My Name Is Inigo Montoya!

*So, yes, this is a SORTA blast from the past post — but it’s one that wasn’t published here, but at The Lensman’s Children as a guest post in October 2010.  I apologize for doing a repeat post of sorts, but Through Fire has FINALLY started coming together and I’m up to my eyeballs in it.  And then again, I started feeling I needed to do a post on what Heinlein meant to me, because some people are talking a lot of insanity about the poor man, who is not alive to defend himself.  But there’s really nothing I want to say about Heinlein which I didn’t say in this essay.  And so here it is.  A reprint and not a reprint, and some of you might have missed it, so…

UPDATE: since this was written in those days of halcyon sanity four years ago, I feel compelled to clarify — because I don’t want to be answering stupid comments all day, I want to be finishing my book — that no, I’m not threatening to kill anyone.  The end of this essay is simply my expression of belief that those who are so afraid of Heinlein that they must make it a thought crime for people to read him, don’t stand a chance now that the gatekeepers can’t keep out those of us who learn and read from everyone and everything.  Because, you see, we do.  Yes.  Everyone.  Yes.  Everything.  Sticks and stones may break my bones, but ideas are just grist for the mill.*

I’ll start this blog by coming clean and admitting I swiped the title from a speech given in Johannesburg by my friend Dave Freer. I swiped the intention of the title, too. Dave used it to mean that the pseudo-literary aspirations of science fiction had killed what was different and interesting about the genre. He meant that classical science fiction had “fathered” him and that he meant to carry on its legacy, regardless.

My reference is more specific. Years after Robert A. Heinlein had died, my husband and I managed to – yes, it did take some work – have the child we’d been trying to conceive for six years. He was – still is! – a boy, so we named him what we had always planned to name him: Robert Anson Hoyt. Because he’d been due on the fourth of July (I spent months singing Yankee Doodle Dandy to my belly!) when – incidentally — labor started, we didn’t realize the significance of his birth date on the seventh. Not until my husband called my brother and told him the name of his brand new nephew. My brother said, “Oh. And on Heinlein’s birthday.”

The coincidence was too much for my husband who forced me (trust me, it took forcing) to send a birth announcement to Mrs. Heinlein. This initiated a correspondence between us which — eventually – extended to my having her AIM handle. This handle was Astyanax. In one of the last conversations we had I asked her about its significance.

I was, of course, aware that Astyanax was the offspring of Hector and Andromache and supposedly thrown from the walls of Troy after the sacking of the city. But in some versions of the story Astyanax lived on to found settlements in Corsica and Sardinia.

Ginny – I could never call her that while she was alive, though she asked me to. Respect forced me to call her Mrs. Heinlein – told me that was exactly what she meant. Just like the Greeks thought that they’d successfully put Hector down and that no one would survive to avenge him, so the establishment thought it had successfully put Heinlein down and no one would survive to avenge him.

On the face of it, this seemed absurd. After all Heinlein died in his eighties, after a successful career. He was not murdered. His city was not sacked. Even for a metaphorical city, where it referred to Science Fiction, you could attribute falling readership to myriad conditions, including changes in US retail.

However, I knew exactly what she meant. You see, I’d come at Heinlein from an odd direction. In fact, it was many years before I realized that the first book of his I read must have been when I was nine or so. Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. At the time I didn’t realize it was science fiction. I had no concept of Science Fiction. To me my Science Fiction reading started with – of all things – Out of Their Minds, by Clifford Simak. In fact, when I first read Heinlein after realizing what science fiction was, something about the way his characters acted and talked, scared me a little.

I was more comfortable in Clifford Simak’s quieter universe, with its more docile heros. Except some books of Heinlein’s would demand to be read again and again – Puppet Masters; The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress; Starship Troopers. Little by little, Heinlein grew on me. The first time I encountered the notion that taxes were a form of extortion was in his books. First argument against gun control, too, in Red Planet. First argument for individual freedom – The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. First statement that the future is always better than the past – The Door Into Summer. Growing up in a country that had been a monarchy for most of its existence, a country where in fact, the citizens were held to owe something to the country, not the other way around, this seemed like insanity. But it stayed with me. And it took root.

By the time I was in my early twenties, I knew that Heinlein was not only my favorite author, but – hands down – the greatest influence in forming my mind and spirit. (This, by the way reading mostly his adult books, as only about half of his juveniles were ever translated to Portuguese and available at the time I was buying.)

I was very shocked when I came to the US and found that it was not fashionable, and – in some quarters – not acceptable to be a Heinlein fan. Considering his beliefs, and his work, ranged from hard left to pragmatic right, not just because he was not captive of a view point, but because his beliefs changed through his life, Heinlein is, like the bible, something in which everyone can find something to criticize. There were, for instance, the people who objected to what seems to be the militarism of Starship Troopers. (Never understood that one. Starship Troopers is if you’re hit, hit back and you have a right to survive but that’s me.) There are people who object (oh, of course. Even Heinlein saw that more than the rest, I think, because he expected it) to the sex which ran the gamut of everything people might consider offensive. There are people who object to his views on religion. There are people who object to his female characters wearing high heels. I’m sure I’m leaving a lot out.

(Though I never heard anyone object to Puppet Masters, which is odd, since the story questions our perceptions; our ability to know we’re our own people; media behavior and, incidentally, the limits of Constitutional liberties. No, I don’t object to the book. You see, like Heinlein I believe scary subjects are the ones that should be explored. In an entertaining manner. To make money and make people think, too.)

However, over time, criticism in the field I aspired to enter coalesced around objections coming mostly from the left. This happens possibly because with obvious and clear exceptions the writers and critics in the field, range from left-of-center to left-of-Stalin. (This is not a criticism, merely an observation.) So we hear that Heinlein was unfair to women, too militaristic, too pro-business, too pro-space-colonization and of course, that one thing he could never escape forever (given that if he’d lived he’d now be 102) a dead white male. And yes, we DO hear that he has too much sex, from people who clearly haven’t read their field for a while. Needless to say those who think the proper place of genre literature is competing for space in college reading lists find him “too simplistic” and not nearly “nuanced” enough.

By far though, the shrillest criticism I’ve heard of Heinlein – perhaps because being female I move in female circles socially and sometimes professionally – comes from college-educated women. A female friend told me she’d gotten furious when reading Friday’s rape in the beginning of Friday and had never read him again. The idea baffled me, since lots of authors write about rapes – lots of romance authors, who are mostly female. Mystery, too – and it doesn’t mean they enjoy them or approve of them. It was clear from the raid after Friday’s liberation   that the rapists were killed and their organization destroyed. (Yes, one survives, but he was constrained to rape her, which changes things. And at any rate, he undergoes his own trials by fire. And he was like Friday an artifact, so not a free man.) There was punishment for the act, so why the outrage?

And then I started hearing it from everywhere. Heinlein was anti-woman, they said. This despite the fact that he always maintained in his books that women were superior to men in most ways, and my having first encountered the concept of “date rape” in his books. Heinlein didn’t even write real women, only men with tits. This last baffled me even more since, on a smaller scale – I was never built on the heroic scale. Emotionally and mentally, at least. The hips are getting downright monumental, these days – I’d always identified with his women. And I knew lots of women like them. Ironically some were women who didn’t like him because – they said – he wrote men with tits. At the same time, while being accused of being too masculine, his women were attacked for liking men, for enjoying sex and wanting to be pregnant and for not having ever been told that “all penetration is violation.” (Like a lot of Heinlein criticism, the contradictions can make your eyes cross and your head spin around three times.)

Sometimes the very fact that his women were larger than life was brought up as evidence that he hated women. A puzzling idea, since his men were also larger than life. It’s what made his books so appealing. Very few people – outside college reading lists – want to read about average Joe getting up and struggling with the heart break of Psoriasis.

Sometimes the fact that his women liked men and were willing to dress and behave to please men was brought up against him. Children, if you don’t know what’s wrong with that reasoning, I can’t help you. (Though I might find you some diagrams and a couple of very good manuals.) Women will always dress and behave to please men (even when that includes pretending they won’t) and men will always dress and behave to please women.

Yeah, there are the exceptions, but then they’re really only playing on the opposing team and the same rules apply. Heinlein himself said that everything from poetry to nuclear physics were only variations on the old game. Humans – mirabile dictu – are driven to mate and will go out of their way to make themselves attractive. (Shame on Mr. Heinlein for making his women human, instead of poreless rubber dolls with agendas.)

I soon realized none of these people – mostly women, though also a few men – had ever actually read Heinlein. Certainly no more than a few pages. They had heard how terrible he was and made up their minds about him before they read the first sentence. But they knew   just knew   all that they’d been told was true. And possibly more.

Which is how we came to the sad state of affairs where pros in panels can dismiss Heinlein by saying that like any old man he was obsessed with sex and politics.

The true reason for all this – though I won’t say it was coordinated. Most of it can be attributed to stupidity, a wish to belong and fear rather than malice – is that Heinlein scares the living daylights of those who would restrict the operation of human reason. And so he should.

Yes, his politics varied over his lifetime. He tackled themes that no sane human being would tackle, for fear of retribution. Themes in which powerful elites have a lot invested. Power. Sex. Money. Religion. The definition of human. Obliquely and sideways, race. The changes technology can bring to all of those.

Now, some of the themes were less than elegantly handled. Sex for instance. But when you’re examining the effects of extreme longevity on the incest taboo, it is quite possible there is no delicate way to tackle it.

However, more important than his themes or his political inclinations, or his preoccupation of the moment was his determination that the human mind should be free   free to examine and discover. Free to know. Free to find the truth. Which is why I perceived him – first in rejection, and later in embrace – as the quintessential American writer. His values were – always – of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness. The primacy of the individual over the state or the church or the coercive group. It could be argued that having been educated in Heinlein I had to become an American citizen. In fact, had become one, in all but name and law long before I landed on these shores.

As he said it, himself When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, – not anything – you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.

He never anticipated   or perhaps he did (he did after all mention the crazy years) – an ideology (political correctness) that would make it impossible for anyone to talk about anyone else’s problems, particularly for a man to write about the problems of women without oppressing them by his very act of “usurping” their “victimhood.” An ideology – or perhaps merely a belief – that would make it impossible to disagree with the verdict of the cognoscenti once they’d declared any person’s ideas forbidden, any person’s reasoning offensive.

Mighty little force is needed to control a man – or a woman, or a child – whose mind has been hoodwinked.

They’ve managed to lock Heinlein’s ideas, his thoughts, his persuasive, infectious insistence on individual will and free reasoning, behind walls where most people won’t dare trespass. They have killed him as dead as they can, because – to quote Shakespeare, possibly talking about Marlowe – When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a/man’s good wit seconded with the forward child/Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a/great reckoning in a little room.

They think they are safe. The man’s words are dead. His wit is not available to the new generations. Even his gallant wife is gone.

But, alas, they counted without Astyanax. We are legion. And as long as there is a library standing, as long as the net remains reasonably free and gives us access to his works and those of other believers in freedom, more of us will appear.

I am not going to pretend I am equal in greatness to Heinlein. Would that I were. It was in full humility and sense of my own ineptitude that I dedicated my book Darkship Thieves to him. I hope there is in it at least a spark of his genius, but I know there’s probably no more than that.

But I was raised by Heinlein through his books, and I hope at least the spirit and the intention of the search for truth and individual freedom remains in my work. As well as the certainty that it’s always easier to be a live lion than a live lamb or a dead lion.

I am sure many stand ready to kill me – or at least my career – I’m sure I’ll be held to have despicable personal habits and low mental prowess. Heaven knows, I quite often feel tired and dispirited, as though I’m bleeding from multiple wounds.

But the need to awaken people drags me up again. I start writing to remind others of their innate freedom to think beyond the boundaries imposed by any ideology, any government, any church, any in-group, any literary current. The belief animates me that, so long as we keep fighting for Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and using our minds to improve the present, the future will always be better than the past.

And then, like Inigo Montoya, the mad Spaniard in The Princess Bride, I rise again and resume my search for those that killed my father: that intransigent refusal to think; that serf-like willingness to believe the wisdom of the self proclaimed “betters”; that boneless, spineless conformity that goes along to get along.

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

381 responses to “My Name Is Inigo Montoya!

  1. While there might not be a top-down conspiracy to kill Heinlein, there are a lot of liberals who wish they were a part of one, and act accordingly.

    (Oh, weird. I originally wrote that “A lot of people” and then somehow it felt appropriate to delete “People” and replace it with “Liberals”…. I think it was to make it more descriptive, but I think some might interpret that as saying that Liberals aren’t People. Which is probably projection on their part.)

    • The tragic irony of it all is that I have always been a social liberal based in great part on my extensive reading of Robert Heinlein. But damnitall the liberal progressive socialist scum have managed to co-opt the term, and for that alone I will never forgive them.

      • The left in America is not Liberal in the least, That is the reason I continue to call them Leftoids or something less fitting for a family environment.
        The took the name as a mask, and change names to hide intent or to deflect if they have sullied the name too much to remain popular

      • The Democrat Party and the media are attempting to do this again by substituting “democratically” for democrat. Pay attention to the news and you will see/hear references to “the democratically controlled Senate” instead of “the Democrat controlled Senate.” This is not a mistake or accident, IMO.

  2. John in Philly

    After I read Starship Troopers in the school library I requested a hardcover copy for my birthday. I’ve probably owned that book for just under 50 years, and I have been rereading him as part of the monthly bundles.

    I remember during my reading all of his novels, I did not always agree or like what he had to day, (yes his writing about extremely uncomfortable subjects was one of the things I did not always like) and yet, as I reread his work I find that just like him, I have evolved and changed as I have aged.

    And speaking of immigration, it seems to me that in general, Americans who have chosen to become American, take their citizenship and America much more seriously than those of us who simply happened by accident to be born here.

    Although to my knowledge, none of the Heinlein characters had six fingers on either hand.

    • I’ve gone through three copies of “Starship Troopers” in the last fifteen years. It keeps getting stolen by people I loan it to.

  3. ” you’re examining the effects of extreme longevity on the incest taboo,”

    Actually, he was examining the effects of mapping the human genome reliably on it, and explicitly said so in “Time Enough For Love”. And he was pretty much right in his premise and conclusions:

    The incest taboo had as one of its’ purposes the prevention of defective children which the society could not support, and the observed result that close pairings tended to produce those measurably more often. Once the mechanism of genetics was understood, the taboo would shift, by law and custom, from being based on family relationship to being based on genetic mappings and likely reinforcement of “bad recessives” of the people involved.

    This is why homosexuals had best hope that a genetic basis is never ever discovered. Because once it is, and testing becomes possible, there will be a genocide. Ironically, this is most likely to happen in the Islamic countries; the group in this country that might pursue such a choice also has a strong moral aversion to abortion, and Islam has no such taboo.

    If the country is sufficiently totalitarian (again, the Islamic countries, or Putin’s Russia), they may set up mandatory testing for the already born.

    This is a technological change with profound social implications that formed a lot of the basis for Heinlein’s work, and a lot of good science fiction.

    • Snelson — yes. Of course. BUT I was talking about the internal shift for people born in our time. Yes, I was talking Lazarus Long 😉

      • There was, however, also the passage (I believe it was in TEFL) in which Lazarus, having lived on a frontier world longer than he’d meant to, was concerned with the education of his pubescent daughter. As separate from the bumping-uglies with Laz and Lor.

