Hugo: Farmer in the Sky (1951/2001)

The Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein
Read September 13, 2010 – September 18, 2010

Premise: A young man and his family decide to immigrate to Ganymede because of the promise of a better life, and because they want land to farm. The Earth is so overpopulated that food is heavily regulated and there is hardly enough for everyone to survive.

Verdict: This was another Retro Hugo award—eligible for 1951 and awarded in 2001. (I think they’ve stopped doing Retro Hugo’s, thank goodness.) I have, yet again, been spoiled by all the scifi that has come after this. I kept reading it going “And? What’s so special?” but in 1951, I’m sure this was extraordinary. The whole mechanics of how exactly one goes about creating a viable farm out of barren rock is incredibly interesting and well-thought out. Heinlein still pisses me off a little bit with his treatment of women—I put this off to the fact that, at that point, his entire audience consisted of teenage males, and I presume he knew that. This book sort of suffers from being a product of its time in my opinion. Its views on women, reproduction, the entire universe being in Boy Scout troops etc, are just so dated and trite. However, on the story level, the future is well thought out (prophetically thought out, really), the colonization of the solar system is quite detailed (especially for so small a book), and it really was fascinating to read. I also see why Ursula K. Le Guin was so determined to make this genre a girl’s game—or at least a game that doesn’t pay so much attention to gender at all. It sort of makes me want to write a space colonization story where women are hauled around because they cook and clean and make babies and have one of the girls run off and rule the universe.

I can’t say I particularly enjoyed reading this, but it was interesting to see how science fiction has gotten to where it is now. And it was short.

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