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Jeet Heer writes in The New Republic:

A Famous Science Fiction Writer’s Descent Into Libertarian Madness

Robert A. Heinlein became increasingly right wing, and his novels suffered for it

By Jeet Heer Photo

A review of Robert A. Heinlein, Vol 2: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, by William H. Patterson.

The science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein once described himself as “a preacher with no church.” More accurately, he was a preacher with too many churches. Rare among the many intellectual gurus whose fame mushroomed in the 1960s, Heinlein was a beacon for hippies and hawks, libertarians and authoritarians, and many other contending faiths—but rarely at the same time.

Why exactly is it a bad thing for a creative writer to have an aversion to repeating himself and instead like to explore new ideas? That Heinlein wouldn’t create a single, self-consistent ideology as did Ayn Rand or L. Ron Hubbard strikes me as a good thing.

While America became increasingly liberal, he became increasingly right wing, and it hobbled his once-formidable imagination. His career, as a new biography inadvertently proves, is a case study in the literary perils of political extremism. …

In truth, Heinlein’s shift to the right took place over a decade, from 1948 to 1957. In the early 1950s, the Heinleins travelled around the world. The writer was already a Malthusian and a eugenicist, but the trip greatly exacerbated his demographic despair and xenophobia. “The real problem of the Far East is not that so many of them are communists, but simply that there are so many of them,” he wrote in a 1954 travel book (posthumously published in 1992). Even space travel, Heinlein concluded, wouldn’t be able to open enough room to get rid of “them.” Heinlein treated overpopulation as a personal affront.

Heinlein had caught a bad case of the Cold War jitters in the late 1940s.

You know, the potential for a nuclear World War III was the kind of thing that could give a man a case of the jitters. Heinlein had a bad case of nuclear war jitters from as early as 1940 onward when he wrote his most amazing short story “Solution Unsatisfactory” based on a physicist friend’s inside info that nuclear weapons were possible. In 1940′s “Solution Unsatisfactory,” the U.S. ends World War II in 1945 by nuking an Axis city. But the Russians quickly get nuclear weapons themselves. The U.S. wins a brief atomic WWIII at vast cost. By the end of the story in the early 1950s, the man who came to control the monopoly on nuclear bombers is, to his regret, the unelected dictator of the world.

Hiroshima renewed Heinlein’s fears of World War III. He feverishly campaigned in 1945-48 for some kind of world government to monopolize nukes, but that didn’t work out. Heinlein slowly became more Republican from late 1940s onward under his third wife’s influence.

The turning point came in 1957. After that year, Heinlein’s books were no longer progressive explorations of the future but hectoring diatribes lamenting the decadence of modernity.

Or maybe:

A. Heinlein published three of his best books after the year, 1957

- his most skillful juvenile (i.e., his epochally influential adventure novels for intelligent boys) Have Spacesuit Will Travel

- the small masterpiece Starship Troopers (if it weren’t so spectacular, it wouldn’t be denounced so endlessly)

- and likely his best all around book, 1966′s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. Even as a libertarian fable — the Australia-like prison colony on the moon has no central government — the book is remarkably mature. Libertarian Madness?” Like Charles Murray decades later, Heinlein points out that if you want to live without government, you’re going to have to be awfully neighborly since you’ll need the help of your neighbors to get you out of a lot of tight jams.

- And that’s not even mentioning Heinlein’s most famous book Stranger In a Strange Land.

So maybe Heer complains a tad too much about Heinlein’s output in 1958-1966?

B. Heinlein, who had suffered terrible health problems most of his life, was unable to write for three years in the late 1960s right after his peak with The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and even longer in the later 1970s. His health miseries no doubt took a toll on the books he was able to write after his peak in 1966 at age 59.

C. As with Nabokov and Hitchcock, the increasing liberalization of American culture’s sex, violence, and drug mores soon turned into too much of a good thing for Heinlein’s art. Like Lolita, Stranger in a Strange Land was begun around 1949 under the assumption that while it would be unpublishable now, current trends in American society would make it acceptable in the future.

When the 1960s came along, Stranger was worshipped by early hippies like Ken Kesey who presumably recognized that most of the characters in it appear to be on drugs: Jubal talks like a man on, at minimum, speed, while his agreeable listeners appear stoned on marijuana. (Drugs, like nudism, play a consistent low level role in Heinlein works going back decades.)

