FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Robert A. Heinlein, the person.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about
Robert A. Heinlein, the person

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

Homes question reviewed and corrected thanks to Heinlein Forum members John Welsh and Tom Losh, June 2023.

©2003-2023 No reproduction or distribution without consent. This material may not be copied and put on another website without permission.

What is Heinlein’s full name?

Robert Anson Heinlein


How is it pronounced?

Hine-line, with equal emphasis on both syllables.


What is the origin of the name?

Heinlein” is German, though the meaning is obscure. There are several different Heinlein families in the U.S. The first of Heinlein’s ancestor in America was Mathias Heinlein, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1756. Mathias’ oldest son George was a Captain in the Pennsylvania militia during the Revolutionary War. Some time later, branches of the family moved into Ohio and then to western Missouri after the Civil War.


When was Heinlein born, and when did he die?

Robert A. Heinlein was born 7 July 1907 in Butler, Missouri. He died 8 May 1988 in Carmel, California.


How many times was Heinlein married?


His first marriage was a brief one. Her name is Elinor Lea Curry. They were married on June 21, 1929 and they divorced during October 1930. Robert was in the Navy during their brief marriage. There is evidence of friction between the two almost from the beginning of their marriage. She had her own plans which were different from Robert’s.

The second marriage was to Leslyn MacDonald in 1932. They divorced in 1947. Despite her later problems with alcoholism, and the failure of their marriage, Leslyn was clearly an extraordinary woman, intelligent and talented. Her influence on Heinlein’s early works cannot be ignored. Robert tried to help her with no success. Her father was an alcoholic and had severe problems. When Robert recognized that she, too, was having problems he took her to a psychiatrist. It didn’t help.

Leslyn was born 29 Aug 1904 in Massachusetts and died 13 April 1981 in California. She remarried to a man named Mocabee. She had no children.

Heinlein’s third marriage was to Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld, called “Ginny”. They married in October 21, 1948 and shared what was considered by those who knew them to be an ideal marriage. Ginny Heinlein was born 22 April 1916 in New York and died 18 January 2003 in Florida. Ginny was, without doubt, the basis of many, if not most, of Heinlein’s strong, capable female characters, in particular Hazel Stone. Ginny was brilliant and perfect for Robert. A highly educated person she was the source of many ideas for his stories. She read them all before they were sent to his agent. She recommended changes and it is said that she had the story idea for Stranger in a Strange Land.


Did Robert Heinlein have any children?


Those of us who grew up on, and were keenly influenced by, Heinlein’s works sometimes refer to ourselves as “Heinlein’s Children.” It’s an informal appellation indicating our respect and regard for the life lessons he passed on to us through his writings.

In a letter to one of his friends, Robert says they tried to have children and consulted doctors, but nothing could be done. By that time in their lives they had waited too long to adopt and were too old. So they enjoyed their many Nephews, Nieces and Godchildren. John Campbell named his daughter Leslyn.

See the Amy Baxter question below for more on Heinlein’s children.


Where is Robert Heinlein buried?

Both Robert A. Heinlein and Ginny Heinlein were cremated and their ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. There are no cemetery markers or monuments.

See also the account of Ginny Heinlein’s ashes joining Robert’s.


What were Heinlein’s health problems?

They were numerous and affected him throughout his lifetime, influencing both his choice to be a writer and often the things about which he wrote. As a young Navy officer, in 1933, Heinlein contracted tuberculosis and was discharged from the Navy the following year as “totally and permanently disabled,” to his dismay. He very much wanted to serve his country and attempted to reenlist at the outbreak of World War II, but was refused. He served as a civilian engineer at the Naval Air Experimental Station by Philadelphia. Fears of possible relapses of tuberculosis happened at other times in his life, once sidetracking college studies in physics and mathematics at UCLA.

During the war, Heinlein tried to enlist in the Merchant Marine, but in an attempt to get his health repaired, a botched hemmorhoid operation resulted in a series of repair operations that lasted into the 1950’s

His wife, Ginny Heinlein, developed altitude sickness while they lived in Colorado that required them to relocate to sea level. They wound up outside Santa Cruz, California., after trying Sequim, Washington, and a place near Watsonville, California.

During the building of the Bonny Doon house Heinlein suffered a hernia which involved several repair operations lasting into the 1970’s.

About the time of the writing/rewriting of “I Will Fear No Evil,” Heinlein nearly died of peritonitis. It took him years to recover.

In 1977 he had a blocked carotid artery that led to a series of a transient ischemic attacks, which could be the precurser to a stroke. He had to give up almost all public work for months.

In a letter to one of his close friends he said he had surgery 9 times. He was encumbered by health problems.

During his last years he was suffering from emphysema that became increasingly worse. He underwent a carotid body removal surgery meant to ease his emphysema, but it was not a success.


Where did Heinlein live? Which homes did he build? Are there pictures of his homes available?

His first home was in Butler, Missouri. Around December 1907, his family moved permanently to Kansas City, Missouri though he frequently returned to Butler for visits with family. In Kansas City, the family at first lived with relatives, then rented a house at 2605 Cleveland (1910) and then in 1918 purchased their own home at 2102 E. 36th Street., where the family lived until 1939, when his parents and youngest sister moved to the Los Angeles area.

After high school (1925), Heinlein went to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

Due to illness and disability, during the last year of his military career, he spent time in military hospitals, in San Diego and at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, Colorado and California, then went to Los Angeles, California in 1934, purchasing his house at 8777 Lookout Mountain Avenue in 1935. This house is still standing, and the current owner invited members of the Heinlein Society to tour the house, where many of Heinlein’s improvements were still identifiable. See Tim Morgan’s illustrated article. “A Visit to 8777 Lookout Mountain Avenue” in The Heinlein Journal issue no. 21 issued in 2010.

