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What the Hell is he Talking About? 
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Joined: Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:52 pm
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
It so happens I've just reread the Robinson piece, in the course of a big cleaning and rearrangement of books; I have what must be its original publication, in the Baen-edited Ace mass-market paperback "magazine" Destinies (summer 1980 issue). It is copyrighted under the title "Robert A. Heinlein: A Sermon," with the informal subtitle "Rah, Rah, R.A.H.!" at the top of page 9.

The introductory text on the first page clearly says of the Robinson essay: "The article was commissioned for publication in DESTINIES." The essay appears immediately before selected excerpts from Expanded Universe and is specifically intended to induce readers to buy the whole book. Given Baen's central role in the creation of Expanded Universe, it seems to me that only something adulatory would have appeared in that slot, whether by Robinson or someone else.

I have nothing for or against Robinson; I'm only saying he wrote to order in this case.

(I did try to read a novel of his once: Time Pressure, which ultimately revealed itself to be a branch of some other story - a maneuver I can't help but find disappointing, so much so that I've never tried any other of his novels, and that was more than 20 years ago.)


Fri May 06, 2011 7:57 pm
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
JJGarsch wrote:
(I did try to read a novel of his once: Time Pressure, which ultimately revealed itself to be a branch of some other story - a maneuver I can't help but find disappointing, so much so that I've never tried any other of his novels, and that was more than 20 years ago.)

Spider can be... uneven. He very much has better and worse books, ones that have longevity and ones which were very much of the moment. You chose... poorly. :)

One thing that Spider has done several times is write extensions of stories that seem to take them down a wrong road, or (worse) backtrack until another ending is found. In the comics world, it's called retconning - giong back and changing characters, events, timelines etc. either to make a new story blend with others or (the worst reason) because some writer had a better idea about, say, how Superman's parents died.

The example that comes most readily to mind is the novella/novel Telempath. Spider wrote the six-chapter novella, one of his very best works - hard, gutsy, challenging, shocking even. Won the Hugo with it, IIRC. Then he decided, or was talked into, extending it into a novel and added six or eight chapters in which he carefully undid everything the original had done right, removing the story's punch right down to retconning the most important, protagonist-shaping act. I reread it occasionally... and close the book at the end of Chapter 6.

He had another brilliant short story, "God is an Iron," which was either an excerpt from or the nucleus of the novel Mindkiller, which I regard as Spider's best work, hands down, any length. I recommend it to you if you never read another word he wrote.

Then came Time Pressure, which followed and extensively retconned Mindkiller and laid the groundwork for unraveling every other story, since now no one ever really dies and you can just pull a Star Trek magic act to get them back, even centuries later. Um... I don't re-read TP either. But it doesn't diminish Mindkiller.

But then, even Twain wrote 75% trash and twaddle not worth reading these days. Gems remain gems no matter how much plastick they're set in.

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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Sat May 07, 2011 8:28 am
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Twain?!? Trash and twaddle?!? Them's fightin' words.....

Example, please?


Thu May 12, 2011 5:41 am
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
You should be aware that only a portion of Twain's stuff has been reprinted in the modern era, with reams of material (mostly newspaper articles and other ephemera) left to the archives because it's not up to what today's readers expect. The best thumbnail of this is the introductions to the Running Press edition of Mark Twain, where the publisher says he's stopping after two volumes because there is no more first-rate material.

I suppose, like all literary figures, every laundry list means something to someone willing to parse out its meaning and place in the constellation, but I have read some pretty substandard material from Mr. Clemens, so I tend to believe the assertion.

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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


Thu May 12, 2011 6:51 am
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
What James said. I'm one of the biggest fans I know of Mark Twain's work. I first read Tom Sawyer when I was in kindergarten, and repeated the experience enough times in the following years that, by high school, I could quote long passages from memory. Huckleberry Finn is IMHO *the* great American novel, even when compared to such masterpieces as the Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick, the Grapes of Wrath, the Great Gatsby, and SIASL. But Mr. Clemens, like every other first-rate writer I know of (including William Shakespeare and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe) had his off days and his lesser material. I read some of it once when visiting my great-grandmother, who was born in 1889, loved his work as a child and adult, and had a huge collection of old magazines and newspaper clippings of her favorite writers.

Recognizing that Twain shared the same fault as every other great writer shouldn't be fighting words. IMHO, anyway. :-)

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Thu May 12, 2011 4:56 pm
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Post Re: What the Hell is he Talking About?
Ok, Jim. I'll give you the ephemera, although I find it interesting. I just thought you might be talking about one of his books.


Tue May 17, 2011 5:48 am
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