An astonishingly thorough and well-researched biography
July 25, 2002 6:00 PM   Subscribe

An astonishingly thorough and well-researched biography of Robert Heinlein. A giant of the SF genre; revered and repudiated in nearly equal proportions, his long shadow falls over most SF writing since the 1950's. This site, where the bio is hosted, is a even-handed and thorough repository for all things Heinlein.
posted by GriffX (15 comments total)
I recently re-read 'Have Space Suit, Will Travel', which I hadn't read since I was 10. I'm surprised to discover now that it was one of his 'juvenile' novels, although in retrospect it makes sense, as it has none of his later themes (often preached through the dialogue of a main character) of free love and libertarianism. Anyone else remember reading him as a kid?
posted by GriffX at 6:04 PM on July 25, 2002

I've been reading Heinlein since I was a kid, and actually, I'm rereading the Lazarus Long stories right now. I'm a big ol' Heinlein fan. I've got quite a collection, including first editions of much of the early stuff. I'm not sure, but I believe that I have a copy of everything he published, although I may be missing one or two of the pseudonym magazine articles. He was an astounding writer, who profoundly influenced not only my writing, but my views of the world. Groovy link, thanks Griffx. :)
posted by dejah420 at 6:44 PM on July 25, 2002

I read Heinlein when I was a kid, but I started with Stranger in a Strange Land.

This explains a lot, actually.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:47 PM on July 25, 2002

This explains a lot, actually.


i've actually always Meant to read lots of heinlein...i've read most of his short stories, but not very many of the novels. Just bought a big stack of hard to find Frank Herbert books--perhaps i'll do some Heinlein next.

Science fiction is history pre-written, thats what i always say.
posted by th3ph17 at 6:52 PM on July 25, 2002

I am privileged to live in a house that has many Heinlein books (my SO's) on the shelves, and I hope to read 'em all before I die. :)
posted by beth at 7:19 PM on July 25, 2002

I liked most of the short stories I read. The "free love and libertarianism" novels I actually found pretty dreadful (Stranger included). IIRC, Heinlein was fairly horrified that people were taking Stranger "straight," as it were.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:48 PM on July 25, 2002

I have a signed hardback copy of Friday--picked up at a garage sale for a quarter. Heinlein has been a huge influence on my life, even though I have a really hard time reading a lot of his stuff with a straight face these days. The first book I read is probably his worst: To Sail Beyond The Sunset--used to freak out my classmates in 10th grade because there was a mostly-naked woman on the cover.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a truly great book, though, IMO. Not that I ascribe to his political philosophy, but I enjoy it, and was always glad to see references to Mike's resurrection in later books.
posted by eilatan at 8:46 PM on July 25, 2002

Friday was the first adult sci-fi book that i read as a manchild, borrowed from the library for its slick air-brushed chrome spaceship cover that was then all the rage. i relished the revelation that there were these fantastic universes for "adults" to play in- science fiction/fantasy was not just for the children and simple-minded.

Friday was my first introduction to time paradoxes and the secret to making rape as uncomfortable for the rapists as much as possible....imagine how fast i grew up exposed to such knowledge. A far cry from Narnia, t'b'sure.
posted by elphTeq at 9:03 PM on July 25, 2002

My first exposure to the man was The Puppet Masters, Stranger in a Strange Land, then Farnhams Freehold. I still consider Azimovs' Foundation Trilogy the ultimate, but I certainly grok Mr. H.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:20 PM on July 25, 2002

The door dilated...

Beyond This Horizon, his novel of eugenics and code duello, is a favorite--Have Space Suit, Will Travel another.

But then these were well written--for Heinlein--and free of the self importance and ham handed opinionation that ruined his later and lesser works.

his long shadow falls over most SF writing since the 1950's.

This is simply not true, thank god...
posted by y2karl at 11:13 PM on July 25, 2002


I think the term you were looking for was polyamory, not free love. His extended families were a perfect example. Having been involved in the past with a polyamorous woman, I have a bit of insight into this. The primary difference between polyamory and free love is simple: Polyamory denotes a emotional commitment, albeit to more than one partner, where free love is generally a more sensual pursuit.
posted by Samizdata at 4:57 AM on July 26, 2002

No Frank Herbert books are hard enough to find.
posted by NortonDC at 5:06 AM on July 26, 2002

*coughs gently*

Samizdata, the term "polyamory" did not exist when Heinlein was writing. The term of art in those days was, indeed, "free love".

elphTeq: Funny, I bought Friday for the cover as well. The paperback edition was her elaborately prominent cleavage. ;-)

Heinlein, interestingly, is blamed for the decline of modern science fiction in a book review in the Jan 2002 Harper's, which looks (breezily) at the history of the genre from Frankenstein on -- not new ground, to be sure, but there's an interesting perspective there. I could quibble with a number of the reviewer's interpretations. The take on RAH is that his early work was informed by his engineering background and successful "hard sf", but by Stranger he had abandoned his earlier intellectual rigor and fell into a goofy sixties philosophy where grokking was all-important; he's even accused of wanting to establish his own religion, Hubbard-style. Though certainly his work after that was largely reprise, I think this guy mistook Heinlein's own serious take on his book and the extent to which it was taken up and out of his hands by the youth culture who embraced it. The line that struck me, though, was this: Anyone reading Stranger immediately after anything by Robertson Davies will feel profound embarrassment.
posted by dhartung at 7:21 AM on July 26, 2002

I really enjoyed "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag", "Double Star", and "Starship Troopers", but have never been able to get through "Stranger in a Strange Land". As soon as that Heinlein wish-fulfillment character shows up (the millionaire gen ius writer who's surrounded by naked women), I lose interest. Lazarus Long IS Robert Heinlein, and man, is he long winded and self-important.

Harry Harrison wrote a spoof of "Starship Troopers", called "Bill, the Galactic Hero". Heinlein always claime d that he didn't mean all the stuff in "Starship Troopers", but as soon as "Bill, the Galactic Hero" came out, Heinlein never spoke to Harry Harrison again.
posted by interrobang at 9:53 AM on July 26, 2002

What an interesting quote, dhartung. I'll be sure to shelve my copy of Friday right next to What's Bred In The Bone, just to see if they explode. ;)
posted by eilatan at 4:28 PM on July 26, 2002

« Older Ashcroft's lunacy knows no bounds.   |   Building a community website Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments