Remembering Robert A. Heinlein

Commentary by Kip Hansen – 2 June 2021

There is a certain beauty in remembering the great influences of one’s youth.  For me, one of those influences was Robert Anson Heinlein who could reasonably be called one of the the world’s greatest writers of science fiction.

His books and stories – which first began to appear in 1939 with the publishing of Life-Linerepresented the very best of the space-age hard-science fiction genera of the 20th century.  I am older, but not old enough to have read Life-Line in Astounding when it was first published, but I read it twenty years later as a precocious pre-teen-aged boy bent on reading every single science fiction book and every edition of every pulp science fiction magazine that could be found in the main branch of the Los Angeles County Library.   By the time I was 15, I had accomplished that dubiously important feat.

As part of that rather mad reading binge, I read everything that Heinlein had written to date, and then read everything he published since then as it became available until his death in 1988.   I bet that many of you who were born in the first decade after World War II and went on to study science and engineering read Heinlein as well.

Heinlein was one of the core members of the stable of SciFi writers assembled by John W. Campbell  — editor of Astounding which later  became  Analog Science Fiction  — who was responsible for much of the success of the whole genera.  Isaac Asimov called Campbell “the most powerful force in science fiction ever” and said the “first ten years of his editorship he dominated the field completely.”

Heinlein himself was often referred to as “the ‘dean of science fiction writers,’ Robert A. Heinlein was one of the leading figures of science fiction’s Golden Age and one of the authors most responsible for establishing the science fiction novel as a publishing category.” [ Keith Booker et al. The Science Fiction Handbook ]

After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy and serving in the U.S. Navy in the 1930s and was discharged in 1934 because he contracted tuberculosis, undergoing lengthy hospitalization.  Living on his naval disability pension, Heinlein turned to writing, selling his first story, Life-Line,  to John Campbell at Astounding and the rest is history. 

Interestingly, Heinlein was an engineer by training, and spent the years of WWII “as a civilian aeronautical engineer at the Navy Aircraft Materials Center at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard in Pennsylvania. Heinlein recruited Isaac Asimov and L. Sprague de Camp to also work there.  While at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyards, Asimov, Heinlein, and de Camp brainstormed unconventional approaches to kamikaze attacks, such as using sound to detect approaching planes.”  [ wiki ]

SciFi fans will know that Asimov and Sprague de Camp were also core authors publishing in Campbell’s  Astounding along with two other SciFi greats Theodore Sturgeon and Arthur C. Clarke and, of course, Campbell himself was writing under his own name and several pen names: Don A. Stuart, Karl Van Kampen and Arthur McCann.

Even if you don’t know Heinlein from reading his books, you will have been exposed to his contributions to modern English. You may hear some young pretty Hollywood star/starlet say that they “really grok that”. They’ve made whole movies about “pay it forward”.  Engineers  or robotics designers will know what a “waldo” is.  And you have yourself have called someone a “moonbat” (from the story Space Jockey).

Heinlein’s book, Stranger in a Strange Land, spawned a series of small cult groups based on the social structure described in the book and one incorporated Church whose founder took the ideas in the book way too seriously.  In the early 1970s, I personally knew a young man that ran off to join a Stranger cult.

Heinlein wrote and wrote, during his 81-year lifetime:

“The Robert A. Heinlein bibliography includes 32 novels, 59 short stories and 16 collections published during his life. Four films, two TV series, several episodes of a radio series, and a board game derive more or less directly from his work. He wrote a screenplay for one of the films. Heinlein edited an anthology of other writers’ SF short stories.

Three non-fiction books and two poems have been published posthumously. One novel has been published posthumously and another, an unusual collaboration, was published in 2006. Four collections have been published posthumously.

Known pseudonyms include Anson MacDonald (7 times), Lyle Monroe (7), John Riverside (1), Caleb Saunders (1), and Simon York (1). All the works originally attributed to MacDonald, Saunders, Riverside and York, and many of the works originally attributed to Lyle Monroe, were later reissued in various Heinlein collections and attributed to Heinlein.” [ source ]

Heinlein had influence far outside the SciFi world, as did many other SciFi authors.  For instance:

“In 1980 Robert Heinlein was a member of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy, chaired by Jerry Pournelle, which met at the home of SF writer Larry Niven to write space policy papers for the incoming Reagan Administration. Members included such aerospace industry leaders as former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, General Daniel O. Graham, aerospace engineer Max Hunter and North American Rockwell VP for Space Shuttle development George Merrick. Policy recommendations from the Council included ballistic missile defense concepts which were later transformed into what was called the Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars” as derided by Senator Ted Kennedy. Heinlein assisted with Council contribution to the Reagan “Star Wars” speech of Spring 1983.”

One example of the depth of Heinlein’s reach into our society in general is illustrated by the fictional song “Green Hills of Earth” from the story of the same title — fictionally written by a blind space-going engineer named “Noisy” Rhysling presented as a radiation-blinded, unemployable spaceship engineer crisscrossing the solar system writing and singing songs.  The song has verses and fragments of verses attributed to it not only in Heinlein’s own stories over the years, but in the work many other science fiction writers of the day and since.  One of the most recent examples shows up in the naming of a crater on the moon:       

“The Apollo XV astronauts named a number of craters in their landing area after favorite science fiction stories. Near “Dune” (after the Frank Herbert novel) and “Earthlight” (Arthur C. Clarke) craters was “Rhysling” crater, named after the blind singer of the spaceways in “The Green Hills of Earth.” [ source ]

You can listen to Leonard Nimoy read “The Green Hills of Earth” in the three part YouTube series:  Part 1Part 2,   Part 3.

Not everyone is a Heinlein fan.  Not everyone liked his politics – I ignored them personally.  Not everyone liked his views on social structure and sexuality.  If he had written things that everyone would like or lived a life that everyone would approve of, he would not have been one of the greats.

My favorite quote from the master is this:

“There are but two ways of forming an opinion in science. One is the scientific method; the other, the scholastic. One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important, and theory merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits. To the academic mind, authority is everything and facts are junked when they do not fit theory laid down by authority” – Robert A. Heinlein in the short story Life-Line.

# # # # #

Author’s Comment:

I’d like to hear from readers with their thoughts and impressions. Not restricted to Heinlein, there were so many greats in the 1940-1980 SciFi scene.

Why bring up Heinlein today?    I friend has been reading my stuff here over the years and sent the final quote after reading my essay on Hurricane Sandy and storm surge damage

Address comments to “Kip…” if speaking to me.

Thanks for reading.

# # # # #

4.9 30 votes
Article Rating
307 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
dk_
May 31, 2021 10:10 pm

My favorite Heinlein character quote has always been

There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who ‘love Nature’ while deploring the ‘artificialities’ with which ‘Man has spoiled “Nature.” ‘ The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of ‘Nature’ — but beavers and their dams are. But the contradictions go deeper than this prima-facie absurdity. In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers’ purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the ‘Naturist’ reveals his hatred for his own race — i.e. his own self-hatred.

Thanks, Kip.

Matthew Sykes
Reply to  dk_
May 31, 2021 11:59 pm

I agree with this whole heartedly. Man is part of nature, as are his quarries houses and motorways.

dk_
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
June 1, 2021 12:11 am

Except maybe Attenborough, who wears his despicable unnatural identity on his sleeve.

dk_
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 7:00 am

Kip,
Agree completely. And since you mentioned him, also Jerry Pournelle — who supplied the reason for me to look at WUWT and Manhattan Contrarian. I wish I’d corresponded with Heinlein. Dr. Jerry Pournelle honored me with a few polite interchanges on his blog. I’m still finding new things about them both. Pournelle credited Heinlein with much of his own attitude toward writing everything, and I keep wondering if Heinlein’s meeting a young, olympic class fencer Pournelle might have helped inspire aspects of the character Oscar Gordon (see below interchange on Glory Road ), even though Heinlein was a fencer himself.

dk_
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 7:14 am

Kip,
Seconds — Stranger in a Strange Land is rock-bottom price on Amazon Prime for Kindle right now. Tried to link but something failed.

John Tillman
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 9:40 am

Detecting and ranging aircraft by sound was hardly unconventional.

https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/aircraft-detection-radar-1917-1940/

Last edited 3 months ago by John Tillman
John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
June 1, 2021 10:02 am

Soviet acoustic aicraft detection team in 1942, just two years before the onset of kamikaze attacks.
comment image

It took a while for all armed forces to adopt radar, which gave the US a huge advantage against Japan.

Reply to  John Tillman
June 4, 2021 11:24 am

I think this inspired Dr Seuss…

John Tillman
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 3:48 pm

Sure they were. Fleet air defense. But detecting incoming kamikazes acoustically wasn’t going to help much.

dk_
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 2, 2021 1:47 am

Kip,
Probably the point was trying to find a possibly useful solution to a new problem with quick deployment capability using existing or easily acquired components. A re-application of deployed equipment would be right to the point for such a group. Most ideas would be trashed, but every once in a while a good one might come out.

Even the bad ideas that came out of the group might still be classified, but certainly the good, practical products would have been at least restricted initially. My bet would be that this was one of the examples of an idea that didn’t work out, that was easily accessed by the author, and that had absolutely no inherent danger of violating Navy or War Department rules.

But what a brainstorming team. I couldn’t imagine these guys collaborating on a story, but what a great group for creativity and feasibility testing!

Last edited 3 months ago by dk_
Peter Forest
May 31, 2021 10:23 pm

I also have a paper copy of almost everything Heinlein wrote. My favorite book is “Time Enough For Love”, which has so many quotable phrases, that you may as well memorize the entire book. Heinlein’s blending of fascinating scifi and philosophy is an enduring gift to mankind.

Reply to  Peter Forest
June 1, 2021 12:25 am

Or just buy The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

Erik Magnuson
May 31, 2021 10:33 pm

One of my favorite Heinlein stories is “Blowups Happen”, with emphasis on the original version as opposed to the edited post war version. He got a lot of the details about a nuclear generating station right, but missed out on one of the most important, delayed neutrons, because they had not been discovered when the story was originally written. He did come of up with a reasonable work-around in the orm of a controllable neutron source to allow the reactor run slightly at sub-critical and included something similar to control rods.

