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Heinlein Reinvented 
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Heinlein Nexus
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Mon May 04, 2009 8:02 pm
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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Tue May 05, 2009 7:35 am
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Very interesting and fresh topic that should generate a good discussion. It can be approached from a variety of angles.

When I think of changes or new directions in Heinlein's writing over his career, I picture him aiming his writing at new audiences. Whether he did this primarily as a means to access additional revenue sources (logical given his practical approach to the writing craft) or because he wanted to show off his versatility I don't know. It is apparent that Heinlein grew bored writing for a particular market and frequently changed course. His success in doing this opened new fields for science fiction that had previously been closed. He wasn't always artistically or practically successful in his first attempts to reach new audiences, but he was persistent and he learned fast.

Some examples:

1. Breaking into and then upgrading the quality of pulp science fiction - his first known serious attempt (FUTL) was aborted, but then he broke in with Life-Line, a very good but not great short story. Within a year, his really good stuff (Requiem, If This Goes On, The Roads Must Roll, Coventry etc.) began rolling out in torrents.
2. After mastering the pulp world, he grew bored (Well, WWII intervened as well but I think he used it partially as an excuse) and he walked away from it. His next foray was two-pronged - writing both short fiction and non-fiction pieces for publication in the mainstream slick magazines and starting his juvenile novels. Since his short fiction for the slicks was not materially different from his pulp output that was an easier market for him. He had much less success with his pontificating non-fiction. His first attempt at long form juvenile fiction was successful commercially but not so much artistically IMO. Within two years though, he wrote Red Planet.
3. Next Heinlein wanted to reach the adult novel audience. His first three published adult novels were basically re-works and extensions of his early pulp work, but then by 1951 he had Puppet Masters, and he began plotting Stranger. By then, except for increasing levels of commercial success, Heinlein had reached all his intended audiences, and had them hooked for life.

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Tue May 05, 2009 8:16 am
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Heinlein Nexus
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Tue May 05, 2009 12:33 pm
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Tue May 05, 2009 12:55 pm
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[quote="Peter Scott"]As soon as Bill sees this discussion I predict he will be immensely frustrated with his other commitments because I'm sure he could and would like to slay entire forests on this topic.
quote] Well, yeah, but one of those other topics is the writing of a critical study, so I will be slaying entire forests on this topic, one way or another.

One of the interesting notions my co-author, Robert James, came up with is that those visible places where Heinlein zigged when others were zagging are largely illusory. The "standard picture," which Panshin used, is that Heinlein wrote pulp and then abandoned it and then decayed for the last 25 or so years of his life into a "period of Alienation."

Robert says, no, it's not linear like that at all: Heinlein started out with this complex and demanding agenda, visible in FUTL, which he had to stop down and disguise to fit into the taboos of pulp fiction, and then he stopped himself down further in order to write for children. In 1959 he said, "enough!" and returned to his original agenda, to write "my own stuff, my own way" after Starship Troopers. (Whether or not that book could be published as a juvenile, it was written as one, so ST falls into the old self-suppression agenda in which he said he felt tied down with a thousand strings, like Gulliver among the Liliputians; Stranger, however, is the first book of the original-revived agenda. Heinlein wrote experiments and explorations and then found something like his true calling in the World as Myth books.

So the obvious changes in direction might represent nothing more than exploiting new markets as they opened up -- the kind of superficial technical competence of a wordsmith rather than any fundamental change in Heinlein.


Tue May 05, 2009 2:01 pm
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Tue May 05, 2009 2:24 pm
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Tue May 05, 2009 4:18 pm
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Mon May 11, 2009 5:03 pm
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Tue May 12, 2009 6:39 am
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