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"Problematica" 
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: "Problematica"
georule wrote:
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.

I'm running out of time this a.m., so I'll keep it short: I concur.


Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:59 am
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: "Problematica"
JackKelly wrote:
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.

You know,really good articles come about whenever someone tries to make a study of an idea they find particularly fascinating -- assemble all the examples and cross-compare them, and follow up any references that are in the texts. I think there are different things showing up at different times (for example, I think a lot of Unpleasant Profession is drawn out of different books in Cabell's Biography of the Life of Manuel -- three in particular: the Donander episode of The Silver Stallion, for example, Cream of the Jest, and Figures of Earth for the master image of looking out the car windows on gray nothingness [and these to one extent or another reflect on a literary figure that goes back to ancient Greece, the Encounter with Pan]; the Thou Art God of SIASL seems to derive from Emerson applying his over-soul to the Hindu maxim tat tvam asi. So there are different things going on at different places, and sometimes I think he is trying to make a synthesis, and other times I think he's trying to keep something distinct because he wants to use that particular thing as a pivot point for his story.)


Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:06 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
I also think it worthwhile to ask the "parenting" people if the bulk of their issues are really best understood as principally a subset of the sex issues, or is there a separate bill of particulars they wish to bring that has enough weight to stand on its own as worthy of consideration outside of, and separate from, the Heinleinian attitude towards sex impact on parenting? Are we just having a Freudian "sex is everywhere, it's everywhere!" moment in that regard?

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Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:24 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
Vis-a-vis Maureen stripping down to talk with her kids.

I had not realized how odd that is until you pointed it out.

TSBTS bothered the hell out of me for many reasons when I first read it, but I do not recall that particular scene being one that upset me. Perhaps I was still in shock over the brother and sister incest occurring, but it is Maureen's matter-of-fact this is how we're going to handle it attitude that drew me past the strangeness of that scene.

Two thoughts occur to me: 1) Heinlein is positing that nudity is normal, natural, and nothing to be ashamed of, and a way of asserting the adult nature of the conversation she wants to have and 2) RAH was trying to find something even more shocking than incest....

That he failed with me may be due to the issues outline above, but they may also have to do with his training me to take the outrageous in stride and my general literary training that one should consider the book as a whole and never judge a lliterary work in terms of its morality...perhaps ever, but certainly, not before closing the book.

I find myself needing to re-read that book again to have a better conversation about this.


Tue Jun 08, 2010 7:51 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
Since Bill asked me to repost in the Parenting thread, I have done so, and I have made some follow ups to posts made above in that thread.


Tue Jun 08, 2010 9:54 am
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Post Re: "Problematica"
Another possibly problematic area:

After only a few generations, the Howards are decidedly biologically different from non-Howards, for the better. What were Heinlein's thoughts on Eugenics?


Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:21 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillPatterson wrote:

Yes, I think you're right; mysticism belongs in the problematica. Just where it might fit though, might be a problem in its own right

By "IONS" did you mean that Edgar Mitchell institute? Sounds like you're talking about that. Why RAH and Ginny were interested enough to join seems fairly clear to me: their mission statement has them trying to pick up the gauntlet of rigorously investigating *stuff* after Rhine's researches had kind of petered out. Twain's two essays and Upton Sinclair's 1930 book both begged for someone to take the mass of casual data and figure out what was actually going on.

I don't think Bridey Murphy quite "counts," as Heinlein explained over and over that he didn't "Believe" Bridey Murphy -- it just made a good hook to hang a story on. Still, there are other things that could take up the Bridey Murphy slack.

It's my impression that those who acknowledge mysticism in Heinlein at all are generally accepting of the idea, but the problems are on the other side of a Great Divide -- the segment who insist that Heinlein Was, After All, Just An Engineer Who Told Good Stories, which is so obviously numbnutted that it's hard to take the objections seriously.

Perhaps this means that the Heinlein Is a Hard Science Fiction Writer meme needs to go into the problematica as well.


I'm not sure if that's "problematica" or just "urban legend". 8-)

For my money, to the degree historically it had a leg to stand on outside of the limited pov of the paying customers, 1939-1946, the publication of FUTL should have killed it deader than a doornail. Even in the "early period", I can point at significant contra-indicators where his true interests are (more apparent in retrospect, absolutely).

Robert James and I had a little bit of back-and-forth on the side recently, where we wondered how the Heinleinian output post 1946 might have changed if Leslyn's problems hadn't become overwhelming and the marriage survived.

I think I might be a bit of an apostate (can one be a "bit" of an apostate?) on this issue --I think if anything Ginny had marginally a braking influence on his rush to social criticism and away from "hard sf", and Leslyn (who shows much more evidence of being supportive and even "egging him on" in that area) would have been more of an accelerator in that area.

All at the margins, of course. He always had a centered core that was very much him and his agendas.

Oh. . .and I just realized that arguably "Life-Line" and IONS are really on the same line, connected by points. So now we've got FUTL (first major unpublished) staking an unequivocal claim for social sf writ large indeed, and Life-Line (first actually published) staking the claim for trying to put science to work on "the great mysteries".

Sound like the prototypical "hard sf guy" to you?

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"Hey, if I'm going to pass on the timeless wisdom of the ages in a Sig, that pretty well qualifies, in my experience." --Geo Rule


Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:44 pm
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillMullins wrote:
Another possibly problematic area:

After only a few generations, the Howards are decidedly biologically different from non-Howards, for the better. What were Heinlein's thoughts on Eugenics?

There are definite references to the eugenics movement in both Methuselah's Children adn Beyond This Horizon. I believe Heinlein was one of the first writers to deal with the subject in more than the relatively superficial way Brave New World tackled the subject in 1930.


Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:20 pm
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: "Problematica"
BillMullins wrote:
Another possibly problematic area:

After only a few generations, the Howards are decidedly biologically different from non-Howards, for the better. What were Heinlein's thoughts on Eugenics?

Incidentally, the Howards really aren't that genetically different -- But Lazarus Long is different, a sport.


Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:25 pm
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Post Re: "Problematica"
I'm puzzled, because I have not heard the arguments in favor of "Heinlein Is Not a Hard SF Writer."

What are they... or where can they be found?

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Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:24 am
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