View unanswered posts | View active topics It is currently Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:16 am



Reply to topic  [ 40 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next
What made me a serious Heinlein 
Author Message
User avatar

Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:24 am
Posts: 265
Location: Northwest Georgia
Post What made me a serious Heinlein
On the ‘S.O.A.P. Lockdown’ Topic on the ‘Community Chat’ Forum, I offered the observation that newcomers to this Forum might have gotten the perception that most of the posts had, especially those dealing with politics, viewpoints which contradicted much of what Heinlein had displayed in his fiction and, to some degree, in his non-fiction.

I am making no judgments about the views held by the posters here or those who might have found them objectionable from outside the Forum.

However, this raised a question in my mind which I thought would be worthwhile discussing.

Most posters here appear to be serious readers of Heinlein, otherwise, I don’t think that you would take the time to be here, reading and posting.

So, my question is a three-parter:
• What was it especially about Heinlein’s works that made you into a serious reader?
• What other ideas/viewpoints etc., do you particularly like and/or agree with in his works?
• What other ideas/viewpoints etc., do you particularly dislike and/or disagree with in his works?


Fri Aug 21, 2009 3:53 pm
Profile WWW
NitroForum Oldster
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 7:57 am
Posts: 669
Location: DC Metro
Post Re: What made me a serious Heinlein
Oh, boy. Be careful what you ask for. I had intended to post this somewhere else on the site, but this may be the most appropriate spot. By the way, David, I've said it here before but I really enjoyed your short essay on the THS site on this general subject.


I remember exactly when I first encountered the writings of Robert A. Heinlein - not approximately, but the exact date. It was August 11, 1965 – my ninth birthday.

My parents had given me a very nice ninth birthday party. They had invited my grandparents and cousins and several kids from the neighborhood to our house. We played the usual birthday games – pin the tail on the donkey, bobbing for apples, musical chairs. Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and I opened presents. Along with Lincoln Logs and a transistor radio, there was a book – an anthology of science fiction short stories for children. I seem to remember it was a present from my grandparents, but it might have been from anyone.

That night, exhausted from the day’s frivolities, I opened the book and started to read. To this day, I cannot remember any of the other stories, and I have long since lost the book. There may have been a Silverberg or an Asimov in there, but the one story that made a lasting impression and changed my life was "The Black Pits of Luna", by Robert A. Heinlein.

Later in my childhood, I viewed Robert Heinlein as a provocateur, a heretic, and a teacher. He introduced me to ideas that I very likely would not have encountered elsewhere as a child growing up in East Texas. However, there was no heresy in this story – it was boilerplate juvenile Heinlein. In the story, a group of VIP tourists on Luna goes for a sightseeing walk on the surface. One of the highlights of the tour is a stop at a manmade crater, all that was left of the first lunar laboratory, with a monument dedicated to Lunar pioneers who had died on that spot in a gigantic radioactive explosion.

The date on the monument was August 11, 1965.

I cannot overstate the impact this had on my young mind. In those days, I was beginning to read everything I could get my hands on. My favorite author was Samuel Clemens – Mark Twain. One of my most treasured possessions is a leather-bound single volume of his collected works given to me by my late grandmother. I also read the Bible and sporadically attended Sunday school. I was very much into mystical connections. Heinlein and I were now connected for life.

At my elementary school library, I discovered that we had a very nice collection of science fiction, including a few Heinlein juvenile novels. The first one that I read was Red Planet. Then, I went through the remaining titles quickly. I convinced my best friend David Roberts to read them as well, and soon, my whole circle of friends devoured every Heinlein book in the Anthony F. Lucas Elementary School library.

My discovery of Heinlein coincided with my already-existing exuberance for the U. S. manned space program. His novels heightened my excitement about the future of man in space. Of course, this was already a generation or more after the period in which Heinlein wrote his books. I have thought about the fact that, when I first encountered his work in 1965, he had just finished what many now believe to his best and last great novel. I knew that some of the events he hypothesized about; i.e. colonies on Venus, interstellar travel, would probably never come to fruition. That did not lessen the impact Heinlein had on my love for the space program or my belief in its possibilities.