Wen I first read the story, I had no idea that a comment from one of minor characters would come true for me: A bartender in the story told the protagonist that he wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for “artificial radioactives” – I probably wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Tc99m, which is produced in reactors.

Robert A. Taylor
Reply to  Erik Magnuson
June 2, 2021 6:10 pm

Campbell often supplied ideas and plots. Heinlein’s Sixth Column was a rewrite of an unpublished Campbell story.
Heinlein warned not to attribute to him the attitudes, beliefs, and ideas of his characters.
A complete aside: If you’ve read Astounding the John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology, you will find Isaac Asimov wrote that the first time he ever heard of the three laws of robotics was when Campbell told them to him.

TEWS_Pilot
May 31, 2021 10:34 pm

My introduction to Heinlein was “Tunnel in the Sky.” From then on, I was hooked. Another favorite was Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Planet” and later the movie “Forbidden Planet (1956) – IMDb
Forbidden Planet: Directed by Fred M. Wilcox. With Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens. A starship crew goes to investigate the silence of a planet’s colony only to find two survivors and a deadly secret that one of them has.

“FORBIDDEN PLANET” was the first movie to insightfully elevate the sci-fi cinema sub-genre to an intelligent and respectable degree and place in our American culture.

Wayne Moore
Reply to  TEWS_Pilot
May 31, 2021 11:16 pm

Based on The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  TEWS_Pilot
June 1, 2021 9:04 am

While the interior of the space ship looked like a 1930s battle ship, the film won an award for the special effects.

Ellen
Reply to  TEWS_Pilot
June 1, 2021 3:32 pm

Tunnel In The Sky” was one of my foundation SF books. (My favorite character was Caroline Mashambi.) But I equally loved Doc Smith, also an engineer, and Thorne Smith, who was an idealist and humorous fantasist. As somebody once said, “Science fiction is filled with good writers named Smith.)

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Ellen
June 1, 2021 8:37 pm

I have tried Doc Smith but struggled a bit.

I think it is partly because of the language and the ‘date’ of the language. The story was one of the Lensman books and started with a massive info dump recap.

Never a fan of them (show don’t tell kids :-P) but there was throw away line where the hero mentions his base is able to resist a 250lb bomb. Now I know this was written in an era where 250lb bombs were considered large and destructive, but my 21st century mind didn’t think that way and started to wonder why he made a base that clearly wasn’t hardened.

The era of ‘language’ is something that seems to exist in writing. I feel you can date a book by the style of the language and story structure. I enjoy the late Victorian era authors (except for Wells for some reason – I never really get into or enjoy his stuff) and feel very comfortable reading their style.

Anyone else feel sci-fi has a distinct style eras?

Ellen
Reply to  Craig from Oz
June 2, 2021 10:56 am

Mary Shelley used far too many elaborate words telling the story of Frankenstein and his creature (I fear she was trying to create Literature) but the preface and introduction to the second edition are much more readable. That’s early 19th century. Poe is readable — he wrote towards the middle of the century. Then, getting into the early 20th century we have Hugo Gernsback. Great man, but hardly a great writer. The time and place may affect the style: Norse sagas are terse, early nineteenth century novels tend to the florid.

In any era, or genre, you want to read people who are good storytellers. Being Literary simply doesn’t work unless the story comes first. Then you can get selective.

Robert A. Taylor
Reply to  Craig from Oz
June 2, 2021 5:43 pm

It’s almost impossible to appreciate properly some earlier science fiction. The language and style have changed. The society has changed. Science has changed. Technology has advanced. Heinlein pointed out that Doc (World Wrecker) Smith’s fiction was deeper than given credit for. Also his terminology was often in use popularly, scientifically and technically. Also remember when writing, his ideas and development were not old hat.

Matthew Bergin
May 31, 2021 10:36 pm

I got hooked on Heinlein when as a young boy I borrowed a copy of “Have Spacesuit will Travel” from the local library. That was soon followed with “A Citizen of the Galaxy” and I was off and running. I read a lot of Sci Fi over the next 50 years. He made quite an impression on me but so did most of the science fiction greats

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Matthew Bergin
June 1, 2021 12:00 am

I think that was one of my first too. I certainly remember it being terribly exciting for me as a youngster.

Last edited 3 months ago by Zig Zag Wanderer
Joe
Reply to  Matthew Bergin
June 1, 2021 12:41 am

My sister bought me my copy of that same book. Read it at 8 or 9, and re-read it recently.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Matthew Bergin
June 1, 2021 5:54 am

My introduction was the same, but in reverse order! Once I had read those, my favorite literary genre was set in armorcrete.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
June 1, 2021 6:14 am

Another early excursion was “Emphyrio”, by Jack Vance. It might have actually predated my Heinlein experiences.

Julian Flood
May 31, 2021 10:43 pm

I used to buy Astounding on Petersfield station way back in the early Sixties (was that when it changed to Analog?) I thought the name change was a mistake but got used to it.

The peak of my limited SF writing career was to get a climate change story into the mag – anthropogenic global cooling was the plot driver. My son tells me my SF is old-fashioned which I take as a compliment – although I sold to non-US mags I eventually gave up trying to keep up with a genre which had the whole universe to play with but was more interested in diddling with its own genitals.

Am I alone in watching Bezos and Musk with their space programs and remembering Heinlein’s Man Who Sold The Moon?

JF
I’ve managed to stop rewriting stuff by putting it into three collections on Amazon, including Ground Zero and Other Stories about an alternative history of what it would have been like flying a Vulcan into the USSR. There may be a Romans with steam engines novel out there as well – workshopped with Pratchett no less.

Joe
Reply to  Julian Flood
June 1, 2021 12:46 am

You’re not alone. I often bring up Heinlein’s work to people who are fans of Musk and Bezos.
I’ve also been to Petersfield, but I may have been lost on my way between Guildford and Chichester.

Robert A. Taylor
Reply to  Joe
June 2, 2021 6:52 pm

There’s a Heinlein Prize awarded for private space travel development. the first went to Musk. I believe Bezos has won as well. $250,000. if I remember correctly. Trivial to them, of course.

Jit
Reply to  Julian Flood
June 1, 2021 1:57 am

I’ve managed to stop rewriting stuff by putting it into three collections on Amazon

This is an approach that I can heartily endorse. I wrote my first novel about 18 years ago, tried to find an agent, failed, rewrote it a couple of years later (while working on the sequel), tried to find an agent, failed again. Every couple of years I would start reading the draft and think, “H’mm, this is not bad, but I need to tweak X, Y, Z.” Either that, or an idea would pop up from nowhere, a link that I had not seen, a way to combine two characters into one, etc, etc.

The endless fiddling finally came to an end a couple of years back when, like you, I published it on Amazon. It hasn’t sold a lot, but it is definitely, absolutely, completely finished: there is no danger of me ever tweaking it again.

hiskorr
Reply to  Julian Flood
June 1, 2021 5:21 am

Analog emphasized Campbell’s “Science Fact” articles that appeared in each issue. I found them as appealing as the fiction.

Julian Flood
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 2:19 pm

I’m older than I imagine…

JF

Jit
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 7:55 am

Kip, I like the one that says a writer must have a “built-in bull***t detector.” I thought this was P.K. Dick, but the interweb says Hemingway. A writer has to be damn sure that there is no whiff of this at all when it comes to their own stuff.

Duck Duck Go, when you start typing “built-in bul….” autofills the search with “built-in bulge underwear.” The universe has just come a little more into focus for me, and it seems to be a worse place than it did a minute ago.

By the way, apropos of built in BS detectors, the writers of A Quiet Place certainly misplaced theirs. I have not seen the sequel (nor will I!), but I left the cinema quivering with rage after seeing the first one.

Max More
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 3:20 pm

The script isn’t without flaw (which movie script is) but both the first and second movies were well-directed, well-acted and effective. Exorcist director William Friedkin praised them for their use of silence.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 9:05 pm

I think those five rules are for those who want to write short stories/articles for a living. If that is the case they are actually pretty good.

I keep wanting to submit for various online discussion forums, get about 1500 words in, start questioning the flow of my argument, procrastinate, then realise I have messed around for so long my topic has missed the passing bandwagon.

In those situations the rules would have really helped me.

In other situations… yeah, nah.

You are writing long form and your first draft has plot flaws, then YOU fix them. Not your editor. Your editor is a busy person.

Also, finish everything you start? Well… depends on your contract. If someone is paying you, or about to pay you, then you deliver because that is what professionals do. If you are sitting down after dinner each night for giggles and your story starts to go in messy places? Do you have a better idea sitting in the back of your mind you are excited about? Well do you really want to drag yourself through another 70,000 words just so you can start your new idea?

“Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.” Story over 😛

Personally my advice for people who keep wanting to write and want to have ‘the correct’ writing process is that ‘If you are not enjoying your writing, you are doing it wrong.’

Ellen
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 2, 2021 11:08 am

Prizes? I don’t need no steenking prizes! I write because I enjoy it. It does bring in a bit of money, but hardly enough to live independently. And I’ve written quite a few fanfics, where money is not an issue.

“Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies.” — that’s Heinlein’s “Year of the Jackpot”, though the rocks falling was not the exact problem. I prefer “Once out of the pit …) which was Gandalf’s return in Lord of the Rings.

pstgtom
May 31, 2021 11:04 pm

Nice. I also wanted you to write about the relationship between Heinlein and PKD.

Max More
Reply to  pstgtom
June 1, 2021 2:02 pm

I had forgotten the PKD note in The Golden Man. This is lovely to be reminded of. There were probably only two authors ALL of whose works I read as a teenager: RAH and PKD. I loved RAH for the spirit of adventure, the poking of social taboos, and the hard science. I loved PKD for the philosophical playfulness with the concept of reality — a theme that has informed numerous SF movies starting with Blade Runner.

Nate McClure
May 31, 2021 11:05 pm

Science fiction was a huge influence in my 1950’s/60’s youth and Heinlein was at the top of my list of favorite authors. I devoured his novels, from Starship Troopers to Strangers. Those influences helped lead to a BS in physics and a very enjoyable career in semiconductor engineering. Thanks Kip for the remembrance of one of the giants of SciFi.

