Robert A. Heinlein


Robert A. Heinlein
Robert A. Heinlein

Heinlein signing autographs at the 1976 Worldcon
Born July 7, 1907(1907-07-07)
Butler, Missouri, United States
Died May 8, 1988(1988-05-08) (aged 80)
Carmel, California, United States
Pen name Anson MacDonald, Lyle Monroe, John Riverside, Caleb Saunders, Simon York
Occupation Novelist, short story author, essayist, screenwriter
Genres Science fiction, Fantasy


Robert Anson Heinlein (pronounced /ˈhaɪnlaɪn/, hyn-lyn)[1][2][3](July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers",[4] he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre. He set a standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary quality. He was one of the first science fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. He was one of the best selling science fiction novelists for many decades. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction.[5][6]

Heinlein was a notable writer of science-fiction short stories, and he was one of a group of writers who came to prominence under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Jr. in his Astounding Science Fiction magazine—though Heinlein himself denied that Campbell influenced his writing to any great degree.

Within the framework of his science fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress non-conformist thought. He also examined the relationship between physical and emotional love, explored various unorthodox family structures, and speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices. His approach to these themes led to wildly divergent opinions on what views were being expounded via his fiction. The 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land is viewed by many[who?] as his seminal work[citation needed], incorporating many of the aforementioned themes found in his literature. It also contains perhaps the clearest explication of Heinlein's metaphysical, and possibly spiritual, philosophy; encapsulated in the iconic phrase "Thou art god".[citation needed] This philosophy resonated greatly with readers in the counterculture at the time. Since its publication Stranger in a Strange Land has been a classic among counterculture readers. It has enjoyed widespread success; being one of the most popular science fiction books of all time[citation needed], and is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest science fiction novels ever written.[citation needed]

Heinlein won Hugo Awards for four of his novels; in addition, fifty years after publication, three of his works were awarded "Retro Hugos"—awards given retrospectively for years in which Hugo Awards had not been awarded. He also won the first Grand Master Award given by the Science Fiction Writers of America for his lifetime achievement. In his fiction, Heinlein coined words that have become part of the English language, including "grok" and "waldo", and popularized the term "TANSTAAFL".

Contents

Life

Midshipman Heinlein, from the 1929 U.S. Naval Academy yearbook

Birth and childhood

Heinlein was born on July 7, 1907, to Rex Ivar Heinlein (an accountant) and Bam Lyle Heinlein, in Butler, Missouri. His childhood was spent in Kansas City, Missouri.[7] The outlook and values of this time and place (in his own words, "The Bible Belt") had a definite influence on his fiction, especially his later works, as experiences from his childhood were heavily drawn upon both for setting and for cultural atmosphere in Time Enough for Love and To Sail Beyond the Sunset, among others. However, he often broke with many of its values and mores — especially those concerning morality as it applies to issues such as religion and sexuality — both in his writing and in his personal life.[citation needed]

Navy

The military was the second great influence on Heinlein. Throughout his life, he strongly believed in loyalty, leadership, and other ideals associated with the military. Heinlein graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1929, and served as an officer in the United States Navy. He was assigned to the new aircraft carrier USS Lexington (CV-2) in 1931, where he worked on radio communications, then in its nascent phase, with the carrier's airplanes. The carrier's captain was Ernest J. King, who later served as the Chief of Naval Operations during the Second World War. Heinlein was frequently interviewed during his later years by military historians on Captain King and his service as the commander of the U.S. Navy's first modern aircraft carrier. Heinlein also served aboard the destroyer USS Roper (DD-147) in 1933 and 1934, reaching the rank of Lieutenant. His brother, Lawrence Heinlein, served in the Army, the Air Force, and the Missouri National Guard and rose to the rank of Major General.[8]

In 1929, Heinlein married Eleanor Curry of Kansas City in Los Angeles,[9] but the marriage lasted only about a year.[2] In 1932 he married Leslyn Macdonald, who was born 29 Aug 1904 in Massachusetts and died 13 April 1981 in California. MacDonald was a political radical, and Isaac Asimov later recalled that Heinlein was, like her, "a flaming liberal." [10]

California

In 1934, Heinlein was discharged from the Navy due to pulmonary tuberculosis. During a lengthy hospitalization, he developed the concept of the waterbed, and his detailed descriptions of it in three of his books constituted sufficient prior art to prevent a U.S. patent on water beds when they became common in the 1960s.[11]

After his discharge, Heinlein attended a few weeks of graduate classes in mathematics and physics at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), but he soon quit either because of his health or from a desire to enter politics.[12]

Heinlein supported himself at several occupations, including real estate sales and silver mining, but for some years found money in short supply. Heinlein was active in Upton Sinclair's socialist End Poverty in California movement in the early 1930s. When Sinclair gained the Democratic nomination for Governor of California in 1934, Heinlein worked actively in the campaign. Heinlein himself ran for the California State Assembly in 1938, but he was unsuccessful.[13] In 1954, he wrote, "...many Americans ... were asserting loudly that McCarthy had created a 'reign of terror.' Are you terrified? I am not, and I have in my background much political activity well to the left of Senator McCarthy's position." [14]

Robert A. Heinlein, L. Sprague de Camp, and Isaac Asimov, Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1944.

Author

While not destitute after the campaign—he had a small disability pension from the Navy—Heinlein turned to writing in order to pay off his mortgage. His first published story, "Life-Line", was printed in Astounding Science-Fiction magazine in 1939. Originally written for a contest, he instead sold it to Astounding for significantly more than the contest's first-prize payoff. He was quickly acknowledged as a leader of the new movement toward "social" science fiction. He was the guest of honor at Denvention, the 1941 Worldcon, held in Denver. During World War II, he did aeronautical engineering for the U.S. Navy, also recruiting Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp to work at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Pennsylvania. He also wrote for Boys' Life in 1952.

