Including a little story about Bob Heinlein

Moorea. Photo by Duncan Rawlinson,

Moorea. Photo by Duncan Rawlinson.

All right, you’ve pulled out a map and you know from the long/lat that we’re now leaving Tahiti and heading for the island of Moorea, just across the channel. But did you know what Moorea meant to Ginny Heinlein?

First, I wish to put on record that Moorea is my third-favorite island in the world. (First and second places are taken by Manhattan and England.) What it meant to me when I first got there, 30-odd years ago, was Heaven.

I had taken myself there to spend a couple of blissfully warm weeks one miserable winter because I was feeling frazzled. Moorea totally unfrazzled me. Warm sun, crystalline lagoon, good French food and a little grass shack all my own, but with electricity and a civilized bathroom. I snorkled, I loafed, I let the frazzles melt away. By the time I got back to the airport in Papeete to begin the long trip home, I was at peace with the world — partly, I thought, because I had almost forgotten there was one. Not a living soul, for thousands of miles in any direction, knew my name, nor cared to.

That is when Hayford Peirce, an sf writer who lived in the islands, came galumphing across the airport toward me, crying, “Fred! Why weren’t you at Heinlein’s party last night?”

Well, the answer to that was simple, Robert and Ginny hadn’t known I was on the island because I hadn’t told anyone. Likewise, I had had no idea their cruise ship would be putting in at the port across the island from Tia Ora. I was sorry to have missed a good party, but these things happen. It then slipped my mind for some years.

Robert and Virginia Heinlein, Tahiti, 1980. Photo by Hayford Peirce.

Robert and Virginia Heinlein, Tahiti, 1980. Photo by Hayford Peirce.

Then Bob was to be awarded an honorary doctorate in Michigan, and Betty Anne and I grabbed a plane to cheer him on. (The photo of Bob and me in The Way the Future Was was taken there.) The Heinleins had chosen to stay at a hotel some distance from the proceedings; Betty Anne and I drove over to join them one evening and I happened to remember that missed connection on Moorea.

I got an immediate look of extreme displeasure from Ginny. “Don’t mention that place! It almost killed Robert. Remember that big, steep mountain in the middle of it? Well, we were walking around at the base of it and Robert wanted a good look at the peak. He tipped his head way back. It hurt. He had damaged his carotid artery, and I hope we never see the place again.”

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  1. Paul says:

    Ah! I remember a part of this story from a bit in Heinlein’s Expanded Universe!

  2. Jeff says:

    I say to you, Gandalf, beware the inclines of Moorea.

  3. Squidhelmet says:

    This blog is always a great read. Where else can you get first-hand anecdotes about SF grand masters randomly meeting on the same mysterious island? Tama’a maitai!

  4. the blog team says:

    Er, randomly not meeting…. LAZ

  5. Fathercrow says:

    Man I’d love the chance to fall off an island like that, but I’m guessing such climes are not exactly wheelchair accessible. Pity they haven’t come up with anti-gravity boots yet. (G)

  6. kittent says:

    Thank you for this story. I hope you are having a wonderful time. You will be missed at Capricon.

    (I’m halfway through The Last Theorem and totally delighted.)

  7. Hayford Peirce says:

    This is a great blog and I’ve been fascinated by the RAH stuff. I do have to make a slight correction to the above story, however. My wife and I were at the Tahiti airport getting ready to board a flight to Los Angeles. We had spend the day with the Heinleins a few days earlier, picking them up at their cruise ship in the morning, driving up to the Belevedere Restaurant high in the mountains for a *very* liquid lunch (at least three bottles of rose for the four of us, maybe four), then talk at my place (where the above photo was taken), and then dinner on the Heinleins’ ship, along with our two younger children, whom they had specifically invited. So anyway, here we are at the airport, and I see this guy standing in line ahead of me. I walk up to him and say,”Excuse me, you look just like someone named Frederik Pohl.” And he replied, more or less, “That’s because I am.” And I said something like, “Gee, you just missed Robert Heinlein!” No mention of a great party because, as far as I know, there never was a party. At least not one that I knew about….