Methuselah's Children

Methuselah's Children is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialized in Astounding Science Fiction in the July, August, and September 1941 issues. It was expanded into a full-length novel in 1958.

The novel is usually considered to be part of Heinlein's Future History series of stories. It introduces the Howard Families, a fictional group of people who achieved long lifespans through selective breeding. The space ship in this novel, the New Frontiers, is described in the Future History timeline as a second generation ship, following the Vanguard, the vehicle for Heinlein's paired novellas "Universe" and "Common Sense".

According to John W. Campbell,[1] the novel was originally to be called While the Evil Days Come Not. This provisional title stems from a quotation from Ecclesiastes that was used as a password on the second page of the story.

The novel was the origin of the name Masquerade as a term for a fictional trope of a hidden society within the real world.

Methuselah's Children
Methuselahs Children 1958
First edition cover
AuthorRobert A. Heinlein
CountryUnited States
SeriesFuture History
GenreScience fiction
PublisherGnome Press
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Preceded by"Misfit" 
Followed byOrphans of the Sky 

Plot summary

Starting off a grocer, Ira Howard became rich as a sutler wholesaler during the American War of the Secession, but died of old age at 48 or 49 years old. The trustees of his will carried out his wishes to prolong human life, by financially encouraging those with long-lived grandparents to marry each other and have children. By the 22nd century the "Howard families" have a life expectancy exceeding 150 years and keep their existence secret with the "Masquerade", in which the members fake their deaths and obtain new identities. The Masquerade helped the Families survive the dictatorship of Nehemiah Scudder, but as an experiment some Howard members reveal themselves to The Covenant, hoping that the free society established after Scudder's defeat will be friendly. They are mistaken; others refuse to believe that the Families obtained their lifespan by selective breeding, instead insisting they have developed a secret method to extend life. Administrator Slayton Ford, leader of Earth, believes that the Families are telling the truth, but cannot prevent efforts to force Howard members to reveal their alleged rejuvenatory abilities.

Lazarus Long, the eldest member of the Families, proposes that the Families hijack the colony starship New Frontiers to escape Earth. Using an inertialess drive invented by Howard member Andrew Jackson "Slipstick" Libby, the Families leave the Solar System with the deposed Ford. The first planet they discover has humanoid inhabitants domesticated by indescribable godlike natives. When Earthly humans prove incapable of similar domestication, they are expelled from the planet.

The second planet is a lush environment with no predators and mild weather. Its inhabitants are part of a group mind, with the mental ability to manipulate the environment on the genetic and molecular level, but do not distinguish between individuals. This becomes evident when Mary Sperling, second oldest of the Families, joins the group mind to become immortal. The Families are further horrified when the group mind genetically modifies the first baby born on the planet into a new, alien form. A majority of the Families returns to Earth to demand their freedom; Libby, with the help of the group mind, builds a new faster-than-light drive to take them home in months instead of years.

The Families return to the Solar System 74 years after their original departure because of time dilation, and discover that Earth's scientists have artificially extended human lifespan indefinitely, replicating what they believe is the Families' secret. The Howard members are now welcomed for their discovery of travel faster than light. Libby and Long decide to recruit other members of the Families, and explore space with the new drive.

Critical reception

Alva Rogers, in A Requiem for Astounding, wrote that Methuselah's Children was "Full of adventure, conflict, romance, and enough casually tossed-off ideas to serve as the basis for a half-dozen other stories."[2] In Heinlein in Dimension, Alexei Panshin wrote "In many ways this is an important book. For one, its main theme, the problem of escaping death, is one that keeps cropping up in Heinlein stories, and for another, an amazing number of brilliant ideas are tossed out along the way."[3] Floyd C. Gale called the book "a classic".[4]

Reappearance of characters in other Heinlein novels

Lazarus Long first appears in this novel. Other Heinlein novels featuring Lazarus Long include Time Enough for Love, The Number of the Beast, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Andrew "Slipstick" Libby, previously seen as a young adult in the short story "Misfit", also features prominently in this novel. In Time Enough for Love, Libby is said to have become Lazarus Long's partner in space travel until his death.


Prometheus Hall of Fame Award for "Best Classic Libertarian Sci-Fi Novel" (1997).