As the war wound down in 1945, Heinlein began re-evaluating his career. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with the outbreak of the Cold War, galvanized him to write nonfiction on political topics. In addition, he wanted to break into better-paying markets. He published four influential short stories for The Saturday Evening Post magazine, leading off, in February 1947, with "The Green Hills of Earth". That made him the first science fiction writer to break out of the "pulp ghetto". In 1950, the movie Destination Moon—the documentary-like film for which he had written the story and scenario, co-written the script, and invented many of the effects—won an Academy Award for special effects. Also, he embarked on a series of juvenile S.F. novels for the Charles Scribner's Sons publishing company that was to last through the 1950s (at the rate of one book per year).

Robert and Virginia Heinlein in a 1952 Popular Mechanics article, titled "A House to Make Life Easy". The Heinleins, both engineers, designed the house themselves with many innovative features.

Heinlein and his second wife divorced in 1947, and the following year he married Virginia "Ginny" Gerstenfeld, to whom he would remain married until his death forty years later. Shortly thereafter, the Heinlein couple moved to Colorado, but in 1965 her health was affected by the altitude. They moved to Santa Cruz, California while constructing a new residence in the adjacent Bonny Doon, California.[15] The unique circular California house, which, like their Colorado house, he designed with Virginia, and built himself, is on Bonny Doon Road 37°3′31.72″N 122°9′30.46″W / 37.0588111°N 122.1584611°W / 37.0588111; -122.1584611.

Ginny undoubtedly served as a model for many of his intelligent, fiercely independent female characters.[16][17] In 1953–1954, the Heinleins voyaged around the world (mostly via ocean liner and cargo liner), which Heinlein described in Tramp Royale, and which also provided background material for science fiction novels set aboard spaceships on long voyages, such as Podkayne of Mars and Friday. Ginny acted as the first reader of his manuscripts, and she was reputed to be a better engineer than Heinlein himself.[18] Isaac Asimov believed that Heinlein made a swing to the right politically at the same time he married Ginny. Tramp Royale contains two lengthy apologias for the McCarthy hearings. The couple formed the small "Patrick Henry League" in 1958; and they worked in the 1964 Barry Goldwater campaign.[10]

Robert and Virginia Heinlein in Tahiti, 1980.

The Heinlein juveniles, S.F. novels for young adults, are also considered to be an important part of his output. He had used topical materials throughout his series, but in 1959, his Starship Troopers was considered by the Scribner's editorial staff to be too controversial for their prestige line, and they rejected it;[19] Heinlein found another publisher, feeling himself released from the constraints of writing novels for children, and he began to write "my own stuff, my own way",[citation needed] and he wrote a series of challenging books that redrew the boundaries of science fiction, including his best-known work, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), and also The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966).

Later life and death

Beginning in 1970, however, Heinlein had a series of health crises, broken by strenuous periods of activity in his hobby of stonemasonry. (In a private correspondence, he referred to that as his "usual and favorite occupation between books.")[20] The decade began with a life-threatening attack of peritonitis, recovery from which required more than two years. As soon as he was well enough to write again, he began work on Time Enough for Love (1973), which introduced many of the themes found in his later fiction.

In the mid-1970s, Heinlein wrote two articles for the Britannica Compton Yearbook.[21] He and Ginny crisscrossed the country helping to reorganize blood donation in the United States, and he was the guest of honor at the worldcon for the third time at MidAmeriCon in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1976. While vacationing in Tahiti in early 1978, he suffered a transient ischemic attack. Over the next few months, he became more and more exhausted, and his health again began to decline. The problem was determined to be a blocked carotid artery, and he had one of the earliest known carotid bypass operations to correct it. Heinlein and Virginia had been smokers,[22] and smoking appears often in his fiction, as well as fictitious strikable self-lighting cigarettes.

Asked to appear before a Joint Committee of the U.S. House and Senate that year, he testified on his belief that spin-offs from space technology were benefiting the infirm and the elderly. Heinlein's surgical treatment re-energized him, and he wrote five novels from 1980 until he died in his sleep from emphysema and heart failure on May 8, 1988.

At that time, he had been putting together the early notes for another World as Myth novel. Several of his other works have been published posthumously.[23]

After his death, his wife Virginia Heinlein issued a compilation of Heinlein's correspondence and notes into a somewhat autobiographical examination of his career, published in 1989 under the title Grumbles from the Grave. Heinlein's archive is housed by the Special Collections department of McHenry Library at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The collection includes manuscript drafts, correspondence, photographs and artifacts. A substantial portion of the archive has been digitized and is available online through the Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Archives.[24]

Works

Series

Over the course of his career Heinlein wrote three somewhat overlapping series.

Early work, 1939–1958

The first novel that Heinlein wrote, For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs (1939), did not see print during his lifetime, but Robert James later tracked down the manuscript and it was published in 2003. Widely regarded as a failure as a novel,[7] being little more than a disguised lecture on Heinlein's social theories, it is intriguing as a window into the development of Heinlein's radical ideas about man as a social animal, including his interest in free love. The root of many themes found in his later stories can be found in this book. It also contained much material that could be considered background for his other novels, including a detailed description of the protagonist's treatment to avoid being banned into Coventry (a place in the Heinlein mythos where unrepentant law-breakers are sent to experience actual anarchy).

It appears that Heinlein at least attempted to live in a manner consistent with these ideals, even in the 1930s, and had an open relationship in his marriage to his second wife, Leslyn. He was also a nudist;[2] nudism and body taboos are frequently discussed in his work. At the height of the Cold War, he built a bomb shelter under his house, like the one featured in Farnham's Freehold.[2]

Red Planet, a 1949 juvenile illustrated by Clifford Geary.

After For Us, The Living, Heinlein began selling (to magazines) first short stories, then novels, set in a Future History, complete with a time line of significant political, cultural, and technological changes. A chart of the future history was published in the May 1941 issue of Astounding. Over time, Heinlein wrote many novels and short stories that deviated freely from the Future History on some points, while maintaining consistency in some other areas. The Future History was also eventually overtaken by actual events. These discrepancies were explained, after a fashion, in his later World as Myth stories.

