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1945 Letter to FJA 
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Post 1945 Letter to FJA
The following undated single page of a letter from RAH to FJA consoling him on death of his brother appeared on Ebay today. [Alden Ackerman is shown in Company D of the 42nd Tank Battalion, 11th Armored Division, fighting in Belgium in January 1945.]
“As for persons who are guilty not merely by sins of omission but who actively threw their weight against us, like that traitorous little bastard Joquel, I have no words to describe them. It is a bitter thing that he should be alive while your brother is dead. It would be well for him to stay out of my sight when this is over. As for any of them, unless they have fought this war in every way they could to the best of their ability, I will not meet them socially when this is over. I will not shake hands, speak, sit down, nor eat with them.
I am not alone in this opinion. You will find that my opinion is shared by Carnell and by Franklyn Brady. You will find it shared by many others of the grown-ups who know that a war is going on and know that it is not a game nor a joke nor a piece of fiction but a tragic business in which men like your brother Alden meet their deaths, too young and too horribly.
Forry, I want you to dedicate yourself to Alden’s memory. To be faithful to him we now have two jobs to do. The first is to win this war as quickly as possible. You can do that by volunteering for something more useful than you are now doing. General Lear has said that he needs thousands of limited-duty clerks and such behind the lines in Europe to release able-bodied men for action. Or, perhaps, a re-examination will find you no longer limited in duty. In either case a WAC can edit your camp paper. The second job is, now and after the war, to see to it that it shall not happen again. There are many ways to do that and each must select his own -- political activity of every sort, writing intended to stir people up, the willingness to combat race hatred, discrimination, limitations of civil liberty, generalized hates of every sort, whenever and wherever they show up. But I am damn well sure that fan activity is not the way to serve Alden’s memory. Fandom has had a chance to prove itself and it has failed. I find the mags crowded with escapism and other nonsense; I find that fans now call themselves “Slans” (God save us!) on many occasions. I find many other evidences of group paranoia and of psychotic infantilism -- and unwillingness to face up to adult problems and to cope with them. Forry, you may write the most inspiring things for a better world possible; if you direct them to this group, they will be worthless in carrying on with Alden’s unfinished work, for they will fall on sterile ground. I am not generalizing; there are few adults among them and there was a fair percentage before the war. I do not indict any who are carrying their load. But there are many (and you know that I am right) who are doing nothing and did nothing to save your brother’s life. A bunch of neurotic, selfish, childish, insensitive and unimaginative, vicious bunch of jerks! It is time you quit associating with them and tackled the problems of the real world.
We are very fond of you, Forry. You are a fine and gentle soul. This is a very difficult letter to write; if I did not think you were worth it, I would not make this effort. This letter is for your eyes only; the ideas in it you are free to use but the letter is for you only.
I am very sorry your brother was killed; You may be sure that Leslyn and I will be faithful to his memory with all our strength.
Love,
Bob


Thu May 27, 2010 12:53 pm
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
Interesting, and relatively abrupt, change of view on fandom there. He even hints at it there with his "before the war" point. Read or listen to the Denvention GoH speech to see what I'm talking about.

Who is "Joquel"?

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Thu May 27, 2010 2:29 pm
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Thu May 27, 2010 5:34 pm
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Swinging wildly and in the dark, I can only note that in the early days of the war (from the very late 1930s to Pearl Harbor and even beyond) there was a minority in the US that thought Hitler was a dandy fellow doing good things to clean up rotten old decadent Europe. Overt and latent anti-semitism played a part, but mostly it was admiration for a real standup guy doing the hard job of showing the slovenly old world how to be modern... etc., ad nauseum, omelet, eggs.

Some surprising names were in this list, perhaps first among them Charles Lindbergh. I don't believe he ever did fully recant his statements.

