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12/16/2010 Critics Review of Patterson's Heinlein Biography 
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Post 12/16/2010 Critics Review of Patterson's Heinlein Biography
This online discussion is scheduled for the above date at 9:00 PM EST

Critics Review of "Learning Curve"
Subtitled: How Some Critics Understood/Misunderstood Patterson's Heinlein Biography
(Note: Some of the URLs are in quotes, because the Forum only allows 5 direct links. Just cut and paste without the quotes.)

Critics never cease to amaze me. The majority of reviews that I came across were for the most part complimentary and showed how their insight into Heinlein the man/writer was either totally changed, or at the least, enhanced. This discussion is intended to look at various critics writing about Bill Patterson's biography of Robert A. Heinlein. In the first section, I am going to describe a couple of favorable reviews and show how they perceive the biography and the man.

In the second section, I will describe some reviews which are sometimes favorable, but often show what I consider to be total misunderstandings of the biography and even worse, those which complain about style or format or other nit-picky things.

The misunderstandings should form the jump off to our discussion. I plan to simply state what I consider to be misunderstandings or misstatements and ask you, the reader, to try to find out where you think the critic is coming from, or in other words, where did he get that idea?

Of course, this means that you have to have a better than a cursory reading of the biography. If you haven't yet read it for the first time, I suggest that you get started and be on the lookout for answers. (Buy a copy if you don't have it yet!) It also means that you might have to read it again to look for answers. Have fun.

Section 1: Favorable Reviews (This is only a small sampling)
John Scalzi: Heinlein Strangely Human
"http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/08/heinlein-strangely-human"

His impression was changed from the Heinlein as Grandmaster, to that of a struggling writer with much in common with all writers. He states that it is the "jammed with detail" quality that makes Heinlein into a real person.

Michael Booker: An Amazing Accomplishment
"http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Heinlein-Dialogue-1907-1948-ebook/dp/B003OUXEFQ"

Aside from being generally favorable, Booker makes an important point.
"For fans of Heinlein's fiction, this book (and I trust, the subsequent volume) will help to answer the tired question that ever author dreads, "Where do you get your ideas?" Heinlein's life is, naturally, the chief source for his fictional characters and plot lines. Sometimes Patterson is explicit in drawing these connections. In other places, readers versed in Heinlein's work will catch these linkages on their own."

In other words, he uses Heinlein's own technique of letting the reader "fill in the blanks".

Also, he speaks to the "Dialogue With Century" aspect of the biography.
"The book must also be praised as a fascinating lesson in American history. Heinlein came from humble Missouri roots and lived through the bulk of the 20th century. His Navy career prior to WWII is fascinating in its own right, as is his involvement in California politics during the Depression."

Section 2:

Jo Walton: Patterson Heinlein biography: Not to be trusted on details
"http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/08/patterson-heinlein-biography-not-to-be-trusted-on-details"

The most amazing claim from Walton is that she "didn't find all that much new". After all, she had read most of the available material on the subject and seemed to assume that that material contained all of the important influences in his life. What do you think?

She complained about it being an "old-fashioned kind of biography". There will be more on this from her in the next review.

"Patterson's biography is riddled with tiny insignificant errors". Yes, there were some errors, but riddled? And why bother worrying about "tiny insignificant errors" when I assume that she has already shown above that tiny details didn't matter to her, only significant events?

However, IMO, she goes on to contradict herself by stating that "[getting the details right] helps the reader suspend their disbelief". Why in the world must a reader "suspend their disbelief" in reading a biography?

Jo Walton: "Out Far and onward yet!" Heinlein's future history stories of the thirties and forties
http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/08/qout-f ... nd-forties

"Patterson thinks this yearning [to go to the moon] came from Heinlein's desire to be a Naval pilot." Where does Patterson say this?

Walton's attitude towards the style of biography.

"It’s a terrible biography as a biography—biography is a genre, and this one is written the way mainstream writers who don’t read SF write SF. It would have been a perfectly reasonable biography a hundred years ago, as it reads as a huge pile of facts with no inferences and is very respectful to its subject. It isn’t how biography is written these days, when biographers ask the hard questions, even if they don’t have answers. Anyone who has read Julie Phillips’s biography of James Tiptree Jr. will be able to appreciate the difference. But it’s quite an interesting pile of information about that subtle and nuanced man Heinlein, and his complex and changing views."

"No inferences?" What book did she read?

To make the record complete, I bought and read the Tiptree/Sheldon biography. I failed to "appreciate the difference" Any of you know what Walton is talking about?

Okay on major events, but very little on Heinlein as a person or a writer, September 15, 2010 By Tevis Fen-Kortiay
http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Heinlein-D ... addTwoStar

“…he personally burned most of the documents which might have helped a future biographer, so even with the direct involvement of Heinlein's widow Virginia, the author apparently had so little to go on that this reads less like a biography and more like a laundry-list of meaningless events. We gain almost zero insight into who Heinlein was as a writer and a man.”