        M

    • yes, but preventing inbreeding was only one of its purposes. As witness that consanguinity is only one cause of it, though the leading one. A lot of cultures have incest taboos based on affinity — does anyone really think it odd that a culture would ban stepparent/stepchild relations? And also genetic identical relationships can be one taboo (parallel first cousins) and one actually preferred (cross first cousins).

    • That puts the gay community in a quandary, because they would very much like to claim that people are “born that way,” yet if they actually find the genetic markers for that behavior, they open up an entire hornet’s nest of issues. Especially combined with the issue of unlimited abortions. Is it a genocide if it happens in Planned Parenthood clinics.

      • It’s likely an epigenetic thing, so it would be harder than that, but yes.

        • Well, 50% of the identical twins of homosexuals (or was it male ones? I forget) are also homosexual, so it’s at least as much hereditary as schizophrenia.

          • Which is likely also epigenetic.

          • Wouldn’t that have to be children of bisexuals, or at least in these days of AI of one homosexual parent? ( you could have AI children of a gay man and lesbian woman, but I believe those instances would be so vanishingly rare that your sample pool would be to small to be of any use). Not saying it can’t be hereditary (although the idiots that say it isn’t a choice WILL get ridiculed by me), but I would say it has to recessive. After all it hasn’t been bred out, and until very recent times purely homosexual people absolutely couldn’t reproduce, and we still don’t have the technology to reproduce pure homosexuals, the product of two homosexual men, or two homosexual women. When you cross a homosexual man and a homosexual woman (which would be possible by AI) you would be crossing two people who are attracted to their own sex, but you would also be crossing one person attracted to males with one person attracted to females, which would still tend to muddy the research waters).

            • There’s hereditary and hereditary. It seems to — pardon me, I grew up in a village — that it “runs in families” but it’s usually uncle/nephew or great nephew or great grand nephew. No direct participation involved. Google epigenetic genes and you’ll realize it might run in entire families, but it’s only activated in one person out of a hundred or so.
              BTW most biological children of gay people (even with two gay parents) are straight.

              • I remember reading a story which claimed that some recent (-ish…) research seemed to show that the more sons a woman has, the more likely it is there will be at least one homosexual among the youngest brothers. No idea how reliable the research behind that claim may be.

                • Might be age-of-mother related, from what I read — which means we’re headed into interesting times.

                  • It might also have to do with immune-system sensitization with successive pregnancies. It’s been discovered recently that fetal cells migrate across the placenta to the maternal bloodstream during pregnancy, and can be found in various maternal tissues years or even decades after the pregnancy, the heart being one of the most prominent. So a mother literally carries a bit of each of her children within her heart for the rest of her days.

                    The female immune system has to be finely tuned to avoid rejecting the unborn child in utero — which is why autoimmune disorders are more common in women than men, because there are more “moving parts” to go awry. But after multiple pregnancies, and thus the accommodations necessary to deal with multiple genotypes, it’s possible that the maternal immune system might start having trouble coping. The damage wouldn’t be nearly so severe as what happens with Rh incompatibility syndrome, but it might be enough to result in differences in hormone balance or other things that would affect the developing brain in the areas that regulate the “pattern generator” for what constitutes a sexually desirable person.

                    And of course there’s the problem of different levels of genetic susceptibility, both in the maternal immune system and in the fetal brain, that could lead to the “runs in families, but skips around” phenomenon.

                • For what it’s worth, I have three brothers, the youngest is gay, the rest of us very hetero. This seems statistically unlikely (25%) compared to the population as a whole (5%?). I also know a pair of siblings both of whom are homosexual, She’s a lesbian, (actually bisexual), and he’s gay.

            • Anyway, you’re making a salad of the genetics. Even if it were not epigenetic, it’s not that simple. I don’t FULLY get genetics myself, but I endure lectures from older son.
              Genes work in mysterious ways. For instance, you can have a bright red head after years of black haired ancestors, and no hanky panky.
              Oh, also apparently what I used to solve A Death In gascony, and what we were taught for years, is false. You CAN have a brown eyed child from two blue eyed parents. It just had to wait to be confirmed when there were enough paternity tests.
              As I said, the thing is waaaaaaaaay more complex than you’re representing, or than people my generation were taught in school.

              • Also I have noticed that in those certain families, when in-breeding is involved or close breeding of families, there tends to be more homosexuals in the family– Plus I have seen certain men (and sometimes women) who deny their attractions, get married, and have children. I wouldn’t call them bisexual (even thought they had children) because when they break from their marriages, the ones I knew stayed away from the opposite sex period.

                • According to biographies, including autobiographies, of some gays, the attraction can vary over time – between gay, bi-, and straight. Not sure what that’s about, other than encouraging the reader to consider psychological influences other than genetic background.

                  • Okay– I have wondered in the past if the gene (or genes) are like my disease. My disease has a gene component and a trigger component. I only have the potential in my genes… and maybe I am totally wrong. It is like anything else, I suppose. We just don’t have the full story (i.e. genetic profile and how it works).

                  • Susan Shepherd

                    My guess is that romantic attraction vs. sexual attraction might play a part there. That is, some people respond to physical attractiveness, others respond to personality-based attractiveness, and most people respond to both. And the things people find attractive seem to change over time.

                    Someone who’s primarily sexually attracted to people of their own gender could be described, accurately, as “gay.” But if they have a romantic attraction to certain kinds of personalities, irrespective of gender, then sometimes they’ll get a “crush” or otherwise fall in love with women. There are words for this, but they haven’t really become commonplace. So the person finds themselves in a situation where they find themselves attracted to people of both genders, and the only word they know of that’s close enough is “bisexual,” so they describe themselves that way. As opposed to “homosexual bi-romantic,” which is more accurate but less commonly seen or understood.

                    As a person’s social environment changes or as their criteria for “I’m attracted to you” change with time, they can find themselves in situations where they haven’t had a crush on anyone but guys for months or years, and then they may decide they aren’t really bisexual after all, or that they aren’t bisexual “any more.” Which is reasonable from my point of view, but can get awfully confusing to people who’ve never had a romantic crush on someone they weren’t physically attracted to. After all, if your Venn Diagram of physical vs. personality-based attraction is a circle, and has always been a circle, it’s easy to doubt that other people’s Venn Diagrams are different, right?

                  • Not to mention, “hard core lesbians” have a hidden “man on the side” more often than you think. I’ve known a few. Boys tend to be pure gay. Girls, not so much. Saying such is so is a policical thing. Oddly, those that hide it become even more virulently anti-male. Those who don’t care say, “what the heck, I’m bi, but prefer N.”

              • And I don’t mean one or two times– when I say in-breeding, I mean over fifty years or more of constant breeding between a few lines–

              • Had two blue-eyed acquaintances who together had a brown-eyed son. Look, there’s no doubt who the mother was, and the kid resembled the father in every other conceivable way. Turns out the blue-eyed gene mutating to the brown-eyed gene is relatively common, as mutations go.

              • Yep, or what I was taught in school, and when I went to school my high school was one of only six schools in the state, and the only high school to have a class on genetic engineering. (because the biology teacher was really interested in it and pushed to have the class. In was a great class, about a week and a half of classroom work at the beginning and then the rest of the semester was lab). I don’t do well at explaining it, because a) I don’t understand it all myself, b) a lot of what I do understand is from a combination of stuff long ago read and stuff I learned from observation and animal breeding. Thus I don’t necessarily know the terms for describing what I know.

                Epigenetic=stably heritable phenotype resulting from changes in a chromosome without alterations in the DNA sequence. Yes, but not really what I was getting at, I was being at least half sarcastic when I said it had to be a recessive trait, because if it was dominant it wouldn’t be passed on, since homosexuals do not breed with the opposite sex and therefore don’t produce children.

                The thing about genetics is that there are usually several ways to get the same phenotype. For an example that I am familiar with I will go with dogs. It is commonly known that red is a dominant color and you can’t get a red dog from two non-red parents. This is true except when it isn’t. There are a few ways to get red dogs from non-red parents, the most common is to have parents that are genetically red but have some type of a modifying gene such as a brindling gene, which is a modifier of the base red color. Two brindle dogs can throw a red dog (lacking the brindling gene, or the brindle modification is so faint as to not be visible) also on the other end of the spectrum you can have a black looking dog which is actually a red dog with such a heavy brindle modifier that the base red color isn’t visible. You can also have two red and white or tri-colored parents produce a red appearing pup, due to modifiers that modify it so far as to appear to be red when it is actually red and white or tri-colored but with such minuet quantities of the other colors as for them to be practically invisible. There are also dilute genes that dilute colors, as well as modify, these are what cause the merle pattern in Leopard curs and Australian Shepherds and the harlequin in Plotts and Pitbulls, as well as causing Pepto-bismal colored red dogs. There are also a couple types of ‘red’ (the dog geneticists have fancy names for these colors, to differentiate between them and red, but phenotypically they appear identical to ‘true red’) that are recessive. All these are unusual, but can be bred for, in the case of modifier genes this is an inexact science that is sure to leave a breeder with less hair. But the rule still stands, because it is Usually correct, except for the exceptions of course. Genetics is that way, there is an exception for practically every hard and fast rule.

            • If homosexuality requires one or more set paired recessives, and has positive adaptive effects given only one or less than all of the pairs, then you could see a situation in which the recessives are selected for even if actually being homosexual is maladaptive. Plus, there’s the possibility of kin-selection, where having at least one homosexual is good for a family to the point that it is favored because the homosexual member aids the survival of his kin and hence of the gene-complex which includes his homosexuality (probably as a recessive).

          • The research I’ve seen in the twin studies pegs the number at around 20%, not 50%. Which is an order of magnitude higher than the normal incidence of around 2%, but still a pronounced minority of the cases.

            There may be a genetic component, but if so, it’s only a small piece of the puzzle.

            • I’ve generally found the teratogenic hypothesis plausible, though I admit my understanding of reproductive biology is not strong. The hypothesis, as I understand it, is that sexual orientation and identity develop during the sixth month of gestation, and are heavily regulated by the hormonal environment in which the fetus develops. Testosterone tells the brain it’s male, estrogen tells it it’s female, so over-exposure to the wrong hormone produces a brain structured to perceive itself as a sex that its chromosomes say it’s not.

              Here’s where I read of that: http://www.karger.com/Article/Pdf/262525

              I don’t have access to the full article, just the abstract, and I don’t know if anyone has rebutted it or not. If it’s correct, then homosexuals would be “born that way”, but there’d be no “gay gene” to find. At most you’d find a genetic predisposition on the part of the mother to over-produce incompatible (wrt the fetus’s sex) hormones during the latter half of gestation.

      • There’s a pro-life homosexual group founded shortly after its founder read the first articles talking about discovering a “gay gene.”

    • John Schilling

      “The incest taboo had as one of its’ purposes the prevention of defective children which the society could not support”

      I think this is a step removed from the truth. The incest taboo predates the necessary understanding of genetics to recognize that incest = defective babies. And the one place where the correlation might have been empirically observed in advance of the underlying science was in the field of animal husbandry, where there has never been much of an incest taboo and in fact quite frequently the opposite.

      The incest taboo, I think, serves the purpose of assuaging the psychological drives associated with the Westermarck Effect. Human brains are hardwired to perceive as icky and gross any prospect of sex with anyone we knew intimately when either we or they were in their toilet-training years, and by intituitive empathy we expect the same to be true of everyone else – and it usually is. To people who aren’t more or less libertarian, that which is icky and gross ought to be prohibited – and it usually is.

      Defective babies almost certainly are the underlying reason at the level of evolutionary biology. Humans can’t smell well enough to say with any confidence, “that one’s probably got 25+% of my genome; do not breed with it”, but we’re good with faces even as they change over time and “that one used to change my diapers” is a pretty good correlation with shared genes. Particularly in the wild, where the Westermark effect presumably evolved. Good enough to get the job done and prevent most of the defective-baby-making couplings.

      But if you’re trying to understand how the taboo will apply in edge cases, like thousand-year-old men and their cloned daughters or adopted siblings or whatnot, it’s probably the Westermarck effect and early shared intimacy rather than the shared genetics and real defective-baby potential that will govern actual human response at the individual and cultural level.

      • The incest taboo predates the necessary understanding of genetics to recognize that incest = defective babies

        Statements like this don’t take into account the possibility that centuries of empirical evidence can embed such a taboo in the culture without any such understanding. Nor that tribes without such a taboo likely disappeared due to the effect of such inbreeding weakening them until some other tribe absorbed them.

        • There’s apparently a reverse Westermarck effect as well, “genetic sexual attraction”, that might negate the taboo in some cases. I had a pretty serious crush on my first cousin when I was young, though never acted on it. The current inbreeding among Muslim immigrants is resulting in lots of genetically damaged offspring.

          http://www.damninteresting.com/too-close-for-comfort/

          interesting article!

      • ” And the one place where the correlation might have been empirically observed in advance of the underlying science was in the field of animal husbandry, where there has never been much of an incest taboo and in fact quite frequently the opposite.”

        Actually there is a very strong aversion to inbreeding among hobby breeders. Mainly because of disinformation, much which is a result of transference of the human taboo to animals. This is actually a fairly good thing in the case of low information hobby breeders.

        Inbreeding doubles up on genes and by extension traits, both recessive and dominant. This can be good or bad, determined by whether the traits are desireable or undesireable. I’m being simplistic again Sarah, but I’ll just state that some genes are desireable in singles, but not in doubles, without writing an epistle on it. But for the rest inbreeding can be good, IF it is accompanied by an extensive culling program, keeping those with the desired traits (genes) and removing from the gene pool those with the undesired. When an aggressive culling program isn’t feasible (such as with humans, and no I don’t think eugenics is a good idea) then inbreeding is generally a bad idea, because the undesireables will stand a very high chance of being fixed in the line, instead of being just a crap shoot like in outcrossing heterozygous individuals.

        This is why professional and serious breeders tend towards extensive line and inbreeding, while hobby breeders trend towards continuous outcrossing.

  4. Double Star was the first Heinlein I remember ever reading. And reading, re-reading and reading again.
    Over the years I’ve read, I think, everything he has published in the fiction realm. And I’ve made sure my children had the chance to read him. The Legacy Lives On.

    It’s interesting how those who read him early on have developed similar mental focuses. We may differ in politics, in religion, and certainly in social values; but his influence will be detected throughout it all.

    • I was in my late teens – early twenties before I started reading him, and I had no idea who he was when I found the first book, by browsing new releases and picking a couple of paperbacks which seemed interesting. That was a translation of Podkayne. Well, I was not all that impressed, I liked it but was by no means crazy about his writing. Then, later, I got Red Planet, and that one I liked more, but I still didn’t pay that much attention to the name. Well, at that time I bought the English language paperbacks from a book store in Helsinki, and they didn’t have that many shelves for English science fiction and fantasy (translations were few and far between, if I had kept to those I would have been reading maybe two to three SF/F books per year, and half of them ones I didn’t particularly like). And during a few years in the beginning of the 80’s most of Heinlein’s novels came there. I think it took me close to ten novels before I realized that hey, I really like this writer, whoever he is, and started to hunt for his books on purpose. Some of the ideas in his stories resonated very well with me, several others didn’t, but most times he told a good, or at least an interesting story (the later novels, several of which are not very coherent), and I always liked his characters.