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Thu May 27, 2010 8:18 pm
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Fri May 28, 2010 6:02 am
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Here is the first page of that same letter, dated January 28, 1945:
01/28/45 RAH letter to Forrest J. Ackerman (from 311 S. Hicks Street, Phila 1 PA) Dear Forry,
Our hearts are sore at your loss and there is nothing we can say to relieve your personal anguish. Your brother died a noble and heroic death. It is my belief that he did in fact die to make a better world; it is for
us who live on to see to it that a better world is accomplished. I am heartened that you regard it as your duty to
follow through on his unfinished work.
I will not be able to supply an article for the fan publication you propose to publish in his memory. I dislike to have to tell you that I will not be writing for you, under the circumstances, and I feel that you are entitled to a full explanation. Forry, every day I am writing things which are, literally, dedicated to Alden, and to the many, many others who have died and are dying. My daily writings are dedicated to getting the war won quicker with the fewest number of deaths of our own. My writings are laboratory instructions,
engineering reports, letters to manufacturers, and other things having to do with the tedious work of scientific research for war. It takes up all of my energy and all of my imagination[,] and I have none left over for other
matters. If I had any energy left over, I would know that I was not doing all that I could do and I would then, in truth, be disloyal to your brother’s memory.
(I have, not a belief, not a conviction, but knowledge of personal survival. You said on your post card that you wanted to discuss the matter with us someday. We will be honored to do so.)
Forry, you have sought my advice on matters which worried you in the past. You have not sought my advice in this matter, but I am going to presume on our old friendship to offer you some. I know that you are solemn in your intention to see to it that Alden’s sacrifice does not become meaningless. I am unable to believe that fan activity and fan publications can have anything to do with such an intent. I have read the fan publications you have sent me and, with rare exceptions, I find myself utterly disgusted with the way the active fans have met the trial of this war. By the fan mags I learn that many of these persons, who are so readily self-congratulatory on their superiority of ordinary people -- so many, many of these “fans” have done nothing whatsoever to help out. Many of them are neither in the army nor in war work. Many have found this a golden opportunity to make money during a war boom -- by writing, by commercial photography, through the movies, or by other worthless activities -- worthless when compared with what your brother Alden was doing. These bastards let your brother die, Forry, and did not lift a hand to help him. I mean that literally. The war in Europe would have been over if all the slackers in this country had been trying to help out -- would have been over before the date on which your brother died. The slackers are collectively and individually personally responsible
for the death of Alden. And a large percent of fans are among those slackers. Alden’s blood is on their hands.


Fri May 28, 2010 7:09 am
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That is an amazing letter.

My guess would be Joquel went pacifist.

Also, I think the term slacker is a WWI term, more than it is a WWII term. Not sure.

Robert


Fri May 28, 2010 10:24 am
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We are missing the obvious: they were admired because the Depression seemed to have vanished from those countries. It had not, here in the US.


Fri May 28, 2010 10:37 am
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The fascists, like the communists, at least early on had a patina of scientific rigor and efficiency they were trying to sell as part of the package. Just the very idea of objective standards applied to political and social problems appealed to people early on --as indeed, it still does; there are still splinter parties of that type around, and whenever a main party politician appeals to "run government like a business" they are at least stroking that instinct even if gas chambers and castor oil are no part of their program.

And of course all that in the context of a clearly failed world economic system. Every intelligent person was looking for a "new way" just then. I'll give anyone a pass for being a communist before the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. And maybe even for being a fascist prior to Krystallnacht (I'd have to think about that one harder and look at some dates --but off the top of my head that feels about right for a "well meaning dupe who didn't have the benefit of historical hindsight" demarcation point). At least from a distance and thus with limited ability to see the ugly developing details up close.

It took awhile to figure out #1 how much snake oil was involved in making the claims in the first place and #2 how such "objective" standards could be used to justify the most frightful things on the largest scales without a quiver to the conscience.

This has largely come down to us as the rather weak beer phrase "making the trains run on time", but of course the claims and attempted scope were far broader than that.

One can see the appeal if you haven't had the benefit of history as to the mirage. It gives the superficial appearance of a third way between benevolent (if you're lucky) personal whim despotism and chaotic democracy by holding out a third standard pretending to be objective to apply to.

