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20 Things You Might Not Know About Robert A. Heinlein, Part 4: His Happy Destiny

The conclusion of a 4-part series exploring the life and work of one of the grandmasters of science fiction.

by
Sarah Hoyt

Bio

March 15, 2014 - 6:45 am
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Click Here for Part I: “His Maculate Origin”

Click Here for Part 2: “His Preposterous Heritage”

Click Here for Part 3: “His Eccentric Education”

16. A lot of people nurtured on Heinlein juveniles went on to make a difference in the fields of aeronautics and space exploration.

This effect is still going on with my sons’ generation. (Or at least Have Space Suit Will Travel was a great part of second son’s decision to study Aerospace Engineering.)

Some of the others of us just went on to dye our hair a shade of red and keep too many cats. In my defense, however, the only juvenile I read before my thirties was Have Space Suit Will Travel. I became a fan with The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, and never looked back. (Interestingly, by the way, I discovered Heinlein among a welter of seventies New Wave books. I still liked Heinlein better. Now that I’m older and know the history of print runs in my field, I know that this is true for most people. New Wave, on the other hand, is much preferred by the intelligentsia.)

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All Comments   (22)
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I always quote that statement about Stranger by Heinlein's character, as my Dad (who introduced me to Heinlein and SF in general) seemed to think that way.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
"(There is heated debate in the fan community over whether Eunice in I Will Fear No Evil is black, for instance.) "

That's a special kind of stupid. The pretentious, self-aggrandizing kind of stupid.

There is no evidence one way or another. Ergo, any "debate" is about nothing except the debater's pretensions to knowledge he does not have.

But, it's what passes for intelligent discussion in some circles.



25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
One tries to figure out the background of the cultural changes that RAH posited, which is fascinating (in a rather horrible way, IMHO).

The best evidence, though, is that Eunice was most likely multi-racial. Probably at least a fair proportion of "black," though. The evidence? She was among the educated middle class, and was apparently so in her youth also (note the ability of her family to "wash away" a socially embarrassing pregnancy). The second piece is a single paragraph among the "news bites" interspersed throughout the novel - one seems to indicate that reverse discrimination has come to full fruition.

This is, of course, "only" the background - but that was one of the RAH "signatures" - he fully fleshed out everything, at least in his mind, even if it was "only" the background.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
I can't credit Heinlein alone for me getting into the space launch business but he was indeed one of many.

The great thing about Heinlein is his ability to create a world in the background that seemed so interesting and detailed but to do it so easily and naturally.

For example, take what might be his best novel, "The Puppet Masters." There is a huge amount of stuff going on in the background there, from a previous nuclear war, to flying cars, to human colonies on other planets and non-human intelligent life elsewhere in the solar system and a bunch of other smaller stuff as well. And yet this fabulous creation is but a canvas for the real main story.

Now a few others can do this. S.M. Stirling can build an interesting world as a backdrop but compared to Heinlein it takes him a lot of pick and shovel work, several large truckloads of supporting words. With Heinlein its just ... there ... and it makes you want to read more about it.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
The first Heinlein novel I read was "Red Planet," when I was in 4th grade. I understand now that I probably read an edition considerably altered by Scribners. The philosophical discussion about gun ownership on Mars was deleted; and the reasons why the colonists left Earth in the first place, to get away from excessive laws and dictatorial bureaucrats, was scrapped.

Of course I enjoyed Red Planet immensely, even if that version was not what Heinlein intended and not the version I currently own. But I think any serious discussion of Robert Heinlein ought to at least mention this 1949 novel.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Until your post, I'd never considered my Heinlein juneniles might have been abridged.

I now have a new collecting hobby. Thank you.
24 weeks ago
24 weeks ago Link To Comment
Regarding #18

I just happen to be re-reading THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST. It's in Chapter XXXIV - "---all my dreams do come true!" ---

Zeb: "...Did Heinlein get his name in the hat?"
Hildy: "Four votes, split. Two for his 'Future History,' two for 'Stranger in a Strange Land.' So I left him out."
Zeb: "I didn't vote for 'Stranger' and I'll refrain from embarrassing anyone by asking who did. My God, the things some writers will do for money!"
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
In regard to that last bit, I am often struck by how the PC make the Orwellian statement they won't read Golden Age SF because it's racist, etc. You can tell they've never read Golden Age stuff just by the way they talk about it.