      It’s quite possible I was mostly raised by ERB. He was the writer I found first, his novels were the reason I first fell in love with reading, and I went through most of his translated bibliography between the ages of 8 and 14 (Tarzan, Barsoom, Caspak and and a few scattered stand-alones or two novel series, like Apache Devil). And back then the local library was well stocked by older adventure novels, both Finnish ones and translations, and since I had fallen in love with ERB those fit me better than many of the newer ones. It took me years to realize that hell of a lot of the novels and writers I liked best had actually been written either decades or even a century or more before I had been born, I just read them and kept the ones I liked in mind.

      • Oops, I left out Pellucidar, part, only the first three books of that series were available.

      • Oh yes– my parents had a lot of ERB in their books when I was young. I read them all including his Westerns.

      • The Outlaw of Torn, not SF, but my favorite ERB book. He was my introduction to SF, but I didn’t recognize him as SF, because for some reason in my mind I knew I didn’t like SF and I liked ERB, ergo ERB wasn’t SF. Anne McCaffery is who later introduced me to SF as SF, through her Pern books and then her other works. The absolute worst pair of books she ever wrote introduced me to Moon as a coauthor in the sequels, which then introduced me to Baen. Which is when I really began to read science fiction as a genre instead of as an occasional one-off novel or author.
        I am like you in that a lot of the novels and writers I like best have been written decades or a century or more ago; in Science Fiction in particular I like the pre-golden age authors and then mainly what I like are authors writing in the last thirty years. I’m not a huge fan of many golden age authors, although they had a huge impact on many of the authors writing today that I enjoy most.

        As anyone who has been on here for long no doubt knows, Heinlein is not one of my favorite authors. He had good and bad books, all his YA novels I have read are worth reading, and the short story The Long Watch is an absolutely fabulous story, probably the best short story I have ever read, by any author. The rest of his books, most I find readable (at least until Lazarus Long enters the story, then the plot is over and I lose interest and move on) but I find his take on human nature so unrealistic that it throws me out of the story in many of them, and he doesn’t have the explicit, fast-paced action of the older era action-adventure/SF writers like ERB to drag you back in and over the rough spots. What he did do, and why he always will be a great in my view, is influence so many authors who followed him in the field. While I’m sure there are some I can’t off the top of my head think of a single author who cites Heinlein as ‘an inspiration’ who I don’t like, most of them I like much better than the one who inspired them. The profound impact he had on the genre and the authors that followed him make him great in my eyes, regardless of how much I like or don’t like his books. Many authors take the best of his ideas, blend in some realism as far as human nature goes, add back the action of the earlier ‘pulp’ era that was dropped as the ‘golden age’ really got going, and tell it in their own distinctive voice. Creating works that I am happy to pay money to read. If you care to look, instead of just enjoying a good read, you can see Heinlein’s influence in the writing of most of the successful SF authors today, even in many of those that disparage him.

      • “It’s quite possible I was mostly raised by ERB.”
        I liked ERB a lot as a child–read nearly everything–but as an adult I find him not a very good writer.
        So: You discovered ERB in translation. Were the translations stylistically better?
        I have heard that Shakespeare is read more in France than in England because the French read him in translation, and thus in modern French, while the English read him in Elizabethan English which is difficult for moderns.

        • This was my issue. ERB is miles better in translation to Portuguese. So is Clifford Simak. So is A. E. Van Vogt and most definitely so is Phillip Jose Farmer.

        • I have read some of his books in English, and yes, some of the Finnish translations work a lot better. Especially some of the older ones (there are a few books of his which have gotten two or three translations).

          Tolkien is another writer with an excellent Finnish translation. I seem to even remember a claim that he himself preferred the Finnish translation of ‘Lord of the Rings’ to his own version (he could speak Finnish).

        • I devoured ERB when I was young, now I find his stuff very formulaic. I can pick up one book and enjoy it, but I can no longer sit down and read a series of his back to back, it’s kind of like eating mac and cheese* for every meal. It tastes good the first meal, is edible the second and a couple of days in you would rather go hungry than eat it. I still go back on occasion and pick up The Outlaw of Torn or A Fighting Man of Mars (or any one of the other 75+ of his books I own) and read it, but I’ll wait six months or so before reading another of his books.

          *chosen specifically as an example, because many kids I know would eat exclusively mac and cheese if their parents allowed them. As we grow older we crave more variety.

          • ERB had his formula, which I would sum up as.

            A man of high birth (though he may not know that, and we might not either) and martial tendencies is thrown into another setting filled with dangers. He meets up with an unattached and beautiful woman. (She is also of high birth, though it’s even more like that he won’t that, we won’t that, or she won’t.) They have misunderstanding complicated by dangers until finally they manage to clear them up and have a climatic scene that puts them somewhere safe for a time, where they marry.

            And he was wise to stick to it, because when he diverged the story had no unity to it. Tarzan lost its grip after Tarzan and then his son marry; John Carter of Mars went on better because he knew to shift to a new romance when the old one was played out. (Sometimes he tried endangering the wife. This didn’t work quite as well because rescuing your wife is not the same as rescuing the maiden you love and who may not reciprocate.)

            But it does mean a bit of monotony.

            My own favorite is The Monster Men, though while he brushes on some interesting concepts about souls and people, he does not quite manage to think them through.

          • It’s rather similar for me. As a child the formula was great, though. I knew what I was going to get, the same ice-cream I had liked the previous times, with perhaps a bit different topping. 🙂

        • It was my reading of ERB that taught me the difference between being a good writer and being a good storyteller. ERB was an absolutely AWFUL writer, but a downright brilliant storyteller. Kipling was brilliant at both. I would argue that some of the ‘literary’ stars are good writers, but bad storytellers (most of them are simply talent-proof nitwits).

          • Oh yes.

            I do notice nowadays that you probably need to be at least a competent wordsmith to get published. But past that, story will survive no style better than style will survive no story.

          • Yep. The easiest skill, to me at least is “words” and if I let myself I’ll work them till the story doesn’t mater. I had to learn to tell a story, though.

  5. I have always loved Robert Heinlein. Discovered him at age seven at the local library in Citizen of the Galaxy. After that some of the juveniles, Starman Jones, Farmer in the Sky and such. Then Starship Troopers at age eleven, and I thought I had found the greatest story ever told. Then on to Lazarus Long (and I truly loved all of those quotes from the supposed immortal man which were actually quotes from Heinlein.) Yeah, Heinlein is a big influence on my writing. Not the only one, maybe not even the biggest one, but definitely an influence. If it is uncool to like Heinlein, then I wear that label proudly. From the bottom of the pyramid I haven’t found that to be so. I belong to several groups of thinkers that include many young people, and all of them seem to like Heinlein, those who have heard of him outside of those horrible movies based on Starship Troopers. At my age I really don’t care what other people think about my likes and dislikes. Heinlein will always be a literary hero, just like Burroughs, Poul Anderson, and too many others to mention. Like Heinlein taught me, my mind is my own, and it is up to me to form my own opinions, and to love what I love. Heinlein forever.

  6. I got a late start; I was 18 when I read The Rolling Stones, followed quickly by Space Cadet. I’m thinking of sneaking copies of those two into the library of the school where I work. Purely as an experiment. No subversive intent at all, of course.

    • My God, you might not be able to control those young minds after they read Heinlein.

    • The school library doesn’t have Heinlein? The horror! Between the school library and the church library I don’t think I owned any Heinlein of my own until I picked up the digital editions Baen has. I still remember the day I found out there was Heinlein in the school library too: I went up to the checkout with two or three of them and the librarian said something to the effect of “I see you’ve gotten into the good stuff!”

      • The criteria here seem to include “Is it hip; does it promote diversity; will it get us into trouble?” That last is synonymous with “will it make anyone in the Administration Office look bad.”

  7. As an aside, may the Deity bless the house of Baen for their long term project to reissue all the old Heinlein stories as they become available. Cannot for the life of me remember if Jim started that or if Toni initiated the effort, and it doesn’t really matter, it’s still a most good thing for them to do. The digital versions are a great help to me as I attempt to subvert my grandkids by exposure to ideas completely out if sync with everything they’re being taught in public school.

    • Is Baen reprinting unaltered versions of his work? I remember Flint mucked with James Schmitz’ novels which annoyed me no end. I’m asking because I recently reread Star Beast and there’s stuff in there I really don’t remember seeing when I read it as a child. Of course, as a kid I may not have recognized how subversive Heinlein was.

      Baen is also reprinting Andre Norton’s work. Her novels and Burroughs came before Heinlein for me. At one point I had almost her complete bibliography of SF and Fantasy.

      • Oh, I read so much of Andre Norton.

      • Actually I think it is time for me to go back and reread her works– did anyone like her Andrew North stuff? I read also read that writer before I connected the pseudonym to her.

        • The first few Solar Queen books came out under Andrew North but I found them after they were republished under Norton. I need to dig them out and reread them. DO NOT read the Solar Queen books by other writers. “Redline the Stars” is the ultimate definition of a “Mary Sue” destroying a beloved work.

        • And yes, they are good reads.

          • I’ve been recently re-reading it. Some odd effects. . . .

            What I missed in Forerunner Foray struck me most. . . warning: this will contain spoilers. . . .

            Why does she go after the Eyes with such a passion? Why do neither of them, or anyone else, wonder if this driving obsession is a good thing?

            And when they jump back into the bodies of the dead. . . man, what a disruptive influence they had, both on the dead man’s wife and on his loyal guardsmen. Tearing up history like that, with no thought of whether it could change things. . . and their basic purpose? Robbing a grave.

            When I was an adolescent, I didn’t notice it any more than the characters did. Now — I ripped off some of those ideas and filed off the serial numbers to do them RIGHT.

            • You know, I didn’t catch that either.

              There’s a lot of stuff in Norton I’m having trouble rereading. Her SF seemed very mystical to me back then and now it comes across as more hard edged. I see the ruthlessness of some of the characters that just went right over my head.

              • What amazing when you re-read books from your childhood is not how you enjoyed books with such flaws. It was how you were unable to distinguish between such flawed books and the much better books that were intermingled with them. Like, say, her Dread Companion or Ice Crown.

                • This. Exactly. Not just with Andre Norton, but other writers I enjoyed the first time around. I like to reread stuff I like, and it’s amazing how you overlook flaws the first time round that the second time round get the book discarded or erased (ereaders shouldn’t be thrown.)

            • I wondered at the time of Forerunner Foray –I read that one several times– if it was to set history right because it has gone wrong. However, any time you change history to “right” there are consequences which weren’t shown in that book. I like Rusch’s idea that when a person changes history he or she are thrown into an alternate history– so the implication is that the people are changed, but the world they left is not–

              I first read the book at 12– so it was a story of a girl in a bad situation trying to save herself. Now– as an adult, it has themes I also missed– the change is that I grew up– and am seeing the world in a effect and consequence…

      • At least Puppet Masters has two editions. The first published version had been rather heavily edited by the publishing house, and then a few decades ago a version based on the unaltered original manuscript was published. I own only the older version, but did read the other one because the local library got it, and for one thing it has more sex. It starts with a scene where Sam wakes in bed with a woman with who he had had a one night stand, while in the older version that had been taken off.

        • That is the version I read (or rather listened to). It seems that most of Heinlein’s books had two versions. The only one I explicitly read both back to back and compared them was Podkayne (because only the ending was changed and my copy had both endings in it) and I preferred the second (Heinlein’s original) version, but I also have the expanded (again Heinlein’s original) of Stranger and can’t help but think that some editing would have improved it.

          • You know what gave me whiplash with the two versions of Stranger? He switched Mike’s name around. In one, he’s Michael Valentine, but in the other, he’s Valentine Michael. Or maybe I’m insane. It’s been a while for that book, but I’m pretty sure about that.

        • INTERESTING. Not in the older Portuguese version.

          • I’ve been planning trying to find a copy of that newer/original version. From some accounts I found online the originally published one seems to be about 60 000 words, the 1990 one is close to 100 000 words, so there is more than a few scenes there which aren’t in the originally published one. Would be interesting to read them side by side, which I didn’t do when the 1990 version was available from the library, but it’s not there anymore so if I want to do that I need to get a copy of my own. Problem is most descriptions of copies for sale do not tell which version they are talking about.

            • From what I remember the original manuscript version gives Sam a bit more of a James Bond feeling compared to the more straitlaced Sam of the edited version, for one thing, or implied he had been something like that before the beginning of the story – lots of cloak and dagger stuff and lots of sexy women whose names he didn’t remember if he had even known them in the first place. Then he falls in love with Mary… 🙂

              • I’ve got the audio file of the long version I could send you if you want it.

                • Thanks, I may take you up on that later, if I can’t find the novel on paper. But with English I’d prefer text, I have been mostly just reading English for over two decades and occasionally have bit of a hard time following spoken language, at least if the speaker talks fast or has some sort of accent. I usually get most, but the occasional lost bits can be irritating (going back and listening again, possibly a couple of times, slows things down, and I’m the impatient type when it comes to consuming stories 🙂 ).

              • The new manuscript has that too.

  8. Heinlein’s beliefs were well summed up, I think, by H. L. Mencken, before Heinlein’s career got started:

    “I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to
    be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.”

    (Heinlein may well have read that. The Man from the Past in Beyond This Horizon, John Darlington Smith, refers to The American Mercury, which Mencken edited, so Heinlein was aware of Mencken, and I imagine he would have read Mencken for himself.)

  9. “This happens possibly because with obvious and clear exceptions the writers and critics in the field, range from left-of-center to left-of-Stalin. (This is not a criticism, merely an observation.) ”

    I think you may have put a finger on why I haven’t read much science fiction in years. I’m not sure I ever recognized this on a conscious level; I just knew that the newer science fiction I was seeing seemed to be swill.

    Also, I have studied enough modern physics that I just can’t suspend my disbelief about faster than light travel, which pretty much spoils the kind of science fiction I used to most like.

    I was into Clarke before I was into Heinlein, but I was into Heinlein early enough that it’s his juveniles I loved. His first “adult” work I read was Farnham’s Freehold and I was young enough that it kind of put me off. Returned to Heinlein, briefly, when an acquaintance in college got me interested in Starship Troopers. (He was an ROTC student, ironically.) I thoroughly enjoyed it, but, look: A lot of the philosophy comes straight from the same philosophical roots as fascism.

    Now, do I think Heinlein was a fascist? Pbbbbth. I think Heinlein was doing what Heinlein does, which is to explore dangerous ideas to their limits. He looked at fascism and asked, Hey, why does this appeal to people? Then he took the appealing elements, tried to strip away the associated crap, attempted a union with the democratic impulse and his own fondness for individual liberty, and saw how far he could push the idea. Which was amazingly far, actually. Would I want to live in Heinlein’s Starship Trooper universe? Not particularly; I mean, they’re fighting a desperate hot war against an existential threat. Also, I don’t think his universe would actually work, because I don’t think his model of mathematical morality is anything close to sound. But it’s a fun idea to explore, even if you spit it out after rolling it around your tongue for a while.

    • Same roots as fascism? Be specific.

      And consider that a lot of the New Deal had the same roots as Fascism. People openly admitted at the time that they were doing the same as the great Leninist-Fascist examples.

