Heinlein - yay or nay?

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Heinlein - yay or nay?

Dez 28, 2022, 6:37 pm

Are you a Heinlein fan? Heinlein hater? Love his juvenile sci-fi but hate his later fiction?

Weigh in on RAH, please!

Dez 28, 2022, 6:52 pm

I grew up reading Heinlein and I am a fan of almost everything I have read of his excepting the unpleasant profession of Jonathan hoag and The Number of the Beast. Don't get me wrong, I love Gay Deceiver and want a runabout with an annexed water closet to Oz as bad as the next girl, but elements of that story rubbed me wrong.
I remember picking up The Rolling Stones in 4th grade and my love affair was on.
My two favorite novels are To Sail Beyond the Sunset (because I want to be Mama Maureen when I grow up) and I Will Fear No Evil (because if I can't be Maureen Smith when I grow up I will be Eunice Branca). My favorite of RAH's early/juvenile works is probably Tunnel In The Sky, but I also love Podkayne of Mars and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Everytime someone asks me about being poly I blame Heinlein, and I hold him accountable for my interest in yoga too.
What is your take on Robert Anson Heinlein?

Editado: Dez 28, 2022, 8:18 pm

>2 elorin: I do really enjoy much of Heinlein’s works. His Door Into Summer is what originally got me hooked on SF. I think my favourite of his that I continue to reread every few years is his collection of short stories in The Past Through Tomorrow. I read Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress for the first time a couple of years ago and really enjoyed them. Both were very well crafted. At some point I expect to reread Stranger In A Strange Land which I remember really enjoying in high school. But there are many of his YA fiction that I need to get to still such as Have Spacesuit Will Travel. I remember really enjoying Double Star and Puppet Masters in junior high. I suspect that there are still more for me to find in my local used book store. When I retire… 😀

But as I have posted elsewhere in LT some of his later writing is not that great. Like you, I include Number of the Beast and The Cat Who Walked Through Walls. And I wasn’t that keen on To Sail Beyond The Sunset. But I am still willing to give Friday a try. That’s how much I like RAH, I am still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Dez 28, 2022, 9:38 pm

Firm nay. There was some entertainment value in his juveniles that I read, but Friday was misogynistic trash and I have no liking for his fascistoid politics.

Editado: Dez 28, 2022, 9:51 pm

If memory serves, Friday was more tightly written than the later World As Myth books.

My favorite Heinlein books are the ones where he was first trying to break out of the juvenile SF straightjacket: Stranger in a Strange Land and Glory Road. The former needs to be read in the original, shorter edition--the product of laborious author's edits. The far longer "unedited" version first published posthumously is markedly inferior in form and offers no additional content. Unfortunately, it seems to have become more common than the original.

I can't give a precise citation, but I once read Heinlein quoted as saying that his three most important books were Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and Starship Troopers. He elaborated by saying that many people were strongly drawn to one or two of those while being repulsed by a third, and only someone who appreciated all three could really get at his core philosophy.

Edited to add: Much of what I like in Heinlein's work can be traced to his taking James Branch Cabell as a model.

Edited again to add further: Heinlein's work certainly provokes responses. I have particularly enjoyed reading sympathetic remarks on Heinlein from Samuel Delany.

Dez 28, 2022, 9:47 pm

As a young person I liked him. Favorites were Podkayne of Mars, Red Planet, and The Star Beast; I even reread a couple in young adulthood & liked them. In the late 60s, like many others in the turn on/tune in/drop out generation, I was impressed with Stranger in a Strange Land. But as I got more astute in my literary tastes I realized how stiff and hokey a lot of his writing was, and as I got more knowledgeable about social issues, how reactionary he was becoming. His later novels got more & more windy and polemical, and I stopped reading him entirely. Certainly he was a major part of every 50s & 60s kid's reading if they liked SF at all.

Dez 28, 2022, 9:49 pm

Friday was more tightly written

No idea what this means or how it matters to the complete embarrassing nullity of it.

only someone who appreciated all three could really get at his core philosophy

Lol, yes, I bet he was quite the philosopher.

Dez 28, 2022, 9:51 pm

>6 rshart3:

To be sure. Influence, however, should never be mistaken for quality.