During World War II, Heinlein lived in Lansdowne, a suburb of Philadelphia., and then at 311 S. Hicks in downtown Philadelphia.

Following the war, he again lived in Los Angeles at Lookout Mountain, until the end of his marriage to Leslyn in 1947.

During the court required mandatory year of separation, Leslyn sold the house, and Heinlein lived in a very small travel trailer that he moved from Los Angeles to Tombstone, Arizona, to Fort Worth, and then to New Orleans where he sold the trailer and moved into a large old house in Pass Christian Mississippi called The Oleanders.

When Heinlein was called back to Los Angeles to write the script for Destination Moon, Ginny went to New York. They rejoined each other in Colorado Springs and were married when Heinlein’s divorce was finalized. There they designed and built their own home at 1776 Mesa Avenue. This home was featured in a 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics.

Link: This article, with photos of the house, is available at this site

…and it included a bomb shelter.

In 1965 Robert and Ginny Heinlein moved to a sea level location ultimately at 6000 Bonny Doon Road outside in Santa Cruz, California, where they again designed and built their own home in 1966 and 1967. While construction was under way, they rented a house near the University of California, Santa Cruz, at 115 Echo Street. This house also still stands. See Dan Henderson’ s illustrated article “Echo of History” in The Heinlein Journal No. 19, July 2006.

The Bonny Doon house came to have a 6 foot chain link fence — not, as rumor has it, to keep out the hippies and whackos who took “Stranger in a Strange Land” too seriously, but required by the insurance company to keep his construction materials safe.

Photos of Bonny Doon are available here for viewing courtesy of The Heinlein Society

Shortly before his death, they left the Bonny Doon house and moved to a house near Carmel, California. It was here Heinlein died.

After his death, Mrs. Heinlein moved to a suburb of Jacksonville in northern Florida, where she remained until her death.


Did he have a bomb shelter?

Yes, at his Colorado Springs, Colorado home. He built the shelter in 1961; he had not built one earlier because the house sat on a granite outcropping, and creating a shelter would have been prohibitively expensive and difficult. But he talked himself into it by preaching shelters in his 1961 Guest of Honor speech at SeaCon (see Requiem edited by Yoji Kondo), on the grounds that the best way to discourage a nuclear war was to be able to survive it.

When he had first built in Colorado Springs, a shelter was unnecessary — and indeed one small element of the search for a new place to live was that Colorado Springs was far from fallout patterns. However, in the mid-1950’s, NORAD Command was sited inside Cheyenne Mountain — directly outside Heinlein’s living room window — and Colorado Springs became the number 1 nuclear target in the United States.

Link: This article, with photos of the house, is available at this site


What Caused Robert to divorce Leslyn?

Leslyn became an alcoholic probably similar to her father. These kinds of problems can be hereditary. It’s not clear when her problems started. They became worse during stressful times when she needed a crutch. Surely her stressful problems increased during the period they lived in Philadelphia which contributed to the breakup.

Readers need to understand that much of this narrative is based on reading between the lines and that there are differences of opinion on Leslyn’s problems. In the beginning Leslyn was a very intelligent, good looking, strong woman who no doubt influenced Heinlein. At the end of their marriage she wasn’t the same woman.

Her problem became intolerable to Robert when they returned to their Lookout mountain house after the war. She was not able to conceal her drinking and was prone to weight loss and sickness. Robert took her to a psychiatrist but the treatment was not successful. It appeared that Leslyn did not want to change. When this was clear to Robert he asked for a divorce.


Who is Bill Corson?

Bill Corson was a young volunteer in Heinlein’s 1938 campaign for the Assembly District 59 seat in the California legislature. He became a friend of Robert’s for the rest of his life.

Corson corresponded by letters (and many phone calls no doubt) well into the ‘80s when Bill died. There isn’t enough space here to provide a full accounting of their friendship so I suggest you read Robert’s biography by Bill Patterson [Link:  http://www.whpattersonjr.com/] and the Bill Corson letters in the UC Santa Cruz archives. [link: http://heinleinarchives.net/upload/index.php?ccUser=o0tapq3qct5omjbaetpasgfj71] Bill was one of Robert’s most trusted friends.

Corson helped Robert remodel and add on to the Lookout Mountain house and stayed there for a short while with Robert and Leslyn. During the WWII he went east in the Army and spent a great deal of time at the Heinlein apartment in Philadelphia when he was off base. At the very end of the War he met Lucy and got married. Their friendship changed after that, and a visit to the new house in Colorado Springs was quite unsuccessful. However, they remained friends by letters, and Corson helped Heinlein plan and stock his fallout shelter in the early 1960s.


What are the Heinlein Journals?

The Heinlein Journal started in 1997. Bill Patterson is the Publisher and Editor. Information is available at this [link: https://www.heinleinsociety.org/heinlein-journal]. Since its inception in 1997, The Heinlein Journal has been the leading source of new scholarship on Robert A. Heinlein. From its beginning, this independent journal has been home to the work of the best known names in Heinlein scholarship. William H. Patterson, Leon Stover, Ph.D, James Gifford, Robert James, Ph.D, Farah Mendlessohn, Robert Gorsch, Ph.D, Edward Wysocki, Ph.D, and a host of others have published their latest research in The Heinlein Journal.

Patterson (also the founding organizer of the Heinlein Society) was commissioned in 2000 to write the Heinlein Biography and thereafter had to split his time. When the work on the Centennial began ramping up in 2007 and the biography went into press at the same time, the Journal went into an involuntary hiatus from which it is slowly recovering. Issue 21 was released in 2010; issue 22 came out in 2013, and issue 23 is in preparation in 2013 (i.e., as of this writing).

