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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.

by
Sarah Hoyt

Bio

March 1, 2014 - 7:00 am

heinleinorphans

Click Here for Part I: “His Maculate Origin”

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.

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7. It will be no surprise to anyone who has read Glory Road that Heinlein was a competition fencer.

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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.

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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.

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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”

Sarah Hoyt lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons and too many cats. She has published Darkship Thieves and 16 other novels, and over 100 short stories. Writing non-fiction is a new, daunting endeavor. For more on Sarah and samples of her writing, look around at Sarah A. Hoyt.com or check out her writing and life blog at According to Hoyt.com.

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All Comments   (14)
All Comments   (14)
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6. A Heinlein juvenile I haven't read? I'll have to get it!

10. I remember that story, an attack on Senator Proxmire. "General Heinlein won't let the Russians have spaceships". But it came true anyway in a better way, thanks to Ronald Reagan.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
RAH's voice reminds me of Harry S Truman's. Not overly surprising, as they came from the same area.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
OK, now I am annoyed. Not you, Sarah.

I've collected images of covers for the last few years, and thought I had at least a majority of the Heinlein covers - and am apparently completely and absolutely wrong. Not a single one of these do I have (well, not a single one did I have).

(SF and some fantasy cover work has always been more interesting to me than the other "genre" covers. Western - horse and an unshaven male, occasionally a "Native American"; mystery - dead body, people looking at it, almost always in a library; romance - well...)
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've read that he moved to Colorado Springs because the thin, clear air helped his tuberculosis. He based "Farnham's Freehold" there, one of the most terrifying apocalyptic novels I think I've ever read. Now I want to go dig back into my old Heinlein books all over again!
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I suspect he and Virginia moved to Colorado Springs because swinging started in the U.S. armed forces during the Second World War, and the Heinleins knew swinging couples among the military families stationed near there. They wanted sexual adventures with people already familiar to them.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
You'd lose. Heinlein's adventurousness started with second wife Leslyn in California. I believe Robert and Ginny moved to the Springs to be far from nuclear weapons targets -- only to have NORAD start digging a big hold on the doorstep a year or so later.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
He never stated so - but I think part of it was that he expected a lot of the "exciting" things in aerospace and nuclear power (as opposed to the "industrial" things) to be happening in Colorado, or just an easy drive south at Los Alamos and White Sands.

Another reason (I believe) was to get out of the same state as Leslyn - going by his letters, he was finding it very hard to work where she was constantly able to get at him.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
He was actually treated at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital just outside Denver (at the time.)
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Quoting from Bill Patterson's Introduction to Volume 1 of his Heinlein biography:

"In 1949 he was pioneering again, into a truly mass-entertainment form—the motion pictures, the first modern science-fiction film, Destination Moon. A local television station filmed a forty-seven-minute featurette on the making of the film, and Heinlein assured Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public that what they were about to see they could make happen anytime they were ready to open their pocketbooks—twenty years at a guess."

Patterson, William H., Jr. (2010-08-17). Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (p. 13). Tor Books. Kindle Edition.



The last half of that featurette ---

"CITY AT NIGHT - ON THE SET OF "DESTINATION MOON" (1950 KINESCOPE)

City At Nite visits the set of Destination Moon, interviews with Director, Irving Pichel, producer George Pal, Robert Heinlein, Chesley Bonestell!"

--- can be viewed at

http://vimeo.com/60139948

Unfortunately, the webpage can load slowly, and be a bit flaky, at certain times--- like today. But in the year the video has been up, it has played almost 1700 times. RAH is introduced in the first minutes of the video and appears again towards the end.

30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've noticed the Jane Austen/Mary Shelley worshipers don't like the "Heinlein worshipers" cuz Heinlein's work is out of date.

I've also noticed the most spectacular drop off in SFF dates from the rise of the internet around 2000. Direct experience with interests seems to trump Google-itis. You can hardly write compelling fiction based on Wikipedia. Writers have more access to info than ever before, and less.

30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Don't know about "worship," but Sarah Hoyt is a Jane Austen lover.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
"...out of date."

We, who find ourselves living "The Crazy Years", and Heinlein is out of date?
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
Heinlein lived long enough to see the "space age" come and go. The idea of sending someone to the moon has become science fiction again, especially because so many people deny that it happened the first time in 1969.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
The weird part is that after "the Man who Sold the Moon" was "disproven" by history, it is now coming true anyway.
30 weeks ago
30 weeks ago Link To Comment
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