Mike
May 31, 2021 11:08 pm

I think I remember reading a book called ”Star” by Heinlein and I remember enjoying it, but that was a hundred years ago.
But this….”One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority.”..
fits very nicely with this…

Last edited 3 months ago by Mike
Reply to  Mike
June 1, 2021 12:14 am

No book of that title – but, of course, several with that in the title.

Mike
Reply to  writing observer
June 1, 2021 8:35 pm

Is there a book where the girl is called Star?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 2, 2021 10:37 pm

I suspect the book mentioned may be “Double Star,” and it’s been years since I’ve read it, but wasn’t the main female character in “Glory Road” named Star?

Reply to  wheels
June 3, 2021 6:19 pm

Yes to the second.

First – @Mike – does this ring bells? “An unemployed actor literally takes on the role of his life – impersonating the most powerful man in the world.”

Michael in Dublin
Reply to  Mike
June 1, 2021 3:07 am

Mike, I wish I could give you +100 for this clip. It is absolutely spot on.

Let’s observe, let’s think, let’s discuss

Savory’s candle maker illustration reminded me of one of the greatest English scientists, Michael Faraday. He gave a wonderful series of lectures on “The Chemical History of a Candle.” Had Faraday been alive today, I believe he would have trashed both the naïveté of many climate alarmists and the disingenuous deceit of self-proclaimed academia experts.

Ian Russel 2005

Bill Hammack’s youtube series

Reply to  Mike
June 1, 2021 3:41 am

Mike,

Here is my transcription of Alan Savory’s observations:

People talk glibly about science. What is science? People coming out of a university with a Master’s degree or a PhD, you take them into the field and they literally don’t believe anything unless it’s a peer reviewed paper, that’s the only thing they accept.

And you say to them but let’s observe, let’s think, let’s discuss, they don’t do it! Just is it in a peer reviewed paper or not? That’s their view of science. I think it’s pathetic. Gone into universities as bright young people, they come out of them brain dead, not even knowing what science means.

They think it means peer-reviewed papers etcetera. No! That’s academia, and if a paper is peer-reviewed it means everybody thought the same, therefore they approved it. An unintended consequence is that when new knowledge emerges, new scientific insights, they can never ever be peer-reviewed, so we’re blocking all new advances in science, that are big advances.

If you look at the breakthroughs in science, almost always they don’t come from the centre of that profession, they come from the fringe. The finest candlemakers in the world couldn’t even think of electric lights. They don’t come from within, they often come from outside the bricks. We’re going to kill ourselves because of stupidity.

Michael in Dublin
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
June 1, 2021 7:16 am

Philip,
the work described in many peer reviewed articles in top journals – perhaps 50% and higher – cannot be replicated. My son, a scientist who put in an extraordinary amount of work to get to the top in his field, finds the whole peer review process seriously flawed. He is astonished that so many scientists believe the BS they are spouting in their articles. Is it ignorance or deliberate or both? Unfortunately getting articles published comes with the territory.

In 1998 Prof Douglas Altman, an Oxford professor of statistics in medicine, made a scathing comment: “The majority of statistical analyses are performed by people with an inadequate understanding of statistical methods. They are then peer reviewed by people who are generally no more knowledgeable. Sadly, much research may benefit researchers rather more than patients, especially when it is carried out primarily as a ridiculous career necessity.

TheLastDemocrat
Reply to  Michael in Dublin
June 1, 2021 8:24 am

I see two influences working against critical thinking in higher education.
The first is that hgher ed has become big business. Partly when we began loaning anyone money to go to college.

Colleges suddenly had a much larger market. The college degree became a much more systematized deal. And, so, the Educators came in. In the filed of Education, you have Learning Objectives. And, you have a curriculum to be delivered and competencies to be mastered.

The model is k-12 math, or English Grammar. Nice, neat worlds where the Learning Objectives can be well-defined. Students will be able to identify all parts of speech and to diagram a sentence. Etc.

This shifts the focus from teaching the values and ethos of a field to teaching easily-encapsulated skills, models, theories, and factoids.

I have helped grad programs and post-doc programs develop such Learning Objectives so I know this well.

A well-esteemed professor came up to the lunch bunch one day complaining that he had to write 2 to 4 “Learning Objectives” for a guest lecture he was soon to give at a conference. I said, “I am trained in writing Learning Objectives. What is your lecture on?”

Once I heard, I started blurbing out the Talking Points: “Upon attending the lecture, participants will be able to…”

He looked at me as if I had read some newly discovered James Joyce passage and rapidly developed the Cliff’s Notes overview.

some assignments should be this way. But some should be open-ended, not well-structured, and with a Learning Objective of “impress me.”

Frankly, I have told students: “you aim to be my colleague, so just impress me. Be my colleague.”

To hear back,” how many pages does this analysis have to be?”

The second influence is how Communism has crept into everything in the recent 100 years, with increasing rapidity in the recent 30 years.

Kurt Lewin defined “Aciton Research.” Among educated people who might happen to know both Marx AND Lewin, no one sees how Lewin’s Action Research is Marxist philosophy applied to the social sciences.

Nonetheless, Action research has been promoted, and so the principles and codes of ethics of many professions includes the call not only to study the phenomena, but to overcome various perceived bugaboos and boogeymen, such as Everything is Racist. So, nurses are now expected to save the World from social injustice.

This Marxist view requires not that you are curious, and turn things over in your mind, and ponder, and debate, and spin things different ways, or follow them to their logical comcusions, but that you First accept the dogma then Second obey and follow.

Lately, the term is “woke.” Remember the 1970s when it was “consciousness-raising?”

Leading me to Stranger in a Strange Land.

I am now a Christian, but I did not grow up in organized religion. I was aware of it, however, My parents were more “liberal” or progressive.”

So, “Stranger in a Strange Land” crossed my path. I believed that there was a bit more than just some moralizing going on. Having this outsider view of religion, I decided that Heinlein was developing a bona fide religion in that book.

It came time to do a senior thesis for high school. Circa 1980. My “thesis” was that in Stranger in a Strange Land Heinlein develops a bona fide religion.

I passed the class and graduated.

From sci fi, from being an outsider in a largely Christian community, and other experiences, I have become comfortable with taking a detached view of things, taking a pondering view of things, and not being worried that my hypotheses might not be accepted, or even understood.

As a consultant and sometimes teacher of people with degrees, I do strive to figure out how to present various ideas and approaches so that the audience can at least see where I am coming from.

In my filed of knowledge ‘ expertise, I have novel and compelling ideas and models and approaches, but there is not really a market for this type of stuff.

Sadly, not even very much desired in higher ed.

another ian
Reply to  TheLastDemocrat
June 1, 2021 3:37 pm

I think you are highlighting the difference between a teacher and an educator these days.

Ever hear of an “Educators Union” in a headline?

Reply to  Mike
June 1, 2021 3:46 am

Mike,
Control always results in failure.

Richard (the cynical one)
May 31, 2021 11:17 pm

I appreciated the hard science/engineering type of science fiction that Campbell encouraged. And in addition to devouring the stories in Astounding and Analog, I devoured Campbell’s editorials.
One in particular I remember, but have been unable to find again, mentioned three ‘green’ movements Campbell predicted would trouble the world. I can remember two of the three: Islam, with its green flag, and the environmental movement. I wish I could remember the third one. Anyone there with crisper memories?

M Courtney
Reply to  Richard (the cynical one)
June 1, 2021 4:30 am

Don’t know what you are referring to.
Campbell was quite approving of Islam. Possibly because of Islam’s treatment of Africans.
He was rather right-wing even by the standards of this website.

Here’s a witty review of his editorials.

TonyG
Reply to  M Courtney
June 1, 2021 7:47 am
  • Campbell was quite approving of Islam.
  • He was rather right-wing

That’s a rather unusual juxtaposition

M Courtney
Reply to  TonyG
June 1, 2021 10:50 am

Consider how the Islamic Empires treated Africans and compare with the far Right.

TonyG
Reply to  M Courtney
June 1, 2021 2:09 pm

Ah, back to that tired old canard. Gotcha.

michel
Reply to  M Courtney
June 2, 2021 12:36 am

You need to read about the trans-Saharan African slave trade.

It was on a scale and an inhumanity far greater than the Atlantic slave trade. It lasted over 1,000 years. Its nature has never been admitted or repudiated by any of the Middle East theocracies.

The Islamic theocracies in the Middle East regarded the Africans as low value domestic animals, and treated them like that.

The Atlantic slave trade lasted from about 1650 till 1800, when the British led its abolition. The West Africa squadron was stationed off the coast of West Africa for decades.

The West sinned grievously, but at least it came to its moral senses and repented, and abolished the trade and the practice. The British long before the US.

Ask yourself why there are no African communities in the Islamic Middle East, when tens of millions of African slaves were transported there over the centuries. And when such communities did develop in the US.

Find out!

This is not to excuse the slave trade, slavery or the Jim Crow era in the US which were all appalling. It is to explode the fantasy that the Islamic regimes treated Africans better. No, they treated them far, far worse.

M Courtney
Reply to  michel
June 2, 2021 9:10 am

That was my original point.

Geoff Sherrington
May 31, 2021 11:17 pm

SciFi has never appealed to me as a writing form. A few pages and the impossibilities appear, so close the book, go study some proper science.
It deserves some condemnation for the stupid ideas it has put into heads of some of the intellectually infirm. Like some pollies.
Too many people still believe six impossible things before breakfast, thanks in part to science fiction writers. Geoff S

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 12:17 am

Ah – you might be interested in the “hard science” authors. They hew absolutely only to known science.

Personally, I find them rather boring – and believe that many of their tales will be the butt of jokes in the future.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 1:00 am

Hard science fiction would suit you better.

Science fiction authors and enthusiasts often argue about hard SF versus soft SF, but the general agreement is that hard science fiction is typically characterized by a focus on the hard sciences and more realistic advances from the science we currently understand.

The further the extrapolation of the science that is known, or the “softer” the actual science, the softer the science fiction.

For a more detailed and interesting discussion of hard versus soft, there’s a great article on science fiction scale of hardness.”

