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Heinlein

Tor are publishing the first volume of a pretty much definitive biography of Robert A. Heinlein this month: Robert A. Heinlein: Learning Curve (1907-1948), by William H. Patterson Jr..

To mark the occasion, Tor.com are running a web seminar on Heinlein for a week, starting today; various people (myself included) will be discussing his work in the context of his first 41 years. I'm still digesting the book (I'm currently up to 1942) but will contribute in due course — and will point you at my Tor.com posting as and when it's up.

In the meantime, for those of you who might expect a more personal perspective from me ...

To say Robert Heinlein was a pivotal figure in the history of written science fiction is a bit like saying that water is wet: well duh. But what's coming through from the biography is that his emergence as that pivotal figure was anything but inevitable. He was driven and immensely (if not uniquely) talented, and he set his hand to enough enterprises that success in one of them was inevitable. Writing fiction for pulp magazines was both a long shot and some way down his list of desired outcomes — if anything, it was a consolation prize for missing the vocations he'd really desired (first, a naval career: second, the chance to make a difference for his fellow men and women through a career in progressive politics). And, at least through his first forty years, his political beliefs were very different to those attributed to him in later life — his early fiction is to some extent a misleading guide to his actual thinking, as his work was tightly tailored to John W. Campbell's publishing agenda (in order to pay the mortgage and supplement his navy pension).

Much to think on here. But I'll be saying it elsewhere. In the meantime, though, just one thought: I only discovered Heinlein in my mid-teens, so I have a rather different literary relationship with him from most (American) SF authors.

133 Comments

1:

One of the fascinating things about the guy is how he manages to be a rorschach test of the reader's politics. Left, right, you can imagine he agrees with you somehow.

The libertarian appeal might be his strong tendency to separate _society_ from _government_...and favor ardent defense of the former combined with scorching disdain for the latter.

2:

While campaigning on behalf of Upton Sinclair in California, and later as a candidate for the State senate himself, he certainly saw some really dirty tactics by his Republican opponents.

And politics certainly seems to have taught him to be what people expected of him, while keeping his real opinions to himself.

(A practice he continued in his later fiction. I'm pretty much convinced that one should never take a mid to late period Heinlein protagonist's opinions as an expression of the author's own, unless the protag in question is a deliberate authorial insert-self-into-story marker to stake out a position, and even then he may only be doing it to mess with your head.)

3:

Maybe, but there do seem to be some themes to his protagonists-- if the government is one they approve of, they'll defend it to the death from attack (within or without). If it's not, they leave for greener pastures-- violently (Moon is a Harsh Mistress) or otherwise.
Reform isn't presented as an option in any that I recall.

Could we guess then that "Government is not fixable once broken" is a true belief of his?

4:

If it is a rorschach test, what it does say about me the fact that whatever he wrote, I always felt he was disagreeing with me somehow? Even when he stated things I more or less agreed with, after reading him telling that, I felt less sure about them...

I would have troubles putting exactly the finger on the why, but while admiring his undoubtable talent, I always found him mildly unpleasant. All his novels left me with a bad aftertaste, more for the kind of characters, their behaviour and the implicit things than for the rethoric and the explicit statements.

Maybe it's true what many said, that he was trying to be provocative and so on, but I always felt a small undertone of contempt for other humans being, his readers included.

Or maybe it's only me... after all, people that knew him personally are better suited to judge him than somebody that only read his works...

5:

That probably fits-- his protagonists do seem to divide people into those who are decent human beings and suitable company and those who might be shot depending on whether they misbehave at the wrong moment.

Part of pruning human society to keep it healthy, I think he phrased it.

6:

Interesting, I'll have to check out the book. He definitely is an influential person even if many don't realize it. Possibly more than Asimov or Clarke. One could do some interesting AHs from his life -- I seem to recall one short story where he was able to stay in the Navy and became and Admiral.

7:

I can recommend _Have Spacesuit, Will Travel_ as a superb example of writing craftsmanship. I particularly love the opening sequence, which breaks all the rules: it's about thirty pages of pure infodump as Kip talks about his spacesuit, and yet it's also provides characterisation, scene-setting, provides plenty of foreshadowing, and is a gripping read to boot.

However I do also agree with fizz in that I find it hard to read Heinlein these days due to it making me feel vaguely uncomfortable. There's something just *wrong* with a lot of his characters, particularly in the later books, and I can't really put my finger on what it is --- perhaps it's their total absence of guilt.

I'm still trying to decide whether _'Number of the Beast'_ (with quotation marks) was a joke or not.

8:

@2: because you were exposed to him later than most? Sorry, the first book I remember consciously choosing was when I was 9 or 10: Rocket Ship Galileo, from my mom's bedside table (I've always wondered why she had one of his juvies there).

@7: What was the line from NotB? "it's amazing what people will do for money"

9:

I'm really looking forward to reading that biography. I've enjoyed most of the Heinlein that I've read (early more than later), but between his books and what I know of his life, I've never felt I could clearly understand his real politics. There are conflicting messages scattered throughout his books, and while his later protagonists are pretty similar, the variations have always left me with the impression that he was using them to try to refine his ideas, or else write characters with intentionally divergent viewpoints. And what I know of his non-fictional statements does not always square with his fictional viewpoints.

If I got any consistent impression of Heinlein, it was as a man with strong opinions of How Things Should Be--who nevertheless did not trust people. And by extension, could not trust any government made up by those people. That tension makes me wonder if he had a consistent political philosophy at all... but then, most people don't. (Probably including me.)

As for favorite Heinlein: Time For The Stars. Which admittedly is a long riff on the twin paradox, but is also a lot of fun, and features a protagonist with more self-doubt than your average Heinlein.

10:

"There's something just *wrong* with a lot of his characters"

I can relate to that. I'm very much enjoying his books, but many of his characters in the mid to late books eventually come off as spoiled children. They demand everything be on their terms. If it doesn't happen they throw a tantrum until whoever they're dealing with breaks (and they inevitably do). It does seem like they have streaks of pettiness at the strangest of times and over (relatively) minor points.

I think at this stage its worth repeating what Charlie said and say that this leads me to believe that very often, the character's beliefs and mannerisms are not necessarily Heinlein's own, if only because if he was such and astonishingly petulant ass in real life, I imagine that's all anyone would say about him.

11:

I've always felt that Heinlein was one of those guys who loves to say something intentionally absurd with a totally straight face in order to watch the people who believe he's serious and agree with him.

You could consider it a pre-internet form of mild trolling used to flush the rabid idiots from cover so you know who they are.

Make a deliberately slightly divisive/provocative statement, then sit back to watch the cat among the pigeons and how everyone reacts... whether they agree or disagree with your true opinion isn't even important, how they react tells you a huge amount about their character and whether you'd consider them an interesting person to know.

12:

I am reading "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" and after first sixty pages I'am already loving it.

13:

It is always hard to talk about "Greatest" authors. Because of the high bar set by the hype, one starts out focusing on faults and why they aren't the Best. Then you stand back and say, well, but they were pretty good and they made an important contribution, etc. Back and forth. Back and forth. I have similar problems discussing Tolkien, Lovecraft, Christie and the like. It is much easier to say Gene Wolfe is deep or Tiptree was strange than to say Heinlein was the Greatest.

Respectfully,

Jonathan Hoag

14:

Learning more about authors is usually not conducive to increased enjoyment of their works, familiarity breeds contempt maybe? I'm only aware of a few biographical brush strokes of Heinlein - the Navy career cut short due to ilness, his habit of traveling widely on merchant ships, a few instances of personal generosity etc... more is probably asking for trouble.

15:
Much to think on here. But I'll be saying it elsewhere. In the meantime, though, just one thought: I only discovered Heinlein in my mid-teens, so I have a rather different literary relationship with him from most (American) SF authors.

I had much the same experience in that up to about 11 or so when I started hitting the adult stacks at the local library, the Big Three were Hugh Walters, Lester Del Rey and Andre Norton. Amazing how that public institution shapes so much of our early impressions by what's in their catalog, where they shelve it, and how we run into it (I ran into Norton - literally, because her stuff was shelved next to Mary Norton's "Borrowers" books)!

So Heinlein juveniles were a late - though welcome - find. Not to get all misty or anything, but it was Heinlein that gave me my first realistic death when Sam is trampled by the centaurs in Starman Jones (those white-on-black illustrations were pretty amazing as well, and it was the first time I'd seen a spaceship that wasn't a cigar-with-fins. A lot of firsts there.) I remember quite clearly thinking that Sam didn't really die, he couldn't have. When it sank in that yes Sam is really dead and he's not coming back, my first reaction, the first time I ever viscerally felt it just from reading a book was that's not fair. Strong stuff for a tweener.

16:

I think the comfort level, at least for me, when reading Heinlein changes with the era in which he was writing. His larger-than-life characters are more enjoyable in the forties- and fifties-written stories than in those he penned in the seventies.

His evolved style did not seem to fit well with some of the SF "literary" fads that he played into either, at least from my reading of works like "I Will fear No Evil" and "Number of the Beast" (I've also wondered if it was a colossal joke at my expense).

I think part of the cleverness of "Time Enough For Love" was using a flashback McGuffin to dislocate the reader from modern (1970s) reading expectations.

Either way, the man wrote big stories about big ideas that were new in their day, and that can be read with enjoyment even today with the old suspension-of-disbelief gain turned a little higher than usual. I don't reread much of his stuff these days, but I remember what I have read fondly.