In general, Heinlein did most of his best work under constraints that kept his kinks in the background, such as his juveniles or his censorship-era adult thrillers like Puppet Masters (1951) where he had to construct innocent-sounding explanations for pet obsessions like the President ordering the National Summer of Nudism.

As for Heer’s criticism of Heinlein’s lesser late works after his partial recovery from his health problems, well, if you want an overripe, over-self-referential science fiction novel about incest and nostalgia with rightwing politics, well, there’s Nabokov’s giant 1969 novel Ada, which is too much of a good thing. Indeed, Patterson’s new biography of Heinlein suggests on p. 305 that Ada influenced Heinlein’s late works, just as Lolita had an impact on Heinlein’s 1958-1966 climacteric.

Going further: Isn’t the truly self-made man also self-engendered? In his explorations of the mechanics of self-pleasuring and self-creation, Heinlein made Philip Roth look like a piker. In Heinlein’s 1959 story “All You Zombies—,” a combination of time travel and a sex-change operation allows the protagonist to become his/her own mother and father.

This tiny short story is one of those works coming right after the end of censorship like Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot where long pent-up creativity is on display. “All You Zombies–” is the reductio ad absurdum of all time travel stories, and I have a hard time having any patience for time travel fiction ever since.

… Taken together, Heinlein’s books in his right-wing phase hardly add up to a logical worldview. How do we reconcile the savage authoritarianism of Starship Troopers with the peace-and-love mysticism of Stranger in a Strange Land? For that matter, how do those two books jibe to the nearly anarchist libertarianism of the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress?

And that his three cult novels are followed by three different cults is a bad thing because …?

As I wrote in Taki’s Magazine in 2011 in a review of the first volume of this Heinlein biography:

Fortunately, Heinlein resisted the temptation to found a cult. He had too much generosity of spirit and too little monomania for the Rand-Hubbard path. Three of his books became cult novels anyway. Tellingly, they each found their way to a different cult. Starship Troopers appeals to militarists, Stranger in a Strange Land to hippies, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to libertarians.

Debates over Heinlein today thus resemble the Indian story of the blind men encountering an elephant: One touches its trunk and exclaims that it is a snake, another its tail and calls it a rope, a third its leg and declares it a tree. Depending upon the observer’s cult affiliations, Heinlein is frequently denounced (or lauded) for being an anarchist, a fascist, a Boy Scout, a dirty old man, and so forth.

Heinlein was not an ideologue, but rather a creative artist whose medium was ideas. In his long 1939-1966 prime …, Heinlein became infatuated with many ideas. They were often contradictory, but their dynamic balance made Heinlein not a final authority (as his more callow admirers assumed), but instead an intensely stimulating intellectual provocateur.

 
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  1. Corn says:

    “he wrote in a 1954 travel book (posthumously published in 1992)”

    That book, detailing his journey around the Southern Hemisphere, is called Tramp Royale. A fine book and enjoyable read.

    “President ordering the National Summer of Nudism”

    There’s another Heinlein book, The Door into Summer, where the main character goes back in time and lands in….yup…. a nudist resort. Funny how Heinlein worked to get nudity into his stories.
    I read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress once and recall not enjoying, finding it unrealistic and plodding. Loved Starship Troopers and Stranger in a Strange Land though.

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  2. countenance says: • Website

    The pride of Butler, Missouri.

    First off, it is a contradiction in terms to say that Heinlein was engaging in “libertarian madness” and “demographic despair and xenophobia” at the same time, especially when you use today’s definition and essence of libertarian. Someone engaging in “libertarian madness” in 2014 would be open borders no borders anti-white race denial 24/7/365.

    Second, maybe the reason it was hard to pin Heinlein down into a neat ideological box is because he didn’t fit in any one of them. Maybe his worldview was nuanced and complicated, and could not so easily translate into weeknight prime time cable TV banal talking points. Maybe Heinlein saw some virtue in hawks, doves, libertarians and authoritarians, took some pieces from each one to create his own unique do-it-yourself worldview.

    Actually, that’s not just the province of one of my favorite authors. Any modern successful society is going to have elements of both libertarianism and authoritarianism, elements of both capitalism and socialism, it will be part dove part hawk. The trick is finding the right balance, the right blend, which serves the underlying society and the people (hopefully an ethnonationalist lot) in it.

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  3. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    Madness, libertarian or otherwise, isn’t necessarily bad for art as many artists have been rather nuts.