Editado: Dez 28, 2022, 10:03 pm

>8 LolaWalser: Hi Lola,
No -- I said he was a major part of kid's SF reading, not that he was an important influence. Most readers outgrew him fairly quickly. In fact I had almost edited my post to add that he seems more backward-looking than an influence on the development of SF. There's a somewhat pulp fictiony quality: colorful situations & plot twists, but little other creative content (in fact, being a fan of much pulp fiction, it might be an insult to pulp to associate the two.) I'm not a fan, though I might some day reread one or two of the early juveniles, for nostalgia.
And you're right about the philosopher bit. Heinlein promoted himself as "quite the philosopher", but his stuff was neither original nor very convincing. He should've stuck with adventure story-telling.

Dez 28, 2022, 10:13 pm

I'm a fan, though I need to revisit many of his works. I enjoyed Glory Road and Tunnel in the Sky and Starship Troopers and even Stranger in a Strange Land. I recently read 'Revolt in 2100' and thought it was good - and something more people should read today. There are some real clunkers though, I thought 'Puppet Masters' was terrible.

Editado: Dez 29, 2022, 12:22 am

I enjoyed Podkayne in grade school and Stranger in high school. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress had some promising moments. But everything else I've read of Heinlein's seemed like one more opportunity to ruin a decent story with lazy characterization and his beloved fascist philosophy. I purged all his books except Podkayne, which I have kept so far out of sentimentality, from my library, and it is hard to imagine my wanting to read anything of his again.

ETA: I should give him credit for "grok," which is often somewhat useful, if not quite in the way he meant it.

Editado: Dez 29, 2022, 8:09 am

To older,(really really older) fans,in the 40s and 50s RAH was very much as admired for his short fiction. All time lists regularly pick stories such as these:
The Roads Must Roll
By His Bootstraps
And He Built a Crooked House
The Green Hills of Earth
The Man Who Sold the Moon
All You Zombies

Probably the length constraints to get published,the need for clarity,and those punchline endings (a major reason why fans remember those old golden age tales so fondly?) curbed the excesses that sometimes plagued his later work.

Editado: Dez 29, 2022, 7:19 am

I got part way through Time Enough for Love threw it against the wall and swore I'd never read the misogamist twit again.

Dez 29, 2022, 7:43 am

I gave up on Heinlein with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, but some of his early short stories really are classics: “All You Zombies”, “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” (the story itself) and (again) “ And He Built a Crooked House”.

Dez 29, 2022, 7:55 am

I'm firmly in the yay camp; his Time for the Stars was the first SF book I can remember reading and probably started my interest in the genre. His middle period (1959-73) was solid and thought provoking but I think he lost his way with The Number of the Beast and later novels. I recently read The Pursuit of the Pankera which I thought was a better version of The Number of the Beast.

Personally, I consider labelling him fascist is lazy and is a complete misunderstanding (sometimes done deliberately) of his views and philosophy.

Editado: Dez 29, 2022, 8:52 am

Heinlein is such a mixed bag that, at this point in time, I'd rather read books about him than books by him. My problem is that even at the time I started reading him the "New Wave" was dawning, so the period in which I could accept him uncritically was very short. Here's the thing though, per John Scalzi, if Heinlein in his prime walked through a portal into our world, if you gave him six months to assess the landscape he'd be writing fiction that modern markets would be interested in; and probably giving the more uncritical of his current fans conniptions!

Editado: Dez 29, 2022, 9:58 am

Fascism seems the wrong word for RAH's politics. He wasn't looking for a strongman or a tyrant to rule over us all; to the contrary, he was all about the rights (and the obligations) of the individual to take care of himself. How many of his books included his lecturing that the perfect man should be capable of self-sufficiency, relying on no one else to make his way through life? Heinlein didn't want a Mussolini to make the railroads run on time; he wanted you to be able to build your own damned railroad.

As for his literature, I agree with those who've suggested that his best short fiction is what will endure the longest. "By His Bootstraps" and "'--All You Zombies --'" are still essential time travel stories (their omission was the biggest flaw in the VanderMeers' massive time travel anthology, The Time Traveler's Almanac, a few years back). When it comes to his novels, the sexual revolution did him in, encouraging him from the 70s on to dive deep on what were already painfully old-fashioned notions about how men and women should treat one another. But some of the juveniles would still be fine reading for a smart kid looking for an intro to the genre. (I was always partial to Have Space Suit -- Will Travel.)

Is he still an influential figure? Less so than one might have predicted twenty years ago, but even after sixty years, anyone writing military SF is responding in some way to Starship Troopers. Even if they haven't ever read the book, they're taking part in a conversation that doesn't exist without it.