Climate believer
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 1:34 am

Good grief Geoff lighten up you’ll give yourself an aneurysm, it’s fiction, the clue’s in the name.

Read some Douglas Adams, then you can use proper science to travel across interstellar space in a mere nothingth of a second, by means of an infinite improbability drive, avoiding all that tedious mucking about in hyperspace.

Humbug…

Randle Dewees
Reply to  Climate believer
June 1, 2021 6:04 am

Or by using the dinner bill accounting methods of an italian bistro

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 3:45 am

I offer you the idea to read some stories or books from Stanislaw Lew, who was able to explain the impossiblein in a scientific manner.
Beside SF he wrote some very enlightening scientific / philosophical boooks, ideas he also offered in his SF stories.

michel
Reply to  Krishna Gans
June 2, 2021 12:45 am

Solaris, and the first film of it, once read or viewed will reverberate in the memory. The SF aspect of it is just the setting. In his case SF was far more than space opera. The Santaroga Barrier by Herbert is similarly thought provoking as are some things by LeGuin.

Heinlein? Well, unlike most here I never found him to have any insights or even ability to raise questions in a seriously thought provoking way. Its all laid on with a trowel. He never seems to know when he has made a simple obvious point, and keeps on and on with it as if it were novel, difficult and required endless explanation to get it across. He seems to me very much a child of the fifties.

Taylor Pohlman
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 4:56 am

Geoff, it was Arthur Clarke who said ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from Magic’. That was on a sign in the engineering lab at Apple when I started there in 1979, and it’s true today.

Try to find a copy of “Beep”, a story by John Campbell that first appeared in a 1978 copy of ‘HP Calculator Digest’. It very clearly predicts and describes the PDA/Smartphone that didn’t appear for another 25 years.

there’s plenty of Science in Science Fiction if you look in the right places…

Graemethecat
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 6:29 am

I urge you to read Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke before you condemn the entire genre of SF.

Editor
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 7:43 am

Try Ringworld, a hard science fiction story,

Ringworld

TonyG
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 8:09 am

Maybe read some of Niven’s essays, where he explains the theoretical underpinnings of much of his work.

Sara
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 9:02 am

I always liked the way Peewee described moving from one place to another in space, not as multiples of the speed of light: you don’t move through space; you slide past it.

That’s in “Have Spacesuit – Will Travel” by Heinlein. Read it when I was 10. There ARE NO impossibilities in science, just a lack of imagination. And unfortunately, imagination is being squelched now in schools.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 1, 2021 9:21 pm

Everyone has different suspensions of disbelief.

Personally I REALLY struggle with ‘Historical Fiction’ because the moment they get anything remotely wrong I am out the story. Same with movies. Dunkirk threw me out. 1917 also had issues, but I was more accepting because the story was presented better.

Can’t remember who first said it, but there is a theory that as long as everything else makes consistent sense a story is allowed one ‘impossible’. Too many impossibles and there is a sense that the author is making it up as they are going along.

Recently I tried and dropped the first ‘Expanse’ novel. Most of my friends who enjoy the series talk up how ‘realistic’ it is compared to other novels, but I got to the first space combat chapter where the characters were inside the battleship and had to bail. Seems my understanding on how spall works is different from the authors.

Oddly the softer the Sci-Fi the easier it is for me to accept. I am a big fan of Phillip Reeve and get sometimes mocked for it by my book reading peers. Apparently Space Trains upset some people.

My day job is in engineering and filled with objectively correct ways to do things. I guess I like my real work Hard and my fiction filled with wonder and big ideas.

Each to their own basically. There are a LOT of books in the world. If the one you are reading is not giving you enjoyment, find a new one 🙂

Robert A. Taylor
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 2, 2021 6:28 pm

Try physicist Dr, Robert Forward, for example, although he he does tinker with facts ocassionally.

Chaswarnertoo
May 31, 2021 11:28 pm

Beyond this Horizon, for me.

Kevin Fine
May 31, 2021 11:45 pm

I was also a rabid Heinlein fan as a teenager. I occasionally read his books even now.
My favorites were the juvenile novels written in the 50’s. I loved Red Planet, and I especially loved Tunnel in the Sky which is filled with adventure.

I am not sure how you can separate Heinlein from his politics. His books were all about freedom, and instead of “sustainability” he was fascinated by the continued expansion and evolution of humans. Farmer in the Sky is a great example, where they terraform Ganymede into a farming planet. Back then the big fear was we were going to starve, and it was Heinlein’s way of saying man would always figure something out.

I found a Heinlein quote that sums up his politics: “Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

Richard Page
Reply to  Kevin Fine
June 1, 2021 3:00 am

Heinlein’s politics have been misinterpreted and mislabelled for decades. As with everything else when you put them into context as a serviceman of his time they become far more interesting and complex than at first glance. Unfortunately those who are dismissive of Heinlein’s politics have never given them more than a cursory glance – Verhoeven in ‘Starship Troopers’ got it laughably wrong.

TonyG
Reply to  Richard Page
June 1, 2021 8:19 am

Verhoeven was very strongly against Heinlein’s ideas in Starship Troopers, so set out to subvert it by parodying it. IMO he failed quite significantly.

Richard Page
Reply to  TonyG
June 1, 2021 2:26 pm

Verhoeven believed Heinlein to be a fascist and tried to parody Starship Troopers, thinking it to be a fascist diatribe. Verhoeven is an idiot, never understood the book at all and got everything wrong. Starship Troopers is a watchable film but it isn’t Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

John Garrett
Reply to  Kevin Fine
June 1, 2021 4:02 am

Kevin Fine—
Bingo. Well played you!

Once again, Heinlein succeeded in reducing an abstraction to easily understood words.

“Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.”

Christopher Simpson
Reply to  Kevin Fine
June 1, 2021 5:32 am

One of the things people often miss about Heinlein’s politics is that he knew there was no real answer. Every system, no matter how apparently perfect at its inception would mutate over time into a parody of itself and have to be torn down for another. The strong individuality of the libertarian society founded in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress was well on its way to becoming a hide-bound bureaucracy come The Cat Who Walked Through Walls.

TonyG
Reply to  Kevin Fine
June 1, 2021 8:18 am

I think Heinlein missed one group: those who want to be controlled. But I don’t think that group was quite so obvious or numerous (or at least obviously numerous) in his time.

Paul Penrose
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 10:07 am

Quite correct, because then they have no responsibility when things go wrong. It also obviates the need to think for ones self, which is just another form of laziness.

Martin
Reply to  TonyG
June 1, 2021 11:40 am

I think those people are in the category “ those who want people to be controlled
It doesn’t say want to control people. Some in that category are Dominant and some are submissive but both groups can’t abide freedom.

KirriePete
May 31, 2021 11:54 pm

Starman Jones started it for me when I was 7. Grabbed everything I could with RAH on the cover after that. Then spread out to Asimov, Clarke, Niven, Pournelle, retro-ed into E E “Doc” Smith, and on and on… Had to punt my paper library out to charity shops (either that or buy a bigger house!), but my Calibre/Kindle collection is doing just fine, thanks.

Richard Page
Reply to  KirriePete
June 1, 2021 3:04 am

Growing up my path home went by the local library which had an impressive amount of sci-fi. I devoured everything I could find but Heinlein was my favourite back then – he wrote equally well for adults and young adults.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  KirriePete
June 1, 2021 7:52 pm

Slim down book collection or buy bigger house?

So… how long ago did you move?

Matthew Sykes
May 31, 2021 11:58 pm

There was a kind of cheap mechanistic quality about his writing typified in Glory Road, where the man has to put the woman over his knee and spank her. I seem to recall there was an entire section in the book where he went off on a complete tangent about masculinity and how women should submit to it.

I am no feminist but this struck me as weird, desperate, needy in fact, as if he lacked confidence in his own masculinity and needed to reinforce it with cheap and clichéd character defects.

dk_
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
June 1, 2021 12:55 am

You should probably read the book again, put it into the context of the character and the writer. Most people who criticize that story don’t realize that Heinlein was trying to break out of the pulps and out from under the censorship that was falling apart at the time. The serialized version was pretty well edited and chopped up. I remember reading descriptions like yours from critics who seemed to be unfamiliar with the book. Glory Road was written well before the feminist movement of the late 60’s and 70’s, was consistent with other entertainment for its time (e.g. movies The Great Race ’65, McClintock! ’63), and by the 80’s Heinlein had written more in essays and in fiction that directly dealt with feminist movements. At least three of his last several books had leading, empowered, inspiring female characters, but he’d been writing short stories with female leads since the 50’s. Remember that Heinlein declared frequently that wrote entertaining stories that sold, for money, and tried to do it well.

dk_
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
June 1, 2021 5:35 am

Matthew, Sorry that I forgot to mention I Will Fear No Evil. Totally fiction, entertaining, explored differences in male/female personality among a lot of other things. Doesn’t get the credit I think it deserves. Probably should be considered groundbreaking. Some people seem to think it wasn’t finished properly because of Heinlein’s illness. Definitely not for kids (showing my age, having read it at about 14). A feminist might or might not appreciate it (I’ve known a self-described feminist who liked the book more than I do), but it wasn’t at all the shallow treatment you describe as your impression of Glory Road.

Reply to  Matthew Sykes
June 1, 2021 6:01 am

I think one reason Heinlein put that scene into Glory Road was that the male lead at that time had no idea that the woman he treated so cavalierly was basically the Empress of the Known Universe, and she needed his talents so much that she avoided having him drawn and quartered.
But Heinlein grew up in the 1920s, so some allowance should be made for that as well.

dk_
Reply to  Chris Marrou
June 1, 2021 7:09 am

Chris, I remember the scene happening later in the story, but if you think about it, the two comedy movies I mentioned to Matthew from the same time as Glory Road had scenes of similar activity (repeat AS COMEDY), one with Natalie Wood, and the other Maureen O’Hara. Not too many years before, written work with such would have been classed as porn in some states or cities (the phrase Banned in Boston, and the name Comstock come to mind).
But I haven’t re-read the book in several years, and I may have mis-remembered the part of the story.