    While Heer is right that some artists trade creativity for ideology, it’s never that simple. In many cases, the artist didn’t lose his creativity because of his ideology(newfound or otherwise) but adopted an ideology because of his waning creativity. The thing about creativity is it’s very neurotic and unstable. It can be exhilarating but also stressful and hellish, and so some artists reach a peak, feel very troubled, and seek some kind of anchor.

    This happened to Bob Dylan in the late 60s. He did too much drugs and was about to lose his mind. So, he turned to family life, interest in religion, and etc. One might say it undermined his art, but maybe it’s because he reached his peak with BLONDE ON BLONDE and got too close to the danger zone of madness. So, he pulled back and grasped onto certain spiritual or political ideas.

    Same may be true of David Mamet. One might say his new ‘conservative’ politics have been bad for his art, but maybe he blew his best wad in the past. As he was a high octane artist, maybe his tank is empty. So, regardless of his politics now, his best days are probably behind him, and that’s that. Since he’s past the wild creative stage(of unstable possibilities), he naturally wants to find some kind of social and ideological meaning in life. After all, many people find God later in life for the same reason. Uncertainty is exciting when young. But as one ages, one asks, ‘what is it all about?’

    At any rate, there are too many examples of great artists with extreme politics. Brecht the Stalinist is one. Riefenstahl was at her height during the Nazi era. Eisenstein was superb even though he was a communist.

    If an artist allows ideology to dictate everything he or she does, then art will suffer. But plenty of artists with ‘extreme’ views have been able to work in a different mode in the arts. Politically, Stone loathes Nixon, but his movie of the man was very complicated and multi-faceted.
    INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN UNDER SUSPICION was made by a far leftist Italian, but it’s still a very subtle film with many shadings.

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  4. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    Even if the reviewer’s argument is true, he seems to have fallen into the same trap.
    It’s reads like a very stupid review because it’s so ideological and tries to score political points than in trying to understand Heinlein. (I never read him btw. I reads a few pages of STARSHIP POOPERS, and that was enough. Maybe I’ll try something else one of these days.)

    The writers says Heinlein was a hypocrite for taking pension for his tuberculosis but then badmouthing the welfare state. But surely, there’s a difference between government providing funds for disability and government providing funds for perfectly healthy people to live on the dole and just have babies out of wedlock, which is what welfare became in places like US and UK.

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  5. FredR says:

    “if you want an overripe, over-self-referential science fiction novel about incest and nostalgia with rightwing politics, well, there’s Nabokov’s giant 1969 novel Ada, which is too much of a good thing.”

    I’ve read it through 3 times in the past couple of years, and I still feel like I could read Ada forever.

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  6. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    “Heinlein described some of his books as being ‘Swiftian’ in intent. Regrettably, Heinlein lacked the rhetorical control of the Gulliver’s Travels author. Aside from a 1941 Yellow Peril novel, Heinlein had a strong record as a critic of racism. But in Farnham’s Freehold, Heinlein wanted to use inversion to show the evils of ethnic oppression: he took a middle-class white family and, via a nuclear explosion, threw them into a future where Africans rule the earth and enslave whites. So far, so good. Yet Heinlein’s Africans aren’t just a master race, they also castrate white men, make white women their concubines, and eat white children (white teenage girls being especially tasty). Preaching against racism, Heinlein resurrected some of the most horrific racial stereotypes imaginable. Farnham’s Freehold is an anti-racist novel only a Klansman could love.”

    Eh? So, Heinlein used to be ‘anti-racist’ but for his ‘yellow peril’ novel? Isn’t that like saying D.W. Griffith was ‘anti-racist’ but for BIRTH OF A NATION? I guess some ‘racisms’ are more forgivable than others. LOL.

    As for black rule over whites in one of his novels, it sounds rather prophetic when we look at what happened to Zimbabwe and South Africa. And Detroit.

    And doesn’t current PC castrate white men? Heer certainly doesn’t have a pair. And aren’t black males lusting after white females? Don’t black celebrities use white whores as sex meat? Okay, blacks don’t seem to be eating white meat–unless we count Albinos in Africa–yet, but things are pretty hairy in parts of Haiti and black Africa.

    And besides, if indeed PLANET OF THE APES was meant as social satire about race relations–as some contend–, doesn’t it make the same point as Heinlein’s novel? Oh, but it was adapted by a Jewish Liberal screenwriter, so I guess it’s okay.