Was the burning of these documents really significant as to the “zero insight”?
Same refrain as Walton.

“Heinlein also had some interesting quirks, like his attraction to nudity: his early novel 'The Puppet Masters' involves mind-controlling aliens that adhere to a person's back, largely a contrivance for all women in the world to traipse around naked to prove they are not alien-controlled.”

Can you say a little biased. Examine the relevant passages in “The Puppet Masters” and draw your own conclusion.

“Heinlein tended to include a transvestite fantasy in many of his stories: typically his macho alter-ego is forced to dress as a woman to sneak someplace…,”

Typically? I can only think of one instance and it doesn’t seem to match his description. What do you think?

“A pretty lady in 'The Puppet Masters' knows definitively that a seemingly-normal man must be an evil outer-space alien because why else would he show no interest in trying to have sex with her?”

Again, my recollection doesn’t seem to fit his description. What do you think?

“Presumably because she[Virginia] was the driving force behind this biography, we are given a very misleading and one-sided version of Heinlein and Leslyn's divorce. This book lists only Virginia's side of the story….,”

How does he know that?
What did Patterson say about the documentary evidence on this subject from those people who knew the Heinleins?

“This biography recounts Heinlein's signature technique of getting people to like him by implying that he agrees with their beliefs even when he strongly disagrees (gaining advantage via deception while secretly rationalizing to himself that he was not *technically* lying), a morally dissociative behavior often indicative of dissociative spectrum disorders such as NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) or APD (Antisocial Personality Disorder).”

Wow, this guy is a great psychologist (not)! Examine the two instances in which Heinlein practiced this “technique” and interpret it yourself in terms of the context in which the instances occurred.(Clue: politics pre-war and wartime)

There are a number of other criticisms, (it’s a long review), but I am going to pass on them due to lack of space. Read them yourselves and bring your own conclusions to the discussion.

Too much detail for a biography, September 2, 2010 By Sacramento Book Review "Sacramento Book Review" By Kevin Winter
"http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Heinlein-Dialogue-1907-1948-ebook/product-reviews/B003OUXEFQ/ref=cm_cr_dp_hist_3?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addThreeStar"

“William Patterson does not edit, does not gives us the big moments, instead we have to wade through a mountain of unimportant trivial details to get to the big moments of Heinlein's life. Heinlein might be a giant in the field of science fiction, but his biography does not deserve two volumes.”

What do you think? Was Heinlein only influenced by the “big moments”? Should he have been?

Other recommended reading on this subject.

By Michael Dirda Thursday, August 12, 2010 ROBERT A. HEINLEIN In Dialogue With His Century, Volume 1 1907-1948: Learning Curve By William H. Patterson Jr.
"http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/11/AR2010081105457.html"

Scores By John Clute 28 June 2010
"http://www.strangehorizons.com/2010/20100628/clute-c.shtml"


Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:28 am
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The reviewer who said that Bill put in too much detail made the only negative comment, so far, that made any sense to me.

Even that was only sensible if one assumes that the biography was written to maximize sales and had no other objective. Yes, a shorter "just the high points" biography would have had a better chance to reach the casual reader. It still would have been an interesting book to those of us whose interest in the subject is strong. It still could have shed light on some of the controversies that people have about Heinlein. It would not have been as good but it would have still been useful and it would have sold better and, more importantly, given more casual readers a better idea of the subject. Maximizing sales is not simply a pecuniary goal.

I thought the level of detail was quite reasonable. A biography isn't supposed to be a biographical sketch.

Will in New Haven


Tue Nov 02, 2010 9:22 am
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To aid your preparation for the Online Discussion and/or posts here, the following link will allow you to search the biography.

http://books.google.com/books?id=Z93OvsN2yq8C


Mon Nov 08, 2010 10:44 am
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Mon Nov 08, 2010 6:34 pm
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Is there a mass market for your book, Bill? I got it this weekend, and finished my first reading of it Sunday evening. I won't say much til I've read it through again, more slowly. (My usual pattern with non-fluff books is to read them quickly once to get an overall picture, then slowly to absorb the details.) However, you did a nice job. The book is superbly researched but, unlike too many scholarly works I've read, not written in a fashion that's impenetrable to anybody but scholars. It kept my interest quite well this weekend. ;) I don't think that was entirely because of the subject matter.

Although I appreciate your not saddling us with an overly academic writing style (thanks!), however, the book seems to me to be a meaty book, definitely not written for the casual reader. I wouldn't have expected it to appeal to the casual reader who isn't an SF fan.