  1. ^ "History to Come". Astounding Science Fiction. 27: 5. May 1941.
  2. ^ Rogers, Alva (1964). A Requiem for Astounding. Chicago: Advent.
  3. ^ Panshin, Alexei (1968). Heinlein in Dimension. Chicago: Advent.
  4. ^ Gale, Floyd C. (August 1959). "Galaxy's 5 Star Star Shelf". Galaxy. pp. 138–142. Retrieved 14 June 2014.

External links

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.

Howard families

The Howard Families are a fictional group of people created by the author Robert A. Heinlein.

According to Heinlein, the Howard Foundation was started in the 19th century by Ira Howard, a millionaire dying of old age in his forties, for the purpose of extending human lifespan. Howard himself did not live to see the outcome; he simply endowed the experiment with his own fortune, and the trustees of the Howard Foundation used the limited scientific knowledge of the time to create a selective breeding human program to encourage, financially, people of long-lived ancestry to have children together. The Howard Foundation is greatly enriched during the Great Depression by knowledge gained through time travel so that they get out of the stock market before the crash and invest in gold rather than cash and are able to reinvest in stocks that rebound after the crash.The novel Methuselah's Children is focused on the Howard Families and their quest for acceptance on Earth and other planets. According to Methuselah's Children, envy of the Howard Families and the false belief that they have some artificial secret to long life eventually leads the "short-lifers" to develop a therapy for "rejuvenation." Initially, the therapy consists simply of blood replacement (using new blood grown in vitro), but according to Time Enough for Love, this single therapy was eventually expanded to include the gradual replacement of nearly all body parts as well as emotional therapy. Members of the Howard Families generally opt to undergo rejuvenation, thereby extending their already-long lifespans practically indefinitely.

The books Time Enough for Love and To Sail Beyond the Sunset tell the stories of two famous Howard Family members: Lazarus Long and his mother, Maureen Johnson. Lazarus Long also appears in The Number of the Beast and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

If This Goes On—

"If This Goes On—" is a science fiction novella by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, first serialized in 1940 in Astounding Science-Fiction and revised and expanded for inclusion in the 1953 collection Revolt in 2100. The novella shows what might happen to Christianity in the United States given mass communications, applied psychology, and a hysterical populace. The novel is part of Heinlein's Future History series.

In 2016 the story won the 1941 Retro-Hugo Award for Best Novella of 1940 at the 2016 WorldCon.

Inertialess drive

The inertialess drive is a fictional means of accelerating to close to the speed of light or faster-than-light travel, originally used in Triplanetary and the Lensman series by E.E. "Doc" Smith, and later by Robert A. Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke,

Larry Niven, Julian May and Alastair Reynolds.

Lazarus Long

Lazarus Long is a fictional character featured in a number of science fiction novels by Robert A. Heinlein. Born in 1912 in the third generation of a selective breeding experiment run by the Ira Howard Foundation, Lazarus (birth name Woodrow Wilson Smith) becomes unusually long-lived, living well over two thousand years with the aid of occasional rejuvenation treatments. Heinlein "patterned" Long on science fiction writer Edward E. Smith, mixed with Jack Williamson's fictional Giles Habibula.His exact (natural) life span is never revealed. In his introduction at the beginning of Methuselah's Children, he claims he is 213 years old. Approximately 75 years pass during the course of the novel, but because large amounts of this time are spent traveling close to the speed of light, the 75-year measurement is an expression of the time elapsed on Earth rather than time seen from his perspective. At one point, he estimates his natural life span to be around 250 years, but this figure is not expressed with certainty. He acknowledges that such a long life span should not be expected as a result of a mere three generations of selective breeding, but offers no alternative explanation except by having a character declare, "A mutation, of course-—which simply says that we don't know".In Methuselah's Children, Long mentions visiting Hugo Pinero, the scientist appearing in Heinlein's first published story "Life-Line", who had invented a machine that precisely measured lifespan. Pinero refuses to reveal the results of Lazarus's reading and returns his money.

The promotional copy on the back of Time Enough for Love, the second book featuring Lazarus Long, states that Lazarus was "so in love with time that he became his own ancestor," but this never happens in any of the published books. In the book, Lazarus does travel back in time and is seduced by his mother, but this takes place years after his own birth. Heinlein did, however, use just such a plot device in the short story "—All You Zombies—", in which a character becomes both of his own parents.

A rugged individualist with a distrust of authority, Lazarus drifts from world to world, settling down periodically and leaving when the situation becomes too regimented for his taste-—often just before an angry mob arrives to capture him.

