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Encyclopedia > Variable Star
For the astronomical object, see variable star.
Variable Star
Author Robert A. Heinlein & Spider Robinson
Cover artist Stephan Martiniere
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Science fiction
Publisher Tor Books
Publication date September 19, 2006
Media type Print (hardcover)
ISBN ISBN 0-7653-1312-X

Variable Star is a 2006 novel written by Spider Robinson based on the surviving seven pages of an eight page 1955 novel outline by the late Robert A. Heinlein. It describes the coming of age of a maladjusted young musician who signs on to the crew of a starship as a way of escaping from a failed romance. This article or section contains a plot summary that is overly long or excessively detailed. ... Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of hard science fiction. ... Spider Robinson (born November 24, 1948 in New York City) is a Canadian science fiction writer. ... Stephan Martinière is a professional artist, cartoonist, concept illustrator, and animation director working primarily in the science fiction and fantasy fields. ... In political geography and international politics, a country is a political division of a geographical entity, a sovereign territory, most commonly associated with the notions of state or nation and government. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... Science fiction is a form of speculative fiction principally dealing with the impact of imagined science and technology, or both, upon society and persons as individuals. ... A publisher is a person or entity which engages in the act of publishing. ... Tor Books is an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC which publishes popular fiction, and is particularly noted for its science fiction and fantasy titles. ... ISBN-13 represented as EAN-13 bar code (in this case ISBN 978-3-16-148410-0) The International Standard Book Number, ISBN, is a unique[1] commercial book identifier barcode. ... Spider Robinson (born November 24, 1948 in New York City) is a Canadian science fiction writer. ... Year 1955 (MCMLV) was a common year starting on Saturday (link displays the 1955 Gregorian calendar). ... Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of hard science fiction. ...

Contents

From Heinlein to Robinson

Robinson states in an appendix to the book that he was working from an outline that lacked an ending. He was specifically told by his publisher that they wanted him to write in his own style, not Heinlein's, and the abundance of profanity and puns makes it clear that this is not a Heinlein novel. The outline is almost exactly contemporaneous with Heinlein's juvenile novel Time for the Stars, and shares many of its details, such as the use of faster-than-light telepathic communication between twins. Although Heinlein apparently wrote the outline for Variable Star to be used, like Time for the Stars, as part of his Scribner's juvenile series, Robinson's realization deals with a variety of topics, including drugs and sexuality, that would have been completely unacceptable for a juvenile novel in 1955. Time for the Stars is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1956. ...


Setting

The book is set in a divergent offshoot of Heinlein's Future History; it contains many passing references to works by Heinlein and other authors. These references and plot elements are noted in parentheses. Universe was a 1941 story from Heinleins Future History series (shown here in the 1951 Dell edition). ...


Mars and Venus are both settled by men and have intelligent natives: Venerian dragons (Between Planets) and three legged Martians (Red Planet, Stranger in a Strange Land), there are cities "in Luna" (The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress) and on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn (Farmer in the Sky). The Moon was first reached by Leslie LeCroix, backed by D. D. Harriman (The Man Who Sold the Moon). The asteroids are also settled. But most of the solar system's forty-three billion are on Earth. Between Planets is a 1951 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein. ... Meanings of Red Planet: Red Planet (movie) Red Planet (novel) Mars is often referred to as the Red Planet. ... Stranger in a Strange Land is a best-selling 1961 Hugo Award-winning science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. ... The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress cover The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about a lunar penal colonys revolt against rule from Earth. ... Farmer In The Sky is a 1950 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about a boy who emigrates to Jupiters moon Ganymede, which is in the process of being terraformed, and who creates a farm out of gravel. ... Delos David Harriman is a character in the fiction of noted science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein. ... Cover of Shasta edition collection The Man Who Sold the Moon is a science fiction novella by Robert A. Heinlein written in 1949 and first published on February 23,1951, part of his Future History of stories sharing a common background from Life-Line to Da Capo. This story, which...