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Mon Nov 08, 2010 6:53 pm
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Mon Nov 08, 2010 8:26 pm
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Tue Nov 09, 2010 7:30 am
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In the end, I found Heinlein is finite. Thus, finite analysis is needed.


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Even for a biography or biographical novel of someone in antiquity, where we really know very little, there are good ways and bad to approach the characters. I'm not deprecating gaudy adventure-telling, but the narrow or shallow treatment which is hitched to some jaded hobby-horse. We see it all over the place, including about Heinlein. In contrast, Learning Curve is a whole biography, in every sense.

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Tue Nov 09, 2010 6:46 pm
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All authoritative biographies go into EXCRUCIATING detail. "Learning Curve" actually has far less than many of the author biographies I've read. Go try the major Faulkner bio.....

You should look at what Bill actually left OUT.....

Compared to celebrity biographies written for people who barely read at all, this has too much detail....

Robert


Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:23 am
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I assume you're talking about Joseph Blotner's 1970s-era biography of William Faulkner? I tried to read that in high school shortly after it came out, when one of my high school English teachers (a Faulkner fan) suggested it. I barely made it through; the level of detail was so intense that the book was nearly unreadable. *Thank* you, Bill, for not doing that to us. ;)

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Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:36 am
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Yes, the Blotner. It almost killed me in college.....lol.


Mon Nov 15, 2010 1:55 pm
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realizing that most that is written is directed towards a certain audience, in this case sci-fi/ RAH fandom in particular, and i understand the need for detail in relating this bio to them. Most readers would have base knowledge of the man and his works (in my case)- i see this bio as solidifying this info and also adding to my own understanding of RAH - it filled him out as a genuine human and not purely as a legend

where could it been pared ? i guess that's all relative to what each was looking for and not looking between the covers- personally the time spent relating RAH's west point experience may have been the place to do this- i do realize that this was a time which imprinted RAH's personality and immensely impacted his later life- but ........... i have only a minor critique here

all in all IMHO this was a gem of background knowledge from which there is much to be mined- thanks Bill- i await vol 2 :) you've explained alot to me of not only who RAH was but also why


Mon Nov 15, 2010 5:23 pm
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Erm. You misspelled Annapolis, Nick. :shock:

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Mon Nov 15, 2010 5:54 pm
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Beat me to it, jeepojiii. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall if Nick had done that to RAH himself, or any other Annapolis graduate.

And you thought Canadians got shirty when mistaken for U.S. citizens? ;)

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Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:52 pm
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:oops:

think RAH and i would've had a drawn out discussion of the army/navy game after that one- teach me not to proof a submission won't it ? :roll:

Nick (us army 72-74)

at least i didn't call him a jarhead- things may have come to blows


Tue Nov 16, 2010 6:15 am
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jarheads are MARINES

In my long ago days of being a navy brat marines were the kids they kept at the gate of the base to make sure no one stole the ships.


if you want to insult a sailor call him a swabbie


Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:58 am
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Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:54 pm
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i stand corrected on a few points here :) no problem as the father of 5 and as teens they have corrected me on may an occasion so have grown a thick hide

point 1) i mis-spoke when writing RAH was a west point graduate- that correction i obviously deserved - it is my own and others common knowledge RAH was a midshipomen at the naval academy at annapolis !

point 2) yep a jarhead is a us marine- i understand my previous "west point" mis-statement may have led others to believe i may be repeating my errors- not in this case- my mistake was simply not qualifying my statement for those of so little faith j/k- i assumed (common knowledge) that all , including myself, understood what a jarhead was and needed no further definition

point 3) i bravely offered that bill's bio of RAH was written towards sci fi /RAH fandom - i stand corrected by the author- LOL no defense here- my very humble opinion was proferred only

that damn "kick me" sign gets me everytime !! LMAO

the defense rests/retreats/retires/skeedaddles

nick

ps audrey- another barb hurled at sailors was "gob"- if i'm to believe my army drill sargeant there are more than a few slang nouns, adjectives, etc which apply specifically to a soldier- none i can use in polite company :)


Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:28 pm
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Nick, I can certainly understand how an ex-soldier like you could mistakenly type "West Point" when you obviously meant "Annapolis."

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Jack

LOL i'll blame the west point crack on a senior moment or my enthusiasm to post something :) i generally proof my postings before i throw them out there (knowing the very high intelligence and experience levels of the many members)- this one slipped through the cracks however- the rejoinder reminded me of a past teacher giving me knobbies all the way to the principle's office :) well deserved - LOL if i can do nothing else, i'm usually good for a brooohaw or three or four- oh yeah, you already know that from the old nitro forum days !

super glues the kick me sign upon my derierre

Nick


Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:07 pm
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Sorry, one and all; I got home and checked e-mail and then crashed in exhaustion from a long and stressful day.


