Bioethics Blogs

BioSci Fi: The Door Into the Summer, Robert A. Heinlein, 1956

This minor mid-50’s Heinlein novel doesn’t really belong in this series but I re-read it recently with some pleasure. I love the story behind the title and the book had two aspects that jumped out for me as relevant (enough) for this blog. Neither is “bio.” One is about robots and one about patents, but each will interest at least one of our readers:

But a little setting first. This is a time travel story. An engineer/inventor in 1970 Los Angeles is cheated by his fiancée and best friend/business partner so decides to leave it all behind by taking “the long sleep” for 30 years. Arriving in Los Angeles in 2000, he learns some very odd things that encourage him to go back in time through an actual time machine (a byproduct of “NullGrav,” not meaningfully explained). He goes back, does what he needs to do, takes the sleep forward again, and things happily for all the good guys involved – our hero, his eventual wife, and his cat, Petronius the Arbiter.

The long sleep might have been an interesting bio twist, but there’s nothing particularly surprising about it – suspended animation induced by drugs, hypnosis, and chilling to 4 degrees Celsius. It had a roughly 70 percent survival rate at the book’s start in 1970, when it was a thriving business, pushed by insurance companies with promises of sleeping your way to wealth. (That’s vaguely reminiscent of Lois McMaster Bujold’s much more spun out suspended animation in her Cryoburn.) Interestingly, it was developed for military uses; stacked and stored frozen soldiers, unknown to the enemies, won the Six Week’s War for the U.S.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.