November 23, 2004

Grokking Heinlein's Magic

Robert Heinlein is, obviously, one of the unifying themes of my blog. I first became acquainted with what I would eventually come to understand as "libertarianism" through his juvenile fiction such as Between Planets, Space Cadet, and Tunnel in the Sky. Later works such as Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Friday, and Job: A Comedy of Justice all greatly informed my views on government, religion, and society.

I recently finished reading The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein. Until I ran across a review of a short story from this collection at New Troy a few months ago, I never even knew Heinlein wrote fantasies. But then these really aren't "fantasies" in the traditional elf, swords, and sorcery sense.

I ran across a real gem in this collection, entitled "Magic, Inc." I would love to see this story included in high school government class curricula since it shows the monopolization of a profession (magicians) by a large magic corporation's pushing through legislation to license the professionals. (I won't tell how the story ends).

It's well worth your time just to read the twelve-page sequence covering the protagonists' journey to the capitol to try to kill or water down the enabling legislation that would lead to licensing and professional standards for magicians. Every detail, from the underhanded inclusion of magical regulations in the agenda of the legislature's special session, to the bloviating legislators referring to Mosaic, Roman, and common law, to the defeat snatched from the jaws of victory when the original legislation is passed, unaltered, as a rider to a public works appropriations bill.

Magic, Inc. was originally copyrighted in 1940, but still remains relevant, and, most importantly for any fiction, a good read. Check the whole collection out.

(Cross-posted at Freespace).

Posted by JohnL at November 23, 2004 09:20 PM
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