In Heinlein's Methuselah's Children, the starship New Frontiers left Earth with the Howard Families in 2136, returning in 2210. In this universe, the Howard Families either don't exist, or remain in masquerade. The New Frontiers has not yet returned as the story opens in 2286. It is presumed lost. Methuselahs Children is a 1941 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein. ... The Howard Families are a fictional group created by the author Robert Heinlein. ...


A major plot development makes it clear the book does not take place in any of Heinlein's other universes, with the obvious exception of the short story The Year of the Jackpot--in which the protagonist is a member of the Variable Star Association. In this book, Earth and all colonies in Earth's solar system are destroyed when Sol goes nova. The ship in the book only gets the news because one of the telepathic communication specialists is in contact with his sister when the nova occurs. The Year of the Jackpot is a science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein, first published 1952, and collected in one of Heinleins anthologies, The Menace from Earth. ...


Plot

As the story opens, eighteen-year-old Joel Johnston has fallen in love with Jinny Hamilton, a student about his age. Both are orphans, and virtually penniless — though he is the son of a Nobel Prize winner and a farmer from Ganymede. He then learns his beloved is the granddaughter of the world's richest man, Conrad, head of the Conrad family, which controls much of the solar system's commerce. In a meeting at the family estate, Joel learns that he is to be groomed for a role in the family business, and to be a 'stud' for the family, hopefully having as many children as possible. Preferring to control his own destiny (a composer), he escapes the estate with the help of Jinny's cousin, seven-year-old Evelyn Conrad.


He promptly goes on a massive bender and ends up signing on to the crew of RSS Charles Sheffield (presumably named in honor of mathematician, physicist and science fiction author Charles Sheffield), which is headed for a distant star on a twenty-year (subjective time) voyage. It keeps in touch with Earth both by laser and by telepathy between close relatives (twins in most cases). Joel is maladjusted emotionally, and ends up being required to see a healer, who helps him gain some insight into his actions. Charles Sheffield (June 25, 1935 – November 2, 2002), was an English-born mathematician, physicist and science fiction author. ...


Several characters are introduced throughout the intervening chapters, namely the relativists George Marwden, his wife London, Solomon (Sol) Short, Tenzin Hideo Itokawa, Peter Kindred, and another not mentioned. Joel works on the two farm decks with Zog, a Marsman, and Kathy.


Joel is still getting over Jinny, but eventually goes on a date with Kathy, whom everyone seems to regard as the obvious choice for him. She, however, is engaged to be in a plural marriage. (Like other Heinlein Books, multiple forms of marriage exist.) He then proceeds to date a series of women. With the exception of a brief, non-mutual infatuation with the woman to whom he loses his virginity, none of them are particularly serious.


He is later advised that due to a family investment in a lost starship that has suddenly been found, he is extremely wealthy. He upgrades his quarters, and begins performing his music, mainly by saxophone. He eventually records an album, which become a best seller on Earth.


Five years into the voyage, one of the ship's relativists (the scientific gurus who control the ship's quantum ramthrust drive) is killed and another mentally incapacitated, leaving only four. Since a relativist can control the engine for at most six hours per day, this loss places a tremendous strain on the ones that remain.


The next year, as Joel is watching one of the telepaths at work with his partner back on Earth, disaster strikes. The telepath starts screaming uncontrollably. While trying to get medical help, Joel is injured. He wakes up in an autodoc to horrific news. The sun has gone nova, contrary to all theories. The scattered starships and beginning colonies are all that is left of humanity. The ship is completely devastated. The ship must keep going, land at its target, and prepare against the wavefront of gamma radiation following at lightspeed. One of the relativists commits suicide. The three relativists who remain try valiantly, but the ramthrust drive goes out in less than two weeks. The ship will coast along at .976 c until overtaken by the wave, when all will die.


Later, Joel is called to the bridge. The ship has been overtaken by a faster than light ship, with the Conrads aboard, including Evelyn, who has aged much faster than Joel. She is nineteen now, and explains that she bullied her grandfather into coming to get him so that she could marry him. The ship is piloted by Jinny's husband, the inventor of the FTL drive, Andrew Jackson Conrad. An evacuation plan is worked out, as the ship can be used to shuttle people to the destination. Joel then realizes that the ship will never return, that Conrad was going to take supplies and leave the Sheffield continuing onward. When Joel forces the issue, the resulting confrontation leaves the plutocrat restrained and his bodyguard dead. The FTL engine is transferred to the Sheffield, allowing the ship to complete its journey.


