Oh, Look, Another Silly Kvetch About Me

"One thing is making me a bit sad, tho: realizing that the SF landscape of Heinlein juveniles (I'm also reading the new Heinlein biography), Niven hard SF novels, etc is sliding over the horizon. Landscape now is built out of Harry Potter, Hidden Figures, Scalzi, and movies."

An author who actively dislikes me and what I write laments on Twitter that in his opinion the era of Heinlein and hard SF has been replaced by — Me! Oh, and JK Rowling and movies and black women who do math.

Leaving aside whether that particular assertion is accurate (and even if it is, whether my placement on this list is motivated more by animus against me than my actual importance, because in terms of the cultural impact of the things listed, I am a very distant fourth behind Potter/JK Rowling, Hidden Figures and the entire medium of film), some thoughts on this:

1. I like the idea that someone who dislikes who I am and what I do nevertheless has to begrudgingly admit that I represent a principal mode of commercial science fiction right now. Yes, yes, he hates it, and me. Oh, well.

2. It wasn’t that long ago that I was considered “the next Heinlein” — seriously, the Publishers Weekly review for Old Man’s War said it “reads like an original work by the late grand master,” and since then I’ve been more or less continuing a “golden age of SF” vibe in my work, updated for the current era (note that this updating is the part fellows like him whine about). So there’s no small irony in complaining that the Era of Heinlein has been superseded by the Era of Scalzi.

3. Imagine claiming to enjoy hard SF, and yet somehow being disapproving of the popularity of Hidden Figures, in which three women employ their understanding of for-the-time-cutting-edge math, physics and technology to allow humans conquer space. It’s literally everything hard SF aspires to be.

4. Anyone lamenting that film is a now major mode of popular science fiction knows nothing about either film or science fiction, and the popular marriage of the two which goes back at least to 1902 and Georges Méliès, i.e., long before the age of Heinlein and “hard SF.”

5. Grousing on the rise of Potter and Rowling is like a music snob griping about the rise of the Beatles. It’s a once-in-a-generation cultural event, and you might as well complain about the tide coming in, and going back out again.

This fellow may at least take comfort in the idea that my era will one day pass — indeed, might be already passing as we speak! Unfortunately for him, what comes after me (as in, is here right now) in science fiction is NK Jemisin, and Mary Robinette Kowal, and Yoon Ha Lee and so many more astounding talents like them. All of whom I strongly suspect this particular fellow will find some reason for objection. “Some reason.”

The problem isn’t really that the “Age of Heinlein” is passing in science fiction. The creative mode that Heinlein wrote in still exists and will continue to exist, inasmuch as I and many other people write in it, and do just fine, creatively and financially, with it. The same with Niven (who is as it happens still alive and still creating) and his mode, and all the other folks working in the hard and golden age-style SF modes. It and they are still there and doing well. The “problem” is that a certain sort of person who claims science fiction for his own is no longer centered in the genre, and the genre no longer listens to his demand to be centered in it, and is doing just fine without him being centered there.

At least this fellow has the sense to admit it’s happened. It has. The genre isn’t going back.

78 Comments on “Oh, Look, Another Silly Kvetch About Me”

  1. Incidentally, this is where I renew my amused exasperation that Heinlein has been claimed as a plaster idol by the sort of fellow who thinks that in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, he wouldn’t have been marched out of an airlock by now, and commensurately, that no one other than he and his little pals can claim him. Surprise, motherfuckers, I get to claim him, too. Heinlein was edgy, brilliant, cranky, problematic, inconsistent, inspirational and influential. Lots of what he wrote hasn’t aged well at all, and lots of what he wrote still works a treat. I can, as they would say, grok him in his fullness. He’s mine as much as anyone’s.

  2. Pedro:

    I chose not to identify him here because he’s the sort who would get mileage out of senpai noticing him. You can probably google the tweet and work your way back.

  3. I thought Hidden Figures (at least in book form) was non-fiction. If this guys is complaining about non-fiction not fitting his world view, I don’t know what to say.

