“How I first encountered Heinlein…”
David Wright Sr.
I have been a fan of Heinlein since first reading “Between Planets” in the fall of 1953 when I entered High School,although I was a Science Fiction fan from well before that time. That first encounter was followed by every book of Heinlein’s that I could lay my hands on during the next 40 or more years until sadly there were no more.
As a teen-ager and through my early college years, I worked in the Atlanta Public Library system where I could be the first to get my hands on any ‘new’ Heinlein that came in the door. I have probably read every work of his at least 10-20 times over the years.
I credit Heinlein for freeing me from the racially bigoted environment in which I grew up. This was due to a number of themes in Heinlein’s works, but, ironically, it was a mis-interpretation of _Tunnel In The Sky_ which was most significant to my thinking. I, like many probably did, identified Rod Walker with myself, that is, a young white boy. It was the relationship between Rod and Caroline, (a very big no-no to my previous way of thinking),and the very great esteem in which I already held Heinlein, that prompted me to re-evaluate my prejudices. I can accept the fact intellectually that Rod was intended to be black, but it is still difficult for me to accept that fact emotionally, since it played such a prominent part of my educaion.
It was that “mis-interpretation” that apparently brought all of the other Heinlein themes dealing with race to a focus.