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Astounding Science-Fiction, October 1941

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Contents: Documents for Tomorrow / essay by John W. Campbell Jr. By His Bootstraps / by Robert A. Heinlein (writing as Anson MacDonald); interior artwork by Hubert Rogers In Times to Come / essay by The Editor The Analytical Laboratory: August 1941 / essay by The Editor Not Final! (Jovians #1) / by Isaac Asimov; interior artwork by Kolliker The Sea King's Armored Division (Part Contents: Documents for Tomorrow / essay by John W. Campbell Jr. By His Bootstraps / by Robert A. Heinlein (writing as Anson MacDonald); interior artwork by Hubert Rogers In Times to Come / essay by The Editor The Analytical Laboratory: August 1941 / essay by The Editor Not Final! (Jovians #1) / by Isaac Asimov; interior artwork by Kolliker The Sea King's Armored Division (Part 2 of 2) / essay by L. Sprague de Camp Manic Perverse / by Winston K. Marks; interior artwork by Frank Kramer Two Percent Inspiration / by Theodore Sturgeon; interior artwork by Hubert Rogers Common Sense / by Robert A. Heinlein; interior artwork by Paul Orban Brass Tacks / essay by The Editor Letters / P. Schuyler Miller; Paul A. Carter; and E. Everett Evans


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Contents: Documents for Tomorrow / essay by John W. Campbell Jr. By His Bootstraps / by Robert A. Heinlein (writing as Anson MacDonald); interior artwork by Hubert Rogers In Times to Come / essay by The Editor The Analytical Laboratory: August 1941 / essay by The Editor Not Final! (Jovians #1) / by Isaac Asimov; interior artwork by Kolliker The Sea King's Armored Division (Part Contents: Documents for Tomorrow / essay by John W. Campbell Jr. By His Bootstraps / by Robert A. Heinlein (writing as Anson MacDonald); interior artwork by Hubert Rogers In Times to Come / essay by The Editor The Analytical Laboratory: August 1941 / essay by The Editor Not Final! (Jovians #1) / by Isaac Asimov; interior artwork by Kolliker The Sea King's Armored Division (Part 2 of 2) / essay by L. Sprague de Camp Manic Perverse / by Winston K. Marks; interior artwork by Frank Kramer Two Percent Inspiration / by Theodore Sturgeon; interior artwork by Hubert Rogers Common Sense / by Robert A. Heinlein; interior artwork by Paul Orban Brass Tacks / essay by The Editor Letters / P. Schuyler Miller; Paul A. Carter; and E. Everett Evans

30 review for Astounding Science-Fiction, October 1941

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lyn

    Marty and Dr. Brown are working under the hood of a DeLorean talking about time travel and Robert A. Heinlein. Marty: So what made you first think about time travel, Doc? Brown: Science Fiction, my boy! Science Fiction, the very finest literature! Marty: Isn’t that kind of , you know, looked down upon? Brown: What?? By who? Marty, science fiction is what makes everything tick, it’s the fuel, the impetus. It’s the spark, I tell, you, like electricity! Marty: Well, like what? Brown: HG Wells – The Time Marty and Dr. Brown are working under the hood of a DeLorean talking about time travel and Robert A. Heinlein. Marty: So what made you first think about time travel, Doc? Brown: Science Fiction, my boy! Science Fiction, the very finest literature! Marty: Isn’t that kind of , you know, looked down upon? Brown: What?? By who? Marty, science fiction is what makes everything tick, it’s the fuel, the impetus. It’s the spark, I tell, you, like electricity! Marty: Well, like what? Brown: HG Wells – The Time Machine! And Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Jules Verne – Alistair Reynolds! Marty: Who? Brown: Er, ah, no one, uh – and what about Robert A. Heinlein! Now there is a writer. The Rolling Stones, Between Planets, and my favorite, a short story, “By His Bootstraps” – ah that was a good one. Marty: What’s it about? Brown: Why time travel, of course. It explores the paradox of finding yourself in another time – uh, ah, or something like that, forget it, hand me that wrench, Marty. Marty: Paradox’s huh? That sounds cool, like what, like if you go back or forward in time and see yourself, maybe warn yourself about – Brown: Forget it, Marty, like you said, uh, um, just silly kid stuff, time travel, blah! Marty: But Doc! I’m back in time, you brought me back here, what about the paradox? What if I see myself in another time? Brown: Well, like I said, Heinlein explores how a time traveler can see himself in another time, maybe even interact with himself – Marty: Doc, I can’t find the wrench, hey what’s this, looks Arabic or Farsi or something – What about all that talk about screwing up future events? The space-time continuum? Brown: Ah! Give me that! Well, I figured, what the hell?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Yoak

