The Zombie Robert Heinlein Rises From the Grave Yet Again to Annoy the Politically Correct

Oh, look, another newspaper writer is digging a deep hole to shove Robert Heinlein’s reputation into, mostly by intimating that no one takes Heinlein seriously anymore anyway, trotting out a bookseller to intone about Heinlein being a fascist, and even hauling up the New York Times assessment of moi last year to wonder if being sized-up for the “New Heinlein” mantle is actually a compliment.

Uh-huh. Well, since I am, after all, the author who is the subject at hand for the NYT piece, I think I’m allowed to pipe up here and ask a question. Which is: If being compared to Heinlein is such a liability, then why am I selling so many goddamn books? Because you know what? I am. Ask my publisher, he’ll tell you the same thing.

Let me share a moment of bracing honesty with you and say that while I think I’m a swell writer, and that’s certainly helped to sell my books, what’s helped even more is the fact that the trade paperback and mass market paperbacks of Old Man’s War have a big fat blurb from Publishers Weekly on the cover saying that the novel actually reads “like an original work from [Heinlein].” In terms of cold, on-the-spot bookstore sales, it’s probably sent more copies up to the cash registers than anything else. From there, I’m on my own remit to make sales number two, three and so on. But that first “boost from Bob” makes a difference. Tell me that being compared favorably to Heinlein is somehow uncomplimentary, and I’ll just look at you like you’re stupid. Because unlike most people, I actually have sales numbers in hand for this conversation. Unlike most people, I know what the actual cash value of this comparison is.

So to answer the question: Yes, it’s a compliment. It’s a nice big fat career-making compliment. Thanks for asking.

That disposed of, the question is how on earth can Heinlein possibly still be useful or popular when everyone knows he’s fascist, sexist relic of a primitive age. One answer is that he’s not (or, at least, isn’t in enough of his books to work with), but the problem with that answer is that even if it’s true, it’s not actually a fun answer. So for chuckles and grins, let’s assume for the sake of argument that, indeed, Robert Heinlein is a facist, sexist relic of a primitive age. How, then, does he persist?

First answer: most book buyers don’t give a crap. This is an entirely reasonable answer, since, in fact, quite a few authors persist in having popular books even when the author, their books, or both, are widely deemed politically or socially shaky in one way or another by the literary taste-making class, whomever they may be. Please see Ayn Rand, Tom Clancy, Orson Scott Card, Michael Crichton and roughly 75% of the author lineup of Baen Books as evidence of this.

Thing is, most people really do read to be entertained, not to be politically ennobled in one way or another, and indeed can either forgive or ignore politics they don’t agree with as long as the story gets its job done. I know I can; I think Ayn Rand’s philosophy works perfectly well as long as you’re an Ayn Rand character; otherwise it’s complete crap. Doesn’t keep me from enjoying Atlas Shrugged for its potboilerrific qualities.

Beyond this point, science fiction has a long and proud tradition of irascible loners with contrary politics, and there are more of them than you think. I doubt there’s a single Ron Paul supporter in the land who doesn’t have a well-thumbed copy of either Farnham’s Freehold or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or both. Being politically incorrect is not actually a liability in science fiction.

Another answer, related to the first, is that people who are appalled at Heinlein’s politics spend so much of their time in a righteous tizzy about them that they completely miss what he does right, and what ultimately what keeps his books on the shelf: the man can tell a story. Heinlein can do it all: He can plot. He creates instantly appealing characters. He writes dialogue that sounds like actual people speak it. He has a canny sense of what it takes to entertain people and more to the point, he finds entertaining his audience in itself a worthy goal. Dive into a Heinlein book and you may disagree with it, but you won’t be bored with it. Which annoys the people who hate his politics to no end — he’s a fascist and he’s a good read! How dare he be enjoyable!

The author of the LA Times piece offers up Heinlein’s low stock is low in the literary and academic science fiction circles as one of the explanations of why his influence is waning, which is a fairly backward way of doing things out here in the real world. Science fiction is and always has been a consumer genre; its roots are in engineering and pulp magazines, not in academia. This is why sales matter in science fiction; more directly than nearly any other genre, the people who eventually write science fiction are the people who grow up reading science fiction. People start writing literary fiction as they tumble through writing programs at Sarah Lawrence or Bennington or Iowa because that’s what they’re expected to write and they want to impress their professors and fellow students; people start writing science fiction, on the other hand, roughly ten seconds after they set down The Star Beast or Ender’s Game or Snow Crash because they get done with the book and think, holy crap, I want to do that. Academia generally wants you to show you can write; science fiction generally wants you to tell a story. It’s the storytellers who get picked up by the next generation of science fiction writers, and whose work is used as the blueprint for their own works.

(As an aside, the writer’s pointing up Philip K. Dick’s pre-eminence in movies over Heinlein misses a few points as well, not the least of which is, to put it bluntly, no one cares when a filmmaker radically modifies Dick’s work to make it fit into a movie, whereas people care very much when filmmakers fiddle with Heinlein’s text. If a filmmaker tried to overhaul wholesale a Heinlein novel the way that Ridley Scott, Hampton Fancher and David Peoples did with Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? he’d be burned in effigy; just ask all the Heinlein fans who still spit on the ground when the name Paul Verhoeven crops up.)

Heinlein’s flat-out readability is why, two decades after his death and now more than half a century after the publication of some of his most famous works, the man is still in print when the vast majority of his contemporaries are not, why he’s still actively influencing the genre, why being favorably compared to him is still a significant coup, and why people are still tearing their hair out that he’s still out there, despite his antediluvian sexual and political stances. If they really want him gone, the solution is simple: Put something out there that’s as readable as what he offers, and which offers a different political and social viewpoint.

Just be warned: Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy. If it were easy, we wouldn’t have articles continually trying to bury Heinlein. He’d already be gone.

476 thoughts on “The Zombie Robert Heinlein Rises From the Grave Yet Again to Annoy the Politically Correct

  1. …they completely miss what he does right, and what ultimately what keeps his books on the shelf: the man can tell a story.

    Well, certainly, the books of his that are great are the ones that focus on this as a priority. It was when he tried to get a little more “serious” that I think disaster occured. I just re-read and reviewed Stranger in a Strange Land and was awed by what an utter tar pit of suck it was. And this was shortly after re-reading Tunnel in the Sky, which was sweet.

    Overall, yes, writers whose agenda is telling a great story tend to have better results than those with a political axe to grind. I’ve always been confused by people who criticize your work on political grounds, when I don’t think the OMW novels are meant to be political exegeses in the first place. It’s as if some readers expect you to make political statements of a certain stripe and then get pissed if you don’t. They’re attacking the novels they think you should have written as opposed to the ones you have written.

  2. TM Wagner:

    I certainly don’t wish to suggest that everything Heinlein wrote was uniformly excellent. He could suck as much as anyone. But excepting possibly the very last of his books, the craft was always there.

    As for people criticizing my work on political grounds, I always assume it’s because they assume I’m a right wing lunatic. I can’t recall a conservative attacking the book because they felt it was too liberal. This is amusing for many different reasons.

  3. people start writing science fiction, on the other hand, roughly ten seconds after they set down The Star Beast or Ender’s Game or Snow Crash because they get done with the book and think, holy crap, I want to do that.

    As a related but not entirely equivalent reason, I’m reminded of the introduction to Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, where Spider Robinson said something on the order of “there I was, guarding a hole in the ground and reading science fiction and I said “I can write better than that!”

    I’m concerned with the politics in a book, but not of its author, unless that author is so certifiably dangerously destructively nuts that there is no way in hell that I would subsidize that jerk’s activities. I can’t think of any current sf author who fits that description.

    And yes, for the record, I am a major Heinlein fan.

  4. Thing is, most people really do read to be entertained, not to be politically ennobled in one way or another, and indeed can either forgive or ignore politics they don’t agree with as long as the story gets its job done.

    Exactly. My 3 favorite sci-fi authors are you, Bujold, and Card. Other than a general, “killing babies is bad” sort of politics, I defy anyone to find a common link in the politics of that set of authors. But all 3 of you are excellent storytellers, and that’s why I read.

  5. Just to contradict Mr. Scott Timberg, I just spent a lot of time and money to find a few Heinlein books that I wanted to own (I’ve already read them) and was very difficult to find in Hebrew.

    So there you have it, Mr. Timberg.

    (I know I probably miss something, but I find reading some authors, and Heinlein among them, in English, a bit hard).

  6. Great post Mr. Scalzi. I agree almost 100%. Being compared to Heinlein is somewhat of a double-edged sword though. If someone says that about you, a Heinlein fan has an expectation. If you can’t live up to that expectation, you fail and that person might, potentially, possibly hate you forever. That’s why when I do book reviews I’m very hesitant to compare people to well known authors. I’d rather the people who read my reviews look at why I liked the book and give it a shot on their own rather than relying on “well it’s like Card” or “it’s like Asimov and Clarke’s clone spawn”.

    I need to read Heinlein :S. I can’t even say if I would compare you to Heinlein because I haven’t read any of his work. Old Man’s War was wicked awesome though. My brother loved it almost as much as I did.

  7. Well, I’ll admit I’m in the “Heinlein juveniles are fun, Heinlein later works are mostly just creepy” camp. Still, that article was pretty one-sided. Why didn’t Scott Timberg just let Analee Newitz write the whole damn thing for him?

  8. they assume I’m a right wing lunatic. What? But, but, but you wrote books about military guys, with guns, and soldiers and killing aliens and shit. How could you not be a right winger? I’m so disillusioned. So, you’re saying that you shouldn’t assume you know the author from his works? Uh uh brain hurts.

    /sarcasm

    Heinlein. Don’t like most of his ‘adults,’ reread every one of his ‘juveniles at least once a year. Heinlein rocks – the man could tell a story like no one else, can’t wait for my son to start reading him.

    Also, people really shouldn’t use the word ‘fascist’ when they don’t actually know what the word means, just saying.

  9. Scalzi, I agree with your post. We’re readers because we want to be entertained first, educated perhaps, and converted not at all. When I want to examine my political or religious beliefs I turn to nonfiction, but fiction is where I let my mind wander around in someone else’s story.

    You said, “. . . Please see Ayn Rand, Tom Clancy, Orson Scott Card, Michael Crichton and roughly 75% of the author lineup of Baen Books as evidence of this.” This couldn’t be more true. I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, but can’t stand Objectivism and the philosophy of selfishness. I think Tom Clancy can spin a yarn, and Red Storm Rising is still one of my all-time favorites, but the man himself disgusts me with his militant right-wing crusading. I grew up Mormon and have much to say about the religion, little of it good, and yet Ender’s Game was, is, brilliant.

    Conversely, I read your blog and often agree with your politics, but that doesn’t stop me from loving Old Man’s War.

    I’ve read most of Heinlein’s books and the man could really tell a story. To tell the truth, I don’t really know what Robert Heinlein’s politics were. I know with certainty what Professor Bernardo de la Paz’s position was in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but the author was so skilled that I have to presume that his characters were just that – characters – and not necessarily mouthpieces for his own beliefs.

  10. “…and roughly 75% of the author lineup of Baen Books as evidence of this.”

    John Ringo would kill his mother to be compared to Heinlein.

  11. “Dive into a Heinlein book and you may disagree with it, but you won’t be bored with it.”

    Very true. Until you have read Starship Troopers, the Lazarus Long TL;BDR (too long; but did read), Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Man Who Sold The Moon. Then you can accurately guess the plot of any Heinlein tome approximately ten pages in. He had formulas. Luckily enough for him (and Edgar Rice Burroughs before him, and Carl Hiaasen after him), the devil is in the details and even if you know what’s going to happen, you can still enjoy the ride. (Except Number of the Beast. There was NO excuse for that, none at all.)

    People just don’t want to admit that Heinlein was awesome. And that, by association, so are YOU.

  12. One thing that article certainly got wrong: Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers is a bloody excellent film (the sequel was crap, though). Doogie Howser in a Nazi greatcoat! One of the classic sf cinema moments.

    Oh, and I – and, I think, a lot of British sf fandom – believe that Heinlein wrote some cracking juveniles, but his “adult” novels were bloated, indulgent and quite a bit worrying in some areas.

  13. “But that first “boost from Bob” makes a difference.”

    Hell, yes it does. Speaking as someone who works in a small specialist SF/F/Horror bookstore, it really does make a hell of a difference. When people ask me to describe OMW, I answer “It’s like a new take on Starship Troopers, only without the beat-you-over-the-head-political-rant and with the twist that you have to be 75 to join the armed forces.” It almost always sells.

    Hell, we can’t keep *any* of your books in stock, and people *regularly* come in saying “I just read that Scalzi book you recommended, and I loved it. Where’s the next one?” (Seriously, I sold the last* copy we had of the Rough Guide to Science Fiction Movies today purely ’cause it was written by the same guy.)

    (*) Not counting the copy I’ve put aside for myself, which nobody is getting but me.

    P.S. Thank you, Mr Scalzi, for gracing our little shop’s LJ, the other day as well.

  14. A couple of years ago I did a major clear-out of my PB SF library, for reasons of room and “I’m not moving this box across another ocean again”. In that was a more-or-less complete set of Heinlein of which I figured I’ve re-read enough and if I want to do so again, I’ll get a nice new edition with bigger print.

    Anyway, I took all these PBs up to a nice used book store that I worked at occasionally and which needed a major injection of new stock in the SF section. ALL the Heinleins went in less than 3 weeks, and it wasn’t just one person, as I was watching that shelf (and it was a complete shelf) dwindle.

    The only person whose politics stopped me buying is Card. I loved loved loved his early short stories and the Ender series. But I am not going to put another cent into his pocket.

  15. Hear! Hear! The article seem to be based purely on spite, jealousy and envy by a bunch of people who lack the capablity to make money writing stuff that people want to read.

    It reminds me somewhat of MG Lord’s NY Times review of RAH a couple of years back which I shredded at the time and indeed I see that MG Lord is quoted in this piece summarizing what she said there (and in the process proving that she still hasn’t read the book she’s criticising).

    I agree that “The next Heinlein” or similar is a great accolade and I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t think Mr Scalzi deserves it because in my opinion, a significant chunk of the appeal of Heinlein is its political posturing. Hey I like OMW & sequels – I’ve bought them all and reread them all – but they aren’t Heinleinesque except in the broadest sense of being part of the Mil SF genre which Heinlein helped establish. It would be (IMHO) at least as accurate to call Scalzi the next Pournelle or the next Drake as the next Heinlein, although that probably wouldn’t sell as many books.

    PS Ian Sales: the movie Starship Troopers may be a decent film on its own but it is not in any way, shape or form an accurate film version of Heinlein’s book. It was the fact that the movie tried to claim a relationship with the book which irritated those of us who had actually read the book.

  16. The comparison to Heinlein is what got my copy of Old Man’s War up to the cash register….

    Every other Scalzi work has made it up there based solely on the grin I had after finishing OMW….

  17. I’ll be the contrarian, and say the Heinlein comparison didn’t really help sell me on OMW. I’ve been burned by that comparison before. Basically you had me at space opera+military+serious+funny, two minutes of reading someone else’s copy, and by having the Tor logo on your book spine rather than the Baen*.

    You’ve sold every book since OMW on the basis of the amazing drill sergeant/”Willy Wheelie” scene in that one.

    (*Bujold, naturally, is exempted from this guideline).

  18. FrancisT: then why wasn’t the same level of vitriol levelled at Verhoeven’s adaptation of Dick? Or even Ridley Scott’s? What makes Heinlein’s novel(s) sacrosanct? I ask from curiosity. (Incidentally, The Puppet Masters was a fun novel, but I felt it made a dull film.)

  19. For a parallel from my world (and hell, I just made this comment to my wife and son yesterday), there are probably NO male mystery writers today, especially mystery writers of private eye mysteries, that was not influenced by John D. MacDonald and his Travis McGee novels.

    Was he dated? Was he sexist? Was he politically incorrect? Even misogynistic?

    Yuh.

    One of the themes, if you will, of the McGee novels is that a really good fuck with the main character appears to have the same benefits as years of psychotherapy and long-term treatment with Zoloft.

    Still, at least one generation of really terrific writers were significantly influenced by his work.

  20. “I doubt there’s a single Ron Paul supporter in the land who doesn’t have a well-thumbed copy of either Farnham’s Freehold or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or both. ”

    Touche! (running off now to put paperbacks back under the loose floorboard lest they be discovered)

  21. Two thoughts: One: I can ignore the politics of any author in the same way I ignore the politics of any actor, director, etc. as long as those politics aren’t the focus of their work or detract from that work. I don’t necessarily agree with the politics of a Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Clint Eastwood or Fred Thompson, for example, but I can enjoy their efforts. Where I have a problem is when someone like one of your recommended authors, Stephen Brust, takes an existing work like Jhereg and suddenly tries to change it to push his political views and drains the fun right out of it. In the Jhereg series, we start with a fun tale of assassins in a far-away fantasy empire, and then suddenly *BAM* we’re thrown into a tale of class-struggle. And the main character goes from being a witty adventurer to a whining straw-man whose only purpose for two books is to be wrong.

    Second: One might argue that Dick’s fans have given up hope that anyone could accurately adapt his work anyhow, since he was so out there to begin with. I remember hearing plenty of scorn for some of the movies based on his works (Total Recall, I’m looking at you) which often have little to do with the source material. Heinlein’s works are often much more concrete and in theory much easier to adapt. Hence his fans’ scorn is much stronger when a simple tale like Starship Troopers is so mangled in cinema form.

    I mean, let’s be honest, something is kinda goofy when the animated kids show adaption of your work is more faithful to the material than the big-budget movie with the famous director.

  22. Funny how this issue keeps coming up, though I haven’t seen the article in the Times. Shouldn’t an educated, professional journalist know better?
    Regardless of RH’s ideaologies, he was a great writer. Who wouldn’t want to be compared with that?

  23. Regarding Mike’s comment about RAH as used-bookstore fodder: in years past I spent many, many hours perusing the SF shelves of Half Price Books. There were a handful of authors about whom one could reliably make predictions WRT whether or not their works would be available. In some cases one could rely in finding half a shelf or more of their stuff, often in sequence, often in almost-new condition. In other cases, one never saw their works unless they were old copies that had been read to shreds, or a whole batch that suggested someone had just unloaded a large collection.

    Heinlein was one of the latter type. Always. No exceptions. In ten years of prowling HPB, I can’t ever recall seeing a good-condition Heinlein, any more than I ever saw a good-condition Pratchett. Battered, beat-up, spine bent, dog-eared copies there were occasionally, but never a good-condition copy.

  24. Jim Wright said

    Also, people really shouldn’t use the word ‘fascist’ when they don’t actually know what the word means, just saying.

    Generally, they don’t care what it means. It’s just thrown around as a pejorative with which label a whole groups of people. It’s like concluding that anyone who is supportive of the War Against Islamists is a conservative. Or that everyone who is opposed to it is a liberal.

    It’s like labeling Scalzi a rabid right-winger because he writes about soldiers.

  25. “When an emerging science-fiction writer’s work earns him comparisons to Robert A. Heinlein,” Dave Itzkoff begins a 2006 New York Times review, “should he take them as a compliment?”

    I’ll take anything as a compliment. In a completely unscientific analysis, I’d say about one third of the sales of RADIO FREEFALL came through the favorable comparison to Heinlein. (Another third are due to the kick ass cover, and the last third from people who thought it was a guide to repairing electronics while parachuting.)

  26. I agree that Heinlein can “tell a story.” I certainly don’t agree that he could consistently “plot”; in fact, quite a few of his plots are broken-backed, badly-timed, and/or make no sense. Damon Knight, another appreciator of Heinlein’s strengths, famously observed that many of Heinlein’s stories were:

    Like the young man from Japan
    Whose limericks never did scan
    When asked why this was
    He answered “Because
    I always try to cram as many words into the last line as I possibly can.”

    Indeed, Heinlein has long seemed to me evidence of TNH’s aphoristic observation that “Plot is a literary convention; story is a force of nature.” Heinlein had story, even when his technique was wobbly.

    As for the politics, etc., I personally despise the phrase “politically correct,” because for the last twenty-five years it’s been used as a tool by which right-wingers promulgate the idea that American culture is being controlled by evil, controlling college professors, presumably from their mountaintop laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There’s stuff in Heinlein I don’t care for, and there’s stuff in Heinlein that’s stuck with me for life. The same is true of a lot of writers worth reading, because whether we like it or not, good art more frequently emerges from unsettled, contradictory personal political and social beliefs–the sort most of us have, as our temperament and inclinations bang up against reality–than from coherent ideological constructions of crystalline permanence and beauty. As Samuel R. Delany observed in his essay on Glory Road, the royalist Balzac was one of Marx’s favorite writers, and Heinlein is one of Delany’s.

  27. Cool article. Think I’ll be checking out your work. Haven’t kept up with SF lately (family/house/job stuff) but if you’re stuff is half as fun as Heinlein, I’ll be holed up in the library for a bit with it.

  28. The other bone I have to pick with your post has to do with this categorical assertion: “People start writing literary fiction as they tumble through writing programs at Sarah Lawrence or Bennington or Iowa because that’s what they’re expected to write and they want to impress their professors and fellow students; people start writing science fiction, on the other hand, roughly ten seconds after they set down The Star Beast or Ender’s Game or Snow Crash because they get done with the book and think, holy crap, I want to do that. “ You’ll get lots of positive feedback in the SF world for this sort of crowd-pleasing boo-them, yay-us rhetoric. It’s also complete crap.

    If you’d simply said that a lot of second-rate “literary” fiction gets written in social circumstances of that sort, I’d certainly agree. But I don’t think Vladimir Nabokov or Gabriel Garcia Marquez–or Dorothy Allison–started writing because they wanted to impress their professors at Sarah Lawrence. And, likewise, as an editor and a teacher of SF writing, I can assure you that our field is well-supplied with people whose main motivation appears to be, not the white–hot inspiration of I want to do that, but rather a desire to impress their mentors and fellow aspirants and climb what they see as the social ladder. Some of these people are even good enough to get published. Categorical statements about why entire classes of writers write are almost always wrong.

  29. PNH:

    “I personally despise the phrase ‘politically correct,’ because for the last twenty-five years it’s been used as a tool by which right-wingers promulgate the idea that American culture is being controlled by evil, controlling college professors, presumably from their mountaintop laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

    I’m not fond of it either, for much the same reason, but it’s fun to use ironically in a headline.

    “You’ll get lots of positive feedback in the SF world for this sort of crowd-pleasing boo-them, yay-us rhetoric. It’s also complete crap.”

    It’s not complete crap, Patrick, although I agree it’s certainly exaggerated for rhetorical effect. I do think that writing programs end up valuing writing artifice over storytelling; this isn’t in itself a bad thing, but I think it’s why we end up with a lot of prettily-written lit fic that doesn’t really go anywhere.

    Likewise, I’m well aware SF, like any other genre, has people writing to impress other people for social reasons. But I don’t think it’s a hallmark of the genre; I think generally speaking people write in SF/F to please themselves. This is why SF/F has so much fanfic — it’s an expression of the genre’s very DNA, and how its writers approach the genre.

  30. Yes, there was suckitude in later-period RAH. My introduction to his works was through two books side-by-side in my middle school library: The Star Beast and Stranger in a Strange Land (yes, middle school, in a district that still occasionally had fights over the appropriateness of Huck Finn), so there’s still a lot of love there. The Menace From Earth and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress should be on every reader’s list. John Varley certainly owes much of his career to that period of books.

    But what did he need? An editor! Like middle-period Steven King (e.g. IT), a nudge on the story, a chopping out of deadwood, would help a lot. The best example of this? The Number of the Beast was excerpted in Omni magazine originally. They took every other chapter from the first half of the book (all from one POV), and ended on a cliffhanger. It was paced like a thriller, no a really good thriller.

    So I ran to get this when it came out. And what a piece of crap! Rambling, nonsensical crap. Stuff you’d put next to, say, Creation Museums for scale.

    Some of the later period stuff is enjoyable if you can deal with the “let’s all settle down and make babies” recurring theme, but a good editorial whack upside the head would have done him some good.

  31. >>>The only person whose politics stopped me buying is Card. I loved loved loved his early short stories and the Ender series. But I am not going to put another cent into his pocket.

    Good god, man, you’ll be left with nothing to read at all with that attitude. In fact, with that attitude, I’m surprised you read at all.

  32. Mike Cane @ 34:

    Eh. You can eventually come to the end of your rope with an artist and find it hard to separate him from his work, no matter how hard you try. When that happens it’s best to let that artist go. Doesn’t mean you do it in a general sense.

    joelfinkle:

    “But what did he need? An editor!”

    A good rule of thumb is that an author needs an editor the most the moment he or she becomes aware that they are now popular enough to get away with not having one.

  33. Stepping in for a moment. When it’s published, anyone who likes mid to late period Heinlein will want to read Charles Stross’s SATURN’S CHILDREN. He nails those elements of the mature Heinlein I like (MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS and bits of JOB, for example) better than anyone I’ve ever read.

    I’m about halfway through, and it may well be my favorite book so far this year. Also very much recommended is his new novel HALTING STATE, which is a hoot, and last year’s GLASS HOUSE, which I think is probably his best, tightest novel.
    [/getting off Stross soapbox]

    While I’m at it, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my press, Subterranean, will be publishing virtually the last of the unpublished Heinlein next year: approximately 20 teleplays and screenplays, including adaptations of existing Heinlein tales and original material. We’ll be doing these in two 400-500 page volumes, with one J. Scalzi doing the intro to volume one, OPERATION MOONBASE AND OTHERS.

    Thanks for letting me ramble on a bit.

    Bill
    http://www.subterraneanpress.com

  34. I wrote Mr. Heinlein when I was graduating high school, to compliment him on Starship Troopers and to respond to some pretty vapid criticsim of the book that I had read. He wrote me back very quickly, and was gracious, and did not bother to respond to the unwarranted criticisms that I passed along. I’ve been buying first editions of his juveniles to pass along to my son, and I still enjoy reading them myself. The comparison of you to Heinlein is apt, and it is very much a compliment.

  35. WizarDru @23: “One might argue that Dick’s fans have given up hope that anyone could accurately adapt his work anyhow, since he was so out there to begin with.”

    Good call. PKD was one of the all-time masters of coming up with *really great ideas* — wow, gee-whiz, WHOA!-type ideas. You give an idea that good to a decent scriptwriter and/or director, and they’ll run with it. It’s not unlike how some of the all-time literary greats (Will S., Goethe, Th. Mann, …) have appropriated existing stories, but then carried them in their own directions. Dick was just a tremendous font of ideas that you can take and run with.

    gelee @24: “Shouldn’t an educated, professional journalist know better?”

    Oh, of course. But this is a lazy sort of journalism we’re reading here. The contrast to actual literary thought — e.g. that of the recently departed E. Hardwick — embarrasses journos who do this sort of hack-work.

    PNH @28: “whether we like it or not, good art more frequently emerges from unsettled, contradictory personal political and social beliefs … than from coherent ideological constructions of crystalline permanence and beauty.”

    Amen, sir. You want a coherent ideological construction, check out Karl Barth. But his zillion-volume “Church Dogmatics” doesn’t *exactly* make for good beach/bedtime reading. Most of us want our stories a lot seamier than that.

  36. The very first Heinlein I ever read was To Sail Beyond the Sunset. The fact that I then went on to read most of his oeuvre after reading that steaming pile of dogshit is testament enough, I think.

  37. I found you roughly before OMW was published possibly because I’d heard about the comparison to Heinlein. And honestly, the comparison is made often enough to make me suspicious rather than take a writer seriously anymore. But I found OMW not to be RAH’s story but yours and I like it. (I think TGW is actually the best book of the three, but I digress.)

    So, yeah, the comparison to Heinlein sold at least 3 of your books. And probably there are a couple thousand others like me who are exactly the same.

  38. I think you’re right about adapting RAH for the screen. I hear that someone is trying to adapt Moon to a movie script. This is enough to give me nightmares.

  39. Why is it I’m reminded of the joke: “No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded”?

    Or my own: “If a science fiction story is boring, you put it down. If a lit fic story is boring . . . wait, why did I say ‘if’?” Ha! I kill myself.

    And really, it’s good to be the new Bob. Unless that Bob is of the type “Dylan”. One was quite enough thank you . . .

  40. I think the main problem with making movies of Heinlein stories is that ninety percent of Heinlein consists of people standing or sitting around indoors talking to one another. Entertaining, but not “cinematic.”

  41. I think of “The Puppet Masters” everytime I fly. Readers may recall that , in order to show that they were not under control of the alien slugs, people took to wearing very little clothing so that there was immediate visual assurance that they were not being ridden by an alien. In fact, many people took to full public nudity. So not quite thirty years ago I was in a long security process at Heathrow, luggage being examined, purses being checked, etc. due to concerns over an IRA bomb threat. Passengers were grumbling about the search but my attitude was that if my wife and I were going to be on that 747, I wanted to be damned sure that nobody was bringing a bomb on board and I didn’t care if they resorted to strip searches (recalling “The Puppet Masters”). These days, with the empty your pockets, take off your shoes, liquids must be in small containers in a one quart ziplock bag, and all the other silly security theatre stuff that the TSA puts us through at airports (while illegal aliens work loading luggage), I again think about “The Puppet Masters.” Of course in Heilein’s story those scantily dressed or nude civilians were also carrying serious firepower to handle any slugs they came across.

    Or, to quote military strategy deep-thinker Dr.Thomas Barnett, “Aren’t you glad the shoe-bomber guy hadn’t attempted to smuggle explosives up his ass?”

  42. Okay, I realize that I’m probably in the minority camp here, but I’m a big fan of later period Heinlein, with the exception of “I Will Fear No Evil”, which Heinlein himself admitted was basically a rough draft. “Time Enough For Love” remains one of my favorite novels.