Wed Nov 17, 2010 6:54 am
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Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
Those that can, do.
Those that can't, teach.
Those that can't do or teach, critique.


Wed Nov 17, 2010 1:29 pm
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Wrong, Those who can't teach, teach PE.


Mon Nov 22, 2010 10:26 am
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I am due to have a sleep test for sleep apnea starting at 8:30 PM on 12/16/2010, so I am going to have to move the online discussion to 12/15/2010 at 9:00 PM EST. This was the only time that the clinic could fit me in. We can schedule a second session if enough people wish to do so. Email me at the address below if you wish to try this.

I regret any convenience that this may cause.

See the thread on Accessing the Chat Room if there are any questions.

David Wright Sr.
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Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:35 am
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There's no doubt I have it. I've already gone through one night of test and was unable to use CPAP. They are going to try me on some more advanced machines this time.


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There is a much expanded list of reviews at
http://www.whpattersonjr.com/

In preparation for the online discussion tomorrow night (12/15/2010, changed from 12/16), you might want to look over these.

David Wright
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Tue Dec 14, 2010 12:29 pm
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Post Re: 12/16/2010 Critics Review of Patterson's Heinlein Biogra
Heinlein Readers Group Online Discussion Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DavidWrightSr (9:00:26 PM): Welcome oh kilted one!
kiltedrobspierre (9:00:36 PM): Evening David :D
kiltedrobspierre (9:00:58 PM): How is your evening so far?
DavidWrightSr (9:01:25 PM): So far, you are it. I hope that others will show up.
kiltedrobspierre (9:01:47 PM): So do I.
DavidWrightSr (9:01:58 PM): Are you Rob Wright?
kiltedrobspierre (9:02:00 PM): I could use a break from grading finals
kiltedrobspierre (9:02:02 PM): Yes
DavidWrightSr (9:02:23 PM): Ah. thought so. Where do you teach?
kiltedrobspierre (9:02:41 PM): Chaparral Middle School in Alamogordo NM
DavidWrightSr (9:03:18 PM): Used to live in Arizona myself. Mesa outside of phoenix.
kiltedrobspierre (9:03:27 PM): 7th grade NM History and Geography
DavidWrightSr (9:04:11 PM): Fun. Well. we'll give some others time to log in and if they don't we'll have our own discussion.
kiltedrobspierre (9:04:22 PM): The Phoenix area gets too hot for me, at least here, I can retreat to the mountains
DavidWrightSr (9:05:05 PM): Yes. it was 30 days of over 115 when we moved there.
DavidWrightSr (9:05:44 PM): But it can freeze you in the mornings. Used to ride a motorcycle and really had to wrap up.
kiltedrobspierre (9:07:19 PM): We've been getting down into the 20's at night and hitting 70 during the day all week, the kids have been whining to have the AC turned back on
DenvToday (9:14:54 PM): Hello all. Ron in Denver, CO here.
kiltedrobspierre (9:15:44 PM): Evening Ron
DavidWrightSr (9:15:50 PM): Hi Ron. I am having some problems with this new version of AIM, so it took a while to get you loaded. I lost another
DenvToday (9:17:18 PM): Hello Robspierre, as well as David. It's been a long, long time.
DavidWrightSr (9:18:33 PM): It's looking like we are going to have few people here, I am sad to say. This was my first attempt at setting up a discussion and I am not sure how well it was received. Also, the change from tomorrow night to tonight may have thrown people off.
DenvToday (9:18:36 PM): I'm afraid I'm not prepared. It's been a hellishly busy time for me, and I just bought the Patterson book today.
DavidWrightSr (9:18:58 PM): Did you get a chance to look over any of the reviews?
kiltedrobspierre (9:19:34 PM): I'm catching myself up on the latest one Bill posted on the forum.
DenvToday (9:20:14 PM): Yes. I've read comments on the Nexus Forum (from Patterson and others), as well as a few reviews.
DavidWrightSr (9:21:14 PM): You just bought it, so I presume you haven't had a chance to read any, Right?
DenvToday (9:21:34 PM): Martin Morse Wooster reviewed the book on National Review Online.
DenvToday (9:21:55 PM): I've read the preface, but I haven't gotten into the guts of it yet.
DavidWrightSr (9:22:42 PM): IMHO, you've got a treat coming, regardless of what some reviewers think. O:-)
DenvToday (9:22:45 PM): By the way, I love my Kindle. lol
DavidWrightSr (9:22:56 PM): Do you have it on Kindle?
DenvToday (9:23:19 PM): http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/ ... se-wooster
DenvToday (9:23:25 PM): Yes, I have it on Kindle.
kiltedrobspierre (9:24:08 PM): I'm thinking of getting a copy for my ipad, down the road