The Lazarus Long set of books involve time travel, parallel dimensions, free love, individualism, and a concept that Heinlein named World as Myth—the theory that universes are created by the act of imagining them, such that even fictional worlds are real.


"Life-Line" is a short story by American author Robert A. Heinlein. Published in the August 1939 edition of Astounding, it was Heinlein's first published short story.

The protagonist, Professor Pinero, builds a machine that will predict how long a person will live. It does this by sending a signal along the world line of a person and detecting the echo from the far end. Professor Pinero's invention has a powerful impact on the life insurance industry, as well as on his own life.

Pinero is mentioned in passing in the novels Time Enough for Love and Methuselah's Children when the practically immortal Lazarus Long mentions having been examined and being sent away because the machine is "broken."

Masquerade (trope)

In speculative fiction, a masquerade is a system by which people or creatures living in a wainscot society hide themselves from the outside world. The term was first coined by Robert A. Heinlein's Methuselah's Children in 1958.

In a fantasy context, this means that magic is hidden, whether in secret locations, such as Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, or by magical forces, such as the Mist in Percy Jackson, or a glamour placed on individuals. This is typically done to avoid some type of mass panic that would result in the destruction of the magical world by far more numerous normal people fearing the unknown. Masquerade societies may seek to hide this information from outsiders, or they may be disbelieved due to ignorance, conspiracies, or consensus reality. In horror-tinged works of fantasy, such as H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, the Buffyverse, or White Wolf Games' World of Darkness setting, the majority's ignorance of the true horrors of their world may seem like a blessing.

The trope is not only used in fantasy, but in science fiction and superhero stories as well. A common thing to keep hidden from the masses in science fiction is the existence of aliens, such as in the Men in Black series. The secret identities of superheroes are also a type of masquerade, and the only superheroes that show their true identity are ones who can keep their family safe, or have nothing to protect.The masquerade trope benefits writers by adding additional tension to the story, as well as helping it seem more like something plausible. It also saves the author from having to "rewrite history" to explain the existence of magic.

Misfit (short story)

"Misfit" is a science fiction short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein. It was originally titled "Cosmic Construction Corps" before being renamed by the editor John W. Campbell. and published in the November 1939 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. One of the earliest of Heinlein's Future History stories, it was later included in the collections Revolt in 2100 and The Past Through Tomorrow.


"Moonbat" is a pejorative political epithet used in United States politics, referring to liberals, progressives, or leftists (especially the far-left), a possible parallel to the pejorative "Wingnut" attributed to American conservatives, and right wing politics.

Revolt in 2100

Revolt in 2100 is a 1953 science fiction collection by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, part of his Future History series.

The contents are as follows:

Foreword by Henry Kuttner, "The Innocent Eye"

"If This Goes On—" (1940; originally published in Astounding Science Fiction)

"Coventry" (1940; originally published in Astounding Science Fiction)

"Misfit" (1939; originally published in Astounding Science Fiction)

Future History chart

Afterword: "Concerning Stories Never Written"The short novel, "If This Goes On—", describes a rebellion against an American theocracy and thus served as the vehicle for Heinlein to criticise the authoritarian potential of Protestant Christian fundamentalism. The work is not an attack on religion in general, however, as he has a Mormon community take part in the anti-theocratic revolt. Heinlein rewrote the work for this appearance.The short stories, "Coventry" and "Misfit", describe the succeeding secular liberal society from the point of view of characters who reject it.

Later paperback editions have paired Revolt in 2100 with Methuselah's Children.

The afterword describes three stories which describe the beginning of the theocracy and subsequent beginnings of rebellion against it. "The Sound of His Wings" would have concerned a televangelist named Nehemiah Scudder who rides a populist, racist wave of support to the Presidency. "Eclipse" describes the subsequent collapse of American society with particular emphasis on the withdrawal from space travel by the new regime. "The Stone Pillow" offers the rise of the rebellion which the protagonists of "If This Goes On-" later join; the rebellion (styled the "Second American Revolution" in later stories of the Future History) includes Mormons, Catholics, and Jews, groups suppressed by the Theocracy, working in concert with Freemasons. Internal evidence of the series, particularly conversations in Methuselah's Children and Time Enough For Love place the Scudder election in the year 2012.

The character of Nehemiah Scudder, the "First Prophet" of the regime, appeared in Heinlein's first novel (never published in his lifetime), For Us, The Living. He is also used in Spider Robinson's Variable Star, a novel based on an outline of Heinlein's. The novel borrows liberally from Heinlein's Future History, although it does not follow its timeline.

