Farnham's Freehold

Farnham's Freehold is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. A serialised version, edited by Frederik Pohl, appeared in Worlds of If magazine (July, August, October 1964). The complete version was published in novel form by G.P. Putnam later in 1964.

Farnham's Freehold is a post-apocalyptic tale. The setup for the story is a direct hit by a nuclear weapon, which sends into the future a fallout shelter containing Farnham, his wife, son, daughter, daughter's friend, and domestic servant. In writing the novel Heinlein drew on his experience of building a fallout shelter under his own house in Colorado Springs, Colorado in the 1960s.

Farnham's Freehold
First edition cover
AuthorRobert A. Heinlein
Cover artistIrv Docktor
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
PublisherG.P. Putnam (US)
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover & Paperback)


Hugh Farnham, a white middle-aged man, holds a bridge club party for his alcoholic wife Grace, law-graduate son Duke, college-student daughter Karen, and Karen's friend Barbara. During the bridge game, Duke berates Hugh for frightening Grace by preparing for a possible Soviet nuclear attack. When the attack actually occurs the group, along with Joe, the family's African American servant, retreat to the fallout shelter beneath the house.

After several distant nuclear explosions rock the shelter, Hugh and Barbara become sexually intimate, after which the largest explosion of all hits the shelter. With only minor injuries, but with their bottled oxygen running low, the group decides to ensure that they will be able to leave the shelter when necessary. After exiting through an emergency tunnel, they find themselves in a completely undamaged, semi-tropical region apparently uninhabited by humans or other sentient creatures. Several of the group speculate that the final explosion somehow forced them into an alternate dimension.

The group struggles to stay alive by reverting to the ways of the American pioneers, with Hugh as the leader—despite friction between Hugh and Duke. Karen announces that she is pregnant and had returned home the night of the attack to tell her parents. Barbara also announces that she is pregnant, but without mentioning that her pregnancy resulted from her sexual encounter with Hugh during the attack. Karen eventually dies during her labor, due to complications, along with her infant daughter the next day.

Grace, whose sanity has been challenged by all these events, demands that Barbara be forced from the group or she will leave. Duke convinces Hugh that he will go with Grace to ensure her safety, but before they can leave, a large aircraft appears overhead. The group is taken captive by people of African ancestry, but is spared execution when Joe intervenes by conversation with their captives' leader in French.

The group finds that it has not been transported to another world, but instead is in the distant future of their own world. A decadent but technologically advanced African culture keeps either uneducated or castrated whites as slaves. Each of the characters adapts to the sudden change in black/white roles in different and sometimes shocking ways. In the end, Hugh and Barbara reject the new era of slavery they find themselves in and attempt to escape, but are captured. Rather than execute them, Ponse, "Lord Protector" of the house to which they have been enslaved, asks them to volunteer for a time-travel experiment that will send them back to their own time.

They return just prior to the original nuclear attack, and flee in Barbara's car. As they drive they realize that while Barbara had driven a car with an automatic transmission, this car—the same car in every other respect—has a manual transmission, and Farnham deduces that the time-travel experiment worked but sent them into an alternate universe.

They gather supplies and flee into the hills, surviving the attack, and live out the rest of their lives.

Contemporary reception

Kirkus Reviews stated that the "characters have souls of wood pulp", and that "The satire on fall-out shelters, race and sex lacks inspiration."[1]

The SF Site described Farnham's Freehold as "a difficult book", and stated that "At best, [it] is an uncomfortable book with some good points mixed in with the bad, like an elderly relative [who] can give good advice and in the next breath go off on some racist or sexist rant. At worst, Farnham's Freehold is an anti-minority, anti-woman survivalist rant. It is oftentimes frustrating. It is sometimes shocking. It is never boring."[2]

Charles Stross has rhetorically asked whether "anyone (has) a kind word to say for ... Farnham's Freehold", and then described it as the result of "a privileged white male from California, a notoriously exclusionary state, trying to understand American racism in the pre-Martin Luther King era. And getting it wrong for facepalm values of wrong, so wrong he wasn't even on the right map ... but at least he wasn't ignoring it."[3]

The New Republic, while conceding Heinlein's desire to "show the evils of ethnic oppression", states that in the process, Heinlein "resurrected some of the most horrific racial stereotypes imaginable", ultimately producing "an anti-racist novel only a Klansman could love".[4]


