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What the Hell is he Talking About? 
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Robert W Franson wrote:
. . . in the June 1961 issue of F&SF we have Bester talking a bit about Algis Budrys' Rogue Moon, but then inviting in James Blish to do the heavy critical lifting. As a critic, Blish is of course a much sharper tack (in more ways than one).

Well -- it's true Blish doesn't seem to employ the ability to fog men's minds so much as Bester, and he does from time to time have insightful things to say -- even when he's positively reviewing his own stuff.

However, I have found that when Blish tries to talk about Heinlein, his brains seem to dribble out his ear. Much of what he has to say is not so much "questionable" as it is plain *wrong,* and obviously so (that bit about Heinlein being a professed Freudian, for instance: what actually happened was that Virginia Kidd, who was married to Blish at the time, said in a review that something in Space Cadet or so could be interpreted in a Freudian way; Heinlein wrote back saying (close paraphrase) he had never seen anyone suggest that reading before, but generally appreciative of the generally positive review. How you get from that to saying Heinlein was a professed Freudian is logically beyond my feeble abilities.) His first major writing on Heinlein appeared in SF Forum in 1957, where he said writers always expose their innermost psychology in first-person writing. He then proceeded to look at a list of a few of Heinlein's first-person stories plus "Gulf," which is not first-person, and come to utterly ridiculous conclusions. In Stranger and a Strange Land he is apparently completely unable to recognize any contribution of the Christology and is amazed Heinlein was able to make up such a complete and complex salmagundi of theology. *sigh*

While it doesn't take much to be a sharper tack than Bester, I'd want to pause at Blish and then keep looking. Small wonder RAH was so impressed with In Search of Wonder.


Sat Jan 17, 2009 5:30 pm
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Bill Patterson wrote:
Now, Now, Jim. Bester was admired by the new wavicles, but I don't think anyone would ever have considered him one of them.

You're right, I snorked too hastily. Bester was the proto-cyberpunk, not the oldest newavie.

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Sat Jan 17, 2009 10:55 pm
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
While I would not apply the term xenophobe to Heinlein or to his characters, one must admit that he was in many ways a product of his time and location. The "you can do it if only you work hard enough" attitude, and "personal freedom" overall else are prime examples of this. These notions are inherently tied up with the America of Heinlein's time (and in many ways as it is in America today). Although he is still my all time favorite author, and I drew much of my life's philosophy from his works, I look more critically at them some twenty five years later.


Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:54 pm
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Starry wrote:
While I would not apply the term xenophobe to Heinlein or to his characters, one must admit that he was in many ways a product of his time and location. The "you can do it if only you work hard enough" attitude, and "personal freedom" overall else are prime examples of this. These notions are inherently tied up with the America of Heinlein's time (and in many ways as it is in America today). Although he is still my all time favorite author, and I drew much of my life's philosophy from his works, I look more critically at them some twenty five years later.


What is xenophobic about being yourself? It is impossible to be more than that and shameful to be less. The idea that xenophobia is a bad thing is very much a Western idea, even though it is generally applied to westerners more than anyone else.


Wed Mar 04, 2009 9:35 am
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Xenophobia is an objective description of a pattern of thoughts, perceptions, and sometimes reactions based on those perceptions. What is xenophobic about being yourself depends largely on who yourself *is*.

Xenophobia is a prejudice, and like all prejudices, since the stereotypes on which is it based do not always hold true, it can have both positive and negative effects on the person who exhibits it.


Thu Mar 05, 2009 6:04 am
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Baylink wrote:
Xenophobia is an objective description of a pattern of thoughts, perceptions, and sometimes reactions based on those perceptions. What is xenophobic about being yourself depends largely on who yourself *is*.

Xenophobia is a prejudice, and like all prejudices, since the stereotypes on which is it based do not always hold true, it can have both positive and negative effects on the person who exhibits it.


Neither of the things Starry mentions is xenophobia or related to xenophobia.


Thu Mar 05, 2009 8:41 am
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Xenophobia is "fear of people who are not like me".

They don't *have* to be from a foreign country; Deborah Tannen has covered similar ground in discussing how business people from Texas, frex, interact with those from NYC.

You call the dysfunctionalities that happen there xenophobia, just as you could use it to refer to how Appalachians would react to people from The City.

So I understand where starry was going: suggesting that Heinlein's underlying reactions and motivations were based on the cultural matrix in which he lived being itself dysfunctional (by our current standards of objectivsm), even if he was less so than most.

Of course, inferring anything about an author from his writing is a mug's game, anyway...


Thu Mar 05, 2009 9:37 am
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Bill Patterson wrote:
... I have found that when Blish tries to talk about Heinlein, his brains seem to dribble out his ear. Much of what he has to say is not so much "questionable" as it is plain *wrong,* ...

While it doesn't take much to be a sharper tack than Bester, I'd want to pause at Blish and then keep looking. Small wonder RAH was so impressed with In Search of Wonder.
I've always had the feeling that Blish didn't really understand Heinlein. Knight, in contrast, is an oasis of clarity and common sense.

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Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:22 am
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Robert W Franson wrote:
Bill Patterson wrote:
... I have found that when Blish tries to talk about Heinlein, his brains seem to dribble out his ear. Much of what he has to say is not so much "questionable" as it is plain *wrong,* ...

While it doesn't take much to be a sharper tack than Bester, I'd want to pause at Blish and then keep looking. Small wonder RAH was so impressed with In Search of Wonder.
I've always had the feeling that Blish didn't really understand Heinlein. Knight, in contrast, is an oasis of clarity and common sense.

That whole SF Forum experiment was a nasty business.

Incidentally I've been meaning to mention that I picked up on Ebay a copy of your 1964 SFR (#11 -- with the review of Starship Troopers).


Fri Mar 06, 2009 11:37 am
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Bill Patterson wrote:
Incidentally I've been meaning to mention that I picked up on Ebay a copy of your 1964 SFR (#11 -- with the review of Starship Troopers).
Ah! Well, I hope I've learned a bit about reading, writing, and reviewing in the intervening years!

If a complete set of my Science Fiction Review (44 issues) might be useful, please let me know and I'll see if I can assemble a set for you, gratis. Since I've lately seen SFR mentioned and even reprinted from online, I've been wondering if I should put it online, as a little historical document of its time.

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Fri Mar 06, 2009 12:27 pm
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