In 1966, racial integration came to my school for the first time. As we white students watched the first busloads of black students roll up to the front of our school, tension filled the air. Later that day, during recess, some of the white kids threw rocks at the black kids in the schoolyard while the all-white teaching staff stood by and watched. I did not participate in the rock throwing, and in fact had little trouble accepting our new classmates, although my parents were as prejudiced as any others were. This was perhaps in part because I had read Tunnel in the Sky and other Heinlein juveniles, and had absorbed some of the racial tolerance lessons they subtlety conveyed.

My family barely qualified as middle class, even by Sixties standards – my dad worked for the Santa Fe railroad his whole life. We did not have a lot of money to buy books. When I wanted to read a book, it pretty much needed to be one I could borrow free from the library. Therefore, once the supply of Heinlein juveniles was exhausted, that was the end of my exploration for a while.

However, in the spring of 1968 I somehow obtained a used copy of an early paperback edition of Stranger in a Strange Land. It really opened my eyes, as did the events of later that year – including the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the Soviet Union’s crushing of the “Prague Spring,” and the anti-war violence at the Democratic National Convention, culminating in the election that fall of Richard Nixon.

Jubal Harshaw’s dismantling of my notions of the basic underpinnings and traditions of organized religion was simultaneously thrilling and disheartening. I had never read such heresy. The novel’s free love storyline was not so shocking in 1968, given the counter-culture that was already well established and continuing to grow. However, Heinlein’s contempt for traditional religious organizations had quite an impact on me. That, along with the numerous traumatic societal changes and tragedies, served to turn me from a traditional white Southern boy who did not question authority to somebody completely different. I began to question many of my assumptions.

On July 20 of the following year, I sat in front of our television set watching Walter Cronkite’s coverage of the first lunar landing. I saw Heinlein and Clarke give their impressions, and then the ghostly television images of men walking – hopping – on the lunar surface. I believed more than ever in Heinlein’s optimistic visions for the future of humanity’s inevitable triumph over the universe.

In the fall of 1969, I was an eighth-grader looking for ways to rebel. I had stopped combing my hair in the traditional manner and tried to grow it long, but repeatedly ran up against the dress code that was still enforced in my school. In October of that year, a group that included former Eugene McCarthy campaign activists along with the usual anti-war student groups declared the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. It was the most successful nationwide protest campaign of the era. One of the ways that ordinary students were to show their solidarity with the Moratorium was to wear a black armband to school.

One morning, I fashioned a black armband from some of my mother’s sewing material, pinned it on my shirtsleeve, and set off to catch the bus to school. The bus driver, Mr. Gwynn, looked at me with curiosity. “Someone die?” he asked. No, I told him, I was honoring the Vietnam moratorium. “Um, okay,” he replied and motioned me to take my seat. One of my female classmates and I had vowed to wear black armbands on that day in defiance of the traditional mores of our little town. When I arrived at school, our principal noticed my armband and asked me whether I was a communist or a hippie or both, and why did I not respect the sacrifice our soldiers were making overseas?

I replied that I did not protest the war to dishonor our soldiers, and I meant it. I had read Starship Troopers. However, that explanation did not save me from an unplanned three-day vacation.

My opposition to the war also brought me into direct and constant conflict with my father. On May 4, 1970, four students at Kent State University in Ohio were killed, and nine were seriously wounded, by gunfire from National Guard soldiers, in the midst of a heated protest demonstration against the war. Not all of the killed and injured were protesters. Some were merely walking to class.

Kent State crystallized the deep divisions in this country over Vietnam. Reactions to the incident varied widely, but everyone had an opinion. I remember watching the father of Allison Krause, one of the four dead students, weeping in an interview on the evening news. He blamed the U.S. government, and President Nixon, for his daughter’s death. His bitterness was understandable, and I, already somewhat radicalized and (I thought), precociously astute at age 14 about things political, agreed wholeheartedly with Allison’s father.

