Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress: Part 2: How to Start a Revolution

In last week's reading we were introduced to Manuel Garcia O'Kelly Davis, the IT guy who maintains the Lunar Authority's massive central computer; Wyoming Knott, the incendiary blonde firebrand who wants to overthrow the Authority; and Professor Bernando de la Paz, professional dissident and sage. Oh, and we met Mike, the sentient computer who runs the Lunar penal colony and the associated communities, who longs for companionship and likes telling jokes. Mike has just calculated the odds of a revolution on the moon actually succeeding and has concluded that they are only one chance in seven. But those are good enough odds for a Loonie, and the Revolution is Declared!

The bull session in Room L of the Raffles Hotel continues. A question to Mike about the Warden's Security forces reveals that the Warden's Chief of Security actually has a fairly large network of informants, many of whom are members of Wyoh's revolutionary group. "That means the Warden has our whole organization," she wails. "No," Prof corrects her; "It means we have his organization!"

Prof counsels doing nothing about the informants at present, except to place them in special "cells" in the new organization where they can inform on each other and be spoon-fed misinformation. "...it would be the greatest waste to eliminate them -- not only would each spy be replaced by someone new but also killing these traitors would tell the Warden that we have penetrated his secrets."

They have Mike look up their own Security files. Prof is delighted to be classified as a "harmless old fool" who is subversive, but too argumentative to be a serious threat. Mannie is annoyed to be classified as "non-political" and "not too bright", (which he admits is not inaccurate, or else he never would have gotten involved with a Revolution.)

Eventually they get to the big issue. Overthrowing the Warden will mean that eventually they will have to fight Terra itself. Luna has no weapons, no defenses, even no spaceships; a David and Goliath situation if ever there was one. Mike's suggestion: "We can throw rocks."

For once, Mike isn't joking. Luna sends the grain it grows in steel canisters which are shot to Earth by a large "catapult", a gigantic magnetic cannon. All they have to do is replace the grain with a big honkin' rock and aim it at a military target. (Larry Niven is fond of the plot device of using a huge asteroid dropped from space as a weapon; he used it in his novel Footfall and some other places as well).

It is decided that Prof will remain in hiding at the Raffles, while Mannie takes Wyoh (once again in disguise) home to meet his family. Mannie belongs to a Line Family, one of the peculiar variations of matrimony that has been devised on Luna to cope with the tremendous imbalance between the male and female population. Some families form triads, with two husbands and one wife, as in the marriage Wyoh was in before she became a revolutionary. In a Line Marriage, there are multiple husbands and wives, and the family continues to add more on as time goes by.

The Davis family, the one Mannie belongs to, was founded by Black Jack Davis, one of the original convicts transported to Luna a century ago. The current Senior Husband of the family, Grandpaw, is getting on in years and has little active role in the family. The next husband in line is Greg, who is the pastor of a small church group which worships on Tuesdays. (It happens to be Tuesday evening, and Mannie warns Wyoh that it will be a good idea for her to join the family going to church to make a good impression). The real head of the family, though, is Mimi Mum, the Senior Wife. Mimi is a strong-willed woman, smart, practical and protective of her family. Mannie has no qualms about recruiting her for the Cause. Other family members include Sidris, one of the middle wives who runs a beauty salon which becomes an important information center for the Revolution; and Ludmilla, the youngest wife at sixteen, who is also Mimi's granddaughter and was raised in the family.

One of the commenters on last week's installment brought up a point which hadn't occurred to me. In the line marriage, all property would remain in the hands of the Family, that is, the husbands and wives; children would not inherit anything. Oh, perhaps they would be granted a lump sum of start-up money when they reach adulthood; but I can see this as a recipe for a large class of rootless single young men -- which is pretty much how Heinlein describes the stilyagi, or unmarried young men of Luna.

But back to the Revolution. To create a favorable climate for revolt, the protagonists need to make the Warden as unpopular as possible. Fortunately, the Warden is helping them in this. After the debacle at the Rally where Mannie and Wyoh met, the Warden called for additional forces to help put down the "subversive elements". His Chief of Security, Alvarez, instituted a passport system so that no one could use the transport system connecting the domed cities without ID. A lot of Loonies resented this, especially the ones who were not, nor ever had been, convicts.

They keep up the pressure on the Warden and his forces. The "Peace Dragoons," sent by the Federated Nations at the Warden's request, were never told that their deployment to Luna was a one-way ticket. They were also sent without what Mannie euphemistically calls a "comfort detachment". So Loonie women, some part of the Organization, some acting on their own, start teasing them. All they have to do is walk by. At one-sixth G, a woman can undulate quite nicely. Frustrated soldiers leads to clashes between soldiers and civilians, which leads to even greater resentment of the Authority.

