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"Problematica" 
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Post "Problematica"
The current limping progress of the parenting thread and a renewal outside this Forum of the Heinlein-as-Libertarian issue (a factional infight among libertarians that ought to be amusing to those outside the fray) has me contemplating the matter of the "problematica" in Heinlein studies. I'm thinking about opening up a regular department in the Journal that specifically tries to address these issues. I'd like advice and comments.

To begin with, I have a fairly definite notion of what problematica consists of -- the issues that aren't generally talked about except in these inconclusive bursts.

Some of these are particularly confusing to me. Taking the example of the parenting thread in this Forum, we have people who have a strong and definite opinion that there is something or some things decidedly wrong with the picture Heinlein gives of parenting, and make this opinion known in sweeping condemnations -- but nobody seems able to articulate any specific criticism -- an in this group that NO one seems willing or able to articulate specific criticisms is, if not suspicious, somewhat alarming and probably indicates Something Or Other, I know not what.

Now, not all of the problematica seem this . . . problematical.

I see three basic categories: There are major problematica (in which I would class parenting and the incest issue, and if we get around to talking about it, the disabled -- and suggestions for populating these lists are sought -- as well as things like the racism issue, though that may belong in the third category below . . . and the embarrassing and misconceived argument for the evolutionary value of patriotism in the Forrestal lecture);

Then there are what I would call minor problematica (and in this category I would put things like the nature of Federal Service in ST, as I don't believe there's sufficient material in the text to make definitive statements one way or another; Johnny Rico's hometown, and Rod Walker's race; the rape of Friday and and her becoming a soccer-mom-in-space might go in this category -- or might be major problematica).

And then I would posit a third category, the "Phony problematica" and in this category would go things like "Heinlein is a fascist." and "Heinlein doesn't understand General Relativity" Alexei Panshin alone ought to provide a healthy slug of these phony problematics).

So -- help me construct an inventory of issues . . . or take a swing at one or another.


Mon Jun 07, 2010 1:12 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
Libertarianism, having peeked at the crowd in sentence one and saw its shadow, apparently went back for a six week nap the rest of that post.

I think the other thing we glancingly discussed here recently, which I go as far to call "Heinlein mysticism" (rather than stopping at just, say, "spirituality") would be an example. Bridey Murphy, Charles Fort, IONS, telepathy, that kind of thing. I can see why IONS attracted him --it appears to be an attempt (how sincere and non-self-deluding on IONS part, I know not) to square the Heinlein circle in this area of mystic/spiritual belief on the one hand, and respect for science-based research/proof on the other.

Jim and I had a cross of tips awhile back in the agnostics-vs-atheists thread where he made the point that fundamentially religious questions like the soul are beyond science and one cannot use the standards and language of science to say anything useful about them in polite debate. I don't think Heinlein got to the point of agreeing with Jim in that area, and I think IONS and RAH becoming a supporting member of it is prima facie proof to that effect.

I only pick on Jim as the easily available avatar to point at, surely not the only adherent of the pov in Heinleindom, as to why that would qualify as "problematica".

The area does play peek-a-boo in the fiction as well, not just the non-fiction. Lost Legion, arguably I Will Fear No Evil, Project Nightmare, the end of SIASL to a degree (tho other considerations were there too), The Man Who Traveled in Elephants --I'm sure others can think of more. I'm sorta tempted to toss "Our Fair City" in there, but I think that likely was just a whimsy device. Perhaps FUTL if you concede that isn't just a Twainian "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" device in reverse (which you don't necessarily have to concede).

At any rate, there's enough there to throw against the wall that it is hard to make a convincing argument that some of it doesn't stick one way or another as being informed by those elements of his beliefs and interests.

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Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:27 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
I think I'd vote for open relationships/polyamory as a topic on the list.

Dan

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Mon Jun 07, 2010 4:09 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
georule wrote:
Libertarianism, having peeked at the crowd in sentence one and saw its shadow, apparently went back for a six week nap the rest of that post.

I think the other thing we glancingly discussed here recently, which I go as far to call "Heinlein mysticism" (rather than stopping at just, say, "spirituality") would be an example. Bridey Murphy, Charles Fort, IONS, telepathy, that kind of thing. I can see why IONS attracted him --it appears to be an attempt (how sincere and non-self-deluding on IONS part, I know not) to square the Heinlein circle in this area of mystic/spiritual belief on the one hand, and respect for science-based research/proof on the other.