Heinlein's first novel published as a book, Rocket Ship Galileo, was initially rejected because going to the moon was considered too far out, but he soon found a publisher, Scribner's, that began publishing a Heinlein juvenile once a year for the Christmas season.[25] Eight of these books were illustrated by Clifford Geary in a distinctive white-on-black scratchboard style.[26] Some representative novels of this type are Have Space Suit—Will Travel, Farmer in the Sky, and Starman Jones. Many of these were first published in serial form under other titles, e.g., Farmer in the Sky was published as Satellite Scout in the Boy Scout magazine Boys' Life. There has been speculation that Heinlein's intense obsession with his privacy was due at least in part to the apparent contradiction between his unconventional private life and his career as an author of books for children, but For Us, The Living also explicitly discusses the political importance Heinlein attached to privacy as a matter of principle.[27]

The novels that Heinlein wrote for a young audience are commonly referred to as "the Heinlein juveniles", and they feature a mixture of adolescent and adult themes. Many of the issues that he takes on in these books have to do with the kinds of problems that adolescents experience. His protagonists are usually very intelligent teenagers who have to make their way in the adult society they see around them. On the surface, they are simple tales of adventure, achievement, and dealing with stupid teachers and jealous peers. However, Heinlein was a vocal proponent of the notion that juvenile readers were far more sophisticated and able to handle more complex or difficult themes than most people realized. Thus even his juvenile stories often had a maturity to them that made them readable for adults. Red Planet, for example, portrays some very subversive themes, including a revolution in which young students are involved; his editor demanded substantial changes in this book's discussion of topics such as the use of weapons by children and the misidentified sex of the Martian character. Heinlein was always aware of the editorial limitations put in place by the editors of his novels and stories, and while he observed those restrictions on the surface, was often successful in introducing ideas not often seen in other authors' juvenile SF.

In 1957, James Blish wrote that one reason for Heinlein's success "has been the high grade of machinery which goes, today as always, into his story-telling. Heinlein seems to have known from the beginning, as if instinctively, technical lessons about fiction which other writers must learn the hard way (or often enough, never learn). He does not always operate the machinery to the best advantage, but he always seems to be aware of it."[28]

1959–1960: the seminal years

Heinlein decisively ended his juvenile novels with Starship Troopers (1959), a controversial work and his personal riposte to leftists calling for President Dwight D. Eisenhower to stop nuclear testing in 1958.

"'The "Patrick Henry" ad shocked 'em,' he wrote many years later. "Starship Troopers outraged 'em."[29]

Starship Troopers is a coming-of-age story about duty, citizenship, and the role of the military in society. [30] The book portrays a society in which suffrage is earned by demonstrated willingness to place society's interests before one's own, at least for a short time and often under onerous circumstances, in government service; in the case of the protagonist, this was military service. Later, in Expanded Universe, Heinlein said that it was his intention in the novel that service could include positions outside strictly military functions and such as teachers, police officers, and other government positions. This is presented in the novel as an outgrowth of the failure of unearned suffrage government and as a very successful arrangement. In addition, the franchise was only awarded after leaving the assigned service, thus those serving their terms—in the military, or any other service—were excluded from exercising any franchise. Career military were completely disenfranchised until retirement.

Middle period work, 1961–1973

From about 1961 (Stranger in a Strange Land) to 1973 (Time Enough for Love), Heinlein explored some of his most important themes, such as individualism, libertarianism, and free expression of physical and emotional love. Three novels from this period, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and Time Enough for Love, won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, designed to honor classic libertarian fiction, from the Libertarian Futurist Society.[31] Jeff Riggenbach described The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as "unquestionably one of the three or four most influential libertarian novels of the last century" in the Mises Daily.[32]

Heinlein did not publish Stranger in a Strange Land until some time after it was written, and the themes of free love and radical individualism are prominently featured in his long-unpublished first novel, For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs.[33] The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress tells of a war of independence waged by the Lunar penal colonies, with significant comments from a major character, Professor La Paz, regarding the threat posed by government—including republican types—to individual freedom.

Although Heinlein had previously written a few short stories in the fantasy genre, during this period he wrote his first fantasy novel, Glory Road, and in Stranger in a Strange Land and I Will Fear No Evil, he began to mix hard science with fantasy, mysticism, and satire of organized religion. Critics William H. Patterson, Jr., and Andrew Thornton believe that this is simply an expression of Heinlein's longstanding philosophical opposition to positivism.[34][verification needed] Heinlein stated that he was influenced by James Branch Cabell in taking this new literary direction. The penultimate novel of this period, I Will Fear No Evil, is according to critic James Gifford "almost universally regarded as a literary failure"[35] and he attributes its shortcomings to Heinlein's near-death from peritonitis.

Later work, 1980–1987

After a seven-year hiatus brought on by poor health, Heinlein produced five new novels in the period from 1980 (The Number of the Beast) to 1987 (To Sail Beyond the Sunset). These books have a thread of common characters and time and place. They most explicitly communicated Heinlein's philosophies and beliefs, and many long, didactic passages of dialog and exposition deal with government, sex, and religion. These novels are controversial among his readers and one critic, Dave Langford, has written about them very negatively.[36] Heinlein's four Hugo awards were all for books written before this period.

Some of these books, such as The Number of the Beast and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, start out as tightly constructed adventure stories, but transform into philosophical fantasias at the end. It is a matter of opinion whether this demonstrates a lack of attention to craftsmanship or a conscious effort to expand the boundaries of science fiction, either into a kind of magical realism, continuing the process of literary exploration that he had begun with Stranger in a Strange Land, or into a kind of literary metaphor of quantum science (The Number of the Beast dealing with the Observer problem, and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls being a direct reference to the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment). Most of the novels from this period are recognized by critics as forming an offshoot from the Future History series, and referred to by the term World as Myth.[37]

The tendency toward authorial self-reference begun in Stranger in a Strange Land and Time Enough for Love becomes even more evident in novels such as The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, whose first-person protagonist is a disabled military veteran who becomes a writer, and finds love with a female character who, like many of Heinlein's strong female characters, appears to be based closely on his wife Ginny.[38]

The 1982 novel Friday, a more conventional adventure story (borrowing a character and backstory from the earlier short story Gulf, also containing suggestions of connection to The Puppet Masters) continued a Heinlein theme of expecting what he saw as the continued disintegration of Earth's society, to the point where the title character is strongly encouraged to seek a new life off-planet. It concludes with a traditional Heinlein note, as in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Time Enough for Love that freedom is to be found on the frontiers.