Mannie, Prof and Mike adapt and refine the cell system for organizing their conspiracy. The three-person cell is intended to limit each member's connection to the rest of the group to prevent a single arrest or defection from compromising the whole organization, while allowing enough connection so that communications can be relayed. Having a super-computer on your side helps here. Mike, or "Adam Selene" as he's called in the organization, handles all the communications. Since he can't be corrupted, the system is foolproof. They decide to create a persona for "Adam" to establish the illusion that he's a flesh and blood person.

"You're our Scarlet Pimpernel, our John Galt, our Swamp Fox, our man of mystery. You go everywhere, know everything, slip in and out of town without passport. You're always there, yet nobody catches sight of you."

His lights rippled, he gave a subdued chuckle. "That's fun, Man. Funny once, funny twice, maybe funny always."

Mike also indulges in less subtle forms of humor, such as messing up Security Chief Alvarez's attempts to trace the Subversives. Mike sees to it that every contact number provided by one of Alvarez's informants winds up leading to someone in the Warden's own office. He also causes the air conditioning and plumbing in the Warden's living quarters to go on the fritz in comical ways.

One major factor in the plan is the slingshot which they plan to use to "throw rocks" at Earth. Unfortunately, it is also a large and obvious target. They need to build a back-up slingshot in case the main one is destroyed. To that end, they created a dummy corporation whose purpose is to build it. This one is to be constructed underground; the only visible target will be it's mouth, which will be just one more hole on the lunar surface. They take great pains to hide the exact location of the slingshot.

The Organization recruits children to run messages and do surveillance. Mannie calls these kids "The Baker Street Irregulars". The Peace Dragoons quickly learn that trying to use force against kids is much more grief than it is worth. Mannie spots one pre-adolescent he recognizes from the Rally: a red-headed girl named Hazel who also gets adopted both into the Davis family and into the Revolution. This is the same Hazel who appeared as Grandma Hazel in Heinlein's earlier novel The Rolling Stones, and later still in The Cat Who Walked Through Walls.

Mike expands his explorations into creativity to writing poetry. His early efforts are doggerel lampoons of the Warden, written under the pseudonym of "Simon Jester", which get distributed on anonymous scraps of paper and scribbled on bar-room walls, etc. He also writes a serious piece of verse which he submits to a literary magazine under his Adam Selene name. This really freaks out the Warden.

One day, Mannie comes across a gang of stilyagi who have roughed up a tourist from Earth and are looking for a judge. The tourist had been flirting with the gal who hung out with that gang, and he impulsively engaged in some inadvisable physical contact. On Earth, it might have gotten him at worst a slap in the face or a sexual harassment suit. But on Luna, where women are a scarce resource and highly regarded, this is hanging offense. Well, they don't hang people on Luna, the one-sixth gravity makes it impractical; instead they chuck them out an airlock into airless space.

But these are good boys. They want to do things right; so they're looking for a Judge to arbitrate the matter. Mannie agrees to act as judge for them, partially because he thinks that recklessly eliminating strangers will be bad for the tourist industry, but also for another reason.

There are no laws on Luna, and so the proceedings are rather informal. Mannie has the boys pony up a fee for his judgement and requires the Accused to match it. When the gal whose honor was sullied hesitates, Mannie reminds her "TANSTAAFL." Remember that acronym. Jurors are recruited from nearby who are paid for their time from Mannie's fee. Mannie listens to all sides, questions the witnesses and sums up for the jury. By this time tempers have cooled, and a resolution is reached which all sides are reasonably happy with.

Afterwards, Mannie has a few drinks with the tourist, a wealthy dilettante named Stuart Rene LaJoie, and explains some aspects of Loonie society, including the peculiar word he used: TANSTAAFL; meaning "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch", which in many respects is the unofficial motto of Luna. Stu is an affable, friendly guy who is genuinely interested in Luna. He also has money and connections. This is important, because Prof has recognized that in order to succeed, they need agents actually on Terra helping them. Mannie brings Stu home to have him meet the family and cultivate him further. Before long, Stu is part of the Party as well.

Things are starting to move too quickly now. The Warden is becoming more panicky. There is a risk that he might clamp down too hard. Then, unexpectedly, things come to a head.

A group of Peace Dragoons rape and murder an eighteen-year-old girl; then murder another woman who comes across the crime. Mike passes the news on to Prof and the others almost as soon as Chief Alvarez learns of it. Prof realizes that this is their "Boston Massacre", the incident needed to galvanize the people to active revolt. "We're on our tiger; we grab its ears.... Mannie, Mannie! This is The Day!"

They spread word of the atrocity throughout all the domes and warrens. Anti-Authority riots break out, overwhelming the Warden's security.

Mike turned out all lights in Complex,save those in Warden's residence, and reduced oxygen to gasping point ... Finn's men, waiting in p-suits at Warden's private tube station, broke latch on airlock and went in, "shoulder to shoulder." Luna was ours.

NEXT WEEK: They have Luna, but can they keep it? Chapters 14-19: Provisional government; Adam Selene goes public; Luna makes its Declaration, and the Embassy to Earth!

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