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Author Topic: Heinlein  (Read 5378 times)

Joel

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« on: July 19, 2005, 08:24:28 am »

I started to write this in GP's thread where he takes a poke at me for comments I [allegedly:P] made about Friday.  But it's early in the morning and I ramble, so I gave it its own thread rather than hijack the original.

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* Hey, JDW don't think I didn't catch that thread where you were hatin' on Friday. mad.gif tongue.gif

Friday is a book like I was talking about above. Heinlein utterly stomps on the idea of a democratic republic. I didn't find it to be fluff at all. In fact, I've re-read is many times and always find interesting ideas I didn't catch before.
I can't remember that thread to save my life.  But I don't deny I said...whatever I said.  Heinlein wrote both my all-time most- and least-favorite books.  Friday isn't either one, but she's pretty far down toward the least-favorite side of the sliding scale.

Virtually all his late books, of which I count Friday as one of the first, strike me as the recycled ideas of a tired, ailing man who should have stopped while he was on top.  Occasional pithy commentary, to be sure.  But absurd characters getting into absurd situations.  A plot that changes direction at the drop of a paragraph and can leave you stranded.  An omnicient old man.  Essential characters appearing in the nick of time, with no introduction or even foreshadowing.  Tons of casual, voyeuristic sex with people I don't care about.

C'mon.  Compare that five-finger exercise with the insane energy and creativity of Door Into Summer, or the political satire and character development of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  Can you compare them?  It's like it's two different writers.

Heinlein at the height of his power was awsomely skilled.  I once tried to write a short story in the style of the introduction to Door Into Summer, just to see if I could.  I couldn't.  It's so compact, so economical, and so perfectly sets the mood for the story to follow...GOD couldn't write a better passage than that.

That the same man could write such drivel as The Cat that Walks Through Walls and most ofThe Number of the Beast, and consent that they be published, is sad commentary on the power of a buck.  If somebody ever puts a gun to my head and demands that I re-read the sex scene between Lazarus Long and what's-her-name in TNOTB - which consists entirely of dialogue - I will personally claw out my eyes.

I read Grumbles from the Grave, and noticed that in his letters he constantly referred to himself as a hack.  Certainly in his earliest days he was a hack, in the best possible meaning of the word.  He got paid by the word, copy due on Tuesday or no cheese sandwich for you.  Then there were all those Scribners juveniles, that I grew up with (Gods give him rest and peace and as many virgins as he wants).  But by Starship Troopers he was calling his own shots, editorially speaking.  So why did we ever even catch a glimpse of him when he was so far from the top of his form?  I've often wondered.  I can only imagine that it's because he never got over thinking of himself as a get-it-done-by-Tuesday hack.

Everybody writes drivel, 60% or more of the time.  I do, you do.  Maybe Claire doesn't.  That's what the delete key is for.  Because we're amateurs, we have the luxury of hitting that key without impact on our wallets.  Because Heinlein was King, he had the same option.  In my opinion, he didn't exercise it quite often enough.

And thence came Friday. :P
« Last Edit: July 19, 2005, 08:25:08 am by John DeWitt »
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snokrash257

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« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2005, 09:09:39 am »

I actually think that Friday was one of his best later books.  (Now To Sail Beyond the Sunset I could have done without. :D )
If you look at Number of the Beast as a satire on writing (which it was) (see: This review/article by Debbie Levi) you get a better idea of what he was trying to accomplish with it. (Basically it was a book written for other writers.)
I always thought it was a pretty fun little romp through Heinlein's mind and the things he loved most, maybe not on par with his writing in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress but still good.
In Friday I thought he was back in good form, and liked The Cat Who Walked Through Walls quite a bit. I wasn't really to impressed by his final novel though, but I think that it helped to tie up some loose ends in some earlier ones, even if it was basically repeating himself.
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Joel

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« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2005, 09:16:56 am »

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"THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST is the most massive and wonderful practical joke ever played on the Speculative Fiction genre-reading public.