    Frankly, though, I always find it interesting that folks label Heinlein a “right-wing fascist”, because there are five themes that are common to just about every Heinlein work (#1 doesn’t apply to the juveniles, but the rest do), none of which really fit into what’s traditionally considered fascism. Those things are:

    1) Sex is awesome. Really, really, really awesome. And sexual hangups? Stupid, because they get in the way of the sex!
    2) Race is irrelevant and racism is stupid.
    3) Education good. Science good. Being ignorant is bad. Really bad.
    4) Freedom good. Authoritarianism bad.
    5) It’s probably not a bad idea to learn how to defend yourself. Especially from governments.

    Yup, he sure was a fascist, that Heinlein.

  43. No, John, people write science fiction because they want to tell a science fiction story. Why do sf authors consistently try to belittle other genres? Literary fiction excites quite a large segment of the reading population, even those of us who devour sf, fantasy, Westerns, and other genres.

    By snarking that litfic writers are pampered grad students, you undermine your own credibility. Seriously, your sales are good, don’t become a bitter sf author. There are too many of those blogging now already.

  44. I guess I’m an oddball. I thoroughly enjoyed the Heinlein juveniles, but I loved The Number of the Beast and To Sail Beyond the Sunset.

    Does that make me a fascist?

  45. Patrick, I read and enjoy quite a lot of work outside the genre, and I dare say that sf is not close to the majority of what I read for enjoyment. You are confusing an observation about process with bitterness. Why would I be bitter? I write what I want to write, get paid well to do it, and have a good number of readers. It’s all win.

  46. Alex, I would edit your fourth rule to: “Freedom good, authoritarianism bad except when circumstances dictate otherwise.” For example, a spaceship crew or an active-duty military unit. Other than that, I agree.

    Patrick, you asked: “Why do sf authors consistently try to belittle other genres?”

    Two reasons:

    1) it’s bounce-back from the fact that most authors of other genres tend to belittle SF/F; and

    2) next to a rollicking good SF yarn, the majority of works in other fiction genres really do suck. :-)

  47. No, John, you’re replying to insult with insult. A lot of literary fiction authors got just as excited by reading, say, “100 Years of Solitude” as by “Ender’s Game.”

  48. Well, I was 14 and it was a hand-me-down book from my father, as most of the SF I read as a teenager was (and that was one of the first SF novels I ever read, the other ones being Charles Ingrid’s Sand Wars series and the Paul Preuss’s Venus Prime series). What I was picking out for myself at the time was, while not a whole lot better in terms of quality, more understandable.

    Thankfully, I have much better taste now.

  49. 20: McGee was ok for women to sleep with in one book but if they came back for a return appearance, that was usually a death sentence for them (Weasel words because I think of the dozens of women McGee slept with, one might have survived her second appearance).

    Travis is surprisingly expensive to design as a HERO character, roughly on par with Batman.

  50. What I find curious is the way Heinlein is always (and apparently unquestioningly by our host) assessed as a sexist. His female characters, though some of them from time to time find themselves in traditional roles for a few years of their lives, tend to be his strongest and most sensible. If there’s any sexism in Heinlein, it’s that he writes a lot of his female characters as ideal examples of the kind of woman a certain type of man would wish all women could be — and “barefoot and pregant” is far down the “to do” list for them.

  51. Patrick:

    “No, John, you’re replying to insult with insult.”

    Actually, Patrick, when I need you to tell me what I’m doing when I’m writing something, I’ll let you know.

    It appears as if you’re modeling from an assumption I have a chip on my shoulder regarding lit fic or lit fic authors, which isn’t in the slightest bit true. I do believe the process by which most people come to write lit fic is different than the process by which most people come to write science fiction.

    If you want to see it as an insult, that’s fine, but you’re wrong. I’m telling you it’s an observation (admittedly with snark). You can argue whether the observation is accurate, which PNH has already done, but you’re not privileged to state what my intention is.

    Likewise, I don’t see the LA Times writers’ assertion about Heinlein’s stock in the academic world as an insult; I suspect it’s accurate. I just don’t think it’s relevant for his continuing influence in science fiction.

  52. “No, John, people write science fiction because they want to tell a science fiction story. Why do sf authors consistently try to belittle other genres? Literary fiction excites quite a large segment of the reading population, even those of us who devour sf, fantasy, Westerns, and other genres.”

    A lot of SF fans belittle other genres all on their own, without the help of either authors or critics. To a lot of people, litfic is boring beyond belief. SF and other storytelling genres like horror and mystery exist and sell the way they do because litfic doesn’t work for most people.

    If SF authors want to criticise litfic, they aren’t putting novel ideas in people’s heads, they’re most likely prompting readers to think, “Wow, it’s not just me.”

  53. So saying that people write literary fiction to impress their professors while sf authors are the ones telling stories isn’t an insult to litfic authors, John?

  54. I will say that I loathed but was not surprised by the political/economic set-up in the OMW series. I will go farther and say I was not surprised when I loathed etc the political/economic set-up in OMW because I Letc the Petc of almost all SF that I read. It comes with the genre and if you want to read SF, you have to accept that most books are going to have a political system that is either repellent or badly thought out or both.

    In my opinion, if a reader didn’t read anything by RAH post-1960, they’d still have read most of his best stuff. In fact, you could probably just read the Young Adults and get most of most of the good stuff.

  55. Sergeant E:

    “If SF authors want to criticise litfic, they aren’t putting novel ideas in people’s heads, they’re most likely prompting readers to think, ‘Wow, it’s not just me.'”

    Again, I think the assumption here is that by making an observation about process, I’m slamming the genre of lit fic. This is a silly leap to make. Like any other genre, I like some lit fic quite a lot, and like some of it not at all.

    I certainly wouldn’t discourage people from reading outside the genre; I do it all the time.

    Patrick:

    “So saying that people write literary fiction to impress their professors while sf authors are the ones telling stories isn’t an insult to litfic authors, John?”

    Not really; why do you think it is? I had Saul Bellow very briefly as my thesis advisor, you know; Had I kept him, you’d be damn straight that I’d be trying to write to impress him.

    That said I think when one is writing to make an impression on a professor or classmate, the result can be rather different than writing to amuse one’s self, or simply to create a story.

    The latter isn’t always a good thing, you know; SF is filled with lots of people with good stories and barely adequate prose. Isaac Asimov immediately comes to mind for me.

  56. “Likewise, I don’t see the LA Times writers’ assertion about Heinlein’s stock in the academic world as an insult; I suspect it’s accurate. I just don’t think it’s relevant for his continuing influence in science fiction.”

    A reader’s perspective on that: I recently spent three years in college (doing the degree completion thing that everybody in their late thirties early forites seems to be doing these days). Every time SF was offered as an English Literature course, I would check the reading list and find that it was full of the most horrible — but absolutely literary — dreck. I think out of sixteen or seventeen books listed over three different offerings, maybe only one was a book I had ever paid money for. (A Miles Vorkosigan book, IIRC.) Needless to say, my tuition and book money was spent on something worthwhile for the lit requirement: Shakespeare.

  57. Amen, Alex Knapp and Janice! I often feel I’m alone in actually liking much of the later Heinlein. Maybe TNofB wasn’t the greatest book RAH ever wrote, but dammit, I thought it was fun, i.e., I was entertained. If you can do that, I won’t be screaming for my money back, rather, I will be screaming for more. As to whether you’re a fascist, Janice, I would say: only in the minds of those people who, Jim Wright suggests, throw the word around without knowing what it means.

    Now (speaking of screaming for more) get back to work on Zoe’s Tale, John!

  58. He’s probably one of the best examples out there that “Good Story Trumps All.”

    For example, I’m a wacky liberal socialist Quaker nutjob. I’m majoring in Peace Studies, for Chrissakes. And yet the computer I’m typing this on identifies itself to the network as “MYCROFTXXX.”

    The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is one of my all-time favorites because I just couldn’t put the damn thing down. Heinlein’s libertarianism made perfect sense within the world of the book–even to people like me, who throw up in our mouths a little bit when Ron Paul gets going. The secret to the game’s in the name of the game: the moon is not motherly. Do for yourself or die. Do I agree that the same sentiment ought to be applied to Earth? Hell no. But damn if that book didn’t make me laugh, cry, and kiss twelve bucks goodbye. It was a good story.

  59. 62: Now, what did I read when I took a course on SF in 1980?

    War of the Worlds, Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, Titan (the Varley one), Left Hand of Darkness and two others that I cannot at all recall. Pretty meat and potatoes, though we did have a couple of students who were actively repelled by the archaic language used in War of the Worlds.

  60. “Again, I think the assumption here is that by making an observation about process, I’m slamming the genre of lit fic. This is a silly leap to make. Like any other genre, I like some lit fic quite a lot, and like some of it not at all.

    I certainly wouldn’t discourage people from reading outside the genre; I do it all the time.”

    I apologize for giving the impression that that’s what you were about. The point I was trying to make is that readers don’t have to be told by authors what to think, and authors, when they crticise something, are often offering criticisms that readers have already formulated.

    Very few SF fans don’t read outside the genre, and the vast majority have enough interests that they don’t need to be discouraged or encouraged to read this, that, or the other thing. So Patrick needs to lighten up. It’s not like John or Card or any other author is destroying litfic’s readership by offering criticism, most of which the readers have already settled on for themselves.

  61. 64: “Do for yourself or die.”

    Really? Because I saw a place where solitary people probably died sooner rather than later. Our hero is tightly tied into an extensive social network.

    BTW, do we have any evidence aside from the word of the guy who handled maintainance on the hardware that Mike existed at all? One explanation for why Mike went away is that he was a convenient lie that Manny created to front his political movement. Once there was no need for Mike, there was no Mike and the danger of the revolutionary leader setting himself up as President for Life was avoided.

    Of course, the Prof could have pulled his own coup but alas, he died from purely natural causes before he could consolidate his power base.

  62. Whenever I give someone OMW, I always say it’s like Haldeman’s Forever War. (And then if they have not read that, they get a copy of it as well.)

    Not to shut out Heinlein, I just like the Haldeman book better.

  63. Calling Heinlein a fascist is pointless: the term’s been devalued by years of use as a synonym for ‘evil because s/he disagrees with me’. And anyway, the fascists themselves always played fast and loose with what it meant. That said, Heinlein’s politics were sometimes pretty despicable in ways which make the label understandable: he often treats women as nice-but-dim home-makers (but then again, see the pilots in Starship Troopers); he admires ruthless capability and doesn’t have much time for pity or mercy; he’s a social darwinist or something close to it. Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress are among my favorite novels, but not because I can ignore their politics and just enjoy the storytelling. Good novels should be morally and politically thought-provoking, even disturbing, be they SF or literary or juvenile or whatever.

  64. Alex @ 47, Janiece @ 49

    THANK YOU! I was hoping not to be the only voice of ‘dissent’ when it came to RAH’s latter works, and all the goodness they contain.

    My first RAH book was Stranger, at the tender and impressionable age of 18. In my mind, at the time, he got a lot of things right in it… but I wasn’t going around trying to ‘share water’ with everyone, either. I took away from that book what I needed, and the rest was a darn good story.

    I only later learned that that was one helluva intro to the man’s work. Probably the worst to start with, given its high chance of totally turning you off.

    Thankfully it didn’t, and I went on to gobble up everything I could find of his – juvies and his later, more politically/socially/religiously charged books. Anything with LazLong is an instant favorite (with exception of Sunset, which is the only one I don’t think I’ve ever reread). I actually call Number one of my favorites – up there with Moon, Farnam’s Freehold, <Double Star, Friday and I Will Fear No Evil… again for what it got RIGHT, and not all the rough edges.

    As for Scalzi, and OMH? I was another who picked it up because of the RAH comparison, and I found it wholly apt. The pacing was right – when Heinlein wanted the action to move, it moved; the characters were witty and varied, the banter struck the same pleasure center that RAH’s work always did, and then there were the thematic similarities to Troopers which is never a bad thing. TGB was just as good, and I am hoping that people will buy me everything else this man has penned for Christmas/Yule (please please please Ma!)

    So, with all this glowing praise, for the men past and present… that reviewer, in this humble reader’s opinion, can suck it.

    Now, can someone actually explain to me – or at least point me in the right direction – why they call RAH a ‘fascist’ in the first place? I seemed to have completely missed that meme.

  65. On one of the original things Scalzi said about the Heinlein blurb selling his books, I know this can be true but for me it’s the title and the cover that first grab me. Then the description on the back sells me.

    I’ve worked in a book store for many years so I tend to ignore the “this book is like so-and-so” quotes. UNLESS it is said by an author I respect. So if Haldeman said OMW read like Heinlein I’d would be inclined to pick it up.

    48: “Why do sf authors consistently try to belittle other genres? Literary fiction excites quite a large segment of the reading population…”

    Lit fic authors do the same thing about SF/F. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Jose Saramago as much as Peter Hamilton, just for different reasons, it depends on my mood as to what I read.

    So authors on both sides sometimes say bad things about each other. I don’t think that’s what Scalzi was doing, even though I don’t agree with his comment about writing to impress teachers, simply because all litfic author’s don’t take creative writing courses. But for those that do, yeah, you want to impress.

    In the end I agree with Borges, litfic is a genre as well.

  66. I have a personal rule of thumb for criticism of Heinlein: if it’s simple, I tune it out. Whatever else he was, he wasn’t simple.
    Not long after the movie St*rsh*p Tr**p*rs came out (I almost sent Ginny a nasty note about it), I ran into a copy of the book and re-read it. Somewhere about two thirds of the way through, there’s mention of a class of little, very fast ships used for zipping behind enemy lines for something quick and dirty. Their names are resistance heroes. One I recall is the Francis Marion. Another was the Sandino. Uh huh, somewhere around the end of the Eisenhower administration, Heinlein was casually, obscurely, honoring Sandino as a hero.

    & re sexism — I also re-read Citizen of the Galaxy recently, and as an adult, was able to see the didactic checklist of Good Lessons it talllied. But one of the best show-don’t-tell parts of the book was the ludicrousness of sexism. Again, way before “PC” was invented.

  67. “Heinlein’s flat-out readability is why, two decades after his death and now more than half a century after the publication of some of his most famous works, the man is still in print when the vast majority of his contemporaries are not”

    Yep.
    Heinlein is arguably the greatest guilty pleasure in science fiction.
    He was a good enough writer to make his readers see the need for systems and practices they inherently disagreed with.
    And, like a binge eater coming away from wolfing down a whole pizza they curse the food they have just eaten purge and damn the cook.

  68. So does this validate the Scalzi master plan to rewrite every RAH novel? Starship Troopers, check, Tunnel in the Sky, check, only about 30 novels to go. Why, you could make a whole career out of that…

  69. 71: Now, can someone actually explain to me – or at least point me in the right direction – why they call RAH a ‘fascist’ in the first place? I seemed to have completely missed that meme.

    Starship Troopers is the book most usually claimed as Fascist, which is of course ludicrous and shows that the claimant has either not read the book or is weak on logic (or both). It talks about the problems of universal democracy and nanny-state “liberal” behaviour and it happens to have some rough statements on communism but that’s about it. I’m not convinced that the political system that Heinlein proposes there would work – although it might – but it isn’t fascist and in fact would give fascists just as great problems as anyone else.

    I suspect that RAH will remain as influential as Rudyard Kipling (or Conan Doyle or Mark Twain) and rather more influential than any of the people who wish to denigrate him.

  70. I used to run a Science Fiction and Fantasy forum on a pre-internet boom computer network called Peoplelink. I’m reminded of it because, similar to the discussion here, there were threads where we aired our issues with ‘suckitude’ in works by some of our favorite authors.

    Now that the internet has given many of us more direct and immediate access to our favorite authors, I find it very, very, hard to tell an author I care about that sometime in his latest creation is terrible.

    Today I can safely say (since he and Ginny are dead) that Heinlein’s juveniles are his best works. That (sorry all) I still love Stranger in a Strange Land as originally published. That my personal introduction to SF and Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, when read as an adult came across as a series of disjointed notes on an SF novel, instead of the novel itself. Finally, while Friday read pretty much like one of the best classic Heinlein adult novels, everything else Heinlein wrote from Number of the Beast onwards was AWFUL and the reusing of characters over and over almost ruined earlier stories for me.

    The modern authors I worry about criticizing. Some are struggling to continue making a living due to the ‘midlist’ issues. Some are having to deal with the changes in publishing forced by the advance of technology and the costs of traditional publishing (and why in the world do places like Fictionwise, etc, charge almost the same price for an ebook that I would pay getting the hard cover at no discount? Especially when the production costs for the ebook are minimal in comparison and the reality is that I CAN get that hardcover or a paperback at a discount) versus online piracy. I don’t want to start anything that could hurt their sales or them. It’s probably just me being too empathic, but I could name several modern authors who need a good kick in the pants over some terrible storytelling in their recent books.

    Enough of me for now!

    Kermit

  71. When I worked at Powell’s in Portland in the Science Fiction section, sometimes we would have *a lot* of used Heinlein. We never put it on sale in mass market. Never. His paper backs will sell and sell and sell without any help from a markdown. Anounts go up and down, but they eventually diminish. Many of his books are ordered new even though the book buyers pick up just about every mass market that floats across the buying counter.

    There is an occasional odd format (like Moon is a Harsh Mistress in book club trade paper) which sells poorly or at low price, but basically a Heinlein mass market was money in the bank at Powell’s.

  72. As someone noted above: “If a reader didn’t read anything by RAH post-1960, they’d still have read most of his best stuff. In fact, you could probably just read the Young Adults and get most of most of the good stuff.” Right on. If there had been no later Heinlein, potential readers of Old Man’s War who decide to buy it on the basis of the Heinlein comparison would have done the same, because it’s those earlier works that they recall.

    Not that I think all later Heinlein is inferior; ” ‘All You Zombies–‘,” which can be thought of as the first of the late works, is simply great. Of course it’s also pretty much the last of his short stories. Look at the immediately previous “adult” novels, The Door into Summer and Double Star, and you get the sense that these were written more concisely in the first place and were not cut to an editor’s order (as The Puppet Masters had been and as Stranger would be). It’s really amazing what he put out in 1956-58 alone: those two PLUS Citizen of the Galaxy and Have Space Suit–Will Travel.

    It’s a great shame that Heinlein, for whatever reason, started depending on windy pontificating characters for the rest of his career. The concise writing was abandoned, and even the cut-down Stranger is rather bloated in parts. (The Notebooks sections of Time Enough for Love remain enjoyable precisely because they’re not dialogue as such.)

    One other aspect of Heinlein that readers (and other writers) value is, of course, his ability to convey the context of a story, technological or otherwise. Unfortunately for readers, his later work rarely provided this depth of detail; the best thing about Friday is that it was a refreshing return to form in this respect.

    As for the introduction of relations between the sexes, starting with Stranger: Brian Aldiss nailed it (so to speak) in an endnote about later Heinlein in Trillion Year Spree (1986): “No one is ever confused, hurt or disturbed by sex in a Heinlein novel.”

  73. Mr. Scalzi – I am sorry to say that I haven’t read your works as of yet – but based on this blog and the comments – I will be getting a copy of Old Mans War within in the next day or two. I’m writing this comment because I appreciate your comments about RAH. I do have one question for anyone here – there was a comment by the newspaper writer in which he disparaged “frontier optimism”. Since when has that mentality become a bad thing? It seems to me that disparaging the frontier mentality of “can do” and move forward is to disparage the whole cultural meme of the US. Just an opinion from one who’s bookshelves are overflowing with books from TOR, DAW and naturally BAEN (which is how I found my way here).

  74. Oh, and when I sell my first military SF novel, I’m hoping for a cover blurb hailing that “Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon is the next John Scalzi”…

    Dr. Phil

  75. 77: I think the closest that I can think of is Star Beast, where a stalwart bureaucrat has to prevent an interstellar crisis using only his wits, a planet-wide bureaucracy and the most spineless young man in all America. Well, and a Princess but that’s usually a given.

  76. Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology that considers individual and social interests subordinate to the interests of the state. This is much closer to the ultimate goals of the Demoncratic party than to the libertarian ideas of Heinlein.

  77. So, I’m just wondering on what basis you say that the Publisher’s Weekly blurb has helped sell OMW. Did your publisher do the purchase equivalent of exit polling? I rather thought that the usefulness of cover blurbs in selling books was more a matter of superstition and open to some informed disagreement among publishing pros than any kind of measured, established fact.

  78. SF is filled with lots of people with good stories and barely adequate prose. Isaac Asimov immediately comes to mind for me.

    Man, I thought I was the only one. With the exception of his short story Founding Fathers Asimov’s prose was, for me, about as exciting as reading a chemistry text book (which, you know, would figure). Now, as long as I’m going to get pelted with rotten cabbage and old tomatoes for that statement, I might go the rest of the way and say I loved Heinlein’s The Cat Who Walked Through Walls – I liked the story okay, but I loved the way he wrote it.

    Say whatever you like about RAH, the mere fact that we’re still talking about him all these years later – and his books are still being printed and damn near every book store in America that sells SciFi has his books on their selves – puts the opinions of his critics firmly in the “farting rainbows” category.

    For the record, the Heinlein comparison on the cover of OMW’s is what convinced me to buy an unknown author in hardcover, rather than wait for the paperback. What attracted me to OMW’s in the first place though, was the cover art and it’s face out position on the “New Hardcovers” self at the Anchorage B&N. What convinced me to pre-order the rest of your work in hard cover had nothing to do with Heinlein or cover art – it had to do with you.

  79. Ulrika:

    It’s an anecdotal observation, based on what people have told me about how they came to the book. The three main drivers of sales as far as I can see, not counting this Web site, have been:

    1. Online buzz via blogs, particularly Instapundit and Boing Boing (and particularly when OMW just came out).

    2. Word of mouth (people telling friends, booksellers handselling)

    3. Artwork/packaging, with the blurb playing a large role.

    I have had more than a trivial number of people tell me that the blurb tipped them toward a purchase. I don’t know if blurbs generally make a huge amount of difference, but it’s a pretty exceptional blurb.

  80. It’s strange, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a Heinlein book, they just don’t seem to be that available in the shops (or, more relevant to my teenage, ‘read all science fiction books I can find’ phase 15 years ago, the library) here in the UK. Unlike Azimov and Clarke who were to be found everywhere, so I’ve read huge quantities of those.

    Lots of book titles have been thrown around but which are a good intro to the man?

    (And I bought OMW after reading the Whatever for a while. I probably got here from Making Light)

  81. I think a hundred years from now people will still be reading Heinlein, and all of these twits making bogus criticism of him (fascist my ass) will be forgotten. How many people read Panshin anymore?

    All the stuff about Heinlein’s sexism reminds me of a talk I had with a woman I used to know about Narnia. She said that Narnia was anti-woman because the main villian, the White Witch, was female.

    I asked her if that made all of the fantasy with a dark lord anti-male?

    She didn’t have anything to say to that. So to those who talk about Heinlein’s sexism against women I ask : Do Heinlein’s male characters who are stupid overbearing idiots make him sexist against men?

  82. What a Heinlein description does to your sales and whether it’s a “complement” are two seperate matters. The answer to the second–“Is it a complement?”–obviously depends on how you feel about Heinlein. (The answer to the first–“Does a Heinlein comparison help my sales?”–depends on how others feel about Heinlein, I suppose.)

    The popularity of an artistic work might be a reflection on its quality, but not necessarily. In music, for instance, Herman’s Hermits were far more popular than the Velvet Underground, but it’s fairly self-evident which group is considered the “quality” band four decades later.

    You consider a Heinlein comparison flattering–fair enough. Your mileage, as the saying goes, may vary. Your rationale (not that you need one) strikes me as funny: some writers might consider a Heinlein comparison insulting despite what it did to sales, and others might love a comparison to (oh, say for instance) H. Beam Piper to be awesome even if it had little impact on their bottom line.

    While Timberg’s piece tries to suggest Heinlein’s sales are declining (which may not be true), the reason he cites the review of your work in the NYT is to buttress the assertion that Heinlein is “polarizing”, not that he’s necessarily an albatross. This claim might be true (it might not be): it’s certainly possible that some readers turned away from your work because of a Heinlein comparison. (For whatever it’s worth, I came to your work from the Whatever: if I’d simply seen it on the shelf, Heinlein-invoking blurbs would have done nothing for me either way. Heinlein’s simply not a writer I’ve had much urge to read since high school.)

    I’d also join in taking issue with your assertion that “no one cares” when a PKD movie adaptation takes liberties. PKD fans do care, tho’ they might not go on and on about it. And, it should be obvious that there are different modes of caring: for instance, it matters to me that Blade Runner has very little to do with its putative source, but not in a fashion that riles me or has me up in arms. If you mean “cares” to be synonymous with “pissed off,” then I can probably point you to scads of people who were angry about Total Recall, tho’ I suspect most PKD fans have an appropriately laid-back, “it is what it is” attitude. Don’t confuse quiet and patience with indifference. (As a corollary, there are plenty of very vocal minorities in the world; don’t confuse sound and fury with significance….)

    Finally, I agree with PNH and others that your categorical statements about why people write “literary” fiction versus SF were (a) incorrect and (b) gratuitous, chest-thumping, “why we’re better than them” insults.

    (As to the question that looms large: “Was Heinlein a fascist?” I have to admit I don’t know and I don’t much care.)

  83. *Lots of book titles have been thrown around but which are a good intro to the man?*

    To the man, or to his fiction?

    As prolific as he was, it’s tough to name one good intro. Any of his juveniles, but Tunnel in the Sky stands out to me. And perhaps his shortest and least-appreciated novels, Double Star.

    But for just plain getting hooked on Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

  84. “Now, as long as I’m going to get pelted with rotten cabbage and old tomatoes for that statement…”

    Don’t worry. The people who want to put Azimov on a pedestal need the rotten fruit treatment much more accutely than his critics do. Azimov had a really idiosynchratic mind — he could analyze Shakespeare and formulate the Laws of Robotics, but he could also write a book in which a character was gratuitously evil without foundation. We won’t even talk about the character types in “Foundation” that were lifted in all but name from Raymond Chandler…

  85. *** Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology that considers individual and social interests subordinate to the interests of the state. This is much closer to the ultimate goals of the Demoncratic party than to the libertarian ideas of Heinlein. ***

    Weird. You misspelled Republican. I’m sure that was just a mistake.

  86. An Eric:

    “While Timberg’s piece tries to suggest Heinlein’s sales are declining (which may not be true)”

    I suspect it is true, actually, although it might have something to do with the fact that most decades-old work eventually stops selling in huge numbers. That said, I think his decline is relative to his own earlier numbers, which were quite large. They’re still adding nicely to his estate’s coffers.

  87. Asimov.

    I think the family name was something like Azimy at one point and then got Russified but to the best of my knowledge once they got over here, his family always spelled it Asimov.

    There’s an Asimov story would be fitting to mention at this point but I’ve long since forgotten the title.

  88. “*** Fascism is an authoritarian political ideology that considers individual and social interests subordinate to the interests of the state. This is much closer to the ultimate goals of the Demoncratic party than to the libertarian ideas of Heinlein. ***

    Weird. You misspelled Republican. I’m sure that was just a mistake.”

    And the real irony here is that Heinlein would have laughed at being called Republican, Democratic, or even a libertarian (either big or little “L”).

  89. Egads. Talk about wonderful timing. This jives so well with what’s been going through my head lately as evidenced by a proposed submission guideline list for a webzine concept:

    “No assinine pretentions of reaching for “Literary” acclaim. Just a home for ripping good yarns. Give us characters to care about, vivid worlds, exciting plots, and actual resolutions where something is learned or someone changes. Wordy, narcissistic navel gazers and indoctrination-oriented activists bearing soapboxes need not apply.”

    I wholeheartedly agree that writing to entertain readers is the first and foremost goal in speculative fiction. Everything else is stuff that _can_ be there (if it doesn’t get in the way of the story) but doesn’t really matter in the end (at which point the smart writer asks, “Why is it there and if I cut it out will it matter?”)

  90. I’m another one to be counted as a fan of Heinlein’s later work. While I devoured his juveniles when I was ten or so, now I find them a bit simplistic and naive. Which, considering they’re YA novels, isn’t really a criticism so much as an observation. Basically, I think they’re well done for what they were intended to be, but not really my taste any more.

    I love how he experimented with differing ideas and literary forms in the later books, though, and especially love how much the books are based on dialogue rather than narrative. What seems to rub most the wrong way as self-indulgent or didactic I find tremendously entertaining and thought provoking. De gustibus non est disputandum, I guess.

    I think it’s funny to be talking about Heinlein in contrast to literary fiction. If you read his letters, it’s apparent that Number of the Beast was strongly influenced by postmodern literature, with John Barth specifically mentioned in one letter that I remember. I think an argument could be made that it’s a powerful postmodern analysis of science ficiton, which is probably why it seems to piss off some people, I imagine. I believe there’s an essay to that effect somewhere on the Heinlein society webpage.

    As far as fascism goes, it’s enlightening to compare the attitude towards the military in Starship Troopers to that in Glory Road. I think the whole meme started with the New Wave SF writers in the 60s, who were fairly reactionary against the old guard SF ideas, and tended to hold up Heinlein as the poster boy of what they thought those writers stood for. Which is also funny because at the same time Heinlein was loved by hippies because of Stranger in a Strange Land.

  91. Unsurprisingly (at least if you know who Bennett or Manning were), Heinlein seems to have been SoCredulous, at least as a young man.

    One of my favourite political statements of all time comes from one of the SoCred parties in Canada.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, the Union Nationale has brought you to the edge of the abyss. With Social Credit, you will take one step forward.”

  92. Well said, he could write his ass off and could tell a great story and his dialog always was and still is a strength to me. His stuff sounds great in the audio format.

    You being compared to Heinlein was a big reason I picked up Old Man’s War and I read the sequel be OMW was good.

    I couldn’t believe they brought the fascist thing up again. I thought that had been put to bed years ago.

