I was reading through Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson, and I came across this passage:

Tom Flannery's there now, frozen like a popsicle, waitin' for them to invent a cure for AIDS; he tol' me about it.

In this same story,

Rebecca explains that she was born in 1741, making her 232 years old,

which means that the current year is 1973-1974 (I think other stories indicate that it's 1974, but the dialogue seems to indicate 1973, so maybe they are not in chronological order), but AIDS was rare (if present at all) in the US in the 70s, and wasn't even named AIDS until 1982.

Given that the book came out in 1977, I am assuming that this must have been a retro-fit in one of the later editions. Was this a retcon by Spider Robinson, or were people actually aware of AIDS and calling it that in the 70s? If it is a retcon - what did it replace, and has Spider Robinson ever revealed why he made this change?

  • 1
    It was leukemia. Why Robinson changed it I do not know. – Frock Apr 2 '17 at 16:27

According to this review on Amazon, the original wording was

"waiting for a cure for Leukemia".

Per Amazon

Second, there's an "update" in "A Voice is Heard in Ramah..." that makes no sense. Tom Flannery is a character who'd been given 9 months to live when he first walked in to Callahan's. In "A Voice..." it's mentioned that he has some of his skin cells preserved at a place in Manhattan where they're holding cells for the future when cloning humans is possible. It states that he's frozen there "waitin' for 'em to invent a cure for AIDS". Now, these stories obviously take place in the 1970s, and the original text in my paperback says that he was waiting for a cure for leukemia. HIV and AIDS weren't recognized by the CDC until 1981, the folks at Callahan's wouldn't have known about it. Also, HIV is a disease you catch, not a genetic disorder. Someone with AIDS could be cloned without any risk of having the disease.

And backed up here

  • I'm torn about this answer. On the one hand, I have no reason to doubt that it changed from leukemia. On the other, an amazon review does not seem like a particularly authoritative source, nor does it address why this nonsensical change was made (though there's a comment on it that speculates that the reason was that leukemia was much more of a death sentence in the 70s and it was "translated" for newer audiences). I've upvoted but I think I'll hold off on accepting - hopefully that does not offend. – Paul Apr 3 '17 at 15:34
  • @Paul - Not at all. I've seen several sources indicating the change but none from any source dramatically more authoritative than this amazon review and none that explain the change. – Valorum Apr 3 '17 at 15:38
  • @Paul - My personal advice is to not accept my answer. It only covers half of what you've asked. That doesn't mean that you can't upvote it though. As the FAQ says, partial answers need love too... – Valorum Apr 3 '17 at 15:40

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