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"Problematica" 
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Post Re: "Problematica"
I thought it was defined in one of the recent threads, but maybe not.

IMO, and I appear not to be alone, there are a number of touchy topics on which Heinlein scholars - using the term in the broadest and most inclusive way - tend to look the other way, cough, blush and change the subject. I think it's time we look just as hard and critically at these generally unpleasant and contrarian subjects as we have at the noble and accepted ones.

There's a pervasive attitude that Heinlein's outhouse didn't smell, and we need to grow past that juvenile limitation, with the same dispassion we use for discussing his noble points.

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Mon Jun 07, 2010 9:53 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillPatterson wrote:
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 --


I believe I was one who had an opinion, and I thought I had specifically called out Maureen's ca. 1952 treatment of her children with Brian, Donald and Priscilla. They went to live with Brian and their stepmother, and later they showed up on Maureen's door having left Brian and Marian. Maureen discovers that they have an incestuous relationship, and to show that she is cool with that, she gets naked and jumps into bed with them and counsels them that their physical relationship is okay.

This is bad on several levels:

1. Regardless of the fact that an intellectual case may be made that a sexual relationship between two consenting mature responsible adults may be "successful" (for lack of a better word) despite the fact that the two parties may be siblings, these are kids and immature ones at that. Maureen seems blissfully unaware that although sex may be an appropriate expression of romantic love, or may be an act of physical/emotional comfort, it is not an appropriate expression of the normal familial sibling love that can and should exist between brother and sister. If RAH is trying to make a case for the opposing view, he's doing a very poor job of it.

2. By getting naked before discussing the matter with her kids, she introduces a component of sexuality into what should not be a sexual relationship -- that of a mother and her immature children.

3. That the children do not experience any emotional maturation while they have returned to Maureen shows that her methods aren't successful, yet she doesn't seem to recognize that her methods were no more effective than Brian's.

Maureen treats them as if they had adult emotional maturity, and they clearly don't. When they don't follow rules in an adult way, it's "my way or the highway", which simply isn't the way 14 year olds should be treated, especially in the middle of a crisis. Much of RAH's "instructions" for raising kids would possibly work with idealized people who are simply adults who aren't very old, but adolescents are different than children, or adults, on many levels that Heinlein never recognizes.

Writing protagonist characters in the juveniles that have adult-level decision-making processes may be commercially and dramatically appropriate. When I read them at age 14-15, I was much more able to identify with Kip, Thorby, Rod, etc. as they idealized characters they were, rather than as they would have been written if they acted like most adolescents do. When these characters interact with other adolescents (their peers) or with adults who are not parental figures, the ways in which they are idealized WRT how "kids" normally act are minimized; when they interact with parents, the differences show up more strongly.

So, to summarize: The children in the parent/child relationships are often far from realistic -- so much so that what goes for "parenting" in the books isn't (and can't be) real, and shouldn't be used as a guide. And some of the parents seem to have a set of rules that may work for an idealized Heinlein uber-child (fully rational in his/her decision making processes), but don't work for kids in the texts who have problems, and wouldn't work for real kids.

georule wrote:
I reference it in the WIP.
I'm sorry if this is something I should recognize, but what is the WIP?


Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:00 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillMullins wrote:
I'm sorry if this is something I should recognize, but what is the WIP?


No, it wasn't. WIP is a generally used acronym for "Work In Progress", a term often used in project management about discrete tasks still in development. Bill P. has a copy of the specific WIP I was referring to, which provides a pointer to the location of the letter from RAH to Walter Bradbury of Doubleday, thanking Bradbury for sending him a copy of "The Search for Bridey Murphy" that I mentioned, should Bill P. wish to review it.

Some day it will be publicly available, but it isn't yet. Or, perhaps, it would be more accurate to say it won't be, because the day it becomes generally available it will no longer be "WIP".

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Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:42 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
JamesGifford wrote:
I thought it was defined in one of the recent threads, but maybe not.

IMO, and I appear not to be alone, there are a number of touchy topics on which Heinlein scholars - using the term in the broadest and most inclusive way - tend to look the other way, cough, blush and change the subject. I think it's time we look just as hard and critically at these generally unpleasant and contrarian subjects as we have at the noble and accepted ones.

There's a pervasive attitude that Heinlein's outhouse didn't smell, and we need to grow past that juvenile limitation, with the same dispassion we use for discussing his noble points.


While I don't generally disagree, I think it is worthwhile to subcatagorize allegations of, err, "odour".

For instance, I tend to think of the debate over Federal Service in ST as an allegation of "bad art" --the author has strenuously made the argument that a point is clear in the work that others have not been able to discern. I take him seriously that he meant it to be clear, and therefore if it is not, then it was a failure of art on that point.

Other issues, like Libertarianism and spirituality, I tend to think of issues of context over a long career --what contexts was he in at a specific moment in time regarding a specific scenario, and does it really cause tension with another observation later in a different context about a different scenario, or does the change in context, properly accounted for, just disappear that tension?