"It's nothing but a MANUAL on How To Write Good Fiction, written on several simultaneous levels --- and people get out of it what they put INTO it.

"If you're bemused by the mild porn and physical references being thrust in your face, you never notice what's actually going on ... all the way through the book, you see lecture after lecture about Who's In Charge, Why Is This Happening, These Are Books We Really Liked, and This Is Why ... and every single time there's a boring lecture or tedious character interaction going on in the foreground, there's an example of how to do it RIGHT in the background ... and constant harping and lecturing on the shoddiness of writers who don't generate stories that *flow*, but just jerk characters and events around with no rhyme or reason ... AND EVERY TIME THAT HAPPENS, A 'BLACK HAT' POPS IN AND JERKS THINGS AROUND ... and EVERY SINGLE 'BLACK HAT' HAS A NAME WHICH IS AN ANAGRAM OF HEINLEIN'S OWN. (Or of someone very close to him.)

"This is the author stepping in to jerk the story around to make something happen, and thereby demonstrating a kind of conscious ineptitude at his own craft, for a joke.... because only when you understand it, only when you are *aware* of it, can you purposely botch it up with such skill, and produce something that is *still* good enough to keep the people who DON'T realize what's going on ... reading. Heinlein may have been past his peak when he did the writing, but he took his time and did it right, and did PRECISELY what he intended to do ... he left his legacy to any who cared for good writing, good fiction, and RAH's work; he handed over a textbook and a toolbox, and said 'Here's everything I know about my craft. See if you can do better.'
Interesting!  I never heard this.  It would certainly explain all the ad nauseum references to old stories.

I may try this one again.  I'm skipping the talkative sex scene.
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snokrash257

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« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2005, 10:27:52 am »

I (sorta) see Heinlein as the Picasso of SF.  The Great, Grand Master, who continued on past his "peak", who put out some crap in his later years, but it was his crap, and still better than 90% of what's out there.
(Before you say that all of Picasso was crap, remember that many people think the same of Heinlein. They both did what they did, because they could do nothing else.)
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Shevek

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« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2005, 05:08:09 pm »

I enjoyed Friday. I tend to focus on the human elements of a story rather than technical correctness. If a story is reasonably believable, then I am willing to ignore the technical details and focus on the story.

Embedded in the Friday story was the struggle of prejudice and willful ignorance. I thought Heinlein portrayed that element well. Even Friday's marriage partners could not tolerate the idea that she was conceived in a lab rather than a womb. In their opinions that somehow made Friday non-human or inferior. Yet, as Heinlein showed, Friday was far superior to many humans on many levels. And Friday struggled with wanting to belong and to be accepted. I thought Heinlein portrayed that struggle well.

Written 25 years ago, I found the story relevant to today's world with cloning and genetics technology being just around the corner of being able to create a Friday. Will such a human be "non-human" or "less than" human? Will such humans face willful ignorance and prejudice such as Heinlein portrayed? Looking around at all the racism and prejudice I see today, I suspect Heinlein's book will be prophetic.
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Roy J. Tellason

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« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2005, 06:40:58 pm »

I didn't think Friday was bad,  and I was somewhat less enthused about The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, which is pretty much of what I've sampled of his later stuff.

Some time ago,  I stumbled across Number of The Beast and wondered what the hell was going on!  At that time I was an active participant in the fidonet SF echo,  which was pretty active in and of itself,  seeing something over 100 posts/day (as compared to the shadow it's turned into,  with somewhat less than 1 post/week these days). I said something in there about why the heck didn't anybody warn me about this stuff?

Sometime after that I read Methuselah's Children and also Time Enough For Love pretty close to each other, and then a lot of other things started making sense.  I'm not sure if I even _have_ a copy of NOTB any more as I recall that copy I had being one of those unfortunate books that was "defective" in that the glue holding all of the pages in was defective,  and one by one they all started to let loose.  I'm not sure if I could re-read it again if I tried,   the negative feelings I got out of it were so strong.