The 1984 novel Job: A Comedy of Justice is a sharp satire of organized religion.

Posthumous publications

Several Heinlein works have been published since his death, including the aforementioned For Us, The Living as well as 1989's Grumbles from the Grave, a collection of letters between Heinlein and his editors and agent; 1992's Tramp Royale, a travelogue of a southern hemisphere tour the Heinleins took in the 1950s; Take Back Your Government, a how-to book about participatory democracy written in 1946; and a tribute volume called Requiem: Collected Works and Tributes to the Grand Master, containing some additional short works previously unpublished in book form. Off the Main Sequence, published in 2005, includes three short stories never before collected in any Heinlein book (Heinlein called them "stinkeroos").

Spider Robinson, a colleague, friend, and admirer of Heinlein,[39] wrote Variable Star, based on an outline and notes for a juvenile novel that Heinlein prepared in 1955. The novel was published as a collaboration, with Heinlein's name above Robinson's on the cover, in 2006.

A complete collection of Heinlein's published work, conformed and copyedited by several Heinlein scholars including biographer William H. Patterson is being published by the Heinlein Trust as the "Virginia Edition", after his wife.

Views

Heinlein was criticized for some of the representations in his works related to gender, race, politics, and the military.[40]

Politics

Heinlein's political positions evolved throughout his life, though he was always strongly patriotic and firmly supported the military. Heinlein initially considered himself a liberal.[41] His first novel, For Us, The Living, consists largely of speeches advocating the Social Credit system, and the early story Misfit deals with an organization that seems to be Franklin D. Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps translated into outer space.[citation needed]

In 1934 he worked actively for the Democratic campaign of Upton Sinclair for Governor of California. After Sinclair's loss, Heinlein became an anti-Communist Democratic activist. He made an unsuccessful bid for a California State Assembly seat in 1938.[41]

His juvenile fiction of the 1940s and 1950s, however, began to espouse conservative virtues. After 1945, he came to believe that a strong world government was the only way to avoid mutual nuclear annihilation. His 1949 novel Space Cadet describes a future scenario where a military-controlled global government enforces world peace. Heinlein stopped considering himself a Democrat in 1954.[41]

Stranger in a Strange Land was embraced by the hippie counterculture, and libertarians have found inspiration in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Both groups found resonance with his themes of personal freedom in both thought and action.[32]

Race

Heinlein grew up in the era of racial segregation in the United States and wrote some of his most influential fiction at the height of the US civil rights movement. His early juveniles were very much ahead of their time both in their explicit rejection of racism and in their inclusion of non-white protagonists—in the context of science fiction before the 1960s, the mere existence of non-white characters was a remarkable novelty, with green occurring more often than brown. For example, his second juvenile, the 1948 Space Cadet, explicitly uses aliens as a metaphor for minorities. Heinlein challenges his readers' possible racial preconceptions by introducing a strong, sympathetic character, only to reveal much later that he or she is of African or other descent; in several cases, the covers of the books show characters as being light-skinned, when in fact the text states, or at least implies, that they are dark-skinned or of African descent.[43] Heinlein repeatedly denounced racism in his non-fiction works, including numerous examples in Expanded Universe.[citation needed]

Race was a central theme in some of Heinlein's fiction. The most prominent and controversial example is Farnham's Freehold, which casts a white family into a future in which white people are the slaves of cannibalistic black rulers. In the 1941 novel Sixth Column (also known as The Day After Tomorrow), a white resistance movement in the United States defends itself against an invasion by an Asian fascist state (the "Pan-Asians") using a "super-science" technology that allows ray weapons to be tuned to specific races. The book is sprinkled with racist slurs against Asian people, and blacks and Hispanics are not mentioned at all. The idea for the story was pushed on Heinlein by editor John W. Campbell, and Heinlein wrote later that he had "had to reslant it to remove racist aspects of the original story line" and that he did not "consider it to be an artistic success."[44][45] (However, the novel prompted a heated debate in the scientific community regarding the plausibility of developing ethnic bioweapons).[46] Heinlein reveals near the end of Starship Troopers that the novel's protagonist and narrator, Johnny Rico, the formerly disaffected scion of a wealthy family, is Filipino and speaks Tagalog in addition to English.

Some of the alien species in Heinlein's fiction can be interpreted in terms of an allegorical representation of human ethnic groups.[citation needed] It has been suggested that the strongly hierarchical and anti-individualistic "Bugs" in Starship Troopers were meant to represent the Chinese or Japanese, but Heinlein claimed to have written the book in response to "calls for the unilateral ending of nuclear testing by the United States."[47] Heinlein suggests in the book that the Bugs are a good example of Communism being something that humans cannot successfully adhere to, since humans are strongly defined individuals, whereas the Bugs, being a collective, can all contribute to the whole without consideration of individual desire.[48]

Individualism and self-determination

In keeping with his belief in individualism, his work for adults—and sometimes even his work for juveniles—often portrays both the oppressors and the oppressed with considerable ambiguity. Heinlein believed that individualism was incompatible with ignorance. He believed that an appropriate level of adult competence was achieved through a wide-ranging education, whether this occurred in a classroom or not. In his juvenile novels, more than once a character looks with disdain at a student's choice of classwork, saying "Why didn't you study something useful?"[49] In Time Enough for Love, Lazarus Long gives a long list of capabilities that anyone should have, concluding, "Specialization is for insects". The ability of the individual to create himself is explored in stories such as I Will Fear No Evil, "—All You Zombies—", and By His Bootstraps.

