FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Robert A. Heinlein, his works

Robert A. Heinlein, his works

Updated Feb. 2013 and reviewed by William Patterson, Robert James, PhD and J.H. Seltzer.

©2003-2024 – no reproduction or distribution without consent of author. This material may not be copied and put on another website without permission.

Where can I find free copies of Heinlein’s books and stories to read on the Web?

You can’t. Hopefully, that is. Any free or unauthorized electronic versions of Heinlein’s works that appear on the Web are pirated (meaning: stolen) copies and the copyright owners will stomp on them as soon as possible. Go to Amazon [http://www.amazon.com/] or AbeBooks.com [http://www.abebooks.com/] or Apple or Barnes and Noble [https://www.barnesandnoble.com/] to buy copies or go to your library. You can also go to many of the publisher’s websites such as Baen Books [https://www.baen.com/] and there are also book clubs and Sci-Fi book clubs. Many also offer a feature that allows you read a chapter (some less) without a purchase. Amazon has a feature called LOOK INSIDE that allows you to look inside for a pre-purchase read. This may be seen on the book cover display. And many also have a feature that allows readers to rate the book and leave comments. Times have never been better for the reader.

When Heinlein’s works are pirated, the theft is from all of us, and from the future, as the proceeds from sales of Heinlein’s works go directly and substantively to our future in space. The Heinlein Prize Trust is using income from Heinlein’s works to fund an award that encourages advancement in commercial space programs, as well as other worthy endeavors. The Heinleins, even after their deaths, are still “paying forward” to all of us, and it is our duty to honor their tremendous gifts to us by respecting the copyrights of Heinlein’s works and only purchasing authorized copies.

See: The Heinlein Prize [http://www.heinleinprize.com/]

Under what pseudonyms did Heinlein’s sf/f stories appear?

Anson MacDonald (Anson is Heinlein’s middle name and a Heinlein family name; MacDonald was wife Leslyn’s maiden name, but this is a coincidence: John Campbell, who liked all things Scottish, chose the name before he knew about Leslyn’s maiden name.)

Lyle Monroe (Lyle was his mother’s maiden name, and Monroe was a branch of his mother’s family. Just as Heinlein’s personal names were taken from grandfathers, so was Lyle Monroe — another set of grandfathers.)

John Riverside (probably from Riverside, California)

Caleb Saunders — there are a couple of sources from which “Caleb” might have been drawn: Heinlein’s best friend from the Naval Academy was Caleb Laning; one of his favorite books in the 1930’s was Caleb Catlum’s America (Vincent McHugh 1936). A source for “Saunders” is not known.

Simon York – They Do It with Mirrors. This was his only detective story. He said detective stories were easy to write but of lower market value than SF.

Are there any unpublished Heinlein novels?

When Heinlein died in 1988, there were a number of unpublished works in his files. Mrs. Heinlein prepared How to Be a Politician (1946) for publication in 1993 as Take Back Your Government!, and his travel book Tramp-Royale (1954). There was also a long-unsold manuscript for a utopian political novel, written in 1938, For Us, the Living, which the Heinleins thought to suppress because its writing was unacceptably crude by comparison to Heinlein’s later prose and in any case much of its idea content had been re-used in other stories, particularly the Future History. They destroyed all known copies — but one did survive and was recovered by Dr. Robert James [https://www.heinleinsociety.org/?s=last+of+the+wine.] The book was published late in 2003.

Almost all of the remaining unpublished nonfiction has now been published — in the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Souvenir Book [http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/] and in the Virginia Edition [http://www.virginiaedition.com]

All that remains unpublished is the first sketch, written late 1977 while Heinlein was suffering from a blockage in his carotid artery, for the book that became The Number of the Beast (1980). The book is interesting, though not of Heinlein’s usual quality. There are currently no plans to publish The Panki-Barsoom Number of the Beast, though the manuscript is available for download at the online Heinlein Archive [LINK: http://www.heinleinarchives.net/upload/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=441]

UPDATE: Pursuit of the Pankera was published March 24, 2020 by Arc Manor Publishers [https://www.arcmanorbooks.com/] CAEZIK SF & Fantasy imprint.