      • Yep on that last. Oh, yes.

      • I absolutely agree that the New Deal had a lot of the same roots as fascism. Social Darwinism was widely popular among intellectuals at the start of the 20th century.

        Which is a lot of the reason the 20th century was the way it was. Bloody and evil.

        Heinlein, I think, took the social Darwinism at the heart of fascism (and progressivism) seriously, as sound science, and tried to turn it on its head by making it the moral basis of a quasi-liberal society. Fascinating attempt, though I find it ultimately unconvincing.

        • The actual social Darwinists were not all that much like fascists. Both Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner would be called “libertarians” now. Sumner’s “The Conquest of the United States by Spain” is a classic criticism of military adventurism, not at all in the fascist spirit.

          Darwin’s ideas also inspired the eugenics movement, but that came not from the side of Spencer but from that of Huxley (who criticized Spencer for his “administrative nihilism”) and Galton, and later of Haeckel. Eugenics was a big progressive cause that was opposed by strict constitutionalists and religious conservatives (sound familiar?); it was one of the heroes of the progressive era, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who wrote in defense of forced sterilization that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” I’d also note that Pigou, the economist who systematized the idea of government interference to correct the errors and inefficiencies of the market in his book Welfare Economics, included a chapter on the need for the government to make sure that the right people were born. (When the Nazis took over they pointed to the example of California as the world heartland of eugenic sterilizations.)

          The whole point of eugenics was to replace natural selection in human affairs with artificial selection, modeled on stock breeding.

          Now Heinlein more or less stood this on its head in Beyond This Horizon, with genetic planners who relied on individual consent and strove to enable everyone to have better children. Not to mention providing subsidies to “control naturals” who bore children without gene selection, so that their society would preserve the human baseline. All of this was quite different from either American or German eugenics.

          • If, or when, it becomes possible to fiddle with the genetics of our future children I suppose it’s almost inevitable that some form of that Heinlein version of eugenics is going to happen. There probably will be enough people who want their children to be as advantaged, genetically, as possible. If it is declared illegal some will get it done where it isn’t, or find some place where they can then get it done illegally.

            Whether that will be good, bad or both/either depending on each case will depend on how it will be done.

          • Yes. I think the OP is confused about what Social Darwinism actually was. Classic Social Darwinism holds that natural selection (emphasis on “natural”) will “improve the breed”, so to speak. That’s not at all the same as the racial theories involved in the eugenics movement, and certainly had little to do with the Nazi philosophy of race (which was actually worried about the untermenschen outbreeding the “purebred” “Aryans”).

            It’s the difference between a wolf and an inbred cocker spaniel. Both are the product of selection, but only one of those selection processes was natural.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Well, my understanding of Social Darwinism is that “My grandfather/father was a self-made millionaire so I’m superior to somebody who’s grandfather/father stayed a poor man”.

              IE dressing the Aristocratic Principle in Scientific Clothing.

              • Yes, while ignoring the fact that too many generations of aristocratic inbreeding is rather more likely to give you Paris Hilton than Marie Curie. 🙂

              • It overestimated the heritability of traits such as initiative and even intelligence, and underestimated environmental effects. In particular, that the grandson or son in question, born and raised to wealth, may have been softened by his easier upbringing.

                • You know a bizarre thing? Take my kids — please. Sell them cheeep — older son resembles my paternal great grandmother, but not freakishly so. Younger son, OTOH IS as far as I can tell my dad. If it weren’t for dad (thank heavens) still being alive, I’d be sure reincarnation was real and proven. I mean, they hit the same milestones at the same time, etc. they even like the same clothes.
                  I think the level of inherited/environment varies, too. And yes, they didn’t take into account a) you might not resemble your parents. you might resemble your layabout great great grand (not my dad, but you know what I mean.) And b) you might have a greater environmental than genetic component.

              • Unsound though that may be, it’s not fascist. The fascist superior man is not the rich man, but the violent man or the charismatic leader. In fact fascists tended to hold business and the pursuit of profit in contempt.

                And I don’t really think self-made millionaires, or even their heirs, really count as “aristocrats.” The aristocrat is someone who is granted economic claims by the power of the state—originally the right to collect rent on land that the common people work; later the right to a monopoly in some commodity, such as salt, soap, or tobacco. He doesn’t create new wealth by pioneering new sorts of production. Aristocrats are products of artificial economic selection by the state, not of natural economic selection by the market.

                Overoptimism about the heritability of economic productivity is a mistake, but it’s one that mainly harms the people who make it—at least until you get the state stepping in to regulate the economy and protect established interests.

            • Social Darwinism=BAD
              Eugenics=BAD
              Therefore
              Social Darwinism=Eugenics. QED.

              • William Newman

                Ah, logic! What would we do without it? And without twisting it like toddlers fighting over an alligator made out of balloons?

                Then as now people dolled up their personal preferences as supposedly universal principles and/or invoked the authority of science and/or academic authority to support their personal preferences, and were ferociously selective and careless or outright dishonest in how they did it. Or just demonized their rivals and pushed it to trying to prevent them from breeding, too.

                A creepy example which in isolation is sort of horribly funny, considering the soft-focus legendary status of that trial, is the textbook at issue in the Scopes trial, Hunter’s _Civic Biology_. (See e.g. http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2004_11_00.shtml for some quotes and cites.)

                A bunch of creepy examples with no light side that I can think of — it doesn’t help to laugh to keep from crying when someone is spraying a firehose of sewage in your face — is Leonard, “More merciful and not less effective”, History of Political Economy 35:4 2003, http://www.princeton.edu/~tleonard/papers/Eugenics.pdf .

                My pointers above are classical-liberal-oriented, but it’s easy to find examples from people and causes that today’s Progressives don’t identify with, too — indeed, those examples are not necessarily forgotten by the Progressives themselves.:-| Or partially forgotten: e.g., the Scopes trial, or the way that it’s quite common to find Holmes’ remark about three generations of imbeciles quoted elsewhere, less common to find Leonard’s accompanying excerpt “The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.”

                • It’s also worth taking a look at Levy and Peart’s book The “Vanity of the Philosophers,” which traces the distorting impact of eugenic thought on economic theory in the late 19th century. I found it particularly notable that Edgeworth, one of the big names in statistical methodology, apparently argued that utilitarianism needed to be modified to reflect different people having different capacities for pleasure and pain, with the “more evolved” feeling them more intensely, so that a rational social policy needed to give their preferences a higher weight. This idea is put forth in contemporary moral theory as a paradox, the “utility monster,” but it was taken seriously back in the day.

          • Doctors were convicted of involuntary eugenic sterilizations at Nuremberg in spite of citing Buck vs. Bell — while the programs that approved were still going on in the US.

          • I think that calling Spencer and Sumner “Social Darwinists” was a way of labeling them to people that those who were doing the labeling were sure would never actually have access to anything Spencer or Sumner wrote and thus it would be safe to smear them. There have been more than one set of gatekeepers for Progressivism. Of course that’s biting them in the behind as all of Sumner’s and Spencer’s stuff is on line and easily available for curious minds to actually read. It’s also easy to discover who the REAL Social Darwinists were and surprise they were all darlings of the left like Margaret Sanger.

            • Anyone who’s a fan of Heinlein knows that maneuver. For that matter, it was done to Kipling decades before. Sometimes by praising with faint damnation: W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, and George Orwell all wrote about their enjoyment of Kipling, in the form of apologies!

        • “Heinlein, I think, took the social Darwinism at the heart of fascism (and progressivism) seriously, as sound science,”

          No. Social Darwinism, as wrongheaded as it may be, is fundamentally a rationalist philosophy. Fascism is a mystical philosophy of state-worship.

          Try again.

          I don’t remember any Social Darwinism in Starship Troopers, either. Can you be specific about that?

          • Since I no longer have a copy of Starship Troopers (though I still have a copy of Rise and Fall of the Third Reich), that will be a bit tough. I do recall that the parallels between the philosophical roots of fascism described in RFTR and the moral philosophy in Heinlein were fairly striking. I can try to pull the passages out of RFTR when I get back to my troll-cave after work.

      • This is really late, but Fascism in the 20’s and 30’s was considered a “middle path” between the communists that were tearing things up in strikes and starving the Ukrainians to death and being international, and the bad old “pure capitalists” who were robber barons and let old people and orphans starve. It was the new reset, if you like, to start a new world. Unfortunately it just rests on the old ideas that the state can provide benefits and prevent competition to its’ favored industries and individuals so it winds up in the same old place again. There was nothing new about Fascism, it turns into creeping government and inevitable dictatorships of various degrees of horribleness and death.

        • This is even later, but a lot of the ‘conservative’ support for Fascists came from scared, buffaloed people who bought the propaganda line that Socialism Is Inevitable (one of the basic principles of Marxism), and were desperately searching for a flavour of Socialism that, unlike the Marxist-Leninist kind, would not stand them up against the wall and shoot them. For a capitalist, better to be co-opted by the State as a high-salaried manager than to be expropriated and murdered.

          By the bye, the economic model of Fascism (such as it is), which is sometimes called corporatism in its historical context, is nowadays known as dirigisme and is the unquestioned foundational economic dogma of the European Union. Only it’s not Fascism anymore because we don’t call it Fascism; ’cos you know, everything is cooler if you label it in French.

        • Notice the modern liberals want a middle path too, now that they (some of them) notice that you have to keep the cow around if you want the milk.

    • “A lot of the philosophy comes straight from the same philosophical roots as fascism.”

      Your evidence for this would be?

      • Already replied above, but I’ll elaborate just a bit more: Some time after reading Starship Troopers, and liking it, I re-read Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Honestly, some of the parallels made me squirm.

        • And yet you can’t provide any specifics.

          • Let me amplify a bit. In Starship Troopers, Heinlein was quite vague about the form of civilian society. I think that was intentional. That’s not what the book is about.

            Let’s look at what we actually know:

            1) We know that only military veterans (arguably also former members of the civil service) can vote.
            2) We know that the History and Moral Philosophy class must be taught by a veteran, that every student must take it, but that passing it is not required.

            That’s about it, really. Do we see Riefenstahl-style rallies? We do not. Do we see Generalissimi standing on balconies? We do not (in fact you’re not even allowed to hold office while still in the military). Do we see a regimented society where everyone (e.g.) falls out for PT each morning to the sounds of patriotic music? We do not.

            What we do see is that Johnny feels free to wise off to the H&MP instructor (because he knows he doesn’t have to pass the class).

            Sorry, that’s not any fascist state I’ve ever heard of.

            • I think I was fairly careful to say that Heinlein’s philosophy in Starship Troopers had common roots with fascism, not that it was fascism. You see charismatic leadership as the essence of fascism, but it’s only one facet. It’s one of the crappy facets that Heinlein rejected.

              What’s present is the idea that survival of the race/species is the highest moral good, greater than the survival of any individual (though Heinlein is inconsistent and fuzzy on this point.) Furthermore, the race/species that can survive by outcompeting other races/species, even violently, is presumptively justified in doing so. These ideas are expressed in a way that is startlingly similar to how Shirer describes the philosophical roots of fascism in RFTR.

              Heinlein was not a fascist. He was much too smart for that, and much too committed to individual liberty. But I really do think he took some ideas that have common roots with fascism (and progressivism, as has already been pointed out) and played with them. I think his use of language closely paralleling that of the actual fascists may even have been conscious and deliberately provocative. Perhaps the fact that ST was published in 1959, when the Cold War was a thing, had some bearing as well.

              • I’d say that “the survival of the species is the highest moral good” *is* a baseline requirement for any non-suicidal species. As well as a near-tautology – any species that doesn’t try to survive, won’t. And only the living have the opportunity to debate morality.

                Except for religious-political hybrids (overt or covert – ie, “Green”, “humans caused all Global Warming”, some forms of Marxism), *every* successful political movement has explicitly claimed that survival – of a group, of a people, of a philosophy – is one of it’s key goals. And the groups that don’t make the explicit claim certainly do their best to ensure that the “right” people survive and prosper.

                So yes, Heinlein’s H & MP assumed that survival of the species was a Good Thing. As is pragmatism about what worked. I don’t have it word-for-word, but I also remember a classroom scene when his H & MP teacher makes that very point – he justified their political setup not on theoretical grounds, but by pointing out that

                1) It had arisen accidentally during post-war conditions
                2) That it worked well enough that most people were happy with it
                3) That any who wished to pay the price in service could join the political class

                Not “this is the best form of government”, or “this is Moral for these reasons”, but “it works, anyone who cares enough about politics can participate, and the majority of those who *did* pay the price in service don’t want to tinker with the system, while most of those who *didn’t* pay the price don’t care.” Pure pragmatism, with the “Morality” mostly “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

                If you think *that* is Fascism, we are apparently are using vastly different definitions of the term.

                • Let me repeat what I said in my very first post, very slowly: “Now … do … I … think … Heinlein … was … a … fascist? … Pbbbbth.”

                  The common roots of Fascism, Progressivism, and Heinlein’s ST include the idea that the survival of one’s tribe/race/species is the greatest good. (Which Heinlein then proceeds to be highly inconsistent about, but I’ve already noted that.) This leads to a celebration of war and an elevation of the military. I can dig up some great quotes from Teddy Roosevelt to show that this was a progressive idea as well as a fascist idea, but I’ll assume you accept that. Now, ST was nothing if not a celebration of the virtues and role of the military. A justified celebration? Well, yeah, in Heinlein’s universe, and within limits in our real world. That was Heinlein’s whole provocative point, in my opinion: This particular aspect of fascism actually has some good roots. And to make the point more provocative, it was stated using language strongly parallel to that used by Shirer to describe the philosophical roots of fascism.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Kent, the problem is simple.

                    Fascism is rightly seen as evil.

                    Leftish hatemongers are always calling Heinlein and others Fascist as an attack.

                    IMO evil ideas are often distortions of good ideas so it is reasonable to say (for example) that survival of your group is a good thing but fascism took a good idea and used it in the wrong way.

                    The idea that survival of your group is a good thing predates any modern thought.

                    Without the protection of your “tribe”, you and your family would be alone against a hostile world. Your survival depended on the survival of your tribe thus it was a good thing for your tribe to survive.

                    Fascism didn’t invent this idea so it can not be seen as a Fascist idea.

                  • Saying it sprung from fascist roots when you mean it had roots in common with other systems, one of which is fascism, is so misleading as to raise questions about whether you really mean it when you say you are not trying to call him fascist.

                    • Please assume good faith. I thought I had been very careful to explain that, no, Heinlein was not a fascist; and that it was the roots that were shared, not the full-grown philosophy.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Nope, you first said that ST had fascist themes. The truth is that Heinlein used themes that predate fascism.

                    • Mary,
                      Kent is a good guy. I think he just got hit by two books in succession and the parallels worried him.
                      Kent — you might want to look at my first PJM “five things you might not know about Heinlein” the group/offspring survival is a thing that Heinlein got implanted early into him by an incident in his hometown, in which a hobo died trying to rescue a stranger.

                    • “Kent is a good guy. I think he just got hit by two books in succession and the parallels worried him.”

                      This, exactly.

