September 5, 2002
11:55 AM   Subscribe

In 1958, Robert Heinlein took out a full-page ad in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph titled "Who Are the Heirs of Patrick Henry?" (quotes from which are readable here), a hawkish appeal for increased nuclear testing. Alexei Panshin, a former fan, read it and responded with his wonderful novel "Rite of Passage". Panshin wrote a book of Heinlein criticism, and talks about his issues with Heinlein in this essay, which is a fascinating look at one great science-fiction author responding to another.
posted by interrobang (15 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, but I was unable to find a version of "Who are the heirs..." that's readable online. If anyone else can, please post the link in this thread; it would be most appreciated.
posted by interrobang at 12:01 PM on September 5, 2002

Who Are the Heirs of Patrick Henry? overview.

It has also been printed in this book.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:17 PM on September 5, 2002

Slightly off-topicly, I find fascinating the contrast between the voice we hear in an author's books and the voice of the actual author. For another example, the contrast between the wise voice that so many readers perceive as Orson Scott Card the author, and the homophobic views of Orson Scott Card the person have caused a lot of discussion.

Old kuro5hin discussion ... evidence of anti-gay sentiment.
posted by callmejay at 12:33 PM on September 5, 2002

If memory serves, it's printed in Expanded Universe, but I could be wrong - I lost my copy long ago and haven't replaced it yet.
posted by RylandDotNet at 12:55 PM on September 5, 2002

I read Rite of Passage about 10 years ago, and though I liked it, I always felt that the final political statement was tacked on , out of synch with the rest of the story, which was basically a well-told, coming of age tale in a futuristic context.
posted by signal at 1:39 PM on September 5, 2002

Interrobang: Thanks for the great links. I put aside work to read the whole Panshin piece, which is moving and saddening. It would be hard to overstate how important Heinlein was to me as a kid; like Panshin, I read everything I could get hold of (with no idea of what was written when), and like him I was deeply disappointed when I realized the great writer had become a none-dare-call-it-treason right-wing extremist who was betraying the principles of his best work (and whose work as a result would go steadily downhill). I'm confused about "a fascinating look at one great science-fiction author responding to another"-- your links go to the rantings of James Gifford, who has done yeoman bibliographical work on Heinlein but who has clearly got a bug up his ass about Panshin, and reading him was something of a letdown -- but never mind, the post is first-rate. Thanks again.
posted by languagehat at 1:43 PM on September 5, 2002

I always figured that Haldeman's "Forever War" was the perfect response to Heinlein's "Starship Troopers." I don't know if Haldeman was consciously considering it as such, but it certainly seems that he might have been.
posted by tdismukes at 2:49 PM on September 5, 2002

I don't know if "Forever War" was so much about that as it was a response to Haldeman's horrible experiences in the Vietnam War.

Harry Harrison's Bill, the Galactic Hero definitely was a response to "Starship Troopers", though. After he published it, Heinlein never spoke to Harrison again....
posted by interrobang at 2:55 PM on September 5, 2002

interrobang - I'm thinking it was both, actually. Heinlein wanted to fight in WWII, but washed out of the navy due to sea-sickness & tuberculosis - and wrote a book glorifying war and the military. Haldeman actually did serve in combat - and had a very different reaction. Places I see a response to Heinlein:
Heinlein had glorious powered armor for the troopers. Haldeman had powered armor, but it didn't work that great - you had to be careful not to scratch or you might kill yourself.
Heinlein's troopers went to war with the bugs, but no explanation was ever given for how the war began - it was presumed that the humans were naturally the good guys. Haldeman's troopers went to fight the bugs, but after centuries of fighting it was revealed that the humans started the fight & the bugs were just defending themselves.
Heinlein's troopers got to fly off to the battle faster than the speed of light, ignoring Einstein. Haldeman's troopers had to deal with relativity and time-dilation, making them permanent exiles from the time and culture of their birth.
Heinlein's military was filled with wisdom and provided a way for boys to grow to men. Haldeman's military was a moronic bureaucracy.

Actually, I guess it was the powered armor and the bugs that originally lead me to make the connection between the books, but once I made the connection, everything that Haldeman presented in Forever War seemed to be a rebuttal of Heinlein's worldview in Starship Troopers.
posted by tdismukes at 3:25 PM on September 5, 2002

Good points, tdismukes. It's been over a decade since I read "Forever War", so it's not so fresh in my mind. Very astute correlations. Thanks.
posted by interrobang at 3:37 PM on September 5, 2002

*walks calmly upstairs to look for a copy of "Forever War"*
posted by interrobang at 3:40 PM on September 5, 2002

That's interesting, tdismukes. I loved Forever War.

*digs through boxes for a copy of Forever War*
posted by vacapinta at 3:45 PM on September 5, 2002

My favorite Bill the Galactic Hero line:

"Shut up you moron or i'll kill you," he hinted.

Cracks me up every time.
posted by quin at 3:55 PM on September 5, 2002

I grew up reading Heinlein, too. I learned an amazing amount from his juveniles as a kid and I was just as disappointed by the how-outrageous-can-I-be politics and the masturbatory Lazarus Long recyclings of the late books. To Heinlein's credit though, Philip Dick once wrote " ... I consider Heinlein my spiritual father, even though our political ideologies are totally at variance." Jack Williamson (who also disagreed with Heinlein's politics) said similar things. And even the young Samuel Delany saw in Juan Rico's casually mentioned brown skin "an image of a non-racist society."

So on the Heinlein/anti-Heinlein question I never know where to stand. Appreciate his best, and keep in mind his worst. (The Patrick Henry thing is totally bonkers though.)
posted by octobersurprise at 7:19 PM on September 5, 2002

I believe that characterizing Panshin as a "great science fiction writer" is giving him a bit more credit than he deserves (For instance, Rite of Passage has been characterised as a rip-off of Podkayne of Mars, but read them both and you decide).

My impression, after reading his essays, his communications in, and other accounts his past history with RAH; is that Alexei Panshin attempted to use what literary successes he did have to discredit Heinlein in any way he could. He actually does make some valid points, from time to time, but those points are lessened (imho) by his apparent vitriol. He's obviously not coming from an objective, unbiased position.

The Heinleins themselves never publicly refuted Panshin, or argued with him. They simply barred him from interfering in their lives. They considered him to be somewhat of a stalker, and one who invaded their privacy. And privacy was an issue about which RAH had notoriously strong opinions. This apparently infuriated Panshin because now, even 30 years later, he attempts to discredit and belittle his supposed "foe."

He still makes the occasional appearance in, continuing what looks to me to be the attempts of a bitter old man who met one of his betters, and could do nothing but piss on him. But then, I feel less charitably towards the man than some.

Then again, I also feel much more charitably towards him than others.

(ps: This is my first post here, so please forgive me if any of the formatting or tags don't work like I think they will)
posted by Lafe at 7:41 PM on September 5, 2002

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