The biography is a must-read for me.

17:

"Time Enough for Love" was, AIUI, written while he was suffering from a severe cerebrovascular illness that messed with his ability to think; no component of that book is longer than novella-length, which seems to have been his attention span at the time. Surgery in the late 1970s helped immensely, and his last few novels were far more coherent.

The "literary fads" go back a lot further than the 1970s -- his interest in general semantics dates to the late 1930s (and is, if I understand it correctly, the same material that fed into A. E. Van Vogt's "null-A" stories).

"Number of the Beast" ... I've heard two conflicting accounts; one is that he wrote it in an attempt to see if he could still get a rejection letter, and the other (more believable) one is that it's a gigantic easter egg containing worked examples (in every chapter) of an SFnal plot cliche, a really bad use thereof, and then a demonstration of how to use it properly. One day when I've got the energy I intend to go back and see if that account holds up ...

18:

A lot of early American sci-fi makes me uncomfortable.
Quite a bit of it involves spaceships from the Terran Empire(or Solar confederation, United States of Earth, etc) flying around and colonizing less advanced aliens on other planets while cheerfully taking their land, art, artifacts or whatever. And this is all presented as obviously the right thing to do. If any Aliens advanced enough to offer resistance are encountered they are of course utterly exterminated.

Heinlein himself didn't do too much of that, but a lot of the attitudes are there.

19:

I read some Heinlein when at school aged around 14-17 (can't really remember what ones - it was a long time ago) and I didn't particularly enjoy them much, from memory it seemed the stories sort of just stopped and the characters were, I dunno, weird/inconsistent and I didn't really care about them.
Having heard all the praise for him (especially from US readers) I going to have to try him again , any suggestions for a decent (re)introduction?

20:

@9:

If I got any consistent impression of Heinlein, it was as a man with strong opinions of How Things Should Be--who nevertheless did not trust people. And by extension, could not trust any government made up by those people. That tension makes me wonder if he had a consistent political philosophy at all... but then, most people don't. (Probably including me.)

I think this is an accurate characterization of the man and it explains why so many people get the impression that he was a far-right conservative despite the claim that his politics were all over the map. What he was, personally, was authoritarian, and this seems to be a constant in people's takeaway impressions of him.

Now, this gets all dressed up in the verbiage associated with politics and philosophy and apologists will say that who is to be in charge was
a question Heinlein wrestled with and explored all his life. To which I reply: he may have "wrestled" with this poser, but at the end of the day, the answer to the question of who is to be in charge was always the same: himself.

So you get the usual Adorno/Altmeyer stuff that associates this personality type to conservative politics and this is where the confusion lies.

As for favorite Heinlein: Time For The Stars. Which admittedly is a long riff on the twin paradox, but is also a lot of fun, and features a protagonist with more self-doubt than your average Heinlein.

I liked the setup, but this was another first for me in the sense that I realized the author didn't know what he was talking about. I had just read Chester's "Relativity; an Introduction for Young Readers" which really pulled SR together for the first time, mathematically speaking, and which introduced me to space-time diagrams, lines of simultaneity, etc. After making a graph of the setup, my realization was either both twins should have had the impression that the other was slowing down, or there had to be some sort of time travel backstage.

It didn't spoil the story for me. But it was one of my first experiences where I realized that someone I respected as an authority on the subject didn't know everything.

Sadly, there are legions of fans who still insist that the science is good and that others are simply not reading the book right - maliciously so if they keep on insisting otherwise.

21:

Because of the nostalgia factor, I'll link to the cover of Relativity; an Introduction for Young Readers. The Good Stuff. I checked this one out before I could understand the mathematical appendices but after being exposed to basic analytic geometry in Jr. High - nothing fancy, the equations of lines, slopes, the distance formula, that sort of thing - all those diagrams suddenly made sense.

Just wondering if anyone else grew up with this one.

22:

Circa 1940, Heinlein's political philosophy was that he:

a) Hated fascists
b) Thought communists were fascists in left-wing drag
c) Thought technocrats were going to go down the same path as the fascists if they ever amounted to anything
d) Didn't think much of libertarians

In fact, he stood as a left-wing Democrat candidate for the Californian state senate in 1938. He'd seen depression-era poverty up close and personal and hated it; he'd also seen machine politics (in Denver) and the republican machine in California.

He was a frustrated idealist who wanted to change things: that's a position I've got a lot of sympathy for.

(How he turned in later life is mostly reserved for Volume 2 of the biography, which isn't finished yet.)

23:

"Learning more about authors is usually not conducive to increased enjoyment of their works"

It can go either way.

My few online interactions with Our Host have encouraged me to read more of his schtuff. I am fonder of Scalzi's web-presence than I am of his books. (And I like Scalzi's books a moderate amount.)

On the other hand, something by Ellison has to be widely touted as awesome before I will consider picking it up, so yeah.

24:

@22:

Oh, certainly, certainly. I'm very familiar with all of this, btw, I've read the biographies, talked with the usual authorities, James Gifford, etc.

But there's a distinction to be made between the actual authoritarian personality traits, and how they are expressed to others around them. Hmmm . . . it's an iffy start to a subject frought with complexity and historical baggage, but you might check the wiki and go from there. Here's a few snippets from the article on the subject of left- and right-wing politics which, again, is not written up as well as it could be:

The "right wing" in right-wing authoritarianism does not necessarily refer to someone's politics, but to psychological preferences and personality. It means that the person tends to follow the established conventions and authorities in society. In theory, the authorities could have either right-wing or left-wing political views.

Milton Rokeach's dogmatism scale was an early attempt to measure pure authoritarianism, whether left or right. The scale was carefully designed to measure "closed mindedness" without regard to ideology. Nevertheless, researchers found that it correlated with political conservatism.[7] . . .

There have been a number of other attempts to identify "left-wing authoritarians" in the United States and Canada. These would be people who submit to leftist authorities, are highly conventional to liberal viewpoints, and are aggressive to people who oppose left-wing ideology. These attempts have failed because measures of authoritarianism always correlate at least slightly with the right. There are certainly extremists across the political spectrum, but most psychologists now believe that authoritarianism is a predominantly right-wing phenomenon.[9]

Although authoritarians in North America generally support conservative political parties, this finding must be considered in a historical and cultural context. For example, during the Cold War, authoritarians in the United States were usually anti-communist, whereas in the Soviet Union, authoritarians generally supported the Communist Party and were opposed to capitalism.[10] Thus, authoritarians generally favor the established ways and oppose social and political change. Hence, even politics usually labeled as right or left-wing is not descriptive. While Communism in the Soviet Union is seen as leftist, it still inspired the same responses. This leads to questions over what makes various ideologies left or right, but that is another discussion.

Part of the problem with this piece is that it is now recognized that are at least two types of authoritarian personalities, the follower and the leader. And so on and so forth, things move fast these days. I'd recommend Altemeyer's excellent book, "The Authoritarians" (for me, a fairly quick read in a flashlight-under-the-covers sort of way)as well as Adorno's original research. There's also Sidanius and Pratto who have done research on a related concept, social dominance orientation or SDO.

Fascinating stuff, and demonstrating yet again how a lot of our so-called "rational" preferences in religion, politics, economics, etc are largely after-the-fact juju to explain the outer manifestations of our basic persona, however much we strut and pretend otherwise.

25:

"A lot of early American sci-fi makes me uncomfortable."

This has a lot to do with conforming to themes required to get published during that period.

It was alot easier to get published if your story was about humanity's superiority and victory over barbaric aliens than otherwise.

26:

They had one of his letters to Campbell in the SF Museum a few years ago and he basically said something to the effect of "I'm going to create a bunch of circumstances where the only "law" is civil tort and see if people get the joke".

I don't think many people did.

27:

His book "Take Back Your Government" is actually still really useful for doing grassroots politics today, even if it was written 60 years ago now (it's out of print and has been for years, but bless interlibrary loan and an unsupervised work photocopier.)

Meeting Ginny and being told he couldn't be in the service even in an auxiliary role really changed his books. I mean, there were WAY more red-heads, for one thing.

28:

The writings I remember best are the "future history" stories, especially "Revolt in 2100," (1953, but which I read in about 1960, at age 12), which is essentially an anti-religious tract disguised as fiction. The first thing I ever read that suggested to me that organized religion should always and everywhere be regarded with suspicion.

29:

the 'bad taste left by characters' I'd agree with that.
I always thought he was just a product of his times, never guessed it might be trolling

30:

For the curious, the late Gharlane of Eddore wrote one of the treatises about Beast. He makes (made, sob) a rather good argument.

31:

Sorry, but you're wrong and Heinlein was right about relativity here. At least in general terms; I don't remember enough about the book to know whether his specific figures added up, but he had the twin paradox right.

The twin on the ship will experience less proper time than the one on Earth. This is one case of the general principle in SR that accelerating reference frames always measure less proper time between the same two events than inertial ones.

(From your description it sounds as though you've understood the part about velocity being relative and jumped to the conclusion that acceleration is relative too. I'm afraid this is a classic beginner mistake in SR.)

32:

Yes, General semantics is the motivation and mostof the plot etc in van Vogt's Null-A series. It also is mentioned in some Frank Herbert story and some other authors work, I Can't remember who.

(I wouldn't bother reading the 3rd null-a book, its pretty bad)

On Heinlein, would it not be possible to be authoritarian and convinced that you know the right way, ie some sort of moderate democracy with standards and thus campaign for that, secure in the knowledge that you are correct? I was under the impression that the established convention in some of the USA was for individuality and democracy and suchlike.

