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Times change... 
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Post Times change...
G'day everyone - I hope you're well.

My first post on the forum and my thanks to those responsible for putting it together and keeping it running. You seem like a dedicated and committed group of fans. I apologise in advance for some possibly challenging views.

I've been a fan for over 30 years and regularly re-read RAH. Recently I've introduced my 15yo son to some classics such as Puppet Master, Starship Troopers, Glory Road, etc and he's asked for more. The juveniles are fine, but I realised I was holding back on some others. Perhaps my attitudes have changed as I became a father, but some of RAH's later works now niggle me. It got me comparing the early works with later ones and I'd be interested in your views.

1) do you think the quality of RAH's writing and ideas declined later in life (possibly as a result of illness)? For example, where he wrote "both Heinleins were there" in one of the alternate universe novels (Job?) seemed unnecessary. Is the "alternate universe" road trip just a device to string several stories together in the absence of a strong plotline?

2) if he had been a parent, do you think it would have changed some of his writing (eg incestual relationships in Time and (?) Sunset).

I also read Tramp Royale for the first time last month. Ginny may have been saintly in later life but on that trip RAH made her seem like a parody of a bad tourist: over-packing, unreasonable, challenging authority, etc. And RAH mostly caved in! Not the LL-type kind but firm patriarch whose word stands. Maybe it was literary licence to make the journey more interesting but as a personal insight, well...

Anyway, I don't mean to criticise too harshly: the bottom line is I'm viewing RAH and his work from a different perspective which makes him more of a man, and less of a savant. I think I like him better that way. What do you think?


Mon Sep 08, 2008 7:29 pm
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Post Re: Times change...
john_tindall wrote:
1) do you think the quality of RAH's writing and ideas declined later in life (possibly as a result of illness)? For example, where he wrote "both Heinleins were there" in one of the alternate universe novels (Job?) seemed unnecessary. Is the "alternate universe" road trip just a device to string several stories together in the absence of a strong plotline?

2) if he had been a parent, do you think it would have changed some of his writing (eg incestual relationships in Time and (?) Sunset).

I also read Tramp Royale for the first time last month. Ginny may have been saintly in later life but on that trip RAH made her seem like a parody of a bad tourist: over-packing, unreasonable, challenging authority, etc. And RAH mostly caved in! Not the LL-type kind but firm patriarch whose word stands. Maybe it was literary licence to make the journey more interesting but as a personal insight, well...


You and I have a lot in common. I also have a son (he's 19 now) who I began to introduce to Heinlein at a young age. Now that he's almost grown he's not quite the fanatic I am but for his age he's pretty advanced. He accompanied me to the Heinlein Centennial in KC last year and is in the process of introducing Heinlein to his girlfriend.

I'll leave the literary criticism to others here who are actually qualified, but I've recently begun to reassess my opinions regarding Heinlein's later writing, in the context of understanding what he was actually trying to accomplish. I now see Job much more favorably than I used to. I've never been able to get into Cat (although I love the plotline) but To Sail Beyond the Sunset is among my favorites because of the personal insights. Friday I think starts off very well and degenerates. Number I find unbearable but I do appreciate the cleverness and originality of what Heinlein is trying to do there.

No, I don't think Heinlein's mental capacity declined in his latter years. Before he had the surgical procedure in the late 70's I do think he was suffering from mental sluggishness, but his writing shows no sign of illness after that point in my opinion. Instead it shows a mature writer who is damn well going to write what he pleases and will brook no editing. I do think some of his stuff could have benefited from editing, but he had earned the right and the publishers all made money, so who am I to say?

I do think that if Heinlein had children of his own his writing would have been different. Children as we know do affect how we feel about certain things. But, it's impossible to say exactly how it would have been different. I do think his depictions of interactions between parents and children might have been more realistic, but I don't know if or how it would have changed his opinions of or depictions of incest. I dare say that as your children grow older you might find as I have that I can read these types of passages with a little more perspective.

Don't censor your son's reading at his age. Let him read Stranger if he hasn't already and discuss it with him. Help him understand what a parody is and to look beneath the surface of the writing. Get Bill Patterson's book on Stranger and read it yourself.

Oh, and I absolutely love Tramp Royale. Think of Heinlein's descriptions of Ginny during the trip as an inside joke between these two - AFAIK these two were an ideal couple so I'm sure his depictions of Ginny's foibles were meant in a humorous, loving way.

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Tue Sep 09, 2008 9:01 am
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Post Re: Times change...
john_tindall wrote:
2) if he had been a parent, do you think it would have changed some of his writing (eg incestual relationships in Time and (?) Sunset).

I also read Tramp Royale for the first time last month. Ginny may have been saintly in later life but on that trip RAH made her seem like a parody of a bad tourist: over-packing, unreasonable, challenging authority, etc. And RAH mostly caved in! Not the LL-type kind but firm patriarch whose word stands. Maybe it was literary licence to make the journey more interesting but as a personal insight, well...

Anyway, I don't mean to criticise too harshly: the bottom line is I'm viewing RAH and his work from a different perspective which makes him more of a man, and less of a savant. I think I like him better that way. What do you think?


I made a much longer post but a failure of the wireless system in the hotel I'm staying at caused it to get lost in the ether. I'll try to keep it more compact this time.

I think people are different from each other and parents are different from each other, and given that Heinlein put so much effort into trying to get people to face the realities I don't see him trying to wrap his own children in cotton wool. People parent according to their own personalities and values -- and the amount of time and effort they put into the things they value.

Taking just one figure you mentioned, given that the moral teaching of the incest in Heinlein's books is the classical (though certainly not narrowly bourgeois) teaching that morally responsible adults have free choice and that rules in and of themselves have no moral power -- i.e., rules are for children; adults choose base on their values and their circumstances -- I can't see him wanting to abandon that teaching, though it's certainly possible he might want to approach it in a different way if he's personally using it as a pedagogic tool on a day-by-day basis.

But, then again, maybe not. What we see in a book is the tool Heinlein gives us as a public communication, and he might or might not have made the same public communication no matter what he does personally and on a day-to-day basis.

It's an undecidable question in my opinion.


Thu Sep 11, 2008 7:18 am
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Post Re: Times change...
Oh, one thing more. Ginny was not "saintly" in later life. That's a silly idea, and I don't know where it comes from. I treasure one of the remarks she made to David Silver: "I'm just an old hag trying to have some fun."


Thu Sep 11, 2008 7:22 am
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