Shahid Mahmud Guest Post–“Alternity Squared”

As was recently announced, Phoenix Pick will be publishing a new Robert A. Heinlein novel later this year, likely in November.

The Heinlein Prize Trust and Phoenix Pick have collaborated to piece together a complete novel based on fragments of a typewritten manuscript and notes by Heinlein.

The completed novel is about 187,000 words long. It shares the first one-third of its text with the published The Number of the Beast, but then becomes a completely new piece of fiction, with a different ending that some readers will likely find more characteristic of Heinlein’s work. I should mention that the entire work is 100% Heinlein; no other writer was brought in for revisions or additions to the manuscript. Indeed, we were very fortunate to be able to re-create the entire work from Heinlein’s own fragments.

The book is currently being edited by Patrick LoBrutto, a recipient of the World Fantasy Award for editing. He has held various editorial positions (including Editor-in-Chief) at major publishers including Ace, Bantam, Doubleday and others.

The new novel pays homage to two authors Heinlein admired: Edgar Rice Burroughs and E. E. ‘Doc’ Smith, with whom Heinlein was good friends. This book will particularly delight fans of the Barsoom and Lensman universes.

There are various theories as to why two versions of the book were written. One is that Virginia Heinlein did not like this particular version and so Heinlein eventually wrote the one that was published. It may also be that Heinlein was simply having fun. The Number of the Beast and the new book are both about parallel universes. In fact, “the number of the Beast” is a reference to 6 raised to the power of 6 raised to the power of 6, which, it is postulated in the book, is the number of parallel universe that exist in the multi-verse.

So Heinlein may have ended up writing parallel books about parallel universes! This is certainly my own favorite theory…

The tentative title for the new book is Six-Six-Six.

Shahid Mahmud started Arc Manor Publishers in 2006, subsequently creating the SF/Fantasy imprint Phoenix Pick. He now publishes some of the most iconic names in the industry, including Larry Niven, Robert A. Heinlein, Harry Turtledove and others. He started publishing Galaxy’s Edge magazine in 2013. Prior to becoming a publisher, Shahid was a bond portfolio manager in San Diego. The acting mayor of San Diego declared November 7th, 2005 to be “Shahid Mahmud” day for services he had rendered to the City.

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