  93. I picked up OMW for the Heinlein, but I devoured Ghost Brigades and Last Colony for the Scalzi. Seriously, OMW got me back into reading Sci-Fi after years of neglect (basically after the last Arthur C. Clarke that was written by just him) and I got me catching up on all the fun reads i’ve missed out on.

  94. How’s about this one . . .

    I started reading Heinlein because of the blurb on Scalzi’s books!

    Take that!

  95. As long as we’re having this conversation – again :-)

    Here’s an article by Chris Wueve, without doubt the best non-biased, step by step analysis of Starship Troopers and Heinlein I’ve read in a long, long time.

    Chris is an Associate Research Professor at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the world, so he knows.

  96. Commenter “mensley” is right: Heinlein was a big admirer of John Barth, a fact which sheds interesting light on some of his later work. Mensley is also right that it’s very odd to be holding up Heinlein in opposition to literary or “mainstream” fiction. In fact, from very early in his career, Heinlein was dying to break out of the genre and reach the kind of audience afforded by magazines like Colliers. While John W. Campbell was in his prime, crusading to make Astounding into a magazine for a broad audience beyond the traditional reach of the SF pulps, Heinlein was a loyal disciple; when Campbell began to settle for presiding over an audience of loyal cultists, Heinlein lit out for the slicks. He maintained a relationship with the genre, but it was a patrician and distant one; he always wanted to be a writer of greater consequence than genre limitations usually afford. And as mensley points out, while the later novels have their flaws, they aren’t the flaws of a genre worldview; at heart, Heinlein was as much of a literary experimentalist as the paragons of the New Wave. Some of his experiments read like 500 pages of scratching a blackboard. And some of them are so successful that we forget how audacious they were. An entire novel written in a future dialect patois, that doesn’t grate? Amazing.

    Ulrika, you’re absolutely right that the utility of reviews is usually hard to measure. Every so often, however, an author gets a high-profile review that grabs the attention of people all the way from the publisher’s office, to the field sales reps, to the chain bookstore buyers, to the influential independents, and even the readers. After nineteen years doing this stuff, I know what that kind of hole-in-one feels like, and the (starred!) PW review of Old Man’s War was one of those. I can’t speak scientifically to how many people bought the book because we quoted the review on the cover. I can tell you with complete confidence that a lot more copies got distributed because of that review than would have been distributed without it.

  97. John,

    Just discovered your blog via the Amazon interview – I’m loving it already.

    I’d also like to point out for the record, not that you don’t know it, but a quote that says something along the lines of “reads just like Heinlein” will *absolutely* bring me to the cash register with something I otherwise would have put down.

  98. I admit it; the first time I bought one of your books, it was because of the Heinlein comparison. I’ve never seen the point in only reading books that spout what I alread know or believe; I want something that makes me think.

  99. I loved the line describing you at the end of the NYT article:

    “It’s as if Rudyard Kipling woke up one morning and decided he wanted to be Benny Hill.”

    Now there’s a blurb for your next cover! I’ed buy a book on that alone.

  100. I picked up your first book because of a comment made by Bill Schafer at SubPress; if I had heard of the Heinlein comparison, that might have swayed my purchasing decision also. My first two science fiction books were Heinlein books – Rocketship Galileo, immediately followed by Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. The librarian in our elementary school handed them to me when I was in second grade, telling me I would probably like them. That started a life-long fascination with science that led to a PhD in molecular genetics some years back. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see that same scenario play out with OMW in lots of schools in the years to come.

  101. You liked Atlas Shrugged? Really? Ignoring the rantastic last couple of chapters it mostly came across as mediocre alternate-history with dumber-than-average antagonists. Not that the protagonists were particularly bright. It was like Dumb versus Dumber.

    Then: weirding devices! At that point you start wondering when Sting is going to show up in a gold lamé Speedo and get into a knife fight with John Galt.

  102. Byron:

    The first time I read Atlas Shrugged was on a 56-hour Greyhound Bus ride. I would open up the book, enter a pot-boiler-y fugue state, and then when I looked up, I would be in another state. It saved my sanity, it did.

  103. 91. I still read Panshin – at least, I reread the book and story I have by him and would read more if the library could get it for me.

    93. Tully, you and I are in perfect agreement. Those were the books that I gave my teenage son as an intro to RAH, in that same order.

    96. John, I suspect that if Heinlein’s sales are dropping, it may be that science is overtaking him. Could you imagine a lunar colony using wires to connect telephones now? Or now considering how much more we know about Mars and/or Venus, both Red Planet and Citizen are pretty dated. Even my beloved Double Star feels cartoonish now.

  104. “96. John, I suspect that if Heinlein’s sales are dropping, it may be that science is overtaking him. Could you imagine a lunar colony using wires to connect telephones now? Or now considering how much more we know about Mars and/or Venus, both Red Planet and Citizen are pretty dated. Even my beloved Double Star feels cartoonish now.”

    To say nothing of the computer technology in Starman Jones

  105. Could you imagine a lunar colony using wires to connect telephones now?

    Yes. Solar interference. Speaking as an expert in military communications, and communications in general, if you absolutely, positively need reliable communications in a hostile environment – go to the hard line. If you really need to ensure communications in a hostile environment, you go even further – that’s why the Navy still installs sound-powered phones on ships for back-up damage control circuits. If you have to go wireless, make damn sure you can punch through anything if necessary, that’s why we still maintain 75Baud SATCOM equipment.

    But I see your point.

  106. So when you say, “In terms of cold, on-the-spot bookstore sales, it’s probably sent more copies up to the cash registers than anything else,” it’s essentially a wild, hairy-assed guess then?

  107. This is why I cleverly inserted the word “probably” in there, Ulrika.

    However, I don’t think it’s an uneducated nor unreasonable statement. As you may imagine from just from this thread, I have pretty good communication with my readers, and I have enough anecdotal evidence of this happening to say with some comfort that yes, it’s made a significant difference.

  108. I read Old Man’s War because the guy who wrote a blog I liked to read was posting one chapter per day during the month of December but said that he’d e-mail the whole thing in one fell swoop to anyone who would toss a couple bucks into PayPal. So I did. And I loved the novel (and since the book sold and had to be taken down, I got to enjoy it without waiting for the many months it would take for a genuine dead tree edition to show up. (Although each of the subsequent Scalsi novels had me going to Amazon as soon as they came out.)

    However, if I had not been a reader of the Whatever, a blurb with a comparison to Heinlein would certainly be a reason for me to try an author, so that kind of blurb would work in the battle for my beer money.. (It’s been many years, but I think that comparison first got me to read Haldeman.)

    Keeping in mind Sturgeon’s Law, to me a Heinlein comparison indicates that a book is more likely to fall into the ten percent category rather than the ninety percent. Of course, that kind of blurb can influence my first purchase of an author, but after that it is the quality of that author’s work that will keep me coming back for more.
    (I’m ready to order the next Scalsi novel as soon as it is available.)

  109. Patrick @111: yup, Heinlein did some interesting experimental stuff, especially post-1960. That’s why I felt the need to do a late-period Heinlein novel; they’re more interesting than his juveniles, even if they don’t always work, because he was messing with a wider repertoire of techniques and themes. (That, and I had this obsessive-compulsive urge to write an entire book to explore why and under what circumstances a nipple might go “spung”. I guess I’m just weird that way.)

  110. John-

    The thing with taking a bunch of anecdotal statements from readers that the blurb sold the book, and turning that into a comparative assertion, is that your readers aren’t making a comparison, and you aren’t getting comparative data. When you say it sent more copies to the register than anything else, you aren’t actually *looking* at anything else. You’re comparing apples to, well, nothing.

    Me, if I had to guess what the single biggest factor in cold sales was for you, I’d go with Patrick’s point about the PW review as a whole having positively affected initial distribution in a big way. That almost certainly affected how many people *could* buy your book, and how it was merchandised affected how many would spot it in the first place.

    If you have two equally good books coming out from Fnord Books in the same month, one of which has buzz with the bookstore buyers and one of which does not, such that any given bookstore orders one copy of Book A and five copies of Book B, and merchandises Book A facing spine-out on the shelf, and Book B facing cover-out on the shelf, or maybe even places Book B on the end cap, or the quick-grab tables out front, then odds are really good that Book B will get better sales. Far more people will spot Book B, meaning that many more chances for someone who would want to read B to find it in the first place. Cold-purchase buyers of Book B may say that it was the blurb that sold them on B, but being able to spot Book B, and having copies of B available for sale, were crucial conditions for getting hooked by the blurb, and they’re conditions which the buyer is unlikely to think of as affecting the purchase.

  111. Ulrika:

    I’ll keep that all in mind the next time I do very rigorous exit polling of my readers and their purchases. In the meantime, I’m pretty comfortable with my statement that it made a significant difference in sales, based on what I know anecdotally.

    (Update: I think that reads snippier than it’s meant. Your points are well-taken, Ulrika.)

  112. Simon W: a Heinlein virgin! Start with “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”.

    Then read everything published before “The Number of the Beast”, doesn’t much matter in what order (others will doubtless chime in with suggestions or orders.)

    Then read TNotB.

    Then read everything published after TNotB, in publication order, as it’s really one long rambling novel.

    My first RAH was Rocketship Galileo.

    I think I first heard of OMW from someone at Uncle Hugo’s.

  113. I was able to get Scalzi four new readers by describing OMW as Heinlein-esque. One of them did ask if I meant “Dirty Old Man Heinlein” or “Boys Life Heinlein” , which are her two categories for his works.

    I assured her of a complete lack of nipple spunglage, so she gave OMW a try and is hooked.

  114. Note kindly I was interviewed by the former popular music reviewer who the Times is trying to make over into a book critic/reviewer. What I found interesting about the interview, which lasted between an hour and ninety minutes by telephone, was how obvious it was that he’d already written his article and was merely seeking nothing but confirmation of his predetermined conclusions. He asked, for example, “wasn’t it true that Heinlein’s sales are declining and his readership is graying?” “No,” I told him, “Ginny told me in 2001, the year before she died, that she was delighted that royalties were climbing annually and are now up over half a million each year; for that meant she was satisfied the money would now be there after she died to fund the half million dollar Heinlein Prize by the trust she had set up to carry on their wishes — she could die at peace.” I then told him the story Ginny told in reply to those who criticized the movie of SST — sales on the paperback immediately jumped through the roof after the movie came out; and, then, within six months, sales on everything else went up substantially, and have remained so since. The writer of the Times article didn’t want to hear that, and changed the subject to another, “graying membership,” asking if that was true about the membership of the Society. “No,” I told him, “it runs younger, generally, than the age of people I see at general SF conventions. We even get a surprising number of teenagers as members — and they pay full dues for full membership.” He changed the subject again to try to confirm another thesis already chosen, sexism or fascism, whichever it was. “No, there was a lot of that back in the 1960s and 1970s, when the ‘new age came in and I went out (generally stopped reading new science fiction),’ but that’s dying off now and modern critical writing on Heinlein rarely raises those old cherries written by Panshin and Franklin and their ilk trying to make reputations by climbing over his back,” and so he changed the subject again to yet something else. And it went on and on until he got tired. Finally just before publication he sent me an email asking me to tell him how many ‘novels’ Heinlein had written. I replied with the specific number of works, novels, shorts, non-fiction, etc. That is the bit he quoted out of sixty or ninety minutes of talk.

    I doubt he’s ever read a book by Heinlein. He didn’t express specific familiarity with anything. His review reads as if he went to his pal who writes for Wired, asked her what to say, and whom to quote, wrote it, and then tried to see if he could confirm his conclusions from a source or two, a further fact or two, other than what had already been written.

    An actual newspaperman I know enjoys telling about an editor for whom he worked. “Never start writing an article without knowing in advance what you want to say,” this editor told him, “It’s too inefficient to actually have to go out and solicit facts.” He worked for that editor only very briefly. The L.A. Times, under its new ownership, apparently, has moved to this more ‘modern’ mode of journalism. I used to subscribe to the Times. For more than forty years. Hell, I used to deliver early it in the morning by bicycle in East Hollywood where I grew up. I don’t do either any more.

  115. “Ayn Rand’s philosophy works perfectly well as long as you’re an Ayn Rand character; otherwise it’s complete crap.”

    That’s the best one-sentence critique of Objectivism I’ve ever read. And, yes, I enjoyed Atlas Shrugged, too, back when I read it in college, and even liked the philosophy until I went outside and looked around at actual people.

  116. I was happy to see that Norwescon 2007’s ONLY session devoted to an individual author was for Robert Heinlein. The audience, however, was disappointing in both size and demographics. The discussion was nice, though it could’ve been 3 or 4 times longer. :)

    I don’t think it helps much that the only film made from one of his works in the last how many decades was a friggin’ parody. Argh.

  117. The Heinlein comparison is what made me buy Old Man’s War. But Old Man’s War is what will make me buy everything else you ever write. You might not be Heinlein, but you’ll do until we can build a giant, fusion-powered cybernetic body for him, and thaw his brain out.

    Keep it up.

  118. 135: The film of Puppet Masters preceded Starship Troopers by only 3 years.

    I am also one of those who bought OMW based on the Heinlein comparison. Even that had to overcome my complete antipathy to a book with “War” in the title (and not also including “Newts”) and a painted spaceship on the cover. As with earlier posters, I bought the next two titles on the increasing merits of having Scalzi on the cover.

    I’m also bemused by the use of fascist with respect to Heinlein, when it seems that in this age, the word liberal seems to almost be a dirty word for great swathes of the USA. I always thought the US to be one of the great liberal democracies. But maybe Heinlein was prescient in seeing it becoming a theocracy.

  119. As no-one’s mentioned it, Spider Robinson’s thorough dissection of the standard calumnies aimed at Heinlein is here:

    I agree with most of them, and some have already been mentioned. But may answer the ‘why is Heinlein called a fascist/sexist/whathaveyou’ questions with chapter and verse. It’s also short, and funny.

    And Tumbleweed – have you not seen the pretty-damn-good version of The Puppet Masters, starring Donald Sutherland as The Old Man? Got most of it right – though not the topless scenes!

  120. I arrived here courtesy of the Instalanche, and his mentioning a writer who compared to Heinlein. To be quite honest, Sir, I’ve never heard of you before. But now I’ve just got to go out and give your words a try.

    A favorable comparison to Heinlein definitely gets you in my door.

  121. Lately, the LA Times has become a cannon aimed at Heinlein. I have no idea what stick they are sitting on, but they really need to remove it.

  122. It was the Instapundit recommendation that made me pick up OMW and read the first 10-20 pages in the local B&N. It was your writing that made the sale for OMW and your following books. As to RAH, well, he is still one of my favorite authors. I still pull out Tunnel in the Sky, Time for the Stars, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and a couple others once every other year or so for a refresher. I read the LAT review (just the first page), and I can’t be bothered to finish it. Granted, his later works lacked quality. For me, they were one-and -outs, one read and then never picked up again. But much of his work is lasting.

  123. So, am I the only who, year after year, tears up at the end of Double Star when an older and wiser Lorenzo thanks his dear wife Penelope for all her love and support over the years? It’s not for that scene alone that this is my favorite Heinlein novel.

    As for the “sexism” of Heinlein and authors such as John D. Macdonald (mentioned by another commenter above), well, let me just say that one of the wonderful things about their novels is the sheer manliness and assertiveness and sexiness of the male characters. I read almost nothing but science fiction and detective novels as a high school girl and it was wonderful to get caught up in the amazing plots and fantasize about the heroes who always rescued the ship AND the girl. Beats out lame romance novels any day.

  124. Got here courtesy the Instalanche–Bravo, Mr. Scalzi, for standing up for the (as we used to say) Kind With Rivets. I think it’s particularly laughable that the undies-in-a-bundle lit-crit chi-chi post-post-modern crowd is compelled to snipe at the very author whose work allows them to (whisper it) say “S-F” inside a college… and whose current lit’rary darlings probably sell a quarter as well as RAH does, long after his death. Smirk.

    As for his style and ability: I’m sorry, the man could tell a story, and how. Action, yes–wasn’t the first chapter of Troopers evidence enough of that, and skating on the canals of Mars, and the riot in Mistress, etc. Ok, so the world of the wormfaces gets twisted away off-stage, but Citizen of the Galaxy starts with a fargin’ slave auction! You want talk-talk, go read Asimov–Whom I respect, and even like, but Isaac was at least as open to a charge of sexism as RAH, and are they piling on his works? Noooo!

    The old trope about being a fascist is pretty stale–meh. You think Tunnel is fascist? Podkayne? Puh-lease. He was a writer, and if you can’t appreciate he was a bomb-thrower, go read your plot-resistant weepies and write impenetrable reviews with semiotics and mis-en-scene studded throughout for your underemployed dumb buddies. We ghetto-dwellers don’t need your pity or (worse) your ‘help’ in seeing how wrong we are.

    –Alex Pournelle

    P.S. The website link is clearly a transparent attempt to pitch for the very words which paid my way through college, so my reasoning is immediately suspect.

  125. “In ten years of prowling HPB, I can’t ever recall seeing a good-condition Heinlein, any more than I ever saw a good-condition Pratchett. Battered, beat-up, spine bent, dog-eared copies there were occasionally, but never a good-condition copy.”

    I certainly contributed to this phenomenon. Practically my whole collection of battered and worn Heinleins ended up at a local used bookstore a couple of years ago. Why did I get rid of them? Because I replaced them with the hardcover omnibus reprints that the Science Fiction Book Club was offering. Most of those paperbacks had been with me for two or three decades, and I wanted copies that would last the rest of my life, because I reread those books every few years.

    I read For Us, The Living last year, and I just finished Variable Star last week, so I think I have to face the fact that I have finally run out of new Heinlein material. Based on what I’ve read here, I think it’s time I started reading some Scalzi.

  126. This was years ago but … I have a friend who knew me as quite the feminist. I was an officer in our local NOW chapter and all of that. At one point, this friend asked me what I was reading. I told him that I was reading Heinlein. He was horrified with the notion. He told me “didn’t you know that Heinlein was a sexist?” Uhh…say what? I was reading [i]]The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress[/i] and all I was getting out of it was the Libertarian point of view. Or was I?

    Umm, I am about to lose power again so, all I have to say is that Heinlein could tell a good story and this is coming from a card carrying, looking for sexism, feminist. Yes, he might have loved women a bit too much but Whatever!

  127. To tell the truth, the only Heinlein I’ve read is _Stranger in a Strange Land_, and I never really thought to go much further afterwards. I think the Glenn Reynolds recommendation was a lot more influential to me, after I found that he also recommended Charles Stross (which I had picked up before reading that recommendation). As far as slamming the Baen lineup goes, I’m sorry, I enjoy the _1632_ series for the yarns even as I trip over the writing… I just wish they had _Bolo_ for MobiReader in the Free Library.

    And yeah, anyone who judges a writer based on their beliefs rather than their work is a fool, unless the writer gets preachy and proves themself a bigger fool. I read, watch, and listen to tons of stuff written by people I would probably end up smacking (or being smacked by) in the mouth. Happy to do it.

    BTW, “Political Correctness” is both real and objectionable, at least on college campuses, where professors rail on politically in classes irrelevant to their subjects, where dissent from the orthodoxy is punished, where views that disagree with the professors’ are unduly harshly graded when compared to views the professors’ agree with. As far as real world culture is concerned, PC is just something to be mocked, like eating spare ribs at PETA people, or idling a diesel Excursion at a Greenpeace rally.

  128. #120–Yeah, Cassie, I think those are all great intros if tough choices, though my own first bite of RAH was in third grade when my teacher loaned me a copy of Have Spacesuit Will Travel. I stayed up all night reading it, and gave it back the next day. And slept through most of class, of course. At that point I was doomed to be a fan. But for sheer “get a grown-up hooked on Heinlein,” Harsh Mistress rocks. :-)

    #143–Kimberly, nope, you’re not the only one. That last paragraph with that final three-word sentence in Double Star is as moving a bit of prose as RAH ever wrote, sealing the complete conversion of Lorenzo from a total self-centered obnoxious ass to a real person.

  129. “So, am I the only who, year after year, tears up at the end of Double Star when an older and wiser Lorenzo thanks his dear wife Penelope for all her love and support over the years? It’s not for that scene alone that this is my favorite Heinlein novel.”

    No, Kimberly, you’re definitely not the only one.

    During the last few years, I’ve become heavily involved in my local community theatre, acting in a few plays and working backstage on dozens of others. A few months ago, I reread Double Star for the first time since the theatre bug bit me, and I was amazed at how utterly accurate Heinlein is in depicting not only the world of live theatre, but also the mindset of the people who inhabit that world: how they feel about performing, the way they look at the folks in the audience, even things like learning your lines and using stage makeup.

    One of my favorite parts of the book, now, is a passage in which Lorenzo asks himself what his core values are and decides that one of the most important ones is “The show must go on.” Then he works out for himself what that phrase really means and why it’s so important to performers. That passage nails the way theatre people look at what they do. It’s absolutely spot on. And I found myself wondering: how did Heinlein do that? Was he ever involved in theatre? Not that I’ve ever heard of. Maybe he made a point of talking to theatre people and finding out how they think. But it sure impresses the hell out of me, because that book is all told from the point of view of a veteran actor, and it’s done right.

  130. It’s funny, I devoured the juveniles repeatedly for the better part of a decade, and I’m a fire-breathing feminist rabble rouser. And I have *never* thought of Heinlein as sexist. In fact, the only surer path to my bed than comparing me to a Frank Herbert heroine would have to be comparing my charms to a Heilein heroine (nota bene: heroine, not minor supporting character.)

    So did I somehow miss the sexism? Or is it really just a straw woman? I agree that the later books’ “sex sans complications” strikes the adult me as wish fulfillment, but it struck the young adult me as a state devoutly to be wished.

    And while I didn’t come to Scalzi-land because of the RAH comparison (I read the original review with a snort of skepticism, having been burned before by comparisons to my beloved Dune) but when I came across OMW later, it was the RAH comparison that made the name stick in my head. I was just curious enough to crack it open and get hooked.

  131. As for people criticizing my work on political grounds, I always assume it’s because they assume I’m a right wing lunatic. I can’t recall a conservative attacking the book because they felt it was too liberal.

    Yeah, the anger is all on the left now, with their dark night of Bushitlercheneyhalliburtonfascism. Maybe Hillary will get elected and the Right can get angry about stains and cigars again for new and yet more entertaining reasons.

    Anyways, most of the right is still partying from winning the Cold War and can’t be bothered to care about anything of significance for at least another decade. The rest, those too-sober true believers, tried to free Iraq and found out where the road paved with good intentions goes.

  132. So did I somehow miss the sexism?

    The semi-consensual spanking scene in Glory Road comes to mind as the sort of thing that might be deemed offensive. I found it startling anachronistic, reading it for the first time in the 21st century as I did. Sometimes for laughs people dig up some old ads from the 50s with a woman being “disciplined” by her husband, which would be shockingly inappropriate lawsuit magnets today.

  133. The LA Times is now my hometown paper, so help me. Maybe this is their idea of making the books pages “relevant” – after all, we *are* talking about them. They did a similar preconceived notions hit piece of Charles Bukowski two weeks ago. My husband was apoplectic.

  134. # 150 Angelle Says:

    It’s funny, I devoured the juveniles repeatedly for the better part of a decade, and I’m a fire-breathing feminist rabble rouser. And I have *never* thought of Heinlein as sexist. In fact, the only surer path to my bed than comparing me to a Frank Herbert heroine would have to be comparing my charms to a Heilein heroine (nota bene: heroine, not minor supporting character.)

    So did I somehow miss the sexism? Or is it really just a straw woman? I agree that the later books’ “sex sans complications” strikes the adult me as wish fulfillment, but it struck the young adult me as a state devoutly to be wished.

    And while I didn’t come to Scalzi-land because of the RAH comparison (I read the original review with a snort of skepticism, having been burned before by comparisons to my beloved Dune) but when I came across OMW later, it was the RAH comparison that made the name stick in my head. I was just curious enough to crack it open and get hooked.”

    Here, here! You say it very well. The juvenile Heinlein books all had very strong matriarchs in them. I don’t understand the sexist part either. Later on, his heroins were still a lot stronger in some ways then the males.

    I think, in the end, it has to do with his “personal” life and all of the gossip. I’m just sayin.

  135. “Maybe TNofB wasn’t the greatest book RAH ever wrote, but dammit, I thought it was fun, i.e., I was entertained.” –message #63

    I will quote you what I wrote once I finished the book. Sung to the tune of the Badger Song. “Meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta MATH WANK MATH WANK…meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta meta MATH WANK MATH WANK…Seeeeex! Seeeeeex! Ooooooh there’s some seeeeeex! But it’s meta meta meta meta meta…” (And so on and so forth.)

    Tell me I’m wrong.

  136. To certain people at a certain moment RAH had to have been a fascist.
    For those sorts of people Walter Duranty will always be right because his intentions soared above coarse (inconvenient) facts.

    Also RAH was no social Darwinist. The ‘by-products’ of the Howard Families research were never treated as by-products, never left to fend for themselves.

  137. John,

    Despite being a life-long Heinlein fan (we’re talking 50+ years), I never even noticed the blurb on the cover of OMW. I generally don’t read blurbs comparing one author to another because I’ve always assumed such comparisons are just designed to sell books and don’t necessarily have any basis in reality. You can thank Glen Reynolds for my interest in your work, which I have enjoyed thoroughly.

    Like some earlier commentators, I came to Heinlein by way of my grade school library. In my case it was Starman Jones. Shortly after that I signed up for the Science Fiction Book Club and one of the first books I received from them was Stranger in a Strange Land. Quite a leap!

    Since then I’ve read most of Heinleins novels, although I was unable to finish Sunset (despite really enjoying Time Enough for Love) nor Beast.

    Re all the talk about movie versions, I find it curious that no one ever picked up Glory Road for a movie. I always thought it was ready made for a movie adaptation.

    Oh, and like someone mentioned earlier, OMW reminded me more of The Forever War than it did Starship Troopers. All great reads!

  138. I actually picked up Old Man’s War SOLELY because of the Heinlein reference; I own, beat up and much read, every novel he wrote (I think), although I’m not a fan of much after “A Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” Post purchase of OMW, but before I read it, Marissa Lingen also recommended it, so I buckled down to reading it, and the two sequels. Wonderful. As it happens, my 8th grader just finished Star Beast, and I reread it as well; yeah, I know, it’s dated, it’s a juvenile, BEM and all that, but well plotted and a fine story. Do you suppose if I call that reporter he could tell me where the facists are in that book? I must have missed’em.

    barry anderson
    st. paul, MN

  139. @144 –Alex Pournelle

    P.S. The website link is clearly a transparent attempt to pitch for the very words which paid my way through college, so my reasoning is immediately suspect.

    Well, yeah, that and the fact that RAH was a fellow Academy man :-)

  140. Heinlein is considered a fascist by some circles because he appears to believe the second amendment is an individual’s right, that being in the military is an ennobling experience, that humanity has a future that isn’t all hair suit and sacrifice for the enviroment, or the revolution, or God, or whatever.

    He is considered sexist for noting that men and women are different. They are not identical replacements for one or the other. Women get pregnant, men don’t. This has a profound effect on how folks act toward each other, regardless of culture. Its innate at the species level.

    He is read by many libertarians, because they feel he is one of them. And “Farnam’s Freehold”, “Starship Trooper” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” to name a few would support that. Which would make Heinlein the strange combination of Fascist Libertarian.

    So he would have a government that was militantly inclined to leave you alone, and let you fend for yourself? So men and women are identical replacements for each other? Am I missing something?

    I don’t get it.

    [Re: Starship Trooper: Johnny's Dad showed little concern for the flogging he would receive, during the argument. But note, that the flogging would not be for speaking out against the government. It was for stopping an adult, another citizen, in the lawful exercize of their rights. He could talk, argue, rant, rave, debate, whatever. He could not use coersive force to compel another. This is more consistent with a libertarian style government than one rule via a Gestapo, or KGB]

  141. John, I was intrigued about your book by Glenn Reynold’s comments. The Heinlein blurb tends to make me a little wary, after being burned a couple of times.

    As for your snarky comments about lit-fic, I don’t see ‘em as being snarky so much as being Freudian.

    Let’s face it, a lot of stuff out there gets written, not because there’s a story to tell, but because the author is trying to impress his buddies. Working in the TV news (sports) biz for 25+ years gives me a little insight on that.

    You have to have a story. You also have to have talent, but talent without story turns a writer into Chuck Pahlaniuk or Salman Rushdie.

    I have little liking for lit-fic. Anything consciously written to be lit-fic tends to be pompous and condescending toward the reader. Yuck.

    In my opinion, John D. MacDonald was one of the finest writers of the past fifty years when it comes down to the basics of telling a story. He made his stories move, and managed to sneak in a little preaching in such a way that it fit perfectly. For proof, check out the last three paragraphs of chapter 18 of “The Scarlet Ruse.” It looks like a throwaway, but it describes the human condition better than any lit-fic bloviation.

    Oh, yeah. Ol’ John D. wrote himself a couple of hellacious science fiction novels himself. I re-read the McGee series, and his other books, about once a year.

  142. From the article: “Here at the store I actively resist promoting him, because he was a fascist,” said Charles Hauther, the science fiction buyer at Skylight Books. “People don’t seem to talk about him anymore. I haven’t had a conversation about Heinlein in a long time.”

    From the bookstore’s website: “Charles has been working in bookstores for over 15 years and has found it to be the best place to hide from the responsibilities of adult society. He is an avid reader and has probably read more books than you. As an Angeleno, Charles tries to stay healthy by hiking with his dog and continually attempting to look and act younger than he is. He is not anywhere near as obnoxious as he used to be, but he does still enjoy being the person farthest to the Left in any dinner conversation.”

    Yeesh! Doesn’t that just say it all. Every time there is a new “Tarzan” movie, there isn’t this wave of criticism about how sexist and racist Burroughs’ writing is.