Did Charles Manson use “Stranger in a Strange Land” as his ‘bible’, and did the book connect to the Manson family murders?

No. This story apparently got started because of an attempt on the part of a San Francisco newspaper to cash in on the publicity surrounding the Tate-LaBianca murders in Los Angeles in August 1969. Even though the story had no actual research, it was picked up on the wire services and repeated in a report in Time magazine in January 1970, when Heinlein was dying from peritonitis. He did not see the article or the followups until months later, when he was able to attend to current affairs again.

The prosecutor of the “Manson Family” investigated the claim and dismissed it as without foundation.

Part of this factoid is that Heinlein had a lawyer investigate the claim. This is simply not true. J. Neil Schulman, a young writer and friend of Heinlein, undertook years later to contact Manson and ask him. Manson said (through an amanuensis) that he had never read the book (and in fact does not read for pleasure at all.) Nevertheless, some of the Manson girls had — and used names and other jargon from the book. One of Manson’s sons was named Valentine, and it is said that Manson called his parole officer (he had been in trouble with the law before the Tate-LaBianca killings) Jubal.

One of the Manson girls, probably Squeaky Fromme, had written to Heinlein for help when they were being rounded up in San Bernardino County after the murders. Heinlein investigated at the time but was told there was nothing he could do.

So there is a tangential and coincidental “connection” — but not through Manson, and certainly not as a blueprint for the Tate-LaBianca murders, which were part of Manson’s plan to bring on a race war he code-named “Helter-Skelter” (and this reference to a Beatles song was scrawled in blood at the Tate murder site). The connection of Stranger to the Tate-LaBianca murders was entirely made up to sell papers — and then books when an assistant prosecutor, Steven Kay, wrote a sensational book that included the made-up story.

How many Hugo awards does Heinlein have?

4 original Hugos and 3 Retro Hugos

The original Hugos were for:

  • 1956 Novel: Double Star. Published 1956 by Robert A. Heinlein
  • 1960 Novel: Starship Troopers. Published 1959 by Robert A. Heinlein
  • 1962 Novel: Stranger in a Strange Land. Published 1961 by Robert A. Heinlein
  • 1966 Novel: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Published 1966 by Robert A. Heinlein

The Retro Hugos were started to cover works during the years before the Hugo awards were established. The Retro Hugos awarded at the 2001 World Con in Philadelphia (Millennium Philcon) for the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy writing of 1950 were:

  • Best Novel–Farmer in the Sky. Published 1950 by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Best Novella–“The Man Who Sold the Moon.” Published 1939 by Robert A. Heinlein (from The Man Who Sold the Moon)
  • Best Dramatic Presentation–Destination Moon movie (release date July 7, 1950) with script by Robert A. Heinlein and Alford van Ronkel

How many Nebula awards?

Heinlein received the first Grand Master Nebula award in 1975.

Was Heinlein a racist?

No. All evidence in both his writings and in his personal life indicates that Heinlein was a strong and aggressive anti-racist, and he was the first in many instances to include Jewish, Black, and Asian main characters in science fiction for this very reason.

The issue of racism first came up for his fiction with the post-war republication of Sixth Column in hardcover (followed by paperback publication as The Day After Tomorrow). In that novel, the “Pan-Asian” invaders are combated by a super science ray which distinguishes the Pan-Asians from European (and other) Americans on the basis of racial biological differences. This was not detailed in the original 1941 publication, but when preparing the book Heinlein discovered a science article that suggested blood types fell out by racial groups, and he incorporated this into the revision. Later research invalidated this 1948 paper — but it was put in because it was cutting edge science, not for any racist reasons. Heinlein found the charge of racism offensive and took several opportunities to check whether Japanese themselves found it racist (most prominently the Japanese wife of biographer/critic Leon Stover, Takeko) — and was told it was not racist.

