The Age of the Pussyfoot

The Age Of The Pussyfoot by Frederik Pohl

Dystopian Science Fiction

The Age of the Pussyfoot is a science fiction novel by American writer Frederik Pohl, first published as a serial in Galaxy Science Fiction in three parts, starting in October 1966. It was later published as a standalone novel in 1969.


List of Characters
Charles Forrester: Protagonist
Heinzlichen: The Martian Antagonist
Adne Bensen: Love Interest
Hara: Helper and Guide
Taiko Hironibi: leader of the anti technology movement


Summary: Charles Forrester is awaken from his cyanogenetic sleep after 500 years.
Once he wakes up he experience extreme culture shock which is exacerbated by his laziness and lack of practicality. In the future everyone carries with them a cell phone which is called a Joy Maker. It is used for phone calls, making and receiving money or credit, and for reference such Wikipedia. The book opens with Forrester meeting his love interest Adne Bensen at party. At this same party he accidentally steps on the foot of Heinzlichen The Martian who afterwards wages a long term vendetta against him. Forrester refuses to list to the messages send to him by his Joy Maker and because of this finds himself in all types of dangerous, but comical situations such as losing all his money and becoming homeless and being hunted and beaten by Heinzlichen.

Spoiler Alert: Do not read anymore if you have not finished the book

The main character, Man Forrester wakes up after being dead for a long time. He finds the world to be very different. He is attends a party where he meets his love interest. She is a woman with two children and no husband. He wants to love her, and he thinks he has money from the interest that build from his savings. Her makes love to her, but then he realizes that due to inflation he is no longer rich. So, he get different jobs to make money which is called credits, and are all controlled by a smart phone which is called a joy marker. The joy marker let you order anything you want and brings it to at once, but it is too easy to spend all your credits very quickly. If you go broke your Joy Marker (phone) shuts off, and you become a homeless person with no phone. You have to get more money to get your phone turned back on again. He goes homeless for a while, but then he works his way back to being with his girl friend and her children. The story ends with them all attending and encounter group in which they express rage in order to feel better. There is also a Martian, named Heinzlichen whom he has offended, in the most minor way, who is now trying to kill him. It is legal to kill anyone, because everyone can live forever, along as they have enough money. To be fixed up and brought back to life costs money, so only poor people have to die. Heinzlichen follows Forrester around like a comic master villain.

Further updated commentary: posted 1/24/2022

The Age Of The Pussyfoot is a problem with Money

The main character Charles Forrester is not particularly intelligent. Most of his problems and issues could have been avoided if he would attend to reading his notifications. The Joy Maker is the same thing as a cell phone, but it’s mandatory to use one. Forrester spends the first half of the book trying to avoid his messages. He does things slowly the old fashioned way. Forrester is from 1966 and so does not realize the serious nature of the messages or notifications sent to him by his Joy Maker. Even after he is beating up by a group of four men one of whom is his arch enemy Heinzlichen (the Martian because he failed to listen to the warning that they were coming, he still both refuses to review his messages or delay hearing them.

Was the Martian based on Robert A. Heinlein?

The portrayal of Heinzlichen is extremely unflattering. I wonder if there was some kind of beef going on between Frederik Pohl and Robert A. Heinlein. When the character talks he speaks in a low class dialect. I going to quote a passage from the book.

Ebook from https://www.baen.com/the-age-of-the-pussyfoot.html

Start Ebook Passage

“Are you going to fight or not?” the Martian demanded.

Forrester said, “Uh, one question.”

“Veil?”

“The way you talk. I had an argument about that the other day—”

“What’s de matter with de way I talk?”

“It’s a sort of German accent, I thought, but this other Martian was Irish, and he talked the same way—”

“Irish? German?” Heinzlichen looked baffled. “Look, Forrester, on Mars we got six-hundred-millibar pressure, you understand? You lose some of de high frequencies, dat’s all I don’t know what ‘German’ or ‘Irish’ is.”

“Say, that’s interesting!” Forrester cried. “You mean it’s not an accent, really?”

“I mean you wasted too much of my time already!” the Martian cried and leaped for his throat. And right there, in the bright midway with the ambulatory plants jolting past him and the crowds cheering and shouting, Forrester found himself fighting for his life.” End Book Passage

Maybe the name is an in-joke and the other men’s names based on other science fiction writers of the day?

When a women (Adne Bensen) whom he met at a party the night before finds him; he is greatly relieved before he can ask her what to do instead of trying to figure things out for himself. He is extremely distracted by the novelty of his situation. He does not seem to mind very much that his wife and children are dead because he is 500 years in the future. He feels mostly relief to have them gone. Since his reaction is not typical he seems like a man having a midlife crisis who would not mind starting his life over again with a new wife and children. As far as their relationship goes they don’t get married but become instantly involved with each other. Adne Bensen has two children who find him both parhelic and amusing. They say they feel sorry for children of the past who had to play with non-talking dolls.

Man Forrester (Man replaces the prefix Mr. in the future) had been a volunteer fire fighter who died saved a child from a burning building. Frozen for 500 years he is defrosted and healed. Unfortunately he is responsible for paying his own the medical bills (there appears to be no such thing as medical insurance). When he is beaten up by the Martian and his cohorts he does not realize money is automatically deducted from his Joy Maker to pay for his healing. Even when a bank tires to contact him about creating a new account he refuses to deal with his money situation. At first he feels he has plenty of money, later he realizes he is running low on money. The Martian Heinzlichen who is hunting him and takes out a hunting license to hunt him is a human who was born on Mars.

Like Google or Siri the Joy Maker fails to delineate which notification are of utmost importance for his survival. Maybe the Joy Maker needs a spam guard? If one get upset at the Joy Maker or screams at it, it can choose to spray one’s face with calming tranquilizer drug.

When he was first unfrozen he has a guide named Hara to help him. Hara gives him a manual which he did not read until later. The manual is boring and he does not want to read it.

Early in the novel he also meets a man whom he thinks is a scammer named Taiko Hironibi. Hironibi wants him to join the anti-machine movement called the Luddites. The Luddites want to turn off the machines and go back to old fashioned life. Late in the novel he decides that Hironibi has a point.

Charles Forrester’s failure to grasp his new surroundings and listen to his message caused him to run out of money. When he runs out of money his Joy Maker is turned off and he becomes homeless. In the end he wins money from a former employer which is enough for him to live on.

The novel ends abruptly. I had hoped for more details and explanations.

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