As the story ends, Joel and Evelyn, now married, are visiting each of the colony worlds to warn them of the coming radioactive wave. Joel intends to live his life aboard ship with his wife and his young child, to save as much of mankind as possible.


References

  • Multiple references to the Interregnum and Nehemiah Scudder, the Prophet, most notably appearing in the Heinlein novel If This Goes On. The post-Interregnum period appears to have a culture and technology consistent with Heinlein's Future History, with the exception that the Howard Families are absent (or still in hiding).
  • Solomon Short (a character conceived by David Gerrold for interstitial aphorisms in his Chtorr novels) is a play on Lazarus Long, one of Heinlein's iconic characters. Similarly, Andrew Jackson Conrad may in fact be Andrew Jackson Libby, as they share the same name (except for surname, which people marrying into the Conrad family change) and the invention of an "inertialess" drive.
  • The relativists who power the Sheffield's engine appear in an earlier Robinson story, though not under that title. The main character of the story is a relativist, who also invents time travel.
  • Several characters appear to be Tuckerizations of science fiction and fantasy authors, including George RR. Heinlein's wife was called Virginia (Ginny), so Jinny could be another link. Robinson's own wife is named Jeanne, or "Jeannie".
  • Using telepathic twins for communication comes directly from Time for the Stars, while "farming on Ganymede" is probably a reference to Farmer in the Sky.
  • Early in the novel, Jinny says that "after a dance like that, a couple ought to get married". This is nearly the wording and exactly the spirit of Zebediah Carter's proposal to Dejah Thoris Burroughs in The Number of the Beast.
  • The New Frontiers was the name of the ship that Lazarus Long stole to allow the Howard Families to escape Earth in Methuselah's Children. In Variable Star, it's instead a missing ship whose arrival back on Earth gains Joel a large windfall.
  • A passenger on the Sheffield has a Russian name, comes from Luna, is called a "Loonie", and speaks in the clipped manner of Loonies from The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.
  • At one point, Joel has a (drug-induced) vision of Jinny and says "Her eyes were hazel, stoned, rolling," which refers to Hazel Stone, who appears in The Rolling Stones, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and other novels.
  • "Sheffield"-- the name of the ship-- is also an alias of Lazarus Long used in Methuselah's Children and Time Enough For Love.
  • The quotes that begin chapters seventeen and eighteen are attributed to "Anson McDonald", on the occasion of "Anson McDonald Day". Anson McDonald is one of Heinlein's pseudonyms, and the afterword states that these quotes are actually Robert Heinleins, delivered on Robert Heinlein Day.
  • Joel meets Evelyn when he is a little girl, but time passes more slowly for him and he marries her as an adult. This is similar to Dan and Ricky in The Door Into Summer.
  • Joel meets his first date on board when he is playing music and she accompanies him without him seeing her. This is similar to how Jake meets his wife in Robinson's Callahan stories.
  • One of the last lines of the book is a quote from Tennyson's Ulysses:
... my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