My Dad, who had fought the Japanese in the South Pacific during World War II, part of what much later became known as the “Greatest Generation,” looked at the TV image of Allison’s father with derision distorting his features. “What the hell was she doing protesting, that’s why she was shot!” he exclaimed. Like she got what she deserved.

He was part of the generation that thought America’s mission was to defend democracy, and to fight evil. He believed deeply that our nation’s leaders were good men who would never intentionally do anything not in the country’s best moral interests. We were in Vietnam to fight the Commies, and that was good enough for him.

I thought my Dad was a fool.

Had Robert Heinlein led me to these conclusions? In great part, he did. Heinlein always stressed that he was not trying to convince people to believe as he did, or to teach lessons in his works, but merely to get his readers to think. He certainly did not agree with my opinion on the war – he was more in tune with my Dad on that. However, what Heinlein did do for me was to awaken my instinct for independent thinking. I have continued to try to follow an individual path (in my mind at least) set by Heinlein throughout my life.

The Seventies continued, I finally got a part-time job and commenced to spend the majority of my disposable income on Beatles records and Heinlein paperbacks – mostly the Signet versions of the era with the semi-psychedelic cover art. I finally read everything, including all the adult novels and the short stories that my library did not carry, that Heinlein had written to that point.

In college, I continued to proselyte Heinlein’s writings. I convinced my favorite English Lit professor to read Heinlein’s latest novel, Time Enough for Love. He pronounced it enjoyable but too wordy. A dorm mate borrowed my old paperback copy of Stranger in a Strange Land, lauded it, and asked to keep it so he could read it again. I never saw that paperback again. I noticed that our college library had an insufficient supply of Heinlein and I gifted several of my Signet editions.

I graduated in 1977 with a degree in Accounting and began my professional career after moving to Houston and landing a job with a large engineering firm. There I met a smart, sexy redhead (another RAH influence?) who later became my wife. We eventually started a family, and with the time I devoted to my new family and my career, Heinlein inevitably began to take a back seat in my life. In 1979, I wrote my first and only fan letter to Heinlein and received one of his famous checklist form letters in return. At the bottom, he wrote a short personal note in his own hand expressing his good wishes and thanks for not asking him for anything.

The Eighties saw me absorbed in my career and family, and I began to develop interests in other areas, including Irish history. I studied extensively and published several long articles in the Houston Post newspaper on the subject. My preoccupation with these things precluded me noticing when Heinlein began publishing again after a long hiatus. I was just beginning to catch up with his final novels when Heinlein died in Carmel, California in May 1988. I will always be grateful to him.

_________________
"Being right too soon is socially unacceptable." - Heinlein, Expanded Universe


Fri Aug 21, 2009 4:51 pm
Profile WWW
User avatar

Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:22 am
Posts: 603
Location: Reno, NV
Post Re: What made me a serious Heinlein
Quote:
So, my question is a three-parter:
• What was it especially about Heinlein’s works that made you into a serious reader?


The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in the early 1980s, when I was in college. I've reread that to the point that I can quote long passages from memory. :-) There's plenty else of his work I like, but that one hooked me and keeps reeling me in.

Quote:
• What other ideas/viewpoints etc., do you particularly like and/or agree with in his works?


I like his insistence, first and foremost, on respecting each person's individuality. Heinlein's characters solve their own problems; they don't wait for others to do it for them. They enjoy a life of hard work and varied tasks and experiences; no employment rut and 25-year pins for them. ;-) They like to figure out what makes the people around them tick, don't assume that everyone necessarily wants or likes the same thing and aren't offended by the differences.

They'll help someone who asks, often with open hands and hearts, but don't usually force help on them, and seem to recognize that they've committed a type of violence when they do. Look at the first part of Time Enough for Love, where Lazarus Long's family puts him into rejuvenation without his consent and at times against his will as an example.