The Journal is an excellent source of information for the serious Heinlein student.


Who is Virginia Perdue?

Virginia Perdue was an early friend of Robert’s during the ‘30s. Ginny Heinlein thought they were more than friends based on Robert’s remembrances of her. She was a mystery writer at the time Robert was leaving politics, and at least three of her books were made into movies in the 1940’s. [Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_of_a_Woman:] She was also a member of the Manana Literary Society. Robert kept some of her books in his library.

Virginia Perdue is important because she offered to help Robert get into the Slicks at a time when he was in the Pulps and she encouraged him write books. She also offered to introduce him to her agent at a time when he was unrepresented. There will be a brief piece on Virginia Perdue in an upcoming Heinlein Journal.


Is there a Heinlein biography?

Yes three times! Robert A Heinlein In Dialog With His Century Volume I 1907-1948 Learning Curve by William H. Patterson Jr. This is well worth reading and rereading. It’s available in book and eBook format. If you purchase it from the Heinlein Society website you’ll be supporting the Society as well. Go to [Link: https://www.heinleinsociety.org/] and to this [Link: http://www.whpattersonjr.com/] for William Patterson’s website.

The biography was written completely in 2005; the first volume was issued in August 2010 and was nominated for a Hugo (which it did not win, although it did receive the Locus Award). The second volume has been turned in revised in 2012; it has not yet been scheduled for publication.


Where can I find a complete listing of all his writings?

The best source for short listings and descriptions of the interesting features of each work is Robert A. Heinlein A Reader’s Companion by James Gifford (2000). This book is available from Gifford’s website [Link=http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/nsp_orders.php], Amazon.com and other booksellers. It isn’t available as an eBook.

However, all the works — including file works that had not been published when Gifford compiled his Reader’s Companion, have now been put into print in the Virginia Edition. [Link: http://www.virginiaedition.com/ ]

The index to the Virginia Edition will be adapted for the Bibliography of Heinlein’s Works in volume 2 of the Heinlein biography.


Who is the Heinlein’s adopted grandchild Amy?

When Amy was 13 she (now Dr. Amy Baxter, Pediatrician) volunteered in a letter to the Heinleins to be a granddaughter. Robert and Ginny accepted and a wonderful lifelong friendship resulted. To show you how important she was in their lives; Ginny gave Amy her wedding ring and Roberts’ Annapolis class ring. To learn more about Amy and others read Geo Rule’s accounting of the Heinlein Centennial on the Society Website: [Link: https://www.heinleinsociety.org/2012/03/centennial-geo-day-zero/] Make sure you read all the days.


What name did Heinlein prefer, Bob or Robert?

In the early days while married to Leslyn, Heinlein was mostly called Bob. He had no preference to which name was used, answering to both. However, after his divorce in 1947 he preferred to be called Robert. This is explained in Bill Patterson’s Biography on Robert. I’ve been told the name change was Ginny’s idea as she preferred Robert. Some say that when he married Ginny he was trying to break with his past and a name change helped.

I did a quick review of his correspondence and found his letters signed Bob in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the ‘80s I found he usually typed Robert and no longer signed because he had arthritis in his hands. Also in the 1980s in the letters from his close friends they addressed him as Bob. I don’t think there was a strong preference for either name. It seems old friends called him Bob and new friends after 1948 called him Robert.


What are the Heinlein letters?

Robert kept extensive records and files for business purposes and also for his writing. In addition, he kept personal letters, family photo albums, scrapbooks and the like. After a time this collection grew to be a burden, but a valuable burden. He and Ginny donated all their files to the University of California at Santa Cruz. At first a portion of the files were kept there and then after Ginny’s passing all files are there.

The archived letters were intended to be kept sealed until 2038, but the Heinlein Prize Trust has made pdfs of the letters available for anyone to download (for a small fee of course). Most all of Robert and Ginny’s files have been scanned and are available at this [Link: http://www.heinleinarchives.net/ ]. The photo albums and scrapbooks contain many pictures of Leslyn and Ginny and the Heinlein family. And there’s lots of information about Robert’s life in his correspondence.

The Virginia Edition published three volumes of Heinlein’s letters in print form — over 1.2 million words. One volume consists entirely of both sides of the correspondence between Heinlein and John W. Campbell over almost thirty years.

There are other Heinlein files in at other locations too. Many of the people Heinlein communicated with kept files which would include Heinlein letters. John Campbell for example.

I’ve found these files to be a great source of fun and information. If you’re not sure you want to do the Heinlein Archives or the letters I suggest you get Ginny’s book of extracts of Robert’s correspondence titled Grumbles From the Grave. It’s available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble and other book stores. This book features many of Robert’s more important letters and will give you an idea of what’s in the letters in the Archives.


How many stories did Robert write?

This is difficult to answer without first defining what to count. Using James Gifford’s Opus list in his Robert A. Heinlein Reader’s Guide I counted 205 listings. These included everything; essays, articles, forwards, afterwards, acknowledgments, book reviews, interviews, speeches, screen plays, scripts, etc. In Heinlein Journal No. 19 July 2006 Bill Patterson says 63 books which include the short story collections (some of which exist in multiple formats). In the Wikipedia entry for Robert they state; Heinlein published 32 novels, 59 short stories, and 16 collections during his life.

All of the stories are now available in the Virginia Edition [Link: http://www.virginiaedition.com/titles.aspx ].


How many Heinlein books have been sold?