    By His Bootstraps is atypical for a Heinlein story, particularly in terms of having a weak and undesirable main character. I think this was a byproduct of a very unusual plot challenge. While Heinlein used time travel in other places, it was always of a distant sort. If you are both willing to move 2000 years through time and declare yourself unsure of potential paradoxes, time traveling isn't that big a burden. You just get an interesting setting. This was Heinlein's one use of close time travel By His Bootstraps is atypical for a Heinlein story, particularly in terms of having a weak and undesirable main character. I think this was a byproduct of a very unusual plot challenge. While Heinlein used time travel in other places, it was always of a distant sort. If you are both willing to move 2000 years through time and declare yourself unsure of potential paradoxes, time traveling isn't that big a burden. You just get an interesting setting. This was Heinlein's one use of close time travel, so close that at one point three versions of a person aged within days of each other end up in a fist fight. This imposes a much greater challenge in that Heinlein follows the character through a continuity of consciousness through all frames, creates a vivid character, and has all of the behavior plausible in all frames, including the inevitable puckish desire to change what happened last time. (I think some of the characters faults and his being a little dim were probably required to make it work.) It does work on many, many levels. Heinlein is so impressed with himself that he takes the last 15 minute or so, in the audio version, to explain things that you probably missed (I had) that are resolved cleverly. This sounds like a major fault but seasons Heinlein fans, if they haven't seen it before, at least aren't too surprised. Like always, such excess by the author is easy to ignore. All in all, a great story making the best use of a common speculative fiction device that I've seen anywhere. It feels very unlike a Heinlein story and at the same time I have a hard time imagining anyone else writing it. 2016: I finally read this one with Alex. He loves time travel stories, he says. I didn't have the heart to tell him this is not only one of the best that I've seen, but that good ones are pretty darned few.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dipika Desaboyina

    A random stumbling upon the wiki of Causal Loops led me into reading By His Bootstraps. In hindsight I must speculate if it was truly random after all. The thoughts of my future self could have devised a way to prompt me into reading this book because it is imperative for the causation of some thought process that I haven't yet actualized. Perhaps the portals of time travel aren't mechanistic as they are portrayed in the media and fiction. Perhaps they exist only as folds in memory which is circ A random stumbling upon the wiki of Causal Loops led me into reading By His Bootstraps. In hindsight I must speculate if it was truly random after all. The thoughts of my future self could have devised a way to prompt me into reading this book because it is imperative for the causation of some thought process that I haven't yet actualized. Perhaps the portals of time travel aren't mechanistic as they are portrayed in the media and fiction. Perhaps they exist only as folds in memory which is circular and not linear as assumed by popular belief. However, I only come upon two marginally reasonable thoughts at the end of the hour it took me to read this book - it takes very little to make a conspiracy theorist out of an idle idiot like myself and this book is a fantastic little mind-trip.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Andreea Daia