33:

Heinlein exhibited a lot of dynamic range in his work, one would almost think he was a committee..but Stranger in a strange land is a fun place to start.

34:

It's interesting, I've read most of his stuff, even Number of the Beast but I can't do Stranger, I've bounced off it, hard, every time.

35:

How far did you get into it? Because the unabridged version is much, much better, but it's still very ... shall we say... "of its time." :)

I'd recommend starting with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; Double Star and The Puppet Masters are a good weekend double-ender, and Friday is still one of my favourites, though it's definitely more "pop" and less polemical (which I have to admit I love about Heinlein, but many don't, so...) than many of his works.

36:

There's an unabridged version of stranger in a strange land? How long is it and when did it comeout?

I read what I suspect was the original printing (reprinted in paperback in the 80's) as a teenager, after failing to read it once. It left some memories, so I read it again 15 years later as an adult, and found the book to be rather dull and not so interesting. Sure, as an adult I have a different viewpoint from being a teenager fresh to it, and I know he was also writing to get published, and I know it was in many ways ahead of its time, but yet it just didn't feel right. I think the comments above about Heinlein poking people to see how they react sums it up, and I hate that kind of behaviour, since I think it destroys any attempt at sensible discussion. If you want to get people thinking, by all means ask difficult questions, but don't poke them and measure the response, its too disrespectful and childish.

37:

When I encountered Stranger, I was recovering from religion, which made it particularly appealing, YMMV. You might try Methuselah's Children, fun, even if the idea of controlled breeding of humans is kinda' gauche.

38:

#10: "I'm very much enjoying his books, but many of his characters in the mid to late books eventually come off as spoiled children. They demand everything be on their terms. If it doesn't happen they throw a tantrum until whoever they're dealing with breaks (and they inevitably do). It does seem like they have streaks of pettiness at the strangest of times and over (relatively) minor points.

I think at this stage its worth repeating what Charlie said and say that this leads me to believe that very often, the character's beliefs and mannerisms are not necessarily Heinlein's own, if only because if he was such and astonishingly petulant ass in real life, I imagine that's all anyone would say about him."

Your imagination turns out to be incorrect.

This is in no way to suggest that Heinlein was not endlessly kind and astoundingly generous to friends and strangers, and a very good man in many ways.

But, yes, Heinlein very much wanted to do things on his own terms, and might well be described by the modern term "control freak." Especially as regards what others knew of him. Part of this stems from his political career, most of it stems from his unconventional views and the times, and some of it stems from other character traits. All in the book.

(I read one of Bill's drafts several years ago when it was at least four times as long, aside from knowing something about Heinlein myself; the above is entirely my own opinion, however, and in no way Bill's.)

My own opinion is that Heinlein absolutely was, at times, exactly the character you describe above. I personally witnessed one such occasion I include in that category.

For an entirely different set of stories, see Earl Kemp's fascinating first-hand account, for example.

(Keeping in mind he's hardly objective, either, of course.)

39:

Heinlein's book allows faster-than-light communication. That alone is inconsistent with relativity both special and general - he knows this, and has one of his characters say as much.

In his alternate universe, the twin paradox works the same way as it would in ours. I don't think it matters how he writes the details of how the telepaths perceive each other - there's no way to make them consistent with relativity anyway.

40:

@31:

Sorry, but you're wrong and Heinlein was right about relativity here. At least in general terms; I don't remember enough about the book to know whether his specific figures added up, but he had the twin paradox right.

The twin on the ship will experience less proper time than the one on Earth. This is one case of the general principle in SR that accelerating reference frames always measure less proper time between the same two events than inertial ones.

No, you're wrong, and trivially and obviously so. You also need to read what people write and think about it before you post.

I said that in the book, Heinlein had Pat speeding up from Tom's point of view while to Pat it looked as if Tom was slowing down on the first outward leg.

Now pay attention: this is wrong. Period. In reality (assuming Relativity works the way it should), they should have experienced each other slowing down. You are making the newbie Relativity error of confusing relative time rates with the amount of proper time elapsed when the twins are back in the same frame.

(From your description it sounds as though you've understood the part about velocity being relative and jumped to the conclusion that acceleration is relative too. I'm afraid this is a classic beginner mistake in SR.)

Without going into what I do for a living, it sounds to me as if you've not only put your foot into it with regards to your poor reading ability, but you don't understand Relativity yourself. I'd suggest not commenting any further until actually learn something about the subject.

41:

@38:

But, yes, Heinlein very much wanted to do things on his own terms, and might well be described by the modern term "control freak." Especially as regards what others knew of him. Part of this stems from his political career, most of it stems from his unconventional views and the times, and some of it stems from other character traits. All in the book.

First let me say that "control freak" sounds pretty much like a synonym for authoritarian to me and there's just too many stories of this sort of behaviour going on to simply wave it away. And let's face it, when some you lose it because some kid at a con tells you that that saying ftl is possible "Because otherwise it would be putting unacceptable limitations on Man, the critter too ornery to yaddah yaddah . . ." is not a very good reason and that some sort of scientific justification would be better, well, I'd say you've moved a bit past the bounds of acceptable behaviour.

But in any event, since I started this sub-thread, what I was trying to say was that perhaps people got the impression that Heinlein was politically conservative because he behaved like a stereotypical conservative, whatever his overt political sentiments were at the time.

Yeah, I know, there are plenty of people who are politically liberal but personally real stinkers . . . but that's just the way the general stereotyping crumbles.

42:

@39:

Actually, the sf quip is "Relativity, ftl, causality. Pick any two." Iow, Relativity and ftl are perfectly compatible, but then you have to thrown in time travel as well, i.e., causality violations. A lot of people prefer to keep Relativity and causality, but then they have to drop the ftl. Causality and ftl at the expense of Relativity is just boring.

43:

Sean @30:  THANK YOU * $BIGNUM for pointing toward[1] this insightful work.  The moniker "Neal O'Heret Brain" always irked me, although I never could identify the exact cause...

Until about an hour ago, I considered myself mildly adept at spotting anagrams, Spoonerisms, and other forms of obscure wordplay.  Thanks to the writing of the late Gharlane of Eddore and yourself, I am now largely cured of that delusion. 
*kicks self*
*beats head against desktop*

________
 1. If anyone else wonders whether they have grokked the fullness of TNOTB, here is the link which Sean may have intended to write in his comment:

treatises about Beast.

44:

Hi there - long time fan, first time poster. I've been reading the comments here with interest and I was reminded of a posting from Letters of Note. There's a scanned image of a Heinlein letter to a fan during WWII. I'm not entirely sure if this adds to the discussion here, but it's certainly sad (and sadly entertaining!)

http://www.lettersofnote.com/2010/05/these-bastards-let-your-brother-die.html

45:

@3
Reform IS an option.
One of his best was: "Double Star"

@ 7. 10
"There's some thing wrong with hiis charaters"
Just like real people in real life, you mean?

@ 28
Part of "Revolt in 2100" was written much earlier.
Leaving aside the technological canges, it is STILL a very scary prediction.
The US could easily still fall to "Nehemiah Scudder" - in fact it is the only likely scenario for an internal US collapse - sort of reliogius tie-up with the Tea-Party loonies.
Now I've scared myself!

@ 38
Sounds unpleasant.
R. A. H. was known to have thrown a screaming temper-tantrum (in writing) to Arthur C. Clarke over the "Star Wars" proposals under Reagan ....
Claiming that the defense of the USA is none of your (Brits) business, and failing to see that the survival of the human race, by NOT having WWIII was everyone's business.

46:

I recommend _Grumbles from the Grave_

47:

I still think Have Spacesuit, Will Travel is excellent fun. It has a lightness and joy that makes it fun to read.

I wish I could say the same for The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. I first read it when I was 14 (or so). It blew my mind. I just loved it. I thought books couldn't get any better.

Move on 10 years and I tried to read it again, and only managed thirtyish pages before I baled out. I just couldn't stand the ever-so-bloody-obvious politics.

How on earth I put up with that at 14 I have no idea but I wasn't prepared to give it a go at 24. I have tried reading it a few times since with another attempt last year but I just cannot get past the first few pages.

Sigh!

Such a shame. I used to love that book.

As for Stranger In A Strange Land, I have never liked it. Too much grok nonsense for me. It was also kind of tainted for me by the bunch of adherents it seems to enslave.

Yep, I don't grok SIASL but I'm one of those weirdos that likes things to make sense. And, after I gave it a 100 pages worth of attention I didn't think it deserved my focus any longer.

However, for me SIASL marks a considerable landmark in my life. It was the first book I had bought that I didn't finish. What is more, I didn't feel guilty about not finishing it. It just didn't deserve my attention; it certainly failed to hold it.

Still at least HSWT is still great fun, even for this 46yo.

48:

I think the best example of my relationship with Heinlein is summed up by the book I remembered reading ages ago that I was chatting about to a mate recently where there's theses twins and they can communicate telepathically and one of them is on a spaceship right and...
and until this thread I never realised that it was a Heinlein, so thanks Adam :)

Until the thread from the other day, I'd never noticed much political about his works, sure The Moon etc. contains politics, but I'd consciously dismissed it in the same way I'd dismissed a lot of the technical details of spaceflight, AI etc. that the book contains as being equally dated/poetic license.