The last Heinlein novel published in his life was To Sail Beyond the Sunset, which included and drew its title from this quote. If This Goes On— is a science fiction short novel by Robert A. Heinlein, published as part of the book Revolt in 2100. ... If This Goes On— is a science fiction short novel by Robert A. Heinlein. ... David Gerrold, born Jerrold David Friedman (January 24, 1944), is an award-winning science fiction author who started his career in 1966 as a college student by submitting an unsolicited story outline for the television series Star Trek. ... The War Against the Chtorr is a series of novels written by David Gerrold. ... Spoiler warning: Lazarus Long is a fictional character featured in a number of science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein. ... Andrew Jackson (Slipstick) Libby is a fictional character featured in a number of science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein. ... Tuckerization is the act of using a persons name in an original story as an in-joke (i. ... George Raymond Richard Martin, sometimes called GRRM, born September 20, 1948 in Bayonne, New Jersey is an American author and screenwriter of science fiction, horror, and fantasy. ... Robert and Virginia Heinlein in Tahiti, 1980. ... Time for the Stars is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1956. ... Farmer In The Sky is a 1950 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about a boy who emigrates to Jupiters moon Ganymede, which is in the process of being terraformed, and who creates a farm out of gravel. ... The Number of the Beast is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1980. ... Spoiler warning: Lazarus Long is a fictional character featured in a number of science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein. ... Methuselahs Children is a 1941 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein. ... The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress cover The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about a lunar penal colonys revolt against rule from Earth. ... Hazel Stone is a fictional character created by Robert A. Heinlein and featured in The Rolling Stones, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, and other novels. ... The Rolling Stones (also published under the name Space Family Stone in the United Kingdom) is a 1952 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein June 1, 1952, Atheneum, library binding, ISBN 0684923033 June 13, 1985, Del Rey, paperback reissue edition, 256 pages, ISBN 034532451X May 12, 1977, Del Rey, paperback... Time Enough for Love is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1973. ... The Door into Summer is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1957. ... Alfred, Lord Tennyson Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson (6 August 1809 – 6 October 1892) was Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom and is one of the most popular English poets. ... Ulysses is a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, written in 1833 but not published until 1842. ... To Sail Beyond the Sunset is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1987. ...


External links

Robert A. Heinlein novels, major collections, and nonfiction (Bibliography)
Robert A. Heinlein at the 1976 Worldcon

Future History and World as Myth: Methuselah's Children (1958) • The Past Through Tomorrow (1967) • Time Enough for Love (1973) • The Number of the Beast (1980) • The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985) • To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987) The Internet Speculative Fiction Database is a database of bibliographic information on science fiction and related genres such as fantasy fiction and horror fiction. ... Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of hard science fiction. ... The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress cover The science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) was productive during a writing career that spanned the last 49 years of his life and thus the Robert A. Heinlein bibliography includes 32 novels, 59 short stories and 16 collections published during his... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Universe was a 1941 story from Heinleins Future History series (shown here in the 1951 Dell edition). ... Pantheistic solipsism is a technical term that has been advanced for the World as Myth idea proposed by science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in several of his books and stories, although the concept has nothing in common with either Pantheism (the universe is God) or Solipsism (nothing exists but... Methuselahs Children is a 1941 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein. ... The Past Through Tomorrow was a collection of Robert Heinleins famed Future History stories The stories, for the most part, follow the same storyline of a rapidly collapsing American sanity, followed by a theocratic dictatorship (If This Goes On. ... Time Enough for Love is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1973. ... The Number of the Beast is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1980. ... Book cover The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1985. ... To Sail Beyond the Sunset is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1987. ...


Scribner's juveniles: Rocket Ship Galileo (1947) • Space Cadet (1948) • Red Planet (1949) • Farmer in the Sky (1950) • Between Planets (1951) • The Rolling Stones (1952) • Starman Jones (1953) • The Star Beast (1954) • Tunnel in the Sky (1955) • Time for the Stars (1956) • Citizen of the Galaxy (1957) • Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958) Heinlein juveniles is a phrase that collectively refers to the twelve novels written annually by Robert A. Heinlein and published by Scribners between 1947 and 1958. ... Rocket Ship Galileo is a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein in which boys build a rocket ship in their backyard and take it to the moon. ... Space Cadet is a 1948 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about Matt Dodson, who joins the Space Patrol that keeps the peace in the solar system. ... Red Planet is a 1949 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein about students at boarding school on Mars. ... Farmer In The Sky is a 1950 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about a boy who emigrates to Jupiters moon Ganymede, which is in the process of being terraformed, and who creates a farm out of gravel. ... Between Planets is a 1951 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein. ... The Rolling Stones (also published under the name Space Family Stone in the United Kingdom) is a 1952 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein June 1, 1952, Atheneum, library binding, ISBN 0684923033 June 13, 1985, Del Rey, paperback reissue edition, 256 pages, ISBN 034532451X May 12, 1977, Del Rey, paperback... Starman Jones is a 1953 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about a farm boy with an eidetic memory who wants to go to the stars. ... The Star Beast is a 1954 science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein about a high school senior who discovers that his late fathers extra-terrestrial pet is more than it appears to be. ... Tunnel in the Sky is a science fiction book written by Robert Heinlein and published in 1955. ... Time for the Stars is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1956. ... Cover: 1987 Del Rey paperback Citizen of the Galaxy is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1957. ... Have Space Suit—Will Travel is a juvenile science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialised in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (August, September, October 1958) and published by Scribners in hardcover in 1958 as the last of the Heinlein juveniles. ...