Sexual issues

For Heinlein, personal liberation included sexual liberation, and free love was a major subject of his writing starting in 1939, with For Us, The Living. During his early period, Heinlein's writing for younger readers needed to take account of both editorial perceptions of sexuality in his novels, and potential perceptions among the buying public; as critic William H. Patterson has put it, his dilemma was "to sort out what was really objectionable from what was only excessive over-sensitivity to imaginary librarians".[50] By his middle period, sexual freedom and the elimination of sexual jealousy were a major theme of Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), in which the progressively minded but sexually conservative reporter, Ben Caxton, acts as a dramatic foil for the less parochial characters, Jubal Harshaw and Valentine Michael Smith (Mike).[citation needed]

Gary Westfahl points out that "Heinlein is a problematic case for feminists; on the one hand, his works often feature strong female characters and vigorous statements that women are equal to or even superior to men; but these characters and statements often reflect hopelessly stereotypical attitudes about typical female attributes. It is disconcerting, for example, that in Expanded Universe Heinlein calls for a society where all lawyers and politicians are women, essentially on the grounds that they possess a mysterious feminine practicality that men cannot duplicate." [51]

In books written as early as 1956, Heinlein dealt with incest and the sexual nature of children. Many of his books (including Time for the Stars, Glory Road, Time Enough for Love and The Number of the Beast) dealt explicitly or implicitly with incest, sexual feelings and relations between adults and children, or both.[52] The treatment of these themes include the romantic relationship and eventual marriage (once the girl becomes an adult via time-travel) of a 30 year old engineer and an 11 year old girl in The Door into Summer or the more overt inter-familial incest in To Sail Beyond the Sunset and Farnham's Freehold. Peers such as L. Sprague DeCamp and Damon Knight have commented critically on Heinlein's portrayal of incest and pedophilia in a light-hearted and even approving manner.[52]

Philosophy

In To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Heinlein has the main character, Maureen, state that the purpose of metaphysics is to ask questions: Why are we here? Where are we going after we die? (and so on), and that "you are not allowed to answer the questions". Asking the questions is the point of metaphysics, but answering them is not, because once you answer this kind of question, you cross the line into religion. Maureen does not state a reason for this; she simply remarks that such questions are "beautiful" but lack answers. Maureen's son/lover Lazarus Long makes a related remark in Time Enough for Love. In order for us to answer the "big questions" about the universe, Lazarus states at one point, it would be necessary to stand outside the universe.

During the 1930s and 1940s, Heinlein was deeply interested in Alfred Korzybski's General Semantics and attended a number of seminars on the subject. His views on epistemology seem to have flowed from that interest, and his fictional characters continue to express Korzybskian views to the very end of his writing career. Many of his stories, such as Gulf, If This Goes On—, and Stranger in a Strange Land, depend strongly on the premise, related to the well-known Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, that by using a correctly designed language, one can change or improve oneself mentally, or even realize untapped potential (as in the case of Joe Green in Gulf).[citation needed]

When Ayn Rand's novel "The Fountainhead" was published, Heinlein was very favorably impressed, as quoted in "Grumbles..."[53]. Heinlein made quick work of altruism as a false virtue in Stranger in a Strange Land and mentioned John Galt--the hero in Rand's "Atlas Shrugged"--as a heroic archetype in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He was also strongly affected by the religious philosopher P. D. Ouspensky.[7] Freudianism and psychoanalysis were at the height of their influence during the peak of Heinlein's career, and stories such as Time for the Stars indulged in psychological theorizing. However, he was skeptical about Freudianism, especially after a struggle with an editor who insisted on reading Freudian sexual symbolism into his juvenile novels. Heinlein was fascinated by the social credit movement in the 1930s. This is shown in Beyond This Horizon and in his 1938 novel For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs, which was finally published in 2003, long after his death. He was strongly committed to cultural relativism, and the sociologist Margaret Mader in his novel Citizen of the Galaxy is clearly a reference to Margaret Mead. In the World War II era, cultural relativism was the only intellectual framework that offered a clearly reasoned alternative to racism, which Heinlein was ahead of his time in opposing. Many of these sociological and psychological theories have been criticized, debunked, or heavily modified in the last fifty years, and Heinlein's use of them may now appear credulous and dated to many readers. The critic Patterson says "Korzybski is now widely regarded as a crank",[54] although others[who?] disagree.

Influence

Heinlein is usually identified, along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, as one of the three masters of science fiction to arise in the so-called Golden Age of science fiction, associated with John W. Campbell and his magazine Astounding.[55] In the 1950s he was a leader in bringing science fiction out of the low-paying and less prestigious "pulp ghetto". Most of his works, including short stories, have been continuously in print in many languages since their initial appearance and are still available as new paperbacks decades after his death.

Robert Heinlein was also influenced by the American writer, philosopher and humorist Charles Fort who is credited as a major influence on most of the leading science-fiction writers of the 20th-century. Heinlein was a lifelong member of the International Fortean Organization also known as INFO, the successor to the original Fortean Society. Heinlein's letters were often displayed on the walls of the INFO offices, and his active participation in the organization is mentioned in the INFO Journal.[citation needed]

Heinlein crater on Mars.

He was at the top of his form during, and himself helped to initiate, the trend toward social science fiction, which went along with a general maturing of the genre away from space opera to a more literary approach touching on such adult issues as politics and human sexuality. In reaction to this trend, hard science fiction began to be distinguished as a separate subgenre, but paradoxically Heinlein is also considered a seminal figure in hard science fiction, due to his extensive knowledge of engineering, and the careful scientific research demonstrated in his stories. Heinlein himself stated—with obvious pride—that in the days before pocket calculators, he and his wife Virginia once worked for several days on a mathematical equation describing an Earth-Mars rocket orbit, which was then subsumed in a single sentence of the novel Space Cadet.