    Btw, when it comes to ‘resurrecting racial stereotypes about blacks’, who created rap music? Who disseminates and reaps massive profits from it? Who controls porn that features so many black males as sex-crazed lunatics whose goal in life is to hump as many blondes as possible?
    And who made stuff like DJANGO UNCHAINED?

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  7. “I’ve read it through 3 times in the past couple of years, and I still feel like I could read Ada forever.”

    I thought the first half was the greatest thing I ever read (when I read it at age 24), but the second half was a little much.

    You might like this map that attempts to work out the geography of Antiterra:

    http://www.dezimmer.net/ReAda/AntiterraGeography.htm

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  8. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    RE: Heinlein,

    As Steve indicated in his article, don’t bother with the post-MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS novels; they are bloated and self-indulgent. My own recommendations for someone coming to RAH for the first time are:

    CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY, Kipling’s KIM* in an SF setting

    THE PUPPET MASTERS: Top-notch SF thriller

    MAGIC, INC: Excellent fantasy that RAH wrote for Campbell’s UNKNOWN.

    MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS: As many others have said, probably the best-written of his novels.

    STARSHIP TROOPERS: How many books published in 1959 are still being argued about today?

    “All You Zombies” and “By his Bootstraps”: Heinlein does time travel.

    *And KIM was derived from Twain’s HUCKLEBERRY FINN, which means that the game of literary tennis stands with England 1, Missouri 2.

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    Syon, thanks for the list. Let me pass on Kevin Drum's recommendation of "Starman Jones" as a first rate juvenile. The title is clunky and the lack of computers is a problem for young people today, but the book just keeps building to several great conclusions.

    Tunnel in the Sky is one where the technology isn't out of date -- it's students surviving on an Serengeti like planet with very little technology. It could be paired with "Lord of the Flies" from the same year or two: here the kids claw their way up to a successful civilization.

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  9. syonredux says:

    “In truth, Heinlein’s shift to the right took place over a decade, from 1948 to 1957. In the early 1950s, the Heinleins travelled around the world. The writer was already a Malthusian and a eugenicist, but the trip greatly exacerbated his demographic despair”

    And, once again, we see the contemporary Left completely ignoring the fact that concern over over-population was once quite prevalent on the Left. Heck, as recently as 1973 (cf SOYLENT GREEN) Hollywood was still willing to green light a big budget movie about a Malthusian catastrophe.

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  10. @Anonymous
    RE: Heinlein,

    As Steve indicated in his article, don't bother with the post-MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS novels; they are bloated and self-indulgent. My own recommendations for someone coming to RAH for the first time are:

    CITIZEN OF THE GALAXY, Kipling's KIM* in an SF setting

    THE PUPPET MASTERS: Top-notch SF thriller

    MAGIC, INC: Excellent fantasy that RAH wrote for Campbell's UNKNOWN.

    MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS: As many others have said, probably the best-written of his novels.

    STARSHIP TROOPERS: How many books published in 1959 are still being argued about today?

    "All You Zombies" and "By his Bootstraps": Heinlein does time travel.

    *And KIM was derived from Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN, which means that the game of literary tennis stands with England 1, Missouri 2.

    Syon, thanks for the list. Let me pass on Kevin Drum’s recommendation of “Starman Jones” as a first rate juvenile. The title is clunky and the lack of computers is a problem for young people today, but the book just keeps building to several great conclusions.

    Tunnel in the Sky is one where the technology isn’t out of date — it’s students surviving on an Serengeti like planet with very little technology. It could be paired with “Lord of the Flies” from the same year or two: here the kids claw their way up to a successful civilization.

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  11. syonredux says:

    RE: Heinlein and WW3,

    I will say that RAH did often seem overly sanguine about nuclear war. At times, as in his OTT speech to the 1961 WORLD SCIENCE FICTION CONVENTION, he seemed to almost relish the prospect of apocalypse. In his defense, I suppose that it could be argued that he was worried that Western resolve might slacken to the point where the Soviets might think that an all-out attack was winnable. Hence, assuming a posture of cheerful belligerence might be seen as having a prophylactic value.

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  12. syonredux says:

    “Syon, thanks for the list. Let me pass on Kevin Drum’s recommendation of “Starman Jones” as a first rate juvenile. The title is clunky and the lack of computers is a problem for young people today, but the book just keeps building to several great conclusions.”