DonM
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
June 2, 2021 4:57 pm

Glory Road, Fantasy rather than Science Fiction, was a departure for Heinlein.

The main character devolves into his delusional (literal fantasy) state and, in the very end, decides it is a better way of life … adventures with Rufo.

Before he fully and completely embraces his delusion he almost escapes (while in the fantasy tunnel on the way to achieving the fantasy goal of collecting the egg), but real life and memories of his past are too difficult to reconcile so he doubles down on the fantasy.

When the delusion gets to boring he dabbles in returning to reality, but can’t quite hack it.

So, a crazy guy (mebbe PTSD), fantasizing about spanking the queen of the universe, and her accepting it.

(My take … I always wanted to ask Heinlein.)

Robert A. Taylor
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
June 3, 2021 4:34 pm

Ah yes, as the spanking in Buffy (Anya & Xander) and Big Bank Theory (Amy & Sheldn).

Zig Zag Wanderer
May 31, 2021 11:59 pm

I grew up reading Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke. When I’d read everything I could find, and since my grandparents and then my dad ran a bookshop, that was a lot, I started on the rest.

I’m still at it! I thoroughly recommend Kindle Unlimited, btw. I spend about $10 a month, and probably read 20 books. It’s a fantastic way to discover, and indeed support, new authors. If you don’t like a book, it costs you nothing and you just borrow another. There are literally millions to choose from.

Richard Page
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
June 1, 2021 2:48 pm

After getting hooked on sci-fi by the likes of Heinlein, Asimov and Clarke, I moved onto authors like Harlan Ellison, CJ Cherryh, Eric Frank Russell, EE Doc Smith, Brian Aldiss and Alan Dean Foster – as well as many others I can’t bring to mind right now.
Good sci-fi is not writing about impossible things, it’s all about the ‘what if’s – it should lead you from the known into the unknown so you can safely explore it.

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard Page
BCBill
June 1, 2021 12:21 am

I too was shaped by Science Fiction. I am constantly finding myself startled by how prescient the early writers were. A particularly popular dystopia where government becomes protective to the point of crippling humanity has been on my mind a lot lately. I don’t often think of specific books, more often just the popular themes and cautions they contained. However, “The Door Into Summer” still haunts me as being particularly unsettling.

Mandobob
Reply to  BCBill
June 1, 2021 6:02 am

I have always found TDIS to be one, if not, my favorite RH novel. I often find myself reflecting on the title as an excellent metaphor on our desire to change the past to better suite what we would like it to be or have been.

Keith Wells
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 9:58 am

One of my favorite Heinlein’s, along with Starship Troopers, Number of the Beast, and Farnham’s Freehold. I have a copy of the Signet paperback sitting less than 10 feet away on my bookcase.

June 1, 2021 12:23 am

@Kip – you did miss one novel in your list: The Pursuit of the Pankera. Published just last year.

An interesting book, and quite enjoyable. Be advised, the first part you will recognize as being almost word for word the beginning of The Number of the Beast – but the rest is entirely original Heinlein. (He had finished the novel, and then there were difficulties with the Burroughs Estate – resulting in his completely rewriting the second part.)

Joe
June 1, 2021 12:36 am

Yet another here whose life and career were shaped by RAH’s works. Currently working through a huge collection of his stories. Now doing “Citizen of the Galaxy”.

I notice that Kip mentioned Heinlein’s politics. I find it very interesting that many sides of the political spectrum seem to think he was “one of ours” or possibly “one of those other fellows” depending on whose opinion one seeks, and which RAH books that person forgot to read.

He was a fiction writer with lots of political scenarios in his fictional universes. Assuming the politics of a storyteller based on their stories seems too superficial to me.

It seems that those most sure of his true politics, rather than those of his characters, don’t present firsthand evidence for their claims, or don’t believe the author’s own stated position.
I could be quite wrong and am open to correction.

But I do notice that his fictional treatments of all sorts of systems, from an-cap/an-com to religious fundamentalist dictatorships, to authoritarianism, both left and right, and more moderate systems are all portrayed with good attention to detail, nuance, and subtlety. It would be hard work for most people to write convincingly for a global audience about a political setup they were openly against without showing significant bias.

So whatever his true politics, he either hid it well, or kept one position while the world changed around him (moving further left?), creating the impression that he had changed, depending on who was looking and when.

His only personal claim I’m aware of was that his politics never changed, yet folks writing about him seem to know his heart better than he.

His ability to convincingly imagine life in different political systems remains world-class, regardless. Whether his politics affected his work or vice-versa, his value to humanity should remain un-tarnished.

Davidf
June 1, 2021 12:38 am

It may well have been Heinlein that initiated my lifelong questioning of authority. The Lazarus Long sequence is likely considered seditious by any committed Socialist.
The film version of Starship Troopers was a travesty – the book I think really, as an early teen, started me thinking about personal responsibility as a foundational ethos for well lived life.

Joe
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 11:10 am

Kip==> Thanks for bringing him up on the site! Reading and talking about him made me happy.

According to Jeet Heer, who wrote about the Patterson Heinlein Biography, RAH was quite left/liberal in the 30s and 40s, being a fan of Upton Sinclair’s “End Poverty In California” movement. At the time he was married to Leslyn. Heer, quoting Patterson, writes that he later married Virginia, a Republican. So it seems Heer (who appears to dislike and fear RAH’s “crazy right libertarian” ideas) has your chronology reversed. Heer’s opinion is that Heinlein’s moving further right/libertarian (or perhaps the world moving further left/authoritarian) “ruined his writing”.

Like relative velocity in orbital mechanics, relative political positions depend upon the observers frame-of-reference.

While Heer (and Patterson’s) chronology may be correct, my opinion is that his political (and psychological) criticism of RAH was mainly for “leaving the left”. And possibly to ensure that The New Republic would publish his article.

Could it be that the man himself is trolling our various Confirmation/False Consensus Effect/Halo Effect biases from the grave?

Clearly RAH has authoritarian, libertarian, left, and right fans worldwide, despite the efforts of people like Jeet Heer. This is quite a chameleon/Zelig-esque achievement. Oddly, if his political campaign for California State Assembly in 1938 had been successful, he might’ve stopped writing, and likely would be nowhere near as popular. Or maybe he would’ve been president instead of Reagan instead of only contributing to his “Star Wars” speech!
(just aping RAH alternate-timeline-extrapolation here) 😀

Last edited 3 months ago by Joe
Reply to  Joe
June 1, 2021 1:56 pm

One enjoyable story that I remember started with the inventor of a time machine traveling back to the deck of a ship in the Pacific – with a syringe of penicillin…

Joe
Reply to  writing observer
June 2, 2021 12:22 am

Yes! A big problem that the Time Corps (several RAH stories involving them) had was figuring out exactly where and when to travel to for what they were trying to achieve. This usually involved Time Corps folks being “away” for a bit, “beforehand” simply gathering intelligence about the period in question personally.

Presumably the founders had already used time-travel to have all of the finance and resources (and planets) they needed, but the thing that really seemed to stress them all out was figuring out exactly when and where to turn up so as to affect the relevant timeline in useful ways without wrecking stuff. They needed detailed information to do that.

If you read “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls” and then pick up the stories that this refers to (quite a few) and get them in proper order, you might enjoy that. The famous “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” happened before the first story I mention, for example.

The way the Time Corps keeps track of various parallel timelines is by referencing cusp events that changed history significantly. The code-name for our current timeline is “Neil Armstrong”.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 1:49 pm

Sinclair was a conservative? Well, maybe by the standards of these days…

If there was a period in his life when he was describable as a “conservative,” it was in the early 1960s, when he and Virginia worked hard against the Test Ban Treaty, and for Barry Goldwater’s Presidential campaign.

Last edited 3 months ago by writing observer
Kazinski
June 1, 2021 12:39 am

First Heinlein I ever read was ‘Door Into Summer’ which had a time travel plot wrapped around a sexual obsession with a pre-teen. Being only 12 at the time I didn’t see anything too weird about that.

My all time favorite Heinlein were The Moon is A Harsh Mistress, The Puppet Masters, and Orphans in the Sky.

I think he might have started taking acid about half way thru Stranger in. A Strange Land, most of what he wrote after that wasn’t very readable.

But at least he never took himself seriously enough to found his own religion, but he was too much of a libertarian to make that mistake.

Old Cocky
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 2:51 pm

Tsk, tsk. Elron’s stated reason for starting a religion was the same as most rock and roll bands.

Gordon Otto
June 1, 2021 1:10 am

Heinlein anticipated and coined the phrase “The Crazy Years”… which has come to mind often lately when I read headlines or listen to news.
His depiction of California in his novel “Friday” isn’t far off present day.
I have read everything he wrote, most several times. There are no better friends to be found than a Heinlein storybook character.
I continue to look for copies in used bookstores… but the few that are traded in don’t last long. This is a goodness.

Leo Smith
June 1, 2021 1:35 am

Heinlein was a welcome foil to the obsessively Left ‘social comment’ of much of his contemporaries.

Soinetime he went a bit tooo far. I reme,ber reading with relief ‘Bill, the Galactic Hero’ after trying to digest ‘Starship Troopers’ and finding it far more believeable…

Richard Page
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 1, 2021 3:15 am

If you take, as a starting point, the 1930’s US military outlook – the citizen army (from Athenian and Roman influences) and add in the view that career politicians had failed the military several times up to that point (arguably continuing to do so into the 70’s and on) then the political setup in Starship Troopers is more believable. It’s firmly rooted in the Platonic/Aristotlean idea of the citizen soldier and the responsibilities of them to their society.

commieBob
June 1, 2021 1:37 am

Science fiction makes it possible to discuss aspects of human behavior that normally couldn’t be discussed. Star Trek, to give one example, was able to discuss gender and race without offending people.

There is a wonderful interview of Stephen Fry done by Jordan Peterson. Fry talks about drama as a way to show the way people behave. It can convey the truth in a way that is easier to understand and more convincing than 99.99999999% of psychology papers.

One way to learn about human affairs is to examine them from a different perspective. Myth, and comedy, and religion, and science fiction all convey the truth in a way that stark realism can’t. They provide the sugar coating that helps the medicine go down … or something like that.