A different issue would be actual development/change over time --a point where you can legitimately say "Yep, Early RAH and Late RAH actually have tension on that point, because Late RAH has moved on from the earlier position." Off the top of my head, I can't think of one of these I'm personally willing to sign-up for, but the allegation is often made about economics or political science, often with a sly grin re the change in wives.

And then a last set would be more along the lines of "wow, I understand it, but I really don't like it", where presumably "I" would be less ideosyncratic, but in fact representative of a substantial pov shared by many and presumably based in an allegation of being false to the reasonably demonstrated reality of the actual human condition. The handling of sex issues in general, and parenting, seem to fall in this catagory of allegations. And, btw, invites a donnybrook that RAH would have enjoyed --and in my view, in at least some cases was actually trying to start-- over whether there is an independent and unchanging "reasonably demonstrated reality of the actual human condition" on many, or any, issues.

Re sex and marriage, for instance, in the letter I've referred to a few times here to his editor re SIASL, Heinlein states that he doesn't doubt that even absent legal/societal strictures, the majority of the human race would voluntarily pair up in the ancient "two by two" manner of Noah's charges going up the plank to the Ark (my imagery, not his --I think).

There are other issues of that last sort that ought, in my view, not to qualify, or get their own catagory of "faux", such as "Heinlein is a fascist", because while they attempt to wedge themselves into that catagory, most open-minded people looking at the facts broadly (which would have been harder to do in 1959, to be fair), cannot be "reasonably demonstrated".

And a further "lastly", in judging that last catagory one has to take into account the nature of the genre, and its purpose for existing --challenging status quo. Arguably in some cases this is the basis of a plea of "Guilty with an explanation, your Honor" rather than "Not Guilty", but it still has to be considered.

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Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:05 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
DanHenderson wrote:
I think I'd vote for open relationships/polyamory as a topic on the list.

Dan

I agree -- though it's easy to see why Polyamory isnt' discussed more: it has the same additional problem that libertarianism has as a discussion topic -- it's a tar baby. People whose viewpoints are only glancingly similar with Heinlein's come out of the woodwork singing "Heinlein is just like meeeeeeee!" holding assault weapons.


Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:12 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillPatterson wrote:
DanHenderson wrote:
I think I'd vote for open relationships/polyamory as a topic on the list.

Dan

I agree -- though it's easy to see why Polyamory isnt' discussed more: it has the same additional problem that libertarianism has as a discussion topic -- it's a tar baby. People whose viewpoints are only glancingly similar with Heinlein's come out of the woodwork singing "Heinlein is just like meeeeeeee!" holding assault weapons.


Much to my surprise, I once saw Kitten Trumpinski go into full-on assault mode at a panelist on a RAH and Women panel.

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Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:17 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
JackKelly wrote:
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.

OK -- there's a definitional problem with this one. Whatever the idea Heinlein keeps circling around, it is not solipsism, and the label has been consistently wrongly applied (Panshin is not the first to do so).

The best match I've been able to come up with is Emerson's "over-soul"; but there seems to be flavorings from different occult traditions as well as some synthetic philosophers of the early 20th century musing about being alone in one's skull. ISTR he mentioned Eddington wrt this notion at one point, which I've never been able to track down.

Anyone wishing to examine this set of ideas in Heinlein would do well to get two "gateway" books, both by P.D. Ouspensky. Heinlein specifically references Tertium Organum (1912, 1933) in an early story, but A New Model of the Universe (1934, I think) seems almost equally present in Heinlein's stories.

Andy Thornton did a three-part descriptive treatment of these books in early issues of the Journal.


Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:21 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillPatterson wrote:
JackKelly wrote:
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.

OK -- there's a definitional problem with this one. Whatever the idea Heinlein keeps circling around, it is not solipsism, and the label has been consistently wrongly applied (Panshin is not the first to do so).

The best match I've been able to come up with is Emerson's "over-soul"; but there seems to be flavorings from different occult traditions as well as some synthetic philosophers of the early 20th century musing about being alone in one's skull. ISTR he mentioned Eddington wrt this notion at one point, which I've never been able to track down.

Anyone wishing to examine this set of ideas in Heinlein would do well to get two "gateway" books, both by P.D. Ouspensky. Heinlein specifically references Tertium Organum (1912, 1933) in an early story, but A New Model of the Universe (1934, I think) seems almost equally present in Heinlein's stories.

Andy Thornton did a three-part descriptive treatment of these books in early issues of the Journal.


I use the term "solipsism" to describe it because I'm not well-read enough on the subject (or in general) to describe it otherwise. It is, however, a subject matter that fascinates me.

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Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:32 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
audrey wrote:
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....

I think you might have been (pleasantly) surprised if you had found Heinlein on a beach at Aptos and had that conversation.

The two part division you have made does make it easier to discuss the topic in my opinion.

I think a further division might make it even easier, and that is Heinlein's private life attitudes versus what shows up in the fiction. I am thinking of the letters written to and about Jim Smith, severely crippled by polio, and Heinlein's pride in the sprit he showed in overcoming his disability, and then his sense of helpless willingness-to-help the emotionally-disturbed teenager they had visiting a couple of summers, whose name I can't recall; and of course that moving letter in 1944 about wounded and disabled marines in a coffee shop in Philadelphia.