Jim and I had a cross of tips awhile back in the agnostics-vs-atheists thread where he made the point that fundamentially religious questions like the soul are beyond science and one cannot use the standards and language of science to say anything useful about them in polite debate. I don't think Heinlein got to the point of agreeing with Jim in that area, and I think IONS and RAH becoming a supporting member of it is prima facie proof to that effect.

I only pick on Jim as the easily available avatar to point at, surely not the only adherent of the pov in Heinleindom, as to why that would qualify as "problematica".

The area does play peek-a-boo in the fiction as well, not just the non-fiction. Lost Legion, arguably I Will Fear No Evil, Project Nightmare, the end of SIASL to a degree (tho other considerations were there too), The Man Who Traveled in Elephants --I'm sure others can think of more. I'm sorta tempted to toss "Our Fair City" in there, but I think that likely was just a whimsy device. Perhaps FUTL if you concede that isn't just a Twainian "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" device in reverse (which you don't necessarily have to concede).

At any rate, there's enough there to throw against the wall that it is hard to make a convincing argument that some of it doesn't stick one way or another as being informed by those elements of his beliefs and interests.

Yes, I think you're right; mysticism belongs in the problematica. Just where it might fit though, might be a problem in its own right

By "IONS" did you mean that Edgar Mitchell institute? Sounds like you're talking about that. Why RAH and Ginny were interested enough to join seems fairly clear to me: their mission statement has them trying to pick up the gauntlet of rigorously investigating *stuff* after Rhine's researches had kind of petered out. Twain's two essays and Upton Sinclair's 1930 book both begged for someone to take the mass of casual data and figure out what was actually going on.

I don't think Bridey Murphy quite "counts," as Heinlein explained over and over that he didn't "Believe" Bridey Murphy -- it just made a good hook to hang a story on. Still, there are other things that could take up the Bridey Murphy slack.

It's my impression that those who acknowledge mysticism in Heinlein at all are generally accepting of the idea, but the problems are on the other side of a Great Divide -- the segment who insist that Heinlein Was, After All, Just An Engineer Who Told Good Stories, which is so obviously numbnutted that it's hard to take the objections seriously.

Perhaps this means that the Heinlein Is a Hard Science Fiction Writer meme needs to go into the problematica as well.


Mon Jun 07, 2010 5:25 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
As soon as I saw my reply come up on screen, I realized of course you were talking about Edgar Mitchell's Institute of Noetic Science (IONS).


Mon Jun 07, 2010 5:29 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillPatterson wrote:
As soon as I saw my reply come up on screen, I realized of course you were talking about Edgar Mitchell's Institute of Noetic Science (IONS).


Yep, that one.

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Mon Jun 07, 2010 5:34 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
But now you almost make me want to ask you for a first-princples definition of "problematica" rather than a finger-pointing one.

I tend to think of it in terms is where large numbers have perceived, rightly or wrongly, tension in the Works between opposing view points both arguably put forth by the author over time, rather than just, say "controversial" or "unpopular" (like say, Dan's polyamory point, which I really can't think of a lot of opposing viewpoint in Heinlein for it)...

Oh, re Bridey Murphy --I'm not entirely convinced by his protestations on the matter. I was at one time, but then I ran across a personal correspondence letter from before Expanded Universe that showed enough interest in a non-dismissive way on the matter to move me back to at least a neutral position on whether he backed off blowing blue smoke due to embarrassment more than anything.

Edit: Not personal correspondence, Doubleday & Company, Walter Bradbury, sometime prior to 1958. I reference it in the WIP. Apparently Bradbury sent him "The Search for Bridey Murphy" sometime not too long after original publication. I think Doubleday published it --did Bradbury edit it, or acquire it for the company? It's been awhile since I read the letter.

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"Rub her feet." --Woodrow Wilson Smith

"Hey, if I'm going to pass on the timeless wisdom of the ages in a Sig, that pretty well qualifies, in my experience." --Geo Rule


Last edited by georule on Mon Jun 07, 2010 6:35 pm, edited 4 times in total.