  1. ^ FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD, by Robert A. Heinlein, at Kirkus Reviews; originally published June 15, 1964; published online September 25, 2011; retrieved June 16, 2014
  2. ^ Farnham's Freehold; Robert A. Heinlein; Narrated by Tom Weinter, unabridged: a review, by Dale Darlage, at the SF Site; published 2011; retrieved June 16, 2014
  3. ^ Crib Sheet: Saturn's Children, from Charlie's Diary, by Charles Stross; published July 13, 2013; retrieved June 16, 2014
  4. ^ A Famous Science Fiction Writer's Descent Into Libertarian Madness, by Jeet Heer; at the New Republic; published June 8, 2014; retrieved June 14, 2014

External links

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A fallout shelter is an enclosed space specially designed to protect occupants from radioactive debris or fallout resulting from a nuclear explosion. Many such shelters were constructed as civil defense measures during the Cold War.

During a nuclear explosion, matter vaporized in the resulting fireball is exposed to neutrons from the explosion, absorbs them, and becomes radioactive. When this material condenses in the rain, it forms dust and light sandy materials that resemble ground pumice. The fallout emits alpha and beta particles, as well as gamma rays.

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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.

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Robert A. Heinlein

Robert Anson Heinlein (; July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science-fiction writer and aeronautical engineer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers", He was among the first to emphasize scientific accuracy in his fiction, and was thus a pioneer of the subgenre of hard science fiction. His work continues to have an influence on the science-fiction genre, and on modern culture more generally.

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

The science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein (1907–1988) was productive during a writing career that spanned the last 49 years of his life; the Robert A. Heinlein bibliography includes 32 novels, 59 short stories and 16 collections published during his life. Four films, two TV series, several episodes of a radio series, and a board game derive more or less directly from his work. He wrote a screenplay for one of the films. Heinlein edited an anthology of other writers' SF short stories.

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.

Heinlein's fictional works can be found in the library under PS3515.E288, or under Dewey 813.54. Known pseudonyms include Anson MacDonald (7 times), Lyle Monroe (7), John Riverside (1), Caleb Saunders (1), and Simon York (1). All the works originally attributed to MacDonald, Saunders, Riverside and York, and many of the works originally attributed to Lyle Monroe, were later reissued in various Heinlein collections and attributed to Heinlein.

Sixth Column

Sixth Column, also known under the title The Day After Tomorrow, is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, based on a story by editor John W. Campbell, and set in a United States that has been conquered by the PanAsians, a combination of Chinese and Japanese. Originally published as a serial in Astounding Science Fiction (January, February, March 1941, using the pen name Anson MacDonald) it was published in hardcover in 1949. It is most known for its race-based premises.

The Door into Summer

The Door into Summer is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (October, November, December 1956, with covers and interior illustrations by Frank Kelly Freas). It was published in hardcover in 1957.

The novel is fast-paced hard science fiction, with a key fantastic element and a romantic element.

In three separate Locus magazine readers' polls from 1975 to 1998, it was judged the 36th, 29th, and the 43rd all-time best science-fiction novel.Its title was triggered by a remark which Heinlein's wife Virginia made when their cat refused to leave the house: "He's looking for a door into summer."Heinlein wrote the novel in 13 days.

The Space Traders

"The Space Traders" is a science fiction short story by Derrick Bell.

Published in 1992, its subject is the arrival of extraterrestrials that offer the United States a wide range of benefits such as gold, clean nuclear power and other technological advances, in exchange for one thing: handing over all black people in the U.S. to the aliens. The story posits that the people and political establishment of the U.S. are willing to make this deal, passing a referendum to enable it.

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag is a novella by Robert A. Heinlein. It was originally published in the October 1942 edition of Unknown Worlds magazine under the pseudonym of "John Riverside". It also lends its title to a collection of Heinlein's short stories published in 1959.

The Year of the Jackpot

"The Year of the Jackpot" is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, first published 1952, and collected in one of Heinlein's anthologies, The Menace from Earth.

In the story, a trend-following statistician finds romance and a disturbing conclusion. The story touches on recurrent Heinlein themes of survivalism and the prudishness of social mores of the time.

Virginia Heinlein

Virginia "Ginny" Heinlein (April 22, 1916 – January 18, 2003), born Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld, was an American chemist, biochemist, engineer, and the third wife of Robert A. Heinlein, a prominent and successful author often considered as one of the "Big Three" of science fiction (along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke).

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