DenvToday (9:24:16 PM): Positive review by Wooster.
DenvToday (9:24:52 PM): I'm thinking about getting an iPad. So far, my innate cheapness has won out.
DavidWrightSr (9:25:10 PM): Wow. That would eliminate one problem if you can look up references easily. That's the one problem I've had with them at the end of the book. Bill tried to have them at the end of each chapter, but lost the battle.
DavidWrightSr (9:25:27 PM): Do you have a link to the Wooster review?
DavidWrightSr (9:25:36 PM): sorry. didn't see it
DenvToday (9:25:39 PM):http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/250773/heinlein-s-conservatism-martin-morse-wooster
DenvToday (9:26:01 PM): The review is more about RAH than the book, but it's a nice review.
DavidWrightSr (9:26:03 PM): Thanks. I had a senior moment there.:-)
DenvToday (9:26:07 PM): lol
kiltedrobspierre (9:26:24 PM): Even us youngsters have them :D
DenvToday (9:26:42 PM): I'm middle aged. If I live to be 114, that is.
DenvToday (9:27:07 PM): Hiya doc.
DavidWrightSr (9:27:13 PM): That seems to be a problem with many of them, turning reviews into summaries of his life rather than discussing the treatment
toxdoc1947 (9:27:19 PM): not a big turnout so far
toxdoc1947 (9:27:29 PM): Hi all
DavidWrightSr (9:27:39 PM): AH. another welcome visitor. Was beginning to think that it was going to be a bust.
DenvToday (9:28:13 PM): I think we're on Tertius time.
DavidWrightSr (9:30:05 PM): Welcom Randy
DenvToday (9:30:17 PM): Hi Randy.
Randyjj55 (9:30:17 PM): Hi David, long time, no logon
kiltedrobspierre (9:30:26 PM): Welcome
DavidWrightSr (9:30:46 PM): Sorry. Missed one. Hi Doc
Randyjj55 (9:30:59 PM): What great conclusions have you reached so far?
DenvToday (9:32:09 PM): We've all decided to contribute to the DenvToday Retirement Fund.
DenvToday (9:32:17 PM): Wonderful charity.
DenvToday (9:32:33 PM): I take gold as well as Visa.
DavidWrightSr (9:32:40 PM): The only thing so far is comments about the reviews being mini-biographies rather than actually reviewing the book. There are notable exceptions, especially some of those who panned it.
DavidWrightSr (9:33:11 PM): As long as the Federal Govt, and the State of Georgia don't fold, my retirement is going well.
DenvToday (9:34:07 PM): I thought about RAH the other day. A private rocket achieved orbit from Canaveral on Dec. 8.
kiltedrobspierre (9:34:10 PM): I'll be teaching till I'm 70 with the changes NM has made to teacher's retirement
DenvToday (9:35:17 PM): Somewhere Harriman was smiling.
Randyjj55 (9:35:22 PM): Thanks for posting the link to the reviews - it was interesting reading, and as you noted, very few reviews, and certainly none in any great depth, although I thought the one by Mark Tiedmann made me want to go buy the book, which I would have anyone once I had learned it was out. Unfortunately, real life has kept me quite busy the past few years, so didn't know that it was out until the chat topic was announced.
toxdoc1947 (9:35:50 PM): me either
Randyjj55 (9:36:05 PM): Busy working on getting a cubesat ready for launch next year.
DenvToday (9:36:08 PM): When is part 2 due out?
DenvToday (9:37:02 PM): Wow, Randy. Boeing?
DavidWrightSr (9:37:25 PM): Part 2 will be a couple of more years, I'm afraid. Bill said they have just started the first copy editing, I belive.
DavidWrightSr (9:37:37 PM): Space-X wasn't it?
DenvToday (9:39:11 PM): Yes, A Falcon 9 rocket. 3.5 hour flight, two complete orbits.
DavidWrightSr (9:39:50 PM): Every since I read Walsh's review, I have been trying to find out what she meant by Learning Curve being an 'old-fashioned' biography, not the sort of thing that is done today. She referenced the bio of James Tiptree. Well, I read it and I can't see what she is talking about.
DenvToday (9:41:01 PM): Do you have the link for the review?
DavidWrightSr (9:42:32 PM): Hang on. I get it.Walton, not Walsh.
DavidWrightSr (9:42:35 PM): http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/08/patter ... on-details
DenvToday (9:42:39 PM): Thanks.
Randyjj55 (9:43:44 PM): No, I am program manager on an environmental monitoring satellite for a student outreach program sponsored by the government. It will probably go up on a Falcon 9 next fall.
Randyjj55 (9:45:20 PM): How can Walton make that kind of a statement. If you go to google books, you can actually read large swaths of the book and it looks like a very good read to me, with lots of interesting information. Of course, since I was born in southern Missouri, what I read there looks pretty true to me.
DenvToday (9:46:26 PM): I'm not really familiar with Walton, but (she?) seems to be intent on proving she's the smartest one in the room.
kiltedrobspierre (9:46:26 PM): Considering how private RAH was, to have his early life laid out and to see how events from that time shaped him, in the context of what was going on at the time, to me, was illuminating