    You’re welcome, Steve. Being a teacher, I just love creating reading lists. Yes, STARMAN JONES is a fine book and well worth reading. Heck, barring ROCKET SHIP GALILEO (RAH’s first attempt at the form; it shows), all of Heinlein’s juveniles are worth reading.

    RE: Computers,

    That’s a problem with just about all of the SF produced prior to the ’60s. Bester, Clarke, Asimov, Pohl-Kornbluth: they all seemed to suffer a serious failure of the prophetic function when it came to thinking machines……Except, of course, when they came in the form of humanoid robots.

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  13. syonredux says:

    “Tunnel in the Sky is one where the technology isn’t out of date — it’s students surviving on an Serengeti like planet with very little technology. It could be paired with “Lord of the Flies” from the same year or two: here the kids claw their way up to a successful civilization.”

    And one might also point out that Rod Walker is Black, making this another example (cf the Filipino Juan Rico in STARSHIP TROOPERS) of RAH using a non-White protagonist in one of his juveniles.

    In terms of race/ethnicity, RAH was firmly a part of the mid-century liberal American consensus. Race is skin-deep. Anyone can assimilate and become an American. Of course, nowadays the Left has kept the skin-deep part but jettisoned the need to assimilate…..

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  14. Priss Factor [AKA "Skyislander"] says:

    It’s possible that in some cases, the conservatization of an artist makes him less creative.

    Conservatism can mean traditionalism, realism, and/or pragmatism.
    Traditionalism means less creative inspiration and originality.
    Realism could mean less imagination and fantasy.
    Pragmatism could mean less dreaminess and big ideas.

    John Dos Passos wrote his magnum opus USA when he was on the left.

    T.S. Eliot’s poetry as a young man is regarded more highly than his stuff when he became a stodgy conservative.

    But this isn’t always so.

    Tarkovsky had very conservative instincts but was a great artist.
    Saul Bellow remained as good even when he turned to the right.

    Hitchcock is hard to pigeonhole politically, but his view of humanity–and women–was hardly ‘progressive’. And yet, he made some of the greatest films.

    Frank Capra was a rock solid Republican, but that didn’t prevent him from making excellent populist films.

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  15. I recently reread “Starship Troopers,” just after reading “Catch 22″ for the first time. Probably anyone who reads one of these should read the other.

    “Starship Troopers” is a really impressive, intense piece of writing, whatever you think of the politics. It’s interesting that a lot of actual science fiction writers (Samuel Delany, Robert Silverberg, Thomas Disch), who have to think hard about how good writing works, have recognized how important Heinlein has been to science fiction, even if they grumble about his politics.

    Heinlein was generally attracted to a lot of oddball causes — e.g. General Semantics early in his career. A lot of writers are.

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  16. Zippy says:

    1. It’s just wrong — wrong, wrong, wrong — to say that STARSHIP TROOPERS embodies “savage authoritarianism.” The society depicted in ST is pretty much a libertarian paradise, not authoritarian at all in daily life. Crime is low; the economy is good; taxes are low. They do use corporal punishment — flogging and the death penalty — but for things that we would think of as being reasonably classed as crimes. Locking somebody in a cage for a long time is hardly less authoritarian.

    Whether the society would work that way in practice is another story.

    2. I agree that most of the juveniles are pretty awesome, particularly HAVE SPACESUIT WILL TRAVEL. Except for ROCKET SHIP GALILEO they are all pretty strong. Love TUNNEL IN THE SKY as well — like many people I wrote a paper in high school comparing it to LORD OF THE FLIES.

    3. His later work is pretty erratic, and you are right that he was a better writer when constrained in some ways. In retrospect, getting everybody naked in THE PUPPET MASTERS indulges his kinks, but in the actual books it works pretty naturally. I personally find the incest (particularly the mother/son incest) a bit creepy, but I actually do think that both FRIDAY and JOB: A COMEDY OF JUSTICE are interesting books.

    4. Maybe one reason that his books lack a coherent philosophy, other than nudism, is that he liked to play with ideas, rather than develop a PHILOSOPHY.

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  17. Corn says:

    Re: Computers:

    I remember reading some Heinlein novel (Podkayne of Mars maybe?) where the characters travel between planets with slide rules.

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  18. syonredux says:

    Skyislander:”T.S. Eliot’s poetry as a young man is regarded more highly than his stuff when he became a stodgy conservative.”

    Eliot was always on the Right.THE WASTELAND, for example, is the agonized reaction of a conservative to the erosion of Western culture.