But the charge of racism is currently based on a very sloppy and insensitive reading of Farnham’s Freehold, a book in which a nominally Black future culture keeps white slaves and practices cannibalism. The book was written in 1963 and published in 1965, and it was a satire against the Cold War mythology that a nuclear war was “winnable,” using racial politics as a “test case.” Heinlein satirically portrayed the various apologists for slavery from the period ramping up to the American Civil War of 1861-1865, to the “limousine liberal” racism of the 1960’s in order to suggest that if the liberal values of America were destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, then mankind as a whole would revert to its “normal” behavior over the last 35000+ years, in which slavery and cannibalism are iconic pathologies.

Racists of the post-Civil Rights movement period believe Heinlein is saying “All Negros are like that,” when he is really saying “all of us human beings are like that.” — And it is the liberal values of the Enlightenment that stand between civilization and even the most cultivated savagery. (the cannibal rulers of the post-Holocaust world of Farnham’s Freehold are in fact not “black” or “African” at all, but rather an amalgamation of all the races of the southern Hemisphere).

What race is Eunice in “I Will Fear No Evil“?

Reader’s choice–Heinlein apparently wrote the novel with pictures of two attractive women above his computer for inspiration, one white, one black, so that his language would not cue the reader to one or the other.

The popular opinion is that she was a woman of color.

What race or ethnicity is Juan Rico in “Starship Troopers“?

Filipino. There are few cues in the book until the end, except the abundance of Spanish names among young Johnny’s friends; but late in the book he mentions that the language spoken at his home was Tagalog, which is the most prominent language spoken in the Philippines.

What race is Rod Walker in “Tunnel in the Sky”?

Black. The clues are in the novel but Heinlein didn’t treat race in this novel as an “issue” and so writes all characters regardless of their sex or race as characters, on equal footing.

Heinlein Society member & Heinlein scholar/researcher, Robert James, Ph.D. explains further:

The evidence is slim but definite. First and foremost, outside of the text, there is a letter in which RAH firmly states that Rod is black, and that Johnny Rico is Filipino. As to the text itself, it is implied rather than overt. RAH often played games with the skin color of his characters, in what I see as a disarming tactic against racists who may come to identify with the hero, then realize later on that they have identified with somebody they supposedly hate. He does this in a number of different places. Part of this may also have to do with the publishing mores of the time, which probably would not have let him get away with making his main character black in a juvenile novel. The most telling evidence is that everybody in “Tunnel” expects Rod to end up with Caroline, who is explicitly described as black. While that expectation may seem somewhat racist to us today, it would be a firm hint to the mindset of the fifties, which would have been opposed to interracial marriages. I think RAH himself would have been infuriated by the suggestion that this was racist; indeed, I think it more likely that this was simply the easiest way to signal a reader from the fifties that he’s been slipped a wonderful protagonist who is not white. I have taught this novel many times, and at least twice, a teenage student has asked me if Rod was black without me prompting the possibility whatsoever.

Robert James, Ph.D.

Was Heinlein a sexist?

It all depends on what you mean. Heinlein was a strong and proactive feminist comfortably within the mainstream of early 20th century feminism. But the issues in feminism changed over time.

Deb Rule says: As a female who grew up reading Heinlein, my opinion is, yes, but in a good way. He believed in the strength, competence, and abilities of women to do or be whatever they chose, and his major female characters are usually portrayed as stronger and smarter than their male counterparts. He did seem to believe that women could still be powerful, in-control career women yet still be female, feminine, and could be–and want to be–mothers and wives. For a time this was regarded as anti-feminism, though that fashion in feminism evolved into something else later.

John Seltzer adds; If you wish to read a really good article about this topic get The Heinlein Journal No. 16, January 2005. [https://www.heinleinsociety.org/heinlein-journal/.] Look at Sex And Other Metaphors by Lisa Edmonds on page 37. This article was very helpful clearing this issue up for me.

From reading Heinlein’s books I’ve come to the conclusion he was a devout Christian/absolute atheist. Was he? What were Heinlein’s religious beliefs? Did he believe in an afterlife?