Last edited 3 months ago by commieBob
June 1, 2021 2:02 am

Heinlein was really cool, if a bit of a heberast. I liked his early work, which centred around patriots defending the homeland against the invading communists of various nationalities.
Being genetically indisposed towards referencing, quoting and otherwise vicariously sharing in the wisdom of others, I had no idea who wrote the book, but at the top of each chapter, was a short paragraph propounding on some eternal wisdom. As a kid, I wrote them on a tiny piece of paper, which I carried around with my personla paperwork for decades. Whenever I would rediscover that slip of paper, I would again marvel at the wisdoms that captivated my attention at such a tender age.
While back I accidentally bought a pre-loved copy of Frank Herbert’s “Whipping Star”. Great was my pleasure to find the original source of my little philosophical crib notes!
Heinlein was cool, but Herbert peed icicles!

DonM
Reply to  paranoid goy
June 2, 2021 5:36 pm

“Waking a person unnecessarily should not be considered a capital crime. For a first offense, that is.”

Roger
June 1, 2021 2:18 am

Heinlein was great, but then I grew up.

Reply to  Roger
June 1, 2021 1:58 pm

Grew old, more likely.

commieBob
Reply to  Roger
June 1, 2021 6:59 pm

If you lost your interest in Heinlein because you weren’t getting that much from him any more and discovered other authors whose work you found more gripping, that would be a good thing indeed.

M Courtney
June 1, 2021 2:26 am

Recently re-read Asimov’s longest Novella, “Sucker Bait”. It’s about the perils of over-specialisation and being unable to put together all the pieces from outside one’s own academic silo. Recommended.

However, at one point in the 1950s piece it describes the Greenhouse effect as known then (Asimov calls it the Hothouse effect as he was scientifically literate).
It’s the same as the modern GHG effect except it assumes that plants would not waste such a valuable resources and would hold the world in balance – no catastrophism.

Interesting to see how Hard Science was once common entertainment but is now a great mystery. People who had an interest in science in the 1950s and onward would have known straight off that the AGW thing was unbalanced. And they did.

It’s those who now say “Follow the Science” who never did.

Rich T.
June 1, 2021 2:40 am

Never expected this on RAH. Been reading SCi-FI since i was 6 in 65. and haven’t stopped yet. He was one of the best. Hit up the internet archive to find the old issues. https://archive.org/details/pulpmagazinearchive?&sort=-downloads&page=3 Enjoy reading.

Rich T.
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 5:06 pm

I read a lot of Sci-Fi. Read both the local and township library. Joined the SFBC. All before 73. Now hit the local used bookstores to find classic SF books. The internet archive. Also the Gutenberg online library. Still go back and reread some books many times. I would need a long paragraph just to list the authors i still read. H Beam Piper’s “Omnilingual”, RAH’ The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, Pournelle and Niven on “Lucifer’s Hammer”, Asimov “Foundation” series, CJ Cherryh “Chanur”, “Alliance-Union”, “Faded Sun” series. Micheal Crichton “Andromeda Strain”,Just to name a few. One thing i learned was to think for myself, not trust big brother, and keep asking questions. Thanks Kip.

TonyG
Reply to  Rich T.
June 2, 2021 6:45 am

I found Andromeda Strain somewhat troubling when I looked up some references in the bibliography and found they were real…

David Baird
June 1, 2021 2:41 am

I don’t remember where I read it, yet supposedly NASA astronauts returning to the moon will carry a vial of water, a packing slip and a knife to leave there. This to honor RAH (The Man who Sold the Moon) for his support of and stories inspiring so many to work there and go to the moon and beyond. This post brought the Azmov quote to mind “Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact”.
This was written 5 years before I was born and speaks to the hope RAH had for humanity. This I Believe – The Heinlein Society

Thanks Kip.I guess I’ll need to re-read my collection for the umpteenth time.

bonbon
June 1, 2021 2:42 am

There is a persistent murmur that Heinlein and Hubbard made a bet :
Is there any evidence for the bet between Robert A. Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard? – Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange
It sure seems that all those present made attempts at religion, one well known.
Considering that Climate environmentalism is a religion, maybe they were onto something. Synthetic religion has always been a pastime of Empire going back to Babylon.

ozspeaksup
Reply to  bonbon
June 1, 2021 3:12 am

i read one of hubbards sci fis
before I had any idea who he was
bit simplisitic and full of holes in plots characters
but then so is his religion
the sci fi is better

Kazinski
Reply to  ozspeaksup
June 1, 2021 10:39 pm

You think his books are bad, read the ‘creation myth’ he came up for Scientology. It’s so bad they don’t let you see it until you reach the “completely brainwashed“ level.

Ed Hanley
June 1, 2021 2:43 am

From my early youth in the school library Robert A. Heinlein taught me a sense of wonder, how science is done, a feel for engineering, and common sense. I joined the Nashville Science Fiction Club in ’73 and finally saw Heinlein in person at the Chicago WorldCon in ’82. A great man. Thanks for this very appropriate remembrance on Memorial Day.

Now, about my Quest: I was given by Meade Frierson, an Atlanta SF fan, a “basement tape” of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention singing “The Cool, Green Hills of Earth.” It was really excellent, the best version I’d heard. Somehow in the last 40 years I lost that tape. I’ve learned from sources on the interwebs that a few copies that Meade gave away are still around. I’m hoping there’s a Heinlein fan out there who has a copy and is willing to post it on Youtube.

Jean Meeus
June 1, 2021 2:58 am

I always admired Heinlein’s novella “By His Bootstraps” (1941).
Based on a suggestion I made, the name Robheinlein has been given to asteroid No. 6312, that was discovered in 1990 at Palomar Observatory.

ozspeaksup
June 1, 2021 3:01 am

I had a “heated” discussion with our librarian who was removing his books off shelves along with other older sci-fi books.
trying to explain to someone who has the job BUT doesnt really read books… that theyre classics and not just mindless stories as she filled the shelves with bloody inane romances!!
Ive been buying up as many as I can when she clears them
I like greg Bears books a lot and all the ones above, Pournelle Asimov etc
scifi was THE best education I got about how societies work and a whole lot more.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
June 1, 2021 3:40 am

I would say that “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” is possibly the best of his books. One to compare it with is “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. – a superb writer as far as that book is concerned. Perhaps not so much for the rest of her output.

Both books on the same theme – Earth government gone totally authoritative, and civilization saved by rebels. Long live SF.

Matthew Bergin
Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
June 1, 2021 4:41 am

One of my fav’s as well.

Taylor Pohlman
Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
June 1, 2021 4:44 am

Don’t forget her shorter work ‘Anthem’ similarly about a dystopian future. It was my intro to her philosophy and how to take a stand by seeing and acting on truth.

normanblanton
Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
June 1, 2021 5:21 am

TANSTAAFL

Thomas
Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
June 1, 2021 7:05 pm

Who can name the authors and titles of the three books that started …

1. Who is John Gault?

2. Bill never knew that sex was the cause of it all, but if he hadn’t been staring at the lily white, and wine barrel wide, backside of Mary Lou Caliphigian …

3. Man, said Tarrle, is an endangered spices.

dodgy geezer
Reply to  Thomas
June 3, 2021 8:35 am

I had no problems with the first two, but had to look up the third.
How about this quote from one of my favourites:

His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the –atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god, but then he never claimed not to be a god.

TonyG
Reply to  dodgy geezer
June 3, 2021 1:23 pm

Lord of Light

I recently learned that there was still one Zelazny book I hadn’t read: found Bridge of Ashes in a double-volume with Today We Choose Faces.

Kazinski
Reply to  Dudley Horscroft
June 1, 2021 11:38 pm

The physics of the bombardment of the earth with rocks, or grain barges was pretty sciencey too.

Craig from Oz
Reply to  ozspeaksup
June 1, 2021 7:59 pm

I have a few librarians in my social circle. The policy is apparently that they are a ‘Lending Service’ and not an ‘Archive’.

They stock what they believe their users currently want to borrow and read.

Sigh 🙁

TonyG
Reply to  Craig from Oz
June 2, 2021 6:52 am

That’s a sad development. The profession has been corrupted like so many others.

dodgy geezer
June 1, 2021 3:43 am

I was never that taken with Heinlein – I found him too simplistic. I liked things to be as accurate as possible, and to have the implications worked out as comprehensively as possible.

Blish was capable, not only of giving you the maths behind the FTL interstellar drives which he invented, but also that behind corresponding alien craft. You learn about the different chemical reactions of water-ice phases under high pressure on Jupiter, and the cutting techniques of gravity-polarised explosives – he invented the term ‘gas giants’ for the large planets, and ‘drones’ for remote surveillance vehicles – terms which are used today. You swing from the details of selective mitosis and tectogenesis in adapting human bodies for life in other environments to the issues of Catholic Doctrine and Canon Law with regard to alien life-forms…

But his most prescient prediction, in his Spenglerian ‘Cities in Flight’ series was the collapse of Western Culture into an oppressive official world government – something we are witnessing at the moment. From the 1950s, he predicted the restriction of scientific thought by politics at around 2013, and the complete ‘Bureaucratic State’ by 2105. I wonder whether his dates might be a little too optimistic…

Thomas
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 7:07 pm

But who invented the infinite improbability drive?

Craig from Oz
Reply to  Thomas
June 1, 2021 8:21 pm

No one. It just popped into existence because it was improbable.

TonyG
Reply to  Thomas
June 2, 2021 6:50 am

It created itself as that was the most improbable possibility.

John Garrett
June 1, 2021 3:54 am

Kip,
Heinlein’s “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long” (contained in Time Enough For Love) provided a formative, lifelong weltanschauung back in the day when I was an adolescent struggling to reconcile religious dogma with observed reality.

It is no exaggeration to say that Robert A. Heinlein (along with H. L. Mencken and Richard Dawkins) kept me from falling victim to the blandishments of false prophets.

That trio managed to at least partially offset the pernicious influence of religion, delusional pedagogues and the culture of guilt they sought to impose as a means of control.

Curiously, I was not (and have never been) a reader of science fiction. It was pure serendipity that Heinlein’s book Time Enough For Love found its way into my hands.