    In spite of its several lacks, I mostly enjoyed By His Bootstraps, particularly because it condenses my personal theory about the quintessence of time. ツ Robert A. Heinlein imagines an applied example of "immovable history" (my home-brewed term), which postulates that an actor is not able to change any events (past and future) of his/her life: s/he can only fulfill the history. The fantasy genre (and not only!) makes great use of the concept in the form of prophecies, while science-fiction mostly In spite of its several lacks, I mostly enjoyed By His Bootstraps, particularly because it condenses my personal theory about the quintessence of time. ツ Robert A. Heinlein imagines an applied example of "immovable history" (my home-brewed term), which postulates that an actor is not able to change any events (past and future) of his/her life: s/he can only fulfill the history. The fantasy genre (and not only!) makes great use of the concept in the form of prophecies, while science-fiction mostly uses the concept of time-travel to embody it. What is notable about Heinlein's essay is that he touches on the aspect that makes most people shy away from this doctrine: the free-will. These people argue that if whatever is to happen will happen, then individuals are not responsible for their actions... In this regard Mr. Heinlein points out that, the actors in the middle of events are in no way constrained in their choices, and hence they always maintain their free-will. "You are telling me that I did something because I was going to do something.” “Well, didn’t you? You were there.” “No, I didn’t—no... well, maybe I did, but it didn’t feel like it.” “Why should you expect it to? It was something totally new to your experience.” I have my personal theory on this, but this is neither the time nor the place for it. As about the faults of the story, some of them gave me the nails-on-a-chalkboard nausea. 1) There is a manifest chauvinistic feel in the narrative: a woman's "right attitude" is serving food to her man on her knees... No further comment. ☹ 2) Probably even worse than the misogyny is the author's opinion that the lack of what he calls "will-to-power" is a negative aspect of society. Maybe it's just me, but shouldn't we all aspire to a world in which no one has power over another human being, not the other way around? ☹☹ 3) Regarding the story itself, the entire plot would not have been possible if Wilson had not shown distinct signs of obtuseness. Some of the situations can be explained by intoxication, but the rest... And he is supposed to be a math student which doesn't bode well for the future of this science. ツ So blaming the above issues (#1 and #2) on the social norms of a past culture, I will go ahead and highly recommend this story to science-fiction lovers and/or those interested in the theories of the spacetime continuum.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Rick Davis

    I had previously been vaguely aware of this story as a sci-fi time travel classic that I needed to read. However I was actually prompted to track it down last fall when the Doctor told me to Google the Boostrap Paradox. https://youtu.be/u4SEDzynMiQ

  6. 4 out of 5

    Muthuvel

    How to confuse someone with the elemental time travel story? This short story has its own closed über confused loops with some holes left by the author unanswered however backed by some epistemological notions. Read it if you want to experience such a possible life in the world of science fiction. Concepts of Free will, Retro causality, futuristic utopian visions and many more. "If God created the world, who created God? Who wrote the notebook? Who started the chain?" It's all bugging me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Naoms

    Fairly predictable, but it's in terms of paradox.

  8. 5 out of 5

    If someone had handed this to me in the context of wanting feedback on their work, I would probably have been impressed. I would also have told them to treat it very carefully, and to rewrite this and this, and then probably give the entire thing a couple more read-throughs. That is to say: this reads like a second draft. It reads like the second draft of a man who might have been a little too confident that his (fabulous, by the way) idea would carry the rest of the story. There are bits that ar If someone had handed this to me in the context of wanting feedback on their work, I would probably have been impressed. I would also have told them to treat it very carefully, and to rewrite this and this, and then probably give the entire thing a couple more read-throughs. That is to say: this reads like a second draft. It reads like the second draft of a man who might have been a little too confident that his (fabulous, by the way) idea would carry the rest of the story. There are bits that are unnecessary, there are bits that are poorly written, there are bits that are just... well, kind of cruel; this is a great story, but really only a great start. (Shame Heinlein is long gone.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sophie

    A quick read and a very good example of great time-travel literature!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Batoul

    Fun to read and easy to follow along with.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Adam Smith

    When a mysterious stranger appears in his room and tells him to step through a strange doorway, Bob Wilson finds himself thrust into the distant future where a man presents him with a proposal to rule the world. Now Bob has to deal with the mess of time loops and temporal entanglement. Oh, sweet delicious time travelly goodness. This story is awesome. Watching Bob fumble his way through encounters with himself and stable time loops that ask "where did any of this begin?" is well worth the time. T When a mysterious stranger appears in his room and tells him to step through a strange doorway, Bob Wilson finds himself thrust into the distant future where a man presents him with a proposal to rule the world. Now Bob has to deal with the mess of time loops and temporal entanglement. Oh, sweet delicious time travelly goodness. This story is awesome. Watching Bob fumble his way through encounters with himself and stable time loops that ask "where did any of this begin?" is well worth the time. This is one of the best examples of stable time loops and predestination that I have ever read. A must-read for those with a love of time travel.