Heinlein has had a nearly ubiquitous influence on other science fiction writers. In a 1953 poll of leading science fiction authors, he was cited more frequently as an influence than any other modern writer.[56] In 1974, he won the first Grand Master Award given by the Science Fiction Writers of America for lifetime achievement. Critic James Gifford writes that "Although many other writers have exceeded Heinlein's output, few can claim to match his broad and seminal influence. Scores of science fiction writers from the pre-war Golden Age through the present day loudly and enthusiastically credit Heinlein for blazing the trails of their own careers, and shaping their styles and stories." [57]

Outside the science fiction community, several words and phrases coined or adopted by Heinlein have passed into common English usage: waldo, TANSTAAFL, moonbat,[58] and grok.

In 1962, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart (then still using his birth name, Tim Zell) founded the Church of All Worlds, a Neopagan religious organization modeled in many ways after the treatment of religion in the novel Stranger in a Strange Land. This spiritual path included several ideas from the book, including polyamory, non-mainstream family structures, social libertarianism, water-sharing rituals, an acceptance of all religious paths by a single tradition, and the use of several terms such as "grok", "Thou art God", and "Never Thirst". Though Heinlein was neither a member nor a promoter of the Church, it was done with frequent correspondence between Zell and Heinlein, and he was a paid subscriber to their magazine Green Egg. This Church still exists as a 501(C)(3) religious organization incorporated in California, with membership worldwide, and it remains an active part of the neopagan community today.[59][verification needed]

He was influential in making space exploration seem to the public more like a practical possibility. His stories in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post took a matter-of-fact approach to their outer-space setting, rather than the "gee whiz" tone that had previously been common. The documentary-like film Destination Moon advocated a Space Race with the Soviet Union almost a decade before such an idea became commonplace, and was promoted by an unprecedented publicity campaign in print publications. Many of the astronauts and others working in the U. S. space program grew up on a diet of the Heinlein juveniles,[original research?] best evidenced by the naming of a crater on Mars after him, and a tribute interspersed by the Apollo 15 astronauts into their radio conversations while on the moon.[60]

Heinlein was also a guest commentator for Walter Cronkite during Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's Apollo 11 moon landing. He remarked to Cronkite during the landing that, "This is the greatest event in human history, up to this time. This is -- today is New Year's Day of the Year One." [61]

Main-belt asteroid 6312 Robheinlein (1990 RH4), discovered on September 14, 1990 by H. E. Holt, at Palomar was named after him.[62]

In 2001 the US Naval Academy created the Robert A. Heinlein Chair In Aerospace Engineering.[63]

There was an active campaign to persuade the Secretary of the Navy to name the new Zumwalt class destroyer DDG-1001 the USS Robert A. Heinlein;[64] however, DDG-1001 will be named USS Monsoor, after Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in Iraq.

Inventions presaged

In Heinlein's works (and those of other writers of the period), there are many concepts that have become actual products. What follows is a partial list.

Bibliography

Heinlein published 32 novels, 59 short stories, and 16 collections during his life. Four films, two TV series, several episodes of a radio series, and a board game have been derived more or less directly from his work. He wrote a screenplay for one of the films. Heinlein edited an anthology of other writers' SF short stories.

Three non-fiction books and two poems have been published posthumously. One novel has been published posthumously and another, written by Spider Robinson based on a sketchy outline by Heinlein, was published in September 2006. Four collections have been published posthumously.