    Plenty of people, of course authors included, change dramatically between their 20s and 30s to their 60s and 70s. I just try and take stuff in context (I remember being offended for all of about 5 seconds when I was a teenager and read a Lovecraft reference to Polish immigrants, who could have been my grandparents, as pretty much untermenschen).

    I agree with a “Mike” from way up the list: I have abandoned Orson Scott Card’s work because of his political views.

    And “TallDave,” plenty of my conservative friends have a lot of anger towards the current administration, too.

  143. A few comments which may (or may not) add something to this discussion.

    (1) Heinlein’s politics evolved with time. In the early chapters of Beyond This Horizon, the bureaucrat character defends the “funny money” policies advocated in British Columbia and a few other places. Of course, “funny money” is clearly an eccentric idea, and arguably a left-wing idea.

    (2) Joelfinklle suggested that Heinlein needed “An editor.” Yes and no. The editor of the juveniles, as described in Grumbles from the Grave, probably hurt a few books. I used to think this, particularly after reading (oh, why can’t I remember the title? the story with the brain transplant); but I re-read it a year or so ago, and found it to be acceptable (if not Heinlein’s best.)

    (3) Sergeant E said “science is overtaking him.” Well, that doesn’t hurt a good story. People still read “Red Planet” and Edgar Rice Burroughs, even though Mars cannot be anything as described in the stories. (But, for that matter, when Red Planet was published, the odds were very, very good that there were no canals on Mars.)

    (Of course, I tend to think that torch ships (as in Double Star) are impossible; and energetically improbable even when the book was first published; that isn’t what the story was about.)

    (4) Our moderator, John Scalzi, made a comment about what we read. Science Fiction authors (I have just ordered OMW) can’t write things as fast as I can read them. When I was young, used bookstores had vast numbers of SF books I had never read; my home library contains well over 4,000 books. Today, I mostly read murder mysteries, waiting (like the cat who ate cheese) with baited breath for new novels by David Weber and Harry Turtledove.

  144. Ulrika, how last century of you. I haven’t been to a bookstore (except used PBs, where I picked up a copy of the Great Books for a steal, btw) in decades. How a book store (or almost any other retailer) arranges its displays has no effect on my purchases. I’m willing to admit that I may be an early-adopter, but you better get over the distributor focus or whatever it is that you do, which seems industry related by your comments, will suffer for it.

    John, between this thread and the blogfather, I’m going to buy OMW. (the rest will depend on you, not the comparison).

    My feeling about Heinlein (and I can’t believe no one used this extended simile before because I think he’d approve): He’s like pizza; even when it’s not so good, it’s good.

  145. Re: Card. I always read his first book; often read the second; sometimes read the third; rarely read anything later.

    It has nothing to do with his politics. His writing drops off dramatically. Compare Valentine’s Castle with (however it’s spelled) Chronicles or Ender’s Game with Xenocide or Songs of Distant Earth with, well, the rest of the series.

  146. To truly understand The Number of the Beast, you have to have read it, said to yourself, “Hmm, that’s really odd.” and read the rest of his later works, roughly in the order he wrote them. Then go back and read The Number of the Beast again, and this time, you’ll get it. It’s the introductory book to RAH’s World As Myth meta-theme which is dealt with in his later works. The idea that “fictons” exist which influence the particular universe you happen to be in, perhaps with some bleeding over to nearby universes, is an extraordinary idea.

    It’s too bad Alexi Panshin wrote his critique book of Heinlein (from which I learned a lot) when he did, and only compared the earlier works (the juveniles) to the later works (the adults), without having the opportunity to also compare what I believe to be the third segment of RAH’s works, that is, the World as Myth works. (Number of the Beast hadn’t come out when Panshin wrote about Heinlein.)

    And as has been agreed upon here, Heinlein was a great story teller. Some of his books remain the same when you read them over and over again, but others seem to change–but it’s really I that have changed, as I realized when I first re-read
    Stranger in a Strange Land a decade after I first read it when it came out. (I think I was 15 or 16 at the time.) I’ve re-read it every decade since, just to see how my outlook has changed.

  147. “Ayn Rand’s philosophy works perfectly well as long as you’re an Ayn Rand character; otherwise it’s complete crap.”

    Like Mr. Scalzi’s opinions….

  148. I didn’t even notice the comparison to Heinlein when I picked up OMW, or if I did it didn’t register. I tend to be distrustful of any book blurb, for the simple fact that they’re there for the sole purpose of selling the book. It’s the same reason I don’t run out and buy products I see advertised on TV.

    What caught my eye was the title itself. As a vet military history is something of a hobby with me, and every conflict has been described as “A young man’s war”. Because, well, they are. I thought the concept was an interesting new take on the human condition, and by God I was right. When I finished the book I found my way here, and I’ve been reading our host’s work ever since.

    As a diehard RAH fan, I’d have to say the camparison is an accurate one, though like others I can see the similiarities to Forever War as well.

  149. 126. James Davis Nicoll

    I have Rite of Passage, which my 13 year old daughter now keeps away from me in her bedroom, where it is frequently found on the top of her reading stack.

    I have a collection of short stories with another Panshin story in it, but other than it’s set in the same universe, I can’t remember what its name.

  150. Well, I’m biased toward Heinlein just because, back in college when I was a leftie Democratic Party rabble-rouser in Eugene, Oregon, I happened into the apartment of a certain man whose bookshelf contained Heinlein. A *lot* of Heinlein. And he could talk about it.

    Twenty-eight some years later, I’ve been married to that guy for twenty-six years. He was a vast improvement on the previous boyfriend, who constantly tried to convince me that SF was trash. We both still read SF and we have similar tastes–as does our son.

    I still read Heinlein. He’s up there with Bujold, Bear, Scalzi, Stross, and a few others for writing a rocking good story with all sorts of “oooh! shiny!” bits to it. Fault him for the politics as you may (I certainly have occasional issues), but the man wrote a damned good story.

    And anyone who wants to claim he’s sexist hasn’t gone off for a chat or two with Hazel Stone.

  151. Wow, having Mr. Hayden agree with me, color me blush (and Charles Stross, indrectly, more blush)

    Having a wife and several close friends who study serious literary theory, I cannot help but absorb some of it. One of the things I most often feel when talking about literature with them is, “Damn! My favorite Sf books do THAT! Why the hell aren’t they taken seriously as *literature*?”

    Since the subject was brought up, I think some ideas that are important to keep in mind when discussing Heinlein and sexuality are his age and the time period in which the books were written. He was born in 1907, and while I am sure he was more successful than most at trying to learn about gender stereotypes and outgrow his societal indoctrination, he did most of that before gender theory was even invented. Not to mention the phrase “gender stereotypes”!

    Second, PNH was absolutely correct in noting Heinlein’s fervent desire to break out of the genre, and by being too radical he wouldn’t have a chance. In the 70’s when he was his own master, his exploration of sexuality was all over the map for someone of his age demographic.

    By modern feminist standards he’s quite sexist in his view of sexuality, sometimes, but I’m not sure that’s a fair judgment. His heroines are frequently passive sexually, to be sure, but they’re certainly not doormats, nor are they particularly outside the bound of what real live women prefer in bed. I think the most critical thing I could say is that most of his strong women seem to be reflections of Ginny, his wife.

    For instance, someone above brought up spanking, but I remember in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls that the most vivid female character, Gwen, was certainly *not* into that, and also that she didn’t judge her husband for his peccadillo. Again, RAH seems to be promoting the fact that not everyone behaves in bed the way that you do, get over it, but preferably, get into it because it could be fun. However, my wife noted that none of the men in his books were into passive sexuality, such as liking to receive spanking.

    Bringing up the rape scene in Friday seems to me missing the point of that scene, which was to brutally emphasize and establish that she did not see herself as human. I’m of course reading this as a het man. She did not react to the rape as a human woman would, but as the nonhuman she saw herself as at that time, and as a trained agent who disparaged such ineffective methods of breaking down a prisoner. “Oh, please! Just stop, I’m not a human woman, so this is just tiresome” was her attitude that I got in the scene. It seemed vital to her character development, and the rest of the book was her learning about human interaction and being human. I think Heinlein intentionally used that scene as a shocker to break the reader out of paradigms and to viscerally get the reader into the mindset of his protagonist who saw the world very, very differently from the way the average reader would. Friday has a much different view of her body than an average human woman would, that’s the point. The rest of the book, as I saw it, was about her learning what it means to be human, and that “human” was a state of mind, not of birth. Remember, it’s established from the first chapter that Friday sees her body as a courier device, and she is quite medical in talking about her body even in the rape scene, so her lack of human attachment to it is a major factor in his presentation of her body image. Compare how her body image evolves over the course of the book.

    I’m not saying that you should read Friday with modern feminist philosophy of body image in mind, necessarily, but that you should read it as it is. It’s a critical examination of what it means to be human from the perspective of one who does not see herself as human. Heinlein was still exploring the classic SF idea of how the “other” thinks. Campbell asked his writers to explore such ideas, and RAH was still exploring this.

    And, just to note, I’ve been a reader of Whatever for a while. I loved reading about John’s writing of Old Man’s War while it was being created. I must say that I’ve never had the experience of reading about a book I wanted to read before I read it, and that is why OMW has such a special place in my mind. I felt that I was a part of its creation, in a small way.

    The Heinlein reference did nothing for me, as I bought it the instant it became available. I will say that in the 80s the reference to Heinlein was a stereotype, along with the phrase “a stunning tour de force” which I automatically ignored.

  152. I like Spider Robinson’s characterization of the type who seemed to have sparked JS’s little rant here as “loud nits.” Seems most appositive.

    And iggerant, too. As Jack Chalker once said to me, Heinlein was a lot more liberal than you think. The older and more conservative I get, the more I realize — as much as I hate to admit — the old commie was right.

    M

  153. Also, if you love Heinlein juvies, you should absolutely read David Gerrold’s Dingilliad YA novels, which were intentionally modeled after Heinlein juveniles but modernized. Better characters, better writing, and better science. Although I must admit that Mr. Gerrold in the end of each book posits that law is a valid topic in science fiction, which I’m perfectly okay with being an ex law librarian. I adored his law scenes, I must admit.

    I think he brings up an interesting point that few SF writers have approached, which is the theory of law in society. Considering the latest storm in SF about copyright, it’s an aspect of SF that needs to be seriously approached in fiction not in a snide snarky way, but as a serious topic of SF plotting.

    His Dingilliad books are magnificent in dealing with this topic, for a YA audience, in a way that I’ve never seen in other SF.

    Recommended.

  154. I was profoundly influenced by Heinlein’s adult stuff when I was, basically, a juvenile, and I guess I forgive him a lot (certain weaknesses of female characters come to mind) based on great story-telling and good characters. I started with “The Cat Who Walked Through Walls” at 14 and basically ran through “Time Enough for Love”, “Number of the Beast”, and “To Sail Beyond Sunset”–it was kind of the literature of my coming of age (luckily, my parents thought it was all about rocket ships and aliens, not incest and underage…relations. So my library remained intact.)

    So I snarfed up “Job” and “Stranger in a Strange Land”–and “Friday”….and I guess I liked them–I kept reading, and specifically, I kept reading science fiction, because I was impressed with the ideas there. I might not have thought Heinlein heroines were necessarily probable role models, and I might not have grokked all of what was implied politically–but I got a little wisdom from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long.

    To me, Heinlein was the well-spring of my fantasy enjoyment of literature, and the Multi-worlds literary stuff in “Number of the Beast”, (once I actually dug it all the way through by looking up Hugh Everett after coming across his name when I read Robert Anton Wilson–at exactly the same time, lucky, confused, adolescent me) really was kind of my idea of what heaven would be. I guess that was the sort of childhood fantasy of the Summerlands which I always associate with Tipler, now. (Anthropic principle, etc…)

    In a way, despite whatever political distaste or sexism is perceived (I think there may be a “generations and generations” gap at work–I’ve always recognized he was old enough to be my grandfather) I respect that Heinlein was unique–sometimes wrong, and sometimes too self indulgent (Laz and Lor can’t wait to be one with Lazarus! eyeyiyi!), but always compelling. He expressed ideas through his fiction, and it’s no bad thing to be compared to a great storyteller, whose ideas really did come across in his works. Even if my opinions about some things change (I grow ever the less libertarian, as I recognize more and more I am mortal, and so’s everyone else) I still know reading Heinlein when I did kind of influenced who I am., if that makes sense.

    It’s no mean comparison, anyhow, and not a bad one.

  155. I liked Heinlein as he was a navy officer not too far away from my time. I could sniff the same culture… I enjoyed the original stuff… Then he got discovered and started adding sex, probably at the instigation of the publisher… He was too much of a gentleman to write-and-tell… And like may sci-fi authors and tales, the sex overwhelmed the magic…

    If you start writing Bodice-rippers and replacing insight and surprise with boobies, I’ll move on… In the meantime…. Carry On- You write em. I’ll buy em.

    PS… Best Short Story Ever- By His Bootstraps… No tale has lingered as long of spun questions on a long drive down the highway

  156. And “TallDave,” plenty of my conservative friends have a lot of anger towards the current administration, too.

    Oh sure, any minarchist can find a lot of faults, and the paleocons never saw the point of Iraq and are now clucking their tongues and saying “see, you naive neocons, Arabs don’t really want liberal democracy and can’t make it work anyway,” surge notwithstanding. But much of the Left paints the Bushies as evil rather than overly idealistic; I find the hysteria entertaining.

    FWIW I think books, like all entertainment, have gotten better and better. I can barely watch any movie made before 1990 or so, and, genius in his time though he was, I find Heinlein’s books interesting more for his impact on the genre than for their intrinsic value; on the merits I’d much rather read Stross, Scalzi, Goodkind or Glen Cook. Even the almost contemporary Zelazny stuff I grew up on seems less brilliant with time, as I discover books like “Armies of Memory” and “Resonance.”

  157. “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” was the first “real” book I read, way back in elementary school.

    That led to me becoming a lifetime SF&F fan, a gift I’ll forever be grateful to RAH for.

    “Starship Troopers” led me to the Marine Corps, and got me through boot camp. My very own letter from DuBois. :)

    His other juvie books were always entertaining, and more often than not I took away some sort of life lesson from them, without having to pay the course fees the hard way.

    “Time Enough for Love” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” also made me look at the world in a different way, or at least look at it differently far sooner than I would have without reading them.

    My love for SF&F finally led me to a career in video game (MMORPG) design which lets me unleash my pretenses as a storyteller, with a regular (good) paycheck and benefits. Tolkien didn’t take me there, college didn’t take me there, RAH did.

    While I don’t worship Heinlein, I do have an enormous amount of respect for his work. Evoke his name and some of that respect is transferred to the new author, which means some of my money is transferred to that author as well.

    Those blurbs sold me on Spider Robinson, sold me on Joe Haldeman, and sold me on John Scalzi.

    Actually, Glen Reynolds sold Scalzi to me, but that’s a different story. :)

  158. Re #167 above: Panshin did indeed write about The Number of the Beast, in depth, in the long essay “The Death of Science Fiction: A Dream” in the collection SF in Dimension (Advent, 1980). He had read a copy of it in typescript while it was still being auctioned among publishers. Panshin’s thesis is essentially that Heinlein in this book was deliberately trying to explode everything that science fiction had stood for, in part by showing that his own “Future History” not only isn’t our own history but is one of a great many timelines.

    Well, the idea of multiple timelines is hardly new, but it’s one thing to use it as the basis for a relatively concise story (such as Jack Vance’s 1973 novella “Rumfuddle”) and quite another thing to use it as the armature for books that revisit characters from earlier novels. I admit that there must be some proportion of Heinlein fans who believe The Cat Who Walks Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset (the two main “World as Myth” books) are important works – and I know of one Heinlein scholar who, if it were up to him, would go so far as to reissue The Past Through Tomorrow under the title “Timeline: Leslie LeCroix”! – but I think most readers familiar with Heinlein’s earlier work believe that he came up with this timeline scheme only as an excuse for allowing his past characters to interact. If he did so for some good reason, not simply to amuse himself or for lack of a proper idea for a plot, I’ve never been able to fathom it.

  159. I am with Kimberly and the others above: that last half-page of Double Star still gives me moist eyes and a lump in the throat. If only we had a few politicians who ‘got’ those last words! For a short introduction to Heinlein, I’d recommend it.At age 7 I found “Citizen of the Galaxy”; read it in a day, went back to the library and picked up “Have Space Suit-Will Travel” and “The Door Into Summer”, and I was hooked for life on RAH.

    Mr Scalzi, between this discussion and the Instapundit’s recommendation I will pick up OMW before the year is out.

    BTW, though I love RAH and like Spider Robinson, I found “Variable Star” so very bad I could not in good conscience hand it on to anyone; I sent it to the landfill and hope it does not pollute the groundwater. Vulgarity that Heinlein did not indulge in even though he could have in his later works had he wished, and PC preaching that destroyed the story while interrupting the suspension of disbelief, turning the fiction into a polemic rant.

  160. A third-tier author of very modestly successful science fiction, who will be forgotten in twenty years, and who delights in being compared to a science fiction witer who shot his wad fifty years ago, disparages the writings of Ayn Rand, all of whose work, fiction and non-fiction, is currently and will be forever in print.

    An unemployable, morbidly obese loser (Byron), who lives in a toxic garage and has mooched off his friends and sucked off the taxpayer’s teat for over five years, sneers at her philosophy.

    Really, it is to laugh.

  161. Re “fascist”, “right-winger”, and other would-be pejoratives applied to Robert Heinlein, The Person — time to reiterate a quote ascribed to Larry Niven, which I remembered but found difficult to Giggle.

    Niven’s Law of Fictional Assumption:

    There is a technical term for anyone who thinks that a fictional character’s biases and prejudices are those of the author’s; that technical term is: ‘idiot’.
    – Excerpted with thanks from Charlie Stross’ blog entry

    To Scott Timberg, if you can hear this with your head stuffed in that hole: If Heinlein’s fame is waning, why the hell do you feel it necessary or worthwhile to write about it?
    This reader will continue to interpret meaningful comparisons to Heinlein as a positive indicator, subject to the usual grain of salt.

    #47, #51: Alex and wolfwalker win the prize for correct summary. Well played!

    And FWIW, Job, Friday, and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls are excellent counterexamples to the “his later works were cr*p” school of thought.

  162. I guess I’m one of the few people that actually liked many of the late-period Heinlein novels. Number of the Beast was pretty painfull, but I really enjoyed The Cat who Walks Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. I think that comes from enjoying his short stories more than his juveniles.

    Of the many authors I read pretty regularly, only two stand out as being particularly “Heinlein” –

    John Scalzi – reminiscent of Heinlein’s juveniles era, fun to read yarns that don’t go too deep into politics

    Michael Z. Williamson (Freehold, The Weapon) – taking a stand for the rugged individualist, pretty much the TANSTAAFL (Moon is a Harsh Mistress) philosophy of Heinlein, with the open acceptance of the non-conformist lifestyle choices.

  163. ‘…you’re not privileged to state what my intention is.’

    Author slays intentional fallacy – subtext follows at 11.

  164. I have a teenage son with his head stuck pretty far up his hind end but I am pretty confident that he’s going to be okay in the long run because, on his own, he picked up my old RAH paperbacks and read them all.

  165. Hurrah!

    I’m suddenly very glad that I just bought one of your books (via a friend’s recommendation).

    I love most of Heinlein’s books (everyone is allowed a few turkeys) – and as a young woman, I found them inspirational, not sexist! Characters like Hazel Meade Stone were few and far between when I was a lass. Heinlein made me believe I could have both a brain and children – one of the factors that decided me to go to university.

  166. I have no opinion about RAH the person, as I never met him.

    (Philip K. Dick, in an interview, described that Heinlein helped him out financically when he was struggling. Did RAH read Philip K. Dick’s stories?)

    BTW, I prefer Heinlein’s shorter stories where he runs wild with an idea — such as “All You Zombies,” “They,” or “Magic Inc.”

    I admire that as a writer, he always wanted to try something new. And his career also proves that it’s possible to not repeat oneself and be successful.

  167. I have read pretty much all of RAH’s material and enjoyed most of them. Time Enough for Love is wonderful, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress ditto; the juveniles are great – I will give copies to my nieces and other young relations.

    If I have a term for RAH, it is “rugged individualist”; he was also born in Mark Twain’s home state of Missouri and I can see the resemblences, not least the love of paradox.

    The sharp crack about Rand was not really fair; I think her attack on the collectivist culture was generally accurate.

  168. Alex Pournelle wrote (in part) in #144:

    “Bravo, Mr. Scalzi, for standing up for the (as we used to say) Kind With Rivets.”

    What ho, Alex! Yep; I love not only the kind with rivets, but where the rivets *aren’t* countersunk and they stick up into the airstream!!!

  169. Scalzi said: [quote]As for people criticizing my work on political grounds, I always assume it’s because they assume I’m a right wing lunatic. I can’t recall a conservative attacking the book because they felt it was too liberal. This is amusing for many different reasons.[/quote]

    I get the same thing with “Freehold.” The far right says, “Well, a little more sex and kink than I like, but a very good story and with some excellent insight.” The left screams about me being a libertarian asshole/moron/race traitor/etc.

    I guess we can tell where the “liberals” are not.

    As to critics and litrachoor:

    in 1999, over 1000 professional and scholarly criticisms were written about Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” Name one.

    Have you ever read, “The Catcher in the Rye” for fun, and not at the direction of an instructor?

    1967: Leland Frederick Cooley wrote, “Condition Pink.” It is critically acclaimed. Have you read it? Have you heard of it?
    “Condition Pink is totally unlike most ‘wartime’ comedies; for beneath its zaniness, tumult and fun lies a message.”

    Um…Catch 22, MASH, Doctor Strangelove, Glory Road….ooops sorry about that. But I believe those works have messages, yes?

    For me, calling something “literature” is the equivalent of telling me slimy oysters, half-rotten cheese and partially digested organ parts are “acquired tastes” and “delicacies.” And I shan’t be acquiring them.

    Of course, I also had the opposite. “Williamson’s first novel is not as good as Heinlein’s best.”

    Well, I’d be amazed if it were. But if that’s an insult, THANK YOU! You could have compared me to 50 lesser writer, but you chose the 800 lb gorilla of the SF genre. Thankyouthankyouthankyou. Care to say I’m not as good as Pournelle or Niven’s best next?

    On the subject of writer attitudes, I recall someone at a convention insisting that Harlan Ellison was unlikely to sell many more copies because no one who’s met him can stand him.

    Hmm…percentage of readers who’ve been to a con where Harlan is, interacted and had a bad experience? Less than 1:10,000? Lower? IOW, the readers don’t give a crap.

    And the gentleman was wrong. I like Harlan. I know others who do. I guess it depends on how you approach him.

  170. “In the Jhereg series, we start with a fun tale of assassins in a far-away fantasy empire, and then suddenly *BAM* we’re thrown into a tale of class-struggle. And the main character goes from being a witty adventurer to a whining straw-man whose only purpose for two books is to be wrong.”

    Yeah, most Brust fans find Teckla and Phoenix hard to read (Kelly must DIE!), but after the 3rd-person nadir of Athyra, and Orca, the books get much, much better. Issola was a hoot and Dzur give the promise that the debts of Phoenix are going to be paid.

    So while I think Brust monkey-wrenched the Taltos series, the result was improvement and character-development, and salvation from endless iterations of “Impossible-to-kill guy who Vlad will nonetheless takedown, with assistace from Morrolan, Aliera, Sethra, Kiera, and Cawti, while Loiosh smirks and Kragar does the scut-work and walks into rooms without being noticed.”

    ‘Course, that’s me.

  171. As Spider Robinson once said, “Rah Rah RAH!” Heinlein used to say that he dealt with his enemies by outliving them. His work will outlive his self-proclaimed critics, too.

  172. 171:

    Rats, I was going to plug the SFBC edition of that one.

    I once asserted mournfully to John Pelan that none of Panshin’s books were in print, then discovered that not only did the Club have an edition of Rite but I’d been the person who did the report.

    A number of his books can be got as e-books:

    http://www.enter.net/~torve/books/booksby.htm

    If I recall correctly, New Generations is the collected Anthony Villiers books. Farewell to Yesterday’s Tomorrow has at least one story set in the period between Rite and the Villiers books.

  173. Annalee: A lot of LIBERTARIANS throw up a little in our mouths when Ron Paul gets going, and blatantly puke when his cheerleaders sound off.

    The suckage of Total Recall…wasn’t that a VERHOEVEN adaptation?

    And “good movie” and “Starship Troopers” do not go in the same sentence, unless “I hope someday” is in there as well. No, there are no other exceptions. No, there is nothing good about it. Take RAH out of it completely (Because Verhoeven did anyway) and it’s all crap. The acting, the writing, the special effects, the suspension of disbelief turning into a choking noose 15 seconds in (The bugs can accelerate an asteroid to superluminal velocity, fling it across the galaxy and pinpoint the city they want to hit, and we’re arguing over whether or not they’re intelligent???? Everyone arguing that point: Step into this logchipper), the attempt to portray Heinlein as a “crypto fascist” based on things he never said (which almost EVERY negative review of the book does), the boggling, pathetic and bizarre portrayal of the military (umm…guys? We won’t be using full auto 7.62 NATO in 300 years. And if FA 7.62 at point blank range doesn’t stop a bug, YOU NEED A BIGGER GUN. Just sayin. Also, maneuver elements, communications, logistical tail, support weapons, CAS, recon, artillery, ADA and VEHICLES FOR YOUR MANEUVER ELEMENTS would be Good Things To Have if you want to play soldier today, kthx), all bad.

    I’ve noticed it tends to be popular with poorly-socialized, culturally clueless table top gamers and people who shoot up with X-Box, though.

    But I did like Bladerunner;-)

  174. 138: “But maybe Heinlein was prescient in seeing it becoming a theocracy.”

    The US has spawned populist religious movements at least since the Great Awakening. It’s as American as doomed utopian communities. Imaging a demagog taking advantage of the American vulnerability to cults isn’t that large a leap.

  175. John said:

    “As for people criticizing my work on political grounds, I always assume it’s because they assume I’m a right wing lunatic. I can’t recall a conservative attacking the book because they felt it was too liberal. This is amusing for many different reasons.”

    I had to noodle that for a while. While I enjoy the books from the OMW series, I never took them as “Right Wing”. To me, the de facto “Liberal” point of view was just too obvious.

    However, blindly attacking the work as some sort of political screed seems ridiculous. Aren’t we supposed to consider other opinions before making decisions? How can you do that if you stick your fingers in your ears and sing “La! La! La!” at the top of your lungs every time someone disagrees with a cherished assumption or comes to a different conclusion?

    In my case, because the characters in OMW are engaging and empathetic and because the story flows and doesn’t kick me out of my reader’s trance, I don’t care whether John Scalzi is a Democrat, Republican, or New Martian Federal Nudist. Whether I agree with the deeper plausibilities, extrapolations, or assumptions that simmer beneath the prose or not, they’re a great read and I recommend them along with other books I enjoy – including those written by people I pointedly avoid political discussions with.

    Isn’t it a sad testement to glass houses that many of the “open” minds of speculative fiction – the uber genre that’s supposed to start by challenging readers to stretch their imaginations – snap shut based on an assumption of whether a work or the author that created the work is “liberal” or “conservative”?

  176. Jim Wright @ #109:

    “Chris is an Associate Research Professor at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the world, so he knows.”

    I’ve forwarded Chris the link to the discussion. There will be no living with him now!

    (Full disclosure: I’ve known Chris for about ten years or so. He’s a great guy.)

  177. Tim K (#190):

    Thanks for the shout-out. My pathetic attempts at rabble-rousing and startin’ a new fan-war have otherwise gone unpunished… Even UO’B didn’t sideswipe them with a drive-by like “So-called modern right-wingnuts”. I’m so disappointed.

    I’m thinkin’ I should go put some hard coin down for our host’s books, since so many people I know seem to like them.

    Let’s see, setting the record straight: Heinlein was directly involved in what evolved into the so-called “Star Wars” speech, as were more’n a few S-F authors of lesser note. Certainly, his name attached to the report helped get it read in certain circles in WADC. Some would argue that speech helped topple the Iron Curtain, probably more influence on history than, say, Michener.

    I asked Mr. Heinlein if he worried that right-wing fundies would protest over Job‘s rather non-doctrinal take on the Christian God and he replied “I certainly hope so.” Alas, the moody-literalist crowd didn’t consider him enough of a target, didn’t get it, or just ignored him*. The man enjoyed being a bomb-thrower, as long as they spelled his name right and pimped the book.

    –Alex Pournelle

    *Though, for balance, I sp’ose I should mention Christopher Moore’s Lamb, which tells a rather non-doctrinaire tale of what Jesus did between ages 12 and 30, is studied in some seminaries, so maybe not all of us God-believers are quite so inflexible as all that. (I just wish Moore would write faster.)

  178. Don’t mock the New Martian Federal Nudist party. They’re strong contenders to replace the Greens.

    I hope.

    And Scalzi right wing? Give them some of Kratman’s stuff. Or mine. Something a little further right than that bleeding heart pansy Ghengis Khan.

  179. Michael Z. Williamson:

    “And Scalzi right wing? Give them some of Kratman’s stuff. Or mine.”

    Heh. I inevitably disappoint anyone who comes here thinking I’m right-wing. The nice thing is that most of them don’t end up holding it against me. Because, after all, we’re all flawed one way or another, so why should I be any different.

  180. John: I find it more entertaining and educational to debate with people I disagree with.

    This does not include Timberg, as he’s clearly a moron, politics aside.

    It’s sad that the people who could most benefit from reading Friday don’t seem to get it, or have heard bad things about it from someone else who didn’t get it, and thus haven’t read it.

  181. *For me, calling something “literature” is the equivalent of telling me slimy oysters, half-rotten cheese and partially digested organ parts are “acquired tastes” and “delicacies.” And I shan’t be acquiring them.*

    I’m saving that for future usage.