Dez 29, 2022, 10:22 am

Just last week I encountered a Stranger in a Strange Land shout-out in Too Like the Lightning, the most attentive book regarding socio-cultural evolution of gender in my recent years of reading.

Editado: Dez 29, 2022, 1:07 pm

I'm a big fan of Heinlein, although it has tempered over time as I broadened my horizons over the years. I read lot of his stuff at and right after my time at the Naval Academy. Some of it has stood the test of time, other stuff hasn't. I wasn't a fan of his "dirty old man" phase, though (e.g., Friday,The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, Number of the Beast, etc.) I couldn't finish Number of the Beast and I'm one of those "to the bitter end" readers. Ironically, one of my favorites was Time Enough for Love, and that set the stage for his Dirty Old Man phase. I'm also a huge fan of Starship Troopers, which I think is misunderstood by many, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which isn't. I also agree with KeithChaffee that he wrote some excellent short fiction. Fun fact - at the time, the Naval Academy published a "Summer reading list" (which wasn't mandatory), and Starship Troopers was on the fiction list.

Dez 29, 2022, 4:12 pm

I haven't read any Heinlein since I was a teen in the '90s. That I liked his juveniles but disliked his later novels would be a fair summary.

I don't think I've read any of his short fiction.

Dez 29, 2022, 4:32 pm

>17 KeithChaffee:

Follow Heinlein and where you end up is somewhere not unlike fascism. It's obvious we can't all build "our own damn railways"--why should we have to?--and the cult of the individual IS the cult of the strongman.

How many times does Elon Musk have to fall on his stupid face before we give up on this idea that capitalist entrepreneur aces can point a way to a society worth living in?

Dez 29, 2022, 6:01 pm

For all his personal faults, don't forget that when Phil Dick was so hard up he was eating cat food and needed his typewriter repairing, Heinlein loaned him money despite hating PKD's politics (and a lot of his work) because, RAH said, he was "one of us".

Dez 29, 2022, 10:27 pm

As many others, I devoured his juveniles and recall them fondly, and like just about everything of his up to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Bailed on Time Enough for Love, and read all of Number of the Beast in horrified fascination that a writer I had enjoyed so much could write a book so bad on many levels. While I enjoyed it, the racism in Farnham's Freehold bothered me. His dirty old man phase was just icky. His earlier political/philosophical injections, though in my memory seem now simplistic, did stimulate me to do a bit of deeper thinking (which ultimately led to mostly contrary opinions), which is not a bad thing.

Dez 29, 2022, 11:43 pm

>17 KeithChaffee: >21 LolaWalser: Check out the stories in Revolt in 2100. In one he warns of America's future path to a theocracy and the dangers of that, then in the next warns of the dangers of every man for himself. Both novellas and not full novels, but interesting. I don't think I've ever gotten anything but favoritism towards democracy from his books.

>13 majkia: I read that one a long time ago, I just try to forget it.

Dez 30, 2022, 5:38 am

>21 LolaWalser: I think you'll find that railways were built by "capitalist entrepreneur aces" 19th century Elon Musks if you will.

Musk is far from stupid; SpaceX has done more for the satellite launching industry and, by extension, space travel than any national space administration. I would argue that ALL technological advances came from individuals tinkering about. Many were only able to so because of personal wealth.

Jan 1, 2023, 6:03 pm

UncleMort (#25): I never thought I'd see someone idolizing the 19th century railroad barons (and I went to college one of them founded). The railroads were funded by Musk equivalents. They were built by thousands of laborers, mostly immigrants, on stolen land. Hardly the funders building it "on their own".

Jan 1, 2023, 6:31 pm

The one clever (but infinitely obnoxious) thing Muskrat did is steal the name of a genius and real innovator for his 'lectric car.

I can't with the moneybags hero-worship, too funny, too sad...

Jan 2, 2023, 7:18 am

>26 lorax: I was thinking more of Trevithick and Stephenson, individuals who invented steam locomotion. Yes, major construction works are built by many people but it needs a single person to invent/organise that construction.

>27 LolaWalser: I get it, you don't like Elon Musk, hence the ad hominem attacks on him. I'd think Heinlein would have a very different view.

Jan 2, 2023, 9:27 am

>19 drmamm:. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who liked Time Enough for Love. I saw that book as the same sort of sociological science fiction as Stranger in a Strange Land, that looked at things from the POV of an outsider and pushed the boundaries of cultural norms.