Reviewer Groff Conklin described the Shasta edition as "a classic" and the lead story as "a smashing tale of revolution in the United States." Boucher and McComas, however, described the collection as "[i]mpressive in its time, and important in the development of modern science fiction," but found it highly uneven, "with pages worthy of the mature 1954 Heinlein ... followed immediately by passages from the author's literary apprenticeship." P. Schuyler Miller found Revolt in 2100 to be "a distinctly minor Heinlein contribution, ... way below the mark Heinlein has set himself in his recent teen-age books."

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.

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1985. Like many of his later novels, it features Lazarus Long and Jubal Harshaw as supporting characters.

The Past Through Tomorrow

The Past Through Tomorrow is a collection of science fiction stories by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, all part of his Future History.

Most of the stories are parts of a larger storyline about the future rapid collapse of sanity in the United States, followed by a theocratic dictatorship, a revolution, and the establishment of a free society that does not save the pseudo-immortal Lazarus Long and his Howard Families from fleeing Earth for their lives. Most editions of the collection include a timeline showing the chronology of the stories (including stories never written, such as "The Stone Pillow", which was to occur during the period of the theocracy), times of birth and death of the significant characters, and commentary by Heinlein.

The specific short stories included vary with the edition, but typically include:

"Life-Line", 1939; a month before "Misfit"

"Misfit", 1939

"The Roads Must Roll", 1940

"Requiem", 1940

"'If This Goes On—'", 1940

"Coventry", 1940

"Blowups Happen", 1940

"Universe", 1941

"Methuselah's Children", 1941; extended and published as a novel, 1958

"Logic of Empire", 1941

"'—We Also Walk Dogs'", 1941

"Space Jockey", 1947

"'It's Great to Be Back!'", 1947

"The Green Hills of Earth", 1947

"Ordeal in Space", 1948

"The Long Watch", 1948

"Gentlemen, Be Seated!", 1948

"The Black Pits of Luna", 1948

"Delilah and the Space Rigger", 1949

"The Man Who Sold the Moon", 1950

"The Menace From Earth", 1957

"Searchlight", 1962The 1975 and 1986 paperback editions are both missing the story "Universe".

The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein

The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein is a collection of science fiction short stories by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1966.

It includes an introduction entitled "Pandora's Box" that describes some of the difficulties in making predictions about the near future. Heinlein outlines some of his predictions that he made in 1949 (published 1952) and examines how well they stood up to some 15 years of progress in 1965. The prediction was originally published in Galaxy magazine, Feb 1952, Vol. 3, No. 5, under the title "Where to?" (pp. 13–22).

Following the introduction are five short stories:

"Free Men" (written c. 1947, but first published in this collection, 1966)

"Blowups Happen" (1940)

"Searchlight" (1962)

"Life-Line" (1939)

"Solution Unsatisfactory" (1940)In 1980, the entire contents of this collection, with an updated version of "Pandora's Box", were included in Heinlein's collection, Expanded Universe.

To Sail Beyond the Sunset

To Sail Beyond the Sunset is a science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1987. It was the last novel published before his death in 1988. The title is taken from the poem Ulysses, by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The stanza of which it is a part, quoted by a character in the novel, is as follows:

It is the final part of the "Lazarus Long" cycle of stories, involving time travel, parallel dimensions, free love, voluntary incest, and a concept that Heinlein named pantheistic solipsism, or 'World as Myth': the theory that universes are created by the act of imagining them, so that somewhere (for example) the Land of Oz is real. Other books in the cycle include Methuselah's Children, Time Enough for Love, The Number of the Beast, and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.

Variable Star

For the astronomical object, see Variable star.Variable Star is a 2006 science fiction novel by American author Spider Robinson, based on the surviving seven pages of an eight-page 1955 novel outline by the late Robert A. Heinlein. The book is set in a divergent offshoot of Heinlein's Future History and contains many references to works by Heinlein and other authors. It describes the coming of age of a young musician who signs on to the crew of a starship as a way of escaping from a failed romance. Robinson posted a note on his website in 2009 noting that his agent had sold a trilogy of sequels based on the novel and its characters.

Virginia Heinlein

Virginia "Ginny" Heinlein (April 22, 1916 – January 18, 2003), born Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld, was a 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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