Art / fiction

What do I want?

“What did I want?
I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword,. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get u feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a like wench for my droit du seigneur–I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.
I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin.
I wanted Prestor John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be–instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.”

― Robert A. Heinlein, Glory Road


12 thoughts on “What do I want?

  1. That excerpt caused me to order an electronic copy from Amazon. It’s been a long time, and I don’t quite know why I haven’t obtained a copy. (I first read “Glory Road” at The Army Language School in 1963, while taking an intensive twelve-week course in Vietnamese. Heinlein was great relaxation from the rigors of ten-hours-a-day total immersion language instruction! [smile].

    It occurs to me that what RAH (speaking through “Oh, Scar”?) nicely delineates what readers want from science fiction and fantasy: fun and adventure and mind-stretching and cheering the hero and booing the villain. And to The Devil with the SJWs and t’others wit’ the’ glitterin’ hoo-haws!

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  2. One of my favorite Heinlein passages.
    Damien what-his-name at The Guardian is probably one of the people that would be horrified by this passage.
    Me? I remember reading it in 1970, being fourteen years old, and wanting to live my life that way.
    I tried, the only disappointments I’ve had in life came from straying from THIS path. The best memories of my life come from the times I said, “What the Hell?” and did something crazy anyway.
    I’ve seen the Earth from Eight miles up. I’ve ridden in a NAVY DSV at 3000 feet down. I’ve sat in the Gunner’s seat of an Apache, five feet off the waves at 198 KIAS. I’ve stood on the slopes of the Himalayas and watched the sun come up, watched the green flash from the deck of a cargo ship in the South Pacific. I remember the Captain ordering the ship to halt and sound “Swimming Call” while we were over the Marianas Trench.
    When I go down to that Last Sleep, it will not be with memories of sitting on the couch, watching TV and playing video games.
    My epitaph should be Jimmy Buffet’s line.
    “Some of its magic, and some of its tragic/but I had a good life anyway.”

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  3. I have seen New York City and I’ve seen Africa. I’ve fought the evil of communism/socialism that destroys humans and reduces them to widgets. Sometimes physically, mostly with words. I’ve raised a dragon. I’ve dreamed worlds. It could be worse.

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  4. That neatly sums up The Reader. I’ve seen six of seven continents. I learned as much as I could. I found compassion in Saudi Arabia and generosity in Scotland. It was RAH that sent me on my way so long ago.


  5. I’ve laid down beside the Very Large Array and watched the galaxy spin time overhead; I’ve walked out of Rome along the Via Appia in a misting rain; I’ve sipped coffee in Prague, tea in Istanbul (and Baghdad and Mosul and Dohuk — NO! Please, no more…), and beer in Amsterdam; I’ve seen the haboob roll into Balad, towers scrapping the sky in Dubai and lonely desert in Kuwait; I’ve rolled two wheels from Dallas to Barstow to Seattle (and back); cruised through Yellowstone in the freezing dark; let the galaxy seep into my soul again outside Sedona; I’ve ridden the Black Hills in the bright of day and the black of night (with the wind sucking the heat from my skin, icy vampire); I’ve seen death and life and hope…

    I’m still going, the stars are still spinning, what’s next!


  6. Without a doubt, RAH was one of my early influences. His novels of “Glory Road” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” truly showed me that there is always “Time Enough for Love” and to always strive to “Sail Beyond the Sunset.”

    He was a Titan among Giants.

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  7. To quote an old Spider Robinson essay, Rah ! Rah! Rah!, R.A.H.

    I think Heinlein got most of us started. For me, it was “Have Spacesuit, will Travel”. . . . and it was off to the stars from there. . .


  8. I _think_ my first RAH was either “Have spacesuit. . . ” or “Rocket ship Galileo.” I was probably about Eleven or Twelve. Glory Road, I would have been in my early Twenties. To paraphrase, “Oh the places I’ve been, and the things I’ve seen.” I took to heart, at an early age, his injunction about “specialization.” Most of what I could do, I can’t any longer for physical reasons. I also *rarely* talk about most of what I know how to do. The “Government” has no “need to know.” The current, and for foreseeable future, PC climate makes to unsafe to admit to knowing certain things, and having certain skills. Oscar, would never have survived today. Some “publicity seeking DA,” would have him in jail for something.


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