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  19. syonredux says:

    a very knowing American:”It’s interesting that a lot of actual science fiction writers (Samuel Delany, Robert Silverberg, Thomas Disch), who have to think hard about how good writing works, have recognized how important Heinlein has been to science fiction, even if they grumble about his politics.”

    Robert Silverberg on RAH:”The word that comes to mind for him [Heinlein] is essential.”

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  20. Terrahawk says:

    I think Heinlein’s philosophy can be summed up as If It Works and Advances the Species It is Good. Using that you can end up with his differing takes. And isn’t that more interesting than the same slop that some sci-fi writers get stuck in?

    Reading his juveniles as an adult can be pretty fun. For example, THE STARBEAST throws in a line by the protagonist where he is worried he will get a bad reputation for being alone in a secluded area with a girl.

    One thing that does stand out is that great art comes from respectable boundaries. You might get something amazing when the boundaries are removed but it quickly degenerates into who can rush to the bottom the fastest.

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  21. FredR says:

    “THE WASTELAND, for example, is the agonized reaction of a conservative to the erosion of Western culture.”

    I think The Wasteland is more about the decline of the WASP than anything else.

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  22. atonal says:

    It’s really important to recognize that the ideological spread between liberal Democrat and conservative Republican (say, the window of views you will ever see on mainstream TV) covers an incredibly tiny part of the range of possible views about government and society and morals and such. Heinlein liked to play with ideas, but a lot of his common recurring themes simply didn’t and don’t fit in that mainstream slice of ideological spectrum. (A lot of what modern readers dislike about Heinlein is the parts that fit into the 1950s spectrum, but not the 2014 spectrum. That, and the incest.)

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  23. Anon says: • Disclaimer

    Jeet Heer just shoehorns his leftist boilerplate into whatever book he reviews.

    Here is his take on Thomas Piketty…

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/book-reviews/thomas-pikettys-capital-in-the-twenty-first-century-how-to-succeed-in-business-without-really-trying/article18398864/

    a few quotes:

    ‘The Bell Curve has been completely demolished by scholars such as James Flynn, Bernie Devlin, Arthur Goldberger, Charles Manski and Cosma Shalizi. Among social scientists, The Bell Curve is no more respected than Donald Sterling is among basketball players’

    Road to Serfdom is….’a dishonest pamphlet rather than a serious work’

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  24. “As for black rule over whites in one of his novels, it sounds rather prophetic when we look at what happened to Zimbabwe and South Africa. And Detroit.”

    And Haiti.

    “And doesn’t current PC castrate white men? Heer certainly doesn’t have a pair. And aren’t black males lusting after white females?”

    Sure.

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  25. Starship Troopers is on the Marine Corps Professional Reading List as assigned reading for privates, privates first class and lance corporals, under the category of Training.

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  26. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    “Australia-like” prison? >>Where do you get off, Sunshine?<< Should be: Botany Bay-like.
    But quibbles aside, I do very much like your blog.
    Greetings from the cell called Canberra!

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  27. josh says:

    ” based on a physicist friend’s inside info that nuclear weapons were possible”

    Parsons? Steve as a SoCal boy, do you have any inside dope on the all the batshit crazy occult “Babylon Working”/Parsons/Hubbard/Crowley/ OTO/CIA/banna-nut wierdness?

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  28. AppSocRes says:

    The title of Heinlein’s travel book, Tramp Royale, is a reference to a sestina by Rudyard Kipling. As Orwell pointed out, Kipling often rose to the level of great art but was denigrated by effete litterati because of his politics. The same can be said of Heinlein and I’m sure the title of his travel book was no accident.

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  29. syonredux [AKA "s"] says:

    FredR:”I think The Wasteland is more about the decline of the WASP than anything else.”

    One assumes that in Eliot’s mind the the WASP was the objective correlative for the West.

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  30. Zippy says:

    To those who talk about black rule over whites and Haiti/Detroit.

    Heinlein’s black rule in FARNHAM’S FREEHOLD is very different. That black society was static but technologically advanced and well organized. Not a place you would want to live (as a white person) but not Detroit at all. In Detroit, blacks aren’t maintaining the infrastructure of a modern First World society. “The Chosen” in FF maintain a society that is in some ways more advanced than others. They also display high intelligence, future time orientation, etc.

    Re: computers. Lots of his computer stuff is outdated. Of course! Like in SPACE CADET where you have to make an appointment for the ballistic computer. Or STARMAN JONES where they have tables to translate base 10 numbers into binary before entering them into the computer. Silly!