Perhaps the best take home message is in The Cat Who Walked Through Walls, where the main villans of the piece are authors! Therefore, it's all your fault Charlie ;)

49:

One of the few Heinleins I can still re-read is "Starship Troopers", but then I can see some sort of virtue in restricting the franchise to people who actually value it (I mean, just how much do people who basically never vote actually value their right to do so? [ok, rantette over, sorry Charlie but...]), and always saw the book as basically a hymn to the "poor bl00dy infantry", rather than a polemic work, anyway.

50:

>>>>I can see some sort of virtue in restricting the franchise to people who actually value it (I mean, just how much do people who basically never vote actually value their right to do so?

God give me strength. . . why do I get the feeling that in your New Order the category of 'people who allegedly do not value their vote' will be very broad indeed? I've seen civil wars start over less.

Anyway, back to Heinlein. This question is going to sound like I'm stirring it, but I'm genuinely not. So here goes - what is obsession with incest in later Heinlein about?

51:

Strangely enough, my favorites are "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" and "If This Goes On." I also have a soft spot for a few of the juveniles and Starship Troopers. I remember really liking Door Into Summer, but nothing about its substance, except the cat based metaphor of the title and that it involved the protagonist being marooned in the future in a similar way to Marooned in Real Time or Buck Rogers.

As for the politics of Starship Troopers, there is something appealing about its core concept, if you accept RAH's gloss that eligible service can be of the Peace Corps variety as well as combat related. But even as a teenager, I realized it would never work in practice.

52:

Apologies Charlie but...

Saying that you can see an appeal to doing something does not mean that you wish to do it. Just because I feel strongly that you should vote does not mean that I necessarily favour disenfranchising people.

In fact, the only systems of "democracy" I can think of that are worse than a universal franchise are those that deliberately restrict the franchise. However, if and only if you do choose to restrict the franchise, the best way to do so is surely to have a default position that no-one has it by right of birth, wealth, sex or whatever, but anyone can choose to earn it by demonstrating that they value it, and what better way of demonstrating that you value something than by performing a not insignificant period of public service in order to get it?

53:

This question is going to sound like I'm stirring it, but I'm genuinely not. So here goes - what is obsession with incest in later Heinlein about?

As a factual issue, neither I (nor anyone else who's talking) knows for sure.

As a speculative issue ...

1. Heinlein had no children of his own, and there's no [known] record of child abuse in his family, so any interest of that ilk was probably purely theoretical on his part.

2. Fiction roots: see "All you zombies" -- yes, it's a time travel/paradox yarn, but there's implicif (auto?) incest in it as part of the mcguffin. And that's circa 1940. So he was thinking about it that far back.

3. Lazarus Long's final extended story in "Time Enough for Love" is a substantial rework of the theme in which LL turns out to be his own father (by way of time travel). There's also the story of the two heterozygotic twins earlier in the novel. So he was thinking about it a lot in that period, from different angles.

4. The angle he clearly wasn't thinking about it from is the angle of child abuse; it's almost as if it was an alien concept to him.

I suspect he was just far enough up his own reality tunnel not to have noticed that conventional attitudes to sex are a lot less flexible wrt. incest than other activities he'd engaged in (e.g. "living in sin" -- cohabiting -- which was a criminal offense in 1947 when he was doing so with Ginny while waiting for his divorce to come through).

See also Theodore Sturgeon's "If all men were brothers, would you let one marry your sister?" from Dangerous Visions in the late 1960s. Maybe it's just that there was something in the water ...

54:

Charlie - I certainly wasn't trying to accuse our man of anything, it was just something I've always wondered about. Well, I don't mean it was a thought that occupied my every waking moment, but it was something that sprung out at me when I read his later books. A real 'wait, what?' moment.

Your point about him not having children of his own makes sense. In the anthropology of the incest taboo there's an argument that the overlap between the physiology of aggression and the physiology of sexual activity (the latter triggers some of the same responses as the former) accounts for the incest taboo - i.e. the integrity of the kinship structure can't survive that form of aggression, hence it's prohibited. I've just realised that sounds pretty daft once I'd written it down, so I'm going to have to go and look up the original paper on that subject (it must be a good 12/13 years since I taught this one).

Oh, and paws4thot - don't rise to the bait, you big eejit!

55:

Gary Farber @38
Thanks for the insight.

56:

Hmm... when I read Door Into Summer, aged about 13, I thought it was perhaps the most perfectly beautiful book I'd read: a total fit with myself at the time. I tried to read it again some time ago, aged early 30s, and decided that the central relationship between adult man and adolescent girl was just too creepy for my liking.

OTOH, I loved The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress as a kid, and on re-reading it aged 40, it's still good. Yeah, the politics are handled clumsily to my mind (which is the case with pretty much everyone I read, save MacLeod and very early Wells - I am a bit of a politics snob here) but sod it.

Generally WRT RAH, I don't think I've ever got over the impact that Moorcock's _Starship Stormtroopers_ had on me: but that's a different tale, about my discovery that literary criticism can be good and relevant.

57:

I disagree somewhat with awesome host: I think Heinlein knew exactly where incest lies on the taboo scale. Radical sexual liberation was one of his long-term themes, or something.

58:

re incest - In Time For The Stars the space-travelling chap comes back and marries his twin brother's great granddaughter (if I got the level right) - though she's no longer a child and is more or less the same age he is; that's back in 1956.

59:

Heinlein was a wonderful author. If you like SF, you will probably like at least one or two of his books. And Waldo is an awesome story, that actually spawned a new word (or use of a word) in English. How many authors can say that? He also wrote some really awful stinkers that are almost unreadable.

Regarding the discussion of his political/sexual views, etc., don't you think that authors are often just attempting to create interesting characters? We're talking about fiction here, and Rule #1 of fiction is to be entertaining. Yes, a writer's views seep into their fiction, of course, but to attempt a psychoanalysis based on their characters is perhaps just creating more fiction, however interesting.

We are not speculating in a vacuum, but in a hall of mirrors filled with manikins.

60:

Lazarus Long's final extended story in "Time Enough for Love" is a substantial rework of the theme in which LL turns out to be his own father (by way of time travel).

Are you sure? As I recall it, he went back and had an affair with his mother, meeting himself as a small child. Have I forgotten another loop of time travel where he goes back even earlier?

I've wondered if the incest thing was related to an active attempt to find sexual taboos to write about his characters breaking, while still keeping the resulting fiction non-pornographic enough that he was comfortable writing about it. You can make an incestuous relationship as taboo-breaking as you like without writing any actual sex scenes -- most other major taboos, you'd need more explicit detail to get the same level of shockingness.

61:

It's some years decades since I read TEfL ...

62:

@50:

Anyway, back to Heinlein. This question is going to sound like I'm stirring it, but I'm genuinely not. So here goes - what is obsession with incest in later Heinlein about?

I suspect this might tie in with an earlier comment:

You could consider it a pre-internet form of mild trolling used to flush the rabid idiots from cover so you know who they are.
Make a deliberately slightly divisive/provocative statement, then sit back to watch the cat among the pigeons and how everyone reacts... whether they agree or disagree with your true opinion isn't even important, how they react tells you a huge amount about their character and whether you'd consider them an interesting person to know.

Iow, if Heinlein were alive today (and didn't have the writing career), he'd probably get an online reputation for being a troll.

In hindsight, it explains a lot. "Really, Mr. Heinlein? In your novel Farnham's Freehold you made the black people cannibals? And you have no idea why people are strenuously taking exception to this bit of characterization?"

Of course, what sounds trollish in an internet exchange could sound merely interesting in a face to face conversation, and there's a fine line between exploring the boundaries, being provocative to stimulate some original thinking, and being provocative just because you feel like stirring the pot. And on that subject I don't have much of an opinion other than to note the Heinlein learned from Campbell, and while Campbell was no stranger to provocative, he didn't have that sort of disreputable reputation. He seemed to the people who knew him as genuinely being a pushing back at the boundaries sort of guy.

63:

Michael Dirda, Pulitizer Prize winner for litcrit and SF fan, reviewed the Heinlein biography for today's WashPost. His last paragraph says:

"Today, most readers regard the 1940s stories and the juveniles and short novels of the 1950s as Heinlein's best work. If you're a fan of these, you'll want to read Patterson's biography. If you're not, you should track down a copy of "Double Star" (1956) -- not quite a juvenile, but a brilliant piece of narrative construction -- or the huge 1967 collection of Future History stories, "The Past Through Tomorrow." There's still plenty of summer left."

64:

"To Sail Beyond the Sunset" has a lot of sexual taboo breakage, although I find it very preachy and almost silly given it's time (1987).

But incest is a very interesting issue. The taboo against it is very strong, even amongst those who might be considered very [classically] liberal. Almost any offered reasoning against it can be undermined by changing the conditions, yet it persists strongly and explanations perplex scholars. That makes it a good "what if" for social SF.

@Charlie 53. Theodore Sturgeon's "If all men were brothers, would you let one marry your sister?"

I just happened to read this a few weeks ago in an old Asimov edited collection of SF. Good story and worth a read for those who have not read it.

65:

AH, Me too ..and There we, maybe, have it on a scale of ascent through Age... perhaps ?

I was born in 1949, encountered Heinlein's Back catalog through the late '50s and the 60s via the medium of Children's .. I gather that it is now called Young Adult .. fiction and was impressed by his Stories .. 'Starman Jones ' ' Citizen of the Galaxy ' and so forth.