Mon Jun 07, 2010 5:44 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillPatterson wrote:
...To begin with, I have a fairly definite notion of what problematica consists of -- the issues that aren't generally talked about except in these inconclusive bursts...

...I see three basic categories: There are major problematica (in which I would class parenting and the incest issue, and if we get around to talking about it, the disabled -- and suggestions for populating these lists are sought -- as well as things like the racism issue, though that may belong in the third category below . . . and the embarrassing and misconceived argument for the evolutionary value of patriotism in the Forrestal lecture);

Then there are what I would call minor problematica (and in this category I would put things like the nature of Federal Service in ST, as I don't believe there's sufficient material in the text to make definitive statements one way or another; Johnny Rico's hometown, and Rod Walker's race; the rape of Friday and and her becoming a soccer-mom-in-space might go in this category -- or might be major problematica).

And then I would posit a third category, the "Phony problematica" and in this category would go things like "Heinlein is a fascist." and "Heinlein doesn't understand General Relativity" Alexei Panshin alone ought to provide a healthy slug of these phony problematics).

So -- help me construct an inventory of issues . . . or take a swing at one or another.


I don't know whether it's major or minor problematica, but one issue that always intrigued me is Heinlein's apparent and deep solipsism. It is most apparent in "All You Zombies" but it seems to me that this philosophy underlies and explains a lot about Heinlein's apparent contradictions and even his antisocial behavior. It certainly, in my mind, explains his deep fascination with multiple universes and "world as myth."

And, before anyone suggests it, I did not get this idea from Panshin. It's something I've thought about well before I had ever heard of Panshin.

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Mon Jun 07, 2010 5:58 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
for handicapped:

Having actually thought about this for a while, my own opinion has evolved somewhat from the urges I used to have in the 80's to take a beautiful severely handicapped little girl with me and find RAH on the beach at Aptos and drag him into a conversation about her. (Thank God I never did that!). So really I think I have to try very hard to keep any discussion of this neutral, as it is not fair to paint RAH's works with my own brush.

Are you referring to people who may be able to function productively even if they have physical challenges such as Manny and Baslim, or is it fair to separate the categories into those who can function independently and those who CANNOT, such as Wyoh's first baby, the "defectives" (that are not telepathic) in Methusalah's children, and the defective babies born and taken away by the old women for a fate never discussed.

It is the SECOND category that I think is more interesting, given that RAH recognized the value of productive human beings who happened to have physical challenges. He was even able to present them as bad guys, which was a real leap in that era. But people in the second category were rarely treated sympathetically, except as euthanasia candidates. IMO. Or am I missing someone? Basically I was left with the impression if you are too retarded to be self-sufficient, your best bet is euthanasia, and if that is not possible then you are at best a walking tragedy. To be fair, that is more than more writers of the era did, and even to this day it is rare to see the truly handicapped (as defined as those in the second category) portrayed as valued members of society if they cannot support themselves.

And of course he was also of the era when the entire society hid the handicapped (those who survived). And as Jim points out, people with severe handicaps have a hard time moving a story forward. But RAH's literary treatment of them could be indicative of a view that people who were not productive (through no fault of their own) were somehow less entitled to basic human rights (like not being euthanized) than those who were. And at what IQ point does that right kick in?

Also I do not think he touches the entire concept of mental illness at all, (except possibly some mention in SIASL as "not quite right") but again that would have been consistent with the times.

So first it is necessary to define the terms. Stephen Hawking has severe physical problems - but he is a GREAT help to many people. A middle aged man with Down's syndrome may have no more to offer than the ability to make people smile because of his own indefatigable cheer. RAH's works seem to indicate easily his recognition of the former as a worthy human being - do his works recognize the latter, and is it fair to expect them to? Again what he writes is not necessarily what he felt.

Just wondering exactly what the terms are here....


Mon Jun 07, 2010 8:01 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
I'm having trouble with the definition of the term here. What's problematic? Initially I thought from Bill's description that it was areas where Heinlein fell short in some respect, or areas where people often think he fell short but are wrong. But some of the comments seem to be going for just common themes in his stories, or at least, aren't making clear what's problematic about them.


Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:08 pm
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