DenvToday (9:47:01 PM): Randy, I'm impressed. Others talk, you do. Nice.
DavidWrightSr (9:48:11 PM): Bill claims, (and who am I do dispute him), that this is not a biography of a sf writer, but a biography of an american literary writer. ( I may be misquoting him).O:-)
DenvToday (9:48:12 PM): I can't wait to delve into it. My Kindle has been calling to me all day.
Randyjj55 (9:48:54 PM): Others do, I have the joy of trying to get 10 pounds out of a 5 pound bag - the usual approach of the government funding a program. I do get to do the communications and ground station design though, so there is some fun in the program.
DenvToday (9:50:02 PM): Makes me think about the space program 50 years ago. Done mostly with slide rules. Amazing.
DenvToday (9:50:50 PM): Sorry Randy, I'm but I'm still mightily impressed. You're just gonna have to live with it. :-)
Randyjj55 (9:52:08 PM): i would say that there is no inconsistency between talking about being a sf writer and a literary writer, if the sf is done intelligently. Certainly in many of the later novels that make up the future history series and the melding & mingling of other novels like number of the beast, there is an interesting literary strand, as put forth by Heinlein's characters.
DenvToday (9:52:27 PM): He and Ginny once spent all weekend working out ballistic orbits, by hand, for Space Cadet, a book for boys who wouldn’t have known the difference if they’d fudged it. But he got it right, every little bit of it
DavidWrightSr (9:53:46 PM): Yeah, that's a great story. "Computer? My boy, this was 1948" (paraphase)
DenvToday (9:54:30 PM): I agree, Randy. A good novelist is a good novelist, not matter the label.
Randyjj55 (9:55:52 PM): I don't think Walton truly appreciates how much forensic work Bill had to do to work around the fact that RAH was very much interested in controlling the story and arc of his life. The idea of burning much of his correspondance must have driven his biographer(s) and his fans to dispair, aye to the Pit of Dispair/.
DenvToday (9:56:48 PM): My favorite bread is made from the Dough of Despond.
DavidWrightSr (9:58:18 PM): Bill said that even with the burning, which he didn't consider crucial, there were over 100,000 thousand documents in the archives and another 100,000 with Ginny. The problem was too much rather than too little, IMO
DenvToday (9:59:33 PM): wb
DavidWrightSr (9:59:45 PM): Dang it. close the room accidentally!
DenvToday (10:00:23 PM): I'm guessing this was a work of love. There can't be much money in it for him.
Randyjj55 (10:01:07 PM): Probably not. Especially when you figure the amount of money he probaby got for the book, versus the amount of time he probably put into it. I know when I did my first book, there were hours spent just spent verifying some item of information - and I was writing about electromagnetic theory, not a person. EM is much easier in my opinion.
DavidWrightSr (10:01:07 PM): I certainly doubt that any amount would be enough to compensate for the actual work that he did.
kiltedrobspierre (10:02:46 PM): It is obvious that the biography is a labor of love, but you can also tell that Bill did not try to hide anything or play up a particular viewpoint.
DenvToday (10:02:47 PM): People like him enrich out lives.
DenvToday (10:02:53 PM): er..our
DenvToday (10:04:02 PM): I know RAH tried to control the info about his early life, but I suspect he would not object to warts and all.
DavidWrightSr (10:04:25 PM): That' what I don't understand from some of the critics. They automatically assume that because Virginia authorized it, Bill was obligated to spin it a certain way, when it was very obvious to anyone with half a brain, that he wasn't doint that.
Randyjj55 (10:05:12 PM): Yes, it is like they read a different book in a parallel universe set up by black hats.
DenvToday (10:05:40 PM): The Number of the Reviewer
DavidWrightSr (10:05:55 PM): The question is, Can they read and if they can, did they actually read it. Remember RAH's quote about critics in the Kilkenny lounge.
DenvToday (10:07:16 PM): What was the quote?
DavidWrightSr (10:08:07 PM): To get out of the lounge, all a critic had to do was read plain English without distorting it (paraphase)
DenvToday (10:08:25 PM): Ah. Devilish. lol
DenvToday (10:09:13 PM): I must go. David, thanks for organizing the discussion tonight. I hope there will be others. Good night to one and all.
kiltedrobspierre (10:09:27 PM): Night.
DavidWrightSr (10:09:41 PM): I have been reading RAH since 1953 at least. I don't know how many times I have read everything he wrote. The amazing thing to me was how as I read the bio, I felt like my previous experiences were being expanded into other dimensions, opening up like an explosion
Randyjj55 (10:09:53 PM): Yep! That's why I brought up the reference. I suspect that the take if the readers of the biography will be much like the readers of Starship Trooper. Their opinions are based more on their life experiences as filtered and shaped by the way they WANT the world to be instead of their understanding of what the world actually IS.
