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Gingersnap
10-25-2010, 01:21 PM
October 25, 2010 4:00 A.M.
Heinlein’s Conservatism
A new biography explores the political evolution of a first-rate science-fiction writer.

Ask a science-fiction fan who the three greatest writers of the 20th century were and you’ll start an argument that will last all day, but the consensus remains that they were Isaac Asimov, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein. Clarke kept politics out of his novels. Asimov was a devoutly liberal Democrat; liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has repeatedly stated that his teenage enjoyment of Asimov’s Foundation series, which depicts a precisely planned and controlled future, inspired him to become an economist and a man of the Left.

Robert A. Heinlein, however, was a conservative. Heinlein had a libertarian streak to him, and if you meet a Heinlein fan that has named his cat “Adam Selene,” you’ll find someone who believes Heinlein to be a simon-pure libertarian. But Heinlein’s patriotism and strong support of the military ensure that he must be thought of as a conservative.

Heinlein’s conservatism extended to his non-political juvenile fiction of the 1940s and 1950s. There are hundreds of thousands of Baby Boomers who read such books as The Star Beast (1954) and Have Space Suit, Will Travel (1958) and discovered exciting novels, set in a future of limitless wonder and exploration, told by a writer who seemed like a kindly uncle who whispered, “Yes, I know being a teenager is a struggle. But knowledge is important. And I know math is hard, but you’ve got to understand math if you want to do well in life.”

Heinlein, in his juvenile novels, taught conservative virtues. “I have been writing the Horatio Alger books of my generation,” he wrote to his editor, Alice Dalgliesh, in 1959, “always with the same strongly moral purpose that runs through the Horatio Alger books (which strongly influenced me; I read them all). ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ — ‘Hard work is rewarded.’ — ‘There is no easy road to success.’ — ‘Courage above all.’ — ‘Studying hard pays off, in happiness as well as money.’ — ‘Stand on your own feet.’ — ‘Don’t ever be bullied.’ — ‘Take your medicine.’ — ‘The world always has a place for a man who works, but none for a loafer.’ These are the things the Alger books said to me, in the idiom suited for my generation; I believed them when I read them, I believe them now, and I have constantly tried to say them to a younger generation which I believe has been shamefully neglected by many of the elders responsible for its moral training.”

As William Patterson shows in Learning Curve: 1907–1948, the first volume of his authorized biography, Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, Heinlein’s political evolution was somewhat comparable to that of Ronald Reagan. Until the 1950s, Heinlein thought of himself as a liberal. After 1945, he thought that the only way to prevent global atomic annihilation was a strong world government. In his 1949 novel Space Cadet, Heinlein depicts a future where peace is preserved through a global government controlled by the military.

Reagan and Heinlein both moved to the right in the 1950s, partially due to wives who were more ardently conservative than they were. Heinlein’s discovery of conservatism must wait for the sequel to this book, but Patterson provides one clue: In 1954, Heinlein read an article that was critical of the official U.S. government story about Pearl Harbor. This led Heinlein to become more skeptical of the state, and he quit being a Democrat.

Interesting.

National Review (http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/print/250773)

AmPat
10-25-2010, 02:08 PM
Interesting. Discovering a cure for liberals takes the same route as a cure for diseases. Science may yet cure malignant liberalism.

Arroyo_Doble
10-25-2010, 02:44 PM
I am not a Heinlein fan at all; his writing is juvenile and sappy. Friday is without a doubt the worst science fiction novel produced and I have read alot of terrible sci-fi.

That said, I always thought his vision of a world where service was a requirement for citizenship (a modified concept I believe in: compusory service) is 180 degrees opposite of what effect that would have on a society.

FeebMaster
10-25-2010, 09:09 PM
Poor Heinlein. You write a book where service guarantees citizenship and the conservatives claim you for life.

Rockntractor
10-25-2010, 09:13 PM
I have read alot of terrible sci-fi.



Do you not have the ability to stop reading it once you have determined it to be stupid, is your time worth that little to you that you can't stop?

AmPat
10-25-2010, 09:47 PM
Poor Heinlein. You write a book where service guarantees citizenship and the conservatives claim you for life.

Alas, there is no known cure for self aggrandizement.:rolleyes:
Too bad we can't all be as detached and above it all as you. Your'e my hero.:rolleyes:

MountainMan
10-25-2010, 10:22 PM
Poor Heinlein. You write a book where service guarantees citizenship and the conservatives claim you for life. :rolleyes:

How long did it take for you to come to that conclusion? :rolleyes:

MountainMan
10-25-2010, 10:23 PM
I am not a Heinlein fan at all; his writing is juvenile and sappy. Friday is without a doubt the worst science fiction novel produced and I have read alot of terrible sci-fi.