    But I have a fanwank for that: it’s featherbedding. Of course their computers could translate regular numbers into binary. But they set up the computers so they don’t.

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    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    Heinlein's story of black rule in the future is rather like an Evelyn Waugh sci-fi story, Out of Depth, where a man travels 500 years into the future. London is a ruin inhabited by a few white savages speaking an incomprehensible dialect. Occasionally a gunboat manned by black imperialists comes up the Thames to trade for pelts. The advanced blacks aren't friendly, but they are Catholics, which consoles the man from the past.
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  31. Zippy says:

    Of course I meant “more advanced than ours.”

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  32. @Zippy
    To those who talk about black rule over whites and Haiti/Detroit.

    Heinlein's black rule in FARNHAM'S FREEHOLD is very different. That black society was static but technologically advanced and well organized. Not a place you would want to live (as a white person) but not Detroit at all. In Detroit, blacks aren't maintaining the infrastructure of a modern First World society. "The Chosen" in FF maintain a society that is in some ways more advanced than others. They also display high intelligence, future time orientation, etc.

    Re: computers. Lots of his computer stuff is outdated. Of course! Like in SPACE CADET where you have to make an appointment for the ballistic computer. Or STARMAN JONES where they have tables to translate base 10 numbers into binary before entering them into the computer. Silly!

    But I have a fanwank for that: it's featherbedding. Of course their computers could translate regular numbers into binary. But they set up the computers so they don't.

    Heinlein’s story of black rule in the future is rather like an Evelyn Waugh sci-fi story, Out of Depth, where a man travels 500 years into the future. London is a ruin inhabited by a few white savages speaking an incomprehensible dialect. Occasionally a gunboat manned by black imperialists comes up the Thames to trade for pelts. The advanced blacks aren’t friendly, but they are Catholics, which consoles the man from the past.

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  33. Priss Factor [AKA "Cloudcastler"] says:

    “Eliot was always on the Right.THE WASTELAND, for example, is the agonized reaction of a conservative to the erosion of Western culture.”

    His ‘rightism’ of youth was more ambivalent. Later, his views became very fixed.

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  34. Priss Factor [AKA "Cloudcastler"] says:

    “Heinlein’s black rule in FARNHAM’S FREEHOLD is very different. That black society was static but technologically advanced and well organized. Not a place you would want to live (as a white person) but not Detroit at all. In Detroit, blacks aren’t maintaining the infrastructure of a modern First World society. “The Chosen” in FF maintain a society that is in some ways more advanced than others. They also display high intelligence, future time orientation, etc.”

    So, high IQ blacks still have the black heart.

    I guess it’s like how the Nazi Germans were technologically advanced but still Teutonic barbarians in heart.
    Chinese today are rising in technology and science but still dog-eating sociopaths.
    Jews are a modern people but still motivated by tribal animosity. Just ask the Palestinians.
    Japanese modernized quickly in the first half of the 20th century but were still driven by irrational and ruthless samurai code.
    So, technological advancement is no guarantee for civilized behavior.
    Aztecs were the most advanced people in the Americas but did the most horrible things.

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  35. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    About Heinlein playing with ideas. Something that tickled me in a minor H, maybe Door into Summer, was his suggestion in passing of a Keynesian utopia

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  36. ChrisZ says:

    Steve: You’re always so interesting on the subject of Heinlein. I would welcome a more extended treatment from you — a long literary essay, possibly — to bring together and add to the threads in your ad hoc reviews and reviews-of-reviews.

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  37. Pournelle has commented over the years and I think with specific reference to Heinlein that there is a word for people that take thoughts and ideas from an authors fiction and think they know the authors mind on the subject. I don’t think the word he had in mind is a polite one.

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  38. If you like Nabokov’s Ada as well as more traditional science fiction, Dan Simmons has a two-book series, Ilium and Olympos, in which one plotline follows decadent sybarites, among them Ada and Daeman, from Ardis Hall around a vastly transformed Earth. Plus there are idiot posthuman Greek gods, and robots quoting Proust.

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  39. Michael in Canberra,

    M-a-a-a-a-t-e? Did we meet in Seattle 2001? I loaned you my landline so you could have phone sex with your wife?

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  40. […] was, as he claims, a bit of a solipsist. Generally, though, I’m more sympathetic to the Steve Sailer review and rebuttal to […]

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