                      I read the PJM post, Sarah, and liked it enough to share with others. I think it explains a lot of the contradiction in ST, where survival of the group transcends survival of the individual YET it appears to be a serious crime to call down indirect fire on your own people even when it could win the battle, it’s admirable when someone drowns trying to save someone else, it’s admirable to start a whole war over a few unreturned POWs, etc. Heinlein never explains how the math works out; he simply asserts that it does. Which is a shame, because I’d really like to see the math, because it would vindicate my own gut.

                    • Weirdly it does work — gut wise. One thing is to sacrifice YOURSELF and another to sacrifice another. When I first sent Heart of Light to my agent, he wanted THE GOOD GUYS to perform human sacrifice at the end. My “not only no, but hell no” shocked him. The revulsion was immediate and gut felt. I don’t think he ever got it, and we ended up parting ways.

                    • I agree. That “common roots” argument would find almost every society in human history having “common roots” with fascism.

                      If you want the real essence of fascism, in my opinion it would be epitomized by Mussolini’s slogan “everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” (Are you reading this, Hillary? Barack?) Starship Troopers vague as it is about the details of civilian life, nonetheless indicates that this is a society with more civil liberty than ever before.

                  • Kent, in turn, and equally slowly “every . . . successful . . . political . . . movement . . . has . . . held . . . that”

                    Saying that ST had roots in Fascism because of holding that survival (of the species!) is a good is akin to claiming that Libertarianism is closely akin to Marxism because the proponents of both regularly drink water.

                    And though Heinlein had an overall positive view of the military (remember: Annapolis graduate, medical retirement, did his best to get back in service during WW2), I read ST as a meditation on duty, sacrifice, and personal maturity. The Juan Rico we meet in the early chapters of the book is a nice, somewhat spoiled, kid. The Juan Rico at the end of the book has matured into a responsible man, concerned about the survival of his men, wishing the war was over, but doing what he felt necessary so that his people could survive.

                    It’s hard to have a book set in a life-or-death war, with the protagonist in the military, that *doesn’t* have spend considerable time on the circumstances. But despite the military settings, ST is in many ways a very non-military book – the focus on the personal growth of the protagonist, rather than either the day-to-day realities of warfare or a glorification of the military itself.

                    It was also an exploration of the idea of requiring a demonstrated commitment to the survival of society before admission to the decision-making class. The point is made overtly in the book itself – in peacetime, the majority of volunteers are *not* in the military, but in the numerous unpleasant, unglamorous, but necessary civil service roles – think Civilian Conservation Corps. But though the volunteers could state a preference, they needed to accept that they’d end up where the service found them most useful.

                    I can see numerous difficulties that would – I think – derail the society he describes. Though no more than many other past and current political programs, and *vastly* more practical than, say, the Occupy movement’s proposals (insofar as they have anything beyond “Gimme!”).

                    Then again, I have never seen any claims by any but his enemies that Heinlein himself proposed this as an Ideal society, rather than a Possible society. An excuse to explore ideas, good and bad, rather an a political platform. I can see why his detractors like to bring it up, though – they can throw an incorrect by superficially plausible epithet at it, then beat that straw man to death while totally ignoring the real issues raised.

                    • No. There are social movements that would prefer tribal extinction rather than be guilty of violence. I suspect many have actually gone extinct. The ones we hear about are basically parasitic.

                      But among social movements that can survive on their own, and thus have some moral philosophy of violent self-defense, there are distinctions. The historical tendency is for societies to have the military in charge and to make little distinction between combatant and noncombatant. The idea that war is a dispute between sovereigns that ought to leave noncombatants as untouched as possible is an Enlightenment idea that found its culmination in the Red Cross movement, then died a quick and ugly death under the reality of industrialized warfare, not long after the time when the Progressives were romanticizing natural selection. The idea that civilians ought to control the military is an almost uniquely American invention, so far as I can tell. It could not have occurred earlier than the idea that there were civilians (by which I mean free men who were not professional soldiers), nor in the absence of a concept of rule of law that made it conceivable that civilians could tell soldiers what to do. Others subsequently took up the idea, either formally or (as with the growing power of the popularly-supported British Cabinet) informally.

                      Progressivism elevated the military and sought to make civilian control a legal fiction. This was evident during the First World War, in those countries where civilian control had ever been anything but a legal fiction. That tendency away from civilian control of the military did not remain universal thereafter, even in those countries (this would be almost all of them) that valued national survival. In the 1920s, U.S. officers serving in Washington, D.C. were going to work in mufti because the military was so disliked. This proved nearly fatal later, of course, but the point is that the glorification of the military was not universal. Its return was one of the most distinctive features of early fascism.

                      But Sarah really nailed it earlier. I really liked Starship Troopers. A lot. But when I re-read Rise and Fall of the Third Reich shortly after, some of the parallels in philosophy and language were like a bucket of ice water over the head.

                      And, on a broader and possibly final note, since charges of bad faith tend to end my interest in a discussion thread: Heinlein gets hammered for being a fascist. It’s ridiculous and unfair. But it doesn’t come out of a vacuum. I’ve pointed out some common root ideas between fascism and ST that might feed the idea that Heinlein was a fascist. I called them “fascist themes”, which was a mistake — while they were themes promoted within fascism, they are capable of existing outside fascism. This is the point the critics of Heinlein seem to have missed. But to deny that there is any but the most tenuous link between the themes in ST and early fascist themes strikes me as being a bit obtuse in the other direction.

                    • Yea, but, Ken, most critics of Heinlein, like the male precious flower who visited the other thread think that “the defining characteristic of fascism is nationalism” — aka patriotism.
                      I think that line was meant to be “defining apart from other socialist systems” but that part got lost.
                      MOST of their accusation comes from THAT alone.

                    • Yeah, patriotism == nationalism == gassing Jews is a huge fallacy on the Left. Both parts of it.

                  • I think everybody here but you sees the idea “that the survival of one’s tribe/race/species is the greatest good.” As common sense, and in no way related to fascism. Yes fascists believed it, but so did every other political system. It is kind of like saying fascists believe that humans need to breathe air to live, so that is a fascist idea.

        • I’ve read Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and I didn’t see any parallels whatsoever. The first possible parallel is that Hitler, being a veteran of WWI, did try to draw a power base from veterans of WWI. But then, pretty much everybody in Germany of a certain age was a veteran of WWI; and yet not all veterans supported him. Veterans (of WWII) were also the target of US and other world political parties until recently. The second possible parallel is that the Nazis ran a putsch, but that didn’t work; they actually got into power more through elections and through the rest of the parties making a deal that gave Hitler way too much power. But again, there are plenty of parties and movements that got into power through elections and deals with other parties, or through revolutions and coups and putsches.

          So yeah, the possible parallels are extremely vague and could fit hundreds of different historical options.

        • You can call it militaristic, and it is. (Even though we don’t know much about the society outside of the military, which will naturally be militaristic)

          But fascist, it is not. Fascism is a heresy of Marxism, cloaked in the trappings of a mythical past, and lead by a dictator figure.
          In Starship Troopers, we know that the economic system is Capitalist. We know an idealized version of a mythical past is not a focus. And we know that there is not a dictator, and a person’s obligations to the State are extremely limited–unless and until the person volunteers for the duty.

          • I agree, actually. Heinlein was too hardheaded to take seriously the charismatic aspects of fascism; hence, he did not create a fascist society in ST, as I think I’ve been careful to say all along. But it was a militaristic society, in a sense that has real parallels with the militaristic aspects of fascist (and progressive) philosophy.

            • That may be a weakness. Charisma is an important part of society and needs to be focused somewhere.

            • No, it was not a militaristic society. Where is the military organization of civilian life a la Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward, Woodrow Wilson’s Progressives, and the European fascists that were so popular in America until they started shooting people? Where is the “coordination” aka Gleischschaltung in which all institutions of society must serve the state?

        • masgramondou

          Ehh whut?

          I’m not sure the society in Starship Troopers is viable, but it seems to me to be a reasonable thought experiment in how to limit the franchise so that you don’t get bread & circuses or have populist demogogues in high office.

          In the book there is a free press, freedom of action, no conscription. In fact the only difference between a voting citizen and one that doesn’t in terms of rights seems to be that the voting citizen gets to vote.

          I see no connection at all between that and the Third Reich where they had, as is typical in such circumstances, a single election at the start that elected the Nazis and then they managed to do without elections.

          A possible parallel would be Citizenship in the Roman Empire or the concept of ‘gentry’ in the Anglosphere although neither of those had the clearly defined meriticratic entrance of being a military veteran as the only way to get to be a voter.

          Now I can see it going wrong even so – it seems to me the ST franchise will eventually be held overwhelmingly by REMFs – but that still may be better than the current franchise where low (or zero) information voters have a significant impact on elections

        • Kent– did you ever serve in the military? If you did, you would see parallels with Starship Troopers and the military culture. As SBP said the only thing you really saw was the military– and a few insights to the civilian population– It is a real insiders view of how the military operates. i.e. read the UCMJ– Once a veteran finished his duty in Starship Troopers he was done unless he decided to go for the full twenty.

          Now if you talk to the older veterans of today (not sure about the latest crop) they will tell you that they think the civilians would appreciate voting more if they had to go into the military and serve two-four years. Plus this nonsense of denying the military to vote would be stomped on–

          Military life is very different than civilian life– In the military you have committed an amount of years in service to your country. You have given up your freedoms to do this– That is why you can be killed if you deny direct orders from your commanding officer on the battlefield.

          So the point– is that Starship Troopers is NOT about civilian life except peripherally and all about the military life. A whole ‘nother fish because if every one in the military didn’t have to follow orders, it would be a mess.

          • Cyn, I’ve never served in the military, but I know more about it that the average civilian, and am deeply grateful for their services.

            ST does give some hints about civilian life. It looks a lot like Western liberal capitalism. Free speech, etc. No conscription. That they manage this during a hot war for survival is an interesting contrast with the actual experience of the Great Republic during both world wars, but that’s probably a different topic.

            But we know it is not a democracy in any ordinary sense. The franchise is not a birthright; it is granted only to those who volunteer for two years’ hazardous duty. The volunteer gets to state his preferences for which duty, but every indication is that these are then largely ignored. It’s only ex-military that hold public office, teach history and moral philosophy in schools (a very fascist concept, even if Heinlein characteristically turns it on its head by making it nonessential for a student with no ambitions of citizenship to pass the course), sit on juries (Heinlein isn’t 100% clear on this but it’s strongly implied) and so on. These are not trivial things and they are clues, albeit ambiguous ones, both to the role of the military in the larger society and the nature of the larger society. It is a society in which the ruling elite are bound by a common experience of military service.

            We had something like that in practice in the U.S. after the Second World War. Even as late as 1959, when Heinlein wrote, you stood little chance of election to public office if you hadn’t served honorably in the military during the war. But Heinlein has this system persisting for (apparently) centuries after his version of World War III, meaning that military control had become self-perpetuating and embedded in whatever Constitution they had.

            • Can I assume that you are a historian?

              The practice (of military service before holding public office after WWII) if I can dredge it from my mind was still considered a soft requirement until Clinton imho.

              As for hazardous service– even in the present military, you can go for the less hazardous service, but unless you get it into your contract (no word of mouth), you will go where they send you– that is a little tidbit that most people do not know when they go into the military– so no difference in the military life.

              And yes, I can comment on military life because I spent 6 years in the Navy, plus several years after that following the military around as a tech. Reading ST from the other side of the line (military folks– even retired and those who only did a few years stick together because of mutual experience) I see what Heinlein’s characters saw– after you have had the experience either putting your life on the line or knowing that you are expendable, many military members come through the experience more conservative than the general population. There is really no freedom in the military– I know that I didn’t appreciate what freedom I had until I was in a society that was chain of command– and pure obedience.

              Okay there are ways to get around it– after you know the rules and how they are applied. But the military was never a “free zone.”

              I am pretty sure from reading ST– and once again I read it before I joined and then after I joined– that Heinlein’s premise was that to keep the freedom i.e. similar to the US it had to be safe-guarded by folks who had proven their loyalty to Country. The story seems to touch a backstory of a country that backslided into tyranny. Or that was what I got from the understory.

              So what I am saying is that I had to go into the military and experience a total loss of freedom to appreciate freedom– and I saw that idea in Heinlein’s ST.

              • Yes, that’s really one of the better ideas in ST.

                Not a professional historian. Computational physicist at LANL.

                • Oh wow– a real physicist and numbers man. 😉 I know someone who worked at Los Alamos as a tech– for a short time a long time ago.

                  I am more a words person– although I did troubleshoot electronic equipment and had to have a rudimentary knowledge of algebra and calc although I have never taken a calc class.

              • “even in the present military, you can go for the less hazardous service, but unless you get it into your contract (no word of mouth), you will go where they send you”

                Even if it’s in your contract you still go where they tell you. I enlisted in the Army in 1986, and in my contract I was guaranteed both training as a medical lab tech and to be stationed in Europe. However, the Army *could* have trained me as infantry first and stationed me in Korea, just to move me to Europe for a week before being sent to Fort Sam Houston for lab tech training immediately before my ETS date.

            • “But we know it is not a democracy in any ordinary sense. The franchise is not a birthright; it is granted only to those who volunteer for two years’ hazardous duty…a very fascist concept”

              Then by your standard Ancient Athens was not a democracy but a fascist state: Military service was expected of all male citizens.

              • And of course Republican Rome was a fascist state: Military service was not required of all male citizens, only of those with enough property to buy their own gear – but those who could not afford the gear did not have a meaningful vote.

                • Hmmm, Republican Rome … fascist state …. wait a minute … it will come to me …

                  http://www.legionxxiv.org/fasces%20page/

                  • Right. Because Fascist Italy stole a symbol from ancient Rome, therefore ancient Rome had the same form of government as Fascist Italy.

                    This falls under the category of informal fallacies known as ‘not even wrong’.

                    • Yeah, if only I had written that. Then your comment would be brilliant.

                    • Yeah, if only I had written that. Then your comment would be brilliant.

                      Then what was the point of drawing the association, pray tell? When you stand accused of a logical fallacy, non sequitur is hardly a defence.

                      Or, if I wanted to be as snarky as you just were, I could always say: ‘Yeah, if only you had written something that had a point. Then your comment would be brilliant.’

              • it was, in fact, expected of all male citizens in modern republics, too. Witness that you sometimes, during the suffragist campaign, ran across the argument that women did not fight in battle. Not often, mind you, since the stock retort was that men did not die in childbirth either, but that they had a stock retort shows that it was an argument.

            • IIRC, there were other ways to serve the public interest to gain Franchise in ST, but the Military was the chief way.

              • I thought so too, but I believe that although Heinlein intended to include this in the book he somehow neglected to do so. The closest I could find was a discussion of Federal Service in which someone asks what if a handicapped person insists on his or her right to serve, to which the reply is that the government will find something that he is capable of doing no matter how useless. But if somebody can point out the actual passage(s) I’ll be grateful.

                • No. It is federal service, but it’s not necessarily military. You can peel potatoes or work in research or…

                  • Heinlein’s biographer, William Patterson, said that he read Starship Troopers and the earlier drafts in the Heinlein archives and did not find a passage that explicitly says Federal Service does not have to be military. So I’m not sure…

                    • I’m sorry, but I just heard it, recently. So unless you’re telling me audible changed it…

                    • “I’m sorry, but I just heard it, recently. So unless you’re telling me audible changed it…”
                      No, it’s been “a few” years since I read it. Roughly where is the passage?