Except of course in practice it turns out that it can be just as corruptible as the kind of faux democracy that the "Democratic/People's Republics" used to engage in. And to offset the weak beer "make the trains run on time", we have Churchill's classic other side of the coin formulation uttered in 1940 --"the lights of perverted science".

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Last edited by georule on Fri May 28, 2010 2:06 pm, edited 5 times in total.



Fri May 28, 2010 12:58 pm
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And of course when things get bad enough, "the man on horseback" instinct kicks in --how much better if you can try to sell yourself on the idea that it isn't *entirely* The Dictator you're selling your country out to for temporary relief.

Even during the American Civil War there were often reocurring rumours of a military coup against Lincoln brewing when things looked particularly bad. First it was going to be Fremont, and then it was going to be McClellan. I may have missed a couple in between.

There is no convincing evidence that either man seriously considered active participation in such a movement. . . but the evidence is less convincing that neither was willing to be drafted if "somehow" the government fell on its own without them having to engage in active treason before hand. And fairly convincing evidence that both were quite sure they could do a better job than Mr. Lincoln should that come to pass. :)

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don't know how i feel about this. RAH seems a bit high-horsed here, especially considering that he could have been doing another trade other than writing fiction.

here's a link to photos of the letter, in case someone missed it

http://io9.com/5550437/heinlein-slammed ... war-effort


Fri May 28, 2010 4:52 pm
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After reading the comments on the i09 webpage, I doubt RAH would have any more use for the fans of today than he did those of 1944.


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Sat May 29, 2010 11:23 am
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In email I said something about the subject of fandom and this letter I thought worth copying here:

But the hardcore "fans" -- the ones with too much time on their hands, anyway -- are going to be quick to take offense no matter how reasonable it was. Heinlein never understood fiawol, and that's that. To a fiawol mentality, it doesn't matter that fanac may be trivial in the cosmic scheme of things: it's necessary, and that's that. Heinlein's remakrs rise out of a fijagdh mentality.


Mon May 31, 2010 2:38 pm
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There may be a matter of degree here. Heinlein in 1941 is actually arguing that SF fen *are* superior to the general run of humanity because they are more open-minded about the possible (like, say, going to the moon) and at least somewhat trained to accept differences in lifestyle based on different situations.

But Slans are well beyond that kind of "superior".

If the dates worked better (they don't), one could wonder if the attempt of Kettle Belly's group in Gulf and its ultimate failure (as shown in Friday) could be in part a comment on this area. But more likely its just typical Heinlein "no final answers" commentary.

Altho I suppose that the Gulf "supermen" could in fact be a comment on Slans, in the sense of trying to show a more realistic development of the human race to the "next level", if not specifically an answer to the pretensions of fans (which waiting to Friday to deliver that message would take a great deal of patience!)

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Tue Jun 01, 2010 4:36 am
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I'm very curious, in his letter to FJA, Heinlein assures him that he has personal knowledge of survival beyond the grave. Does anyone on this forum know what he based this statement on? Had Heinlein, experienced some near death experience? I know that he was already afflicted with lung disease, but most of his major health events lay in the future.


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IIRC, there were two lives, intimately remembered in full detail -- the details became less accessible the older he got.


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I don't believe there are any fen present, Tina being the only exception and a special one at that. So yes, it is "present company excepted" because we generally ain't them.

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What's a fen?


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I sit corrected. Filk away, fein feathered fen.

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Forry always was a 14-year old inside. I've read quite a few of his letters; the tone and language remained the same throughout his life.

And when I was 13 and 14, Famous Monsters of Filmland was a major addiction, because I had found a boon companion.

A few years later, it was unbelievable dull.

Apparently, I adolesced....

But the enthusiasm of the man remained infectious in his eighties when he helped me wholeheartedly in my research into Leslyn.


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I've known a number of "adults" who managed to keep that 14-year old enthusiasm for *something* alive well into adulthood.