  12. 4 out of 5

    N

    Very interesting short story, and one of the first to properly make use of time travel paradoxes in which a character meets himself. The plot ended up influencing science-fiction as a whole. Early Heinlein at its most audacious, without many of the social themes that showed up in his later work. Oddly for Heinlein, his main character is a misogynist arsehole with no desire to better himself - also oddly for Heinlein, it's very soft sci-fi, and mathematics are presented as an esoteric field at be Very interesting short story, and one of the first to properly make use of time travel paradoxes in which a character meets himself. The plot ended up influencing science-fiction as a whole. Early Heinlein at its most audacious, without many of the social themes that showed up in his later work. Oddly for Heinlein, his main character is a misogynist arsehole with no desire to better himself - also oddly for Heinlein, it's very soft sci-fi, and mathematics are presented as an esoteric field at best. Compared to Heinlein's similar short story "—All You Zombies—", this one is more realistic and more self-aware.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Juan

    I don't know how I end up reading this book, though I really enjoyed it. This is the second short story I read from Heinlein, being the first one "All you zombies".... hmmm, interesting no? I liked the way in which Heinlein deepens into time-travel and paradoxes. If you have read both books, you'll know what I was thinking. If not, I encourage you to first read "By his bootstraps", then "All you zombies".

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    It was interesting to read this because it's vintage Heinlein, originally published in 1941. But it's hard to judge it on its own terms since so much more thoughtful work on time travel has been done since. The description says the story "plays with some of the inherent paradoxes" of time travel; and "play" with them is about all it does: there seems no attempt to make any of it make sense, or even to make what happens seem plausible.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    ***By His Bootstraps by Robert A. Heinlein*** Very cool time travel story, first published in 1941 under the pseudonym Anson MacDonald. Another story that got merged into a magazine entry. I can't quite remember if I read this somewhere online or as part of an anthology. Can't find a link now. So probably the latter. I think I'll re-read this one if I can find it again. 2017 rating: 4 stars

  16. 4 out of 5

    Max

    I must admit I was a little confused at first and could not decide whether I liked it or not, but after a while I got into the flow of the story and then it started to captivate me. I love the idea of time travel in this short story and I believe the use of language is pretty typical for the time it was written. I did really like it in the end but I can also imagine that it is not going to be a story for everyone.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Onemore Fakefbpage

    This Astounding Science Fiction is one of my prized possessions. It is a great little insight into the war years, the story rocks and I just had to own something special to remind me of all the enjoyment Robert Heinlein has given me. FOR THE RECORD - it is published in Astounding Science Fiction 1941 under the alias Anson Macdonald. It was reprinted later under Robert Heinlein I believe. My copy is not in good condition & has little real value..............except to me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jim Davis

    Probably the best time travel/temporal paradox short story written until Heinlein went one better in "All You Zombies" in 1959. If it doesn't make you think about the nature of time then you must have skimmed through it and need to read it over again.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nooilforpacifists

    The best example of the "Impossibility" approach to fictional time travel (along with Heinlein's short story "All You Zombies," which has a similar plot). See my review of "Dark Matter" for the three literary theories of time travel.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Gutowski

    A wonderful short story for the sci-fi-minded. A pleasantly unique examination of the paradox of time travel that's sewn together in a most imaginative way. An intriguing and quick read that I'd recommend to anybody who doesn't mind a narrative that may leave you a bit dizzy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Pratyush Raj

    So mind-boggling that it was amazing. I've read it twice and am still comprehending what went down.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Keith Moser

    I decided to read this short story after reading Robert A. Heinlein's (much shorter story) "'—All You Zombies—'" and enjoying it. By His Bootstraps is another great story exploring the paradoxes of time travel. It opens with a young grad student, Bob Wilson, trying desperately to write his entire thesis in under 48 hours. Fueled by little more than coffee, cigarettes, and gin, he's completely oblivious to the man who has appeared in his (locked) dorm room. It turns out the stranger claims to be a I decided to read this short story after reading Robert A. Heinlein's (much shorter story) "'—All You Zombies—'" and enjoying it. By His Bootstraps is another great story exploring the paradoxes of time travel. It opens with a young grad student, Bob Wilson, trying desperately to write his entire thesis in under 48 hours. Fueled by little more than coffee, cigarettes, and gin, he's completely oblivious to the man who has appeared in his (locked) dorm room. It turns out the stranger claims to be a time traveler and a wonderfully complex (yet beautifully simple) story unfolds in the only way it really can. I found a PDF online (scanned pages out of Heinlein's collection The Menace From Earth) and read it in probably an hour, so I don't want to get too deep into the plot because it's so easy for you to find and read (and, as with any time travel story, the less you know about it the better) but it was brilliant. Once you stop to think about all the who's and when's and how's, it may fall apart, but that's exactly the point. As a short story, there was really no time to think about these mid-read; there was only time to sit back and enjoy the journey. After all, as Bob says as he starts his time travelling, "Paradoxes don't worry me."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kashvi Lalgudi