Other novels: For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs (1939/2003) • Beyond This Horizon (1942) • Sixth Column (1949) • The Puppet Masters (1951) • Double Star (1956) • The Door into Summer (1957) • Starship Troopers (1959) • Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) • Podkayne of Mars (1963) • Glory Road (1963) • Farnham's Freehold (1965) • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966) • I Will Fear No Evil (1970) • Friday (1982) • Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984) • Variable Star (1955/2006) For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs is a 1939 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, published for the first time on November 28, 2003. ... Beyond This Horizon is a 1942 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. ... Sixth Column, also published under the title The Day After Tomorrow, is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, set in a United States that has been conquered by a foreign invader. ... In 1951, Robert A. Heinlein published a science fiction novel, The Puppet Masters, in which American secret agents battle parasitic invaders from outer space. ... When two stars are so nearly in the same direction as seen from Earth that they appear to be a single star to the naked eye but may be separated by the use of telescopes, they are referred to as a double star. ... The Door into Summer is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1957. ... Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Starship Troopers Starship Troopers is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein, first published (in abridged form) as a serial in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (October, November 1959, as Starship Soldier) and published hardcover in 1959. ... Stranger in a Strange Land is a best-selling 1961 Hugo Award-winning science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. ... Podkayne of Mars is a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein published in 1963, about a teenage girl named Podkayne and her little brother, an antisocial genius, who leave their home on Mars to take a trip on a spaceliner to see Venus and Earth, accompanied by their uncle. ... Glory Road is a fantasy novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1963. ... Farnhams Freehold is a science fiction tale set in the near future by Robert Heinlein. ... The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress cover The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein about a lunar penal colonys revolt against rule from Earth. ... I Will Fear No Evil is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1970. ... Friday is a 1982 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. ... Job: A Comedy of Justice is a novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1984. ...


Nonfiction: Take Back Your Government (1946/1992) • Tramp Royale (1954/1992) • Expanded Universe (1980) • Grumbles from the Grave (1989) Take Back Your Government!: A Practical Handbook for the Private Citizen Who Wants Democracy to Work was an early work by Robert A. Heinlein. ... Tramp Royale is a nonfiction travelogue by science fiction writen Robert A. Heinlein, describing how he and his wife went around the world by ship and plane in 1953-1954. ... The full title of this book by Robert A. Heinlein is Expanded Universe, The New Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein, copyright 1980 by Heinlein. ... Grumbles from the Grave contains an assortment of bits of writing by Robert Heinlein, edited by his wife Virginia Heinlein, published a year and a half after his death. ...


  Results from FactBites:
 
Variable star - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (3578 words)
Variable stars are generally analysed using photometry and photospectrometry.
Of the brighter stars in the sky, Polaris is a Cepheid, although a somewhat unusual one.
Stars with sizable sunspots may show significant variations in brightness as they rotate, and brighter areas of the surface are brought into view.
variable star. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05 (712 words)
star that varies, either periodically or irregularly, in the intensity of the light it emits.
The class to which a variable star belongs is determined by a plot of its light curve, which is a graph of the star’s apparent brightness versus time.
Cepheid variables are classed as either population I Cepheids, which are found in the spiral arms of galaxies, or population II Cepheids, also known as W Virginis stars, which are found in star clusters (see also stellar populations).
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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