    Re: Scalzi vs Heinlein. I’m a huge Heinlein fan. I submit that If he was alive and writing today his work would be unrecognizable to what he was writing 60-70 years ago. Scalzi’s work is immensely enjoyable and is commercial in a similar way that much of Heinlein’s work is. But I think Scalzi is a conservative (gasp!) compared to Heinlein’s later works.

  4. Haters hate. You are enjoying a successful career. It is annoying that people have to take the time to be petty or that they have time to be petty. I’d much rather interact with my feline.

  5. “Grousing on the rise of Potter and Rowling is like a music snob griping about the rise of the Beatles.”

    I’d suggest it is more like music snobs complaining about the rise of John Williams.

  6. Hidden Figures is science fiction? Only in that no one was using a slide rule and no one was smoking. An only-slightly-alternate universe.

  7. I personally think Heinlein is much bigger than most of the folks trying to claim him. You can find the many elements of his life and changing views at various points in his work. If you cherry-pick his work for characters he presents approvingly, you can find support for outright socialism with guaranteed basic income (which comes from his actual political life), libertarianism, monarchy, democracy, priests, and even government officials. (Beyond This Horizon, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Double Star, various works, Sixth Column, The Star Beast, respectively.) He was a good enough writer to see the positive in a wide variety of people.

    The giveaway here is including a work of nonfiction about women of color as somehow betraying SF traditions. Really? That isn’t an inspiration for many? Heinlein would have spanked him for that one!

  8. @bobmunck try explaining a slide rule to younguns these days and you’ll soon feel like Lazarus Long

  9. So entertaining! My (arguably) favorite Heinlein work is The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Which isn’t to say that I wholly endorse it. I think that Niven’s Cloak Of Anarchy is a lot more probable that Heinlein’s libertarian fantasy. But I still love TMIAHM for Mannie and Mike, one of the best buddy pairings anywhere in fiction. The message of Mannie is that showing up, doing your job, and being a good citizen is IMPORTANT. He’s constantly surprised by the respect he gets from the community because he doesn’t see himself as anything special. In this way, he’s a lot like Johnny Rico. Mike, of course, is unique and groundbreaking. If the world survives and I live long enough, I may get to meet him one day.

    But my point about THMIAHM, is that Twitter Twerp seems to have forgotten that that Heinlein uses that work to champion tolerance, with explicit endorsements of feminism, inter-racial marriage, and polygamy. (Let me add here that I’m in no way a fan Heinlein’s twilight works with their hyper-sexual, incest-friendly themes.)

    That guy Scalzi may have channeled Heinlein in Old Man’s War, adding green skin and gay acceptance, but the standout new idea in the Old Man’s War books is the BrainPal(TM). That, and the premise of the Lock In series, elevate Scalzi to the master level of SF authorship, in my not so humble opinion.

  10. Hillary, at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh over the winter, we had the Apollo 11 capsule. A couple of exhibits had slide rules. As gallery host, I wore mine. (Purchased for about $25 in 1967.) If I saw a family looking at the slide rule, I’d sidle up and ask them (anywhere from 8 years old to millennials,) “What do you think that thing is?” Got a variety of answers.

    Then I said, “It’s a calculator!” I’d get mine out and show them how to multiply. Many of them were flat out amazed. A few of them took the slide rule to their parents and explained it to them. So an inquisitive mind still has an interest is something like that.

    And John, I agree. Heinlein is ours, and if some people don’t think people like yourself are his legacy, then those people are simply not thinking!

  11. Heinlein was often thoroughly readable and enjoyable…except of course for the overt and constant misogyny and racism. If you have any doubts about( this complaint I direct your attention to Farnham’s Freehold. Unfortunately you won’t be able to find it on Amazon, except for used paperbacks, due to the aforementioned traits. It would be absolutely unpublishable today, even self published. Even his more popular titles are rife with these sorts of issues.

    I say good riddance.