  182. *Don’t mock the New Martian Federal Nudist party. They’re strong contenders to replace the Greens.*

    Only if we get those “no funds for humans on Mars” clauses out of the funding legislation!

  183. 198: “The US has spawned populist religious movements at least since the Great Awakening. It’s as American as doomed utopian communities. Imaging a demagog taking advantage of the American vulnerability to cults isn’t that large a leap.”

    With all due respect, this is hyperbolic nonsense. Go to the Lincoln Memorial and read the Second Inaugural Address. It’s full of the kind of language that theocracy fearmongers get all in a tizzy over. Yet here we are, 143 years later, and we’re still paying taxes to the government, not tithes.

  184. I disagree with assertions that Heinlein was either fascist or sexist. If anything, he turned both of those terms on their heads. That’s what has his political critics so hoping mad.

    Rather than the fascist position of identifying the well-being of individuals with the well-being of their nation-state, Heinlein inverted the relationship. He asserted that an individual should be willing to defend his country, but he didn’t assume that a lack of that willingness was always a failure on the part of the individual. Instead, he considered it a measure of the worthiness of the state whether it’s citizens would voluntarily defend it.

    As for sexism, Heinlein was most definitely a sexist in the worst possible way as far as his critics are concerned. He believed that men and women are different. He clearly differentiated between his male and female characters. I don’t recall every having to think about whether he was using male or female names or pronouns to determine the sex of any character who hung around for more than a few paragraphs and said something. Even worse, he believed that the differences between the sexes was a good thing, and his characters did too. The women in his books did not resent chivalrous behavior from the men around them. And perhaps most damning, he didn’t believe that this indicated that women were inferior. I can’t say with certainty that he believed they were superior, but there are some strong indications that he did.

    From where I sit, sexism is discrimination against individuals based on their sex. That is, treating them inappropriately based on stereotypes that may not apply. Heinlein did not do that. His female characters were women. They had strong personalities, even when they didn’t possess physical strength. His male characters, at least his male protagonists, were strongly protective of the women around them, not out a sense of superiority, but out of a belief that women should be defended.

  185. 210: ” I can’t say with certainty that he believed they were superior, but there are some strong indications that he did.”

    Does any rational person not believe women are the superior sex?

  186. I haven’t read OMW, but I’ll look for it at B&N and see what I think of the first few pages.

    When I was 10, I found Red Planet. When I was 12, I got my first library card; the first book I took out was Spacesuit. Then I read big sis’s copies of 6xH, Beyond This Horizon, Double Star (in mag), Citizen of the Galaxy (in mag), ST, Door Into Summer, and parts of the Future History. Then RAH lost his mind — I’m one of those who was firmly convinced that the second half (approximately) of SiaSL was written by someone else. Confirmed by the excellence of MiaHM! Then, when I was about 20, the juvies appeared in pb, and I bought and read all of them, including the three I’d already read but didn’t own.

    Heinlein’s last 7 books are pure crap! Sunset is one of the sickest books I have ever encountered. NotB was RAH playing silly games — where’s the plot? Job is intended to offend absolutely everyone. Friday’s not so bad, but only by comparison. Apparently, he was always this way, just hiding it — his first-written-last-published thing seems to demonstrate that.

    Some years ago, I mentioned an RAH book to a group of young (early 20s) femmefen, but they hadn’t read it. They’d read no RAH; they couldn’t — everyone knows that he’s a MCP! How in the world did their brainwasher decide that? All the main characters are male? So? There are some strong females (not in RP) but why should we girls care? I read both Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys before that. (Me, I wish I were PeeWee. She’s lots braver than I am; I was 18 before I struck out on my own.)

  187. 11 Nate,

    I’ve been present at book signings when John Ringo declined such a comparison saying he aspired to be in that league, and hadn’t made it yet.

    And yes, I am a huge fan of both Heinlein and Ringo.

  188. I must be a rare creature: I largely agree with Heinlein’s politics, but do not like his writing — any more. I used to love his books in my teens and early twenties; what spoiled them for me was the realization that human beings do not act that way! Well, some do, but far too few to make Heinlein’s societies possible.

    The most egregious example of such is “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” When people are thrown together with no laws, they do not work like beavers to build productive businesses, respect each other’s rights and individuality, and fight together to preserve their freedom. What really happens is few strong ruthless and charismatic individuals emerge as leaders, and the rest join up with them for protection. IOW, they form gangs/tribes, most if not all of them open to outside influence and bribery.

    When men greatly outnumber women, women are not placed on a pedestal, given complete control over their sexuality, and collectively protected by all the men. Instead, they become property. And in the above situation, women would become, essentially, prizes in gang warfare.

    I do not know whether Heinlein realized the impossibility of TMIAHM society (and many others he created). He either never understood, or refused to accept that most human beings value security over freedom, Ben Franklin’s famous quote notwithstanding. A different example of impossibility is the pioneer society Lazarus Long reminesces about in “Time Enough For Love” — a planet at 19th Century technology level, periodically visited by a trading FTL starship. I can accept that among humanity spread through the Galaxy some would WANT to live with minimal technology. I can not accept that they would have anything worthwhile to trade with anyone who has technology far above our current one. And in fact TEFL never explains what that trade consists of. Such juxtaposition of spaceships and primitive living is not unique to Heinlein, but he really seemed to like it. I think he wanted self-reliant pioneer societies, but with (far enough) civilization to contrast them with. Unfortunately, “far enough” required space travel, often FTL. Again, I found such premises forced and unrealistic. When civilization can reach primitive societies at all, they do not stay primitive for long, even without any malice on civilization’s part.

    If character/society in a book behave in a fashion I can not believe, I do not enjoy the story. And if a book today is advertised as “in tradition of Heinlein”, I probably will not buy it. And that includes Scalzi — I read “Old Man’s War”, and am fairly sure will not read anything else by him.

  189. 212: “Job is intended to offend absolutely everyone.”

    I had always suspected that a truly self-consistent theology would be an equal opportunity offender. Then Heinlein released Job and removed all doubt.

  190. 215: “I can accept that among humanity spread through the Galaxy some would WANT to live with minimal technology. I can not accept that they would have anything worthwhile to trade with anyone who has technology far above our current one.”

    Ever hear of conflict diamonds?

  191. 209-Sergeant E:

    The movement to a theocracy (i.e, faith based) is alive and well, with our taxes going to support a variety of faiths: The Church of Anthropomorphic Global Warming, The Church of Equal Outcomes (instead of equal opportunities), The Church of Victimization (these things happen to me only because I belong to a minority and we’re all always victims), The Church of Political Correctness, The Church of Socialim, The Church of Anticapitalism, etc.

    I live in a community (Ithaca, New York) where all these faiths and churches are very much alive.

  192. “Does any rational person not believe women are the superior sex?”

    I don’t.

    Women are lovely creatures, and psst, human beings to boot. Thus, they are no less subject to gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, and wrath than are we who wear our naughty bits on the outside.

    I defy any man who has been married to disagree with me.

  193. #215 Ilya

    “I used to love his books in my teens and early twenties; what spoiled them for me was the realization that human beings do not act that way! Well, some do, but far too few to make Heinlein’s societies possible.

    The most egregious example of such is “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” When people are thrown together with no laws, they do not work like beavers to build productive businesses, respect each other’s rights and individuality, and fight together to preserve their freedom. What really happens is few strong ruthless and charismatic individuals emerge as leaders, and the rest join up with them for protection. IOW, they form gangs/tribes, most if not all of them open to outside influence and bribery. ”

    If this is true, then how did society develop at all? The point you miss is between something being generally true, and universally true. Quite often people will behave as you describe. But other times they behave as Heinlein describes.

    And you also miss something in “Moon”, the society described in it at the beginning didn’t pop up overnight. The people had developed it over a couple of generations. And the society after the revolution didn’t just happen either. The leaders worked very hard to insure it was a free one. Heinlein gave only hints of that, but that makes sense from a story perspective. Revolutions make for a more exciting story than politicking involved in building a government.

    I’ve never been too impressed by the criticism “People don’t act like that”.

    I’ve found it’s usually made in two cases. One, in purely escapist fiction where it’s obvious the characters were never intended to be realistic in the first place.

    Or in cases like this where it’s basically someone saying people aren’t really that good, decent, smart or whatever. There are people who match all of those standards. I’ve known more than a few. Are there enough of them? Unfortunately no.

    But that in no way makes them any less valid as the basis for fictional characters than murderers. Most people aren’t murderers, but no one complains it’s unrealistic to have one as a character.

  194. Ian,

    Verhooven’s film, had it been titled Bug Wars would have been a dog’s breakfast. As titled it was both a dog’s breakfast and a complete misrepresentation of a seminal novel.

  195. “I think Ayn Rand’s philosophy works perfectly well as long as you’re an Ayn Rand character; otherwise it’s complete crap. Doesn’t keep me from enjoying Atlas Shrugged for its potboilerrific qualities.”

    Here’s one cautionary tale, ripped from the headlines at Happy Valley News.

    http://happyvalleynews.wordpress.com/2007/09/14/college-student-acting-like-dick-ever-since-reading-atlas-shrugged-friends-report/

    Brian Kitchener, a 20 year old sophomore at the University of Massachusetts, has been acting like a real dick ever since reading Atlas Shrugged, his friends and family report. Considered Ayn Rand’s masterpiece, Atlas Shrugged was published in 1957 and lays out in a fictional format the principles of Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. Brian reportedly read the novel for an English class, “Philosophy as Literature.”

    One friend, Greg Kunst, said, “Look, I don’t know what Atlas Shrugged says because I’ve never read it, but whatever it says turned him into a jerk.” When asked to elaborate, Mr. Kunst said, “The other day I asked him to give me five bucks for beer and he told me that I was a leech on the fruit of his labors.” Mr. Kunst laughed. “His labors? His parents send him money every month!”

    Brian broke off contact with another friend, Kip Talbot, because he is undecided on a major. “He denounced me because my life lacks a consuming passion,” Mr. Talbot said. “He said I’m trapped by my own victimhood and afraid to embrace my own autonomous power as an individual.” According to Mr. Talbot, Brian himself was undecided on his major until this semester, but no longer. “Brian has decided he’s going to be an industrialist.”

  196. In #111, Patrick Nielsen Hayden writes:

    In fact, from very early in his career, Heinlein was dying to break out of the genre and reach the kind of audience afforded by magazines like Colliers. While John W. Campbell was in his prime, crusading to make Astounding into a magazine for a broad audience beyond the traditional reach of the SF pulps, Heinlein was a loyal disciple; when Campbell began to settle for presiding over an audience of loyal cultists, Heinlein lit out for the slicks. He maintained a relationship with the genre, but it was a patrician and distant one; he always wanted to be a writer of greater consequence than genre limitations usually afford.

    Heinlein gave Campbell plenty of warning about this, too. I’ve been reading their correspondence from the archives.

    In a letter of 2 November 1940 to Campbell, about a year and a half after he’s been submitting stories, he is surprised at his own success with pulps, and pleased at being fairly treated by Street & Smith. But he announces that he intends to try the higher-paying slick magazines eventually, and also book publishers. And he wants to write a nonfiction book on financial and money theory.

    As things shook out, Campbell kept buying most of the stories Heinlein wrote for the next year. After Pearl Harbor hit, Heinlein quit writing fiction and went to work for the Navy. Once he resumed writing after the war, he did indeed crack the slicks, and evenually the book markets. At the same time, he was appearing less often in pulp SF magazines, and his warm friendship with Campbell had faded.

  197. 19 Ian Sales asks:

    then why wasn’t the same level of vitriol levelled at Verhoeven’s adaptation of Dick? Or even Ridley Scott’s? What makes Heinlein’s novel(s) sacrosanct? I ask from curiosity. (Incidentally, The Puppet Masters was a fun novel, but I felt it made a dull film.)

    The “writers” of what became Verhooven’s Starship Troopers were part of a seminar at a Military Wargames Conference at Maxwell AFB well before the movie came out. As one might guess, the folks there tended to be Military , former Military, and just about all were rather well read in Military SF. When they announced the tile of their project they were greeted with calls of “Shines the Name” “Bugs Mister Rico, Zillions of them” and the like. They were somewhat taken aback.

    Were you to look at the reviews of Starship Troopers on Amazon, you’d find that the vast majority of reviewers either loved the book, or hated it. There is precious little middle ground. Those who loved the book were not going to be impressed with the theft of the title, and those who hated the book would stay away because of the title. When you also consider that Starship Troopers has been in continuous print since it’s first publication (nearly 50 years ago), it seems reasonable to conclude that a lot of folks have read the book.

    QED

  198. Kamper, my brother’s become an Objectivist, and it’s made him no fun at parties.

    Ayn Rand is good for two things:

    1) Pulling the will-to-power out from under the rug of the egalitarian left and beating it like the red-headed stepchild it is (and THAT’S called mixing your metaphors).

    2) Reminding people that there’s a thing called Reality, whom, when trifled with, retaliates like a crowd of Crips in an Escalade (which is to say, takes down intended targets and mere passersby).

    Beyond that, it’s Dialectical Materialism for Capitalists. You can take the girl out of the Soviet Union, etc.

    Oh, and her writings about sex are about the silliest fecal deposits imaginable. She makes Wordsworth look like a flint-eyed realist.

  199. 59 Patrick asks:

    So saying that people write literary fiction to impress their professors while sf authors are the ones telling stories isn’t an insult to litfic authors, John?

    Granted it’s been a long time since I finished my Bachelors in English Literature. But based on the “literary fiction” I’ve seen over the intervening decades, it seems to this observer to be factually accurate for a majority of cases. One does tend to write to a target audience…

    As to that being an insult, that would really depend on what on thinks of the audience so targeted, wouldn’t it?

  200. Hmm. I’m coming late to the conversation, but I wonder who else has been explicitly compared to Heinlein (and lived to tell the tale… meh.)

    The only one I can think of (that is, the cover blurb stuck in my head) is Allen Steele (for Orbital Decay).

    Any others?

  201. 219: “‘Does any rational person not believe women are the superior sex?’

    I don’t.

    Women are lovely creatures, and psst, human beings to boot. Thus, they are no less subject to gluttony, greed, sloth, lust, pride, envy, and wrath than are we who wear our naughty bits on the outside.

    I defy any man who has been married to disagree with me.”

    It’s a bell curve type of thing. The average woman is somewhat superior to the average man. And I have been married, yet am willing to say that without reservation.

  202. 218: “The movement to a theocracy (i.e, faith based) is alive and well, with our taxes going to support a variety of faiths: The Church of Anthropomorphic Global Warming, The Church of Equal Outcomes (instead of equal opportunities), The Church of Victimization (these things happen to me only because I belong to a minority and we’re all always victims), The Church of Political Correctness, The Church of Socialim, The Church of Anticapitalism, etc.

    I live in a community (Ithaca, New York) where all these faiths and churches are very much alive.”

    Your problem with the various secular religions of the day is a you problem, not a me problem. The point I was making was about actually theistic religions and the potential for a theocracy in America.

  203. 215: “I do not know whether Heinlein realized the impossibility of TMIAHM society (and many others he created)…”

    Oh puh-lease! People who adopt The Moon is a Harsh Mistress as some kind of manifesto and those who criticise it on those grounds are both wrong. Heinlein has one of the most prominent characters in the book point out that it’s all just a thought experiment, don’t take it too seriously. (Where and how is an exercise left for the student.)

  204. A theocracy requires one religion. There are too many here for any group bigoted enough to desire a theocracy to contend with.

    See 17th Century Europe for an example of how this works out.

  205. I picked up OMW for a number of reasons. Probably the most influential was that I came across this blog somehow and enjoyed it. However, I also distinctly remember reading a pitch for OMW that I’ll paraphrase as “Like Starship Troopers, but with more plot and less lecturing.” Not that I minded the lecturing in Starship Troopers, but that struck me as a fun sounding book.

    With respect to Heinlein, my experience is limited and relatively recent, but I’ve always enjoyed that he has a lot of interesting ideas in his books. If I ever caught a whif of authoritarianism or whatever, I never considered that a reflection of the author’s personal beliefs, but more the author’s willingness to consider ideas and to allow his audience to consider those same ideas.

  206. Michael R. Bernstein @228: Hmm. I’m coming late to the conversation, but I wonder who else has been explicitly compared to Heinlein (and lived to tell the tale… meh.)

    The only one I can think of (that is, the cover blurb stuck in my head) is Allen Steele (for Orbital Decay).

    Any others?

    John Varley (Red Thunder, Red Lightning)
    Spider Robinson (The Free Lunch)
    David Gerrold (The Dingillian Series)

    Also, Steele got blurbs comparing him to RAH on a couple of his Coyote books.

    I’m sure there are others, but those are the ones I can think of.

  207. 200:

    What’s to comment about? I merely point out the obvious: two intellectual ciphers diss a woman who was inarguably one of the most original and influential thinkers of the 20th Century.

    Pegged the ol’ Gigglemeter at full scale.

  208. And I’m boggled at the “Spider is the reincarnation of RAH” crowd.

    I like Spider’s work, and he’s a hell of a nice guy in person. But he writes nothing like Heinlein, as we have had reinforced in recent pastiches. He also has a completely different worldview, being an anti-war hippie (With no disrespect intended) while RAH would have, and did, revel in the moniker “Hawk.”

  209. Bromfield: RAH has certainly sold more books than Ayn Rand. Almost the entire population of the space program credit him with inspiration.

    How many industries or cultures did Rand spawn?

    The Libertarian Party and its 2% vote share? Most of them either protest voters or boobs? (Speaking as someone who ran for office as a Libertarian.) Who aren’t objectivists and whom she didn’t approve of?

    You’re also in Mr Scalzi’s forum, so obviously, he has SOME influence, since you saw the need to come here and comment.

    Giggles right back.

  210. 235: “…a woman who was inarguably one of the most original and influential thinkers of the 20th Century.”

    Only as a cautionary tale or punchline.

  211. As a die-hard Heinlein fan and member of the Heinlein society, the LA Times article made me want to throw my breakfast cereal against the wall. Especially as just about every ‘authority’ that is mentioned (excepting Mr. Silver) are known critics of Heinlein who did some damn sloppy research. Unfortunately there is very little academic-level criticism of the man and his works that meets the standards that should be applied to such criticism (one of the few I’ve found that comes close is William Patterson and Andrew Thornton’s The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land). And I think it’s abundantly clear that RAH is in no danger of falling into obscurity if the comment level here is any indication.

    As far as whether or not being compared to RAH is a help or hindrance to getting a book sold: it clearly worked for me, but I’m one of the ‘already sold’ crowd. A better marker would be how it influences someone who hasn’t read (or read very little of) RAH. Is his reputation that strong? Within the sf field, probably yes. For those outside its confines, perhaps not, and articles like this in major newspapers don’t help.

    Nevertheless I think the comparison helps, so much so that in my own review of OMW I stated: “After reading about ten pages of this, I had to go back and check the title page for the author, sure that it would read Robert Heinlein, not John Scalzi”. In my mind, that’s an extreme compliment. And I’m not about to rescind that compliment, as further reading of other Scalzi works says that this is one author who, like Heinlein, knows how to tell a story.

  212. I wonder who else has been explicitly compared to Heinlein
    [skip]

    John Varley (Red Thunder, Red Lightning)
    Spider Robinson (The Free Lunch)
    David Gerrold (The Dingillian Series)

    Gerrold is sometimes referred to as “gay Heinlein” — usually regarding Chtorr series.

  213. 221: I’ve never been too impressed by the criticism “People don’t act like that”.

    I’ve found it’s usually made in two cases. One, in purely escapist fiction where it’s obvious the characters were never intended to be realistic in the first place.

    Or in cases like this where it’s basically someone saying people aren’t really that good, decent, smart or whatever. There are people who match all of those standards. I’ve known more than a few. Are there enough of them? Unfortunately no.

    But that in no way makes them any less valid as the basis for fictional characters than murderers. Most people aren’t murderers, but no one complains it’s unrealistic to have one as a character.

    First, I find Heinlein’s entire societies unrealistic, not just individuals. And second, it’s a matter of taste. If a book is a “purely escapist fiction where it’s obvious the characters were never intended to be realistic in the first place”, then I can suspend the disbelief and enjoy the story. If the book falls into your second category, I simply lose interest. I am not saying this makes the book bad, just it is not for me.

  214. Mike,

    giggle away. I really doubt RAH has sold more books than AR. I suspect Miss Rand’s sales, fiction and non-fiction are a multiple of RAH’s. I would put serious money on this.

    Ask youself, Mike: just how influential has been the NASA space program with John Q. Public? How many people even pay attention to what’s happening with the Shuttle, on Mars, etc.? Think about this: which of two events of the summer of 1969 had the most impact on American history, the moon landing or Ted Kennedy losing all chance of being president by drowning that poor girl?

    You reveal your ignorance about Rand with the Libertarian comment. Rand didn’t much care for the “Libertarian” philosophy, believing, reasonably, that (limited) government has a role in the affairs of men, and society had legitimate interests in containing or repressing certain irrational excesses some homo sapians are given to.

    As to why I’m here, a friend gave me the link because he liked Scalzi’s reply to Heinlein’s critics. So do I. I did not appreciate the hit-and-run ignorant attack on Objectivism. “Complete crap”? Well, sure, some of it is doo-doo, but I’ll be glad to compare the excrement/enlightment ratio of Objectivism to Socialism, Determinism, Platonism, Existentialism, Hegelism, or any other “ism” you’d care to name.

  215. Rand’s books continue to be widely sold and read, with more than 22 million copies sold (Wikipedia)

    Heinlein was over 11 million copies IN PRINT when I started reading him in 1980. He’s well over 50 million now. That would put him at at least twice Ms Rand’s sales. Perhaps Mr Silver can give us an exact figure.

    Ask yourself how much money has been spent, other than books, in Rand’s name? Apart from, possibly, the bandwidth costs of the Ayn Rand institute’s website.

    Even ardent followers like Neil Peart abandoned her influence before the 80s were started.

    And I’d vote for the Moon landing. Most Americans still remember that one.

  216. #243: If you’re too full of yourself to read RAH’s Spinoffs, a short published in (among other places) his book Expanded Universe, let me summarize: Without the space program, we would most likely not be having this discussion right now.

  217. 246: “#243: If you’re too full of yourself to read RAH’s Spinoffs, a short published in (among other places) his book Expanded Universe, let me summarize: Without the space program, we would most likely not be having this discussion right now.”

    Been a while since I read it, but if you’re suggesting that computers and the Internet are a direct result of the space program, you’re wrong on both counts.

    NASA computers, even flight hardware, are — and always have been — either COTS systems currently on offer or special applications built out of COTS parts currently in use at the time the RFPs were issued. In fact, because of design freeze issues, the supposedly super duper system that flew in the Apollo Command and Lunar Modules was a couple of years behind the times by July of 1969. In fact, even at the time they weren’t considered real computers, just programable process controllers.

    If anything promoted computer advances in the 1950s and 1960s, it was FORTRAN and COBOL. Widespread adoption of computing in general science and business did more to advance product developments than any specialized aerospace applications.

    As for the Internet, its DARPA lineage and early reliance on not exactly the most advanced hardware components is well documented.

  218. I read somewhere that Paul Verhoeven made Starship Troopers because he disagreed intensely with the views in the book and wanted to tear them down.
    If true, that’s quite a tribute. Can anyone think of another movie, ever, which was made because the director hated the book it was based on?

  219. As an aside, let me recommend _Bioshock_… And _Mass Effect_.

    (If you think literati sneer at SF _books_…)

  220. Wow. 251 responses (including this one) because Heinlein and later Rand got mentioned. It’s a darn good thing nobody said “Joss Whedon is somewhat over-rated.”

  221. Make that 253, including this one. Curse you Otis Wildflower for posting while I was still composing my comment.

  222. James Davis Nicoll:

    Just imagine how many comments Heinlein would have gotten if he were still relevant. My head assplodes just to think on it.

  223. Mike, are you REALLY citing Wikipedia as authoritive? Sheesh!

    Next you’ll be quoting the I Ching or Sylvia Browne.

    246: You really don’t think American history would have been more affected by a Ted Kennedy 1972-1980 Administration than a few landings on the moon? Think about it, sir.

    Scalzi: You know, that’s just not funny because it lacks attachment to the truth. I wrote a much more humorous pastiche of THE FOUNTAINHEAD myself, with a “Melvin Muck” as an uncompromising chef who forcibly shoves his revolutionary pate aux kiwifruit down the throat of a violently resisting “Epiphany Bacon.”

    You see, we Objectivist do have a sense of humor. Even about our St. Ayn.

  224. “Scalzi: You know, that’s just not funny because it lacks attachment to the truth.”

    You probably won’t like Ayn Rand’s “A Selfish Christmas”, then, either.

    James Davis Nicholl @ 257:

    The last page, because then you don’t have to read it again?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of OSC. But yeeeeeeeeeeeesh.

  225. Thanks to you all for keeping a truly excellent conversation going for so long, and nobly ignoring the petulant flames from a small minority.

    I love RAH and have a near-complete set of dog-eared paperbacks that have been with me since I was a young teen, 25 years ago (I’m two months younger than our host). Re sexism, I respect RAH’s defenders very much and agree with them for the most part, but I do believe they doth protest too much at times.

    RAH unquestionably had many strong, competent, educated female characters, but one could argue (and my wife has argued) that the characteristic many of his female characters shared was a willingness to become utterly subordinate to their husbands the second they were married. Not necessarily becoming only a housekeeper and baby-maker, but definitely subordinating decisionmaking to the husband. Consider: Mary in Puppet Masters, Dora (LL’s wife, not computer) in Time Enough For Love, Barbara in Farnham’s Freehold, Deety in Number of the Beast (counterfactual: Sharpie in same), even Star in Glory Road. Consider also Ricky in Door Into Summer (she of the utterly unscientific mind, more concerned about the hamster’s fate than the experiment!), Betty in The Star Beast (who has ambition only through her husband’s career), and characters like the wife in “It’s Great to be Back!”

    One could argue that this is a product of his times and upbringing, or make some other rationalization for it – but what I’m really interested in is whether any of the fine, educated contributors here see this commonality as well.

    And as for RAH in a Scalzi blurb – never noticed. I found Scalzi by recommendation from a friend.

  226. *my brother’s become an Objectivist, and it’s made him no fun at parties.*

    ROFL. And has anyone noticed that Randian heroines don’t have children? Because if they did they might have to live for something other than themselves, you know.

  227. Scalzi: No, it’s not funny, and for the same reason: it’s based on a superficial understanding of Rand’s philosophy. As is your’s when you proclaim it suitable only for fictional characters. I and millions more are living, breathing examples to the contrary. You no doubt do not encounter many of us, as we are busy living exciting lives instead of seeking vicarious adventure through other peoples’ scribblings. The movers of the world, the men and women who will conquer space are not your audience, John

    Tully: have you ever met an anthropomorphic global warming fanatic at a party? Talk about no fun! And Rand addressed the proper attitude toward children in ATLAS SHRUGGED. It has nothing to do with living for somebody else. Again, a common, but superficial reading of Rand.

  228. For all the sneering that the self-proclaimed intelligentsia like to direct towards Ayn Rand, the fact is that she did something very important, which was to point out the hypocrisy of those who play at altruism at someone else’s expense.

    She did this at a time when the communists were still a real danger, before their hopeless incompetence at economics brought them to their collapse.

    -jcr

  229. Jon Bromfield:

    “You no doubt do not encounter many of us, as we are busy living exciting lives instead of seeking vicarious adventure through other peoples’ scribblings.”

    So that’s who fills up sky-diving planes.

    Also, an (I suspect) unintentionally amusing thing to state, considering how Ayn Rand chose to popularize her philosophy.

    But, you know. Chase that dream, Mr. Bromfield, and the best of luck to you.

  230. Rand is certainly relevant. But looking around at the massive nanny-state, I’d argue against influential. “Inspirational,” certainly.

    Brom: Don’t like the Wikipedia figure? Find a better one. The “Not authoritative” argument about Wiki is a copout for basic facts, which it generally has correct (barring such ludicrous figures as the alleged 150K radiation casualties from Hiroshima, when the correct figure is about 700. However, the 150K comes from the standard citable, if biased sources, so is not Wiki’s fault).

    You failed to address the fact that Heinlein outsells Rand even though she had a massive head start, and will continue to do so. A: He’s a better writer. 2] He’s more relevant to most people. c} he’s less preachy. IV) he’s less philosophical and more practical.

    As to Teddy Kennedy, I fail to see the Ayn Rand connection. So your either/or attempt at alt history fails of its merits. Whether or not it would have changed things more than the space program, Heinlein DID influence the space program and Rand DID NOT influence the Kennedy event. Try again. Millions of events COULD HAVE influenced our society. Heinlein’s fiction and nonfiction DID.

    We could add in the Norden bombsight which Heinlein worked on, the waterbed, the waldo, the moving walkway, the Camelbak (described in Tunnel in the Sky) that almost everyone in the military now has two or three of and uses daily.

    Rand influenced…Alan Greenspan, who was a huge proponent of fiat money…not very objectivist, eh?, Angelina Jolie and Rush Limbaugh, who are annoying entertainers.

    So, I’ve used on a regular basis 3 of the 4 devices Heinlein was directly involved in, benefited from the thousands of scientists who got into their fields because of him, and have my career. And Rand has given me…annoying fanmail from conspiracy nuts and starry-eyed Libertarian idealists.

    Again, your mileage may vary.

    And I’m not sure of Scalzi’s sales, but I know they’re better than mine, and I regularly get a million readers for my articles, sometimes as high as 3 mil. Books are lower, but substantial. Certainly, both of us are within an order of magnitude of Rand’s sales, if sheer numbers matter. I’ve also only been at this for 5 years.

    So pardon me if, “Sold a lot of books and generated a lot of college papers” fails to impress me as being relevant, of itself. Want to argue the point? “Michael Moore.” “Rush Limbaugh.”

