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- View topic - Heinlein Biographical thread?
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Heinlein Biographical thread? 
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Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2009 8:04 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein Biographical thread?


Sat Jul 11, 2009 1:07 am
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Post Re: Heinlein Biographical thread?

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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Sat Jul 11, 2009 10:50 am
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Mon Jul 20, 2009 8:42 am
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Post Re: Heinlein Biographical thread?
not to be a killjoy, but my whole purpose for suggesting this thread was to focus on the cold, hard FACTS of what we know about Heinlein's life and views. I didn't read all the posts here about Asperger's, but... come on. Unless there's a bit of written evidence, then we're hardly talking biographical data here.

Plus, my suggestion has always been to ignore totally theories that are based on Heinlein's written fiction, as he has always indicated that his fiction shouldn't be taken to be biographical. I think we owe the man that much. So theories about Heinlein's stance on topics like euthanasia seem irrelevant as well (at least for this thread) unless we have evidence for it. Am I wrong? If we are to study the man himself, should we really base our theories on the decisions made by some of his characters (therefore ignoring contradicting viewpoints by his other characters)? Sure, Heinlein-the-man shared qualities with some of his characters-- particularly rationality. He also didn't share some of their traits, like being 2000 years old, living on the moon, etc. In other words, they are FICTION. I vote we let Mr. Heinlein speak for himself, which he did in numerous articles, letters, travelogues, radio and television appearances, etc. And if we want to speculate, then we can speculate all we want. But a biographical thread seems a weird place for it.

If I ever have a couple weeks free, I'll type up an extensive list of Heinlein facts that I've wanted to explore. I think a good list, properly cited, would be awesome. I'm sure Bill Patterson has already essentially done this in note-form for the biography.


Wed Jul 22, 2009 10:29 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein Biographical thread?
The question of how to use a writer's fiction to decide events in their biography is an extremely touchy one, fraught with peril.

I just finished reading Michael Reynolds' four-volume biography of Hemingway, and he sets issues clearly in that context more brilliantly than any biographer of a writer that I've ever read. He very, very carefully pins everything he can to letters, particularly since his research shows that most of what Hemingway wrote was imaginary, and not lived, as most of his readers (including myself, at times), believed. Given that many authors tend to be liars in their letters and their conversations, the danger is significantly increased.

Having said that, I do think there is one tactic that tends to be revelatory of an author's true feelings, and that is when you look at what the author chooses to happen to his characters. Plot is an extremely undervalued literary merit for much of the past century of literary criticism, but what an author chooses to do with his characters, is, in fact, his or her own choices, which are almost invariably based on their interior beliefs (even when they choose to have something happen because it makes a better story, the fact that they choose to go for that better story does say something about their belief system).

Also, when an author repeats positions in book after book, one does tend to think this is closer to the author's heart than a single book would indicate.

For example, the issue of Heinlein's take on government is an extremely important one to many people, and one that Libertarians in particular cite. They consider him to be a hard-core libertarian, which isn't an unfair position to take. But when you consider that Heinlein speaks admirably, in numerous places, both nonfiction and fiction, of the value of government, you cannot discard the idea that Heinlein felt government was necessary, sometimes even in large doses -- the Depression and WWII for example, when we know for a fact that Heinlein backed FDR's New Deal (even while wanting it to go further) and the war effort (after being shocked out of an essentially isolationist pov by Pearl Harbor). Any author who has created Mr. Kiku cannot be totally opposed to bureaucracy -- an author who thought government NEVER worked would, in my opinion, not create an admirable bureaucrat.

As for Heinlein's best statement about his own political beliefs, and my summation of them, see my afterword to "For Us, the Living".

Robert


Fri Jul 24, 2009 12:17 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein Biographical thread?

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Fri Jul 24, 2009 1:59 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein Biographical thread?
The question of why he fudged information is tangled. Part of it was simply not remembering correctly -- we all do that, as memory is a slippery thing at best. Part of it was as Twain said -- never let the truth get in the way of a good story. And part of it was eliding the facts to bolster his creds, like claiming he went to UCLA, which he did, for a few weeks at best -- but the impression was left that he went there more substantially.

And part of it was simply that he drew an extreme line between his private life and his public life, and he was more than willing to lie -- extensively, if need be -- to protect that privacy, and/or to make a point (such as the time he told an anti-Semite he was good friends with that he was, in fact, Jewish, and left the dinner party to let the bastard stew in his own stupidity...).

Robert


Fri Jul 24, 2009 2:08 pm
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Sat Jul 25, 2009 9:50 am
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Sat Jul 25, 2009 4:22 pm
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Post Re: Heinlein Biographical thread?
Thanks for the compliment.


Sat Jul 25, 2009 5:18 pm
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