Plus there is a degree to which Heinlein must personally have reflected as well as opposed the social attitudes of his time and place. These things should be discussed together, but possibly serially, as the degree of separation or involvement in the fiction probably varies according to several dimensions.

There is also the fact that the commercial nature of his fiction put a tight bottleneck on what could be said -- much tighter than we can now realize, as we no longer live in an era when the mere mention of a black person in a book could kill 2/3 of a book's sales in this country, or the implication that Australia had been taken over from the Asian mainland.

Any judgment made about these issues must be regarded as collateral to judgments to be made about his private life.

Certainly -- not quite addressing your points, but a parallel instance for which there is some evidence that has already been discussed -- no unequivocally "gay" character shows up in his fiction until 1970, and at that point he uses exactly the same fictional techniques he used on Rod Walker and Johnny Rico, who illustrated known opinions on ethnicity.

I'm still turning over the "people who are not productive" meme in my mind, but one of the things that occurs to me is that it didn't take any kind of disability to bring out that attitude in Heinlein -- i.e., it's an attitude that doesn't specifically attach to the disabled but might slop over from other issues.

And certainly we find in ourself inconsistencies we didn't know we had -- when a specific issue comes up we find outselves confronting attitudes we didn't know we had and wish we didn't -- hope that's not too vague.

So, for the moment, yes, it's a problematic issue that I think a solid position might be arrived at.


Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:45 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillMullins wrote:
BillPatterson wrote:
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 --


I believe I was one who had an opinion, and I thought I had specifically called out Maureen's ca. 1952 treatment of her children with Brian, Donald and Priscilla. They went to live with Brian and their stepmother, and later they showed up on Maureen's door having left Brian and Marian. Maureen discovers that they have an incestuous relationship, and to show that she is cool with that, she gets naked and jumps into bed with them and counsels them that their physical relationship is okay.

This is bad on several levels:

1. Regardless of the fact that an intellectual case may be made that a sexual relationship between two consenting mature responsible adults may be "successful" (for lack of a better word) despite the fact that the two parties may be siblings, these are kids and immature ones at that. Maureen seems blissfully unaware that although sex may be an appropriate expression of romantic love, or may be an act of physical/emotional comfort, it is not an appropriate expression of the normal familial sibling love that can and should exist between brother and sister. If RAH is trying to make a case for the opposing view, he's doing a very poor job of it.

2. By getting naked before discussing the matter with her kids, she introduces a component of sexuality into what should not be a sexual relationship -- that of a mother and her immature children.

3. That the children do not experience any emotional maturation while they have returned to Maureen shows that her methods aren't successful, yet she doesn't seem to recognize that her methods were no more effective than Brian's.

Maureen treats them as if they had adult emotional maturity, and they clearly don't. When they don't follow rules in an adult way, it's "my way or the highway", which simply isn't the way 14 year olds should be treated, especially in the middle of a crisis. Much of RAH's "instructions" for raising kids would possibly work with idealized people who are simply adults who aren't very old, but adolescents are different than children, or adults, on many levels that Heinlein never recognizes.

Writing protagonist characters in the juveniles that have adult-level decision-making processes may be commercially and dramatically appropriate. When I read them at age 14-15, I was much more able to identify with Kip, Thorby, Rod, etc. as they idealized characters they were, rather than as they would have been written if they acted like most adolescents do. When these characters interact with other adolescents (their peers) or with adults who are not parental figures, the ways in which they are idealized WRT how "kids" normally act are minimized; when they interact with parents, the differences show up more strongly.

So, to summarize: The children in the parent/child relationships are often far from realistic -- so much so that what goes for "parenting" in the books isn't (and can't be) real, and shouldn't be used as a guide. And some of the parents seem to have a set of rules that may work for an idealized Heinlein uber-child (fully rational in his/her decision making processes), but don't work for kids in the texts who have problems, and wouldn't work for real kids.

georule wrote:
I reference it in the WIP.
I'm sorry if this is something I should recognize, but what is the WIP?

Could you repost this in the parenting thread as well?

Briefly, I tend to agree with each of your points. I understand why Heinlein had her doing that -- Maureen was trying (simplifying outrageously) to get a position to deal with the situation by reducing the us/them division that was already canalized in the kids' attitudes -- BUT I think it was a really bad strategy on several levels. Not the least of which is that it portrays participating in the psychopathology as a way of countering it, which is nonsensical as a psychological strategy. Participating in the pathology, even by implication, affirms it.

But it does certainly illustrate Heinlein's long-established fictional strategy I think derives from Brecht's V-effekt, of using a shock to drive readers out of their pre-prepared intellectual and moral positions. I mean he was using that as early as 1940.

And OTOH you can make the argument that he is not attempting to portray an ideal situation, but, rather, posing a coping strategy -- IIRC, while it's been some time since I read TSBTS, that particular relationship did not work out as successfully as, say, Joe and Llita's in TEFL.

Not a conclusion or an objection -- just putting more logs on the fire at this point.


Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:56 am
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