  231. Jon Bromfield: have you ever met an anthropomorphic global warming fanatic at a party?

    A global warming fanatic who takes human form? What a startling concept.

    Do these creatures come in other shapes? Are pictures available for perusal, perchance?

    [/snark]

  232. I am literally tearing up from laughing! I haven’t not used this in a long time but ROTFLMAO! This thread is the funniest damn thing I have read in a while. Thanks John Scalzi!! I needed the humor due the power being sketchy, it’s friggen’ cold and I lost my trees to the storm. My property looks like its been hit by a tornado, but no problem. I have electricity right now, heat and Whatever. All is good in the world.

    I knew that Ayn Rand groupies were obsessed but really…..it’s just plain funny. Scalzi, you are such a taunter. Shame on you, uhh, not really. LOL

  233. 262: “I and millions more…”

    Millions?

    “…an anthropomorphic global warming…”

    That’s anthropocentric, Einstein.

  234. Scalzi: again you demonstrate your ignorance and obtuseness.

    Rand wrote popular fiction to reach people who would normally never touch a philosophical work, people who were looking for entertainment.

    Like Shakespeare, she provided that and in addition embued the story with profound intellectual meat. It’s possible to do both: HAMLET is at once a simple revenge tale and a subtle psychological study. Even if you’re too simple to grasp the intellectual content, you cannot help being moved and affected by the psychological aspects, even if unconsciously.

    This is a spoonful-of-sugar technique long emplyed to convey complex ideas to the masses. Plato used it, as well Galileo.

    You, conversely, write for a genre, people looking for specific subjects and tropes well understood. A “niche” audience, not a popular one. Get the difference? Your audience is more likely to include Byron Baily and other losers- not Bill Gates, Dean Kamen, or Jon Bromfield.

    But I wish you well, John.

  235. *profound intellectual meat*

    LOL.

    Still haven’t seen the Randian heroine with children. Do you have any explanation for that other than it interfering with their egocentric self-actualization? Hmm? Hard to keep that theme going when externalities such as kids interfere, I’m sure.

    I guess a less-than-superficial reading of Rand requires some sort of mystical revelation, which seems a wee bit antithetical.

  236. Jon Bromfield:

    “Rand wrote popular fiction to reach people who would normally never touch a philosophical work, people who were looking for entertainment.”

    You mean these simple, benighted folk, craving mere entertainment, might live vicariously through the adventures Rand’s characters were having through her scribblings? You don’t say. Tell me more.

    “You, conversely, write for a genre, people looking for specific subjects and tropes well understood.”

    Why yes, just like Shakespeare, whose regularly raided Hollinshed and Italian romances, among other sources, looking for well understood subjects and tropes that would play well for his niche audience (see: groundlings).

    I’d agree someone is showing their ignorance and obtuseness here, Mr. Bromfield. I suspect we might differ on who it is.

    However, I do agree that Ms. Rand deserves you as a reader far more than I.

  237. Tully, your not going to see a Randian heroine with children. I am not saying that choosing not to have children is a bad thing. My little sister has chosen not to have children. There are reasons…But, the people that proscribe to the Rand philosophy have no empathy. And, trust me, you need a LOT of empathy to be a parent. Heck, you need to be a saint to be a parent! But, it’s not only parents. It is any empathy whatsoever!

    That is why the fanatic Ayn Rand fans find it so attractive. It legitimizes their lack of empathy. They look at the philosophy and go “There I am!! It’s all about me and everyone else is below me. It’s not my fault that I need to take their money. They deserve it.”

    I could go on and I sort of want to rant but why? JS did a good job (at taunting) already. Plus, I shouldn’t let it upset me. I see the Ayn Rand mentality everyday at work. Not because I am an attorney but because of the type of work I do.

    I think I will go read those links that Scalzi left. Have fun.

  238. Also, let’s wrap up the Rand back and forth within the next few posts — it’s beginning to smell a bit trollish in here.

  239. Timberg replied to me and said he’d been objective. I quoted Mr Silver’s reply here.

    Timberg responded that he expected better honesty from a lawyer, and HAD said positive things about RAH, and that since I wanted to rant and not converse, the conversation was over.

    That might have been partially in response to me calling journalism “the Special Olympics of Literature.”;-)

  240. MZW:

    Oddly enough I sent an e-mail to Mr. Timberg and did not receive a response.

    Speaking as a former newspaper writer I’m not sure I agree 100% with the characterization of journalism there, but I do agree this particular piece needed to be better done.

  241. “not Bill Gates,”

    Results 1 – 10 of about 1,070,000 for “bill gates”

    “Dean Kamen,”

    Results 1 – 10 of about 130,000 for “dean kamen”

    “or Jon Bromfield.”

    Results 1 – 10 of about 105 for “jon Bromfield”

    No ego here, I see.

  242. John: I have seen good journalism. I see very little regarding the war or Heinlein. Or any subject I am trained in. It’s obvious some of them do actually try, but there seems to be an arrogance regarding the need to actually consult with people who know the subject matter, as Mr Silver’s post and the article seem to confirm.

    When US troops won’t even talk to their own PAOs, you know there’s a hostile media environment.

  243. Mr Bromfield,

    Where in the world do i start? You state that a genre you probably don’t read is for ‘losers’, and drop names like Plato and Galileo as if you expect no one to understand them and those who have heard of them to be awed. That’s absurd. You do understand that this is the genre that has medical doctors, rocket scientists, and people who unlike yourself have the wit to tie their shoes and chew gum at the same time, not to mention be able to debate intelligently, but that’s obviously not a skill you value. You know Brad Delong? Former Dep Sec of the US treasury? He’s a long time SF/F fan. How about all of the people who have been legitimate rocket scientists like Travis Taylor or have worked for NASA and other highly technical institutions? Or that fact that MIT has an obscenely high percentage of SF/F fans? Do they not count? Yes, every genre has its tropes, even ‘main stream’, Any Rand wrote polemics for people who couldn’t appreciate anything less subtle than an IED detonated on the genitalia.

    XOXO,

    OnyxHawke

  244. If nothing else, this discussion gives me an idea for a new sitcom:
    “Randian . . . With Children.”

    Hijinks ensue when a self-directed industrialist knocks up his much older Objectivist lover. Will diapers and midnight feedings disrupt their will to power?

    Scalzi, your jokes seem to be lost on this crowd — it’s like doing standup for Vulcans. But I for one found “The Ten Least Successful Christmas Specials of All Time” to be hilarious. Christmas with the Nuge indeed! I plan to link to it. Thanks.

  245. Tully: “Lord, you give them eyes and they cannot see.”

    Objectivists are into value. Children represent “potential value” and being human the greatest potential value. That’s why they’re cherished. It is not a “sacrifice” to expend love, material goods, devotion to the potential of your highest values. Nothing “mystical” about this at all. Get it? Further, I submit you don’t understand or misuse the word “empathy.”

    Scalzi: This is a subtle point but I think you can understand it. Rand greatly respected the American readership. She thought them more than capable of understanding complex philosophy and wrote novels that combined entertaining plots and action with profound intellectual content. That she’s sold more books than you ever will proves her correct. More to the point, those who read her books incorporated her philosophy into their lives. Do you really think your novels will do the same?

    John, c’mon. You think the “groundlings” knew Hollinshed and “Italian romances”? You are giving your audience too much credit. No, your fans know only bombast and windy prose. You provide it and make a good living. Hurrah for you! It’s a good gig. But don’t think you’re foolin’ anyone with an IQ above room temperature. As I said, you will be forgotten in ten-twenty years–tops!

    And Miss Rand willl be studied a thousand years from now.

  246. Mr. Scalzi (I hesitate to use first names with those I have not been introduced to),

    You seem to have attracted something of a buzz of flies (Bar Flies, as in Baen’s Bar, that is).

    Hey Pam.

    Mike.

    Anyone I missed?

  247. RAH vs Rand (or any other pair of writers):
    This is something of an apples to oranges argument. Each had their own style and methodology of telling a story. They differ, and end up with different audiences.

    RAH was an engineer (Annapolis grad), so when he wrote about something he had a good inkling of what was involved. When he wanted a woman’s view, he asked his wife Virginia; he also consulted her on languages and other fields (technical and otherwise). Are all engineers capable of being novelists? No more than novelists can be engineers.

    What’s all that got to do with Rand? Nothing. Except that Rand was a _DIFFERENT_ writer. Don’t know about Rand’s skillset as a engineer … or who/whom she consulted with about details required for the book …. or if the level of work required consultation.

    By the same token, how many novels did Rand write after a stroke?

    RAH faced that issue, and gave it his best shot. There -is- a difference in the before & after aspects of RAH’s work. It’s simply a case of “there’s Good and then there’s good”.

    Naturally, the stroke issue isn’t a fair comparison between the two. I mean, Rand doesn’t have a chair in her name at any US military academy, either. … or patents on medical tools to help the injured … or patents on remotely-operated handling systems for hazardous (i.e. radioactive) material … testify before Congress?

    Personal (and admittedly biased) viewpoints:
    RAH’s work made the reader think. Period.
    Rand’s work made the reader think about Rand’s work.
    Neither were Plato.

    Get over it.

  248. Now that Mr. Bromfield’s gotten his last comment in, the thread is closed to discussion about how awesome Rand is or isn’t, because it’s now officially bored the crap out of me. Further Rand-oriented posted will get zapped, although I may let Michael Z. Williamson get a last crack at it. Otherwise, talk about something else; possibly Heinlein.

  249. 258:

    Here it is:

    (The context is that the White House has been more or less leveled in a terrorist attack)

    “Yeah,” said Cole. “The terrorists are crazy and scary, but what really pisses me off is knowing that this will make a whole bunch of European intellectuals very happy.”

    “They won’t be so happy when they see where it leads. They’ve already forgotten Sarajevo and the killing fields of Flanders.”

    “I bet they’re already ‘advising’ Americans that this is where our military ‘aggression’ inevitably leads, so we should take this as a sign that we need to change our policies and retreat from the world.”

    “And maybe we will,” said Malich. “A lot of Americans would love to slam the doors shut and let the rest of the world go hang.”

    “And if we did,” said Cole, “who would save Europe then? How long before they find out that negotiations only work if the other guy is scared of the consequences of not negotiating? Everybody hates America till they need us to liberate them.”

    “You’re forgetting that nobody cares what Europeans think except a handful of American intellectuals who are every bit as anti-American as the French,” said Malich.

    I don’t know what’s funnier, that the worst thing about a terrorist attack is that maybe somewhere, some third party might find it funny or that they spent five paragraphs on a subject only “a handful of American intellectuals who are every bit as anti-American as the French” care about.

  250. James Davis Nicoll:

    Gaaaaah. The goggles, they do nothing!

    I really can’t speak for anyone at Tor about Empire, but I kind of see it as the Star Trek V of Orson Scott Card’s career — the one where everyone looked at it, shrugged, and realized that once it was done and over with the talent would be happy and they could all get on to more profitable ventures.

  251. [Deleted because Mr. Bromfield doesn't take a hint]

    Go be an ass on someone else’s blog now, Mr. Bromfield.

    — JS

  252. I read his site and I don’t see a guy who is happy with the way things are going, particularly the way so many people seem to fail to understand that GWB is the bestest POTUS ever. Obviously, he’s going to have to TALK LOUDER to get his message across.

  253. The problem I have with people calling Heinlein sexist is that when you really dig it out is that they think Heinlein’s female characters don’t what they think of as a good gender role model. But that’s crap.

    First it supposes that someone has the right to decide what the only acceptable gender roles are. And even if you’re willing to grant that (which I’m certainly not), what does that have to do with a character being believable in a work of fiction.

    Certainly no one would characterise a murderer as a good role model for anybody, but since murderers do exist no one would think it was unbelievable to have a character whose a murderer.

    By the same token the question isn’t whether Heinlein’s female characters are acceptable as female role models. It’s whether or not there are actual women who are similar. And the answer to that question is yes. I’ve known several women who remind me of Heinlein characters.

    And I am the only one here who thinks Bill Gates and Dean Kamen have read SF? I don’t know, but I’d be willing to bet on it.

  254. I would add that Gardner Dozois has far more class. He kept most of my criticisms of him on the board.

    A deluded but honest man.

  255. [Deleted because Mr. Bromfield doesn't grasp the idea that this is my site and I make the rules here, and I don't have to tolerate him being a twit if I choose not to -- JS]

  256. You’ll find, Mr. Bromfield, that your messages are unmolested until such time you decide not to listen to the proprietor, who is me, when he says it’s time to move on.

    If you have any confusion on the matter read the comment rules. If you don’t like ‘em, don’t post. Simple.

  257. [Deleted because I find Mr. Bromfield to be an unregenerate ass. Welcome to my ban list, Mr. Bromfield -- JS]

  258. JS,

    I was soooo looking forward to kicking JB a few times.

    I weep at his banning.

    Water please, someone get me water before i get dehydrated.

  259. For those of you unfamiliar with my policies, currently Mr. Bromfield is being moderated, both for not following directions and for annoying me. When I decide he can play in polite society, I’ll let him out and/or let his posts come through. If he is polite long enough, I’ll un-moderate him. If he can’t be polite, or tries to get around being moderated, he’ll just be banned forever.

    Since at the moment in my moderated area he’s both calling me a fascist bastard and trying to get around my moderation of him, I don’t expect we’ll see him try to re-integrate into polite society. More’s the pity.

  260. Back to Heinlein and the press. I’m confused how writing an article for a major paper about how irrelevant someone is isn’t self-contradictory. Surely a sizable article, or any article, is only written about someone relevant?

    Is the hope that saying something often enough will make it come true? Next we’ll hear that RAH is responsible for global warming.

    And John, I’m quite sure from reading your articles and essays you were a fine journalist. I may have gotten the bad odds, but in several dozen encounters dating from the age of 7, I’ve always come out behind, misquoted or (in the case of military matters) ignored in my own field in favor of some reporter’s pet theory.

    A friend of mine tells me this is in part due to the low pay most journalists get, that encourages them to seek better jobs if they are able.

    Last comment on the other: is there anyone less objective about Objectivism than an Objectivist?

  261. If this Mr. Bromfield is the same one who shows up in this Google search:

    http://tinyurl.com/yw3k4h

    (and I suspect he is from some common phrases here and there), I don’t think he’s capable of playing nice. He is, however, a very, very funny man–not that I’d want him as a guest in my home, mind you.

  262. MZW:

    “A friend of mine tells me this is in part due to the low pay most journalists get, that encourages them to seek better jobs if they are able.”

    Heh. The first year I worked at a newspaper I made less per week than the summer interns. And it wasn’t until I left newspapers that I started making any appreciable money writing. So your friend’s theory is, alas, not one to be dismissed out of hand.

    Speaking for myself, whenever I came into a story I was writing with particular point of view, I usually confessed to it straight up, i.e. “My thoughts about X subject are Y,” and then let the interviewee tack off of that. I don’t think coming in with a particular point of view is bad as long as you own up to it, and I think then you want to get another point of view in there because among other things it makes for a better story.

    I imagine if I were to have written the story with more or less the same viewpoint, instead of saying “Heinlein is becoming irrelevant,” I would have asked “Is Heinlein becoming irrelevant?” and then gotten good quotes from credible people pro and con. That would have been a better way to do it, I think.

    An Eric:

    I suspect it’s the same Mr. Bromfield. Currently in my moderation queue he’s going the sock puppet route, trying to get back into the comment thread on another name, to suggest letting him back on my site will show my tolerance. He’s not really covering himself in glory, nor does he appear to understand that people comment here because I allow them to, and when I don’t want them to, they don’t.

  263. #13 ian,

    That movie sucked iguana turds through a straw. If that was the best humanity could put forward we deserved to die. the entire military in that movie was less useful then 8 year old girls with slingshots. Face it the movie sucked 7x24x365.

    marc

  264. Well, the two works of Heinlein’s I remember reading (Stranger in a Strange Land and To Sail Beyond the Sunset) wowed me not at all – it’s only the mass of people comparing Old Man’s War to Starship Troopers that makes me wonder if I ought to give Heinlein the benefit of the doubt one more time. It’s not that I didn’t like his books for political or moral reasons, I just thought they were both pretty darn boring. So I doubt an OMW=Heinlein blurb would have sold the book to me, particularly since I usually regard book blurbs with the sort of suspicion reserved for used car salesmen, but I’m certainly happy that it’s making your books sell well as a whole. *shrug*

    I certainly do mostly read to be entertained, but I do think it’s fun to have an occasional book with a philosophical or moral bent in the mix like Rand or some of le Guin – even if I disagree with the underlying message, it’s an interesting romp in someone else’s worldview nonetheless.

  265. As an update, Mr. Bromfield is on his second sock puppet for the evening, this after swearing in my moderation queue he wouldn’t be coming back to the site (I’m not counting the comments posing as Ridley Scott, Rush Limbaugh, two of the Marx brothers or Thelma Ritter).

    I’m wondering if Mr. Bromfield is actually twelve.

    However, I suspect not, and I think two sock puppets in one evening is well worth an actual and official ban. Out of the moderation queue, into the spam bin.

    Please note that commenting on Mr. Bromfield by name may get your comment sent to the moderation queue, simply as a matter of brute force filtering. I will try to dig these comments out at some point. Or, just not talk about Mr. Bromfield. Either way.

  266. Nicole: Those are definitely not Heinlein starter novels. Starship Troopers is good but military oriented. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress more political. Glory Road is a good romp. Any of the 50s juveniles are fun, light reads with a message.

    Don’t read Farnham’s Freehold first, either. Nor Time Enough for Love or I Will Fear No Evil.

    Stranger is an objective fictional examination of Christianity from various viewpoints. It’s fairly heavy stuff. Several of his books were written while he was suffering brain trouble from a form of stroke, and Farnham’s is just weird, contentious and outrageous. Sort of like having a porn star offering to take your virginity on camera with three friends helping. It could be a hell of an adventure, but you don’t want to START there.

  267. I’ve been reading this thread since the beginning (I commented way back at 10) and in places it’s been interesting, educational, and funny. I’ve added to my own reading list because of it and I’ve found a couple new blogs to read. You attract some decent discussion, Mr. Scalzi. I think your handling of the troll was patient and reasonable . . . I could learn from your restraint.

  268. MZW – Ah. Yeah, I did have the lingering suspicion that I’d simply read bad ones based on skimming the previous commentary, but since my father raved about Stranger at the time that I read it, I’d previously come to the conclusion that was as good as it got with Heinlein. I’ll give Troopers a whirl once I get through my current to-be-read list, I think, and try giving him another shot.

    Heh. I think a chunk of my boredom with Stranger was the feeling that I was supposed to be terribly shocked by the morality within… whereas I mostly waded through the polyamoury, anti-fundie bits, and so on saying, “Yes, and your point is?” The remainder just didn’t make for a terribly interesting story, to my point of view.

  269. MZW: As to Mr. Timberg’s claim of objectivity I note his opening sentence eye-catchingly judges Heinlein as having, inter alia, “a military-hardware fetish.” Shades of Tom Disch’s ‘Swaggering Leather Boys”! (and that is merely the beginning of errors of opinion and facts cited by him or his sources–Manson with a backpack copy of SIASL, indeed!).

    Had Timberg ever actually read the novel Starship Troopers to which his unnamed source alludes perhaps he might have stretched his putative objectivity far enough to have dimly perceived to the contrary, that the suits are a simple plea to avoid, if we must fight wars, the cannon fodder carnage to which the poor, bloody infantry is subjected in every war, including this current one in which, recently at the end of July, a young man perhaps only coincidentally named Charles T. Heinlein, who “loved to read,” was blown to whatever his soul found becoming coalition death casualty number 4,098.

    Ab esse ad posse valet elatio. Or, roughly, here the value of his assertion of objectivity follows his judgment of the problem, not vice versa. If he wants a “better honesty” in assessment of his demonstrated biases in interview and writing, perhaps he’d better spend his time actually learning how to impartially interview his witnesses, er, sources, without creating the appearance of being a prosecutor on cross examination of a defendant at trial. I stand on my assessment of his performance.

    As to numbers of Heinlein sold, let me tell you what I told him: the trustees of the Heinlein Prize Trust and, so far as relevant, the Butler Library Trust, are the only persons I know who have current specific information; and I am not one of them, nor their agent.

    I agree with Mr. Scalzi in 310 on how to write up an honest article rather than a hit piece when you already possess an opinion on the topic. Some judges will eat you alive in open court if you ever try to “sum up the facts” in the manner Mr. Timberg did in his article. But then, Mr. Timberg is only following the lead of some alleged literary critics of Mr. Heinlein’s works of the 1960s and 1970s — why should the Los Angeles Tribune, er, Times, do better?

  270. The Ayn Rand Institute says “Total sales of Ayn Rand books (net sales in English, all editions)—since their original publication date—now exceed 24 million copies.” The Wikipedia figure was sourced from a Cato Institute article citing numbers from the publishers. Based on sales of 500K/year and differences in dates for those figures they do seem to line up remarkably well.

    My favourite thing about the Starship Troopers film was the nickname “Melrose Space”.

  271. 315: Ta to MZW for the link, and to jmacdon+=5 for the review.
    Which of you is gonna replace this dddrrowned keyboarddddddd?/??

  272. To make up for my coffee-lacking comment in 321, here are a couple of links. The Space Review is a pretty good online “eMagazine” (got to find a better term). Leading up to the RAH celebration, they ran a couple of good articles on Heinlein’s influence on the space program. Might be worth a read, if you folks have not come across them before.

    http://www.thespacereview.com/index.html

    Specifically:

    Heinlein in Hollywood:

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/961/1

    Heinlein’s Ghost (two parts):

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/848/1

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/851/1

  273. David Silver : Mr. Timberg is only following the lead of some alleged literary critics of Mr. Heinlein’s works of the 1960s and 1970s

    That’s the funny part about this article (and many others) : people
    calling Heinlein’s works “dated”, while considering the ideas of the
    so-called “New Wave” still — well, new !

  274. Yeah, Timberg references cyberpunk, which apart from The Matrix and knockoffs was an 80s niche (Ironically created due to influence from PKD)(And RAH’s Friday had a lot of cyberpunk feel and background before the genre kicked off). And the New Wave is dead. I hope. Stake it again to be sure, please.

    Nicole: You have to remember that Stranger was VERY shocking for 1962. These days, I can stick a lesbian scene* in Freehold and no one really cares, not even fundies, who have read the book and enjoyed it.

    But I can get away with that in large part due to RAH, and also Ted Sturgeon.

    * It was plot relevant, and while I wouldn’t necessarily do so again, with more writing experience, I’m flattered that both lesbian and straight women tell me it was well done. Men, of course, don’t generally object.

  275. One of my all time favorite Heinlein quotes:

    “The most beautiful words in the English language are ‘Pay To The Order Of'”

  276. Okay, I’ve read all 324 comments (at the moment of this writing) and I felt I needed to add my two cents. Apparently people are still reading, so here goes.

    First, a Heinlein reference on the cover of a military SF book pretty much just implies, well, that it’s military SF. How much military SF is there out there that isn’t pretty much just aping Starship Troopers on some level? There’s some, but since Troopers virtually invented the subgenre, it’s like saying that a modern-day mystery store apes Raymond Chandler.

    Secondly, a Heinlein reference would actually help to turn me off of reading that book, depending on context. I haven’t been interested in the Baen books primarily because they seem to remind me most of the preachy crazy libertarian side of Heinlein, which is a distinct turnoff for me. So seeing a Heinlein blurb on the cover of a book, without some “yeah, but without the crazy stuff disclaimer, might actually send readers like me away.

    That said (and I guess this is thirdly), Scalzi’s mostly right about Heinlein’s continued influence. Stranger in a Strange Land was one of the first “adult” SF novels I ever read — I must have read it sometime around seventh grade, and was blown away by it. I devoured every other Heinlein I could find, and have read most (certainly not all) of the major works of his, and quite a few of the minor ones as well. He’s readable, in that he grabs the reader by the lapels from the get-go and doesn’t let go. His works are entertaining and (mostly) propulsive, especially for those who are fascinated by the philosophy and the politics.

    Fourthly, (and this is kind of a subsection under “thirdly”; call it “thirdly(A)” I suppose ) Heinlein’s popularity has been evidenced in this thread by two major factors: his continued strong sales in new and used format, and the number of comments on this and other online threads. I think this is not really evidence of a general quality of his work, but that he has a very devoted but short-lived fanbase that reads everything he wrote (much as I did between the ages of thirteen and eighteen).

    Think of it this way: you can find his works, even his major, celebrated works in used bookstores on a regular basis, and in recent (ie last ten or fifteen years) editions. This isn’t the case for other major SF authors like, say, Asimov (whose books I am slowly collecting as I can find them used) — in my experience, it’s far easier to find a copy of “Stranger” in a used edition than, say, “The Gods Themselves.” I think this is indicative of a lot of people buying up huge numbers of copies of the books when they’re obsessed, then “growing away” a bit and selling them to used bookstores. Then these books are picked up by cheaper fans still going through their Heinlein-obsessive phase, who then eventually sell them back again in a few more years.

    (Yes, I am aware that there are plenty of people on this thread who own expansive hardcovers of Heinlein and who will never sell their Heinleins, re-read them every year, etc. who are much older than I — I’m making general comments about the overall population of Heinlein readers, not those who care enough to specifically comment about him on message boards. No insult is intended to those who still have their Heinleins — I still have mine!)

    With regard to the number of comments, I think these types of threads balloon not so much because Heinlein’s a great writer (although he may be), but because he’s a controversial author with lots of obsessive fans blind to his flaws. I don’t think Heinlein’s a bad writer; he clearly had a lot of influence on the genre and his work is meaningful to a lot of people. But just like Asimov and Clarke (the other two of the “big three”) he has serious flaws in his writing, which people like me try to point out to the fanboys (and -girls), which is frustrating when they are not acknowledged.

    (Of course, I was once one of those blind fanboys, so I know….)

    Two more points. (I’ve lost the numbering system, so fuck it.) You see people talk about “Heinlein’s politics” as if they were solid and unchanging over his life, but the man was a writer for nearly half a century, and much of his work was written in response to specific events in the world. In his autobiography, Asimov himself makes reference to how his friend Bob’s politics got more generally right-wing while they worked together during WWII, and clearly the atom bomb had a huge influence on Heinlein’s thinking. There are moments in both “The Roads Must Roll” and “Coventry” in which Heinlein in authorial voice repudiates the kind of individualism that would later become a hallmark of discussions about him. Early Heinlein was much more understanding of the interconnected web of humans who needed one another to survive — it’s the later Heinleins in which the rugged individualist living off of the sweat of his own brow became predominant.

    Finally, Heinlein’s takes on social issues, particularly racism and sexism. Racist cries are generally based on Heinlein’s general dislike of social policies that advanced the needs of people based on groups or classes (i.e. affirmative action) — I think it’s clear (despite “Farnham’s Freehold”) that Heinlein was not a racist as we would consider one today, but that he would definitely be considered a “conservative” on such issues today. Whether that’s a “good” attitude to have or not I’ll leave for now, but I think that’s the basis of the belief in Heinlein’s racism.

    His sexism is slightly more complex. I think Heinlein never quite got to the point of being able to see women in his fiction as simply people, no more, no less. The women in his books all fit the mold of his wife Virginia, which is a strong limitation in his writing and a sign that he was treating his female characters more as fantasy objects than as real people. The only time we ever see a female POV that doesn’t end up with a woman subservient to a man is when there are no strong male characters to “match” the female — the three I’m thinking of are Holly from “Menace from Earth,” Maureen/Puddin’ from the three short stories narrated by her, and Friday from the epoymous novel. (I’m sure there are a couple of others I’m missing… maybe Podykane?)

    I’m sure we can go into more detail later, but this is too long as it is.

  277. I’m not the Heinlein maven others here are (I don’t think I still have any of the Heinlein paperbacks I once owned), but I think I agree with everything Daniel Harper just said. Awesome post, man.

  278. Yeah, I suck. What can I say.

    This should not be considered an invitation to blather any further about Rand, however. There will be other times, I’m sure.

  279. Pop Quiz:
    (multiple choice; counts for 10% of final grade for semester)

    A rational person is surfing the internet when he comes upon a blog entry that he quickly realizes is “boring.” He:

    (a) Reads the whole thing and then takes the time to fire off a response to the entry, announcing to the world that the disagreeable posting is worth the time it takes to call it “boring.” Take that, internet!

    (b) Upon realizing that the blog entry is boring him, he quickly drags the navigational slider (or spins the mouse wheel) down to see if any “non-boring” words or phrases leap out. When nothing does, he shrugs his shoulders while saying, “meh” to himself, and quickly proceeds to a generally less-boring website.

    (circle the best answer and return your paper to the desk at the front of the classroom; REMINDER: final essays are due before the grading period begins at the end of the month; office hours will be suspended after Dec. 20 but questions may be directed to the TA or asked via the school TAO e-mail client. Merry Xmas, everybody!

  280. Isn’t the real measure of an author’s impact on popular culture how many songs they inspired. Rand has, what, Rush?

    I can name at least two musicians who’ve been inspired by Heinlein (Kantner and Crosby) and I am sure that there must be more.

  281. I think he’s got some Yes songs to his credit too, although personally speaking I wouldn’t count that as a recommendation.

  282. There’s a lot of fun things one could say about the JB thing, but it’s already funny enough. I’ll just note that to some, rules seem to be made only for other people, along with respect for property and such. Feh.

    The Heinlein blurb would have gotten me to read OMW, if only I had seen it before the author’s online writing convinced me he could write well, and I should therefore check it out. That, and the multitude of recommendations from other fen. Now I have a Scalzi jones, and the time between fixes will always be too long.

  283. One of the reasons Heinlein (and particularly Starship Troopers) endures is that he demonstrates an understanding and appreciation of both why men and women choose to serve, and why they carry on when things get truly fucked up. It’s the same reason Kipling remains widely read amongst senior NCO’s and field grade officers.