Although I was a precocious reader - my mother taught me to read when I was between age three and four and it was as if she'd just said 'Here This is Reading, Remember This from a previous Life? ' - and thus when I darted into the ADULT public lending library for H G Wells,Edgar Wallace and Rider Haggard ... and Adult orientated Heinlein ... as well as many many others and it simply didn't occur to me that here there might be be Monsters beyond the scope of Invaders from Mars .. and that here there might be Racism amongst other things, but then I was rather a knowledgeable small boy and it did occur to me that it was all, maybe, a matter of Age and Interpretation and perhaps it was all a Lot More Complicated than I did suppose.

I do suggest that it is Possible that, since we do Love the Genre and its Hero's, we may be a lot more willing to make exceptions for good old Heinlein than we would be for, say, Edgar Wallace and the 'Sanders of the River ' Series ?

It just seems to me to be that we are complicated creatures and are much influenced by our time and place and thus, maybe the old saying that if you are aren't a socialist in your teens ... Come Now, I tapped this into Google just now and got back This amongst other remarks ...

" "If your not a Socialist before 30 you have no heart, if your still a Socialist after 30 you have no head"

This is a quote I get constantly from Parents, Teachers and older people in general. Admittedly, I'm very very young, and I'm completely aware that I still have much to learn. Regardless, this quote scares me. Are my current political views of Revolutionary Socialism nothing more than a hormonal "teenage" rush that I'll just grow out of?

I've noticed that a good Plurality of the posters here are above the age of 30, I'm curious if this quote has any truth to it, and if you ever got told this when you were younger. "

I wonder that too.

66:

Some Heinlein e-books would be nice, a UK reprint even better.

67:

There are some Heinlein books over at Webscription. However, that's probably US only.

68:
It was alot easier to get published if your story was about humanity's superiority and victory over barbaric aliens than otherwise.

I recall an incident in space cadet? Maybe that was the name, when the Venusian primitives conclusively defeat the arrogant earthlings using their comprehensive knowledge of advanced chemistry.

This thread is bringing a lot of memories back. Mostly good. I read that article about Heinlein by Kemp and he neglects to actually mention what it was that H. did that was so horrible, other than being demanding and cutting off people (Something I'm guilty of too)

69:

I think Stranger in a Strange Land may be one of those books like Lord of the Rings. In the LOTR case, I've encountered two groups of people: either you love it, or you stopped before reading the first 50 pages.* I've only met one or two people who read LOTR all the way through and hated it. I suspect SIASL is the same type of book.

As for the sex: I loved Heinlein as a teenager, but now, a few decades later, yeah, some of that does bother me. A lot. Guess he never ran into enough abuse victims to get the other side of some of those particular kinky practices he advocated.

And how come his red-headed heroines never fried in the sun, either?

*I used to work at a SF bookstore back in the day. Second most common question: "Can you recommend a good book for me to read?" I usually started by asking what they thought of LOTR, because almost everyone had been exposed to it, and it provides a nice gauge on tastes. I was interested to find how much of a dichotomy there was amongst the readership.

70:

Moon and Starship Troopers are 2 of my favorite books period, and top-of-the-heap for my money, and I consider his juvenile work best in class because he did not talk down to them, included very educational science and practical/realistic scenarios compared to space-fantasy type stuff.

he's on record as using his writing to challenge socially accepted 'norms', particularly the puritanical sexual tabboos of early 20th century America. also on record distrusting organized religion, and govt, but also a huge patriot and big fan of USA military and the space program. he definitely does not fit any neat stereotype of politics, and I've seen nothing on record to indicate he was a devout atheist, but more an open-minded agnostic believing that if there is 'something out there' its not going to conform to the beliefs of existing human religions.

Stranger is a powerful novel that was predictive and highly influential to the 60's anti-war hippie culture, and was very popular among the free-love type, almost a bible to them.

it makes a lot of sense that TEFL was written during health issues making it a bit disjointed and episodic, but still enjoyable. I would argue that any personality flaws or traits could easily be explained by his chronic lung problems, chronic pain plus limited time plus constant awareness of your own mortality can understandably make it difficult to suffer fools gladly, and a priority to do what you please....

I would also write-off his incestual themes as trying to seek acceptance for a minor Oedipus Complex, or simply challenging social traditions by asking 'if tech and/or science can prevent the negative consequences of inbreeding, is there any reason not to keep it all in the family?'

as mentioned previously, Heinlein has confirmed that much of his writing includes thought experiments challenging traditions or questioning the pros and cons of throwing out traditions. growing up in the early 20th century American south, he likely dealt with a great deal of redneck-prejudice of the kissing-cousins variety. not to mention bearing witness to the hypocrisy or corruption of the small-town religious, not to mention plenty of ignorance, racism, etc....

71:

Charlie, your 2007 High frontier redux post has been Pharyngulated:
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/08/kiss_space_goodbye.php?utm_source=mostactive&utm_medium=link

You may notice an increase in visitors...

Has nobody else read Alexei Panshin's book on Heinlein, which is available online somwhere? I found I agreed with it quite a bit.

73:

"In the LOTR case, I've encountered two groups of people: either you love it, or you stopped before reading the first 50 pages.* I've only met one or two people who read LOTR all the way through and hated it."

Well, I read it all the way through when I was in junior high school. I remember enjoying it. I then proceeded to pretty much never think about again until the movies, and then again until this thread. Even after seeing the movies, which I enjoyed, I wouldn't be able to tell you much about the plot. Both the books and the movie were candy, not a meal.

Would that count as "loving" it, and if not, is the reaction ireally that rare? I have a feeling I must be misunderstanding you, or that you're not getting a representative sample of people who have read LOTR. But I could very well be wrong.

74:

" "If your not a Socialist before 30 you have no heart, if your still a Socialist after 30 you have no head"

This is a quote I get constantly from Parents, Teachers and older people in general. Admittedly, I'm very very young, and I'm completely aware that I still have much to learn. Regardless, this quote scares me. Are my current political views of Revolutionary Socialism nothing more than a hormonal "teenage" rush that I'll just grow out of?

It describes one particular trajectory through life, but as a general rule, it's not actually true. I know of more than one person who has started out as a conservative and moved leftwards over the years, as well as people who have stayed left, and those who were never of the left in the first place. As an attempted put-down, it is no truer than its reverse.

75:

I have only discovered Mr. Stross in the past year, but have gobbled up his works as fast as I can.

Heinlein: Many people in my life have blamed him for my desire to be a jet pilot, an astronaut, i.e., just to get off this planet was a goal since I was 8 years old and was handed Starship Troupers by my local librarian when I told her I didn't want to read any more "girl stories". I read through all of his YA works that had been published by then (1955).

Then came the 60s and all of Hippiedom (although I was on the outside looking in, being a computer operator on the Apollo team) was reading Stranger. I was offered a copy and thought, "Neat, I read his stuff all the time as a kid. Thus, Stranger and all of his later works came back into my life, including a re-read of all his earlier work.

How many times have I thought of the GPS system and Heinlein; of the right wing people here in the USA and their Contract on America and how Heinlein looked at these people through the lens of Lazarus Long, starting with Methuselah's Children. Of the state being Big Brother and not going automatically to Orwell, but rather, to Heinlein.

And Friday, the last work I was handed by my sci/fi loving attorney boss in 1995 - again a long hiatus from Heinlein, only to see myself through my dying boss' eyes as this amazing multi-lingual secretary who had other very important skills.

Now at age 64, I have grand nieces, and as I did with my child, there will be no offerings of Gone with the Wind or Little Women from this Auntie. There will be Podkayne of Mars and Space Cadets and of course, Starship Troupers.

The thing is: sci/fi and fantasy have messages to be sure, but what they have are good stories to tell without the fetters of the literary elite who demand the canon. Hence, when I first grabbed Mr. Stross' The Family Trade because I was intrigued by the paperback cover of a young woman with a nasty modern weapon in hand going up to an ancient castle, to now, having read all of his works save Toast (yeah, buying it), I feel like he is in a set of uncommon writers who keep me happily reading a story, a tale if you will, all the while having a sub-context that makes me think long after I've put the book down.

76:

Sorry for the misunderstanding Noel,

Under my categorization, you're in the "loving it" group. Actually, it's the people who put it down that are more in agreement about not liking it (typical comment: "I just couldn't get into it, even though all my friends said it was great"). I've never run into someone who put LOTR down in the middle of The Two Towers, for instance. As I noted above, the question is most useful in trying to find a book someone will like, more than anything else.

Now I'm wondering if Stranger in a Strange Land is similarly bipolar. If so, it's unusual.

77:

I would agree except for your specification of late period. His characters were simply, or not so simply, fictional characters. His _stories_ may have had a political point, often did, but what the characters said was not a reliable guide. This was true in every book after _For Us the Living_

Will in New Haven

78:

@69:

I think Stranger in a Strange Land may be one of those books like Lord of the Rings. In the LOTR case, I've encountered two groups of people: either you love it, or you stopped before reading the first 50 pages.* I've only met one or two people who read LOTR all the way through and hated it. I suspect SIASL is the same type of book.

If I'm not mistaken, SiaSL is one of the first books of Heinlein's Too Big to Edit phase (showing that no, you're not) and something marilee @63 said made a lot of sense:

"Today, most readers regard the 1940s stories and the juveniles and short novels of the 1950s as Heinlein's best work. If you're a fan of these, you'll want to read Patterson's biography.