His religious beliefs were his own, personal and private and only subject to guesswork and opinion. He was raised a Methodist and in the non-fiction “Tramp Royale” claims Methodist as his religion as of that writing in 1953-54. One of his last novels, “Job: A Comedy of Justice” shows a deep and thorough knowledge of, and study of, the Christian Bible and beliefs, though this is coupled with a strongly satirical treatment of those beliefs. There are definite non-Christian religious — “esoteric” — elements in some of his stories, as is detailed in “The Hermetic Heinlein” in issue No. 1 of The Heinlein Journal. [https://www.heinleinsociety.org/heinlein-journal/.] Then there’s “Stranger in a Strange Land” with a tale of a messiah and the foundation of a new religion. The LDS religion often appears in his books (i.e. in Sixth Column and in “If This Goes On –“) and is generally portrayed positively.

The closest Heinlein came to revealing his own, personal opinion on religion and the afterlife comes from the introduction to Theodore Sturgeon’s “Godbody“.

From reading Heinlein’s books I’ve come to the conclusion he was a Fascist/Libertarian/liberal/conservative. Was he?

People with particular slants seem to latch onto one work or another that suits their opinions or biases and take it as being representative of all of Heinlein. “Starship Troopers” is regarded by some as ‘fascist’ (particularly after the hideous distortion presented in the movie version); it isn’t . “Stranger in a Strange Land” became a banner book for liberals–yet it was written at the same time as “Starship Troopers” so couple the contradictions together on that account. Libertarians adore “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” with the anarchistic type of society that works so well, yet Heinlein came along with “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls” and smashed that same perfect setup to bits, showing the potential unpleasant outcome. For every political or social stance you care to choose to assign to Heinlein you can probably find something in his writing to support that opinion… and something else to contradict it.

Robert was a master at creating images. To create an image he had to know his audience. Not just understand his audience but be his audience. From this point of view you could put any label on him and be somewhat correct. To an extent this is correct for any great writer.

Which version of “Stranger in a Strange Land” is better, the ‘as originally published’ or the later ‘uncut’ version, and why are there two versions?

See: Stranger VS Stranger [https://www.heinleinsociety.org/2013/02/2210/] by G. E. Rule. Some people prefer the “tighter” storytelling of the 1961 version; others prefer the richer language of the uncut original version. In any case, it was the uncut original version that was put in the Virginia Edition. [https://www.heinleinbooks.com/].

As of 2011, Bill Patterson is slowly compiling a “comparative” edition, extensively annotated, that shows both the original and the 1961 prose on the same page. However, due to the demands of the biography and the Journal, it is expected to be years before this comparative edition is available.

Is there a real Church of All Worlds à la “Stranger in a Strange Land“?

Yes, but Heinlein, himself, had nothing to do with it or its founding.

Did Poddy die at the end of “Podkayne of Mars“?

In Heinlein’s original writing, yes, she did, but the publisher objected so it was rewritten and published with Poddy surviving. Recently a new edition has been released with both endings.

Did Lazarus Long die at the end of “Time Enough For Love“?

Somewhat speculatively, yes he did, in the book’s original intent… until “Number of the Beast” was written and Lazarus appears therein, alive and well. So ultimately, the answer is “no,” Lazarus did not die, in some sense. Maybe the later book catches him at an earlier section of his personal timeline. Things get tricky when you do as much time-travel and time-looping as the Tellus Tertius group seems to do.

In a letter to a close friend Robert said he was going to kill off Lazarus. And so he did in Time Enough for Love. Did Robert bring him back because of pressure from his friends? Who knows? I’m glad he did. I like Lazarus.

Is Lazarus Long his own ancestor?

No. He does go back in time, meets and has intimate relations with his mother, but himself as a child is present as well in the story.

From “Time Enough For Love,” what does “E.F. or F.F” mean?

Eat First or F–k first. With the answer “both” making perfect sense.

What’s the best book to recommend to introduce someone to Heinlein?

The juveniles are usually safe bets. They’re good science fiction and good adventure without some of the more shocking and/or controversial elements of later novels. However, it’s an individual thing–I’ve met people who started with later novels like “Cat Who Walks Through Walls” and become enamored.