                    • When he’s getting enlisted. He talks about the things you can do if you don’t want to do military duty. Mind you, it’s possible this is still a military structure… it’s not described in any detail. It just has to be unpleasant, and you’re ordered to do it, once you sign in, if that makes sense.
                      As a writer of this sort of thing… you leave the details hazy, because otherwise you’ll trip over your own world building.

                    • Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind when I re-read it next (soon).

                • Patrick Chester

                  I don’t have my copy with me here at work, but the alternatives were mentioned when Johnny was talking to the recruiter. I think they mentioned counting the hairs on a caterpillar or similar. The civilian jobs mentioned things like testing hazmat suits in hazardous environment, being a test subject for vaccines (by being exposed to the disease that the vaccine was for) and generally being worked to extremes. “Overworked and endangered” was what his OCS instructor stated, IIRC.

                  I think Heinlein didn’t go into too much detail about it because he wanted to tell a story about infantry and focused on Johnny’s experiences from basic to the Bug War as a result. Or that was something he mentioned in one of his essays in Expanded Universe… another book I need to dig up.

              • Yes. You had, however, to go where you were sent. If you were a conscientious objector, you could exclude the military — and take what you were given, which was unlikely to be pleasant.

                The book, oddly enough, was a novel about a character in the military, not a treatise on the legal system.

  10. I re-read Space Cadet and Starman Jones just in the last month, probably for the 20th time each. The older I get, the more often I can re-read all the books.

    It’s an enduring disappointment to me that I’ve never been able to get a single young relative interested in Heinlein. I found him immediately irresistible when my own father put me in touch more than 50 years ago. When I meet people who claim to like classic science fiction but recommend “Dune” and “Foundation” without ever having read Heinlein, I know we should stick to other subjects.

    • Got tired of Foundation after the first two books. The first Dune book was okay– but I never got interested in the world or the other books –so I know what you are saying–

      • Gordon Dickson was my favorite author growing up.

        • Tolkien here.

          • I discovered fantasy after I had discovered science fiction, and it took me some time to overcome my kneejerk prejudices against it. It was Tolkien that convinced me fantasy could be a great genre. And how!

            Well, except I don’t think I’ve read any fantasy in years either. Unless you count Obama’s most recent budget.

            (rim shot)

            • lol– love that rim shot
              I grew up on Witch World– had characters in tough lives who make something of themselves (basic stories) usually in their teen years with a lot of fantasy and some magic. I went back to read them in the last couple of years and it didn’t have the impact as it did when I was 13. But then I am in different circumstances as well.

              • Tolkien, the Earthsea trilogy, then Andre Norton and the witchworld when I moved to English language books, some Marion Zimmer Bradley (except the most famous of her fantasies, I never managed to read all the way through ‘Mists of Avalon’ and have not even tried any of the sequels), those fantasy novels most of the golden age SF writers also wrote. Robert E. Howard. I have also always had a love affair with classical horror, starting from ‘Dracula’, but that has always been the classical type of stuff, slow build up and lots of atmosphere, less gore. There are newer fantasy writers I like, like Raymond E. Feist, but most of them, well, while there have been enough novels I enjoyed while reading there have not been that many which I remembered afterwards.

                • Earthsea Trilogy (but not the sequels), yes. I feel vaguely uneasy admitting I really liked the Riddle-master of Hed, though I can’t exactly figure out why. For a complete change of pace, I rather liked The Compleat Enchanter.

                  Did not like Stephen R. Donaldson. At all.

                  • Thomas Covenant?

                    You know, I don’t think I have ever actually met anybody who said he liked those books, just liked them. Plenty enough people who said they admired them, or thought them well written, or important, or interesting, or great literature, or worth reading. But just liked them? Nope. Can’t remember any.

                    • I have met exactly one person who thought I should read them. But, you know — I don’t think he actually said he liked them; only that they were thought-provoking.

                      Which is true. My brief exposure provoked all kinds of unfavorable thoughts.

                    • And littering of French fields, in my case.
                      Um… I wonder if it was the first hyperpushed success.

                    • I loved them back when they first came out but I also had a very wide taste in books back them. About the only thing I hated was Delaney. He had something with “guerilla” theater and transexuals that just made me go “That is SO stupid”.

                    • Ack, Thomas Covenant. Didn’t like those books, didn’t admire their craft, philosophy, or sophistication, didn’t find them important, really couldn’t see a darn thing to explain their popularity. The hero is such a whiny, resentful, depressed little schmuck.

                    • Some of it is historic. Remember that the fantasy genre only really took off in the seventies, and it was one of the inaugurating books. You can read about that here:
                      http://bondwine.com/reviews/39/1977part1.html

                    • A “hero” without redeeming qualities. I read the series expecting him to become a protagonist and actually grow into a sympathetic character at some point.
                      I was obviously disappointed. After the epic hero’s quest he was forced into, he was still the same petty self-absorbed schmuck.

                      I don’t know why I read the second series. I suspect it was because I had a lot of free time and a small public library.

                    • OK, now you have. I liked them. Well, the first trilogy. The second I was more or less ambivalent on.

                    • I read the first trilogy, handed to me by an older cousin. I — enjoyed? — them, as a “man out of time and place” struggle sort of story. But I kept reading believing he’d pull his head out of his own navel and get with it. That he never did really wore on me as I kept reading. But I was young and optimistic and hated not finishing things.

                      Hoping for redemption somewhere along here, any time now, maybe now? Almost, you can see the possibility of a glimmer of ‘getting it’… nope.

                      I think reading through that (I was fairly young) and never getting the growth the character so desperately needed burned me for a while. I went to reading other things that weren’t so obsessed with the anti-hero’s completely non-heroic little brother.

                    • I read the first book once. I’m not sorry I read it. I haven’t read any further books, nor do I wish to. (And the more I hear of them, the less I want to.)

                      On Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 4:22 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

                      > Eamon commented: “I read the first trilogy, handed to me by an older > cousin. I — enjoyed? — them, as a “man out of time and place” struggle > sort of story. But I kept reading believing he’d pull his head out of his > own navel and get with it. That he never did really wor” >

                    • Yeah, I spent much of my youth haunting the stacks of the local paperback emporium, and I was very well read in SF/F by the time a friend passed the the first TC book, either late in HS or early in college. Like Eamon I finished that slog of a read only because at that time I had a thing about not finishing a book, but boy did it leave a bad taste, and then the first book I ever gave up on partway through was the second TC book, and I never looked back.

                      To this day thinking about that horrible unsympathetic MC causes a ‘blech’ response.

                    • What gave me a “blech” response more than the MC was the philosophy of the characters he was supposed to help. I mean, I kind of understood it, from The Land’s history, but still…

                    • Further to Mary Catelli’s comment above:

                      As the proprietor of the website cited, I should point out that the link Mary used is liable to deletion, since the site has been thoroughly renoberated. (I may go to the trouble of replacing all the old pages with redirects, but this is not a foregone conclusion, as I am, frankly, not that organized. I have been forgetting to do this for over a year already.)

                      Here’s a link to the same piece which I believe will be permanent and reliable:

                      1977: From Zeus’s brow

                      This is the first in a series of five essays, one of which deals with the Thomas Covenant books specifically:

                      1977: Hero and fool

                      Hope that helps.

                  • Definitely not the Earthsea sequels. Only the original trilogy.

                  • Stephen Donaldson. First book. Then boyfriend gave it to me. First SF/F he’d liked, so it was a “meeting of minds” opportunity. I was so sure I’d like it, I took it with me on train trip to Germany.
                    I hated it SO badly that halfway there I threw it out the window into some French field. At the next stop I bought a bundle of women’s magazines and comics, which — believe it or not — were a vast improvement.

                    • I question the women’s magazines as improvement, but not the comics. Depending on the comic, of course. Gloria Glad was a cutie.

                    • These were the only ones available: Disney comics in German.

                    • I plowed through the first book because I didn’t like leaving any story unfinished. I even read the second– but I still find the hero or anti-hero a selfish pig that didn’t change– so why read it?

                    • I read one like that recently. Picked it up as it was on a free run on Kindle, and I’d heard of the author. finished it out of determination and incredulity “It’s got to get good sometime! When does the hero ever show any …not even heroic, just redeeming qualities?” Made me wish it was a book, not on my kindle, so I could get the satisfaction of hurling it.

              • For some reason, it took years before I could plow through Witch World, and when I finally did, I found I enjoyed it. No idea what’s up with that. Haven’t read any of the sequels, just the first one, but I hope to get them perhaps this year.

        • Yes– I still love to read Gordon Dickson… and I go back to “The Right to Arm Bears”… 😉

          • I love sense of the individual and honor. Some of his story are funny. Have you read Zeepsday or Flat Tiger? I think that his short stories are his best work.

            • I have a hard time finding his stuff here (before the kindle)… now I have been reading this group of unruly huns– I gotta see if he is on kindle. 😉

              • I have most of his stuff. If you want something of his I can find it or loan it to you.

                • Thanks for the offer– I don’t like to borrow (since it can get sticky– ) 🙂 I’ll look digitally first and then if I can’t find them — we’ll talk.

      • I liked Dune enough to read it several times, and I may yet read it again. But once was enough for the first two sequels. Once was more than enough after that.

        I liked the Foundation trilogy enough to read it several times. I doubt I’ll bother again, since once you’ve seen the surprise plot twists, it loses most of its impact. I never bothered with the sequels.

        I liked Ender’s Game enough to go see the movie, which didn’t really impress me, much as I wanted it to. I mostly liked Speaker for the Dead. I haven’t bothered any further sequels.

        I liked 2001: A Space Odyssey enough to read it several times, but I doubt I’ll bother again. Will probably watch the movie again, but eventually I suppose I’ll learn to turn it off when the movie ends (whichi s about twenty minutes before the credits roll.) Did not care for the first sequel, haven’t bothered with any since. Actually, I like few of Clarke’s later writings anywhere as well as I like the earlier writings.

        There’s a pattern here, I know.

        • I see it. 😉 I liked Speaker of the Dead better than Ender’s Game– although I haven’t read it in years. My tastes may have changed btw. Fifty does that to you.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          I recently attempted to reread _Second Foundation_ and decided that the Second Foundation was a greater threat to freedom than the Mule.

          Yet, Asimov (at the time it was written) considered the Second Foundation the “good guys”. [Frown]

          • You do know that Asimov was a socialist and a totalitarian in small ways. There were rules as to who could sit where on his trains. He believed in “planning” to the depths of his soul. That’s what the Foundations were: Social Engineers.

            • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

              Yep. Part of the plans of the Second Foundation were to brain-wash (my phrase) the population to accept being ruled by the “Science Masters” (again my phrase).

              • Christopher M. Chupik

                Dune was, in part, Herbert’s answer to Asimov’s Seldonian optimism: the downside of having a small elite with special powers determining the future of humanity.

                • If you want a more intellectually sophisticated critique, take a look at Donald M. Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis, which won the Prometheus Award some years back. Kingsbury’s elite don’t just have mind manipulation powers on the individual level; they’re social manipulators almost exactly like what Asimov described—in fact the whole book is a systematic deconstruction of Asimov’s view of social science.

                  Or, for that matter, at Asimov’s own The End of Eternity. I’ve got to give the man credit: He wrote a novel in which he portrayed the downside of the kind of centrally planned “safe” society he usually favored.

                  • Thanks, I’ll check it out.

                    • Texan99: In fact that system is a lot, a LOT, like the way a properly functioning free market economy works. Payoffs for predicting the future, and the consequences of the decision you recommend taking? We call those “profits” (and businesses that make inaccurate predictions make “losses”). Payoffs for knowing the people you serve and the concerns they have? On a small scale, that’s customer service. On a larger scale, we call it “marketing.” But you wrap it up in exotic culture detail and unfamiliar names and it’s less obvious.

                    • Yes, which no doubt is why governments move heaven and earth to make sure they’re shielding from all those inconvenient forces.

                  • Donald Kingsbury’s “Courtship Rite” is one of my favorite books ever.

                    • I feel the same way. The scene where Oelita the Heretic comes to terms with her God is one of the most perfectly sfnal moments I’ve ever read. And it’s a book with real intellectual substance: a sustained exploration of the theme of optimization through competition in a decentralized network, in biology, politics, and ethics.
                      (I have the impression Kingsbury may actually regard himself as a socialist, but his whole intellectual approach reflects the key insights of classical and Austrian economics. Perhaps he got them from John von Neumann.)

                    • I loved the political system in which you get points toward assuming leadership roles for the accuracy of your registered predictions, and voting strength proportional to the number of proxy/followers whose names and concerns you can recite when challenged. Much less room for BS in a system like that.

                    • loved that book.

            • Except, if you actually think about what he’s written, he’s one of the greatest critics of real world social planning. All of his planned systems relied on a near-omniscient computer to do the planning, something that cannot exist in the real world. To support Asimovian planning is to oppose real life social engineers.

              • That’s because you don’t know Just How SMART the new planners are. A mere near-omniscient computer is nothing beside them. Of course they can manage it. This time.

                • Which is why I’ve always considered leftists to be insufferably, laughably, arrogant. And I’m the kind of guy who assumes he’s the smarted one in the room until proven otherwise.

                  It’s also why I think leftists should go through life with a patina of warm phlegm.

              • Yes. But even a super planned world like Starman Jones, he was CLEARLY against it.

              • I mean Heinlein, not Asimov.

              • And who programs the computers?, we all ask: The programmers and their bosses are the ones who decide what rules and priorities the computers will follow. One fake escape from that dilemma is to postulate a super-AI: a computer that becomes so intelligent that it can think for itself and no longer needs human programming. The flaws in that “solution” can be the topic of many conversations, and have been.

                In the end, I think such “solutions” are nothing more than a manifestation from the human longing for release from the problems of being human–escape from the Wheel of Karma, if I correctly remember the little bits of Hinduism I learned. [Why, oh why, couldn’t my Unitarian church school classes, which pretended to do comparative religion, have actually *taught* us something. Instead it was all mushy, superficial liberal clap-trap.] Some people drink or take drugs to escape from the burdens of thought and responsibility. Others embrace socialist fantasies, hoping for a collective utopia in which nobody needs to work too hard, nobody has to worry about their financial future, nobody has to make hard decisions. (Or even little decisions, to mention some leftists I have known who are traumatized by too wide a choice of canned soup in the grocery store: Campbells and Progresso and the store brand! Condensed and ready-to-eat! Regular, low-fat, low-sodium, and low-carb! Chicken Noodle to Italian Wedding! Aieeeee! Barack! Save me!)

                • You might find John C. Wright’s Golden Age, Phoenix Exultant, and Golden Transcendence interesting. The self-aware computers do control their own programming. They are distinctly benevolent. And yet, there are problems.

                • The Tyranny of Choice.

                  Blech. (or *snort*, your preference)

                  • Wasn’t there a punk rock song titled “Freedom of Choice” or something like that?

                    • two schools of thought; one who thinks that customers should have freedom of choice. and the other who feels that he should decide what other people should have or do.

                    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                      Babylon 5 had a fun scene. Delenn, the Minbari ambassador, was waiting for a printout from a News-Feed and said to one of the human characters that on Minbar there were no independent news sources and that the government could be depended on telling people what was important for them to know. Just after she said that, the computer reported that the “Eye on Minbar” info that she requested wasn’t available. Embarrassed Delenn admitted that she sometimes wanted the information that her government hadn’t told her yet. [Evil Grin]

                    • Devo! Thank you, Dr. Mauser.

