Monday, August 16, 2004

Heinlein Society: Stranger vs Stranger

Here's an interesting short article comparing the cut (1961) and uncut (1991) versions of Stranger in a Strange Land. Author G. E. Rule (who apparently wrote this piece ten years ago) has a strong preference for the uncut, going so far as to say “ I never particularly liked [the original, cut version of] STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. For many years I didn't know why. I just knew that it didn't ‘taste’ right to me.” He goes on to compare several passages, showing where Heinlein's distinctive voice was toned down considerably.

In my humble opinion, I prefer the uncut version for the same reason Rule does: It presents Heinlein's voice more clearly. However, it isn't night-and-day for me: I picked the cut Stranger in a Strange Land as one of the Five Best SF Books Ever, years before the uncut version was available. Also, I was mildly surprised that Rule didn't mention the first major change on the first page: when the uncut version was first available, and I was skimming it (in Howard's bookstore, if I recall correctly), that change jumped out at me. I was pleasantly surprised, because (a) it seemed truer to Heinlein's style, and (b) amused me to realize how well I knew the text of Stranger. I knew then and there that I needed to buy the Uncut Stranger.


  • "Valentine Michael Smith was as real as taxes, but he was a race of one."

    Yup, shoulda. But thanks for the qualified support anyway!

    Today, eight years later, I'd be a little more moderate. I'm older and have had the opportunity to talk it over with more Heinlein experts of the upper ranks. Also, as you might gather, at the time I was blown away with relief that I could finally embrace this book that had bothered me for so long.

    But even if you give him back as few words as 10k, figuring the average cut is about three words, that's still 3,000 sentences that have been maimed (in my view) or "telegraphese" in Heinlein's own description.

    In my old paperback, that's seven sentences per page. I truly don't understand how a serious Heinlein fan could not find that disturbing. Of course, it is the best known --by far-- Heinlein work, and many who have read it are not particularly Heinlein fans at all in the sense of having read the rest of his work.

    At any rate, always nice to know someone reads this stuff. . .:)

    Best. Geo (G. E.) Rule

    By Blogger geo, at 11:49 PM  

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