In Heinlein's The Door into Summer Dan is in 2000, trying to find someone he knew before he was involuntarily put into cold sleep in 1970, but he doesn't know what last name she would be using, and doesn't have Facebook (or the money for a private investigator). He does have the habit of reading the "recently thawed" notices in the newspaper, in the hopes of running into someone else he knows from the past. One night, Dan wakes up with the conviction that he's missed something and he thoroughly reviews the last weeks’ worth of papers and notices Rikki's name in the recently thawed notices (he suddenly remembers the last name of Rikki's grandmother). Dan then goes back in time, and has himself frozen and set to awake the day before Rikki. So, the papers Dan thoroughly examines that evening ought to have had a name Dan would recognize immediately - his own.

Throughout the book, Dan is convinced that the past is fixed - he can do things that aren't recorded as not happening, but he can't change anything known to have happened. But the missing notice of his own name appears to be an indication that something did change.

Is this a minor continuity error, or a subtle clue that Dan has created an alternate universe?

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It's not clearly answered, and the possibility of branching timelines exists (which makes sense, given RAH's many-universes concept), but it seems that he knew what was going on before he went back in time, because he saw in the register at the County Clerk's office in Yuma that He and Ricky had just gotten married, and leapt to the right conclusion. (His next actions show he was thinking of the time-travel aspect; acquiring gold and wearing it under his clothing, reaching out to Dr. Twitchell, etc.)

Then, just to make sure to keep the loop closed, he:

hired another cab and we jumped to Yuma. There I signed the county clerk's book in a fine round hand, using my full name "Daniel Boone Davis," so that there could be no possible doubt as to which D. B. Davis had designed this magnum opus.

He does ask the same question you ask, tho:

Why didn't I see the notice of my own withdrawal? I mean the second one, in April 2001, not the one in December 2000. 1 should have; I was there and I used to check those lists. I was awakened (second time) on Friday, 27 April, 2001; it should have been in next morning's Times. But I did not see it. I've looked it up since and there it is: "D. B. Davis," in the Times for Saturday, 28 April, 2001.

However RAH doesn't lock off the possibility that you are asking about:

Philosophically, just one line of ink can make a different universe as surely as having the continent of Europe missing. Is the old "branching time streams" and "multiple universes" notion correct? Did I bounce into a different universe, different because I had monkeyed with the setup?

But, although RAH doesn't say for sure, Danny has this to say:

I probably felt asleep that night and missed reading my own name, then stuffed the paper down the chute next morning, thinking I had finished with it. I am absentminded, particularly when I'm thinking about a job.

But what would I have done if I had seen it? Gone there, met myself-and gone stark mad? No, for if I had seen it, I wouldn't have done the things I did afterward-"afterward" for me-which led up to it. Therefore it could never have happened that way. The control is a negative feedback type, with a built-in "fail safe," because the very existence of that line of print depended on my not seeing it; the apparent possibility that I might have seen it is one of the excluded "not possibles" of the basic circuit design.

So, like a number of other RAH time-travel stories, this has some chicken/egg aspects, but the above quote suggests that there has not been any actual change, as the change could have precluded itself. (Bootstrap paradox.)

Then he, like other RAH characters, drops the issue as the philosophical aspect isn't terribly important to someone who has found happiness.

But I don't worry about philosophy any more than Pete does. Whatever the truth about this world, I like it. I've found my Door into Summer and I would not time-travel again for fear of getting off at the wrong station.

So, in the end, it's not said, but the main character really doesn't care.

  • 1
    Thanks. I almost think that Dan is dismissing a possibility that he doesn't want to think about (since one's own name tends to stand out to a person, and since his name would appear before Rikki's if the names are alphabetic), but as you say, he doesn't really care.
    – Andrew
    Apr 2 at 22:24
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    @Andrew -- I think you are right; it's a not-uncommon theme for Heinlein characters -- satisfied/happy/actualized characters don't spend much time wondering (or actively TRY not to think about it, in Dan's case.) Another (more clear) example is Alec at the end of Job where he says "A man who is happy at home doesn't lie awake nights worrying about the hereafter." Or, conversely, Oscar at the end of Glory Road is seeking the same and hasn't found it yet.
    – K-H-W
    Apr 4 at 18:25

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