            • “There were rules as to who could sit where on his trains.”
              Ah, you’re thinking of The Caves of Steel, in which humans live in an overpopulated Earth of super-cities: Resources are very limited, the economy is planned, and so professional advancement is accompanied not by higher salaries that can be spent on whatever one wants, but on perks: A larger apartment, an apartment with a sink, activation of that sink, the right to take a limited number of meals at home rather than in communal dining halls, the right to a seat on the slidewalks, and so on.
              Asimov was a member of the New York sf fan group the Futurians, most of whom were, I believe, communists of one sort or another. Fred Pohl, for instance, said that he was a commie back then and left the Communist Party because of the Hitler-Stalin Pact. (The preceding decades of terror and killing and tyranny did not offend him sufficiently to persuade him that there was something wrong with communism.) Although he canceled his Party membership, I am convinced from things he said now and then that he remained a small-c communist all his life.

              • One notes the insanity of this. “Perks” are exactly what you would buy if you had the higher salary, only, you could buy exactly what you wanted, not the assigned perk.

                • Yes but, if you could buy what you wanted, you couldn’t be totally controlled by the rulers, because you had personal wants. I think that maybe in Asimov’s worlds people were nothing but widgets.

        • OK, how come nobody has brought up Zelazny? Amber is right up there with Tolkien in my childhood memories.

          (As was Moorcock’s Elric being the first book I didn’t care to finish.)

        • masgramondou

          Actually (and it’s probably a sign of my weirdness) the Dune book I like best is God Emperor. Though I haven’t read any of them in over a decade.

          The Asimov book I reread most often is “The Gods Themselves”

          • A shame that no – one brought up Gene Wolfe and the “New Sun” books.

            Yes – the protagonist is a torturer (thrown out for showing compassion), but wolf’s ethos shines through.

            Among brilliant chapters were being stuck in a field hospital with a POW who only spoke in marxist metaphors, the meanings of the original words forgotten.

            • Oh yes, that chapter with the character telling a story entirely in Correct Thought catchphrases was one of the creepiest scenes I’ve ever read, and this is from someone who discovered Poe when in grade school and went from him to explore a goodly swath of weird and dark fantasy.

            • Oh yeah, I remember those, I think I still have them, but I haven’t re-read them so I don’t recall that scene.

              I do remember the clever bit of engineering with the mercury in the sword.

    • Started with ERB, myself (I started buying my own books about the mid-seventies; Ace would’ve published ERB’s shopping lists if they’d found them — and the resulting anthology would’ve been better than most of what I see in Barnes & Noble today). Followed with Asimov and Tolkien.

    • Couldn’t stand Dune, myself, and Foundation I simply read the blurb and decided it sounded supremely uninteresting. Well that and I already knew I had never read anything by the author that I cared for, so Foundation was unlikely to be different. I have found a lot of classic and golden age (is golden age old enough to be considered classic now?) over the years that I liked, but while there are a few well known authors I liked, most of what I found to like were one-off novels and no-name authors that nobody has ever heard of.

  11. When I mentioned to one of the members of my mat-shop (in the Navy) that I liked Heinlein– by that time I had only read Citizen of the Galaxy and Friday– he immediately started lending me a few of his Heinlein collection (I don’t remember which now–chemo ya know). I was kind of surprised to hear that Heinlein was taboo in so many circles because wherever I went (in and around the military) there was at least someone who was reading one of his books– usually Starship Troopers. I bought that book for the hubby because it is his favorite Heinlein book.

    Back to my reading– I first read Citizen of the Galaxy when I was 12 or 13. I was starting in my family servitude and that particular book including the Witch World books from Andre Norton sustained me through some very terrible times. I learned that circumstances could change– and eventually I could become something more than I was at the time.

    Heinlein needs to be introduced to the next generation– over and over–

    • My eleven-year-old daughter liked the juveniles she’s read so far. I’m trying to find my paperback of Star Beast to offer next. Her younger brother isn’t as attracted to chapter books yet so I’m keeping an eye out for the Citizen graphic novel.

    • If I recall, Starship Troopers is still on the commandants required reading list for officers, and a copy can usually be found on said “required reading” shelves set aside at a library on said bases.

  12. The yammerheads who criticize his women say more about their own ignorance and predjudices than they say about Heinlein. I’ve heard much the same from leftists about Dolly. “No woman would ever…” Sorry, chickie. I’ve personally known at least half-dozen women who have, exactly, not only in my presence, but in intimate relationship with me. I can only imagine that, to paraphrase Spider Robinson, given Heinlein’s vastly greater experience of people and the world he’d have been able to make that number dozens — plural — or even hundreds.

    M

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Exactly. He gets dinged because he doesn’t write modern women, or at least whatever the current feminist fad definition of “modern” and “woman” happens to be. Well of course not, he was writing 50 years ago!

  13. I like to think that we’re doing our part to keep Heinlein’s legacy alive. Lots of people want to start intentional communities, but very few actually coalesce. Of the ones that do, less than a tenth make it to their third year, and of those, less than a tenth make it to thirty years. As a result, we frequently get questions along the lines of “Why has Windward survived when so many other communities haven’t.” We proudly answer by pointing out that our organizational structure was inspired by The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and that we were a line family long before the word “polyamory” was coined.

    Three years ago, I retired as Windward’s lead director, and spend much of my time working on developing a suite of energy systems based on the conversion of woody biomass (we live in a forest on the edge of the Cascadian wilderness) into the heat, power and fuel a self-reliant community needs in order to thrive. That work is all open source, and it’s our hope that many communities will use this research to break their dependence on the current energy regime, to provide home and refuge for Astyanax’s to come.

    ~~ Walt
    http://www.windward.org/2.0/index.php
    http://biomass2methanol.org/

  14. I was am 18 year old squid fresh out of boot camp. I was home on leave and decided to go by the local Marine base becase a) I could and b) I could spend a little of my boot camp pay without paying sales tax at the exchange.

    I passed a display that had Starship Troopers on it. This was in 1993, so I’m not sure why there was a display, but later learned it was suggested reading for many in the military so that might have been it. Either way, I picked up a copy.

    To say I read it would be an understatement. I devoured it. I then grabbed any other science fiction book I could get my hands on at the base exchange at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, or when I ventured into one of the area malls.

    I’ve been hooked ever since. Before then, I was into science fiction, but only in the visual medium really. Heinlein turned me into a true fan of the written word. My life has never been the same.

    Now, there are days I both bless him and curse him for it, but for the most part it’s been a blessing.

  15. Again, I’m going to go back to Requiem (maybe we’re psychically linked? This makes 3). Spider Robinson said he didn’t need to defend Heinlein, as he is now immune to their attacks. Rather, he intended to rebut some of the accusations.

    • Spider can have his own ideas of the afterlife. I have my own. He’s up there, hallo askew, arms crossed, going “Now what on Earth are they–”
      I’m trying to save him the trouble of his asking for a special pass to intervene. 😛

  16. This was the post that led me to Sarah Hoyt’s work. I spotted it and immediately bought “Darkship Thieves”. I reasoned that anyone who felt like this would be worth reading — and if not, that I could at least vote with my pocketbook.

    I wouldn’t have become the person I am without the works of Robert Heinlein. It is a rare day that passes that I don’t find myself thinking of some phrase from one of his works. And certainly, he “paid forward” some of the driving passion for the need for a human diaspora through those works.

    When I feel daunted by the task ahead, I sometimes think of the Admiral from “The Return of William Proxmire”. I can’t do less than my best — the Admiral wouldn’t like it.

    • Yes, exactly on the “not a day passes.” The man’s words course through my mind and my work. Now, do I always agree? Of course not. At fifty we have some points of disagreement, as one would have with one’s father.
      BTW, the effect is still going on. Younger son is taking a double mechanical and electrical engineering BS, with a minor in aerospace because he started reading Heinlein at 11 and hasn’t stopped. (Mind you, this is a great pain until we get all books electronic, as he’s determined to hoard all the Heinlein books in his room, and he ALWAYS has the one I need to quote from.)

      • I became an engineer (SW by way of Electronics) thanks to Heinlein. And met my wife through a friend at work on my first job.

        So beside my own basic rationalist/pragmatist libertarian-with-a-small-l worldview, I owe him my career, meeting the woman I’m still with >30 years later, and a couple of quite satisfactory kids. Both of whom have read and like him, though not – apparently – as much as your #2 son. Though the books did mostly stay in daughter #1’s bookshelves until she left for college.

  17. I can’t say I’m the world’s greatest fan of Heinlein — I loved STARSHIP TROOPERS as a teen and still enjoy it now (with reservations), despised STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND because as a Catholic and Lewis/Tolkien fan it was clear he had only the vaguest understanding of the religious viewpoints he was satirizing, simply couldn’t buy I WILL FEAR NO EVIL’s basic premise, and gave up on THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST because the unutterable goofiness of characters and prose turned me off (though I have the same complaint about Pratchett, so if you wish to conclude I have a large streak of humourless prig in me you’d be right).

    But there is a LARGE difference between not *liking* someone’s work, or even having moral objections to it, and concluding that either of the former justify condemning the *person* or censoring his work (and I include here calls for community shaming and ostracization as “censorship”, even if no law or government is involved). The fundamental thesis of all PC-think is the assumption that most human minds are too vulnerable to pernicious ideas to risk uncontrolled exposure to them, and I have never really seen anybody make an actual *argument* for this thesis.

  18. Late adopter here. I knew of Heinlein, but I’d never read him until I got _Starship Troopers_ back in my early grad-school days. Then TMIAHM. _Glory Road_ didn’t do much for me, but it may have been my mood at the time I read it.

    • Susan Shepherd

      Glory Road is also a genre-bender; if you picked it up expecting science fiction, that might have been enough.

      It’s not a bad book, but it’s a fantasy / sf blend, and I was always more fascinated by his sf. TMIAHM, Starship Troopers, Space Cadet, Citizen of the Galaxy, Puppet Masters…

  19. Sure, you can make enemies by saying you’re a fan of Heinlein. But if you *really* want to get their heads spinning, mention you’re fond of Ayn Rand. I wonder if the two ever met? She’s referenced briefly in Moon is a Harsh Mistress (“… I can get along with a Randite…”), and their worldviews seem to have some overlap, though Rand was by far more dogmatic. I sure wish I could have been a bug on the wall if the two ever had spent some time sharing thoughts.

  20. I was thinking about this while working out (surprising how your mind still works while you are torturing your body). It’s really funny how many people equate an author’s work with their beliefs. I have over seven hundred reviews on Amazon, and most of them are positive. But I have had reviews in which my politics were called into question over a book about interstellar empires at war (and no, I am not an imperialist). Also, some comments on how I seem to believe that freedom is not important (which, in my opinion, in a war of survival, it definitely takes second place to that survival). But then again, I fall victim to the same thinking about movies, equating an actor to their role, thinking of them as a scumbag psychopath, until I see the ‘making of’ feature and find out that the actor was just playing a part that had nothing to do with personality or beliefs. If they made me think from a place of emotion they are doing a great job as an actor. As others have said, some of the greats stretch the limits to make us think, and some people think that means the author is personally invested in the viewpoint of that limit, when all they are doing is playing ‘what if?’.

  21. “It’s really funny how many people equate an author’s work with their beliefs.”

    Do you think it could be due to a lack of imagination on their part? The can’t get into a viewpoint not their own, so they assume no one else can?

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      That’s the reason so much historical fiction these days have characters spouting anachronistic views: to reassure the easily-offended that the author isn’t writing about such things because they approve of them.

      • To an extent you HAVE to do it. But there’s limits to the sanitation.

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          True, a *completely* honest characterization might turn people off needlessly, but sometimes I read characters and attitudes that are so modern I don’t know why the author is bothering to write historical.

        • It’s the problem of creating a world modern people can relate to enough to identify with the characters, and sympathize with them. We just can’t get into the mindset of five centuries past, or often even one, very easily. It’s kind of like the problem in an earlier post with having aliens that are too alien. A lot of alients are human beings with tentacles or no hair or whatnot.

          Illustration: Wikipedia (all hail the font of all human knowage) recent featured an article on Dutch painters in the heyday. Link hopping eventually took me to a high resolution image of The Garden of Earthly Delights. Hieronymus Bosch. You want weird? This is weirdness in spades. It makes the twenty minutes between the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey and the rolling of the credits look like an elegantly reasoned discourse on the likely course of events in a first contact. I’m convinced Bosch was either a genius or completely unhinged. (That’s not an exclusive or.) But it apparently appealed to whatever noble family commissioned the tryptich. Try getting any modern audience to relate to that.

          • Bosch’s paintings, I am told by persons who have studied them (and his contemporaries) thoroughly, are largely allegorical. They are moral tales, indeed moralizing tales, in pictorial form, only we have not got the key to the allegory and see only the weirdness.

            There is a kind of allegorical alphabet that he uses: well, if someone took an English text and replaced all the A’s with pictures of oxen (aleph, ‘ox’) and B’s with houses (beth, ‘house’), and so on, it would be a damnably strange-looking book, and those of us not in on the joke would think the author was mad. Well, maybe he would be, but not for the reasons we suspected.

            • Bosch and Archimboldo operated in a language of symbols that are profoundly strange until you get into the mind of the time. (I’ve been reading too much about Rudolph II recently). And yeah, “Garden” and “Fight Between Carnival and Lent” are strange.

              • Yeah, exactly. You have to know that rabbits are fertility symbols. (Many of us do, actually, but that’s one of the easy ones.) And that cherries are symbols of pride. And so on.

      • Which offends other readers. I’ve read a long online thread starting by someone posting how much she hated a book — set a few centuries ago — in which a woman had much to complain about in her husband. What she chiefly dwelt on was that after she had voluntarily married him, he expected her to sleep with him. The comments agreed that yes, at the time — package deal. (One even pointed out that to this day, a non-consummated marriage can be annulled.)

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Chuckle Chuckle

          I’ve read that those “nasty” Puritans believed that a wife had the “Right” to have sex with her husband even if he didn’t want to have sex with her. [Evil Grin]

        • There are people who think sex isn’ t part of marriage?? Do you happen to remember where that thread was?

          • It was the author, not the people in the thread, and only implicitly, by having the heroine think it’s a real grievance. Perhaps she didn’t think things through.

            • I’m still a little boggled that the author would think that was plausible enough to put in a story. Fiction has to make sense to the reader.

        • What she chiefly dwelt on was that after she had voluntarily married him, he expected her to sleep with him.

          Isn’t this how marriage normally works today as well? Or did I fall asleep bowling with the little men in the hills and miss something?

          • This is what marriage usually entails. If she didn’t want to have sex why did she get married? I’m am boggled, especially since this was set at least a century maybe more in our past. What was supposed to be the incentive for the guy to marry her if she wouldn’t sleep with him.

          • I can imagine a husband choosing to stay with a wife who won’t sleep with him if there are severe health issues involved, or perhaps if there are children and the two can manage to be civil to each other.

            Otherwise, it’s nothing short of fraud. I believe the law calls it “constructive desertion” and considers it grounds for divorce, in juristictions where grounds are still relevant.