Many of them were geeks.

_All_ of them were happy.


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Some famous literati was asked, at around age 70, if he had had a happy childhood. "I am still having a happy childhood," he replied.

Enthusiasm need not be childish nor something muted or set aside with "adulthood." It need not even be justified to any second party. However, RJ has a valid point that some enthusiasms appeal only to a less-mature mind. While a continuing fascination with, say, Legos into adulthood would strike most of us as childish, it's not ours to judge. However, most adults find the limitations of the Legoverse pretty stultifying and need no justification of a wish to move on.

One of my more interesting (to analyze) enthusiasms was my choice of humor magazine. I loved MAD Magazine from the time I was able to read (or a bit before) well into my teens. Then it seemed tired and childish and I moved on to National Lampoon. It took me only a few years to realize that NatLamp's "sophistication" was an incredibly gauche, immature sophomorism appealing only to that sliver of, well, college sophomores in the classic sense. I tired of it and a few years later rediscovered MAD, which for its superficial teener gloss had vast reserves of truly witty and intelligent humor lurking beneath. I read it for another two decades (until, to my mortification, I realized I had to find my reading glasses to read my new issue).

And then *sigh* it devolved into a crass, shallow copy of its worst aspects and became a low-rent, imitation NatLamp. In a correspondence with John Ficarra, I outlined the problem as not moving forward with a more sophisticated generation of readers, not crossing the line into stronger vulgarity (both of which were true and arguably necessary) but changing from a very inclusive, in-group sense of humor to the kind of nasty, exclusive, laughing-at-you "humor" that characterized NatLamp and eventually killed it. I've picked up the occasional issue since and it's only gotten worse.

And funny, it's not me that's changed; MAD was surprisingly consistent from inception through maybe the early Oughts and like a fine single-malt, either appealed or did not. I don't know who it appeals to now but it's no one I know of who is/was a longtime reader.

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


Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:22 am
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You didn't mention Spy magazine. I enjoyed that for its full, all-to-brief run.


Thu Jul 08, 2010 3:02 pm
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I still have a child living within me, who loves comics and building models and watching old movie serials and so forth....

But unlike Forry, I like Literachoor too.....

I contain multitudes....


Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:03 am
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Fri Jul 09, 2010 5:41 am
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
The discussion here included a digression about the "Boat Cloak" recommended by Heinlein in an interview. Someone requested a picture. I googled the topic and found a picture among other Marine Corps Dress Uniforms. I have a copy saved if you have any use for it, can send as an e-mail attachment, if you want it.


Sun Apr 24, 2011 5:34 pm
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It is included in the following thread:



Sun Apr 24, 2011 6:12 pm
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
By the way, Leslyn wrote a letter to Forry at this same time, in which she discusses her and RAH's belief in an existence after death, and the persistence of connection with the living. I've got it in the box in the garage. This would have been 44, iirc, and shows how 'together' Leslyn still was.


Tue May 03, 2011 9:10 am
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Sat May 28, 2011 1:35 pm
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FIAWOL: Fandom Is A Way Of Life
FANAC: Fan(dom) Activity
FIJAGDH: Fandom Is Just A G--D--- Hobby


Sat May 28, 2011 7:53 pm
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Sun May 29, 2011 4:22 pm
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Post Re: 1945 Letter to FJA
A tour of the Ackermansion.

http://www.newsfromme.com/2015/08/04/to ... link-2030/

Before Huell Howser became a California icon, he worked at he NBC affiliate in Nashville TN (from which also sprang Pat Sajak and John Tesh). I used to see him around town doing more or less the same thing he did in California. And he was exactly the same off-camera -- super nice, and genuinely interested in whoever he was talking to.

(and yes, this could have been a new thread -- but this old one seemed worth reviving).


Tue Aug 04, 2015 7:17 am
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Ah yes. I had a tour in 1984, during which I spied a typewriter containing a letter in progress to one Robert A. Heinlein. I quickly memorized the address for my subsequent fan letter.


Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:30 am
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