There's a small number of his earlier books I have on hand here,  I keep meaning to make a list.  Glory Road, Door Into Summer, The Star Beast,  The Mooin Is A Harsh Mistress, Grumbles From The Grave,  The Puppet Masters,  and probably some others I'm not remembering and I don't feel like getting up and looking just now.  I think that for the time being I'm going to make it a point to stick to the older stuff,  even if some of them are "juveniles".  At least while my book-buying funds are still finite...    I'll get those,  and then maybe I'll think about filling in the later stuff after that.

Nothing I've heard as far as comments about the later stuff seems to indicate anything to the contrary,  so far...
 
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« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2005, 01:26:53 pm »

Well, I liked Friday, for about the same reasons as shevek did.  Friday was a girl I could relate to...struggling to fit in and find happiness in a world that thought of her as different and therefore unlovable.

As far as Number of the Beast goes...I found it confusing and weird.  The only thing I have remembered, these many years after reading it, is this one little factoid.  RH got it wrong in a scene between Glinda the Good and one of the main characters.  The woman was pregnant, and she wanted to stay in Oz, and Glinda looked dismayed and said something to the effect of, "Then you aren't planning on having your child?" and going on to explain that, in Oz, you never grow old, therefore, the baby will never mature and be born.

This is incorrect.  The Wizard of Oz came to Oz as a middle-aged man, and grew older and older until he found out that he could stop aging any time he liked...which he did at that point.  So technically speaking, the baby could have been born and grown up and grown as old as it wanted, right there in Oz.

But I guess RH had to figure out some way to get them out of Oz and on their way.  

Lord, I'm a geek...an Oz-geek.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2005, 01:27:11 pm by debeez »
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George Potter

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« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2005, 01:39:57 pm »

That reviewer nailed TNOTB. From my insiduous and obsessive research, I've learned that RAH wrote a first draft as a straightforward alternate universe adventure romp. Then he had a stroke and surgery to correct it.

I think after that surgery, RAH was sick of straightforward. I think he was a tired old genius who decided to spend his last productive years at play.

All the novels from NUMBER on are play. They were written to amuse the author, not the reader. But -- lucky for me -- if you grew up waiting impatiently for the mans next novel, bitching at librarians to get the few older works you hadn't read, and being told by your Dad to stop paraphrasing Heinlein in our daily argument, then you understood the mans sense of humor and peculiar intellectual obsessions enough that those later books are just wonderful. They are brain candy. They offer insights into the author's mental makeup.

THE CAT WHO WALKS THROUGH WALLS is a screwball comedy, it's like a novelization of some long lost Howard Hawks SF film. RAH tips you off with the subtitle: A Comedy Of Manners.

JOB is just a little miracle of a book. Funny, charming, whimsical, but it makes a point on every page. It's a shame RAH didn't write more fantasy. He was a damned genius at it.

FRIDAY is no less charming, but far more serious. Look: Heinlein loved America -- the nation, the ideal, the vision. He watched it destroying itself. FRIDAY is his prediction where all this was leading: Balkanization, terrorism and new predjudices to replace the old. There is a scene where the Old Man talks about it being impossible for him to give up on 'the world', but advises Friday to migrate off planet. I think this was RAH admitting that the US was fucked, but he was too emotionally attached to flat out say so. It was the one bit of canalized thinking he could never let go.

TO SAIL BEYOND THE SUNSET is the mirror image of TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE and tells the beginnings of the Long clan as that earlier novel told the end. It's also a picaresque alternate history novel. I don't think that had ever been done before. It really is a mess. It sprawls, it meanders, it concludes hastily.

All the post-op novels are odd when compared to RAH's no-nonsense early work. But, so was TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE and STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Like those two, the post-op novels are philosophical novels first and foremost, not adventure novels.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2005, 01:41:18 pm by George Potter »
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Roy J. Tellason

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« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2005, 11:42:01 pm »

Quote
 
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That reviewer nailed TNOTB.

I didn't follow the link last time around,  but it's loading as I type this...