See also

References

  1. ^ Wells, John C. (2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3 ed.). Longman. 
  2. ^ a b c d Houdek, D. A. (2003). "FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Robert A. Heinlein, the person". The Heinlein Society. http://www.heinleinsociety.org/rah/FAQrah.html. Retrieved 2007-01-23.  See also the biography at the end of For Us, the Living, 2004 edition, p. 261.
  3. ^ "Say How? A Pronunciation Guide to Names of Public Figures". Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). 2006-09-21. http://www.loc.gov/nls/other/sayhow.html#h. Retrieved 2007-01-23. 
  4. ^ Booker; Thomas, Anne-Marie (2009). The Science Fiction Handbook. Blackwell Guides to Literature Series. John Wiley and Sons. p. 155. ISBN 9781405162050. 
  5. ^ Parrinder, Patrick (2001). Learning from Other Worlds: Estrangement, Cognition, and the Politics of Science Fiction and Utopia. Duke University Press. p. 81. ISBN 9780822327738. 
  6. ^ Robert J. Sawyer. The Death of Science Fiction
  7. ^ a b c William H. Patterson, Jr. (1999). "Robert Heinlein—A biographical sketch". The Heinlein Journal 1999 (5): 7–36.  Also available at Robert A. Heinlein, a Biographical Sketch. Retrieved July 6, 2007.
  8. ^ James Gunn, "Grand Master Award Remarks; "Credit Col. Earp and Gen. Heinlein with the Reactivation of Nevada's Camp Clark," The Nevada Daily Mail, June 27, 1966."
  9. ^ "Social Affairs Of The Army And Navy", Los Angeles Times; Sep 1, 1929; p. B8.
  10. ^ a b Isaac Asimov, I, Asimov.
  11. ^ "Robert A. Heinlein's Legacy" by Taylor Dinerman. The Wall Street Journal, 7/26/07.
  12. ^ Afterword to For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs, 2004 edition, p. 245.
  13. ^ Heinlein was running as a left-wing Democrat in a conservative district, and he never made it past the Democratic primary because of trickery by his Republican opponent (afterword to For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs, 2004 edition, p. 247, and the story "A Bathroom of Her Own"). Also, an unfortunate juxtaposition of events had a Konrad Henlein making headlines in the Sudetenlands.
  14. ^ Tramp Royale, 1992, uncorrected proof, ISBN 0-441-82184-7, p. 62.
  15. ^ Heinlein, Robert A. Grumbles from the Grave, ch. VII. 1989.
  16. ^ The Rolling Stone
  17. ^ Heinlein’s Women, by G. E. Rule
  18. ^ The Passing of Ginny Heinlein. January 18, 2003.
  19. ^ Causo, Roberto de Sousa. "Citizenship at War". http://www.wegrokit.com/causost.htm. Retrieved 2006-03-04. 
  20. ^ Virginia Heinlein to Michael A. Banks, 1988
  21. ^ On Paul Dirac and antimatter, and on blood chemistry. A version of the former, titled Paul Dirac, Antimatter, and You, was published in the anthology Expanded Universe, and it demonstrates both Heinlein's skill as a popularizer and his lack of depth in physics. An afterword gives a normalization equation and presents it, incorrectly, as being the Dirac equation.
  22. ^ Photograph, probably from 1967, pg. 127 of Grumbles from the Grave
  23. ^ Based on an outline and notes created by Heinlein in 1955, Spider Robinson has written the novel Variable Star. Heinlein's posthumously-published nonfiction includes a selection of letters edited by his wife, Virginia, Grumbles from the Grave; his book on practical politics written in 1946 published as Take Back Your Government; and a travelogue of their first around-the-world tour in 1954, Tramp Royale. The novels Podkayne of Mars and Red Planet, which were edited against his wishes in their original release, have been reissued in restored editions. Stranger In a Strange Land was originally published in a shorter form, but both the long and short versions are now simultaneously available in print.
  24. ^ "The Heinlein Archives". www.heinleinarchives.net. http://www.heinleinarchives.net/upload/index.php. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 
  25. ^ Robert A. Heinlein, Expanded Universe, foreword to "Free Men", p. 207 of Ace paperback edition.
  26. ^ Heinlein in Dimension, Chapter 3, Part 1
  27. ^ The importance Heinlein attached to privacy was made clear in his fiction (e.g., For Us, the Living), but also in several well known examples from his life. He had a falling out with Alexei Panshin, who wrote an important book analyzing Heinlein's fiction; Heinlein stopped cooperating with Panshin because he accused Panshin of "[attempting to] pry into his affairs and to violate his privacy." Heinlein wrote to Panshin's publisher threatening to sue, and stating, "You are warned that only the barest facts of my private life are public knowledge..." Enter.net. In his 1961 guest of honor speech at Seacon, the Worldcon in Seattle, he advocated building bomb shelters and caching away unregistered weapons, Enter.net and his own house in Colorado Springs included a bomb shelter. Heinlein was a nudist, and built a fence around his house in Santa Cruz to keep out the counterculture types who had learned of his ideas through Stranger in a Strange Land. In his later life, Heinlein studiously avoided revealing his early involvement in left-wing politics, Enter.net, and made strenuous efforts to block publication of information he had revealed to prospective biographer Sam Moskowitz. Enter.net
  28. ^ James Blish, The Issues at Hand, page 52.
  29. ^ John J. Miller. "In A Strange Land". National Review Online Books Arts and Manners. http://nrd.nationalreview.com/article/?q=YjE5OGQwZDgzODc5OTYwODRkNTIzM2Y5ZWZhNDUwNTE=. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  30. ^ Centenary a modern sci-fi giant The Free Lance Star, June 30, 2007.
  31. ^ Libertarian Futurist Society. Prometheus Awards
  32. ^ a b Riggenbach, Jeff. "Was Robert A. Heinlein a Libertarian?" in Mises Daily, June 2, 2010. Ludwig von Mises Institute.
  33. ^ The story that Stranger in a Strange Land was used as inspiration by Charles Manson appears to be an urban folk tale; although some of Manson's followers had read the book, Manson himself later said that he had not. However, at one point the Heinleins took the idea seriously enough that they took special precautions against possible targeting by the Manson family, as mentioned in a letter from Virginia Heinlein reprinted in Grumbles from the Grave.Reason.com It is true that other individuals formed a religious organization called the Church of All Worlds, after the religion founded by the primary characters in Stranger, but Heinlein played no part in this except for some private correspondence with Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Heinlein's insistence on paying for his subscription to Green Egg Magazine, refusing a complimentary subscription. (See Heinleinsociety.org)
  34. ^ Patterson, William H.; Thornton, Andrew. The Martian named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Nitrosyncretic Press, 2001. ISBN 0967987423
  35. ^ Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion, James Gifford, Nitrosyncretic Press, Sacramento, California, 2000, p. 102.
  36. ^ See, e.g., Review of Vulgarity and Nullity by Dave Langford. Retrieved July 6, 2007.
  37. ^ William H. Patterson, Jr., and Andrew Thornton, The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, p. 128: "His books written after about 1980 ... belong to a series called by one of the central characters World as Myth." The term Multiverse also occurs in the print literature, e.g., Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion, James Gifford, Nitrosyncretic Press, Sacramento, California, 2000. The term World as Myth occurs for the first time in Heinlein's novel The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.
  38. ^ "Robert A. Heinlein, 1907-1988". Biography of Robert A. Heinlein. University of California Santa Cruz. http://library.ucsc.edu/content/biographies. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  39. ^ Heinleinsociety.org
  40. ^ Hamowy, Ronald. The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, p. 224. SAGE, 2008 ISBN 1412965802
  41. ^ a b c Wooster, Martin Morse. "Heinlein’s Conservatism" (a review of William Patterson's Learning Curve: 1907–1948, the first volume of his authorized biography, Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century) in National Review Online, October 25, 2010.
  42. ^ J. Daniel Gifford (2000). Robert A. Heinlein: a reader's companion. Nitrosyncretic Press. p. 201. ISBN 9780967987415. http://books.google.com/books?id=2V6vAAAAIAAJ. 
  43. ^ The reference in Tunnel in the Sky is subtle and ambiguous, but at least one college instructor who teaches the book reports that some students always ask, "Is he black?" (see [1]). Critic and Heinlein scholar James Gifford (see bibliography) states: "A very subtle point in the book, one found only by the most careful reading and confirmed by Virginia Heinlein, is that Rod Walker is black. The most telling clues are Rod's comments about Caroline Mshiyeni being similar to his sister, and the 'obvious' (to all of the other characters) pairing of Rod and Caroline."[42]
  44. ^ Robert A. Heinlein, Expanded Universe, foreword to Solution Unsatisfactory, p. 93 of Ace paperback edition.
  45. ^ Citations at Sixth Column.
  46. ^ * Appel, J. M. Is all fair in biological warfare? The controversy over genetically engineered biological weapons, Journal of Medical Ethics, Volume 35, Pp. 429-432 (2009).
  47. ^ Robert A. Heinlein, Expanded Universe, p. 396 of Ace paperback edition.
  48. ^ Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers, p. 121 of Berkley Medallion paperback edition.
  49. ^ For example, recruitment officer Mr Weiss, in Starship Troopers (p. 37, New English Library: London, 1977 edition.)
  50. ^ William H Patterson jnr's Introduction to The Rolling Stones, Baen: New York, 2009 edition., p.3.
  51. ^ Gary Westfahl, "Superladies in Waiting: How the Female Hero Almost Emerges in Science Fiction", Foundation, vol. 58, 1993, pp. 42–62.
  52. ^ a b The Heinlein Society
  53. ^ Grumbles from the Grave
  54. ^ Patterson and Thornton, 2001, p. 120
  55. ^ Freedman, Carl (2000). Critical Theory and Science Fiction. Doubleday. pp. 71 
  56. ^ Panshin, p. 3, describing de Camp's Science Fiction Handbook
  57. ^ Robert A. Heinlein: A Reader's Companion, p. xiii.
  58. ^ The New York Times Magazine, On Language, by William Safire, September 3, 2006
  59. ^ CAWeb - CAW Articles - What is CAW?
  60. ^ The Hammer and the Feather. Corrected Transcript and Commentary.
  61. ^ Patterson, William (2010). Robert A. Heinlein: 1907-1948, learning curve. New York: Tom Doherty Associates. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7653-1960-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=Z93OvsN2yq8C&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=heinlein+cronkite&source=bl&ots=b4OWFQNCkt&sig=8fZGyqPiT7XExsABwJI20PpHqds&hl=en&ei=lQKlTd7RIaWD0QH4v9iDCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CEAQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=heinlein%20cronkite&f=false. Retrieved April 12, 2011. 
  62. ^ SSD.jpl.nasa.gov
  63. ^ http://archive.sfwa.org/news/heinchair.htm
  64. ^ Miller, John J.. "In a Strange Land on National Review / Digital". nrd.nationalreview.com. http://nrd.nationalreview.com/article/?q=YjE5OGQwZDgzODc5OTYwODRkNTIzM2Y5ZWZhNDUwNTE=. Retrieved 2008-10-21. 