Unlike many I didn’t start reading Robert until later in life. My first try was Friday. After 100 pages I couldn’t go any further. The book didn’t keep my attention. About 3 years later I read Starship Troopers without any knowledge both books were written by Heinlein. Starship interested me and I read another of his books. After a couple more I read Heinlein like I was possessed. When I got to Friday again I didn’t recognize the book at all until about the 90th page. It was then I remembered trying this book before. This time Friday interested me and today it is one of my favorites.

After reading all of Heinlein’s writings at random I went back and read them in order. Based on this experience I advise new readers to try to read his stories in the order written.

What are the “Lost Three” stories? What are the “Stinkeroos”?

These are three short stories published in the early 1940s and never collected into any of Heinlein’s books of short stories. Consequently, they could be rather hard to find until they were published in an SF Book Club Off the Main Sequence (2005) and then in the Virginia Edition. The stories are:

  • Beyond Doubt, (co-author Elma Wentz), Astonishing Stories, April 1941, Republished in Beyond the End of Time (editor Fred Pohl, 1952), Political Science Fiction (editor Martin H. Greenberg and Patricia S. Warrick, 1974), Election Day 2084 (editor Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg, 1984).
  • My Object All Sublime, Future, February 1942
  • Pied Piper, Astonishing, March 1942 (never republished)

At one point in a letter to Campbell, Heinlein mentioned three “stinkeroos” he had not yet been able to sell. It was thought for a long time that it was these three stories he was referring to, although from context it appears that one of the stories he was talking about in that letter was “Patterns of Possibility,” which was later sold and published as “Elsewhen.”

Which Star Trek episode(s) was Heinlein involved with, and why?

Heinlein wasn’t involved with any Star Trek episodes.

The Trouble With Tribbles“–the producers noticed that the Tribbles bore a decided similarity to Heinlein’s Martian flatcats in “The Rolling Stones” and so asked Heinlein’s permission for the concept (according to “The Trouble With Tribbles” author David Gerrold). Heinlein asked only for an autographed copy of the script.

The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”–In this Star Trek episode a number of people from another race were traveling to a new world. The vehicle is an asteroid. The ship was run and piloted by a computer and they were forbidden to know. The basic story line is very similar to “Orphans in the Sky.”

Operation: Annihilate” This Star Trek episode is similar to “Puppet Masters.” Alien creatures from space invade a planet inhabited by humans. Kirk’s brother and family are living on the planet. The creatures attach themselves onto the humans back and eventually the host dies.

From “Starship Troopers,” what is the origin and meaning of “Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young”?

It’s from a ballad chronicling the real actions of an infantry private in World War II. Private Rodger W. Young, 148th Regt. 37th Infantry Division, 25 years old, 5’2″ tall, with bad eyesight and nearly deaf, single-handedly attacked a Japanese machine gun nest that had his unit pinned down. Pvt. Young was killed. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The Story of Roger Young

The Ballad of Rodger Young – Jim Reeves on YouTube

No, they’ve got no time for glory in the Infantry.
No, they’ve got no use for praises loudly sung,
But in every soldier’s heart in all the Infantry
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young.
Shines the name–Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
To the everlasting glory of the Infantry
Lives the story of Private Rodger Young.
Caught in ambush lay a company of riflemen–
Just grenades against machine guns in the gloom–
Caught in ambush till this one of twenty riflemen
Volunteered, volunteered to meet his doom.
Volunteered, Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
In the everlasting annals of the Infantry
Glows the last deed of Private Rodger Young.
It was he who drew the fire of the enemy
That a company of men might live to fight;
And before the deadly fire of the enemy
Stood the man, stood the man we hail tonight.
On the island of New Georgia in the Solomons,
Stands a simple wooden cross alone to tell
That beneath the silent coral of the Solomons,
Sleeps a man, sleeps a man remembered well.
Sleeps a man, Rodger Young,
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
In the everlasting spirit of the Infantry
Breathes the spirit of Private Rodger Young.
No, they’ve got no time for glory in the Infantry,
No, they’ve got no use for praises loudly sung,
But in every soldier’s heart in all the Infantry
Shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young.
Shines the name–Rodger Young!
Fought and died for the men he marched among.
To the everlasting glory of the Infantry
Lives the story of Private Rodger Young

PFC Frank Loesser

How much writing did Heinlein do on the Tom Corbett, Space Cadet TV series?

None. Not a line. He simply licensed the use of the name “space cadet” from the title of his 1948 book to the producers of the television show. He didn’t even take participation in merchandising.

At the time (1950-1952) there was no television reception in the mountains of Colorado Springs where he lived, so although the producers sent him courtesy copies of scripts, he didn’t even see an episode until the sponsor brought a few kinescopes to a conference at the nearby Broadmoor Hotel a year later. He was frankly appalled at the series.

What is Federal Service in Starship Troopers?

The main question seems to be whether it was entirely military or entirely civilian or civilian with a military component (which would be not too different from what we have now). Different people have come down on different sides of this question. The most prominent of these arguments is James D. Gifford’s Essay “The Nature of Federal Service.” Gifford makes a case that Federal Service was essentially military in nature and that the Federation is therefore essentially a military state and that only military veterans can vote.

However, Heinlein said the direct opposite on many occasions, specifically that veterans of federal service are NOT military veterans. Cf. a personal reply to the author of a very unfair review of the book when it first appeared:

“See pp. 43-48, where it is made clear that even an elderly, blind, wheelchair, female cripple must be accepted, and that any form of Federal service, military or non-military, wins franchise, and that most voters have had no military service.”

Robert Heinlein

Heinlein repeated this argument several times in correspondence. To this Gifford says that if he didn’t make it clear in the book, then these extra-textual comments don’t have any force and essentially cannot be used in evaluating the book.

The resolution to the conundrum is that Heinlein did, indeed, “make it clear” in the book, and that Gifford, standing in for this side of the argument, brings to his interpretation extra-textual assumptions about what “military” means.

Bill Patterson suspects that the world of Starship Troopers is based on the early-20th century conception of a Wellsian Managerial-Socialist state (or perhaps closer to Edward Bellamy’s world in Looking Backward — a book that was so highly influential on Heinlein’s political thought that he used it as the basis of his own first novel, For Us the Living) which has a military arm, but the federal service that is a requirement for franchise is service to the state, not to the military specifically. The situation is somewhat confused because THEY do not make the same distinction we do between military and non-military service. You go where you are needed, and if they have need for military personnel, your federal service may assign you to a military occupation; otherwise it will be non-military in nature. Heinlein takes pains to point this out in his list of occupations one might be sent to when Rico first tries to enlist.

It would be more correct that only retired civil servants could exercise the franchise — and that some of those civil servants (about 5% according to Heinlein’s own representations at another place) were engaged in military activities, while 95% were in other occupations, of the type we characterize as “civilian.”

How much of Stranger did Heinlein take seriously — and in what ways?

Depends on what you mean by “seriously.” The book is a satire, and so he used it all for purposes of supporting the satire — but that does not mean he did not think the ideas he was talking about were unimportant. But they are there for the satirical purpose — which he explained to his editor involved turning our cultural assumptions upside down:

“My purpose in this book was to examine every major axiom of the western culture, to question each axiom, throw doubt on it — and, if possible, to make the antithesis of each axiom appear a possible and perhaps desirable thing — rather than unthinkable . . . . Anything that I said . . . should, by definition of the problem, be shocking — or it wasn’t worth saying, since the purpose was to cast doubt on basic unconscious assumptions. Shock is comprised of surprise plus insecurity, with an instinctive desire to fight back, deny the attack, restore the feeling of security.”

Robert Heinlein

Was there a Philadelphia Experiment and was Heinlein involved?

The Philadelphia Experiment is a bit of urban folklore about an experiment supposedly conducted at the Philadelphia Naval Yard to make the vessel Eldredge invisible. Supposedly the experiment surrounded the ship with green fire and failed disastrously, leaving hapless sailors stuck into the bulkheads of the ship. The round-robin science fiction novella “Green Fire” posited that Heinlein, Asimov, and de Camp were involved in setting up the experiment.

Can you explain Heinlein as a character in “Green Fire” and in the two Malmont books?

In the second of Paul Malmont’s books that make use of science fiction writers of the wartime era as characters, Heinlein is actually in the river — or ocean, I forget which at this remove, when the Eldredge lights up with green fire — but on a completely different adventure that has involved Nicola Tesla’s abandoned Wardenclyff installation for broadcast power.

Heinlein was a character in both of Malmont’s books (as was L. Ron Hubbard). The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril (2007) and The Astounding, the Amazing, and The Unknown (2011) — which also featured Isaac Asimov.

The stories are pastiches of pulp novels — fun but biographically impossible.

Quotable Heinlein on the internet

This is a website specializing in quotations from Robert Heinlein books. Currently there are 375 quotes organized by the books they came from. The site is copyrighted © and kept current by Andrew B. Peterson [http://www.quotableheinlein.com/]. The site is currently not available.

Why was Beyond This Horizon so highly regarded?

When Beyond This Horizon was published in Astounding in 1942, it was seen by readers as summing up the science fiction of the Golden Age. Its own broad horizons, taking in space exploration, utopian social philosophy, and the frontiers of research into psychic phenomena including reincarnation, seemed to set into context all of the main concerns of science fiction as it moved out of the range of the purely pulp and into an unknown but hopeful future.

For this reason, when boutique publishers of science fiction began to come into existence after World War II, Beyond This Horizon was one of the first of Heinlein’s books to be published. But by that time, taste and styles had begun to change, and it had acquired a somewhat “dated” feel.

What were the Post Stories?

Heinlein sold four stories to the Saturday Evening Post appearing February 8, 1947 (“The Green Hills of Earth“) through January 10, 1948 (“The Black Pits of Luna“). The other two stories were “Space Jockey” (4/26/47) and “‘It’s Great to be Back!’” (07/26/47). After an initial burst of enthusiasm, terms unprecedented by the SEP editors, the SEP audience lost its taste for space stories. Heinlein did write other stories for “the slicks” and continued to publish in the general fiction magazines, though not again to the Post.

The Green Hills of Earth” was a breakthrough story for science fiction generally, the first specific story the Post, then the most prestigious general magazine in the country, had published since Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Maricot Deep” in 1918. Thereafter, a number of science fiction stories appeared in the Post, and other slicks became interested in science fiction as well.

What were the “unwritten stories” of the Future History?

When Heinlein laid out his chart of the Future History timeline in August 1939, he included all the stories he intended to write, and added more as ideas occurred to him. For one reason or another — often due to the demands of his other writing — some of the stories never got written, while others that were not on the chart (such as “Logic of Empire“) did get written.

When Shasta proposed the five-book series of the Future History (after purchasing “Methuselah’s Children“), it was their idea that all of the unwritten stories could be created over time, including the “Da Capo” story that would end up the fifth and last volume. For the first collection, Heinlein wrote the “prequel” to “Requiem,” “The Man Who Sold the Moon,” which gave the book its title.

However, Shasta’s business practices made it impractical for Heinlein to write the stories for this collection and then have them held out of the reprint market for 3 years, and he did not write the extra stories. In the third and last collection for Shasta, Revolt in 2100, he wrote an essay “Concerning Stories Never Written” that talked about some of these unwritten stories, particularly “The Sound of His Wings,” which would have been about Nehemiah Scudder’s takeover of the U.S., and “The Stone Pillow,” which would have been about the resistance to the Scudder Theocracy.

Another story, “Fire Down Below” might not have been written in any case as it was made technologically obsolete by the time the collections were being assembled. They were set in Antarctic uranium mines, which were the only major source of fissionables in the world of the Future History. The uranium enrichment technology invented in World War II reduced the importance of those mines.

Does the Future History and the World as Myth relate together?

