For Us, the Living

Robert Heinlein’s For Us, the Living by D. A. Houdek

As of this writing, August 31, 2003, there are only about half a dozen people in the entire known universe who can accurately claim that they have read every novel Heinlein has written.

For those of us who thought there would never again be another new Heinlein novel, the impossible has become reality . “For Us, the Living,” is a brand new, never before published novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It is going into print now for the first time and will be in bookstores by the end of November, 2003.

“For Us, the Living” was written by Heinlein about 1938-9, before he wrote his first sf short, “Lifeline.” The novel, “For Us, the Living,” was deemed unpublishable, mainly for the racy content. So racy is/was the content that in the 1930s the book could not even have been legally shipped through the US mail! For this reason, after a few publisher rejections, the novel was tabled by Heinlein, but the content was mined for his later stories and novels. A fellow named Nehemiah Scudder even appears in “For Us, the Living.” It’s important to point out that according to those favored few who have thus far read this long lost Heinlein novel, it did not go unpublished because it was bad–they say it’s quite good, though clearly a first novel by the author (it has a two and a half page footnote!). It was unpublished because the mores and culture of the time would not allow it.

“For Us, the Living,” was put aside, and eventually lost. The Heinleins apparently destroyed all copies they had. And because at the time it was written Heinlein was not a member of the science fiction community, no other sf writers knew about it. He had let one or two friends read it, and it is by a long trail through one of them that this rarest of treasures was located.

Robert James, Ph.D., Heinlein Society member and Heinlein scholar, had been researching Heinlein and his life, focusing on Heinlein’s second wife Leslyn, when he came across a vague mention of an early novel, a copy of which one-time Heinlein biographer Leon Stover was supposed to have. Robert James went searching, and after serious hunting, finally located a forgotten copy in a box in a garage that had changed hands at least once since Heinlein himself had given it to a friend to be read. This copy had annotations written in the margin by Heinlein himself, with some in a second hand that was probably then-wife Leslyn’s.

Robert James presented the manuscript to the Heinlein Society’s secretary, David Silver, who promptly contacted Arthur Dula, the representative of the Heinlein literary estate. As they told the tale, they only informed Art that they had a “surprise” for him. When they picked him up, and the three of them were alone in the car, they handed Art the manuscript of this never before seen “new” Heinlein novel. “…when I regained consciousness,” Art Dula said, describing the moment, he knew at once this treasure needed to be published for the benefit of us, Heinlein’s readers. Through Eleanor Wood, agent for the Heinlein estate, they arranged publication of “For Us, the Living,” the first truly new Heinlein novel since “To Sail Beyond the Sunset,” published shortly before his death. Heinlein’s last novel is now his first.

Virtually no changes have been made to the manuscript from Heinlein’s original draft. The book, Robert James said, was not a first draft but a polished final draft. Only a very few minor edits and spelling corrections were made. There will be a foreword by Spider Robinson and an afterword by Robert James.

There are two bonuses to this landmark event that bear mentioning. As most novels have dedications at the beginning, the dedication of “For Us, the Living” will be to us… to Heinlein’s Children.

The other bonus is another gift to us. The money earned by this novel will be going to directly and substantially support Heinlein’s dream, and the dream we, Heinlein’s Children, share. Earnings will be going to the advancement of human exploration of space. When you purchase “For Us, the Living” you are also contributing, in a real and meaningful way, the furtherment of this dream. Yet again, Heinlein ‘pays it forward.’