Jan 2, 2023, 11:16 am

>27 LolaWalser: He didn't steal anything in naming his company Tesla. You could say he's honoring a pioneer in electrical research and design by making the name of an electric car a household word. How many people knew Tesla's name (even if they watched Big Bang Theory) before he created the car company of the same name?

I guess for that matter, a better question is how many people know WHY it is called Tesla...

Jan 5, 2023, 1:34 am

Heinlein produced a lot of books. Most were just so-so, but The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and Stranger in a Strange Land are two of the best scifi stories ever written.

Some of the best books are propaganda, and this is certainly true of Heinlein. He was a free-love libertarian who worshipped the military (an odd combination for one person). The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress describes how society within a lunar colony functions without codified laws and a shortage of women, while Stranger in a Strange Land became the "hippie bible" for free love.

To get a taste of Heinlein's military fetish, read Starship Troopers. Though I like Heinlein's manly characters, this one got a little too fascisty for my taste, and I believe the movie adaptation was successful only because they depicted those parts in an "over the top" style that made them seem funny -- I think Heinlein was serious.

Jan 5, 2023, 2:01 am

>21 LolaWalser: LolaWalser
"Follow Heinlein and where you end up is somewhere not unlike fascism. . . ."

So don't follow Heinlein, read him. And read Rand, and Marx, and anybody else who had something to say, particularly if you think they disagree with you, then form your own conclusions. If you are simply "following" the authors you read, then you are doing it wrong.

Jan 5, 2023, 9:41 am

>31 MartyBrandon: The thing to remember about the movie version of Starship Troopers is that Paul Verhoeven was working on propaganda films for the Dutch navy during his national service (semi-ironically, dealing with the Dutch Marines), and no doubt he couldn't resist sending up the whole business.

Jan 5, 2023, 11:58 am

>33 Shrike58: >31 MartyBrandon: The other thing to remember is that Paul Verhoeven only read the first two chapters of the book because "it was too boring" and got a scriptwriter to read it and tell him what the story was about. It bore little of the book's story and philosophy.

Jan 6, 2023, 10:41 am

>34 UncleMort: This is accurate...it is to be admitted that Verhoeven always serves his own ends.

Jan 7, 2023, 12:28 am

>35 Shrike58: UncleMort Shrike58

That's interesting. I didn't know how the movie got made. Sounds like they were mostly interested in using Heinlein's name similar to some of the films derived from works by PKD.

Jan 15, 2023, 5:42 pm

>36 MartyBrandon: As I recall, the studio bought a script with the working title of "Bug Hunt," and it was noted that the work was so derivative of Starship Troopers that the film-rights were purchased. I'll also note that the sister of a one-time friend was in the accounting staff, and she related that one of the reasons the movie was so expensive at the time was that Verhoeven created a new studio to make the sequels that never happened.

Jan 15, 2023, 5:56 pm

>37 Shrike58: When you say "the sequels that never happened", do you mean "the sequels Verhoeven was hoping for that never materialised and were replaced by straight to cable horrorfests"?

Jan 15, 2023, 9:45 pm

>38 RobertDay: Verhoeven's hoped for sequels.

Editado: Jan 15, 2023, 10:34 pm

I'd really like to see "Mistress" and "Stranger" adapted to the big screen, and I think both stories would, given minor updates, resonate well today. Interestingly, I think each would appeal to different sides of the culture war. Conservatives would be drawn to the frontier justice libertarianism in "Mistress", while liberals would like the stigma-free egalitarian free-love society in "Stranger". I think Christopher Nolan might do a job directing "Mistress". "Stranger" is harder, but since sex and religion are big components, I'd opt for a director skilled at depicting sensuality and beauty. Wong Kar-wai maybe?

Jan 24, 2023, 11:17 am

Depends on the Heinlein; used to find his juveniles and short work fun, but I find everything he wrote after Stranger in a Strange Land increasingly mad. Loved Citizen of the Galaxy, hated Farnham's Freehold especially.

Jan 24, 2023, 3:31 pm

>40 MartyBrandon: They certainly would be interesting! There's lots of good IP still to be mined for big or small screen adaptation.

Jan 24, 2023, 3:34 pm

Somewhat related:

John Scalzi, novelist and internet personality, is the 2023 winner of the Robert A. Heinlein Award! He will be attending Balticon 57, to accept his award.

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