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The Lieutenant Wouldn’t Like It



When I tell people I was raised in Heinlein’s books, they laugh a little.

They shouldn’t.

I started reading Heinlein as a teenager as the world around me fell into dual madness, because more and more of my teachers were boomers full of the ideas of the late sixties early seventies, and the country itself was spiraling further and further into Marxist insanity.

Heinlein’s books were a refuge, where logic made sense, things worked, and I often found that he could explain things I couldn’t.  Or not explain exactly, but get beneath the level of indoctrination and slogans, to make people understand the other point of view.

I spent years giving Starship Troopers to people who suddenly, out of nowhere, declared themselves pacifist.  About fifty percent of them reconsidered their position, because Heinlein was persuasive about honor, about defending your tribe, and about unreasonable threats.

But there is more to it than that.

There are writers that amuse you; writers that entertain you.  There is nothing wrong with this.  It is in fact what I’m aspiring to.  If you entertain people, people will come back, buy your books and give you money.

In fact, at varying times, Heinlein himself said he wanted to achieve that level.  I can’t find the quotation  anymore, but it went something like “first I write to entertain.”

But he did something else.  Coming into my world of sixties/seventies platitudes and leftist indoctrination, he gave me … sanity, sense, something to aim for.

The things he said, such as that smart people decide what their relationships will be like, and that yes, monogamous is a valid option, gave me the ability to overcome the “everyone is sleeping with everyone else” “morality” pushed at me.  Yeah, I know, he meant it as being okay to be promiscuous too, and a lot of his characters are, but the point is that he said YOU got to decide.  And I got to decide.  Wanting to have a one-and-only went from being considered bizarre and repressed to my being able to say “Heinlein says truly smart people pick what’s right for them.

His quaint nations that it’s all right to love humans because you are human, no other justification needed, were a breath of fresh air.  And his even quainter nations of loyalty and self-sufficiency, that if you can take care of yourself, you should, and that if you’re human you should also look after friends, family, those people who are your tribe by choice or birth, but you shouldn’t do it by giving money to third-party strangers, formed me.  The idea that it’s worth it to serve the country you love in war, if it is attacked, became part of me.  As did other, dropped gems.  You have no idea how strange, how bizarre, how revolutionary the idea that it’s all right to oppose taxes was to a little girl raised in Portugal.  And all through it, the idea of TAANSTAFL (There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch) first made my mind explode, and then made sense of the world for me, for once and all.