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From my insiduous and obsessive research, I've learned that RAH wrote a first draft as a straightforward alternate universe adventure romp. Then he had a stroke and surgery to correct it.

I remember reading about his having some circulatory blockage and then getting it corrected at some point,  but never really connected it with the timing of any of his stuff.  So much of his stuff having come out before I really got into him or paid attention to _who_ I was reading and _when_ they'd written it,  that sort of thing didn't come along until later...

Even now I don't have as much real understanding of contexts and personal issues and such stuff as I'd like to.  Not all that long ago I bought a copy of I, Asimov,  which was totally different than anything else he'd ever written that I've seen,  very personal,  very much detailed in the way things happened,  when,  and why some stuff was the way it was.  I realize that it's way too late for anything like that from a number of other authors,  but perhaps some of the stuff I latch on to now and then will shed a little light on the context of things.

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I think after that surgery, RAH was sick of straightforward. I think he was a tired old genius who decided to spend his last productive years at play.

I think you may be right about that.  I wish I'd known that was what was going on when I started getting into that portion of his work.  And in spite of the absolute RAH fans back in the fido SF echo none of them were able to clue me in about any of this stuff.

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All the novels from NUMBER on are play. They were written to amuse the author, not the reader. But -- lucky for me -- if you grew up waiting impatiently for the mans next novel, bitching at librarians to get the few older works you hadn't read, and being told by your Dad to stop paraphrasing Heinlein in our daily argument, then you understood the mans sense of humor and peculiar intellectual obsessions enough that those later books are just wonderful. They are brain candy. They offer insights into the author's mental makeup.

You may be on to something there.  I'm going to have to take a good look at the copyright dates of what I have on hand of his,  and see what I don't,  maybe make a list,  and figure some things out from there.  I also get the feeling that some of that stuff just doesn't work unless you're familiar with the earlier material...

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JOB is just a little miracle of a book. Funny, charming, whimsical, but it makes a point on every page. It's a shame RAH didn't write more fantasy. He was a damned genius at it.

That's one I haven't gotten to yet.

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FRIDAY is no less charming, but far more serious. Look: Heinlein loved America -- the nation, the ideal, the vision. He watched it destroying itself. FRIDAY is his prediction where all this was leading: Balkanization, terrorism and new predjudices to replace the old. There is a scene where the Old Man talks about it being impossible for him to give up on 'the world', but advises Friday to migrate off planet. I think this was RAH admitting that the US was fucked, but he was too emotionally attached to flat out say so. It was the one bit of canalized thinking he could never let go.

And he was right,  too.  Things are really headed down a slope here in this country,  we can all watch it happening,  and there ain't a whole hell of a lot that any of us can do about it.  :-(   I can remember a different country when I was a kid than what we've got now.  Hell,  Stan Schmidt wrote in the current Analog about how things are going down now that wouldn't have been possible only 20 years ago.  And RAH was an adult some nontrivial amount of time before I was even born,  he must've had it even worse...

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TO SAIL BEYOND THE SUNSET is the mirror image of TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE and tells the beginnings of the Long clan as that earlier novel told the end. It's also a picaresque alternate history novel. I don't think that had ever been done before. It really is a mess. It sprawls, it meanders, it concludes hastily.

Another one I don't have (TSBTS,  not TEFL),  but will perhaps get around to eventually.

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All the post-op novels are odd when compared to RAH's no-nonsense early work. But, so was TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE and STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Like those two, the post-op novels are philosophical novels first and foremost, not adventure novels.

Those two I do have,  and both worked for me...
« Last Edit: July 20, 2005, 11:47:39 pm by Roy J. Tellason »
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George Potter

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« Reply #9 on: July 20, 2005, 11:57:14 pm »

You gotta read JOB: A COMEDY OF JUSTICE, Roy. It's a fantasy along Judeo-Christian lines, and burns sacred hamburger like STRANGER.

