Farmer in the Sky

Farmer In The Sky is a 1950 science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein about a teenaged boy who emigrates with his family to Jupiter's moon Ganymede, which is in the process of being terraformed. Among Heinlein's juveniles, a condensed version of the novel was published in serial form in Boys' Life magazine (August, September, October, November 1950), under the title "Satellite Scout". The novel was awarded a Retro Hugo in 2001.[1]

Passing references by the lead character to the song "The Green Hills of Earth" and to its author, Rhysling, have caused some to consider it part of Heinlein's Future History series.

Farmer in the Sky
Fits50
First edition cover
AuthorRobert A. Heinlein
Cover artistClifford Geary
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesHeinlein juveniles
GenreScience fiction
PublisherCharles Scribner's Sons
Publication date
1950
ISBN0-345-32438-2
Preceded byRed Planet 
Followed byBetween Planets 

Plot summary

The story is set in a future, overcrowded Earth, where food is carefully rationed. Teenager William (Bill) Lermer lives with his widower father, George. George decides to emigrate to the farming colony on Ganymede, one of Jupiter's moons. After marrying Molly Kenyon, George embarks with Bill and Molly's daughter Peggy on the 'torchship' Mayflower. On the journey, Bill saves his bunkmates from asphyxiation by improvising a patch when a meteor punctures their compartment. During the trip all the children attend class; also, to combat the boredom of the long trip, the Boy Scouts among the passengers form troops.

When they arrive on Ganymede, an unpleasant surprise awaits the newcomers. The group is much larger than the colony can easily absorb and the farms they were promised do not yet exist. In fact, the soil has to be created from scratch by pulverizing boulders and lava flows, and seeding the resulting dust with carefully formulated organic material. While some whine about the injustice of it all, Bill accepts an invitation to live with a prosperous farmer and his family to learn what he needs to know, while his father signs on as an engineer in town. Peggy is unable to adjust to the low pressure atmosphere and has to stay in a bubble in the hospital. When the Lermers are finally reunited on their own homestead, they build their house with a pressurized room for Peggy.

One day, a rare alignment of all of Jupiter's major moons causes a devastating moon quake which damages most of the buildings. Peggy is seriously injured when her room suffers an explosive decompression. Even worse, the machinery that maintains Ganymede's "heat trap" is knocked out and the temperature starts dropping rapidly. George quickly realizes what has happened and gets his family to the safety of the town. Others do not grasp their peril soon enough and either stay in their homes or start for town too late; two-thirds of the colonists perish, either from the quake or by freezing. The Lermers consider returning to Earth, but after Peggy dies and in true pioneer spirit, they decide to stay and rebuild.

The colony gradually recovers and an expedition is organized to survey more of Ganymede. Bill goes along as the cook. While exploring, he and a friend discover artifacts of an alien civilization, including a working land vehicle that has legs, like a large metal centipede. This proves fortuitous when Bill's appendix bursts and they miss the rendezvous. The shuttle picks up the rest of the group and leaves without the pair. They travel cross country to reach the next landing site. Bill is then taken to the hospital for a life-saving operation.

Reception

Groff Conklin wrote that although Farmer in the Sky was "conceived as a novel for 'adolescents' ... this book is also one of the best of the month's output in science fiction for adults ... an adventure story with an unusual amount of realism in its telling. It is not childish".[2] Boucher and McComas named Farmer "just about the only mature science fiction novel of the year [1950]", describing it as "a magnificently detailed study of the technological and human problems of interplanetary colonization."[3] Damon Knight found the novel "a typical Heinlein story ... typically brilliant, thorough and readable."[4] P. Schuyler Miller recommended the novel unreservedly, saying that Heinlein's "minute attention to detail ... has never been more fascinatingly shown."[5]

Surveying Heinlein's juvenile novels, Jack Williamson noted that Farmer in the Sky "has harsh realism for a juvenile." He described it as "a novel of education" where the protagonist "tell[s] his own story in a relaxed conversational style."[6]

Major themes

The book takes up consciously many of the themes of the 19th century American frontier and homesteading - but without the moral stain of dispossessing the Native Americans.[7] In particular, a character who grows an apple tree and offers seeds to other colonists comes to be known as "Johnny Appleseed" (and survives with his family at the moment of disaster by burning his precious tree).