DavidWrightSr (10:10:07 PM): If anyone has a theme in mind, don't hesitate to let me know.
Randyjj55 (10:10:15 PM): See you Denv.
DenvToday (10:10:19 PM): Will do. Thanks again!
DenvToday (10:10:22 PM): Bye Randy.
DavidWrightSr (10:10:29 PM): do svidanje
kiltedrobspierre (10:11:58 PM): I've not liked everything I've read by Heinlein, but, they all have made me think and in some cases re-evaluate some of my views.
DavidWrightSr (10:12:51 PM): What are the ones you don't like? And, conversely, what is your favorite?
Randyjj55 (10:12:57 PM): Actually, I think it would be interesting if people who have read the biography would present specific ways that the biography illuminated or changed their understanding of a story or novel that they have read in the past.
Randyjj55 (10:14:17 PM): For instance, I would like to see more information on his time in the military and how it influenced Starship Troopers. Having spent much of my life in the military, both on active and reserve duty, I fail to see many of the things that people claim are in the story.
DavidWrightSr (10:14:23 PM): That's a good theme. Maybe I'll use it next time. File off the serial numbers first.O:-)
Randyjj55 (10:15:01 PM): Just good engineering efficiency - don't reinvent the wheel, unless you can get a cut on the patent.
toxdoc1947 (10:15:51 PM): Yeah - I've been in the military (just as a "Join or get drafted" recipient of what we used to call a 'McNamara Fellowship' "
DavidWrightSr (10:16:12 PM): That's a good question.
toxdoc1947 (10:16:25 PM): Even so, the tenets of "Starship Troopers" resonate with me
kiltedrobspierre (10:16:33 PM): The biggest thing for me so far, just how much influence utopian writing/thinking had on Heinlein throughout all of his writings
DavidWrightSr (10:17:07 PM): I do know that reading Starship Troopers helped me get through Basic training by showing that there had to be something better than what I was experiencing.
toxdoc1947 (10:17:08 PM): It might be worth talking about how his early books influenced kids
toxdoc1947 (10:17:39 PM): "Starship Troopers" and "Space Cadet" were some of my earliest exposures to RAH.
Randyjj55 (10:17:44 PM): I came in after that misunderstanding and lack of appreciation of world history and ethnology. Instead, I got to spend time trying to understand 14th century tribal mentalities.
DavidWrightSr (10:18:38 PM): It also helped me that SIASL was in the post library and I spent all of my offtime reading it.
Randyjj55 (10:18:48 PM): I agree that both Space Cadet and Starship Troopers were among my favorites, even to this day. However, I also like The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Double Star a lot, for different reasons.
toxdoc1947 (10:19:06 PM): I had a studette who complained that ST somehow conferred a compulsion to serve among her friends - including one guy who said "I wish I'd have died in Viet Nam - where my death would have meant something."
toxdoc1947 (10:20:30 PM): I have two sons - one read it (national guard, airborne, special forces), and the other did not.
toxdoc1947 (10:20:45 PM): An n=2 is a very insufficient population
DavidWrightSr (10:20:51 PM): It certainly didn't 'compel' me to join, it was, as you said above, join or be drafted. Joining got me training that has made a significant difference in my life.
Randyjj55 (10:21:04 PM): Nothing in Starship Trooper really justifies that sort of thinking. If anything, it really hammers home the point that most of what you do in the military is oriented around duty and honor, which means that you are doing the hard, dirty work that others want done, but don't want to do.
toxdoc1947 (10:22:14 PM): My training was very, very interesting (Military Intelligence) but my life was pharmacy -> clinical toxicology at a poison center. Still, I learned some very fundamental lessons and use then to today.
toxdoc1947 (10:22:45 PM): *them
toxdoc1947 (10:23:10 PM): A lot of the H&MP stuff in ST resonated with me
DavidWrightSr (10:24:46 PM): I have observed that RAH fans generally fall into 3 categories, 1) prefer the 'juveniles', 2) prefer the 'adult' and 3) like most if not all of them. I am in 3)
toxdoc1947 (10:25:04 PM): I totally agree - duty, honor, and putting yourself between threats and your family and friends
kiltedrobspierre (10:25:13 PM): I find myself in the third category
Randyjj55 (10:25:21 PM): Same here. I think the key word is resonated. To those who value those ideas and concepts, they are tightly coupled to what RAH was trying to explore and understand them in a visceral way. To those whose orientation is otherwise, they are always looking for the man who wasn't on the stairs.
toxdoc1947 (10:25:32 PM): I'm a "3" also - just got hooked early