There is no definite answer to this because many publishers are involved, and often they never reported sales (because they were not paying the royalties they owed Heinlein!). However, the total answer cannot be less than many tens of millions. Stranger In a Strange Land by itself has sold more than (conservatively) 25 million copies (and possibly many millions more). An estimate of eighty million copies altogether appeared on the back of a new issue a few years ago.


Where can I find more information about Leslyn?

Information about Leslyn is found in Heinlein Journal issues No. 9 July 2001 and a supplement in no. 11 (July 2002). This appears to be the most complete information available. I highly recommend it. [Link: https://www.heinleinsociety.org/heinlein-journal].


Where can I find more information about Ginny?

There are 2 Heinlein Journals; Issue No. 12 January 2003 and Issue No. 13 July 2003 that are the best source of info. There are also several pictures of her in the Heinlein Archives. [Link: http://www.heinleinarchives.net/]

Ginny helped found the Heinlein Society. [Link: https://www.heinleinsociety.org/]

One of the things that should have been remarked about Ginny Heinlein in the various obituaries — but was not — was that she single-handedly and very successfully managed the single largest author estate in the world.

Virginia Heinlein was not simply an adjunct to Robert Heinlein: She was a serious and substantial person in her own right.


How many times was Robert guest of honor at a convention?

Major conventions: Worldcon 3 Denvention Guest of Honor speech – 1941

Worldcon 19 SeaCon Guest of Honor Speech – 1961

Rio de Janeiro Movie Festival Guest of Honor – 1969

Worldcon 34 MidAmerica Con Guest of Honor speech – 1976

All of the Guest of Honor Speeches are published in the Requiem collection edited by Dr. Yoji Kondo, as well as in the Requiem volume of the Virginia Edition

In addition, Heinlein was guest of honor at a number of smaller conventions for which his remarks were often not preserved. In 1976 and 1977 he accepted many such offers as part of his campaign to recruit new blood donors, but when his health deteriorated in 1977 he was forced to cease the practice.


What happened to his and Ginny’s belongings?

After Heinlein’s death in 1988, Virginia Heinlein’s vision deteriorated because of macular degeneration, and she decided to move to a retirement community for naval officers located in northern Florida. At that time she gave away many personal items of Heinlein’s, to good friends. The rest she took with her to Florida.

After Ginny’s death, all the intellectual property (except a few items which had been assigned to the Butler Library Foundation [Link: http://www.butlerpubliclibrary.org/history.aspx)] was assigned to the Heinlein Prize Trust [Link: http://www.heinleinprize.com/rah/biography.htm]. All the personal property including furniture and personal items was willed to the UC Santa Cruz library to support the Archive there.

Rita Bottoms, the Heinlein Archivist, consulted with the executor and other interested parties, and gave many personal items to friends and acquaintances. The Brass Cannon, for example, was given to Brad Linaweaver; Jerry Pournelle, who had a son in the US Naval Academy, received some of Heinlein’s dress uniform fittings; Amy Baxter received jewels and items of furniture at Ginny’s request. And so forth. The remainder was either shipped back to the library — including items such as the desk chair he used for decades, their computers, and various awards (including the Hugos) or else converted into liquid cash for a special account. The Heinlein Society also received many items.


Leon Stover was originally authorized to write Robert’s biography. How is it that Bill Patterson wrote it?

After Robert’s death, Leon Stover did begin a ten-year project to write the Heinlein biography. People who were present at the time thought it was just too soon for Ginny, and she felt invaded by the process and did not find Stover particularly sympathetic; in any case, after about a year and a half she felt Stover was relying too much on people who had agendas, without checking the sources with her. She attempted to put the process on a more orthodox footing, and Stover went limp. Ginny formally revoked Stover’s permission to access the sealed files in 1989. Stover always said she fired him. Ginny said he wasn’t fired but it just wasn’t working out.

Stover did use the materials he collected to write a stub biography titled “Before the Writing Began” dealing with his youth and marriage to Leslyn. After Ginny Heinlein’s death he attempted to have it published, but would not cooperate when the Prize Trust asked to review his manuscript in order to issue permission for quotation, and the matter was allowed to drop. Dr. Stover died, of complications of diabetes, in 2006, so it seems unlikely that BtWB wil ever be published. A collector purchased Stover’s files which included BtWB and at present will not allow access.

After the Heinlein Journal began in 1997, Brad Linaweaver introduced publisher Bill Patterson to Mrs. Heinlein, and they worked together on a biographical sketch which was published in 1999 (issue no. 5 of the Journal, which is published in a condensed form on the Society’s website and in full on Alexei Panshin’s Abyss of Wonder website. As a result of this experience, she commissioned Patterson to write the formal biography, providing access and other forms of support. She did have an opportunity to read and pass on the first 119,000 words of the biography before her death in January 2003.

Dr. Stover did allow Bill Patterson to read and make notes from the manuscript in 1999, and some of its findings were incorporated, with due credit, into Patterson’s Heinlein biography (see above) [Link: http://www.whpattersonjr.com/ ]


I heard there was a TV program in 2012 about SF writer Prophets. Where can I find out more about this program?

This program was aired on the Discovery Channel in 2012. It was called the Prophets of Science Fiction and featured several prominent SF writers of the 20th century. Robert was among them. Our own Robert James and Bill Patterson were featured historians. Heinlein’s show was aired in February 2012. The presentation was very well done. It’s available from the Apple iTunes store and maybe available from others sites (remember things change as time passes). It shows up on cable every six months or so.


I keep hearing about Heinlein critics. Who were his critics?

Heinlein was always trying new things and pushing the envelope. He never was content with sitting still. He always had an agenda and was offering different ideas. Some of these ideas; group marriages, incest, open marriages, gene manipulation, homosexuality, politics, war, space travel, religion, etc. drew the ire of fundamentalists. Heinlein never shied away from things that needed to be considered in the modern world.