  12. Books should be looked at in their cultural contexts. In one of my college courses, we talked about ‘cultural norms’, and the notion that what is laudable in one may be taboo in another. Cultures change over time, and again what is acceptable at one point may be unthinkable several years down the road. Lots of books don’t age well, but we can still read them and get enjoyment or important concepts out of them. Just remember that not everyone sees with your eyes or brain, and this is how we get book discussion groups :D

  13. Tom Mears:

    “Unfortunately you won’t be able to find it on Amazon, except for used paperbacks, due to the aforementioned traits.”

    Farnham’s Freehold is in fact available via Baen Books, in a trade paperback edition, and in audio via Blackstone Audio.

  14. But…but… I fucking HATE the Beatles. Always have, always will. Fortunately there are literally thousands of other artists out there for me to enjoy and listen to. Sort of like if your tweet enemy doesn’t like your books there are plenty of other sf writers for said person to choose from. More, in fact, that the tweetemy can ever read in the rest of his or her life. So, why can’t that person just get over it and move on?

  15. What do you want to bet that the complainant also views with disfavor the work of Ursula K. LeGuin? Or for that matter, “James Tiptree?”

    Just a hunch.

  16. This dude needs to broaden his horizons a bit. What about…
    Peter F. Hamilton?
    Alastair Reynolds? (who writes about the hardest SF I have ever read – he is an Astrophysicist after all)
    Marko Kloos?
    Hugh Howey?
    Greg Bear?
    Charlie Stross?

    None of these authors (with the possible exception of Stross) write “SJW” type SF (not that it matters).

    And that’s just off the top of my head!

  17. Although I enjoy both Scalzi and Heinlein, other than the fact they both dabble in Space Opera, like Miles, I don’t consider the two all that much alike in their writing. I also lament that anymore people can’t just enjoy an artist for their art rather than getting lost in their politics or who they are as a person. Shoot me but I still love Kevin Spacey’s work.

  18. dang. i like heinlein. i like scalzi. asimov. harry potter sux. tolkien too. fantasy that considers itself sci fi

  19. “Hidden Figures” may be mostly non-fiction, but Mary Robinette Kowal’s “The Calculating Stars” is fiction, and covers the space race in a way somebody who likes Heinlein for the 1950s-era hard-SF rocket bits ought to find entirely satisfactory, while also hitting the issues of pervasive racism and sexism, presenting climate change as a field people can actually think about, and having a really deep bibliography of rocket-related history.

    A few years ago at a con, a 30-something fan was talking about having just read Heinlein’s juveniles for the first time, and ran into “Nazis on the moon” as a bad guy, which he found funny because they were such an old-fashioned bad guy to use. Sigh – remember when Nazis were old-fashioned?

  20. As an old guy who read the Heinlein juveniles during the Golden Age of Science Fiction (i.e., twelve), I can actually feel some inner recognition of this guy’s Sad. The stuff that was important to me when I was forming as a person, it… it isn’t important anymore, OMG this is terrible!

    There’s a truth I have come to understand, though, which is, while my tastes aren’t particularly significant now, they also never used to be. Heinlein’s books didn’t exist for me. They existed, and then I came along and enjoyed them. And now there’s more stuff that exists! Newer stuff! Different stuff! And all new people coming along to enjoy it!

    I have choices about how to feel about that, and “butthurt” and “resentful” don’t seem like particularly sensible ones. But, sure, I do miss being young sometimes. I get that. There, there, fella.

  21. Big shoes to fill, John. Big shoes indeed!

    You are now personally responsible for finally ending racism & sexism in technology & for the health of a major sector of the US world trade balance (Hollywood.) Rowling being British, I suppose you’re also responsible for BoJo shaping up & protecting UK wizarding from EU interference.

    Are you done yet? Get to it man, the 21st century is ticking away!

  22. Joining Bill Stewart in noting that The Calculating Stars (and The Fated Sky) are precisely what everyone who venerates Heinlein claims (pretends?) to be looking for in “science fiction.”