That said, I always thought his vision of a world where service was a requirement for citizenship (a modified concept I believe in: compusory service) is 180 degrees opposite of what effect that would have on a society.

Juvenile and sappy.....OK then. I take it "Stranger in a Strange Land" is sappy and juvenile?

Arroyo_Doble
10-26-2010, 08:48 AM
Do you not have the ability to stop reading it once you have determined it to be stupid, is your time worth that little to you that you can't stop?

No. I tend to stick it out once I start. It is rare that I will put a book down (figuratively) without finishing it.

Arroyo_Doble
10-26-2010, 08:49 AM
Juvenile and sappy.....OK then. I take it "Stranger in a Strange Land" is sappy and juvenile?

Yes. One of the most overrated books of all time. Right up there with that whining douchebag story Catcher in the Rye.

asdf2231
10-26-2010, 09:53 AM
Poor Heinlein. You write a book where service guarantees citizenship and the conservatives claim you for life.

Anyone who has ever taken the time to actually find out about the person behind the books knows you for the stupid tool you are in stating that.

MrsSmith
10-26-2010, 09:56 AM
Poor Heinlein. You write a book where service guarantees citizenship and the conservatives claim you for life.
Poor Heinlein...be a patriot and a military supporter and none of the libs will like you any more.

OTOH, maybe he didn't care what libs liked? :D

gator
10-26-2010, 10:03 AM
I am not a Heinlein fan at all; his writing is juvenile and sappy. Friday is without a doubt the worst science fiction novel produced and I have read alot of terrible sci-fi.

That said, I always thought his vision of a world where service was a requirement for citizenship (a modified concept I believe in: compusory service) is 180 degrees opposite of what effect that would have on a society.

Starship Trooper is one of the best books ever written about the concept of duty and what it really means.

If every person in the US was required to read “The Moon is Harsh Mistress” our country probably wouldn’t be 14 trillion dollars in debt.

I have a complete collection of his book by the way.

Odysseus
10-26-2010, 10:20 AM
I am not a Heinlein fan at all; his writing is juvenile and sappy. Friday is without a doubt the worst science fiction novel produced and I have read alot of terrible sci-fi.

That said, I always thought his vision of a world where service was a requirement for citizenship (a modified concept I believe in: compusory service) is 180 degrees opposite of what effect that would have on a society.
Compulsory service = slavery. Why am I not surprised that you favor it? Heinlein proposed that only those who were willing to volunteer to lay their lives on the line for a society should be able to govern it. This was a modification of the Roman rule, which required that a man serve in the legions at tribune rank before he could take his place in the Senate. Military service isn't a guarantee of leadership skills, as Jimmy Carter amply demonstrated, but it provides a good foundation for them, and you can tell a lot about someone from the character of their service, which is why I'd never vote for anyone who kept their military records sealed, and I'd have to take a long, hard look at someone who hadn't served to determine if they had the skills to run the country.

As for the quality of his writing, I wonder if the themes so repelled you that you couldn't appreciate the quality of the storytelling.


Yes. One of the most overrated books of all time. Right up there with that whining douchebag story Catcher in the Rye.
I'll give you that Catcher in the Rye is horrifically overrated (and seems to have inspired quite a number of douchebags to commit some pretty heinous acts). Salinger has always bored the hell out of me, and I've never understood his appeal. It's been three decades since I read Stranger in a Strange Land, so I barely remember anything about it except that it got me through a nasty bout of the flu when I was in high school, but I do remember enjoying it immensely.

Heinlein's juvenile novels are just that, juvenile novels, i.e., written for young adults. He was the J.K. Rowling of his generation, and his books hold up very well, especially Starship Troopers.

Gingersnap
10-26-2010, 11:01 AM
Yes. One of the most overrated books of all time. Right up there with that whining douchebag story Catcher in the Rye.

That was one of the few Heinlein works that I actively despised (as I did Catcher in the Rye and for many of the same reasons).

I wouldn't say that all or most of his writing is such a turgid, sappy mess - far from it! I'm a Phillip K. Dick girl at heart, though. ;)

FeebMaster
10-26-2010, 11:19 AM
Poor Heinlein...be a patriot and a military supporter and none of the libs will like you any more.

OTOH, maybe he didn't care what libs liked? :D

Or anyone else for that matter.



Anyone who has ever taken the time to actually find out about the person behind the books knows you for the stupid tool you are in stating that.

All I'm saying is it's no different than if I claimed him as an anarchist just because Bernardo de la Paz happened to be an anarchist. Sometimes conservatives just give the impression that Starship Troopers is the only Heinlein novel they've ever read.