Scientific details

Galilean moon Laplace resonance animation de
The three inner Galilean moons revolve in a 4:2:1 resonance.

The alignment of Jupiter's four major moons as described in the book can never happen in reality. The three inner Galilean satellites are in a resonance with one another such that whenever two of them are aligned, the third will always be non-aligned and quite often situated on the opposite side of Jupiter.

Heinlein also postulated that the surface of Ganymede was volcanic rock like the Moon. Subsequent discoveries have shown that Ganymede's crust is actually almost 90% ice or frost, covering a subsurface ocean.

References

The novel refers to the "Space Patrol", the interplanetary peace-keeping organization described in Space Cadet.

Because it was originally written to be serialized in the Boy Scout magazine Boys' Life, Bill Lermer's participation in the Scouts is pervasive, mentioned at least once per chapter.

Notes

  1. ^ "1951 Retro Hugo Awards". Awardswinners.com.
  2. ^ Conklin, Groff (February 1951). "Galaxy's 5 Star Shelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. p. 99. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Recommended Reading," F&SF, June 1951, p.84
  4. ^ "The Dissecting Table", Worlds Beyond, February 1951, p.93
  5. ^ "Book Reviews", Astounding Science Fiction. April 1951, p.136
  6. ^ Jack Williamson, "Youth Against Space," Algol 17, 1977, p.11.
  7. ^ Abbott, Carl (July 2005). "Homesteading on the Extraterrestrial Frontier". Science Fiction Studies. 32 (2): 240–264. ISSN 0091-7729.

External links

Beyond This Horizon

Beyond This Horizon is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. It was originally published as a two-part serial in Astounding Science Fiction (April, May 1942, under the pseudonym Anson MacDonald) and then as a single volume by Fantasy Press in 1948. It was awarded a Retro Hugo award for best novel in 2018.

Double Star

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Forever Peace

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Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization

The Heinlein Prize for Advances in Space Commercialization, generally known as the Heinlein Prize, was founded in 1988 to reward individuals who make practical contributions to the commercialization of space. The Heinlein Prize, offers a cash award of $500,000 to one or more individuals for practical accomplishments in the field of commercial space activities rewarded by the International Aeronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany.Trustees for the award emphasize that the prize, which will be given as often as annually, is for effort by an individual or group of people, not government or corporate sponsored activities, and is intended to be worldwide in scope. The prize is awarded in July.

The Heinlein Prize honors the memory of Robert A. Heinlein, one of the most popular science fiction writers of the 20th century. The trust was established soon after his death in 1988 by his widow, Virginia Gerstenfeld Heinlein, whose estate will fund the prize.

Heinlein juveniles

Heinlein juveniles are the young adult novels written by Robert A. Heinlein. The twelve novels were published by Scribner's between 1947 and 1958, which together tell a single story of space exploration. A thirteenth, Starship Troopers, was submitted to Scribner's but rejected and instead published by Putnam. A fourteenth novel, Podkayne of Mars, is often listed as a "Heinlein juvenile", although Heinlein himself did not consider it to be one.

In addition to the juveniles, Heinlein wrote two short stories about Scouting for boys and three short stories with Puddin', a teenage female protagonist, for girls.