    I guess if the author had said “Harry Potter, Hidden Figures, Kowal, and movies,” the agenda would be more obvious. You should feel proud that you were inserted as the Token White Male.

  23. I still wish that sci-fi and fantasy hadn’t been chucked into the same blender. It gets confusing at times, like with that list.

    Heinlein changed me from a have to reader to a want to reader. I can’t think of finer praise. I would like to know what that could have come up with in this current time. Maybe even if McCarthy and his cronies weren’t in the middle of his career. Somehow he got invited to explain the future to Congress.

    There is still hard science science fiction out there. Robert Forward did some spectacular stuff, but almost no one knows of him.

    I have also read almost all of your work, John, I hope you can continue to serve as a model for so many of us.

  24. When someone calls Hidden Figures part of the science fiction landscape, it’s a tell.

  25. I lament that The Epic of Gilgamesh has slid so far beneath the SF horizon, but we can’t always get what we want. (To cite a non-Beatles authority.)

    Re the Méliès film: I quite liked the launch-team demoiselles in their perky sailor suits.

  26. Guy seems to be unaware that there is a fair lot of actual Young Adult science fiction (not fantasy) being pubbed these days…not being written by authors he is familiar with,it would seem, but if what he wants is science fiction with teen characters, it’s to be easily found.

  27. ::rolls eyes::
    Damn, so many whiney idjits, so few cricket-bat swings left in my shoulders.

    Oh, he’s a self-confessed ‘Libertarian’: all is explained. @^@

  28. It’s easy to say when it isn’t about me, but I have to admit I’d have gone stoppedreadingthere.jpg at the mention of Niven as hard SF. It’s kind of an anti-shibboleth that marks people who don’t know or think much about SF. Known space has FTL. It has telepathy, telepathic domination, and other psychic powers. It has genetically-determined luck that warps the universe, possibly acausally (if you believe Teela’s luck forced Ringworld into being). I could go on but I won’t. But I could. Niven-style hard SF is still very popular — The Rise of Skywalker will be out in December.

  29. I imagine that the buggy whip manufacturers felt similarly about the first car makers. With similar results.

  30. Sigh.
    I propose a drinking game. Every time a butthurt author laments your presence among successful Science Fiction authors, we all do a shot.

  31. Regarding Farnham’s Freehold: It may be worth noting that Heinlein wrote it to an outline by John W. Campbell, and than Heinlein actually toned down the bigotry from Campbell’s original specs.

  32. For everyone going “but Hidden Figures isn’t science fiction!”, the movie was nominated for a Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Hugo Award in 2017, and came in second behind Arrival, so plenty of people thought it was science-fiction enough to qualify.

  33. @cubist: Sixth Column is the book usually stated as with the racism toned down from Campbell’s outline. The standard apologia for Farnham’s Freehold is that it’s a failed attempt at an anti-racist novel (poisoned by the author’s unexamined racism).

  34. I suspect you’ll rise a bit on the ladder of fame and popularity once OMW reaches the silver screen.
    More fuel for his engine.

  35. I regret that the world of Verne and Welles, majestic and transcendent meditations on the human will to explore, are being replaced by cheap pulps full of vulgar Americanisms and shallow thrills.

    [Yes, Internet, I am not actually from the 1920s and I am not writing in my own voice above.]

  36. I like hard SF in the old school style and have no interest in fantasy, zombie attacks, magic, swords and sorcery, dragons and unicorns, etc. I resemble the critic in that regard, I suppose. (Except I’m more than comfortable with other than while males from European backgrounds as the main characters, or stories revolving around their viewpoints. I suspect the critic and I diverge there.)

    But these are great times for me! I’m half way through The Rationing (Charles Wheelan) and loving it. That’s sitting on top of The Razor (J. Barton Mitchell) which looks just as good. Just finished Delta-V (Suarez)–loved that as well, along with Rewrite (Gregory Benford) and The Oracle Year (Charles Soule), There’s a plethora of recent great reads in the part of the genre I enjoy. Saturn Run? Seveneves? Aurora? The Martian? New York 2140? All recent, all smack dab in the middle of what I look for.