Randyjj55 (10:26:04 PM): Yes, I am a type 3 also, starting at an early age and remaining so to this day.
toxdoc1947 (10:26:34 PM): can't believe that 90 minutes has passed - we could just be getting started
kiltedrobspierre (10:26:51 PM): ST and SIaSL were the first Heinlein works I read at age 12, haven't stopped since
DavidWrightSr (10:27:11 PM): As many have pointed out, a lot of early SF fans hated the way RAH went after his Campbell years. Myself, I never could understand that.
DavidWrightSr (10:27:40 PM): Well, we haven't talked much about the theme, but I didn't really think that we would.
toxdoc1947 (10:28:39 PM): Yes, I think our feelings about RAH have crystallized - regardless of published biography
kiltedrobspierre (10:28:46 PM): RAH after Campbell I think was outside the comfort zone for many readers
Randyjj55 (10:29:34 PM): Well, when you think about it, we are talking about it - our discussion is as wide-ranging and eclectic as Robert's writing, and that is what you would expect in a biography of that sort of person.
DavidWrightSr (10:29:51 PM): I was too young to have read him during those years, so maybe that predjudices me.
kiltedrobspierre (10:31:07 PM): RAH grew as a writer, he never allowed himself to stagnate
DavidWrightSr (10:31:53 PM): Did any of you ever have a dream where you found unread Heinleins? Used to happen to me quite frequently.
Randyjj55 (10:33:06 PM): That was thing that I always found interesting about RAH's writing. While many authors stick to a particular genre or subset of SF/fantasy, Heinlein roamed all over the SF map.
Randyjj55 (10:34:53 PM): That is not an unusual dream - there are several authors that I wish that would occur with. Of course, sometimes there were good reasons that stories were unread and should have stayed that way.
DavidWrightSr (10:35:02 PM): Not only the SF map. What always amazed me about people who said RAH was 'x' or 'y' have to be looking it strictly through their own filter, because almost every thing that said 'x' you could find 'not-x' somewhere else.
DavidWrightSr (10:35:20 PM): Sometimes even in the same story.
DavidWrightSr (10:37:20 PM): Do you recall the passages where a character said that 'thinking was impossible without symbols'? He attributed to Korzybski. Well, I have spent several years researching that. a) Korzybski never said it. b) Heinlein had counter examples even in some of the stories that he claimed it.
toxdoc1947 (10:37:59 PM): Some of his stuff might have encouraged dreams NOTB had a would series of universes dedicated to fantasy - and some later works had memorable lines like "Worse case we could be dealing with an..... author!"
Randyjj55 (10:38:08 PM): Yes, the sign of real maturity and stability - being able to hold and consider fundamentally opposing ideas in one's mind and ponder the meaning of, agreeing with, one or both or neither.
DavidWrightSr (10:38:25 PM): And drives critics mad!
Randyjj55 (10:39:53 PM): I thought they started out "mad" (angry) and "mad" (crazy) and just polished off the rough edges as they progressed through their career.
toxdoc1947 (10:40:11 PM): Ahhh critics: send then to Kilkenny lounge
Randyjj55 (10:42:44 PM): Well, as much as I enjoy this, I gave a final today and probably should get to grading them so the kids can get their grades.
DavidWrightSr (10:43:01 PM): Unless someone has something further they would like to contribute, I am going to call it a night. I have enjoyed it. It didn't turn out exactly like I expected, but it went well. Thanks to everyone.
toxdoc1947 (10:43:18 PM): yoiu don't use the "throw them down the stairs" method?
kiltedrobspierre (10:43:23 PM): Every journey starts with one step
Randyjj55 (10:43:34 PM): No, that doesn't work with solid state physics.
toxdoc1947 (10:43:45 PM): Thanks David - this was GREAT!!
DavidWrightSr (10:43:52 PM): Remember if any theme occurs to you, post it on the forum or email me.
Randyjj55 (10:43:58 PM): Good job David. We should do this again soon.
kiltedrobspierre (10:43:58 PM): And like Randy, i need to get back to grading as well
DavidWrightSr (10:44:18 PM): Night All
kiltedrobspierre (10:44:21 PM): Night all
Randyjj55 (10:44:25 PM): Night.


Thu Dec 16, 2010 2:24 pm
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Post Re: 12/16/2010 Critics Review of Patterson's Heinlein Biogra

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Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:20 pm
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Post Re: 12/16/2010 Critics Review of Patterson's Heinlein Biogra
I believe 1967 was the time of the first accession of materials to UCSC; why Heinlein chose that time to go through all his papers and vet, weed and donate them is unknown to me but that's the half-step reason for that date.

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Wed Apr 18, 2012 3:55 pm
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