Notice the word "short" there. Heinlein never did master the long story form and his bigger books show it; "Stranger" doesn't really have a plot, nor TEfL, etc. What they've got instead seems to my eyes to be a series of shorts stitched together that try to achieve some sort of continuity by referring to each other (The same thing happened with Schmitz's The Witches of Karres, alas; a really classic bit of sf was turned into merely a very good novel through the use of this technique.) Thus the weirdness where competent reviewers would say something about half a of a really good book fused to half of a really bad one.

79:

I'm still slightly confused, Heteromeles. Isn't a tautology to say that people who didn't finish a book probably didn't like it?

Well, not quite a tautology, but I'd think that the main reason for not finishing something is that you didn't like it. And since the entire trilogy is very long, I'd imagine that's a deterrent to people ploughing through for sheer ego even though they're not enjoying themselves.

(Although I did that with the entire Dune series, including the first book, when I was a teenager stuck in bed with a 100-degree fever. Hated 'em all, read the whole thing. But it would seem to be a rare thing.)

No?

80:

My first introduction to Heinlein was that dusty copy of To Sail Beyond the Sunset under my dad's bed. I imagine that's because it came out when I was four. But I honestly wish Dad had kept some of the earlier stuff around, because my first impression of the man's work would probably have been much different.

81:

Just to confuse matters further, here's one vote for "read the whole of LotR, twice, and hated it". But I probably don't count: doing lit theory teaches you to finish books for professional reasons without necessarily liking them. (If anyone's wondering about reading it twice, the first time was in translation, the second in the original.)

82:

His first outing is sabotaged by his younger self stowing away in the Model T.

LL: Not his own father.

83:

"the Venusian primitives conclusively defeat the arrogant earthlings using their comprehensive knowledge of advanced chemistry."

I recall it as the Patrol crew asking for assistance and getting it, liquid Oxygen and presumably rocket fuel produced with no hint of heavy machinery.

I don't recall his Patrol officers as being arrogant - I think that is a point he was making. Proud, yes.

84:

#various - Ref the SiaSL and LotR dichotomy, I can see where everyone's coming from. I know very few people who've even tried to read either of them and don't love or hate the story in question.

I've read SiaSL several times, and think it can be best summed up as "strange but interesting". As for it "not being a good story", surely it's basically Mike's biography? Biogs would frequently be "bad novels" if they were about a fictional person rather than a real one, but that's not why we read biogs of real people, so I'm suggesting that saying that SiaSL is a bad novel is judging it by a wrong standard: View and read it as a biog rather than as a novel IMO.

85:

Yes, that would work in theory. But how would people run the system? Do you start finding that the "wrong" people don't finish their service. Rico gets a court martial, could have been thrown out and would have lost any chance of being a full citizen.

Taking the USA as a model, many states remove the right to vote from those convicted of a felony. The statistics of conviction rates (of those arrested) suggest a racist system of policing and justice.

And once the Starship Troopers political system starts to succumb to that sort of bias, can the shift be stopped?

86:

#85 - In #52, I specfically say that, whilst I see the appeal of such a system, I don't think it's actually a good idea; just that it's the least bad idea for a way of restricting the franchise.

Least bad =/= good. Is it clear now?

87:

Can we please drop this topic?

Except insofar as it's a direct discussion of Heinlein's fiction and his ideas.

88:

Alex K, I was very surprised that in that letter he states

"I have, not a belief, not a conviction, but a knowledge of personal survival."

He believed (knew?) in an afterlife or reincarnation?

As a grumpy, judgemental arsehole whose beliefs have no Cartesian co-ordinates I always liked Heinlein, though I disagreed with what might have appeared to be his beliefs.

89:

I suppose a good set of "memories" from a previous life would qualify as "evidence".

I suspect no double-blind study was involved...

90:

It occurs to me that Heinlein's really useful as an example of a different assortment of political and social issues.

We're used to thinking of some stances as associated...the left likes environmentalism, LGBT rights, pacifism, etc. Heinlein shows that those aren't necessarily set in stone...free-love militarism...

91:

Apologies again Charlie; I would have let it lie, but they would not let it lie.

92:

Heinlein was really a man of his times. All of the iconoclastic attitudes and opinions he held in the 20's and 30's can be found in the writings of the avante gard writers of the period: Wylie, Aldous Huxley, Lawrence, etc. He tried hard to have an open mind, and learn new things as time went on, but those original opinions kept a hold on him, and colored any new opinions he developed.

93:

It's 15 years or so since I read it, but I recall before the Venusians help them with as you say rocket fuel produced through non industrial ways, they had to come to the rescue of other earthlings who had got in deep water with the natives due to their haughty ways. It's coming back to me now that the "bad guys" might not have been cadets but rather some sort of traders or miners

94:

Reread Moon is a Harsh Mistress about a year ago. The specific politics -- TANSTAAFL, etc. -- are easy to eviscerate. The overall sense of how politics works holds up very well, per comments here regarding his practical experience. For more on those lines, I'd recommend Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles to most of you. Nominally historical fiction, but you can think of it as fantasy for adults. See also Tim O'Reilly's comments in an essay lauding several SciFi classics: http://oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/favebooks_0705.html

95:

That's actually a quote from Michael Dirda's review, to which I linked.

96:

Thank you for the comment, Pat!

To be honest, I really don't know what to think with re. to Heinlein's views or beliefs on anything. My main impression of him was closely tied to the long monologue about Rodin in Stranger in a Strange Land, although I had been aware of the debate about Starship Troopers. Reading that letter was a surprise to me; angry, judgemental and visceral.

Heinlein seems like a complicated fellow, but then again who isn't? Aren't we all unique and special snowflakes?!

97:

It's not just an arbitrary social taboo. There seems to be a biological component to it as well.

Incest aversion/close kin avoidance is very strong in many social mammals. Just about the only thing that will cause a lioness to leave her birth pride is reaching sexual maturity when her father is still with the group. Bonobos are proverbially frisky and mediate almost all social interactions with sexual acts. They exhibit strong aversion to sex between mother and son.

98:

Thanks Milena,

I'll add you to the list. One other person who read LOTR through and hated it was an English major. The other was simply...determined. And very strange in other ways. Not that this is a comment on you, Milena. It just remember asking myself, "If you hated it, why did you finish it?"

As for SIASL, I thought it was supposed to be Heinlein's "Sex and Jesus" book, and my understanding was that it was actually edited (and not entirely to Heinlein's liking, since he produced a revised version later).

99:

A friend once claimed to have read LOTR to better appreciate "Bored of the ring".

100:

LB (hi!), #60: "I've wondered if the incest thing was related to an active attempt to find sexual taboos to write about his characters breaking, while still keeping the resulting fiction non-pornographic enough that he was comfortable writing about it."

I think there's something to that. Heinlein was a "free-thinker" and strove to try to see beyond taboos (obviously he wasn't always successful, but who is?), and then he got to the point in his career where he suddenly was freed from editorial control, and could write without those restraints he'd suffered under for so many decades under first John W. Campbell, and then Alice Dagliesh.

If there's a plausible psychological explanation beyond that, I don't think I've encountered it.

#62: "And on that subject I don't have much of an opinion other than to note the Heinlein learned from Campbell, and while Campbell was no stranger to provocative, he didn't have that sort of disreputable reputation. He seemed to the people who knew him as genuinely being a pushing back at the boundaries sort of guy."

I may be misunderstanding you, but Campbell was famous in his early heyday as a flaming racist, and almost all his regular authors knew it. Heinlein essentially wrote Sixth Column to Campbell's draft and tried to minimize the racism, which was far worse in the original. Isaac Asimov ended up taking aliens out of the robots and Foundation stories he wrote for Campbell, because Campbell insisted that humans must always triumph over aliens, just as Northern European stock will over triumph over the other human races. There's no end of detail available on Campbell's overtly racist attitudes, which strongly dictated which stories he did and didn't find acceptable.

I don't know how that intersects with what you meant by "disreputable reputation."

#70: "it makes a lot of sense that TEFL was written during health issues making it a bit disjointed and episodic, but still enjoyable. "

Except that it was I Will Fear No Evil that that was the case for, not Time Enough For Love. IWFNE was the one he wasn't in condition to do a final run-through on, and the book was published without that final pass.

#71: "Has nobody else read Alexei Panshin's book on Heinlein, which is available online somwhere?"

You can find a tremendous amount of Alexei's writings about Heinlein, as well as some other folks on Heinlein, in this large section of his website.

(Disclosure: a very young me shows up in this section.)

101:

"He believed (knew?) in an afterlife or reincarnation?"

Heinlein was on a lifelong Quest with his oldest friend, Cal Laning, to attempt to determine the truth of it. He at varies times affirmed his belief in it without proof.

This shouldn't be surprising; it's right there in several pieces of his fiction.

And Leslyn was a practicing witch. And Heinlein was fascinated by Ouspensky. There are traces of that, too, visible, if you look.

102:

My first Heinlien book was "Farmer in the Sky" I loved the idea when I was a child of the chance of being part of the expansion of man through the solar system.

Actually that is a lie - my first was that one about the child slave being rescued by the wonderful retired hero. Had the name and just lost it. I didn't finish it the first time but did about 10 years ago - I hate leaving books unread! The reason I didn't finish it was even at that age I did not like the "preaching politics" that I find in his works. The ones I have enjoyed have tended to be the ones without this feature - or have a smaller amount - hence I prefer his juveniles.