    I read ebooks, and get a daily email from BookBub listing ebooks on sale. Between the ebooks on sale and the books my local library is procuring I can’t keep up with all the hard SF/end-of-the-world apocalyptic stories I enjoy (and that’s before you add in the new releases I pick up at my local big box bookstore). Then there’s the magazines–Analog, Asimov’s, et al. All I can say is that today’s society is doing a fantastic job in keeping me entertained with the SF I enjoy reading.

    Just because the larger SF genre has has expanded doesn’t mean the the part I enjoy has gone away. Sure, the overall genre has changed and expanded from what it was nearly three-quarters of a century ago when the original Grand Masters were leading the way. I’d certainly hope it would. But that expansion doesn’t mean that I’m left out–it just means that there’s more for others to enjoy.

  37. Just skimming the commentary, people are talking about Farnham’s Freehold and about slide rules and I have something to say about each.

    While Farnham’s Freehold is OBVIOUSLY racist now, it was certainly NOT racist then. A significant message in it is that black people are not HAPPY with their second class status and if given the power they could be just like white people. This was insanely anti-racist for its era.

    And about slide rules, when I showed up at college in 1971, every single engineering student wore a slide rule on his belt (pretty sure it was all ‘his’ then). And at my graduation in 1975 there was not a slide rule in sight and every single engineering student had one of those hyper-expensive new-fangled calculators. It makes me feel that I witnessed an historical moment.

  38. Perhaps I am paranoid but it seems to me that the OP is calling Hidden Figures fiction because it is about women of color. It must therefore be “fake news.”

  39. @SusanJohnson: Ninja’d. He is either assuming it’s fantasy substituting people of color for “real” mathematicians, or he’s assuming it’s revisionist history doing same. Which is, of course, profoundly unscientific on his part.

  40. I don’t see anything from Heinlein as being hard SF other than TMIAHM . Rock throwing as a weapon of war was significantly updated from The various Goliath stories.

    That being said, what seemed ‘hard’ science back in the day was actually easy. The social sciences are seen as hard now, and the physics is easy (in that the math can be replicated if you have the talent). Therefore you could easily make the case that Heinlein was an extraordinary forerunner of real hard SF (as opposed to space opera).

    Doesn’t mean I like current practices of his politics, but I can appreciate the man’s work. I can see you as being a worthy successor even if I like your politics.

  41. If I’d been born just a few years earlier, I would’ve learned to use a slide rule. Ah, well.
    Famously, Isaac Asimov foresaw pocket calculators in his 1958 story “The Feeling of Power” — but if I recall, every significant figure in that story is male, and it would occur to almost no writers at that time that the future might be otherwise. Even the most imaginative sf writers have cultural blind spots.
    The worst fate I can think of for this vast and kaleidoscopic genre we call science fiction is stagnation. I started reading sf during the New Wave — that’s the old New Wave, not the new New Wave. Is there an agreed-upon term for what’s infuriating whole litters of melancholic baby dogs these days? Whatever it is, I hope we never stop having new voices and points of view in science fiction, especially from people in groups that have been historically shut out.
    My own tastes are a little old-fashioned (though I sure as hell don’t miss the racism, misogyny, etc.) But, all those old books are still around; there are still people writing nuts-and-bolts hard sf; hell, there’s something for just about any taste these days. The field is too big for anyone to keep track of anymore; exciting.
    They say the Golden Age of science fiction is about age 14; so I guess I miss the feeling of excitement I had back then, my young mind taking in amazing concepts from Larry Niven or Ted Sturgeon, or poetic dreams from Fritz Leiber or Ray Bradbury. But, who knows, maybe there are brand-new books that could bring that same excitement. There are few keener pleasures than having a new idea in my head.

