The Black Pits of Luna
by Robert A. Heinlein

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson
The Saturday Evening Post, 10 January 1948

collected in —
The Green Hills of Earth

The Past Through Tomorrow

November 2010

Life in the round, and what we don't see

"The Black Pits of Luna" is a short science-fiction story by Robert A. Heinlein, a slight but neatly enjoyable story within his pioneering Future History series.

The little story is superficial in a similar way to our knowledge of the Moon itself. From our vantage on Earth, our direct knowledge of the Moon for long millennia was limited to what we could see: its desolate surface in broad outline and general nature; and of that, only the tide-locked half which faces Earth. As with Luna itself, there is more to the story than first meets the eye.

In the not-too-distant future, a family comes to the Moon on a combination business and vacation trip. In addition to slice-of-life family issues which make us feel right there ourselves, we have an adventure of the "little boy lost" variety. These dovetail nicely in the plot.

Readers should note that amidst the casually realistic background is the notion that the Moon's atomic power plants all are on Lunar Farside, for safety reasons which are sharply illustrated. This idea, in a story written in April 1947, for as long as I can remember has been a key component of my own thinking about future power technologies.

This story may lead the curious to small examples of the expert and entertaining Heinlein scholarship of recent years. Begin with James Gifford's insightful entry for "The Black Pits of Luna" in his Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion; then for more background go on to Gifford's entry for Heinlein's article "Back of the Moon" (part of the unpublished "Man in the Moon"), written just a little earlier.

Additionally, the story already has inspired a couple of threads at The Heinlein Society's Nexus Forum.

So read "The Black Pits of Luna" for its sketch of surfaces, a mix of homely fun and Lunar-vacuum suspense. Then, sometime, read it again closely for what it says about the Moon we don't see at first glance, and what kind of people will flourish there.


© 2010 Robert Wilfred Franson

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