This is a wide topic and cannot be discussed in detail here. I suggest you go to this website; [http://www.enter.net/~torve/critics/lounge.htm ] and begin you own search. There are also books available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and others. Robert A. Heinlein America as Science Fiction by Bruce Franklin and Twayne’s Unites States Authors Series Robert Heinlein by Leon Stover are 2 good books.

A website by his biographer Bill Patterson is also quite useful; [http://www.whpattersonjr.com/default.aspx] Wikipedia also identifies several critics at the end of its Heinlein record.


What was the Manana Literary Society?

The Mañana Literary Society was an informal Saturday-night get-together of Los Angeles science fiction writers and others before World War II . The membership included authors such as Anthony Boucher, Arthur K. Barnes, Edmond Hamilton, L. Ron Hubbard, Henry Kuttner, C.L. Moore, L. Sprague de Camp, Cleve Cartmill, Leigh Brackett, and Jack Williamson. Robert hosted these meetings at his house on Lookout Mountain.

After Robert left to join the war effort the meetings were hosted by Virginia Perdue [Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadow_of_a_Woman] as indicated in the Eller biography of Ray Bradbury, who used attend the meetings occasionally. There was some talk of reviving the Manana Literary Society after World War II, but nothing ever came of it.


I’ve often heard the term Pulp magazines. What does this mean? And what are Slicks?

Pulp magazines were the mass-market entertainment for the reading public before television, and even before radio. Their mass popularity started in 1915 when the major pulp chain publishers started up.

Printed on a low grade of unbleached, rough (unglazed) pulp paper, something like a heavy newsprint, the pulps sold for 10 or 20 cents in the 1920’s through their heyday in the 1930s. The pulp magazines were the home of a number of fiction genres, including, rather late (1926) science fiction.

When Robert began writing SF the genre was somewhat unappreciated. Publishers didn’t consider SF stories good enough for books. So the lowly SF stories were published in cheap magazines called Pulps.

At around the same time, the more prestigious general fiction magazines (and others) were printed on a better quality of bleached and glazed paper, for which reason they were generically calls “the Slicks.” Pulp writers were regarded as no-class, and there was very little crossover from the pulps to the slicks, the upscale magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s — the two magazines in which Robert broke the barrier in 1947.


I heard there is a listing of Heinlein’s book dedications somewhere. Where can I get it?

There is a listing identifying the dedications in Heinlein Journal No. 10 January 2002 (with followup corrections in issue No. 11 July 2002). This is very interesting and I highly suggest you get this Journal. [Link: https://www.heinleinsociety.org/heinlein-journal]. The people he dedicated his books to were very important to him, perhaps his most dear friends and certainly those he trusted. Be sure to send Bill an email letting him know which Journal(s) you want by contacting him directly from the Heinlein Journal Site at the time you pay. Otherwise he’ll assume you want the next Journal to be released.


Who is Mary Collin?

Mary Briggs was a young, attractive woman that Robert met on the train after he graduated Annapolis. Neither was married, but Mary was engaged to another Annapolis graduate and Robert was going to the Lexington. They became sexually involved and Robert went to her apartment in East St. Louis. They both had commitments and so parted on their own ways. In 1955 Mary, now Collin, contacted Robert and began a long distance loving friendship that lasted until her death in 1984. The story is detailed in the Mary Collin letters found in the Heinlein archives [Link: http://www.heinleinarchives.net/]. Robert credits Mary as the first adult aware woman he experienced and told her she influenced his views toward women more than many others. There will be a small bio about Mary in an upcoming Heinlein Journal. Heinlein’s letters to Mary Collin are published in the three correspondence volumes of the Virginia Edition [Link: http://www.virginiaedition.com/titles.aspx]


Did Heinlein leave an endowment to the Library in Butler, Missouri?

Robert was born in Butler, Missouri. It was his wish to expand the library and after his death Ginny did so with a cash donation, a sustaining gift of the copyrights of some stories, and the deed to the Bonny Doon house, which was then sold.

The renovation of the library and addition of a new wing was completed in 1991. Go to the library website for more information and note who donated the Virginia Edition to the library. [Link: http://www.butlerpubliclibrary.org/].


Where can I find Atlantis, The last Adventure and Weekend Watch?

Part of the fun of becoming one of Heinlein’s Children is in searching out the things you want to know about him. These three Stories plus a few other hard to find stories are in The Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Souvenir Book. This book was given to the attendees of the 2007 Centennial Celebration. There were still a few books available at this site; [Link: http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/] in January 2013. These items can also all be found in the nonfiction volumes of the Virginia Edition [Link: http://www.virginiaedition.com/titles.aspx]


I really like Lazarus Long. Where can I find his sayings?

You’re in luck. There’s a book that contains many his sayings; The Notebooks of Lazarus Long. Check with any of the book sellers. It’s available as an eBook too. The Notebooks is a calligraphed version of the two intermission chapters on either side of the “Tale of the Adopted Daughter” in Time Enough for Love. Robert’s sayings can be found throughout almost all of his books. There are hundreds of them buried in the text. You can also search the web and you’ll find several sites that specialize in his sayings. Many of his sayings are featured on the Heinlein Society Facebook page [Link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Heinlein-Society/140041782704862?ref=hl].


Without spending much money where is a good place to start learning about Robert Heinlein?

The Internet. There’s lots of stuff about Heinlein on the web. Do a Google search on Heinlein. Some is a little odd but there’s lots of good material. The Wikipedia article on Heinlein has a good many minor factual errors and seems mysteriously resistant to correcting even the most obvious mistakes, but it also is a good place to start and has several links to other sites.

Of course now the most complete source for information is the two-volume biography by William H. Patterson, Jr., Robert A. Heinlein in Dialogue With His Century, of which volume 1, going to 1948, has been out since 2010. As of this writing, the (hopefully final) revision of volume 2, going to Heinlein’s death in 1988, and beyond, is in the process of publication. [Link: http://www.whpattersonjr.com/]


Was L. Ron Hubbard a member of the Manana Society?

Yes and no, depending on what you mean. Since the MLS was never anything like a formal organization, membership merely meant that he showed up one or more Saturdays, which seems to be the case. In his memoir, Wonder’s Child, Jack Williamson calls Hubbard a “visiting notable” of the Manana Literary Society, and he is also mentioned in Annette McComas’s The Eureka Years .


Were Heinlein and Hubbard lifelong friends?

It is not known definite when Heinlein and Hubbard met, though it was probably in New York in 1940, as Heinlein mentions him being present at a dinner party in John Arwine’s apartment where they stayed for part of the trip. Other sources, though, place Hubbard in Alaska at that time. Nevertheless, Hubbard had been on Heinlein’s “radar” for months earlier, particularly because of “Final Blackout,” and communication happened with John Campbell as a go-between.

Heinlein invited Hubbard, who was then at Princeton, to participate in the Kamikaze think tank in 1944, and most of their documented history together begins at this point.

They had a brief falling out in 1946 and 1947, at a time when many people who knew him said Hubbard was in a bad way psychologically because of the War and its aftermath, but were back on good terms in February 1948.

Heinlein and Hubbard never saw each other physically after 1946, but remained on cordial terms and exchanged letters periodically through the 1950’s, tapering off as Hubbard became absorbed in the Dianetics/Scientology movement. During this time, Hubbard periodically remarked in public on his fondness for and intellectual influence of Heinlein. Late in life Hubbard congratulated Heinlein on his long production, just as he was getting back into fiction writing. They exchanged cordial correspondence on an irregular basis thereafter until Hubbard’s death in January 1986.  To the end of his life he thought of Hubbard as a war hero.


Did Heinlein really have a mythical bet with L. Ron Hubbard about founding a religion?

No. This story seems to have been mangled together out of some stray facts that were only tangentially related.

L. Ron Hubbard remarked several times that he derived some inspiration for the legal formation of the religion of Scientology from conversations they had had. Those conversations probably took place in 1944 and 1945 and did not directly concern the formation of a religion; they were probably limited to a general discussion of the legal power wielded in the U.S. by churches.

It is unclear whether the “bet” story was told by Hubbard himself (an exaggeration of fact probably for story effect) or was (mis)interpreted by someone overhearing Hubbard. But in any case the “bet” never took place.


There’s no doubt Heinlein had a good vision of the future. He is referred to as a prophet. What about Heinlein the mystic?

These two questions are not related. Heinlein was a “prophet” in the informal sense he defined in one of his lectures, of being able to look out a window and see that a train is heading toward your own train. There is nothing religious about this. (This aspect of Heinlein’s work is covered in Ridley Scott’s Prophets of Science Fiction television documentary program (mentioned above and available for purchase at the Apple Store), which has one of its six episodes dealing with Heinlein.

Although Heinlein was very reluctant to say anything publicly about his own religious beliefs, and in fact allowed people to think he belonged to a conventional protestant sect (Methodism), he had some quite unconventional beliefs about matters esoteric — that may or may not be religious in nature but certainly are “mystical” in a very general sense.

For example, he appears to have had a strong conviction of personal immortality and a “next life,” based on childhood mystical experiences, though it found expression in the idealist philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Over-Soul rather than in strictly religious theories.

From time to time in his stories there are figures based in one form or another on the major Neo-Platonist mystical/esoteric philosophy called “hermeticism.” These figures appear to have been drawn from a number of sources, including C.C. Hinton, P.D. Ouspensky, and James Branch Cabell and reflect the fact that at the time of Heinlein’s earliest education the dominant “philosophy” being taught was the neo-Kantian revival of German idealism. This aspect of Heinlein’s occult thought is explored in Bill Patterson’s first essay for The Heinlein Journal in 1997 (issue No.1, July 7, 1997), “The Hermetic Heinlein.” [Link: https://www.heinleinsociety.org/heinlein-journal]

Heinlein himself, in discussing one of his more thoroughly hermetic works (“The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”) with a fan, said “Although a “mystic” by nature, I conceive my immediate task to be with much more mundane matters. I have certain small bricks to lay in a great wall which I did not design and will not now see completed.”

That task was apparently to bolster rationalism and critical thinking, under the theory (which you find discussed in “Elsewhen”) that rationalism precludes Victorian materialism, that there is more to life than the merely material. That is Heinlein’s great mystical teaching.


There has been much talk about Heinlein being a Libertarian. Was he?

Per 11/01/67 letter RAH to Judith Merril (Marked Never Sent in handwriting) “As for libertarian, I’ve been one all my life, a radical one. You might use the term “philosophical anarchist” or “autarchist” [mid-50’s usage: individualist anarchist] about me, but “libertarian” is easier to define and fits well enough. But I’m glad you didn’t use the term “liberal” which used to mean much the same thing and with which I once tagged myself. But today “liberal ‘ means to me a person who wants to pass laws and use coercion to force other people to live in his notion of utopia — the world ‘liberal’ no longer seems to have any connection with its root “free” — it always means ‘Pass another law!” Make the bastard do it our way.” Whereas my solution to almost everything is ‘Let’s repeal that law” or, possibly, “Let’s not do anything — let’s wait.”

Shortly after this letter was written, the movement that came to be libertarianism as we know it now coalesced out of the student groups that were passing white papers among themselves, with the Libertarian Party formed in 1975 (and very quickly ceased to have anything to do with philosophical libertarianism).


Did Heinlein identify with any of his characters? Is Jubal Harshaw a mouthpiece for Heinlein personally?

In a letter to a fan Heinlein said:

I am all of my characters and none of them. As to that bad-tempered old softie, Jubal, the differences exceed the similarities. He is very, very old; I am a mere lad of sixty-one –and I plotted this story when I was fortyish and found time to write it when I was about fifty. He is too stinking proud, because of age and appearance, to enjoy sex; I am not troubled that way. He is a physician and a lawyer; I am neither. He is long divorced; I am happily married these many, many years. He has three lovely secretaries; I have none. He lives by choice in Pennsylvania; I would find that a fate-worse-than-death, having tried it. He has people around him while he works; I demand complete solitude.

Parallels–we each have a mountain estate surrounded by a high steel fence with an electrified gate and various other defenses; we each have a heated swimming pool; we share a liking for cats and for sculpture, especially Rodin. But I built this place years after I wrote that book (because I had to move down from the high mountains for Mrs. Heinlein’s health). I did make Jubal a writer of fiction (as I am). But that was utterly unnecessary to the plot; I did that simply because it amused me to take some swipes at the soi-disant “literary life.” Nor do I follow Jubal’s practice of using unsolicited mail as erosion fill; I answer it. (Maybe next year–the erosion problem here is bad during the winter–and the problem of unsolicited call is getting worse, too.)

Grumpily yours, /s/


What is the World as Myth?

The World-as-Myth stories include most of Heinlein’s later novels, from The Number of the Beast through To Sail Beyond the Sunset. A number of continuing characters, most notably Lazarus Long and his extended family, appear in all of them.

The “World as Myth” concept revolves around the idea that there are a nearly infinite number of universes, many shaped by “fabulists” or writers in other universes. In the course of the stories, characters visit universes “created” by L. Frank Baum (Oz), E.E. “Doc” Smith, and Lewis Carroll.

The complete list of stories is:

• Time Enough for Love

• The Number of the Beast

• The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

• To Sail Beyond the Sunset

Although the World-as-Myth works appeared at the end of Heinlein’s career, the ideas and elements behind them can be traced as far back as his Naval Academy days.


Are there other FAQ sites?

Yes three times and this is a very good one [Link: http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/rah/rahfaq.html]


Did Heinlein change his views on homosexuality over the years? (added 6-24-2013)

The following is Bill Patterson’s response to a Heinlein fan on Joe Major’s Alexiad. Bill is a long time Heinlein scholar, author of Heinlein’s biography and editor of the Heinlein Journal.

Hmmm. So far as I know Heinlein never changed his “view of homosexuality”; you may be generalizing from incomplete data. In his fiction, various characters at various times, in various contexts made remarks that touched on the subject, but in every single case, the remark was a reflection of the character/time/situation; trying to read it back to Heinlein’s opinion doesn’t really work.
From the relatively few remarks I’ve run across in the voluminous correspondence, I believe Heinlein’s position could be stated as he [may have] tried it (per a somewhat ambiguous remark in one of the forewords in Expanded Universe) but found it not for him but had no negative feelings about it one way or another and felt neutral to those who found it to their liking. That is, he regarded it as a matter of one’s taste, and de gustibus nil est disputandum. His later recollections of his time in Greenwich Village in 1930 suggest he had that opinion (substantially) as a twenty-something, and in another context he indicates his “awakening” to this position came during the time he was in high school.

As a popular writer, when the subject came up it was in the context of “what the market will bear” — not pandering, but, well, think of it as like the kind and amount of sexual content he could get into Astounding versus, say, his rewrite of an Astounding story for Revolt in 2100 in 1953. He always taught by degrees when he judged only degrees were possible.
I’m not entirely sure what time frame you are looking at, but I can give you a direct quote from a letter written in 1962, i.e., just after Stranger was published:
You mentioned “homosexuality.” I’m a bit ashamed of the gentle sideswipe I gave the subject — my only purpose was to take it out of the argument, as it opens such a large package, so charged with emotion in this culture, that I wanted to eliminate it, not have it distract from the main argument.
But, speaking to you privately, I have no moral objections to homosexuality or homosexuals, none at all, and I am strongly of the opinion that the harm connected with it is culturally imposed and not innate. Oh, I would not hire a homo for the State Department nor for any sensitive job — but simply because the mores of our society are such that as a homo is easily blackmailed and also may well feel more loyalty to his in-group than to the society, because he (she) is of a persecuted minority.
But moral repugnance? So far as I can see, the behavior of homos is harmless and none of my business. I habitually smoke cigarettes — a habit at least twice as “dirty” and ten times as harmful — or perhaps infinitely more harmful, since cigarettes are probably harmful and homo play probably is not.
The only thing shocking to me about homosexuality is the shocking way in which we persecute these eccentrics.
I suppose that should be expanded to say that the most shocking thing about the American culture is the fashion in which it tends to persecute all eccentrics.

And a bit later that same year, to a different correspondent and in reference to a different subject:

To be sure, homo activity, male or female, does not make babies . . . but we don’t seem to be short on babies these days (about 230,000 appreciation per day the last time I checked) and, anyhow, thousands of babies are produced by women who are ca. 90% Lez in their activities and only occasionally prone to diddle. (Or supine, as the case may be. Or as may be.) And a hell of a lot of men who are practicing homos are fathers — I can think of at least two among my own friends; one has five children, the other has two. Both are unusually good fathers, too.
* * *
The relatively few times in my life that I have felt homo twinges towards a man that man has been, physically, not effeminate but somewhat female-ish in certain characteristics — not hairy, clean with an impression of scrubbed cleanliness as well as the fact, mouth and features rather sensuous — i.e., an ersatz woman but not swish. I guess when you come right down to it I’m “queer” about women; big hairy males don’t send me. But I haven’t the slightest emotional or intellectual prejudice against homo play . . . and if I do find myself sexually attracted to a man, and he to me, I won’t try to resist the impulse; I’ll simply try not to get caught.
And eleven years later, to still another correspondent — after both I Will Fear No Evil and Time Enough for Love had been published:

I think I find Gay Lib distasteful for much the same reasons you find Fem Lib not to your taste: Each is raucous. Not that I am disdainful of either one; they are doing valiant fighting for personal freedom.
But you say: ‘– most of the Women’s Lib women strike me as pretty unfeminine creatures–” to which I will add that most of Gay Lib bother me because they are so blatantly swish — i.e., my distaste for them is aesthetic, not moral. A completely homo male shows no outer differences from a ‘straight’ male unless the homo intentionally advertises his inner preference, and the same is true of the completely butch female homo. In both cases there is no way to spot them . . .[sic] unless they choose to be spotted. I learned this half a century ago [which would place it while he was in high school in Kansas City] and countless times since then. The notion that there are certain stigmata by which a ‘straight’ can spot one is poppycock, a silly but widely believed myth. (I recall a case of a very high Federal official a generation back — queer as a 3 dollar bill but as arrogantly masculine in manners and appearance as a cock turkey with his tail spread — but his entourage always included at all times Secret Service men whose prime job was to keep him out of trouble — or, at least, his troubles out of the news.) [Roy Cohn?]
But, while the 100% butch or the 100% swish often advertises, the bisexuals (as they are often called today) don’t need to advertise and I’ve never run across one who did — and I know and have known many of them only after years of trust and friendship. Once such a person is utterly certain of my discretion and of my freedom from prejudice, he or she (or ‘they,’ as it is oftener than not a happily married couple), he, she, or they might level with me about it — not necessarily nor even usually a pass, just open and honest discussion among trusted friends.
Or might never tell me, in which case I never would know save through unlikely accident. But over the past fifty years I have run across enough of them to hazard a rough guess that over 10% of the married couples in this country are actively ambisexual at least occasionally — when the opportunity turns up, the circumstances are safe, the attraction is mutual all around, and each trusts all the others. Nor are the stated necessary conditions uncommon as two married couples offer each other perfect chaperonage against the world behind locked doors, a condition that obtains any of the millions of times that one couple entertains another, even just for dinner and bridge or such. If the mutual interest and trust already exist, the situation can progress in as little as five minutes from a guarded and impersonal hint (one that could be ignored but this time is not) to open talk and then a relaxed and gentle but all-out orgy. Or it might take five weeks instead of five minutes and several progressive stages. But if both couples have ‘been there before’ although not with this couple, five minutes is more likely than five weeks . . . the possible combos and the possible opening gambits are almost endless and have no place in this letter. Let it go that I think that ‘10%’ figure is low; I would bet even money on 25% — although I don’t know how such a bet could be settled — and would not be surprised at a higher figure. All through this century I have watched this culture move steadily from strict Victorianism into something much more open, and the end is not yet in sight.

So — change of views? I can’t see it.


Malcom Jameson question to Bill Patterson. (added 2-7-2014)

I downloaded Joe Sanders’ THE HERITAGE OF HEINLEIN several days ago from Amazon. In his preface, Mr Sanders writes—

“According to Julius Schwartz, Heinlein coldly snubbed navy officer and fellow sf writer Malcolm Jameson at a party because Jameson was not an Annapolis graduate…”

Clareson, Thomas D.; Sanders, Joe; Palumbo, Donald E.; Sullivan III, C.W. (2014-01-13). The Heritage of Heinlein: A Critical Reading of the Fiction: 42 (Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy) (Kindle Locations 320-321). McFarland. Kindle Edition.

Does this ring true to you?

 WRT Jameson, I’ve heard that.  So far as I know there is no documentary evidence one way or another, but I must say given how warmly and respectfully Heinlein spoke of Jameson later it seems very unlikely.  It is of course possible that something happened which onlookers, not understanding, simply misinterpreted for their own ends — for example, possibly Heinlein was momentarily preoccupied with something else while entering the site and did slight Jameson unintentionally.  If so they certainly must have “made it up,” as he has nothing but praise for Jameson starting as immediately thereafter as there is correspondence to draw on.

On the other hand, perhaps there is nothing at all on which this might be based, and it’s one of the many vaporous imaginings that circulates in the fan community, passed from hand to hand as fact.

At any rate, this gives me some idea of why no one might have taken Clareson’s “biography” of Heinlein for the decades it was in production, very seriously.

I knew about several of these vaporous factoids before starting the process, of course, but ran into many more while doing research.  It appears, for example, that it has circulated among sf writers for decades that Ginny (aet. 53) must have had a miscarriage in the spring of 1969, based on nothing more than that Heinlein became angry when Harry Harrison flippantly asked Ginny if she had a dead baby in her oversized purse.  I think there might have been ample other reasons for Heinlein to be irritated, particularly since Harrison seems to have been acting like a huge dick for that entire festival and made Heinlein a particular target of his buffoonery.


4 Responses

  1. dplank says:

    Did Heinlein ever visit the Ile of Levant, described in Glory Road?

  2. jdtanstaafl says:

    I didn’t notice a list of Heinlein’s pseudonyms for his writing. I knew of Anson MacDonald (“Sixth Column”) , because I found a copy in a library, but what were other names he wrote under? My Dad said he had a list once, but lost it.

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