  42. I sometimes look upwards speculatively and wonder if Farnam’s Freehold was a delivery vehicle for one key paragraph: The protagonist, an objective non racist engineer, says that he saw a port where the blue collar jobs were filled by whites, such as longshormen, (dockworkers) and the white collar jobs as in management, (with offices) were filled by blacks. I forget whether his fellow whites liked hearing that.

    Heinlein was a world traveler, and probably saw for himself bizarrely low (by US standards circa 1950) levels of racism.
    (Dear Trolls: Needless to say, I know, there were some US citizens who could imagine a Star Trek style non racism, even before ST, while to others that would be science fiction)

  43. These kind of objections always seem to focus on authors who include women, LGBTQ and black and brown characters, and (shudder…) make them interesting and give them agency. Maybe even make them the hero of the story. It seemed to me that was the real issue when the puppies took aim at the Hugos. I guess some folks can’t push beyond whatever discomfort they feel when confronted with characters unlike them, rather than enjoy taking a ride in a different person’s shoes. Which is what I thought fiction is about for most readers. Maybe it’s not possible to enjoy such a story if you don’t think those types of people deserve their stories to be told. It’s a shame some folks get hung up on their own discomfort and can’t just get into the story. They miss out on a lot of great writing.

  44. Anyone else think think that he meant ‘Stranger Things’, not ‘Hidden Figures’?
    There are enough choices out there, for everyone. Sure, HP was wildly popular, but it’s not like fantasy is a new genre. I’d like to think it opened up the greater world of Sci-fi to them.
    (to Granny R- lol! I took my first Chem test in 1974 with a slide rule, and couldn’t finish, because it was geared for calculators- $89 later ($450 in today’s $), I had one that did basic math.)

  45. Leaving aside his motives and subtext for saying it, one bit is accurate. Part of why Heinlein is read less is that it’s not 1950 any more, part of why Niven is read less is that it’s not 1975 anymore, etc. The problem is not just the racism and sexism of the old stories, it’s the OLD of the old stories. A lot of aging fans of “The Literature of the Future” are just plain angry that the future is going on without them. I know a fan of Heinlein, a great guy, who kept trying to interest the younger generations of his family in Heinlein juveniles when the stories just don’t speak to them any more.

  46. I wonder how old is this dude doing the complaining. Much of Heinlein (and Niven even more so) has not aged well because the “science” part of “hard SF” has moved so far beyond what was known in the ’50s and ’60s. If you read it and loved it back on the day, that was partly due to how plausible it was (for appropriate values of “plausible”).

    Now? Not so much. Large parts of the Known Space corpus don’t pass the laugh test anymore… You’re better off with Harry Potter. As for the gripe about Hidden Figures, I suspect there are a lot of guys whose takeaway about Heinlein heroines is “women who really like sex” and not “women who could beat your ass off at chess.”

  47. @Tom Mears

    That deafening roar you heard while reading Farnham’s Freehold? It was the sound of Heinlein’s hatred of racism blasting right over your head.

  48. > I know a fan of Heinlein, a great guy, who kept trying to interest the younger generations of his family in Heinlein juveniles when the stories just don’t speak to them any more.

    That was me, for a while. Interestingly (perhaps) the only one that got any traction at all was Star Beast. You know, the one where a black guy was a high-ranking official making decisions that affected the outcome, and the love interest was a Liberated Woman.

  49. >>>> “I’m a huge Heinlein fan. I submit that If he was alive and writing today his work would be unrecognizable to what he was writing 60-70 years ago.”

    We have a winner. I was going to post just that thing but you beat me to it! I’ll go a step further and add that Heinlein would have thought the Puppies were pathetic, whining losers.

    >>>> “When someone calls Hidden Figures part of the science fiction landscape, it’s a tell.”

    Agreed completely, but not so much “a tell” as a matter of “obviously donning a hood and swastika armband.”

    >>>> “The standard apologia for Farnham’s Freehold is that it’s a failed attempt at an anti-racist novel.”

    He would have done well to run it by a smart Black person or two, maybe had two groups of Black people, one he told was it was meant as satire, one he did not. (I think Sam Delaney would have been available at the time, though maybe not yet noticeable to the serious pros.)