Many years later I was exposed to a Greek Orthodox theologian who actually expressed the quality I'm trying to describe better than I can. His name is Christos Yannaras. He's a Greek professor/philosopher/theologian, and he wrote a book called "The Freedom of Morality". In this book, Yannaras uses the term "personhood" to describe a view of a human being, not as separate from everybody else and autonomous, but in the midst of the web of relationships with family and community that most of us have.

Heinlein seems to get that whole concept extremely well in his books.

Quote:
• What other ideas/viewpoints etc., do you particularly dislike and/or disagree with in his works?


Stranger in a Strange Land was in my high school library and I read it when I was fourteen, a new convert to Christianity (was raised non-religious), and just on the edge of puberty. It appalled me, to the point that I had nightmares about people eating one another. (I think that Soylent Green got on TV around then, and I saw it at my father's place as well; they get jumbled up in memory.) I didn't pick it up again til my late 20s, and found it had somehow turned from a bugaboo to a great book. ;-)

I've never been comfortable with the sexual boundary crossing in Heinlein's books, though, and especially not that involving children. (Although the twins in Time Enough for Love are arguably *not* children of any type I'd recognise.)

But neither was my grandfather, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy five years before Heinlein, was a huge fan of his, and figured Heinlein's main purpose in that was to push boundaries and provoke authority. Like Heinlein, Grandad was mostly on the side of authority in his adult life, but not always, and he liked to pull people's tailfeathers. ;-)

_________________
Catherine Jefferson <ctiydspmrz@ergosphere.net>
Home Page: http://www.ergosphere.net


Last edited by sakeneko on Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:44 pm
Profile WWW
User avatar

Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 8:22 am
Posts: 603
Location: Reno, NV
Post Re: What made me a serious Heinlein
Jack, didn't realize you were another Texan (at least in childhood). I was born in suburban Dallas in 1961, and spent my first eighteen years in Texas. That is an odd place, in some ways, to become a Heinlein fan, but it worked for me too. ;-)

_________________
Catherine Jefferson <ctiydspmrz@ergosphere.net>
Home Page: http://www.ergosphere.net


Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:51 pm
Profile WWW
NitroForum Oldster
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 7:57 am
Posts: 669
Location: DC Metro
Post Re: What made me a serious Heinlein
sakeneko wrote:
Jack, didn't realize you were another Texan (at least in childhood). I was born in suburban Dallas in 1961, and spent my first eighteen years in Texas. That is an odd place, in some ways, to become a Heinlein fan, but it worked for me too. ;-)


Yep, I was born in Beaumont and lived my first 32 years in Texas, except the for 4 years at college in Louisiana. I've lived in the Northern Virginia/DC area for the last 21+ years.

_________________
"Being right too soon is socially unacceptable." - Heinlein, Expanded Universe


Fri Aug 21, 2009 6:32 pm
Profile WWW
NitroForum Oldster
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 7:57 am
Posts: 669
Location: DC Metro
Post Re: What made me a serious Heinlein
My self-indulgent little essay did not address the third part of David's question.

DavidWrightSr wrote:
• What other ideas/viewpoints etc., do you particularly dislike and/or disagree with in his works?


I don't have any particular disagreements with any of Heinlein's ideas/viewpoints. I do have problems with some of his plot details that describe behavior that I find objectionable (you know which ones I mean). However, I've never really understood to my satisfaction what ideas/viewpoints these plot details were supposed to represent. They seem pointless or perhaps gratuitous to me - like Heinlein was daring his editors to object just so he could tell them to go to hell.

_________________
"Being right too soon is socially unacceptable." - Heinlein, Expanded Universe


Fri Aug 21, 2009 6:45 pm
Profile WWW
NitroForum Oldster

Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:05 am
Posts: 238
Post Re: What made me a serious Heinlein
Jack- I didn't find your initial entry "self-indulgent" in the least and in fact found your bio interesting and entertaining ! I truly enjoy getting to know all of you better

Thanks

Nick


Sat Aug 22, 2009 6:19 am
Profile
User avatar

Joined: Tue Dec 02, 2008 6:24 am
Posts: 265
Location: Northwest Georgia
Post Re: What made me a serious Heinlein
JackKelly wrote:
I do have problems with some of his plot details that describe behavior that I find objectionable (you know which ones I mean).


