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Heinleins Villains --are they *any* believable human ones? 
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2011 7:32 pm
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Post Re: Heinleins Villains --are they *any* believable human one
A comment I made a few months ago when I reviewed a Heinlein book seems relevant to this thread. My observation was that many Heinlein villains are not your traditional sort of villain. Many are just infuriatingly wrong headed. They think they are upholding the moral status quo, but they are at risk of doing great harm in that pursuit, like the Police Chief or the neighbor in "The Star Beast".

I believe that anyone who thinks there are Heinlein villains who are not believable have led sheltered lives. Humanity abounds, unfortunately, with very ordinary seeming people who go off on evil tangents that no one would have ever believed possible, with the oldest motives of lust for power, sex, money, revenge, etc at their root.

Of course Heinlein has extraordinary villains too, people very much in the mold of Hitler, and it can't be any surprise that various aspects of Hitler would come to mind when shaping literary villains when you've just lived through WWII.

There are a number of characters in Heinlein books who are just mean, or just clueless in very unfortunate ways. If these characters are seemingly caricatures, it is only because we are so used to seeing them in real life and putting them out of our minds that we forget how truly representative those characters are of a lot of people in our personal experience. However, that's something Heinlein never forgot. In fact, its pretty clear that RAH didn't have much respect for the ability of his average fellow citizen to think and behave rationally. A good example of this is a line he wrote, "Never debate a fool in public, the onlookers won't be able to tell the difference". I recall that line with amusement every time I watch a political debate. Virtually every time, the most foolish plans and outrageous misrepresentations are the debate elements that get the most positive comment in the post mortems. LOL Heinlein completely got that. So many of his essays about society and politics and human behavior are even more true in our day than they were the day he wrote them.

The entire Penn State scandal (have you heard about that this week?? LOL) sounds like it could have been one of RAH's patented infuriating episodes. You can find pretty much all the Penn State characters in his novels and stories.

Fri Nov 11, 2011 12:02 am
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Your first post said in
Tunnel in the sky -- the villain was Grant Cowper.

Did you forget Jock McGowan? The tall, older, leader of a pack of 4 men, who actually tried a violent attack against our hero Rod, which must inevitably have led to a takeover of the camp.

I see Grant and Jock as two sides of the same problem; violence and law. Jock and Grant.

Both tried to usurp Rod's position as leader; only Grant succceeded.

I've always been troubled that while 2 of Rod's "special friends" as he reflected while under the knife (both women) backed him up and won the day against Jock, his friends' arguements during Grant's legal takeover were few and feeble. Then, later, they complained. If they had any knowledge of the rules of order, they could have fought and possibly won for Rod.

If Jock had succeeded anyone against him, especially Rod, would have gone feet first into the stream filled with piranha. The women would have been divided up before nightfall. Everyone, slaves to King Jock and his brother and two friends. Yes, Heinlein was writing a juvenile novel and couldn't expand on the-future-under-Jock but any adult that reads that conflict can see what Jock's victory would have meant for the camp.

Grant on the other hand, while he wanted power, used the weapons of talk and committees to get his own way. The result of his victory and work was a constitution with options for the elected leader to be kicked out by a vote of 'no confidence'. When Grant dies and Rod is reinstated as the leader, Rod carefully follows Grant's constitution.

Jock is almost a cariacature. Grant is filled out a bit more, especially when he stops smiling at Rod and admits he really dislikes our hero. Yet he swallows his personal dislike for the good of the community, asking Rod to take over managing the nighttime guards. Later he states Rod was right, they should have moved to the vastly better site Rod had found. Rod shrugs, "Water over the bridge" and he clearly means it, and goes on fighting Dopey Joes.

Grant died to protect the community.
Can't see Jock dying to protect anything or anybody.

Tunnel in the Sky is a novel about leadership and that most dangerous of all creatures: man.
People, in today's wider nomenclature.

Grant's speech about government, halfway through, preceeding his removal of Rod as leader at that night's camp meeting, is actually brilliant. What follows his speech is as determined an attack on Rod as Bruce McGowan's knife. And much more successful.

Humanity's greatest invention is government. Without it, we're just hitting each other over the head with sticks.

At the end of the novel Rod literally rides off into the sunset, now a trained Captain for a group of emigrants going off-planet. He failed against Cowper only because he didn't have the background and training to recognize Grant's threat, and neither did any of his "special friends".

[Personal note]
Grant's victory by slur and insinuation has always upset me.

The last few years I've been rewriting 'Tunnel' just for my own amusement. Grant doesn't win but the camp organizaes itself as a Town Hall with Grant as Chair, Rod is recognized as Captain. PeeWee (Philip) isn't killed, though he is badly crippled. Jock and crew are banished, but only for one year, and later return and become good (if somewhat sulky) members of the village community, frequently hunting Nessies. Nessies are delicious. Grant doesn't die. The group moves to the cliff houses barely in front of the Dopey Joe disaster.

The riverside village is named Jacqueline Village, or Jackieville for short.

And oh yes, there's a personal avatar for 'me'.

I include a lot of 'how to'. One of my fun reads lately is 'How to stay alive in the woods'; I read at home, tea at my elbow, pellet stove afire, antiques and family items around me, 68 degrees farenheit while outside there's icy snow on the ground. It's very pleasant to read 'How to stay alive in the woods' (by Bradford Angier) in such pleasant surroundings.

[The monitors of this site and the board of the Heinlein Trust have decided not to allow fan fiction. I wish they'd change their mind.]

Sun Mar 10, 2013 5:02 pm
Heinlein Nexus
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Post Re: Heinleins Villains --are they *any* believable human one
The Heinlein Trust doesn't grant rights for derivative works. I don't know the legalities surrounding that subset called 'fan fiction'. However, I will note that there are some published at .

Sun Mar 10, 2013 6:34 pm
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