    >>>> I know a fan of Heinlein, a great guy, who kept trying to interest the younger generations of his family in Heinlein juveniles when the stories just don’t speak to them any more.

    I had a marvellous plan for introducing the Heinlein juveniles to my son, and my wife ruined it the second they arrived in the mail. (Sounds of cussing and breaking things, even five years later. The kid really needed those particular books!)

    As for my own opinion on this posts, I think John should stop making them. They allow the Puppies to live rent-free in people’s heads and these are people who do not deserve recognition. (Though discussion of Heinlein is always welcome.)

  50. This was directed at me?

    1) Running through favorite bookmarks for the day, decide for some reason to post comment on a Scalzi post for a change.
    2) Comment posted. Hey, I’ll read the rest of the comments, too.
    3) Someone is wrong on the internet! Must comment!
    4) Someone is right on the internet! Most write supporting comment!

    So, yes, a chain of reasons. Maybe not good ones, but reasons. Your suggestion is noted. Apologies for having disturbed your harmony.

  51. More evidence that “libertarianism” is just dressed-up white male grievance-nostalgia, as if more evidence were needed. Congratulations to you for being on the right side of history.

  52. Hmmm, I just purchased Farnham’s Freehold on Amazon… read it years ago… .decided to re read…don’t know why it shouldn’t be on Amazon… Hope the reason isn’t a mistaken PC reason… Banning books/burning books is a Nazi thing….not a liberal thing…BTW – Yes Scalzi is Heinlein updated. His books are readable and fun. So was Heinlein’s and a lot of other authors. Those that weren’t………. aren’t.

  53. No love for James S.A Corey’s The Expanse novels? Mostly hard SF that only has the softer stuff as unexplainable alien technology.

    Of course, it talks about stuff other than pew pew pew dashing hero go go colonialism.

  54. Tracked the Twit down. Huh, Twitter account that doesn’t use his name but has an Amazon link. Hmm. Never heard of the book. Never heard of the author.
    A-hah. Reason for Tweet found.

    Also, this guy wouldn’t go for “The Calculating Stars”. it’s got actual emotions scattered through it.

  55. “I’d suggest it is more like music snobs complaining about the rise of John Williams.

  56. Argh! I did not do anything like hitting the enter key, and how come there’s no “edit” or “delete” option for my own posts?

    “I’d suggest it is more like music snobs complaining about the rise of John Williams.”

    I’m pretty sure that’s the snobby bit that John was complaining about. You’re trying to suggest that movie music is somehow less than “real” music, or at least that some would argue that. John’s saying that Rowling, for better or worse (and I believe better) completely changed the face of Fantasy, just as the Beatles completely changed the face of popular music. Before Rowling, all the also-rans in the field were copying Tolkien; after, they copied Rowling.

    Regarding the original tweet… I love Niven, but I would argue that most of his solo work is nowhere near my definition of “hard” SF. Certainly not as much as something like… oh… “Lock In”? Or, as commented elsewhere, “The Expanse”

  57. And, yes, John, I’d love to aggregate, but there’s no edit option.

    To the person who said the only Heinlein hard SF was “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, I submit “The Door Into Summer”. To those who think his misogyny and racism was inescapable, I submit “The Door into Summer”. I pretty much stopped reading Heinlein at “Time Enough for Love”, even though he was one of the two authors (along with Arthur Clarke) who got me into SF, but it was rereading TDIS a couple of years ago that reminded me of what a fantastic, and foresightful, author he could be—and without that baggage

  58. I suppose part of my taste in science fiction worlds is whether I would want to live there and whether the locals would like me. On that basis, I like the earth and colonies of Old Man’s War.

    May I confess? I get homesick reading of the white picket fences in The Martian Chronicles (Yes, I grew up on black and white TV)
    On a more general note, if we can learn to appreciate modern art, then I guess we could add modern sf to our palate too.

