“Friday” by Robert Heinlein and the Origin of ‘Homo Novis’

friday cover alt1982 | Friday | Robert A Heinlein

ISBN-10: 034530988X
ISBN-13: 978-0345309884

This is one of Heinlein’s better late novels, which provides a small insight into his  attitude towards Hubbard and Scientology.  “Friday” follows the journey of a young woman, called ‘Friday’ (who happens to be a genetically enhanced ‘combat courier’) across a future balkanised North America.

the book was published in 1982  (the same year as L Ron Hubbard’s critically-panned novel “Battlefield Earth”).  At this time, Scientology was attracting media attention, and  Hare Krishna devotees selling books and flowers were a common sight in public places.

One of the characters describes a three-way fight between Scientologists, Hare Krishna devotees, and ‘Angels of the Lord’ (a cult invented by Heinlein – a cross between extreme right-wing fundamentalist ‘Christians’ and a motorcycle gang).

The Scientologist have, of course had to fight for their rights many times; they fought with discipline, defended themselves and disengaged rapidly – got out, taking their wounded with them (pg 124- 5 ppb)

Heinlein had met Hubbard when they had both written for “Astounding Science Fiction”. He believed Hubbard’s ‘war stories’ and thought that Hubbard had been a capable military officer – a man who had seen action and been severely wounded. In fact, Hubbard had never seen combat.

His account in “Friday” of the behaviour of future Scientologists is the way that he imagined an organisation founded by an honourable, if eccentric war veteran would develop.  If Heinlein had known the truth about Hubbard’s war service and life history, it is unlikely it he would portrayed Scientology in such a positive light.

Heinlein was right about one thing – the behaviour of Scientology today reflects the personality of its founder. His mistake was in misjudging Hubbard. If Heinlein had only read “Bare Faced Messiah“, which revealed Hubbard as a casually cruel pathological liar, he would surely have had something more interesting to say about Scientology.

So, where does Homo Novis come in? Read on…

assignment in eternity1971 | Assignment in Eternity | Robert A Heinlein
ISBN-10: 1451639074
ISBN-13: 978-1451639070

Heinlein’s stories were set in a ‘future history’ of his own creation, and his stories often contained references to one or more of his other novels. Mr Baldwin, The elderly spy-master in “Friday” appears in an earlier story.

In “Friday”, when Baldwin is describing the provisions he has made for Friday (his adopted daughter) in his will. Funds have been put aside to enable her to emigrate to any colony planet of her choice – except one – the place where “those so-called supermen” went.

This is a reference to an earlier Heinlein story, “Gulf”. Published in 1949 which was later collected in the book  “Assignment in Eternity“. ‘Kettle Belly Baldwin’ appears in this story as a younger, more vigorous character who is associated with a society of genetically superior individuals who protect humanity from itself.

The ‘so-called supermen” remark in “Friday” indicates that Baldwin (and probably Heinlein)  became disillusioned with this idea in the intervening years.

This superior group of Humans, who believed they were destined to become the rulers of the world gave themselves a name, to distinguish them from the inferior humans (Homo Sapiens Sapiens) that had evolved from – Homo Novis.

This story was first published as a serial in the November and December 1949 issues of “Astounding Science Fiction” – a publication that L Ron Hubbard was quite familiar with. Hubbard’s own story “A Can of Vacuum” appears in the December issue, so it is quite unlikely that he missed it.

Heinlein’s use of the term “Homo Novis” clearly pre-dates his Hubbard’s use of it (to) describe Scientologists by a number of  years.

You can download the entire December 1949 issue of “Astounding” here as a .pdf file, and check this out for yourself.

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2 thoughts on ““Friday” by Robert Heinlein and the Origin of ‘Homo Novis’

  1. As well as Homo Novis, Hubbard used the term “Homo Superior” on occasions eg
    Marvel Science Stories, May 1951
    “The Dianetics Question: Homo Superior, Here We Come! ”
    http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?210193

    This term was also used in the Marvel X-men comics in 1963 for the “mutant ” creations of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but I did find it’s invention/first recorded use was well before Hubbard’s by Sci Fi writer Olaf Stapleton in 1935, in his story called “odd John”
    http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095943483

    David Bowie used the term in “oh You Pretty Things ” (1971). He wasn’t to my knowledge a big reader of comics but he was into Sci Fi , which heavily influenced his early work and he or his management even let the rumour run that he was going to star in a film of Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange land”.
    Bowie’s keyboardist Mike Garson was (and still is) a scientologist and other members of this backing group The Spiders From Mars (not Mick Ronson) were Scientologists while Bowie kept his distance.
    http://www.5years.com/encyg.htm

    • Oh… thanks for the reference to “Marvel Science Stories”. I will try to find a scan of that Issue –
      it will complement the ongoing series I am writing about references to Dianetics and Scientology in “Astounding Science Fiction”.

      I discovered Olaf Stableton when I was about 14 – and loved “Last and First Men”, “Sirius” and “Star Maker”. His new human species were much more interesting than Hubbard’s, and innocent of pulp power fantasy.

      David Bowie (presumably in the role of Michael Valentine Smith) would have been strange indeed.

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