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is a stunning example of time travel and paradoxes that raises many questions. I was captivated by the dialogues of the characters, and how naturally they came together. It was especially intriguing to watch how Bob Wilson adapts from a young boy and slowly becomes the powerful Diktor (could be derived from the word "dictator"). I found it most interesting to see how he slowly realizes himself that he has become the leader who helped his younger self become successful- for example, when he This is a stunning example of time travel and paradoxes that raises many questions. I was captivated by the dialogues of the characters, and how naturally they came together. It was especially intriguing to watch how Bob Wilson adapts from a young boy and slowly becomes the powerful Diktor (could be derived from the word "dictator"). I found it most interesting to see how he slowly realizes himself that he has become the leader who helped his younger self become successful- for example, when he is the elderly Diktor and he names a girl Arma after the girl he had a crush on when he was young and he first met the Diktor- not realizing that they are technically the same person. Overall, I would recommend sci fi fans to read this novel as well as -All You Zombies-, also written by Heinlein.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Paste

    If the mechanics of time travel were all that were necessary in order to write a good short story, then By His Bootstraps would be fine. Unfortunately it suffers from: a severely unlikable and obtuse main character; a lot of hokey slang from the time, which is just personally not my taste; an utter disregard for women; and a habit of repeating scenes (due to time travel). This last offense is partially excusable since you get the perspective of the other Bob in each scene, but even so, Bob's mot If the mechanics of time travel were all that were necessary in order to write a good short story, then By His Bootstraps would be fine. Unfortunately it suffers from: a severely unlikable and obtuse main character; a lot of hokey slang from the time, which is just personally not my taste; an utter disregard for women; and a habit of repeating scenes (due to time travel). This last offense is partially excusable since you get the perspective of the other Bob in each scene, but even so, Bob's motives and actions don't seem believable in response to the situations he's in. Beyond that, the story seems to glorify the totalitarian position Bob breeds for himself by the end, which is utterly gross.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    I confess that I found this story slightly confusing, but that is the paradox of time travel. What you do or don't do as you repeat groundhog's day, to use an analogy, can make for both interest and frustration to the time traveler. I plan on re-reading this again soon, as it is not too long, but I really like the idea, and to have put it together in 1941, to me, shows some intellectual initiative. My first Heinlein piece, but it interests me to read more of his work. Well worth your time if you I confess that I found this story slightly confusing, but that is the paradox of time travel. What you do or don't do as you repeat groundhog's day, to use an analogy, can make for both interest and frustration to the time traveler. I plan on re-reading this again soon, as it is not too long, but I really like the idea, and to have put it together in 1941, to me, shows some intellectual initiative. My first Heinlein piece, but it interests me to read more of his work. Well worth your time if you like this sort of thing, especially time travel. Which as a history geeks is right up my alley.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    I read this ages ago for uni and forgot to put it on Goodreads. Not the best (very long) short story I’ve ever read, but I did get full marks on the essay I wrote about it. Wilson was a dick and women are treated like crap and there’s an incredibly frustrating time loop that means the same scene is repeated 3 times with little variation. So yeah. 20th century sci-fi for ya, folks.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ethan

    Perfect little story about time travel. Sure it's predictable by today's standards, but it's tight, and fun, and knows exactly what it's doing. Really couldn't make it better....well aside from doing something about Heinlein's fascist tendencies.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ernesto I. Ramirez

    For its time, this book has aged well, with just the exception of the treatment of women, but the central point of how the time travel works and the paradox it presents are exceptionally well developed.

  29. 4 out of 5

    John McPeake

    Really clever this one

  30. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Graham

    The best time travel paradox story I have ever read. A classic.

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