My personal feeling about him was that of the Big 3 - Asimov taught you, Clarke gave you wonder and Heilein gave you thing to argue or think about. You may not have agreed but of the three he was one you walk away chewing things over.

103:

My general take on Heinlein's politics, written some years back:

He was an elitist state socialist, rather than an anarchist as is more popular in North America. When state socialism failed him, he became a "libertarian", retaining his elitism, but feeling that politics would interfere with the rise of natural leaders and rulers to the top. He expressed these views repeatedly in his later writings. I think he was a brillant man and better than his political and philosophical thinking, which strikes me as quite limited.***

Bill Patterson himself, ironically, showed up to debate these remarks--I was not very impressed with his understanding of US political history. I am nonetheless delighted to see that his biography of Heinlein has been published. I have little doubt that Bill Patterson has done us all a great service, regardless of what I think of his political reasoning.

104:

That is a misquote of the early nineteenth century French politician François Guizot who said "Not to be a republican at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head". There have been a fair number of people whose political views became more left wing as they aged, WE Gladstone is a notable example, his maiden speech in the Commons was in defence of slavery, he was by the end of his life a radical reformer.

105:

Gary Farber #100 - thanks, that's part of Panshins website I hadn't seen before. I suppose the reason for Heinleins odd approach to sex in his books will always be a little unclear, but mayhap it is a compound of his upbringing in a more conservative society, the forces towards conformity within the SF scene he was writing for, and something about him that I can't quite put my finger on.

106:

I almost always read through books that I don't like. I think it's not fair to say bad things about them unless I've got all the information.

The first SiaSL was definitely very edited and when Heinlein died, Virginia arranged to have the original, uncut, version published. She also had the unedited versions of Red Planet and Podkayne of Mars published.

I've read both SiaSLs and the uncut one was really boring. There was a lot of Jubal Harshaw going on and on about things that really didn't affect the plot. Then again, the uncut version of Podkayne is substantially different from the original.

107:

Am slowly making my way through the comments once I found that the real discussion is here, and not on the Tor site. One thing that keeps coming up in the first 35 posts (or so) is this bit about "authoritarian personality," and I think you/ you guys have got it wildly and hilariously wrong. You're confusing radical individualism with authoritarianism; Heinlein doesn't care at all about what anyone else might think. He's gonna do what he's gonna do, and the chips will fall where they fall. So you youre getting odd re-readings.

Admittedly radical individualism is not one of the more common philosophical stances (but even Max Stirner admitted and explored the uses and abuses of social organizations)

108:

## 53/54 I wouldn't say it's an "obsession" with incest -- both terms get thrown around a lot in ways that the definitions can't really cover.

What I would say (and have said in Foundation) is that the incest from TEFL onward is an extremely useful literary trope that moves the Tellus Tertius books out of the ironic novel and into the high mimetic. It has to be repeated every time a new book comes out because it's the persistent figure that positions these stories as mythic -- stories of the doings of the "thou art gods."

Without going into the full argument, this is why Jubal Harshaw shows up in the World As Myth books as the series' Speaker of Absolute Truths.

(and I don't think this should fall afoul the Moderation Policy)

109:

#70 Charlie has misremembered the timing. It was a book that Heinlein suppressed that was written during the lead-up to a bypass operation, in 1977 (The Panki-Barsoom Number of the Beast. The opening was cannibalized for Number of the Beast 3 years later, but it's a different book altogether).

Time Enough for Love was written in 1972 after Heinlein had fully recovered from a bout of peritonitis and complications that nearly killed him in 1970. I was published in 1973.

110:

Sturgeon's author's note on "If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?" said that people tended to confuse the writer with the characters and come to wrong conclusions about what the writer thought. He said that a previous work had gotten him called a fascist to his face, and he expected that this story would lead to worse. (That's in Dangerous Visions.)

Also: when the same theme keeps turning up in a writer's work, it's reasonable to start asking what it means. Especially when it's not inherent to the nature of the work. For example: if someone writes police procedurals, of course there will be a lot of murders in their fiction. If the victims, book after book, fictional criminal after fictional criminal, were consistently teenaged girls, a critic might ask why.

I'm not entirely convinced by "can break taboos offstage" as an explanation: it's possible to present a same-sex couple, in the same way of keeping all the sex offstage. That comes much later in Heinlein, and there's a lot more authorial fiat interfering with consummation (whereas the incestuous relationships in his novels are often marriages).

111:

@8 "it's amazing what people will do for money"

That suddenly seems to me to be the defining opinion of the middle classes. The poor generally know that people will do anything they must to survive, and the rich generally know that there are other people who will do any given thing, given enough money ("Magic Christianity", to use a Southern idiom.)

And, of course, you either agree with the above entirely rational and well-supported opinions, or you are worthless as an human being and can't expect any help from me when your deserved culling (a thing of inevitability, not of luck at all) arrives.

(The above paragraph's original avatars is why I couldn't read much of the later Heinlein after awhile...in "Logic of Empire", at least, he gives the character a chance to change his opinions after a coming down with Slavery.)
(As to his authoritarian tendencies, I'd look no further than Annapolis...abuse is a powerful tool for reshaping young minds.)

112:

@107:

One thing that keeps coming up in the first 35 posts (or so) is this bit about "authoritarian personality," and I think you/ you guys have got it wildly and hilariously wrong. You're confusing radical individualism with authoritarianism; Heinlein doesn't care at all about what anyone else might think. He's gonna do what he's gonna do, and the chips will fall where they fall. So you youre getting odd re-readings.

Well, I think you're double-plus wrong, so there. Isn't argument by assertion fun.

As for the rest, since apparently Heinlein cared a great deal what others thought, in fact, threw hissy fits if people didn't agree with him, I'd say your dead wrong on that that one. That's a documented fact, as well as being supported by, shall we say, a great deal of anecdotal evidence.

113:

Oh,goody, you're about to write another biography, and a revisionist one at that. What fun. I anticipate the publication date. Your copyeditor may be able to explain what "argument by assertion means" and correct your usage of "your" for "you're."

114:

Sigh. There are already plenty of stories out there about that sort of thing. Shoot, it happened often enough that I heard of it second hand. When you jump all over a well-meaning fan for pointing out that "the speed of light is an unacceptable limitation to man" is not, in fact, a very good reason for thinking such a thing is possible, well, let's just say you're not exactly indifferent to someone else's opinion.

So if you didn't include any of that in your "biography" which seems to already have a few errors that are apparent to an even relatively casual persual . . . I'd have to say that someone is already engaging in revision.

Shrug. From what I've been told, I'm not buying it.

115:

"correct your usage of "your" for "you're.""

People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones, Mr Patterson @ 113. Perhaps you should submit all your blog replies to a copy editor:

"So you youre getting odd re-readings." @ 107
"I was published in 1973." @ 109

I am afraid that one petty little remark from you has destroyed any possibility of my buying and reading your book or any book you write. The passive aggressive stance @ 113 that boils down to "I've written a book therefore I am an authority and don't have to engage in discussion because you haven't written a book." just confirms that I can't care about your opinion, however scholarly, informed and insightful it really is. To suggest that the view scentofviolets outlines is revisionist when it is the mainstream view is an interesting stance.

The reason radical individualism isn't a common philosophy is because most people like people.

116: Pat,

  • suggesting that a mainstream view isn't revisionist just because it's mainstream is not a valid suggestion IMO.
  • Basing someone's validity as a scholar on whether they include an apostrophe where it belongs is beneath you, no matter who you are, again IMO.
  • Bill's authority on Heinlein is a lot deeper than you are giving him credit for. This leads me to believe that you are not familiar with his career, a third IMO.

  • Please explain to me how his post #113 boils down to:

    "I've written a book therefore I am an authority and don't have to engage in discussion because you haven't written a book."

    because I just don't see it. I can be really dense sometimes (no sarcasm intended, just the plain truth).

    117:

    *sigh* I was irritated and tired and let it come out in sarcasm. I apologize.

    Just for purposes of clarification: "The passive aggressive stance @ 113 that boils down to "I've written a book therefore I am an authority and don't have to engage in discussion because you haven't written a book." just confirms that I can't care about your opinion, however scholarly, informed and insightful it really is.:

    Nope, what it boils down to is: what I offered was not an "argument" in the logical sense to which "argument by assertion" could apply; it was an interpretation, which is to say, a schema for organizing the data. What I was objecting to what the failure of critical thinking and ignorance of the subject matter masking as social superiority.

    You can object to my irritation, but I tend to think it's not all that unreasonable for me to object to being condescended to in a way that trivializes a seriously intended and lengthy study, whatever you may think of the conclusions.

    And having made apology and explanation, I think I'll try not to engage any further.

    118:

    Does anybody else have the notion that the idea "specialisation is for insects" applies more to the notion of being able to change your specialisation than to the notion of not having one?

    119:

    Mr Patterson @117, you write a gentlemanly and scholarly apology, sir. I withdraw my previous statements and won't try to defend them to pixelmeow.

    120:

    @116:

    # suggesting that a mainstream view isn't revisionist just because it's mainstream is not a valid suggestion IMO.

    Er, the mainstream view that Heinlein didn't take disagreement with his opinions lightly and that he could be difficult when he didn't get his way. That's fact.

    The interpretation of those facts, the "authoritarian personality", that's something else. Now, you can try to square how "Heinlein was a radical individualist who didn't care what other people thougt" with the above observations. And your interpretation might even be correct. But that doesn't alter in the slightest the accuracy of mainstream perception.