It also features one of the most hilarious depictions of an an-cap society ever: right in the bowels of Hell. :D

Happy bitrhday, btw!
« Last Edit: July 20, 2005, 11:59:23 pm by George Potter »
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Harleqwin

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« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2005, 08:44:19 am »

I will throw in my 2 cents:  George hit it dead on with his recap above of several books.

I read Friday as my first ever SF book (I think, before that was aviation/aerodynamics, WW2 history, Hardy Boys, etc. ) somewhere around the age of 14 or 15.  That book catapulted me into finding, buying, reading and re-reading every single R.A.H. book I could.  I used to skip school in the mornings to goto the bookstore and spend an hour scanning the SF aisle; first for a new Heinlein novel, and second for "something else".

I love all his later stuff moreso than the earlier shorts; he builds his "Future History" and then concentrates on Lazarus Long - who grew from Methuselah's Children.  Now here was a character I could relate to, a hero who fights when he has to, runs when he can, and LIVES LIFE to it's fullest.  Oh, and keeps on living forever, because he wants to, because he never runs out of things to do, who when he gets bored, gets up and changes his life around to suit his need to Strive, to have fun, to Live.  Time Enough for Love explains it all perfectly (to me).  The story about Dora always, always brings a tear to my eye, every time I read the name Dora (the ship) in the other books, I get that tear again, because Heinlein really brought that characters love of his wife to life.  That particular one out of hundreds if not thousands of lovers/wives.

TNOTB and The Cat who walks through walls I loved among many other reasons, for the time tripping.  I believe that all the "Long clan" or "time travel" Future History books have to be read, and re-read in order.  By doing this, I pick up on little things that I missed, and get to appreciate the whole body of writing more and more.

Whenever I get depressed, I pick up a Heinlein and reread; sometimes I then go on a spree and reread all of them.  (wow, come to think of it, I have'nt read Stranger in a couple years.  UH-OH !!)


Oh, and important, relevant quote here:  " Strong drink can make you shoot at Tax Collector's.  And miss"
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Junker

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« Reply #11 on: July 22, 2005, 10:22:57 pm »

via Heinlein site: http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/rah/srah-arc...-originals.html

Social Credit by Maj. Clifford Hugh Douglas

This book, now available in a full online text, is the founding document of the "social credit" economic movement of the 1930s. Heinlein used much of For Us, the Living to espouse this theory, and it appeared as a major element in the later Beyond This Horizon as well.

at http://www.mondopolitico.com/library/socia...ocialcredit.htm
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George Potter

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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2005, 10:37:18 pm »

Quote
via Heinlein site: http://www.nitrosyncretic.com/rah/srah-arc...-originals.html

Social Credit by Maj. Clifford Hugh Douglas

This book, now available in a full online text, is the founding document of the "social credit" economic movement of the 1930s. Heinlein used much of For Us, the Living to espouse this theory, and it appeared as a major element in the later Beyond This Horizon as well.

at http://www.mondopolitico.com/library/socia...ocialcredit.htm
Both examples of RAH using social credit were pre-Ginny, and influenced by his socialist first wife. Hell, he burned every manuscipt of For Us, The Living he could find.

The grave robbers who published it after Ginny died have earned my eternal hatred.
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Shevek

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« Reply #13 on: July 23, 2005, 11:54:09 pm »

The Social Credit movement is based, in large part, upon the theories of Frederick Soddy. Soddy was a chemist, and won the Nobel prize for his work with Ernest Ruthorford. Soddy understood the basics of human exchange better than most economists. Soddy came close to finding all the pieces of the puzzle, which is more than I can say about economists in general.
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« Reply #14 on: July 23, 2005, 11:57:03 pm »

Quote
The Social Credit movement is based, in large part, upon the theories of Frederick Soddy. Soddy was a chemist, and won the Nobel prize for his work with Ernest Ruthorford. Soddy understood the basics of human exchange better than most economists. Soddy came close to finding all the pieces of the puzzle, which is more than I can say about economists in general.

Social Credit is ridiculous and demands an overarching state.

I'm stunned that you don't realize that.
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