The other funny thing is this so-called "fethishization" of the Church of Heinlein. At least one can say Heinlein was a seminal author. For fethishization, you have to go to the inconsequential mid-list SF author Octavia Butler, who the PC worship like a piece of the one, true, cross. Why? Butler had the great good fortune to be black and a woman - a twofer. The Church of Butler is far worse because it is based on faith in something, in literary terms, that never took place.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I feel the same way about her, but, to be fair, there are people who really like her work.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
(Tons of places, sonny, but you’ll never know if you don’t read it.)

Sure, there absolutely were. I first learned the term, "Freemartin" from one of his novels.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
I learned Freemartin from Brave New World; I don't know how old it is.
20 weeks ago
20 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only transgender I recall is Libby Long, and Heinlein did NOT depict her as the sorry result of surgical butchery and chemicals. She was a fully functional female who was (in a prior life) a male - and an XXY male at that, which he used to explain the desire to change.

That was one place where he resorted to some pretty fancy footwork with bioscience, since the sexual morphology starts to develop, and is pretty far along, before a brain sufficient to start having emotional feelings about sexuality has developed.

Of course, if your physics and engineering are up to doing time travel and sentient, telepathic computers, maybe it isn't all that hard to suspend that particular bit of disbelief.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
'All you Zombies' f' chris'sake.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Aaargh! You are absolutely right. Extreme abasement...
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
For some reason, can't edit that last.

I would add also that the protagonist of AYZ was only "accidentally" a transgender - not by deliberate choice, as was Elizabeth Long.

Come to think of it, the gentle hammering I'm getting here is probably because I think of a "transgender" as being someone who first has the DESIRE to change their gender. As noted below, to Sundog, that is why I also didn't think of an entire NOVEL where the gender of the protagonist was changed.

Taking the definition that it is anyone who changes gender, I would necessarily have to call Lapis Lazuli and Lorelei Lee "transgender" clones of Lazarus. And what we would call Minerva or Athene, assembled from multiple donors (assumed to be multiple genders and "preferences"), I really don't know...

One reason I like Heinlein - you have to get more than two brain cells activated to read his work.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's the only transgender you recall from Heinlein's work? Seriously? You don't remember that he wrote an ENTIRE NOVEL about a man whose brain is transplanted into a woman's body?
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Not to mention making the protagonist a man... and a woman at the same time. Er, two women. So there he was, a man, and two women.

I think he was projecting more than anything else.

26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Eh? Unless my mind is going (which I don't discount out of hand), it was A woman and TWO men.

Not that the "troika" was really explored - Jacob died and joined the other two "skullmates" only at the very end of the novel.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry, I was referring to a different book. I should have made that clear. I was thinking of Lazarus Long cloning himself into two female versions (twins, of course), and raising them as his daughters and then having sex with them.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ah. Perfectly understandable.

The one thing that (mildly) annoyed me about RAH was trying to keep track of how all the characters were related to each other. Bad enough with the Davis Family - then I just gave up when he merged them into the Long clan.

I finally just took it for granted that if it was a redhead, they were almost certainly interesting, probably related in some devious fashion to Woodrow - and not somebody to mess with.
25 weeks ago
25 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmmm. Technically, you are correct. One of my favorites, by the way, although the dystopian culture was rather depressing (and far too realistic of a prediction for my comfort, when I look at the way we're going).

However, I really don't think of "I Will Fear No Evil" as a "transgender" novel. The protagonist really had no previous desire (or expectation) of becoming a woman, nor did the woman particularly desire or expect to end up in a man's brain.

I will admit it is debatable whether Eunice was really there inside the skull (or, later, Jacob) - but I tend to think of IWFNE as more of an interaction between two people that were very definitely male and female, forced into a VERY unique intimacy.

The novel also brought up the explicit question of what controls - the brain, or the body? A definitely male brain, a definitely female body. Heinlein seemed to have answered this question with "body" in the novel - but there are some internal ambiguities on that, such as the attraction to Winnie, when Eunice is not, or is not explicitly, depicted as being bisexual. (Joan Eunice definitely is, of course.)
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Beyond This Horizon," I believe.
26 weeks ago
26 weeks ago Link To Comment
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