  284. And Rush gave up on Rand around 1978. Though not necessarily for the better.

    No, not all Heinlein’s women characters are Ginny. Otherwise, we would have had 27 Ginnys in TNotB. We did not. Certainly SOME of her attributes show up in a LOT of characters. However, Wyoming Knott is not Star is not Deety is not Hazel Stone is not The Mother Thing is not Maureen is not Podkayne is not Caroline Mshyeni.

    You can’t find The Gods Themselves readily in a used bookstore because it hasn’t had nearly the print run of anything RAH wrote. Most of the copies were cheap 50s and 60s PBs that fell apart. Try finding an RAH from the same era. They’re rare, and usually brown and crunchy when you do. Books were disposable in that time. And let’s face it: Asimov was brilliant at non-fiction, but rather boring as far as fiction. His SF mysteries work well enough, with the problem as the character, and his Lucky Starrs are okay, but most of his “adult” SF is stiff.

    Certainly, some people grow away from RAH, and are replaced by new fans. This is not a condemnation. It leads to more sales and therefore durability. Pop quiz: Is it better to have 10,000 people read your book and keep it forever, or 10,000,000 read it and throw it away?

    I’d argue against Farnham’s Freehold being racist. It was a role reversal, taken to an extreme, (though not that extreme, since eugenics still existed to some degree in the 1960s, and RAH had seen the worst of it in the 30s) and used as counterpoint. Or, simplified for those who didn’t get it, “How would you feel if blacks treated whites the way whites treated blacks a century ago?”

  285. Libertarian Baen stuff? I’m sure Eric Flint, John Ringo, Tom Kratman, Mercedes Lackey and Elizabeth Moon will be THRILLED to be called “Libertarian.” Also Canadian Paul Chafe, Larry Niven, Spider Robinson, David Weber and Lois Bujold.

    You might want to invest in some nomex underwear and a good Level IV body armor.

  286. I also have milSF stories going back to the 1940s. Or ERB, if you wish to consider that SF. Heinlein didn’t invent the genre.

    That people think he did is another point in his favor.

    PS: “Sixth Column/The Day After Tomorrow.”

  287. #250 Carl Zeichner —
    “I read somewhere that Paul Verhoeven made Starship Troopers because he disagreed intensely with the views in the book and wanted to tear them down.
    If true, that’s quite a tribute. Can anyone think of another movie, ever, which was made because the director hated the book it was based on?”

    I don’t think that’s correct. As I understand it, Verhoeven signed on to do a project with the working title “Bug Hunt on Antares 9″ or some such. The producers picked up the association with Starship Troopers (bugs and soldiers, must be the same?) and gave him a copy of ST to read. He read the first chapter or two, and threw it aside in disgust, saying something like “Bah! This is a coming-of-age story. We’re not doing that, we’re killing bugs!” Whether his disgust was over the story or the inappropriateness of the story connection to his project wasn’t revealed. (This all comes from a large-format (9″x13″?) photo paperback about the making of the movie, which I can’t now find.)

    I was really upset watching the movie because of the usual large number of things, until about twenty minutes in I realized that I was supposed to be cheering for the bugs. Then it became much more watchable.

    (Off topic — Mr. MZW, I greatly enjoyed both Freehold and The Weapon, could we please have more in that storyverse, from still more character’s viewpoints? Thank you, in any case.)

  288. I’m going to wrap this up. It’s taking writing time. So, what can we say about RAH?

    All he did was invent a couple of subgenres, sell 50 million copies (so far), inspire the space and tech industry, stick in female and non-caucasian characters before almost anyone else, make sex acceptable in SF, get SF into slick mags, write for Britannica, negotiate better standards for SF writers, invent some still currently used tech, inspire a hundred present day writers, cause the first critical review of an SF author to be written (even if it was laughably bad, it was first), fund a university chair, become required reading at several dozen military academies worldwide, have a medical procedure and device named after him, become well enough known in the mainstream to be a Trivial Pursuit question, well enough known to be featured in a #1 song (We Didn’t Start the Fire) about a generation after his, well enough known to be a Jeopardy question, be credited with helping create the hippie movement…

    …but other than that, he’s not really relevant. Got it.

    “I’ll take ‘10% of Heinlein’s relevance and sales’ for $500, Alex.”

  289. htom: “Better to Beg Forgiveness…” came out last month and is in stores, Amazon, my site, Baen Webscriptions and on some #books “pirate” site. I’m working on a post-Freehold first contact novel now, and I had a Freehold universe short from the POV of a military leopard in Haldeman/Greenberg’s “Future Weapons.”

    I also have another Valdemar short to write for Misty, a tech article for SFWA and a rifle to review. And I’m going to be delayed, because apparently I have read OMW right this moment or some of my larger fans are going to come to my house and duct tape me down and read it to me.

  290. 341: htom
    MZW’s latest book Better to Beg Forgiveness is sort of in the same world as Freehold, but set a century or so earlier and not exactly on Grainne. Its a good book though despite that :)

    Not wanting to return to the Randian war but John Ringo’s upcoming book “The Last Centurian” has an amusing section where the narator/hero describes Atlas Shrugged:

    There’s a really crappy book by Ayn Rand called ‘Atlas
    Shrugged.’ It’s a real snoozer but I was really bored one time on an exercise and struggled all the way through that fucker. The basic premise, though, was simple. A guy who built a widget that was very important to, well, everything it turned out, decided to quit. The guys who took over building the widget didn’t build it as well and society fell apart.

    It is not easy to break a society or an economy. You can’t
    do it by missing any one widget. If they guys making the widget, now, don’t make it well enough someone will come along who does. And probably better than the original widget maker. That’s the whole point of a free-market.

    Command economy? Maybe. But then the KGB will come break down the widget maker’s door and explain that he’d better get back to making widgets or he’s never going to see his daughter again.

  291. I’m not sure what Verhoven said in other contexts, but in interviews around the time Starship Troopers was released, Verhoven said he didn’t like the novel’s politics and set out to do a satire.

    This doesn’t necessarily contradict the other account: when Stanley Kubrick optioned Red Alert in the 1960s, he intended to do a serious movie about nuclear war, but in the process of writing the screenplay he kept cracking himself up with the morbid absurdity of it all. The result was that Fail Safe, a very serious and philosophical book about Mutual Assured Destruction became Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Bomb. (I don’t know if there were any enraged Peter Bryant fans who trashed Kubrick’s re-imagining of their favorite novel.) It’s possible a similar evolution occurred during the making of Troopers.

    Personally, I thought the movie was pretty damn funny, and intentionally so. You were supposed to be rooting for the bugs, or at least against the vapid fascists ostensibly at the center of the movie. (If you don’t think Troopers is intentionally a satire, try watching just the intra-movie commercials again. And Neil Patrick Harris as a space-Gestapo was pretty sublime casting.)

    Sometimes you need to separate the movie from the book to appreciate it. PKD and Blade Runner were mentioned a few times above: the movie and book have as much to do with each other as the adaptations of Red Alert and Starship Troopers do, but personally I appreciate both as independent visions. The fact that Blade Runner omits Mercerism, the extinction of most animal life after a nuclear war, electric pets, radioactive pollution, Dekard’s wife, the parallel police station and other elements of the novel (while adding elements like Dekard’s status as an android) doesn’t anger me one bit–it’s a damn brilliant movie, and a damn brilliant book, and the most important link (as far as I’m concerned) is that PKD’s kids deserved to finally see a financial return on their dad’s hard work and his career deserved the posthumous boost the tie-in paperback reissue of DADOES provided.

    Perhaps Heinlein-fan-critics of the Verhoven movie should mellow and take solace in the benefits the movie created for the Heinlein estate, while trying to appreciate the movie for what it is (as opposed to trashing it for what it’s not). But hey, that’s just me. ost of us PKD fanbois tend to be a bit more laid back, I suspect.

  292. Correction: the book that Strangelove was “based” on was Red Alert (I caught it once, but didn’t change it the second time). Fail-Safe was a similar novel that was made into a serious Sydney Lumet movie with Henry Fonda, released the same year Strangelove was (1964). So similar a novel, in fact, that author Bryant sued the authors of Fail-Safe for plagiarism; according to Wikipedia, the suit was settled out-of-court.

  293. Oh–and I’m not saying Verhoven was right about the book’s “politics.” I’m merely paraphrasing what I remember him saying, not endorsing (or arguing) with his assessment.

    Shutting up now.

  294. Thanks to all who’ve recognized that I wasn’t dissing the New Martian Federal Nudist Party in my previous post and have subsequently pinged me to query regarding membership and party platform plank information.

    Rest assured that – difficulties with coordinating temporally distorted political issues aside – I am collating all information as promised and will make it available for wide dissemination once I’ve verified all sources.

    And yes, that includes confirming the policy of issuing special “three beers and a tequila chaser” filtering goggles to all card-carrying members to avoid visually induced nausea at party gatherings.

    Exotic Mars: Where tanning from the inside out via cosmic radiation is pretty much your only sun-worshiping option.

  295. An Eric opined:

    Personally, I thought the movie was pretty damn funny, and intentionally so. You were supposed to be rooting for the bugs, or at least against the vapid fascists ostensibly at the center of the movie. (If you don’t think Troopers is intentionally a satire, try watching just the intra-movie commercials again. And Neil Patrick Harris as a space-Gestapo was pretty sublime casting.)

    Some folks enjoy watching train wrecks…

  296. If the gracious Mr. Scalzi will allow me in for a minute, I’d like to address John Ringo’s character’s comment on ATLAS SHRUGGED.

    I first read ATLAS SHRUGGED when I was twelve years old. I am now fifty-three. Between then and now I have read innumberable analyses and criticisms of the novel.

    I can say with complete assurance that the citation quoted by Francis T is the most inaccurate, completely imbecilic mis-read of the novel I have ever seen. It is so wrong, in so many ways, I suspect it is a deliberate attempt to discredit Rand’s philosophy by lies and misrepresentation.

    Instead of responding to this dispicable calumny, I will only urge the independent minds here to read the book and judge for yourself.

    Regards to you all. I am outta here.

  297. Gaaaah! What did I say? Why will people not listen? Can’t you see that Ayn Rand is tearing us apart?

    Seriously, though. Table the Ayn Rand stuff. It just goes nowhere.

  298. John@351:

    It’s Zymurgy’s second law of thermodynamics:

    Once you open a can of worms, the only way to put them back in the can is to use a larger can……

  299. Make it 354. Time Enough For Love, Starship Troopers and a whole bunch of other Heinlein works influenced me at pivotal moments in my life, as did Stranger in a Strange Land. So I have a few suggestions for those digging holes in which to bury his reputation – just none that I’d share in mixed company.

  300. At some point this thread jumped the shark . . . I’d say that’s relevant because I believe Heinlein himself jumped the shark with Stranger in a Strange Land. Sure there were a couple of good ones after that, but they were merely reflections of the hard-driven well-plotted works of his earlier career.

    What’s the longest discussion you’ve prompted on this blog, Mr. Scalzi?

  301. About 700 comments. Although usually after around 500 I’ll just close up shop. No sane person should be expected to read 500 comments about anything.

  302. I first discovered Heinlein when I was 11 years old. It wasn’t one of his juveniles, it was The Door into Summer. No more than a few pages in I realized this was someone who could tell a story. Before I finished I realized even more than that this was someone I could learn something from.

    I hate lame cliches, and ‘it spoke to me’ certainly qualifies, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it.

    But then I came to the end and something bad happened, I read the author’s note (I wanted to lean something about this obviously awesome writer). There I found out he’d died the year before.

    Having that low right after that high just burned Heinlein into me, and he’s been a part ever since.

    Just seemed the appropriate place to mention that.

  303. Tumbleweed #134
    My apologies for forgetting to address you in #318 when I answered MZW. You’d really have enjoyed Norwescon 2005 (I think it was) when I asked and Ali Grieve graciously scheduled Greg Bear and Joe Haldeman (and two other very bright folk, as well as myself trying to stay out of trouble among that very fast traffic) for a Heinlein panel. Packed room, all ages and sizes, and we could have gone another hour. I think we did Heinlein’s Stealth Heroes, or Heinlein 101–I forget which. Sorry I missed 2006 and haven’t been able to be back since–they were by-passing my clogged arteries. Perhaps I’ll be able to make 2008, programming will again be so gracious, available writers so accommodating; and we’ll get lucky again.

  304. #345 – While I do think the movie is amusing as a standalone, “this is not RAH” movie, my biggest problem is that it has “Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers” attached to it, and what that means for the future. I find it highly unlikely that anyone will ever do a serious movie version of the novel after THAT. Why fuck up a good thing from the get go? You don’t get a good parody until an original serious work is done. Spaceballs would’ve been dreck without Star Wars first.

  305. #362 – Norwescon 2007 was my first con, despite my being all of 40 years old. Once I checked out the list of discussions, I just about salivated at the thought of going, and I’m about to sign up for the 2008 one soon. I’ll probably take a day off work and get a room at the hotel for the weekend this time, despite living in the Seattle area; the travel and parking issues are just too much of a hassle to bother with. I think every con should have a Heinlein discussion panel. :)

  306. No sane person should be expected to read 500 comments about anything.

    Hey, I kind of like longwinded, fast-moving threads. I wait until it has several dozen posts, load it up, then slowly read it as I work. Then when I get to the end I hit reload. Lather, rinse, repeat. Whole workdays chock full of mindless tedious tasks can go by with me being adequately entertained that way. :)

  307. Scalzi sez:
    Gaaaah! What did I say? Why will people not listen? Can’t you see that Ayn Rand is tearing us apart?

    Seriously, though. Table the Ayn Rand stuff. It just goes nowhere.

    I repeat: Gaaaaaah!

    I swear to God, I will turn this thread around…

    Stab it with your steely knife, but you just can’t kill the beast!

    (Sorry, but this thread somehow gave me that earworm, so I thought I’d share it)

  308. Thank you, Hugh 57. Now I’ve got the final guitar solo in my head. I hate you.

    Ironically, the Rand-loving fellow I banned last night because of his general asstardery has been trying to post messages today, primarily about how lame he considers Old Man’s War to be, and has declared that my refusal to let them through shows I can’t handle criticism. He’s also trying to give me writing advice, which I find amusing. I’m personally wondering what part of the word “banned” he doesn’t understand.

  309. I haven’t had anything to say in this thread because the only RAH I’ve read is Have Space Suit Will Travel and the only Ayn Rand I’ve read are the titles. Having said that, you kids are a fucking riot.

    And Scalzi, Good luck getting it back on the rails.

  310. JS, it’s still fun reading.

    I will be at work tomorrow dealing with price gouging issues, travelers and helping people without power. It is stressful but I know that I can take a break and yell Gaaaah. LOL Then, I will read more around here when I can take a break.

    Okay, fine, this thread is done. It probably should be. But, I look forward to all of the threads. Thanks for the fun break. I have needed it this week. It’s been ugly here in Norman and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

    Gaaah! LOL You are a very patient administrator.

  311. John: He’s a better writer than you, Turtledove, Heinlein and Card. I wasn’t even dignified with a mention. And he’s a better editor than Van Gelder or Dozois. Watch out. He’s going to be the man who saves SF. He’s said so in other fora.

  312. (re: MZW in 338)

    While I’m sure Larry Niven would enjoy membership in the Martian Nudist Party, I don’t think Libertarianism (small or big “L”) particularly interests him. He doesn’t really live on this planet, he just visits. Politics? Not so much.

    I mean, really–I’ve known him since I was 12, and I had to remind him who I was for the first 6 years. (And that includes getting him un-lost on several hiking trips.) He got lost trying to get from my brother’s wedding to the reception (2 miles), and drove home instead of asking for directions (120 miles). As a result, MY wedding and reception were at the same location, and I had scouts on standby in case he got lost going the 50 feet between.

    Coining “Wireheading”, “Flash Crowd”, “Organlegging”, sure. Arguing ’bout the nanny state, um, well…

    (I s’pose that doesn’t really get the thread off A– R— and back on the rails, but it was all I could think of, Mr. Scalzi.)

  313. I’m personally wondering what part of the word “banned” he doesn’t understand.

    All of it, dear host. It fails to conform with his ****ian self-actualization vision. Seriously, he’s a known troll with delusions of glandeur (as in thinking he has a pair as long as his keyboard doesn’t fail and he can still type one-handed) and you’ve lost nothing by banning save the potential amusement of repeatedly abusing him.

    GeekyGirl602, I’m a state north. My sympathies. We got off easier than y’all for once.

  314. I sort of liked some of Turtledove’s books but hated his alternative history books. It’s probably because:…….

    I hate to admit it but I love many of Harry Harrison’s novels. I loved his Jim DeGris character in his Stainless Steel Rat books. I love to read the Deathworld Trilogy when I am sick and just need to be entertained. Don’t judge me on this! Please. These books are my really guilty pleasure that helped me through my 20’s. I know how bad they got.

    But, back to alternative history. I loved [i]West of Eden[/i] by Harry Harrison. I have never been able to get into Turtledove’s alternative histories. Maybe it’s just my taste. They are boring to me. I think it’s all of the WWII references. I am so sick of WWII. I do not mean any offense to people that fought in it. I had a mentor who loved typewriters that survived WWII. But, can we please move on?

    Did anyone see the Video Awards the other night? It was really funny with the WWII jokes. Really, how many times do we have to keep playing it over and over. Okay, I guess I am really showing my geekyness.

    All I can say is that I am not big on alternative histories. They have to be crafted very carefully. Oh, speaking of alternative histories, one of my favorite authors is Gene Wolfe. His books were not really alternative history but sort of fantasy meets sci-fi meets history, meets zombies. Well, maybe not zombies but dark. ;-)

    Good night all. I need to go extract my 13 year old son from an xbox 360. It will probably take an invasion of the evil mom to do it. I am up for the task.

  315. Okay, why don’t my [ brackets] work? Is it HTML or something else? Grrr…

  316. Geekygirl:

    You need to enclose with the greater than and less than symbols, not the brackets. Shift comma and period characters (They won’t preview or I’d put them in this post).

    Alex
    (Work avoidance is my middle name)

  317. Re the Starship Troopers movie discussion…

    Both the DH and I (we disliked the ST movie, and only liked it when we viewed it as separate from Heinlein–it is wicked cool satire) had an opposite and equally passionate reaction to the animated series based on ST.

    Let’s put it this way. The son was in 1st grade. We were on a vacation trip, and surfing for something to watch that we considered appropriate. We stumbled across “Roughnecks” (the ST animated series). We both gulped with joy and started yelping “That’s *really* Starship Troopers!”

    Power suits. Stuff reasonably close to the book. Yeah, Verhoeven was associated with the damned thing, but we figured that was just an accident….

    and to give you an idea of how much DH liked ST, he owns the frickin’ *game.*

  318. Oh, and as for the JB issue?

    I winced every time I read his name. There’s a very nice (if now unknown) enviro/back-to-the-land writer from the mid-twentieth century named Louis B (insert the last name here).

    I *like* reading Louis B, and his daughter Ellen’s work. Louis B. has some nice stuff about land stewardship and sustainable farming. John, you’re probably reasonably close to Malabar Farm.

    I *cringe* at the thought that JB could be related.

  319. 376: “He doesn’t really live on this planet, he just visits. Politics? Not so much.”

    But, IME at least, he always has time to discuss his stories and the writing craft in general with anybody displaying a sincere interest in learning. You just have to address the man in his own context.

  320. JS,

    Well, Rand is interesting for debate purposes, i don’t think that any of us can doubt that Dan Brown is the true future of literature and that all great fiction from here to the end of time will be in response to him. Either as an homage or a retort, Dan Brown will be the North Star.

  321. 387: “…the true future of literature and that all great fiction from here to the end of time will be in response…”

    When I worked for Waldenbooks back in the ’80s, I’d have sworn Jackie Collins was this close. Or Jim Davis.

  322. I wouldn’t mind being on those lists, that’s for sure, although I think in some sense “The Ghost Brigades” might be more of interest than OMW.

  323. 391: “I wouldn’t mind being on those lists, that’s for sure, although I think in some sense “The Ghost Brigades” might be more of interest than OMW.”

    Lot’s of good “why we fight” stuff in there.

  324. MZW,

    While its true that Mr Jordans subltly articulated texts have brought the genre to a place from which there can be no quick return Mr Jordan was a _fantasy_ writer and as such, much like the esteemed Madame Rice should be viewed with great veneration but only to the level worthy of an Apostle. Mr Brown is the one true Messiah.

  325. This is the thread that doesn’t end
    Yes, it goes on and on, my friend
    John Scalzi started it not knowing what it was
    and we’ll continue arguing forever just because
    This is the thread that doesn’t end
    Yes, it goes on and on, my friend
    John Scalzi started it not knowing what it was
    and we’ll continue arguing forever just because
    This is the thread that doesn’t end
    Yes, it goes on and on, my friend
    John Scalzi started it not knowing what it was
    and we’ll continue arguing forever just because
    This is the thread that doesn’t end
    Yes, it goes on and on, my friend
    John Scalzi started it not knowing what it was
    and we’ll continue arguing forever just because
    This is the thread that doesn’t end
    Yes, it goes on and on, my friend
    John Scalzi started it not knowing what it was
    and we’ll continue arguing forever just because

  326. MZW,

    That was masterful. Masterful! The meter. The undulating prose. If you infuse your books with more of that brilliant and epiphany inducing lyrical deliciousness you too can be regarded with proper Brownian Awe.

  327. MZW:

    Huh. You may impress some people, but I know Lamb Chop and you, sir, are no Lamb Chop.

    Okay, now I’m just going to stand here with my hands clasped and offer someone a boost over the 400.

  328. Re 386:

    Yep, Larry is more than willing to talk about his writings, or much of anything else. He’s generally a nice guy (more so than my old man, often, by his own admission). But his algorithm for retaining details of a conversation, names, dates, and the like isn’t like anyone else’s.

    Re 383:

    Why exactly was I your hero again? Does that come with a cash reward?

    …Actually, it was more complete disgust with MS Office than utter work avoidance which occasioned the bloggorreah. Can this plague not be lifted from our heads? Can there not be a true competitor to the Menace From Redmond?

    Well, back to Stupid Word Tricks. Over/under on today’s Word crashes: 5. Over/under on screamed swear-words: 20.

  329. There once was a man named Scalzi,

    With whom the whole web wished to be palzy,

    To Whatever they flocked,

    With each keyboard c=ck=d,

    To glean from the screen,
    what wisdom could be seen,

    While Mad Mike they did like,
    For Scalzi they were Reich!

  330. 400: “He’s generally a nice guy (more so than my old man, often, by his own admission).”

    I like your “old man”, Alex. Society should cherish it’s crusty ol’ farts, don’t you think?

  331. Mr Graves,

    I know you too are a fan of both Brown and Graves do not feel the need to agitate on their behalf. I know that like myself it pains every micrometer of your soul to even contemplate combative and confrontation and I’m sure Mr Brown and Mr Williamson who see clearly what makes up a man are deeply touched that you would defend them so. But Hark good sir, the piper of time will set each souls reward, and saddening as it is, some are not worthy.

  332. Timberg and MG Lord and all of their think-alikes just showed how they’d have flunked any decent course on literary criticism – by confusing what the author’s characters say with what the author says.

    Also, it helps to read the author in context of his time. Shying rocks at Robert A. Heinlein or Jerry Pournelle because they don’t write like (say) Ursula K. LeGuin (and I admire all three authors) is parochial, to say the least, but that’s just what Timberg does, showing that he doesn’t really know how to read literature.

    Jules Verne’s “Out on a Comet” was strongly anti-Semitic almost all the way through – I guess this means we have to line him up in the courtyard, cut the buttons off of his jacket, and send him out into the wastes in disgrace, because he offended against culture as it would be a century or more after he wrote the offending passage, and without recourse to his personal papers to determine what his own feelings on the matter were. Heinlein’s widow Ginny made that easier than it would be in the case of Verne by publishing a largish selection of his papers in the mass-market “Grumbles From The Grave” to honor his wishes after his death. But that’s RESEARCH.

    Timberg also seems to be guilty of quoting his sources selectively and out of context – at least he did with Heinlein Society president David Silver (go to alt.fan.heinlein in USENET under the thread “LA Times POS article on Heinlein”) for a confirmation of that.

    When I was a mere student journalist, cherry-picking a small, unrepresentative quote from an interview like that would have meant some time on the carpet in front of my journalism instructor and/or editor. I guess when you work for the LA Times, you can color outside of the lines, huh?

  333. Mike,

    Dianna and I have several shelves dedicated to crankery. Brown finds his home there right next to Holy Blood, Holy Grail and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Should anyone ever inflict the Verhooven cow flop on us, it too will find its home there.

  334. Geez, I go away for a day and I miss this. In response to MZW, in case he’s still reading this thread.

    No, not all Heinlein’s women characters are Ginny. Otherwise, we would have had 27 Ginnys in TNotB. We did not. Certainly SOME of her attributes show up in a LOT of characters. However, Wyoming Knott is not Star is not Deety is not Hazel Stone is not The Mother Thing is not Maureen is not Podkayne is not Caroline Mshyeni.

    I knew I’d get the fucking laundry list. Yes, there are slight variations in these characters, but the fact is that they have very similar outlooks and worldviews (ditto for pretty much all of Heinlein’s male protagonists, as well, for that matter), and virtually every time anyone points out the lack of range in Heinlein’s female characters, some fan says something like, “Well, they’re all modeled after Ginny Heinlein, and she was a real person, so there.”

    Heinlein is constantly put forward as a very “character-centered” writer, as opposed to many others of his generation, but I don’t see it. Asimov is largely considered to have characters composed mostly of wet cardboard, and yet he created Susan Calvin and Arkady Darrell in the forties, either of which is a better character (and between the two show more range) than any female character I’m aware of in Heinlein’s whole corpus. And that doesn’t count the engaging female characters in Asimov’s later works….

    You can’t find The Gods Themselves readily in a used bookstore because it hasn’t had nearly the print run of anything RAH wrote. Most of the copies were cheap 50s and 60s PBs that fell apart.

    The Gods Themselves was published in 1972. I doubt I’d be able to find a copy from the 50’s or 60’s.

    Try finding an RAH from the same era. They’re rare, and usually brown and crunchy when you do. Books were disposable in that time.

    Most of my Heinleins and Asimovs are from the 60s and 70s. Mostly purchased used.

    And let’s face it: Asimov was brilliant at non-fiction, but rather boring as far as fiction. His SF mysteries work well enough, with the problem as the character, and his Lucky Starrs are okay, but most of his “adult” SF is stiff.

    Matter of taste. Asimov published more “clunkers” than Heinlein, sure, but at his best he was just as good and at least as influential as Heinlein. He also published ten times as many books overall, and probably much more than ten times as many short stories.

    Certainly, some people grow away from RAH, and are replaced by new fans. This is not a condemnation. It leads to more sales and therefore durability. Pop quiz: Is it better to have 10,000 people read your book and keep it forever, or 10,000,000 read it and throw it away?

    Hence why The Da Vinci Code is more influential than Franz Kafka….

    I’d argue against Farnham’s Freehold being racist. It was a role reversal, taken to an extreme, (though not that extreme, since eugenics still existed to some degree in the 1960s, and RAH had seen the worst of it in the 30s) and used as counterpoint. Or, simplified for those who didn’t get it, “How would you feel if blacks treated whites the way whites treated blacks a century ago?”

    I’d rather not get into an extended discussion of FF in this forum, unless you insist. Depending on your definition of “racist”, FF (and Heinlein in general) either is or isn’t. Whether the book is or is not, it’s certainly written in such a way that it’s very easy to misinterpret as racist, and that’s an important point.

  335. RG,

    Even at his worst at least Red Bear hangs a plot and chareterization on his politics. Oh yes, and when I send you a book of my poetry (coming soon from Publish America) where will you shelve that?

  336. “I’d rather not get into an extended discussion of FF in this forum, unless you insist. Depending on your definition of “racist”, FF (and Heinlein in general) either is or isn’t. Whether the book is or is not, it’s certainly written in such a way that it’s very easy to misinterpret as racist, and that’s an important point.”

    So the attorney working for the District of Columbia who was fired for using the word “niggardly” in a speech with no racist intent at all had it coming?

    The fact that Farnham’s Freehold may be easy for some people to misinterpret as racist is important only in the same way that Timberg’s hatchet job on Heinlein was easy for him to write – in either case, a lack of sophistication with literature and literary criticism is at proximate fault, not the work of Heinlein.

    When Timberg says that more of Heinlein’s novels have been called “controversial” than those of Clarke and Asimov (the other two occupants of the Mt. Rushmore of SF Timberg has us imagine), he uses the term as a pejorative. Just like my idiot mother-in-law. The ideas that controversy has its uses, and that a science-fiction author whose works don’t provoke controversy just might not be doing his job as well as it could be done seem to zoom above Timberg’s head.

    Ironically, Timberg quotes Tom Disch (introducing him as a “new-wave” SF author) as calling Heinlein “the enemy” because he was representative of the Golden Age – and Heinlein himself was “controversial” precisely because he upset so many apple carts and in so many ways WAS a New Wave SF author.

    But if writing a novel that can be misinterpreted – usually by someone who does not properly know how to read literature – is an offense, I wish it were committed more often. Political correctness is a much tighter straitjacket for writers than Victorian morality ever was.

  337. Mike,

    Depends on how it reads…

    Coonass,

    Hear Him, Hear Him!

    But if writing a novel that can be misinterpreted – usually by someone who does not properly know how to read literature – is an offense, I wish it were committed more often.

    Wish I’d wrote that!

  338. 411: “Political correctness is a much tighter straitjacket for writers than Victorian morality ever was.”

    I’m going to steal that. (With attribution, of course.)