Other sources

Critical
A critique of Heinlein from a Marxist perspective. Somewhat out of date, since Franklin was not aware of Heinlein's work with the EPIC Movement. Includes a biographical chapter, which incorporates some original research on Heinlein's family background.
A comprehensive bibliography, with roughly one page of commentary on each of Heinlein's works.
  • Alexei Panshin. 1968. Heinlein in Dimension. Advent. ISBN 0-911682-12-0. Online edition at [2]
  • William H. Patterson, Jr. and Andrew Thornton. 2001. The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Sacramento: Nitrosyncretic Press. ISBN 0-9679874-2-3.
  • Powell, Jim. 2000. The Triumph of Liberty. New York: Free Press. See profile of Heinlein in the chapter "Out of this World".
  • Tom Shippey. 2000. "Starship Troopers, Galactic Heroes, Mercenary Princes: the Military and its Discontents in Science Fiction", in Alan Sandison and Robert Dingley, eds., Histories of the Future: Studies in Fact, Fantasy and Science Fiction. New York: Palgrave. ISBN 0-312-23604-2.
  • George Edgar Slusser "Robert A. Heinlein: Stranger in his Own Land". San Bernardino, CA: The Borgo Press; The Milford Series, Popular Writers of Today, Vol. 1.
  • James Blish, writing as William Atheling, Jr. 1970. More Issues at Hand. Chicago: Advent:Publishers, Inc.
  • Ugo Bellagamba and Eric Picholle. 2008. Solutions Non Satisfaisantes, une Anatomie de Robert A. Heinlein. Les Moutons electriques (Lyon, France). ISBN 978-2-915793-37-6. (French)
Biographical
  • William H. Patterson, Jr. 2010. "Robert A. Heinlein in Dialogue With His Century - 1907-1948 Learning Curve" An Authorized Biography, Volume I. Tom Doherty Associates. ISBN 0765319608
  • Robert A. Heinlein. 2004. For Us, the Living. New York: Scribner. ISBN 0-7432-5998-X.
Includes an introduction by Spider Robinson, an afterword by Robert E. James with a long biography, and a shorter biographical sketch.
A lengthy essay that treats Heinlein's own autobiographical statements with skepticism.
Contains a shorter version of the Patterson bio.
  • Robert A. Heinlein. 1997. Debora Aro is wrong. New York: Del Rey.
Outlines thoughts on coincidental thoughts and behaviour and the famous argument over the course of three days with Debora Aro, renowned futurologist.
  • Robert A. Heinlein. 1989. Grumbles From the Grave. New York: Del Rey.
Incorporates a substantial biographical sketch by Virginia Heinlein, which hews closely to his earlier official bios, omitting the same facts (the first of his three marriages, his early left-wing political activities) and repeating the same fictional anecdotes (the short story contest).
  • Elizabeth Zoe Vicary. 2000. American National Biography Online article, Heinlein, Robert Anson. Retrieved June 1, 2005 (not available for free).
Repeats many incorrect statements from Heinlein's fictionalized professional bio.
Autobiographical notes are interspersed between the pieces in the anthology.
Reprinted by Baen, hardcover October 2003, ISBN 0-7434-7159-8.
Reprinted by Baen, paperback July 2005, ISBN 0-7434-9915-8.
  • Stover, Leon: Robert Heinlein. Boston: Twayne, 1987

External links

Bibliography links are in the Robert A. Heinlein bibliography article.



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