            • Only she’s slept with him in the past. If not, he can get the union not dissolved but annulled.

    • They can’t write and so their imaginary writer writes the way they would write, if only they could.

  22. Christopher M. Chupik

    It’s a reflection of his influence on the field that people are still arguing about him. I had to laugh at that troll a few days ago who said that his influence meant people didn’t have to read him anymore. That’s exact the reason *why* he still needs to be read. If you don’t know where you came from, how can you know where you’re going?

  23. A quote from a previous comment thread.
    “If he is as gigantic an influence as you claim, then there is no longer a need to read him — his influence has spread far enough that it is inescapable.”

    It’s one thing to say I not interested in reading or I don’t like some author. But the statement “there is no longer a need to read him” bothers me. It displays an attitude of willful ignorance, lack of understanding and a contempt for the past.

    Taking that statement to its logical conclusion, I suppose there is no need to read much of anything then. If something is famous and respected, then you don’t need to read it because their influence is everywhere.

    Shakespeare? Nah.
    The Constituion? Only lawyers read that.
    Philosophers (Plato, Socrates, Thomas Aquinas, Locke, Heigel)? Who?
    Leigh Bracket, Samuel Delany, Arthur Clark? Just a bunch of homophobic women hating racists.

    The only thing you really NEED to read is the latest thing everyone is talking about by Arthur De Jour. Because It’s Important. (Not that I have anything against Arthur De Jour. His books are just some of several million I haven’t read yet. And probably never will)

    • Personally I think the book that most needs reading is Plato’s Apology of Socrates. Perhaps one or two souls could learn that expertise in one field doesn’t transfer.

    • Well, you can’t understand a great deal of Western Lit without having at least a basic familiarity with The Bible.
      Yet that cannot be taught in government schools.

      I think this is the genesis of the “If X is as gigantic an influence as you claim, then there is no longer a need to read X — X’s influence has spread far enough that it is inescapable.” meme.

      • Freshman English we were taught the Bible, and this was a public school. The teacher got away with it by explicitly explaining that he was teaching common literary tropes, and by teaching it in conjunction with Shakespeare. On the other hand he couldn’t hand out bibles to be read, he had to hand out the printed passages that he was teaching.

    • …And since there’s no longer any value to reading these books, why, we should just pile them up and burn them, in order to free up valuable shelf space for those books that our betters have determined have reading value to modern right-thinking new soviet people!

      • And freeing up shelf space is important. I already know of one poor writer whose Books are not on the shelf because J.K. Rowling (curse her name) wrote something outside her assigned genre instead of standing aside and letting others have the spotlight.

        • Oh, yes, Balph Eubank . . . wait a minute. . . whoops. Balph Eubank is a fictional character in a dystopia.

  24. I’m amused that I hear lots of complaints about the sexism in Friday but never one about Beyond This Horizon. I’m pretty sure it’s because to find the horribly sexist bit in BTH you have to read to the end.

  25. “But I was raised */by/* Heinlein through his books, and I hope at least the spirit and the intention of the search for truth and individual freedom remains in my work. As well as the certainty that it’s always easier to be a live lion than a live lamb or a dead lion.”

    What SHE said!

    Not to, exactly, be confused with “Me,too”: I am very decidedly male, very decidedly in favor of a continuing existence, and want to — NEED to — try whenever possible to keep the spirit and intention of the search as an integral component of what I create and release into the world.

    (Yeah, I’ve submitted some grey goo along the way. Sometimes, that’s what flows out onto the page. I *do* try and keep it to the minimum, or apply as much transformation as possible. Sometimes, when yer down, yer DOWN, and the oddest “stuff” comes out, and something inside you sez “this needs to be shared, at least once”.)

    Hu-man WAVE! Hu-man WAVE! Hu-man WAVE!

  26. Reblogged this on Blackeagle's Wizard's Den and commented:
    Straight re-blog. Warts and all, I *like* Heinlein.

    “Specialization is for insects.”

    • I have always *hated* that line! Not many people I know are good at everything. I was always put off by Heinlein or one of his characters’ saying that if you didn’t know calculus you were an idiot. I have taken algebra, geometry, trigonometry, probability and statistics. It felt to me (and may have just been who his audience was) in a number of Heinlein books if you weren’t an engineer, you really weren’t much of anything at all. I realize that I may be projecting my own insecurities on Heinlein. This has effected my feelings about Heinlein.

      I enjoy reading mil sf, even though I know that I don’t have what it takes to be a soldier. It’s a different style of writing.

      • As a statement of economics, it’s not one of the brighter things Heinlein has said. Specialization good. Comparative advantage good.

        As an ideal for personal realization, I’m fine with it. Heck, there’s very little I’m not interested in learning how to do, if there’s any hope I can learn to do it well.

        Except basketball. And knitting. There are limits.

        • Oh, come on. KNITTING! (I can’t.)

        • I have always took that line mostly in the spirit that it’s kind of stupid to boast that you can’t do this or that. But that is again the time and place where I grew up. I have always thought it is a good idea to know how to do as much as possible of the things which might come up in your life, whether you’d need those skills daily or not (like changing a tire), but I have known lots of people who’d say something like ‘I can’t change a tire’ or ‘I have no idea how to calculate that’ or whatever as if it was a badge of honor.

          Never thought it meant ‘you should know how to do all this or you are no good’ but ‘the more you know how to do the better’.

          • oh well! I certainly misinterpreted that. I’m sure with a side of projection. I wasn’t boasting about lacking skills.

            • Heh. I was thinking of some people I have known. Especially a couple who basically refused to learn anything they were not going to be paid for, even those skills which might have saved them money.

              • And how I approached that line was probably colored by the fact that I had known one of those persons before I read it, and had found her attitude rather stupid at the time.

      • Actually a lot of his writers can’t do math — that’s built in. They’re admirable, nontheless. Main character, Citizen of The Galaxy has trouble with it, and it about breaks main Starship Troopers character. THAT was a casual passing line from a man who’d lived over 1k yeas.

      • I’m pretty sure that he meant it in the sense of being able to survive during a period of adversity. Some of the things in the full quote are unlikely to be applicable, but most of them are things that could come up in some form or another.

  27. With the rise of indie, and a gaggle of people upon whose good taste I can reasonably rely, I find I’m less inclined to concern myself with what other people say I should and should not read. I very much take my own counsel on that, and having found a number of things that I enjoy, I’m pretty happy.

    Having said that, my daughter still shudders when I say “Hey, I want you to read something.” (The last one was Monster Hunters International. Now I owe her a read of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan. She loved MHI, but said there was too much talk about guns.)

    What’s more disturbing is the thought that people come into reading Heinlein with their mind already made up about whether they’re going to like him or not. I mean, I do have authors that I won’t be going back to, but I hope that’s not because I came at it with a preconception of who the person was and what they mean.

    And partially, I blame social media if that preconception thing has happened. (I find myself just a little bemused at what RAH would do with today’s blogging / twitter / etc.) Back in the day, if an author had a thing against a social issue or what someone else said, or anything like that, I wasn’t getting poked in the eye about it over twitter or Facebook. Nowadays I find I’m more and more tempted to unfollow /unfriend EVERYBODY, burn my profiles down to the ground, and swear off social media altogether.

  28. OT. 6800 words and a character stormed off and totally re-wrote the climax of the novel. He was smarter than I was. (I’d been sticking too close to history and it bollixed Story.)

  29. Can anyone else think of any SF writer who is, like, a comparably influential spokesman of any OTHER point on the political spectrum? Like, a Heinlein(ish) of the left, or of the centre, or of feminism, or whatever?

    • Ursula LeGuin fits that bill as far as influence on myself goes, but I don’t think she has anything like Heinlein’s overall impact on everyone else.

      • Unfortunately I think LeGuin has had an inordinate influence on a number of people who lack her facility.

        While I recognize this can be applied to anyone who follows in the footsteps of the giants, sometimes you have to recognize the limitations and avoid walking a path only accessible to the giant.

    • LeGuin was claimed by the feminsts for a long time.

    • As mentioned elsewhere in this page, Asimov made some pretty blatant arguments for Progressivism (in the sense of the technocrats directing the lives of others).

    • Madame Hardy

      “Comparably influential” is IMHO impossible; Heinlein is one of the founders of the field. (I don’t think he’s as influential in 2014 as he was in, say, 1970, but that’s not unusual.)

      An author whose book has a powerful and lasting influence on feminist thought inside and outside the SF community is Joanna Russ, and in particular her “How to Suppress Women’s Writing”, which still reverberates and is quoted whenever arguments like “why aren’t there women Heinleins” comes up. “How to Suppress” is a rock thrown through the window of conventional criticism.

      Assuming we’re using the broader interpretation of “SF” as “SF and fantasy”, Tolkien’s nostalgia for a pre-modern era is part and parcel of the worldview in the genre he created. I’ve seen very few Tolkien-derived books that acknowledge the guild system, or free cities, or the complex roles played by women in the economy. A standard Tolkien clone has a benevolent monarchy as the end result of the heroes’ quest. Note: not all quest fantasy is Tolkien clones, and not all Tolkien clones are bad. The point I’m making is that Tolkien’s nostalgia for pre-industrial England has been carried on unquestioned by a large number of authors.

      • You mean of course “how to suppress” is a kafkatrap and it works beautifully? And thus suppresses both truly creative women AND criticism of the drones?
        Noted. oh, so noted.

        • Madame Hardy

          But the question was “Like, a Heinlein(ish) of the left, or of the centre, or of feminism, or whatever?” It’s hard to avoid citing a left or center or feminist author in response.

      • I remember reading How to Suppress Women’s Writing. At one point, Russ quoted a letter from a writer, Sonya Dorman, about

        . . .a fan post-card, saying he liked Bye Bye Banana Bird & Heinlein couldn’t have done it better.
        Goddamn it. HEINLEIN COULDN’T HAVE DONE IT AT ALL.
        I am now joining N.O.W., W.O.W, P.O.W. & any other anti-establishment (the Establishment is male, of course) group that’ll have me.

        That kinda sticks in memory, a grown woman throwing a fit because of a fan’s complaint that she finds inept.

        • No, a fan’s PRAISE she found inept.
          You know what, that was no grown woman. THIS is what happens when you kafkatrap those whose honest criticism could help you grow.

        • It’s not even a complaint, it’s a *compliment*.

          On Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 12:19 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

          > marycatelli commented: “I remember reading How to Suppress Women’s > Writing. At one point, Russ quoted a letter from a writer, Sonya Dorman, > about . . .a fan post-card, saying he liked Bye Bye Banana Bird & Heinlein > couldn’t have done it better. Goddamn it. HEINLEIN C” >

      • I’ve seen very few Tolkien-derived books that acknowledge the guild system, or free cities, or the complex roles played by women in the economy.

        Gee, maybe that’s because neither Tolkien nor most of his imitators were writing about Western Europe during the High Middle Ages; they only got that reputation from clods who knew no history and thought that any story without guns in it was ipso facto ‘mediaeval’.

        Point out to me the guild system in Beowulf, or the free cities in the Eddas, or the complex roles played by women in the economy of the Kalevala. Then we’ll talk, mkay?

        • Madame Hardy

          Criticism of Tolkien clones is not criticism of Tolkien. I read (most of, I think) the big tranche of Tolkien-derived quest novels in the 1980s. Very, very few of them appeared to be calling back to Beowulf or the Kalevala or Old English, in exactly the same way that very, very few of them created languages drawing on a deep knowledge of old languages. Tolkien knew his Old Norse cold. Many of his imitators just put pretty noises together.

          The Rohirrim are Anglo-Saxon. The Big People are derived from various heroic myths. The Shire is straight-on 19th-century England, as seen through a gilded rear-view mirror.

          • I read (most of, I think) the big tranche of Tolkien-derived quest novels in the 1980s. Very, very few of them appeared to be calling back to Beowulf or the Kalevala or Old English, in exactly the same way that very, very few of them created languages drawing on a deep knowledge of old languages.

            No, most of them were only calling back to Tolkien, and to a few other fantasy writers (such as Dunsany) who mined most of the same sources.

            But an imitation of Tolkien is still not a story about Western Europe during the High Middle Ages, unless specifically so stated by the author; and most of the authors you are talking about were specific in saying that they were writing about Secondary Worlds of (ostensibly) their own invention. It is meaningless to accuse them of failing to faithfully reproduce features of a society that they were not even trying to portray.

            The court therefore finds that the charge is without base, there is no tort, and the action does not lie.

          • By the way, the Rohirrim are not Anglo-Saxon; they merely spoke Anglo-Saxon, as a convenient way of showing that their language was closely related to the ancestral speech of the Hobbits. If they ‘are’ any particular historical model, they ‘are’ a sanitized version of the Goths, without the tragic ending.

          • If you want High Middle Ages or maybe early Renaissance fantasy, it’s out there. Buold’s Spirit Ring is excellent as well as Herb-Wife by Elizabeth McCoy. I particularly liked Spirit Ring because the attitudes of the characters were not modern.

          • 19th? I would have said 18th, given absolutely no evidence of any tech not powered by muscle / water / wind.

        • It’s a flippin’ story not an economics lecture!

          • Diana Wynne Jones’s Tough Guide to Fantasyland has its points. However, it does suffer from the tendency to complain about the lack of economics and ecology when the things omitted are exactly what the characters would not trouble themselves about.

  30. A dear friend brought up all the accusations against Heinlein. His cited source was Verhoven’s movie. I told him until he had read 5 ACTUAL Heinlein novels, I wouldn’t bother to dispute with him. He wasn’t qualified to speak on the subject. I saw him reading The Moon is a harsh mistress during a lull in his work. Since I had gauged his reading speed at a book a week, poor lamb, I figured I had a month before he returned to the argument. He came back a WEEK later, Wanting me to recommend more titles. He was staying up nights reading those books. It didn’t change his politics, but he did develop better, more rigorous, argument points.

  31. Geez, kept away from the internet by work today and look what I miss.

    I came to Heinlein through Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. My mind was permanently blown. I’ve not read much Heinlein in years, but I’ve started back on rereading favorites and catching a few titles I’ve missed.

    I’m planning on reading and blogging through the juveniles this year in the order of publication. I’ve read and blogged about Rocketship Galileo and looking forward to the rest of them.

  32. Bravo!
    I always thought (though someone may already have used the title) that I’d title my autobiography “Everything I needed to know in life, I learned from Robert A. Heinlein”.
    I read Glory Road at age 12 and became a Heinlein fan on the spot. Never looked back.

  33. I came to Heinlein (we have the Church of the Author thing going, so a “come to Heinlein moment” make perfect sense) in my teens, at which point I realized I had read some of his stuff before… in Boy’s Life., when his juveniles were being serialized there.

    Which means I came to Heinlein before I came to Heinlein.

    • Sing it brother! It’s mystical.
      Actually for years I told everyone the first SF I read was Clifford Simak’s Out of Their Minds at 11. Then I realized I’d read Have Spacesuit Will Travel MUCH earlier. (Around 8, I think.) I didn’t realize it was sf. I mean, it was America. Maybe you did send kids to the moon…

  34. I started with Orphans of the Sky when I was 8. I re-read it at 21 and picked up a whole lot of stuff I didn’t pick up the first time around. Heinlein and Niven were my two favorites growing up. Dad had a lot of Asimov on the shelves, but I just didn’t like it.