Last edited 3 months ago by John Garrett
Editor
June 1, 2021 3:56 am

Kip, Great post! I read all of Heinlein as a kid also, some from a couple of Kansas libraries and some I bought. He was a huge influence in my life.

TonyG
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 2:03 pm

Kip,

Interesting observation there. I think I’ve seen much the same, and even have broken through some barriers with suggested readings. One particularly useful tool for busting through mental walls is Lucifer’s Hammer. It’s a face-punch of reality to any mind vaguely open.

June 1, 2021 4:16 am

I too read everything of Heinlein’s that I could, and retired in 1995 as a Nuclear Shift Test Engineer testing submarine reactors. I have visited his Santa Cruz mountains property.

ThanQ for the paean well deserved.

Last edited 3 months ago by Doug Huffman
Abolition Man
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 12:55 pm

Did you ever make your way to Loch Lomond? I used spend weekends fishing there for stocked rainbows and camping at various sites in the redwoods!

RobR
June 1, 2021 4:31 am

“Robert Anson Heinlein who could reasonably be called one of the the world’s greatest writers of science fiction.”

He’s definitely on my list too. However, owing to a stubborn persistence in shaping public policy I have to give first prize to Michael E. Mann and his novel treatment of temperature reconstructions The Hockey Stick.

Richard Page
Reply to  RobR
June 1, 2021 2:34 pm

Heinlein is definitely in the top tier for science fiction. Mann is a writer of fantasy fiction, however. One should try not to mix the 2 genre’s

Taylor Pohlman
June 1, 2021 4:41 am

I liked Heinlein, particularly his early BEM stuff and hard science like ‘The Roads Must Roll’, but it was A. E. Van Vogt that really sparked my love of the genre. Read ‘Voyage of the Space Beagle’ and tell me that’s not where Roddenberry got his plot for Star Trek. Another seminal book for me on the ‘soft’ SF side was ‘Anthem’ by Ann Rand, her simplest and perhaps most powerful work. But it all started in the mid fifties when I read every Tim Corbett (Space Cadet) and Tom Swift the school library had.

TonyG
Reply to  Taylor Pohlman
June 1, 2021 9:27 am

Ok, so I didn’t imagine Tom Corbett!

I only ever read the first book. Kept looking for the rest but could never find them

Matthew Schilling
June 1, 2021 4:44 am

Kip, I learned “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” from The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Great book even without that line – the idea of someone tossing off boulders from the ultimate high ground shook me a little as a kid!

John Garrett
Reply to  Matthew Schilling
June 1, 2021 5:50 am

TANSTAAFL !!

TonyG
Reply to  Matthew Schilling
June 1, 2021 9:27 am

“Throwing rocks” alluded to in The Expanse – that was a nice nod to Heinlein.

Joe
Reply to  TonyG
June 1, 2021 11:40 am

I agree! While currently re-reading most of Heinlein’s work and watching The Expanse, I find I can’t swing a quantum-enchanted cat without hitting something Heinleinian in that show. There’s also a strong plot-theft of “Orphans of The Sky” in an episode of “The Orville”.

I’ve also named one of my KSP spaceship creations “The Heinliner”.

TonyG
Reply to  Joe
June 1, 2021 2:01 pm

A lot of the Expanse is Heinlen-esque, especially the Belter culture and lingo. It’s quite obvious to me Corey was strongly influenced by classic SF.

Kip, we’re rewatching from the start before picking up season 4. Just as enjoyable second time around.

Tom in Florida
June 1, 2021 4:52 am

Asimov’s planet Solera seems to becoming true with it’s video conferencing and isolation.

When my daughter was young she did not score well on reading comprehension tests. I was told to get her to read, anything. I introduced her to Asimov and the Robot series. She loved those stories and we would have fun talking about them which gave us a special connection. The act of reading the written word seems simple but it worked. I also believe that her interest in linguistics and human migration was because of those stories.

Matt Kito
Reply to  Tom in Florida
June 1, 2021 2:51 pm

Tom,
I read all of Asimov’s Robot and Foundation series.
It wasn’t just the isolation, it was the mask wearing, with gloves and ear plugs that the Spacers wore when around Earthlings. The reliance on technology robots. The lead human detective Baley, predicted it would lead to decline and the Spacers wouldn’t survive. Eventually in the Foundation books they came back and found them all deserted or ruined. Seemed like he had the pulse of how humans really act.

James P Fuerstenberg
June 1, 2021 5:27 am

Very good article. I agree. One of the greats. I did not like everything he wrote, but Moon is a Harsh Mistress is an all time classic.

Ed Zuiderwijk
June 1, 2021 5:44 am

About Reagan’s Star Wars speech. In about early 1984 we had a visiting scientist from MIT at the observatory who told a little story. It was about a team working on one of the orbiting X-ray observatories. These satellites had particle detectors to be able to distinguish between photons (the X-rays) and cosmic ray events. They had done an analysis of this background signal and had found an unexpected source of fast particles and determined that actually that source was local and appeared to be in orbit. Convinced they had discovered a new phenomenon they had written a little research note for a well known science journal. However, just when they wanted to submit the paper there came from the Pentagon a cryptic message to the effect that, yes the analysis looked correct but it would be unwise to try getting it published.

Reagan had not long before given his speech and was widely ridiculed about the whole concept. Learned professors declared it pie in the sky, politicians fell over each other to make hay. But to us that little story meant that in spite of the learned professors someone was already testing up there, or at least doing some feasibility experiments.

Last edited 3 months ago by Ed Zuiderwijk
lance wallace
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
June 1, 2021 6:31 am

That reminds me of the guy who wrote a short sci-fi story and had the feds show up at his door–he had imagined the atom bomb rather precisely and the year was 1944 or possibly early 1945. Sorry at age 82 the names don’t come to mind as readily.

lance wallace
Reply to  lance wallace
June 1, 2021 6:39 am

The writer was Cleve Cartmill and the story was in the March 1944 issue of Astounding. Campbell helped him do the research which allowed him to refer to isotopes, etc. Cartmill was investigated but the FBI concluded that everything he wrote was in fact to be found in unclassified papers. He was, however, asked to refrain from writing anything more on the subject.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadline_(science_fiction_story)

Joe
Reply to  Ed Zuiderwijk
June 1, 2021 11:43 am

Perhaps the hope was that The Soviet Union would also detect these anomalous particles and put the pieces together. Part of the game was tricking the other fellow into spending money to counter something he thought you had, after all.

John Dueker
June 1, 2021 6:34 am

Being the jingoistic cretin that I am Starship Troopers messages of personal responsibility and duty left lasting impressions on me. That didn’t mean I always cut my hair but whatever I committed to I accomplished. Thanks RAH.

Ed Zuiderwijk
Reply to  John Dueker
June 1, 2021 9:12 am

Medic!

Reply to  John Dueker
June 1, 2021 9:14 am

Watch Sargon of Akkad’s brilliant deconstruction of the movie.

https://youtu.be/kVpYvV0O7uI

Danley Wolfe
June 1, 2021 6:42 am

Robert Heinlein is one of my favorite SciFi writers… but not about climate change… this belongs somewhere else besides WUWT? I have followed, and contributed articles to, WUWT for many years because it was the leading website / blog about the real science of climate change…. ?

TonyG
Reply to  Danley Wolfe
June 1, 2021 9:51 am

“for many years”
WUWT has always said “News and commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news by Anthony Watts”, it’s never been limited to only climate.

Jay Dee
June 1, 2021 6:54 am

To my eternal regret I missed an opportunity to meet both Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov but I later met Sprague DeCamp and his wonderful wife Katherine along with a number of other writers. Take a hint kids. Never pass pass an opportunity to meet such people. You will seldom be disappointed.

Harlan Ellison said that science fiction is not about the future but rather the present set in a fiction setting. The interesting thing is that one can read these books and novels to analyze the technology of the day. Take a look at Heinlein’s “Rolling Stones” and analyze how they worked with atomic power. It is a mistake to analyze such works using contemporary morals and mores. They were not written now. They were written then and can be used to analyze the society then.

Steve Taylor
June 1, 2021 7:18 am

The competent man

“Specialization is for insects” I’ve made big in-roads into the list of skills

Jeffery P
June 1, 2021 7:19 am

Big fan, but mostly of Heinlein’s earlier work.

mkelly
June 1, 2021 7:26 am

My first SF book was Cats Eye by Andre Norton. That kicked off a decades long reading spree of SF. Most if not all writers mentioned plus Edgar Rice Boroughs’ John Carter.

Favorite RAH book is Farnham’s Freehold. His case for why a knife is better than a gun in a survival situation was enhanced when I went through survival training in the service.

I have changed a diaper, but until I pilot a star ship I won’t be able to live up to my favorite Lazarus Long saying.

TonyG
June 1, 2021 7:36 am

Kip,

Yes, I would have to say Niven impacted me the most, specifically the character Dan Forester in Lucifer’s Hammer. He taught me that the most valuable thing to stockpile in case of an apocalypse is knowledge. Which is useful in its own right even without such a disaster.

TonyG
June 1, 2021 7:44 am

The Roads Must Roll seems to be a rather appropriate read in the current environment.

Mark D
June 1, 2021 7:59 am

Thanks Kip for the walk down memory lane. I just finished my umpteenth reading of “Time Enough for Love” and every time I learn something new. RAH had more influence on my youth in the fifties and sixties and… well my entire life than any other living person.

Simon Derricutt
June 1, 2021 8:01 am

Kip – by chance, I’ve recently re-read my little collection of Heinlein stories. Though he did end up with female characters somewhat more round-heeled than I’ve experienced in real life, and he had a bit of a fixation on swordsmanship (maybe because he was himself a sword champion), if you put that aside then his characters are pretty believable. The books are not so much about the science, but more of how people and society work given a certain technological base. Some of that science may end up being close to true because the way it’s used has been explored by Heinlein (and of course others), so when some odd effect is experimentally seen, someone may see how that results in the technology described in the SF.

Thus we all knew what waldoes did before anyone had managed to manufacture any, and there are plans being made to build a space elevator (A.C.Clarke). The Dick Tracy video-watch is also now a reality. Unfortunately people do say they grok things when they merely think they understand them, but hey….