Hugo Award for Best Novel

The Hugo Award for Best Novel is one of the Hugo Awards given each year for science fiction or fantasy stories published or translated into English during the previous calendar year. The novel award is available for works of fiction of 40,000 words or more; awards are also given out in the short story, novelette, and novella categories. The Hugo Awards have been described as "a fine showcase for speculative fiction" and "the best known literary award for science fiction writing".The Hugo Award for Best Novel has been awarded annually by the World Science Fiction Society since 1953, except in 1954 and 1957. In addition to the regular Hugo awards, beginning in 1996 Retrospective Hugo Awards, or "Retro Hugos", have been available to be awarded for 50, 75, or 100 years prior. Retro Hugos may only be awarded for years in which a World Science Fiction Convention, or Worldcon, was hosted, but no awards were originally given. To date, Retro Hugo awards have been given for novels for 1939, 1941, 1943, 1946, 1951, and 1954.Hugo Award nominees and winners are chosen by supporting or attending members of the annual Worldcon, and the presentation evening constitutes its central event. The selection process is defined in the World Science Fiction Society Constitution as instant-runoff voting with six nominees, except in the case of a tie. The novels on the ballot are the six most-nominated by members that year, with no limit on the number of stories that can be nominated. The 1953, 1955, and 1958 awards did not include any recognition of runner-up novels, but since 1959 all final candidates have been recorded. Initial nominations are made by members in January through March, while voting on the ballot of six nominations is performed roughly in April through July, subject to change depending on when that year's Worldcon is held. Prior to 2017, the final ballot was five works; it was changed that year to six, with each initial nominator limited to five nominations. Worldcons are generally held in August or early September, and are held in a different city around the world each year.During the 70 nomination years, 145 authors have had works nominated; 48 of these have won, including co-authors, ties, and Retro Hugos. One translator has been noted along with the author whose works he translated. Robert A. Heinlein has received the most Hugos for Best Novel as well as the most nominations, with six wins (including two Retro Hugos) and twelve nominations. Lois McMaster Bujold has received four Hugos on ten nominations; the only other authors to win more than twice are Isaac Asimov (including one Retro Hugo), N. K. Jemisin, Connie Willis, and Vernor Vinge, who have each won three times. Nine other authors have won the award twice. The next-most nominations by a winning author are held by Robert J. Sawyer and Larry Niven, who have been nominated nine and eight times, respectively, and each have only won once, while Robert Silverberg has the greatest number of nominations without winning at nine. Three authors have won the award in consecutive years: Orson Scott Card (1986, 1987), Lois McMaster Bujold (1991, 1992), and N. K. Jemisin (2016, 2017, and 2018).

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Robert A. Heinlein

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Heinlein became one of the first American science-fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. He was one of the best-selling science-fiction novelists for many decades, and he, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke are often considered the "Big Three" of English-language science fiction authors. Notable Heinlein works include Stranger in a Strange Land, Starship Troopers (which helped mould the space marine and mecha archetypes) and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. His work sometimes had controversial aspects, such as plural marriage in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, militarism in Starship Troopers and technologically-competent women characters that were strong and independent, yet often stereotypically feminine - such as Friday.

A writer also of numerous science-fiction short stories, Heinlein was one of a group of writers who came to prominence under the editorship (1937-1971) of John W. Campbell at Astounding Science Fiction magazine, though Heinlein denied that Campbell influenced his writing to any great degree.

Within the framework of his science-fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought. He also speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices.

Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master in 1974. Four of his novels won Hugo Awards. In addition, fifty years after publication, seven of his works were awarded "Retro Hugos"—awards given retrospectively for works that were published before the Hugo Awards came into existence. In his fiction, Heinlein coined terms that have become part of the English language, including "grok", "waldo", and "speculative fiction", as well as popularizing existing terms like "TANSTAAFL", "pay it forward", and "space marine". He also anticipated mechanical computer-aided design with "Drafting Dan" and described a modern version of a waterbed in his novel The Door into Summer, though he never patented nor built one. In the first chapter of the novel Space Cadet he anticipated the cell-phone, 35 years before Motorola invented the technology. Several of Heinlein's works have been adapted for film and television.

Robert A. Heinlein bibliography

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Three non-fiction books and two poems have been published posthumously. One novel has been published posthumously and another, an unusual collaboration, was published in 2006. Four collections have been published posthumously.

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