    # Basing someone's validity as a scholar on whether they include an apostrophe where it belongs is beneath you, no matter who you are, again IMO.

    Er, you mean, just like someone shouldn't base the validity of an opinion expressed in a blog posting because of the improper spelling and grammar in which it was expressed?

    Say it ain't so! Anyhow, as long as people are going with the flat assertion, "you're wildly and hilariously wrong" and other such nicely expressed arguments, I really don't care what they think.

    Does that make me a "radical individualist" ;-)

    121:

    @120, er, my comment about revisionism was an "in general" comment, not directed at any of Heinlein's perceived thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, or any other specific thing other than: an assertion that a mainstream view (or opinion) does not make a certain thing revisionist (or *not* revisionist).

    Er, as to your second point, I have no idea what you're trying to say other than an expression of sarcasm.

    And another "er", that "er" sort of sarcasm really doesn't help a discussion, either (IMO).

    I don't know what all that makes me, other than one who'd rather discuss something reasonably than use sarcasm...

    122:

    Er, may I point out that you you started this one with your comment at #116? An apology would be nice and I'm willing to let it go from there.

    Note: iirc, you post on the Heinlein fan group. This isn't the Heinlein fan group, and you should conduct yourself accordingly.

    123:

    Oh my, Mr. Er. If you'll note, my comment wasn't "starting" anything. You may feel free to wait for an apology, you may even hold your breath while doing so. I'm willing to let it go from *there*.

    You do not rc. If you did, you would be familiar with all of the ways I post. Since you obviously aren't, you should conduct *yourself* accordingly by going back and refreshing your memory before you post such asinine statements.

    Apparently you can't play nice. I have given you one chance to redeem yourself, and you have proven that you are less mature than my 15 year old, who has also proven that she is less mature than a 10 year old. If you can't count (and I have no confidence that you can, given your behavior here), that means that you are less mature than a 9 year old. Sarcasm and nastiness are for children, and I won't argue with my daughter, much less some anonymous ass who thinks way too much of himself.

    Good day, sir.

    124:

    Your link to Gharlane of Eddore's treatise doesn't seem to be an actual link -- clicking on it doesn't work, and mousing over doesn't show a URL. I'd be interested in reading it, if you care to try again or drop me an e-mai.

    125:

    Beth, have you never read Doctor Edward E Smith's classic "Lensman" series?

    126:

    How very annoying. It was a link when I wrote it. Here it is without any HTML around it: http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/numberbeast.html

    127:

    Thanks. I was aware of the Heinlein anagrams, but I hadn't encountered the theory about Heinlein's intent.

    paws4thot @125: Yes, I've read the Lensman books; several times, in fact. But my query (and Sean Eric Fagan's original comment) had nothing to do with the actual books. They referenced David Potter, who was very active on rec.arts.sf.fandom until his death several years ago, and who used the pseudonym Gharlane of Eddore.

    128:

    pixelmeow:

    I think you are trolling. And you don't have old-timer privileges around here.

    So: this is your yellow card.

    Read the moderation policy now before you post here again. Or else.

    129:

    Ok Beth; I wasn't aware of anyone using the character name as a net presence, and thought Sean was making a joke based on the character.

    130:

    "They referenced David Potter, who was very active on rec.arts.sf.fandom until his death several years ago. . . ."

    To be nitpicky, he was extremely active on rec.arts.sf.tv, and some of its sub-hierarchies, and a bit active on rec.arts.sf.written, and almost never on rec.arts.sf.fandom.

    131:

    You know, there's this meme going around that Heinlein was an authoritarian prick who couldn't stand anyone who disagreed with him. I find that interesting given what Philip K. Dick wrote about him in the introduction to The Golden Man



    Last year a dream of mine of almost forty years was realized: I met Robert Heinlein. It was his writing, and A. E. Van Vogt's, that got me interested in SF, and I consider Heinlein my spiritual father, even though our political ideologies are totally at variance. Several years ago, when I was ill, Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him —one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don't agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn't raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to them in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine-looking man, very impressive and very militarism stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I'm a flipped-out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love.


    So was Heinlein an authoritarian because he didn't share ScentofViolet's politics (and guess what, SoV, you can cherry pick all you like but there were tons of left-wing authoritarians in the United States, if you don't believe me then go look at how completely and totally insane the left in the US was for Josef Stalin in the 1930s and 1940s. They make today's teabaggers with their adoration of Sarah Palin seem tame in comparison) and supposedly had hissy fits if people disagreed with him or was he just someone who valued his privacy and didn't suffer fools gladly, and god knows cons are great places to find fools. Who knows? However if you want to look at a pair of writers who were real authoritarian loons I'd urge do some reading on Ayn Rand, who built her very own cult of personality and who was truly savage to anyone who disagreed with her or who fell out of her favor or on Lillian Hellmann, who remained an unreconstructed Stalinist to the end of her life and who was quite happy to sue anyone who said anything bad about her, as witness her famous lawsuit against Mary McGrory, Dick Cavett and PBS.


    Then there's this from ScentofViolets



    Sigh. There are already plenty of stories out there about that sort of thing. Shoot, it happened often enough that I heard of it second hand. When you jump all over a well-meaning fan for pointing out that "the speed of light is an unacceptable limitation to man" is not, in fact, a very good reason for thinking such a thing is possible, well, let's just say you're not exactly indifferent to someone else's opinion.


    Oh, there are "plenty of stories out there about that sort of thing". Therefore it must be true, because there are lots of stories out there, and they must be true because there are so many of them that you heard about them second-hand. And of course it must be true that Barack Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya in 1958 and that his birth certificate was faked, because there are lots of stories out there and I keep getting them forwarded into my mailbox by dimwitted conservative acquaintances of mine. Of course I'd be more impressed if there were lots of, you know, facts out there, but hey, I'm kind of crazy that way because I still believe in facts and logic. So there are lots of stories about what a prick Heinlein supposedly was and lots of stories about how generous he was. Where does the truth lie?


    I'm looking forward to reading Heinlein's biography because I want to know more about the author who fleshed out the idea of the generation ship in the late 1930s and what it would be like to live on such as ship and forget you were actually on a ship, who wrote classics of paranoia such as "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag" and "They". Who managed to crank out juvenile novels for the straitlaced Alice Dalgiesh while also writing "...All You Zombies" and "Stranger in a Strange Land". I want to know about the man, not the various legends that have grown up around him or the straw men that his detractors have spent so much time lovingly stuffing and then knocking down.

    132:

    Not to pile on, but I did read a few of the accounts of the meeting of Heinlein and Panshin.. I think it is very silly to extrapolate 1 isolated incident between him and someone he is on record as disliking for a variety of reason to indicate a personality flaw or other shortcoming.

    There is a great deal of evidence that he was the best sort of lifelong friend to the people he liked, and he sacrificed considerable time, energy, and productivity to maintain consistent fan correspondence even with fans he found tiresome or unlikable.

    I can't imagine given his consistently self-proclaimed financial motivations, that he'd be terribly pleased with someone else gaining money, notoriety, and attention by writing about him and his work, particularly if he felt it was inaccurate, invasive, or sensationalist.

    Even if someone showed he consistently disrespected, verbally abused, or otherwise maligned critics and fanzine writers, i'm not sure I could hold that against him. In today's age of stalkers and the blogerazzi it seems silly to remember a time when even famous politicians, athletes, and hollywood stars could get away with all sorts of illicit affairs and 'unacceptable behaviour' with the full cooperation of the press.

    nobody likes a critic, and nobody likes to be psycho-analyzed in public, and most of us wouldn't want our personal mail read by strangers... while you could argue that he should have been kinder, less repetitive in his public speaking engagements, less ornery, more appreciative of his fans and interviewers, I can' blame him for being who he was, because it was so essential to what he wrote, and the world would be a much different place without his life and work

    133:

    Interesting post and very interesting comments. I have to respond to some of them though.

    I did NOT (as some apparently did) find Heinlein's letter about the war shocking or hate-filled. I found it appropriate. Perhaps this comes from growing up in England in the early 60s with clear and real signs of recovery from the Second World War STILL going on. That was one of the extremely rare times when a war effort like that was appropriate and his reactions - written while it was still going on seem totally appropriate to me. He's right - that was a future of humanity moment - and he was right that what happened after the war would continue to be important. I suspect we would have differed on what the right things to do would be. IMHO we did OK. The UN alone was a spectacular achievement.

    Next the politics. It is interesting that Heinlein is seen by many as a libertarian and an inspiration to libertarians. I knew that he started out as a very grass-roots, very liberal Democrat. I personally think he then evolved to a belief that labels in politics were actually part of the problem and a strongly individual approach was better.

    I liked most of his books, but as time has progressed I like the later ones less and less - they seem more indulgent and less concerned about being good stories. The science fiction ideas, however, are always there and always good and always imaginative - and for that alone he would be a giant.

    But it is the children's books that truly excel. Citizen of the Galaxy (that's the child slave one), Farmer in the sky, Starman Jones, Podkayne of Mars, Have Spacesuit Will Travel, etc. etc. those are all pure, great story telling.

    I actually really liked Stranger in a Strange Land. But the later long books like I Will Fear No Evil just ran themselves into rings.

    I do remember that I always loved the science - even the weird stuff like Renshawing and mind tricks. I learned to speed read using some of his tricks. I learned to make myself relax at any time using techniques in his books.

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