  339. [My original comment] “I’d rather not get into an extended discussion of FF in this forum, unless you insist. Depending on your definition of “racist”, FF (and Heinlein in general) either is or isn’t. Whether the book is or is not, it’s certainly written in such a way that it’s very easy to misinterpret as racist, and that’s an important point.”

    So the attorney working for the District of Columbia who was fired for using the word “niggardly” in a speech with no racist intent at all had it coming?

    The fact that Farnham’s Freehold may be easy for some people to misinterpret as racist is important only in the same way that Timberg’s hatchet job on Heinlein was easy for him to write – in either case, a lack of sophistication with literature and literary criticism is at proximate fault, not the work of Heinlein.

    Yes, and since Heinlein could clearly do no wrong, anyone who interprets his work differently from you shows a “lack of sophistication with literature and literary criticism”? I make no claims for the original journalists, because I haven’t read the original articles, but it’s very easy to see a book in which black people, put in control of society a thousand years in the future, end up as masters of the white population and even use the white dead as food at fashionable dinner parties as a racist book.

    (Forgive me, for it’s been awhile since I’ve read the novel and don’t own a copy, so I may be mistaken on some details.)

    When Timberg says that more of Heinlein’s novels have been called “controversial” than those of Clarke and Asimov (the other two occupants of the Mt. Rushmore of SF Timberg has us imagine), he uses the term as a pejorative. Just like my idiot mother-in-law. The ideas that controversy has its uses, and that a science-fiction author whose works don’t provoke controversy just might not be doing his job as well as it could be done seem to zoom above Timberg’s head.

    I’m not defending or attacking Timberg. But for the work to be “controversial”, then doesn’t he have to stir up, you know, controversy? In other words, wouldn’t the book have to be deliberately divisive, and not appreciated by all audiences?

    Ironically, Timberg quotes Tom Disch (introducing him as a “new-wave” SF author) as calling Heinlein “the enemy” because he was representative of the Golden Age – and Heinlein himself was “controversial” precisely because he upset so many apple carts and in so many ways WAS a New Wave SF author.

    But if writing a novel that can be misinterpreted – usually by someone who does not properly know how to read literature – is an offense, I wish it were committed more often. Political correctness is a much tighter straitjacket for writers than Victorian morality ever was.

    It’s somewhat better to produce light than heat in the use of controversy. FF, in my opinion, is more a producer of heat than light — it uses racial issues clumsily to make an overly-broad point. To use an example from another medium, it’s the difference between the razor satire of South Park and the dull thuddish attacks of Family Guy — FF is probably more like the latter than the former.

    That said, it is, properly read, not a racist novel and in fact one of the only works of Heinlein that actually shows the costs of Heinlein’s worldview. In many ways, it’s one of his best works. But that has nothing to do with his clumsy handling of the racial issues.

  340. Wow. This is amazing! I thought of and sort of wrote some really bad okie poems. Thanks MZW and Kabongo. Keep up the good work. At least you have me creating. It might be bad (mine, not yours) and it might be okie but at least you are helping my brain out.

  341. RG,

    By now you should know I’m not in love with the poly-ticks of either/any of those gents. Let’s leave it there, I suspect JS would disappreciate one of our little political lovefests on his stoop.

    Geeky,

    Always a pleasure to please a pretty lady.

  342. Daniel Harper 409 : Whether the book is or is not, it’s certainly written in such a way that it’s very easy to misinterpret as racist, and that’s an important point.

    Yes it is. And all the more significant if deliberately designed as such (easy to misinterpret, I mean) by Heinlein.

    Heinlein sometimes did this. I’ll refer you to “Gulf” — which could so easily be misinterpreted as a apologue of a racist (in the heinleinian sense of “human race”) domination of the world by some “homo novis” that even the sophisticated SF reader can fall in the trap, take Kettle Belly Baldwyn hyperbolic darwinism seriously, and find himself nursing quasi-fascist ideas. Just to establish how easy it is indeed. (by the way, Heinlein seemed to consider the reader from the 80s far less able to draw his own conclusions : Friday is far more blunt on the same issues).

    Daniel Harper 415 : That said, it is, properly read, not a racist novel and in fact one of the only works of Heinlein that actually shows the costs of Heinlein’s worldview. In many ways, it’s one of his best works. But that has nothing to do with his clumsy handling of the racial issues.

    Or not so clumsy ? It could also be read as very efficient misdirection.

    I don’t agree that Farnham’s Freehold is one of Heinlein’s best works, by far, but it’s probably one of his most autobiographical, and self-critical. It does indeed show the costs of Heinlein’s political views, mostly from a very private point of view : how alcohol and a (fully legitimate, in the book) obsession about atom wars can destroy a marriage, etc.

    Since the book was to cause some heated controversies, I guess that Heinlein might much rather have had them centered on his (absurdely) alleged racism than on his personal history.

  343. Mr Harper: Susan Calvin a character? Sure. Female? Hard to tell.

    We must have read very different Asimov.

    I barely recall Arkady whatsername.

    But do please explain the “slight variation” between the Mother Thing and Friday. I’m all ears.

    Of course, I do apologize for the date mixup on Gods Themselves. After wading through the boggling claptrap of the Foundation trilogy at 14, I stuck to his nonfic and haven’t read GT. The Robot stories were great when I was 12, though. I still re-read them on occasion, like Heinlein Juvies.

    Why does no one criticize the blatant and endorsed global socialism of the Robot novels?

  344. MKZ,

    Global socialism seems to be the consensus position when it comes to science fiction portrayals of Earth as a unitary government. Some few identify it as the death spiral it is…

  345. Michael I really would recommend The Gods themselves. In my opinion it’s the best Asimov novel; especially the middle section which has some of the best Alien scenes I’ve read.

    On the other hand I couldn’t agree more about the Global, nay universal socialism of his Robot/Foundation novels.

    In his later novels, like Prelude to Foundation (I think that’s the correct title), you essentially have Azimov saying that there needs to be a group mind for humanity simply so there can be a Law of Robotics referring to humanity rather than humans. Also, his desire to tie his various series of novels together made his later novels too artificial for my taste.

  346. Mr Harper: Susan Calvin a character? Sure. Female? Hard to tell.

    And what, pray tell, would make it “easy to tell” that she’s female, pray tell? I’m all ears….

    We must have read very different Asimov.

    I barely recall Arkady whatsername.

    The main character of “…And Now You Don’t”, the short story that became the second half of Second Foundation

    But do please explain the “slight variation” between the Mother Thing and Friday. I’m all ears.

    Fair enough. The Mother Thing is a solid female character (albeit an alien one) who has little in common with the other Heinlein female protagonists. It’s perhaps more fair to say that Heinlein had his standard plot, and fit standard characters into those plots — certainly the differences between Mary from Puppet Masters and Friday are more based on the needs of the plot than on any deeply-held character moments.

    Of course, I do apologize for the date mixup on Gods Themselves. After wading through the boggling claptrap of the Foundation trilogy at 14, I stuck to his nonfic and haven’t read GT. The Robot stories were great when I was 12, though. I still re-read them on occasion, like Heinlein Juvies.

    As another commenter noted, you’re missing a lot if you haven’t read The Gods Themselves. It’s my personal favorite of his works, and the beginning of his later period in terms of his plots and characterizations. There are also strong female characters in Nemesis, although I don’t own that one and haven’t read it since I was 15 or so.

    Why does no one criticize the blatant and endorsed global socialism of the Robot novels?

    Feel free to do so. I’m not claiming that Asimov was perfect, but simply that his “cardboard cutouts” (not your words, but generally used to describe Asimov’s characters) are at least approximately as good as Heinlein’s “fleshed out characters” (ditto). If you’re going to hold up Heinlein as an example of a good character writer, you’ve got to give the same respect to Asimov (and for that matter Clarke, who for my money was better than either of them…).

  347. Now, I don’t think that either Heinlein, Asimov or Clarke were great shakes in the “writing characters” sense. (This in answer to Rodney, who accuses me of thinking Heinlein can do no wrong.) Heinlein’s a good narrator, although his prose runs to the glib side. I was simply scratching my head over the concept that any author should concern himself the possibility that his reader might be a cretin and read bigotry into his writing that doesn’t exist.

    But there IS a certain monotony in the female characters of Heinlein’s later works. And in the male ones, come to think of it.

    It all comes down to the question “Did I enjoy reading Heinlein’s work?” to which a shelf of dog-eared books gives mute, but affirmative assent. Not perfect, but very enjoyable. Readable and re-readable. And I have to admit I’m not a little honored to be in the company of astronauts and software moguls in thinking so, as opposed to booksellers and clue-deficient reviewers.

    Timberg’s thesis leads us to the scary proposition that we should encourage SF authors to try and emulate J.K. Rowling.

  348. I wasn’t quite prepared for the wonderful level of snark, and have had to vacuum cracker crumbs off my keyboard; thanks, John!

    The first Heinlein story I read, probably in fifth or sixth grade, was “The Roads Must Roll,” in the Adventures in Time and Space anthology, snagged from my father’s bookshelf. Sometime in the early/mid-60s (my early teens), I read Podkayne of Mars, same source. I also remember (though this may be conflated with some other book?) TMiaHM being serialized in one of the magazines he subscribed to.

    TMiaHM and Glory Road are still my favorites.

    Yes, there’s sexism there, but there was also this – especially for that time – um. aphasia kicking in again – wonderful thing where the women’s roles weren’t limited to being baby factories or helpless victims needing rescue, or both.

  349. ‘frontier optimism’ — there has been one comment about ‘what’s wrong with that?’ (sorry forget who commented, but thanks). Well? Is something wrong with it? It is definitely a core to Heinlein – and if I was going to find a a reason to find similarities in Mad Mike or John Scalzi’s writing to Heinlien, the one I’d pick on.
    Mildly curious – what is wrong with ‘frontier optimism’? Would one define China Meiville ‘urban pessimism’ ;-)

  350. It’s been an interesting evening. I was on another authors website comenting on Heinlein movie and TV projects. How many did he actually do and so on. Well I ran across your comentary on being compared to him. Your blog and comentary were entertaining so I will have to give your scifi a try. I don’t think Heinlein was a militaristic fascist. You can find just as many things in his work to argue that he was a free love hippie as you can find for the fascist. I think selling books and earning a living was his goal and entertaining the reader was the best way to do that. I seem to recall him writing something to the effect that his books cost about the same as a sixpac of beer and should provide about the same amount of entertainment. If the reader got any more than that out of his book it was a free bonus. I know this is unrelated to this thread but I wanted to ad to the being poor list. Being poor is sleeping on the side of your bed to avoid the spot where the springs poke through.

  351. I came to this website because of the Heinlein / Scalzi comparison and wanted to see if perhaps I could tell if it were true.

    I shall be buying Old Man’s War.

    P.S. I would count myself as one who “cares” when a filmmaker radically modifies Dick’s work, but what filmmaker could pull off a film that woul dbe true to his work?

  352. Personally, if I were a SCI/FI author, I don’t think there could be any greater honor than being compared to Heinlein. When I read “Old Mans War”, I kept thinking that “wow, this reads like Heinlein” (I missed the part on the cover where that’s printed..I bought the book based on the title and the synopsis printed on the back of the book).

    I kinda wish you had been chosen to finish “A Variable Star”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Spider Robinson, but “A Variable Star” read like a SR story, not a Heinlein story. After reading the afterword in the book, I understand why (man, talk about a lot of pressure). I still liked it though, and it was great to read one more Heinlein story.

    And you’re also right..a SCI/FI book is about telling a story. Politics, a characters personal beliefs, settings, technology, etc. are all just building blocks. Sure, they are important to the story, but they are just PART of the story.

    Also, have to say, I just got finished reading “The Android’s Dream” and I was amazed. A book about a sheep. Wow.

    Eagerly awaiting more books,

    Za5od

    p.s. Remember what Heinlein thought about critics. It’s the people that buy/read the books, not the critics.

  353. @Julia, comment 155: You are so right about The Number of the Beast. And that’s a hilarious capsule review.

    FWIW, TNOTB was the first Heinlein novel to disappoint me when I read it back at about 19 or 20 years of age. I finally re-read it in my late 30s, and enjoyed a lot more the second time around. Not sure why. Maybe I was finally able to get more of the in-jokes and references to other literary figures, stories, etc.

    @John Scalzi:
    A blurb mentioning Heinlein might get me to look closer at a book, but I get most SF recommendations from trusted sources whom I know, and who know what I like about other authors.

    I picked up The Ghost Brigades because it was recommended by a HS librarian I know who is also (as I am) a huge Heinlein fan, and he said I’d like your writing. He also said you’d be appearing at the Heinlein Centennial, which you did, and I was impressed enough by your panels to read the book when I got back from Kansas City.

    So chalk one up for high school librarians.

    FWIW, the other two writers I’ve really liked in the last few years were recommended to me by folks who work at my local F/SF bookshop (shout out to Borderlands in San Francisco, they rock), who turned me on to Lois McMaster Bujold and the horror novelist Michael Marshall Smith. I don’t usually go in for horror but this guy’s damn good, and his two noirish SF books turned me into a big fan right off.

  354. I have a comment that’s remarkably late to the party. One cannot fully understand Heinlein’s work, especially his “adult period”, without understanding Alfred Korzybski and General Semantics. One misses almost the entire point of the work without that framework. He could get pedantic and preachy but there was always a point to which the entire body of his work interconnected.

  355. With what other author can you unwitting pick up the most random of their works, and in the wrong order, read it and be immediately hooked for life? Is that my failing, or Heinlein’s brilliance? I found “The Number of the Beast” at a tag sale in 1985 and never looked back. The work he did for Scribner’s, was wonderful and the rest is just gold.

    Gaye, Bounce!… Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!

  356. As someone who loves the writing of both Heinlein and Rand and who sees their work as philosophically compatible, I’m surprised by the level of animosity some of the Heinlein admirers have for the Rand admirers, and vice versa. I’m dismayed by the snark of some of the Heinlein admirers and by the superciliousness and narrowness of some of the Objectivists.

  357. I read Android’s Dream not long ago, and have to say the similarity to Heinlein is strong, but Scalzi is more readable; not unusual considering he’s more our contemporary here in the early 21st century than Robert A. Heinlein was. Scalzi’s worldview is closer to ours and he’s a bit less preachy than RAH; what’s better, he also comes close to being the American Douglas Adams. I can’t think of another SF novel (apart from Android’s Dream) that had me howling with laughter as much…

    I’ll be looking for Old Man’s War.

  358. Patrick (#59) wrote: ” So saying that people write literary fiction to impress their professors while sf authors are the ones telling stories isn’t an insult to litfic authors, John? ”

    Just because MOST people regard ***-kissing as an ignoble way to live one’s life does not mean that *** kissers agree. It IS a useful, even indispensable, skill in many an hierarchical pursuit, academics far from least among them. (Just as an adroit hand with a stiletto is, as well.)

    And, yes, when MOST of us say it, it very much IS an insult. Not because we don’t like their fiction, but because we don’t like *** kissers. Curious, how so many *** kissers don’t seem to realize that. I mean, I can understand them not CARING about what we think, but it truly does astound me how they can seemingly miss our curled lips.

  359. I am rereading all of the Heinlein books again, now at the age of 53, and finding great new enjoyment. I now have google to look up “Sisu” and learn it is the Finnish ideal of unrelenting effort in the face of great adversity.
    I am enjoying all of your books, J.S., and I am looking forward to many more from you, so don’t you dare be too lazy nor too distracted by your well earned success!

  360. Wow, an hour later, mostly scanning… this is what i get for following Blatherations on posts i don’t remember. >.<

    I do enjoy seen the Mallet in action. But i can't help a perverse sense of loss at not getting to see the Randroid self-destruct for myself.

  361. Into the third generation, and my family still has a box of Bob Heinlein books that none of us can bear to part with. Even though well-thumbed and, by now, I’m sure, verging on the tattered, we wouldn’t trade them for all the visa cards out there, they’re priceless … good and bad.

  362. I am a Progressive Liberal Socialist Feminist and Heinlein is my favorite SF author bar none. I don’t have to be a libertarian or whatever anyone thinks he really was to love his writing, his stories, or his characters. In my opinion, much of his work is about LOVE and how to give more and receive more of it, and that is a valuable addition to the genre and the multiverse. I am enjoying introducing my children to Heinlein and my signed typewritten first page of “Stranger in a Strange Land” is one of my most prized possessions. Good writing should never die!

  363. And for the record, I think that Heinlein blurb on “Old Man’s War” is what drew me in.

  364. Heinlein was and is awesome,I have read, re-read, and own everything including the one completed by Spider Robinson,his Adult novels most Definitely DO NOT SUCK. someone should write the backstory From Friday,a war between corporate and territorial states is kinda analogous to our reality 30ish years later,just a thought! As to your being the heir to the mans throne, I hope so, think I`ll find a copy of old mans war today and find out. thanks for contributing to the grand masters legend!

  365. I’ve read EVERY Heinlein novel multiple times, even Job (though only twice) and there are only a handful of authors I can say that about. All my Heinlein books are dog-eared, and I frequently have to buy new ones to replace those I’ve worn out or given away. And I can say without a doubt that his examination of different political, social and cultural systems had more to do with shaping my own politics and view of life as anything else I was ever exposed to in my formative years. (The fascist label is a good way to tell if someone has actually “read” his books, as I NEVER got that impression.)

    I started with the juveniles, which I really liked, when I was a lad in the 50’s but it wasn’t UNTIL the 60’s and his adult work that I really fell in love with his books. His depictions of his female characters inspired me to always look for those characteristics in my own loves and companions. His politics always had me examining my own beliefs. No one writes more believable characters than Heinlein. His genius in telling the same story from multiple viewpoints (Time Enough For Love and To Sail Beyond The Sunset) both male and female are unprecedented. I’ve never cried after reading any science fiction, but “The Tale of the Adopted Daughter” in TEFL is one of the best love stories I’ve EVER read, and was surely the inspiration for Connor and Blossom McLeod in the original Highlander movie. And I’ve laughed along with him, even through multiple re-reads.

    Yes, adapting his works to the screen has always been difficult, because his books make you THINK, something most movies avoid like the plague. But would we have even had Star Trek without Robert Heinlein? I’m not so sure. Star Wars came from the serials like Flash Gordon and their ilk, but none of those characters have any real depth, and still don’t. The Puppet Masters failed as a movie because they stripped out a lot of the science fiction from it. Starship Troopers failed because it was less than faithful to the depth of the book, though I do think Verhoeven got the “bugs” right. (As an aside about Philip K Dick, Bladerunner is my favorite movie, but if it had been faithful to “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” it probably would not have been. But PKD makes you think, too.)

    One of the most lasting testaments to Robert Heinlein is that he created many of the science fiction genres and DID inspire generations of new writers. And nothing makes me chuckle more than to read other novels which quote or refer to him (most notably those of Spider Robinson and Travis Taylor.)

    So all those naysayers can take their opinions and put them where the sun don’t shine. I will continue to be entertained, challenged and inspired by the works of Robert A Heinlein. If I die in bed, there will probably be a Heinlein novel on the bedcovers beside me.

  366. I didn’t read OMW because of the Heinlein blurb but if I had seen the blurb I’m sure it would have helped decide me. I read OMW because my husband brought it home, read it, tossed it at me, and said you MUST read this. So I did, straight through in one sitting thinking the entire time, oh my goodness this is Heinlein-esque. How exciting! The reason I thought so was because of the idea and the writing and the characters and oh my goodness the amazing story with its taut writing and quick pace. There is a reason we still care about Heinlein’s writings, 20ish years after his death and it’s not because of his politics. Some of his stories didn’t work but the man gave us The Man Who Sold the Moon and The Green Hills of Earth etc. He imagined scenes that one feels must happen given time. So to blazes with silly reviewers. I’m nowhere close to being a right-winger, and I’m in the process of buying what Heinlein books are out there in e-book. Oh yeah, I’ll keep buying your books also because story is what it’s all about.

  367. Thanks for mentioning “The Star Beast,” which was the one that did it for me, Christmas, 1978, aged 11. And now I’m an author, and now new writers sometimes point to me as an inspiration, and I am flabbergasted and gobsmacked and astounded, because I never dreamed I would be a vector.

    Thanks to Bob. And Ray. And Edgar. And Sprague. And Larry. First causes for the win.

  368. I am always humbled by the realization of how people’s opinions can differ so much, and maybe THAT is the hallmark of what Heinlein “did right” more than anything — there is something in his work for the individual who is strictly looking to be entertained by a wild SciFi ride, and there is also the depth and philosophy that first attracted me, as portrayed in Stranger in a Strange Land, and the entire breadth and depth of the Lazarus Long books (Yes, all the way through to Time Enough for Love). I hope that, in time, stories that I am creating will still evoke such passion in their readership!

  369. RH a Fascist??? He always struck me as a Ryandian. All his books, his main characters hated gov’t interference in, well, ANYTHING. I probably haven’t read everything he wrote. I only own 30 or so of his books. His version of sexism was ” women and children first”. I don’t recall him ever saying women were less capable than men, he just said that equality, for women, was a bad deal, because if what we Could do- bear children. Not that that was all we should do, or even that all women Should. I adore his work. And Yes, being favorably compared to his work is a HUGE compliment!

  370. This thread, going on 6 years old, was brought up again/linked to in a recent post on FB. gives me a chance to point out something that has bothered me about academic and particularly academic-sf critics for a very long time. The local classical radio station did a sound bite from Iain [M.] Banks this morning talking about how SF was the literature of technological change and more important than “mainstream” literature for that reason.

    Nothing wrong with that, but I bet dollars to doughnuts that Banks had no idea he was summarizing Heinlein’s 1941 Denvention speech — and his 1947 essay — and his 1957 lecture at the University of Chicago.

    When I started researching basic SF poetics some years ago I found I was pointed back to an early Joanna Russ essay for Science Fiction Studies (1975), “Toward an Aesthetic of Science Fiction”(which itself pretends to draw its theory in part from an earlier conference paper by Darko Suvin), as the seminal fountain of theory, so I read the piece and found her parroting the points and even the organization of Heinlein’s theoretical lecture in 1957. Russ had simply taken over Heinlein’s argument wholesale — but “laundered” it and sanitized it so that academics could use his theoretical approach without having to reference or cite the actual source.

  371. As a woman and a Heinlein fan, I never saw him as sexist. Mostly what I gleaned from his books was that he felt women were superior to men in many ways and that any man who didn’t treat them as if they were was a fool and not Liable to be “getting any”.

  372. I really wish I could remember what brought me here; surely it’s not coincidence that after a year and a half idle, a bunch of people post today. Unfortunately, I opened this tab up hours ago, and whatever sent me here is long gone…

  373. Looks like be ordering a copy of “Old Man’s War”. I miss R. A., and if you can come close to his style or ability, then you’ll become on of my favorite authors. Re-reading some of his books I’m amazed at how well he predicted the future. Not so much technology wise, but culture. His descriptions of churches in “Stranger in a Strange Land” match the mega-churches of today.

  374. lol. The hacks at LA Times can not hope, even in their wildest dreams, to attain a tenth of the fame and recognition RAH received for even his least work!

    My favorite authors have mostly passed on, so I’m going to get “Old Man’s War”. Yes, that blurb just sold another book!

    I quoted a line from SIASL the other day. Then had to go look it up to make sure I got it right. And got sucked right in!

    Charlie (is on page 251)

  375. I think that my favorite passage in all science fiction is Chapter 12 from Starship Troopers, where Heinlein uses “Major Reid” to explain the morality of war. One thing I noticed is that, by bumping all of the taxonomic tags down one level—e.g., species to race—you end up with a moral justification for tribal and militant patriotism as it evolved naturally on Earth. This, I liked very much.

  376. I enjoy reading Heinlein, and I enjoy reading your work, and I think some comparison of you two is valid, but not by a critic. I use the critics reviews in my local paper to choose what to read or see, because if they don’t like something there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy it. Many reviews seem to be based on the critic’s biases and preconceptions, and are therefore bovine excrement produced to earn money without doing any work.

  377. Wow, this thread is still lively and popping up after all these years (I didn’t go looking for it, the article came to me!) A good read.

  378. They live on consuming human flesh, and I suspect some of them of dining on their own children. …. No, that was Lazarus Long at the grand party in NotB. Or maybe it was Jubal.

  379. Jubal Harshaw is the ONE CHARACTER in all of literature who I aspired to be.(And… I have come the closest to becoming) Heinlein was a GENIUS, his work TOWERING over that of his contemporaries, including those writing “traditional” or mainstream fiction. “It’s about the believability of the characters, and what happens to them in the story.” John Irving, Crichton, and my god… even Dava Sobel would agree.

  380. It’s amusing to find someone criticizing STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. A book which was one of the very cornerstones of the “Hippie Movement”. No, it didn’t only inspire Charles Manson. No more than the Beatles’ White Album did.

    Whether you agree with the Theology or not is really irrelevant but, as a matter of fact, Heinlein set the basis for the Martian Theology clear back in his novel RED PLANET first published in 1949 as one of his “juveniles” series and later by del Rey as he originally wrote it.

    It is a moving and compelling story about US and our reaction to Messiahs. It also features the ideas of “grokking” http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/grokking a word used by the members of the “Flower Power Movement” as was the “Water Brothers” (“Water Friends” in RED PLANET.

    This also influenced Jefferson Airplane/Starship songwriter and singer Paul Kantner. Who often lifted themes from Heinlein actually quoting portions of METHUSELAH’S CHILDREN in his album BLOWS AGAINST THE EMPIRE.

    Whatever any critic may think of Heinlein doesn’t really matter…nor does the portion of those who completely misunderstand him.

    He was, is, and ever shall be a classic.

  381. And to paraphrase Sensei Heinlein, “a critic is someone who can’t understand a simple declarative English sentence” Which is why RAH gets called a ‘fascist’, because they don’t GET “Starship Troopers”

  382. I do not care what anyone says, Heinlein is and always will be my favorite author. I’m not sure if i have read any of your books (I read a lot of books) but if people compare you to Heinlein, I’ll pick one up today.

  383. Very late to the party here, but i think most PDK fans forgave Blade Runner for it’s deviance just because it was so good, and have long since expected any adaptation of his books to be an exercise in “we really only bought the title” film-making. No-one gets excited about the announcement that someone is going to fuck up a PDK novel, and no-one is surprised when it comes out and they have. This is not to say we don’t care, we’re juts hardened to it
    Though I have some hope for King of the Elves.

  384. I first read Stranger in a Strange Land while a junior in high school. I had read so many of his ‘juvy’ books and was reading his more adult stories. The story was ‘better than good’, and it poked fun at so many things that I laughed a lot. Then later I heard the hippies had picked up the book as their own, I laughed again. They simply did not understand the well written scorn RAH put into the book. I do think he had troubles ending the story.

  385. In 2008, we lost our jobs, our house, our cars. Our collection of books, that we had hauled from one side of the country to the other, went to the half-price book store. We moved onto an incredibly cheap sailboat. Space was limited. The books we kept were the ones that we would like to read over and over. Our small library consists of all Scalzi, some Heinlein, all Spinrad, some Delaney, a few Card, and an assortment of others. Mr. Scalzi, thank you for OMW. Whenever I want to get lost in a great story, I turn to you.

  386. so…how is J Scalzi doing ? i am reviewing this comment board for first time Jun 2013…i am a pkd fan but i read Heinlein alot when i was in my teens…into my 20s….came back and studied Stranger book over the years since then…wow what a Generation that came- and creating sci fi since the 1950s on… – DERRUFO

  387. James Davis Nicoll December 12, 2007 at 12:04 pm
    “Isn’t the real measure of an author’s impact on popular culture how many songs they inspired. Rand has, what, Rush?

    I can name at least two musicians who’ve been inspired by Heinlein (Kantner and Crosby) and I am sure that there must be more.”

    Yabbut… this means Gene Roddenberry and the other script writers of ST:TNG have somehow had greater impact on popular culture than Heinlein and the rest of SF. Popular music’s filthy with references to Star Trek.

    Don’t get me wrong, James, I agree with your thesis. I just wonder if having an impact on popular culture’s all it’s cracked up to be. Personally, I’d prefer to collect plenty of small slips of paper with “Federal Reserve Note” or “Pay to the Order of” embossed on them, using a financial institution to house my collection. Heinlein was on to something there…

    Heinlein wrote for a living. Everything else, his politics (military, gender and otherwise), his impact on popular culture (arguably immense, especially when one considers what Heinlein and Pournelle did when they ghosted the Star Wars speech for Reagan) is secondary.

    In a Heinlein Society online discussion (held over alt.fan.heinlein), several of us commented on how Heinlein’s yearning to “break out of SF” would have been realized had he written on the other side of the Atlantic. There was much less of an “SF ghetto” in Great Britain than there is here in the US; Kingsley Amis, C.S. Lewis and numerous other “unadjectival” novelists wrote SF or alternate reality books as they wished and no one penned them into a genre.

  388. As far as Scalzi’s closest approach to Heinlein, I have not read Old Man’s War, but have read The Android’s Dream and found it howlingly funny, very entertaining and much like Heinlein’s better novels in many ways – basically “insight into human nature”-wise. Hope you get a bump in sales of THAT one, John.

  389. Has anyone else noticed how soporific economics is as subject matter? Heinlein’s first novel, For Us, The Living, failed just as much because he had tunnel vision on economics as because he put scenes in the book that would cause it to get stuck in Post Office shredders for making censors feel all funny inside.

    Basically the same thing happened to P.J. O’Rourke when he forsook ayahuasca-fueled treks into Central America to become a searcher for forgotten truth at the Cato Institute.

  390. Vance, may I recommend K.J. Parker’s books The Company and The Folding Knife as examples of economics (and logistics) folded into a narrative in an interesting way? It’s true that a feature of her books is that she tends to get into nitty-gritty details in ways that make some readers MEGO, but for example, in The Folding Knife the conduct of a war ebbs and flows from the point of view of, and the actions of, the merchants and profiteers who are supplying crucial war materiel.

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