The “World as Myth” is a name given by one of the characters to the Multiverse that is featured in at least three, and possibly all five, of Heinlein’s last novels. (The Number of the Beast – 1980, Friday – 1982, Job: A Comedy of Justice – 1984, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls – 1985, and To Sail Beyond the Sunset – 1987). Heinlein scholar Bill Patterson speculates that these five books might have been the setup for a huge mega-novel about a war in the Cosmic All paralleling Doc Smith’s universe of the Lensmen.

The “interesting” universes/realities of the multiverse are the creations of “strong fabulists,” among whom Heinlein was certainly ranked by this time. One of those universes was our “consensus reality — not one of the more interesting ones; another was the timeline of the Future History, which Heinlein codenamed after the first person to go to the moon, Leslie LeCroix. — for which reason it was originally proposed to title the Virginia Edition’s revised and corrected publication of the Future History stories Timeline: Leslie LeCroix, but the proposal was vetoed in favor of a more staid title.

The original Future History was the world of Lazarus Long; the World As Myth, which draws from many timelines, has a parallel view of the Future History from the viewpoint of LL’s mother, Maureen Johnson. This is the subject of Heinlein’s last novel, To Sail Beyond the Sunset.

So the short answer is: The Future History is one of many universes in the World As Myth.

What’s the relationship of Farnham’s Freehold with Philip Wylie’s novel Triumph!?

Philip Wylie’s novel Triumph! was serialized in the Saturday Evening Post just as the Cuban Missile Crisis happened in October 1962. Heinlein’s began writing about the Cuban Missile Crisis in January 1964, and the book was published in 1965 as Farnham’s Freehold.

There are a number of similar story figures in the two novels — the shelter itself, of course, and the alcoholic wife, but these seem coincidental. They are two very different kinds of books: Triumph is a straightforward, if somewhat pulpish, novel, whereas Farnham’s Freehold is a scathing satire of the idea that nuclear war could be “won,” using race politics as a test case.

But Triumph may have contributed elements to the mix out of which Farnham’s Freehold was written. The most likely actual influences from Triumph, rather than simple coincidences of topical material, are the mixed-race composition of Wylie’s shelter and his observation that “people below the equator should come through [the nuclear war] in good shape! The air doesn’t exchange across the equator fast enough to endanger them.”

Heinlein was probably influenced to take race relations as his satirical focus by the topical fact that President Kennedy ordered desegregation of federal housing on the very day that confirmation came through that the Cuban missiles had been removed and the Cuban Missile Crisis was therefore over. He started writing Farnham’s Freehold just two months later and began the book with an example of brinksmanship at the Bridge table, paralleling the President’s recent brinksmanship with the Soviet Fleet. And in fact the book’s working title was Grand Slam.

And a parallel question about Tunnel in the Sky and Lord of the Flies

William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was published in 1954; Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky was published in 1955. Since the books deal with similar situations (even though they come to vastly different conclusions about the situations and the material), there has always been the suspicion that Heinlein was “replying” to Golding. Golding’s idea is that civilization is a thin veneer and that human beings are essentially bestial. Heinlein takes a (but not “the”) contrary position that human beings are neither essentially bestial nor essentially noble, but that civilization is the most important human invention, and that we take that to the stars.

Heinlein never wrote about Lord of the Flies in any way, but it is unlikely that he read it before writing Tunnel in the Sky. Lord of the Flies was published in 1954 but sold very slowly — less than 3000 copies in the U.S. through 1955. Tunnel in the Sky was written in November and early December 1954. The fact that he never mentioned the book in correspondence also suggests he had not read it until some later time.

2 Responses

  1. ebarocela says:

    Question: In addition to Starship Troopers, has anyone considered or began pre-production on movie version of any other Heinlein novels? Space Cadet, for example, Tunnel in the Sky, or Starbeast?

    • Ken Walters says:

      Edward, there have been a few other movies made. Most recently, Predestination, based on All You Zombies. There was also a movie based on The Puppet Masters. There have been many discussions concerning Stranger In A Strange Land and also The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

Leave a Reply