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- View topic - Sympathy for the Devil
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Sympathy for the Devil 
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Heinlein Biographer

Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2008 1:33 pm
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Post Sympathy for the Devil
April 14. Is anyone else reading Alexei Panshin's long critical essay on "Solution Satisfactory," which he has ironically titled "Sympathy for the Devil"? I think it would be a bonzer idea to discuss it here as it comes out, piece by piece. It's at http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/Sym ... athy1.html (for the first segment; he's just posted the second segment, for which links are at the bottom of the page of the first segment.


Mon Apr 14, 2008 9:44 am
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PITA Bred
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Post Re: Sympathy for the Devil
<fx rubbing temples really hard> ...Okay...

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Mon Apr 14, 2008 10:18 am
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NitroForum Oldster

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Post Re: Sympathy for the Devil
I have skimmed the article during the last few minutes. Perhaps because I skimmed I cannot clearly see yet where he will be going with his essay. I do see that he gets hung up on the details of the fictional story vs. actual events. As Heinlein was writing fiction this should trouble no one.

If anything, people should be more concerned with highlights of the story that were on the mark and how they may relate to the big picture. Its probably relevant to mention how the story differed with what occurred. Its not so relevant when doing the proposed analysis whether the city to be destroyed is Berlin or Hiroshima.

The author does not limit himself to explaining/analysing potential purposes/parallels of the story but does do some subtle detraction of Heinlein.

I may have err'ed in the above. Its a first glance reaction and I need to, once I'm home, sit and read the whole article word for word. Skimming has its dangers.


Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:10 pm
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Post Re: Sympathy for the Devil
It's another "Heinlein was a fascist, oh and also a poor writer" piece. The "analysis" appears to run longer than the story.

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Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:18 pm
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Post Re: Sympathy for the Devil

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:55 pm
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: Sympathy for the Devil
Jim's comments seem directly on point. The problems, as ever with Panshin, have to do with the enormous quantity of self-deception and Wormtonguing Panshin engages in. He seems to have gotten a lot worse in the last few years, but that may just be my impression. It usually only takes a page or so to realize he's talking about himself -- again! -- and not about the story.

In this case he seems to be talking about what it means to him to be "liberal." (So far, at any rate). He carries this off by a simple assertion that Manning is no liberal of any kind (because he's not a post-sixties, post SDS liberal) and then ignores the historical context and indeed the whole, manifest purpose of the piece, which was, so far as I can determine, to set out and explore a dilemma that conscientious people were trying to cope with in 1940. I mean, that quote from Harold Urey he sticks into the first part as much as says: this was a concern in general discussion at the time. But he wants to make it about Heinlein-as-authoritarian (which is going to be an interesting turn if he states it baldly, because at one point in HID he says -"I used to think Heinlein was an authoritarian, but I don't any more."-)

So far, the second part seems puffed up with airy speculation as to what (only worst-case scenarios allowed) Heinlein chose not to say or to skate over lightly, and it's frustrating because he omits any reference to the technical demands on the story required by collapsing a decades-long memoir into the span of a novelet. The speculation loses contact with the text.

One of the things I was thinking about for this particular thread was we could do the unpacking on a point-by-point basis in a leisurely fashion and I could pull it together at some point to publish, possibly for the Journal, possibly for someone else, as a demonstration of why Panshin has become a vacuous crank. I started using the term "crank" of him in alt.fan.heinlein the last time he popped up.

Northrup Frye, in Anatomy of Criticism (1957) said something simple but profound: the first duty of a critic is to see what is there, and it is a failure of this first step that causes so much of Panshin to become unanchored. So much of what he claims is there is not actually there, and that is a legitimate point of attack.


Tue Apr 15, 2008 7:21 am
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Post Re: Sympathy for the Devil
It seems to me that a hallmark of AP's writings is that they are first and foremost about AP. I profess no great grasp of the technical tool set of criticism (at a professional level, at least) but what jumps out at me from each and every essay or critique of his is the me, me, me, me factor. This has remained remarkably consistent across some 45 years of writings, and even when he gets hold of a valid point, his conclusions become more about his reaction to the point than any less-involved conclusion.

One factor to keep in mind is that AP is 68 this year. For that and other reasons, I am long past expecting him to change his approach - since he never has. So despite his disingenuous deflections about how we can't interpret his earlier work without grasping the whole of every subsequent word he wrote (which was a frequent parry in my abortive correspondence with him, and I've seen it in the excerpts of other discussions), I think we can take any component of his writing and consider it representative of the whole. Certainly, something just written and published cannot be subject to deflection because we have not considered any subsequent rethoughts.

I guess I have to go read the damned thing now. Joy.

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:02 am
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Post Re: Sympathy for the Devil
Oh, my aching ribs.

I literally did not have to read one word of AP's essay before my first thunderous belly-laugh. This post was delayed slightly as I had to go reassure some frightened dogs first.

Among the fonts I selected as part of the Centennial's design, indeed, what was probably the signature font for most things, was one called Bedrock. It's not commonly seen.

The title of this essay... is in that font.

There's a conclusion to be drawn here, but I pass on the effort.

Now I have to catch my breath and go read the piece.

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Tue Apr 15, 2008 8:18 am
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Post Sympathy for the Devil: Historical Basis

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"Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders." - Luther
In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:07 am
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Post Re: Sympathy for the Devil


Tue Apr 15, 2008 3:21 pm
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