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Happy Birthday, Robert Heinlein!

Happy birthday to Robert A. Heinlein (7 July, 1907 – 8 May, 1988)!


“Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.”
- Robert A. Heinlein, The Rolling Stones (1952)



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 7th, 2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
I'm re-reading Citizen of the Galaxy right now, and it's still amazing. Heinlein was a formative influence of mine, and as I have grown older, his influence upon me has grown, too.

Happy birthday, RAH, wherever you are.
Jul. 8th, 2014 10:19 pm (UTC)
Heinlein was a formative influence of mine, and as I have grown older, his influence upon me has grown, too.

Yes! This is my exact same experience.

I need to reread Citizen of the Galaxy. I revisited Have Space Suit, Will Travel not too long ago and, like you said about Citizen, it's still amazing! :)
Jul. 7th, 2014 03:31 pm (UTC)
He must have been the first writer in whom I encountered intellectual substance. I still like his juveniles because he takes it for granted that his young readers will want to read about interstellar ballistics, or the ecological problems of turning regolith into soil, or constitutional theory, or Malthus—and he writes about them as if he's equally interested in them. He's still one of my models for the old Renaissance formula of "instruct by pleasing."
Jul. 8th, 2014 10:21 pm (UTC)
"Instruct by pleasing" is such a perfect way to put it! You're so right. I agree wholeheartedly about his juveniles.
Jul. 7th, 2014 03:47 pm (UTC)
I have not read his work. (Though, of course, I see his books everywhere.)

Any specific recommendations on where to start?
Jul. 7th, 2014 05:38 pm (UTC)
I personally favor the Scribner's juveniles. I would not start with Rocket Ship Galileo, but any of Space Cadet, Red Planet, Between Planets, Farmer in the Sky, The Rolling Stones, Starman Jones, Tunnel in the Sky, Time for the Stars, The Star Beast, Citizen of the Galaxy, or Have Space Suit—Will Travel. Podkayne of Mars has not worn as well; our expectations for girls are much different now.

The juveniles were written when his writing was matured, and before the runaway success of Stranger in a Strange Land made him immune to editing even when he needed it.

His first Hugo winner, Double Star, is also very worthwhile; the best, I think, of his four Hugo winners.

Of his later fiction, I would give the highest place to Friday. I think it's particularly brilliant how he shows a viewpoint character who has been raised as an inferior, not even credited with an immortal soul, and who has badly damaged self-esteem, rebelling against the crap she's been subjected to without even understanding that that's what she's doing; Heinlein's psychology is subtler than he's often given credit for.
Jul. 7th, 2014 05:52 pm (UTC)
Thanks very much!
Jul. 8th, 2014 10:26 pm (UTC)
There are great recommendations on where to start already posted here as replies to you and farther down, as replies to my original post, and now I'll jump on the bandwagon. :) I wholeheartedly agree with everyone's suggestion of his juvenile novels such as Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Citizen of the Galaxy, Space Cadet, etc. He didn't write down to his young readers, and therefore these novels still work very well for adult readers, too. Each of these stands on its own as an independent story, so there's no wrong place to start. It's all good!

As for his stand-alone adult novels, I think Double Star is a very cleverly done character piece that still has a lot to say about politics. My personal favorite of Heinlein's, which I definitely recommend, is The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. It revisits the U.S. Revolutionary War, casting Earth as Britain and the moon as the colonies. Delicious stuff.

Edited at 2014-07-08 10:28 pm (UTC)
Jul. 9th, 2014 02:05 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm forever wanting new sci-fi
Curtis Weyant
Jul. 8th, 2014 12:55 am (UTC)
Hooray for Heinlein!
Jul. 8th, 2014 10:26 pm (UTC)
Hooray indeed!!!
Jul. 8th, 2014 12:07 pm (UTC)
Boy, that's a trip down memory lane. I have every one of those editions.

As a starting point, of the juveniles, I'd suggest Space Cadet. That's the one that hooked me, back in the mists of time when I was in 5th grade. (I was always well ahead of the reading curve, so I think it was probably aimed at readers a bit older than that.)

Of his books for adults, I think The Moon is a Harsh Mistress holds the biggest place in my heart, but Time Enough for Love is a good choice too.
Jul. 8th, 2014 01:58 pm (UTC)
Space Cadet is an underrated book, I think, possibly because the title is a phrase that's nearly impossible to take seriously now.
Jul. 8th, 2014 10:37 pm (UTC)
possibly because the title is a phrase that's nearly impossible to take seriously now.

Oh, good point!
Jul. 8th, 2014 10:36 pm (UTC)
Boy, that's a trip down memory lane. I have every one of those editions.

I love the cover art on these editions!

Space Cadet is a great one. I actually came to the juveniles after reading and adoring some of his adult novels, but I thoroughly enjoyed them, even as an adult reader. And I second your recommendation of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. That remains my favorite Heinlein work.
Jul. 9th, 2014 02:44 pm (UTC)
Of course, any writer with a significant bibliography will have a few stinkers in the mix. In Heinlein's case, there's Project Moonbase. Some of you may remember seeing it in the first season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. It can be commended for its realistic portrayal of space flight, especially for a rocketship flick of that period. Unfortunately, certain aspects have not aged well.
Jul. 9th, 2014 07:04 pm (UTC)
Project Moonbase? I know Heinlein was involved in making a film, but the title I know was Destination Moon; I've both seen it and read the script. The second volume of Patterson's biography gives the details on all the other people who pissed in that particular pot. But I never heard of its being called Project Moonbase, or of Heinlein being involved in a project with that title.

A look at Wikipedia and IMDB suggests that it was made from one of his stories—which can mean a lot or a little; films such as I, Robot and Starship Troopers don't necessarily represent the books they were based on.
Jul. 10th, 2014 12:21 pm (UTC)
This isn't merely a case of a Howl's Moving Castle style of film adaptation. Heinlein has an actual screenplay co-writer credit. Now there are some conflicting stories on how much involvement he had. However, there's too much Heinlein-ness in the script for it to be dismissed purely as Heinlein mentioning a couple of ideas and the other writer doing the bulk of the work. There's even what might be an uncredited cameo by Heinlein (assuming it's not just an actor who happens to resemble him).

As for the film itself, its major flaw involves the two leads. Breiteis comes across as a whiny shrew, which can be partially forgiven (but only partially) due to the fact that Moore behaves like a condescending dickweed towards her. If you want to see the MST3K treatment, it's in Volume XX of the DVD releases from Shout Factory.
Jul. 10th, 2014 02:55 pm (UTC)
I've seen little bits of MST3K treatments and I find them unendurable. So no.
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