Over the years I’ve become far less willing to dismiss things as theoretically impossible – I’ve seen too many theories get modified or discarded as experiment exposes their failings. Some of the SF ideas about space travel may not be too far off – see http://physicsfromtheedge.blogspot.com/2021/02/horizon-engineers.html for a recent announcement of experimental results. If that proceeds as well as it appears, then fairly soon we should be able to mine asteroids and travel around the solar system cheaply, and may even head off to the stars. Incidentally Mike has a DARPA grant for his research, so at least his theory is considered to have enough merit to put official money behind. This also has implications for other transport and for energy production, as well as fundamental physics.

Maybe what Heinlein taught us, unnoticed in the course of reading a ripping yarn, was that maybe more things are possible than current science admits. Though few people will put any effort into stuff that they consider totally impossible, if there’s some chance that a thing might be possible then some people will try to do it. Of course, such attempts to “break the laws of physics” mostly turn out to fail, but some of them will succeed where what’s being broken is not natural laws but what people thought they were because they forgot about Black Swans. To get a different result, you need to do something significantly different.

In future, Heinlein and the other SF writers may end up being credited for opening up peoples’ imagination as to what is possible. Maybe also the warnings of dystopia will have an effect, too, and help us avoid them (though today “1984” seems to be being used as a template rather than a warning).

June 1, 2021 8:05 am

The last and newest SF I read was from Liu Cixin, a Chines author, .the Trisolaris Triology, I was impressed a lot of. Only the very end had room for improvement.

There were also some stories written by John Brunner I liked a lot.

Last edited 3 months ago by Krishna Gans
Michael Doll
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 3:15 pm

Try “Polymath” instead. Lighter, comparable to early Heinlein. For the long view, “The Traveller in Black” (closer to Fantasy, and featuring more spirituality).

For hard Sci Fi my go-to author was Charles Sheffield. I’ve been an avid reader for 4 decades now, listing Heinlein and Clarke as long term favourites, and have yet to encounter a brain-stretcher like <i>The Ganymede Club</i>. There are at least 6 “logical” progressions within that culture that would each be their own book or series for a lesser author.

Sara
June 1, 2021 8:20 am

Oh, GAWD!!!! I was 10 years old. I had an allowance of $2/week for setting and clearing the dinner table. I could go downtown on the bus for $.10 and spend all day Saturday at the library, sitting on the floor of the book stacks, reading all the sci-fi I wanted to.

My favorite writers were Paul Ffrench (Asimov), writing “Lucky Starr and” whatever, and Heinlein, because those books were written to stir the imagination instead of squelching it when some school teacher said “that can’t happen because” and didn’t like it when the response was “PROVE IT!”

Sci-fi was meant to stir the imagination and take away the road blocks… and it did.

Sara
Reply to  Sara
June 1, 2021 8:25 am

FWIW, Heinlein’s description of the Moon as seen by Kip when he and Peewee are trying to escape Wormface is a near-perfect description of what it’s really like, worn-down, rounded smooth hills, mostly flat…. as if he’d been there.

Sara
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 1, 2021 7:19 pm

Thank you, kind sir!!!!

Sunsettommy
June 1, 2021 8:34 am

Inherit the stars 1977 which was so good that Isaac Asimov said: “Pure Science fiction,,, Arthur Clarke move over!”

I knew him as a friend (James P. Hogan) through the e-mails I had with him, he was an early skeptic of the AGW conjecture, with a good science background, but sadly he died too early in 2010 at age 69, I was stunned by the news.

It is one of the most plausible science fiction story I have ever read, great mystery story worth reading and has two other books of the series

At one time I owned over 350 science fiction books some were vintage fist edition too, but stopped when I got married.

There is a set of Hall of Fame Books worth buying where the best and most celebrated science fiction are found, mostly Nebula award winners.

The Hugo Awards website

The Nebula Awards website

Sunsettommy
June 1, 2021 8:34 am

It was Podkayne of Mars that got me reading some of his books which were The Moon is a harsh mistress and Stranger in a strange land as the favorite examples.

But I liked a lot of others too written by many authors.

Some personal favorites:

The Foundation Series by Asimov first one in 1942

The Gods Themselves 1972

Conjure Wife 1943

The Marching morons 1951

The baby is three 1952

With folded hands 1954

The Martian Way 1952

The big front yard 1958

Slan 1940

City 1944

When HARLIE was one 1972

The Roads must Roll by Heinlein 1940 (Retro Hugo Award winner)

Reply to  Sunsettommy
June 1, 2021 9:00 am

The Foundation Series by Asimov first one in 1942

There are a lot of follow-ups written much later I like very much.

mkelly
Reply to  Krishna Gans
June 1, 2021 2:37 pm

I have heard that the Foundation trilogy was being made into a series by HBO.

EARL T SMITH
June 1, 2021 8:48 am

I had the pleasure of meeting RAH back about 1983 at the L5 Conference in San Francisco. As we were both former Naval Officers we spent hours telling Sea Stories with Bob and his wife. The one thing I noted from that event was that at a banquet with about 100 attendees there were about 10 current, former, or future Nuclear Submariners . Self selecting populations.

PaulH
June 1, 2021 8:54 am

I read most of Heinlein’s books back in the 90’s. Having read most of Asimov’s works, I was looking for more. 🙂 The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, JOB: A Comedy of Justice, and Time Enough For Love are just a few of Heinlein’s book I enjoyed reading.

Of the contemporary writers, I like the Expanse series by James S A Corey, and the Frontiers series by Ryk Brown.

TonyG
Reply to  PaulH
June 1, 2021 1:52 pm

The Expanse: I’ve followed the TV series, keep meaning to get to the books. Just too many already on my list. I really appreciate the harder-science approach. They even accounted for it in the show – I loved the twisting column of water when he poured it from higher up, due to the spin of the station. (I’m not sure exactly how accurate it is, but it was a really nice touch to show that they were at least thinking about that sort of stuff, a welcome change.)

mkelly
Reply to  TonyG
June 1, 2021 2:40 pm

I wonder if the Expanse borrowed from RAH when Mars threw rocks atearth?

Donald Shockley
June 1, 2021 9:13 am

Reading Starship Troopers in college directly led me to join the US Navy to do my fair share and ended up staying in for 12 years. Still got all the books.

20210601_110428 (Cropped).jpg
Clyde Spencer
June 1, 2021 9:18 am

Kip

Probably the most influential SciFi story I read as a youth was A. E. van Vogt’s The Weapon Shops of Isher. It implicitly makes the case for the importance and wisdom of the Second Amendment.

I think that the power of science fiction is that for political issues, which are often highly polarized, it frames the debate in a context that is removed from the current polarization and provides a fresh viewpoint.

June 1, 2021 9:22 am

My first science fiction book series was Ruthven Todd’s four volume 1952 Space Cat series. Tracking down print editions led me to Baldwin’s Book Barn in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

Andy Pattullo
June 1, 2021 10:16 am

Kip, I find this very timely and appropriate to my own work and vision. I am an infectious disease physician on the “dark side” of sixty and I spend most of my work time either caring for patients or teaching others how to care for patients.

My career has been illuminated (or darkened if you prefer) by the many examples of main stream medicine deriving consensus ideas and practices by exactly the academic method described in the final quote. I knew Heinlein’s books as a youth and remember enjoying his stories but very little of the detail. It appears I may have missed one of the most insightful and prescient quotes of his and so I had to spend several decades getting to an understanding of the same concept.

I find myself these days taking every possible opportunity to challenge patients, trainees and clinical peers on critical thinking, scientific process and how we go wrong. My few lectures are always focused on the topic and most of my reading is directed to finding our most important wrong beliefs and trying to understand how we go astray.

Unfortunately this is a problem that should be nipped in the bud in children’s early years through education and practical experience but we seem to have forgotten to train our minds just as we have allowed a large proportion of our species to become lazy, fat and unfit physically. It seems we as a species are naturally inclined to bad habits and sloppy thinking just as soon as wealth and ease make the consequences of bad decisions too remote to see without slight effort.

Rich Hosek
June 1, 2021 1:28 pm

TANSTAAFL is the Heinlinism that stuck with me, from “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

I think that applies to all the fanciful solutions bandied about for all of our perceived problems.

Abolition Man
June 1, 2021 1:36 pm

Wow, Kip!
You really know how stir up the old memory banks! I started reading SF when my mother set me loose in the local library at 10 or 11 years old! I would happily read for an hour or two before heading home with a stack of books for the next two weeks. Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, E.E.”Doc”Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs and others were consumed voraciously and whet the imagination!
Then came J.R.R. Tolkien and a membership in the SF Book Club! Decades later I still read SF along with a lot of history, mystery and more! The current authors I enjoy the most are David Weber (Honor Harrington series) and John Ringo, but still have to make time to reread old favorites like the Foundation trilogy, The Mote in God’s Eye or Dune every now and again!
Speaking of old favorites, there was a book called The Survivors (?) I read in my early years that I have not been able to locate. It was a story of a bunch of humans marooned on an unknown planet; trying to survive and redevelop spacefaring technology, in particular a radio for reaching offplanet. There were empathic animals, and dangers galore, that fired my imagination, but I can’t for the life of me remember the author! If anyone has an idea of who it might be I would greatly appreciate it!
Thanks again, Kip!

Chris R.
Reply to  Abolition Man
June 2, 2021 10:32 am

Ah, a Tom Godwin novella, with some truly heart-rending scenes. Godwin’s most famous story was The Cold Equations, which made it into the first volume of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.

Forrest
June 1, 2021 1:53 pm

I love reading the youth books of Heinlein – one of my favorites is “Citizen of the Galaxy” which shows how people adapt to different rolls and cultural understandings. That ‘normal’ is not so much a point of view as it is a cultural heritage and that whether slave, or ship captains adopted son, or heir to a fortune – the expectations of rolls and how we migrate into them are interesting.

Additionally I think I obtained my Libertarian outlook in part due to Heinlein.
Science Fiction gives us a chance to see how the drama of humans and the lives and lies and hopes that we wield will follow us regardless of the world or worlds we ultimately end up at.