20 Things You Might Not Know About Robert A. Heinlein, Part 2: His Preposterous Heritage
The continuation of a 4-part series exploring the life and work of one of the grandmasters of science fiction.
March 1, 2014 - 7:00 am
6. According to Patterson at least, Heinlein wasn’t particularly popular at Annapolis.
This was an habit he kept up for the rest of his life, choosing to be individual rather than to fit in with the crowd. Also, he was considered a rustic from out West, which would have made fitting in harder. It is tempting to assume that this gave him his pattern for his heroes who don’t always fit in, but always try hard and in the end exceed those with the advantages. If so, these circumstances made him the quintessential American writer and served him well in the end.
7. It will be no surprise to anyone who has read Glory Road that Heinlein was a competition fencer.
8. Heinlein’s first artistic inclination was to become a painter.
While in the Navy, Heinlein was detached for temporary duty to Long Island City to attend the Ford Instrument Company school in 1930 – to learn to run the electromechanical “computers” that coordinated the ship’s main battery.
He fell into a bohemian lifestyle, amid artists and their models. The easygoing, Bohemian ways of life in Greenwich Village in the Jazz Age would leave a permanent mark in the permissive and free communities in many of his stories.
9. Heinlein had an interest in psychic (“psi”) powers – many of which we find in his later books.
From Sensitive Circuits used for communication in battle, to other forms of telepathy and super-human powers, Heinlein clearly was at least intrigued by the possibility. Part of this was a matter of the times he lived in – but he might actually have taken part in such experiments in his young years. Of course, Mark Twain himself believed in “Mental Telegraphy” and Twain was one of Heinlein’s heroes.
10. Heinlein left the Navy in 1933, having contracted tuberculosis.
Doubtless, Heinlein felt it was a catastrophic disappointment. But if he had not done so, one wonders if he’d have had as much influence upon what Patterson calls “the lost children of the mid-century” as he did have. For the record I’m glad he did leave it. Yes, I know there is that story in which he is an admiral and we’re better off, but chances are in subsuming himself into what was expected of an officer, he would not have become who he came to be and uniquely himself.
Next Saturday morning in part 3: “His Eccentric Education”