Baldwin's ideas changed with age and experience. Friday is a 1982 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. ...

The story is also notable for its sparkling, witty repartee between the male and female leads, Joe and Gail, reminiscent of the exchanges between the characters in Heinlein's last five novels from 1980-1987. Gail is strongly evocative of the powerful, free-spirited female characters from these novels. Joe is quite similar to the more taciturn male heroes such as Zebadiah and Richard Ames from, respectively, The Number of the Beast and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Book cover The Number of the Beast is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1980 (ISBN 0-44-913070-3). ... Book cover The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1985. ...

The supermen communicate in an arcane language, a form of English called Speedtalk, which is both unintelligible and unlearnable by outsiders. Speedtalk is founded upon two principles: a reduced lexicon, and an enlarged phonology.

Any English sentence can be composed from a small vocabulary, such as the word set of Basic English. Also, although the human vocal tract can produce hundreds of different sounds, no existing human language normally makes use of more than a few dozen of them. In Speedtalk, each word from the Basic English set is assigned to a different sound. A sentence in Basic English can therefore be pronounced in perhaps one fourth the normal time, since most words are four sounds long, on average. (Not necessarily four letters, though, due to the vagaries of conventional English spelling.) Basic English is a constructed language with a small number of words created by Charles Kay Ogden and described in his book Basic English: A General Introduction with Rules and Grammar (1930). ...

Heinlein tacitly admits that use of such a wide variety of speech sounds in close juxtaposition requires fantastic lingual agility and precision. In one scene, the hero is forced to rehearse a single phrase for hours until his accent is considered acceptable. But aren't his protagonists supermen, after all?

This story was written for the famous "time travel" issue of Astounding. A reader wrote a letter, commenting on the contents of an issue by author and title, and giving his relative praise and blame for those works. This was a common type of letter for the magazine to get, and print. However, in this case, the reader described an issue whose cover date was more than a year away. Editor John W. Campbell printed the letter, then set about making the predictions come true, by arranging with the authors mentioned to write and submit stories with the titles mentioned in the letter. "Gulf" by Heinlein, was one of the stories involved. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...

Heinlein has written that he had an idea for the story, but decided that it was too large for a novella, and could not be written in the time he had available. The idea was, he has said, one of the origins of his novel Stranger in a Strange Land. Instead he decided that the gulf between man and superman would provide an adequate basis for the title. Stranger in A Strange Land Cover Stranger in a Strange Land is a 1961 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. ...

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  Results from FactBites:
Damon Knight on Robert A. Heinlein (1634 words)
Heinlein's worked the thing out in detail that grows with each story; he has an outlined and graphed history of the future with characters, dates of major discoveries, et cetera, plotted in.
Heinlein's redheaded wife Ginny is a chemist, biochemist, aviation test engineer, experimental horticulturist; she earned varsity letters at N.Y.U. in swimming, diving, basketball and field hockey, and became a competitive figure skater after graduation; she speaks seven languages so far, and is starting on an eighth.
Heinlein is a moralist to the core; he devoutly believes in courage, honor, self-discipline, self-sacrifice for love or duty.
Heinlein in Dimension, Chapter 3, Part 2 (3623 words)
The gulf of the title is the narrow but distinct gap between ordinary men and a set of self-identified supermen.
Heinlein has not been one for repeating his stories, though he has returned to a number of themes, and it is certainly legitimate to wonder when two stories on the same subject turn up in one year.
Heinlein seems to have a particular fondness for Ganymede: one of the young fellows in Space Cadet was a Ganymedean colonist, the hero of Between Planets was born in a ship that was on its way to Ganymede; Farmer in the Sky is about the settling of Ganymede.
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