No, I do not know which ones you mean. That's the kind of information I am specifically looking for. :oops:

Also is this the THS reference you meant? http://heinleinsociety.org/rahandme/wright.html? If so, I plan to expand on that as the basis for my response here later on when I've heard from as many people as possible. Thanks


Sat Aug 22, 2009 6:40 am
Profile WWW
NitroForum Oldster
User avatar

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 7:57 am
Posts: 669
Location: DC Metro
Post Re: What made me a serious Heinlein
DavidWrightSr wrote:
JackKelly wrote:
I do have problems with some of his plot details that describe behavior that I find objectionable (you know which ones I mean).


No, I do not know which ones you mean. That's the kind of information I am specifically looking for. :oops:


I mean specifically his depictions of sex between close family members. We've discussed this here so many times I did not think it necessary to repeat. I know that Bill sees it simply as a literary device.

DavidWrightSr wrote:
Also is this the THS reference you meant? http://heinleinsociety.org/rahandme/wright.html? If so, I plan to expand on that as the basis for my response here later on when I've heard from as many people as possible. Thanks


That's the one.

_________________
"Being right too soon is socially unacceptable." - Heinlein, Expanded Universe


Sat Aug 22, 2009 9:56 am
Profile WWW
NitroForum Oldster

Joined: Sun Apr 13, 2008 7:05 am
Posts: 238
Post Re: What made me a serious Heinlein
Many, many moons ago, my 5th grade teacher discovered my fascination with books . Little did Mr.Tilsner realize what he was unleashing when he allowed me to browse the school library whilst my classmates were being treated to inane science experiments ! Like many of you, I found in books the ability to be transported away from my life as a child in the early 60’s. I discovered worlds that once existed and worlds that never were on those library shelves. I discovered dreams.

A couple years later, I was old enough to visit the local library alone and peruse a much larger reading selection. Until this time, I had never encountered the genre of sci-fi. I truly don’t recall my first readings. I know they excited me and I pretty much exhausted their sci-fi section. This section was mostly restricted to what we call the “Golden Era” of sci-fi. Asimov, Simak, Bradbury, and yes, Robert Heinlein. They possessed a large selection of his juveniles which soon left for home with me.

What I found (and find) intriguing about RAH writings was plainly his ability to spin a fine story ! As I and my intellect grew (at least I think it did ;}), I began to see the consistent qualities of his protagonists- qualities that a growing, inquiring teen found admirable. I found myself in agreement with RAH’s ideas of self worth and never say die attitude. I can’t attribute where I read it but I heard him called the epitome of the “American Mustang” mentality ! Independent and free. Unfettered intellect. A mind expanding (lol the 60’s there) experience could be found in his writings. Amidst a fine story could be a found thoughts which provoked deep thought. RAH gave my ponderings direction.

I can only echo the same sentiments Jack broached in what he didn’t like in RAH’s later writings. This was the “familial” sex depicted there. Sorry, as I’ve broached in the old Nitro forum, I find this disturbing even in RAH’s Valhalla. Call it personal bias, call it what you may, incest (imho) is wrong. Under any circumstance. Even as a member of the so called “free love” generation, I see it as wrong. Nope, never a victim of such myself, but I’ve witnessed the after effects of these relationships on people I know very very well. It was the most tragic turn their lives could’ve taken. 40 years later, they still harbor the hurt this caused them. Here I can not let RAH’s fiction be confused with what I perceive as a fact. It’s just wrong. Yes, I’ve read the compelling argument ( which Sharon mentioned) in “If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister” where those against incest are painted as the insane ones. Again fact over rules fiction.


Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:15 am
Profile
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Reply to topic   [ 40 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4  Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by STSoftware for PTF