    (BTW : After I took “history of art” at night school a friend asked whether modern art was a hoax. I said “no”)

  59. I’m amused by the fact that, with different context, the tweeter’s comment could read as mere wistfulness at the passage of time and zir’s increasing age.

    More proof that context matters, people.

  60. @pointerstop: While the protagonist of The Door into Summer is an engineer, I’m not sure it qualifies as hard SF, when it has stuff like time travel and anti-gravity in it. If there’s no racism in it, it’s probably because there’s no obvious people of color in it. The main villain is a woman who plots with his partner to rob him of his share of the company, and when that all falls apart, she blames it on everyone else. The little girl in the story ends up marrying the protagonist (who she refers to as “Uncle Danny”, but I think that was common for a family friend back then), although thanks to suspended animation, her subjective age is probably only about 10 years younger than his, even though chronologically, it’s about 20 years. My guess is that a lot of modern readers would find this novel more problematic than you do.

  61. Sometimes you love something in the creative arts. Be it a band, a genre, an author, a movement, a series, an annual anthology etc.

    And sometimes that thing changes from something you like to something that doesn’t match your taste anymore. Either it changed, you changed or more likely – you both changed.

    No good in complaining about it. Things that meet your taste are out there (you just have to seach a bit more when they are no longer mainstream) or you can try something new and did it. But people can and should move on from art they no longer enjoy.Might as well do it quietly, complaining about taste is usually fruitless.

  62. @Hillary Rettig: The younguns I deal with are first-year computer science majors at Brown. I’m pretty sure they understand slide rules. Grok them, even.

  63. As for “problematic relationship” I say: Not for me.

    For me, it was like back in the day when everybody was reading Of Human Bondage. I think we knew with half our minds that the sudden romance at the end was unlikely, but the other half of us craved a happy ending. Similarly, probably most readers knew it was very unlikely that the girl with the hateful mother in Great Expectations would switch to liking Pip at the very ending, but we forgave it.

    Perhaps Dickens had his arm twisted by his editor, but no, I think Dickens wanted what we wanted. I never felt he was slumming. I think Heinlein, despite his “practical” public image, was artistically gifted, but respected how his readers didn’t want a classic literary tragedy. (BTW, my sister cried at the end of Moon)

    I think Heinlein’s public image was crafted, just as Nobel prize winning Bob Dylan, a motivated affluent professional, gives the impression that he never took speech therapy or singing lessons.

  64. Ah, the golden age of science fiction, when sexism let its freak flag fly.

    I’m trying to imagine what Harry Potter would have looked like if Heinlein had written it. The story would have started when they were 18 and going to college, Hermoine would use the time turner to shag literally everyone in school. Luna Lovegood would have walked around naked. Poppy Pomfrey, the school nurse, would be telling students that nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s partly her fault. And Dumbldore would be run out of town for being gay.

    And you’re saying a bunch of sexist homophobe assholes -today- are really huge fans of Heinlein?

    huh. cant imagine why.

  65. [Deleted because in general I don’t go in here for punching on people I know personally (one can air issues with someone’s politics and positions without the extraneous nastiness), and also because the punch was not particularly on topic to this piece — JS]

  66. IMO I don’t care who brings people to the genre. There are dozens of super talented people writing today. Once they’re in the genre, they will find the old classics, or not. Honestly it doesn’t matter.
    I have certainly read almost all of Heinlein, probably a couple of times or so. Along with a bunch of the others. And I’ve enjoyed it. But honestly a lot of it is heavily dated, and some of it would be hard to swallow by someone trying out a new genre; much of the stuff written up through the 70s is agonizingly misogynistic. I read it anyway for the story and try to edge around the bad bits. But if that were the first thing in the genre that I was reading, as a person living in 2019, I’d have abandoned the genre about 1/4 of the way through the first book.

    I love and respect the old works, but I don’t require that people read them to be “real fans” or anything like that. People can read what they like, and the genre moves on. We shouldn’t require it to be some kind of a shrine to its first residents.

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