Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Sci-Fi Science

Robert A. Heinlein's 100th Birthday 202

sasdrtx writes "Today is Robert A. Heinlein's 100th birthday. Regarded as one of the most influential hard Sci-Fi authors of the 20th century, it's definitely worth looking back at his influence on not only science fiction, but the space program, the english language, counter-culture, and political discourse. The Space Review has a piece entitled Ride the Lightning, which discusses Heinlein's history with the space program and (sometimes incorrect) assertions about the future of space flight. For a look at the official celebration, the Heinlein Centennial website has numerous resources available. The program for the event (pdf) makes it sound like they're having a great time in Kansas City."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Robert A. Heinlein's 100th Birthday

Comments Filter:
  • TANSTAAFL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BrewedInTexas ( 971325 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @01:45PM (#19781713) Homepage
    *Points to sig*
    • Pelagian (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Flying pig ( 925874 )
      With that comment (from your sig) Heinlein identified himself as a Pelagian. This is the generic description for people who side with the Irish monk Pelagius, of whom Hilaire Belloc wrote:

      Pelagius lived in Kardanoel, he preached a doctrine there
      How whether you went to Heaven or Hell, it was your own affair.

      Pelagius believed that everybody at all times had the ability to make free decisions, and therefore there was no excuse for any criminal behaviour whatsoever. Nowadays we live in a world in which neur

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Elemenope ( 905108 )

        Pelagianism is applicable only in the very narrow framing context of Christianity. The broader moral theory is 'Existentialism' (and specifically Sartrean Existentialism), which does not depend upon the presence or absence of God(s) or afterlives to assert what Heinlein was asserting with his quote. I imagine with Heinlein's fairly public views on Christianity, he would have felt more comfortable calling himself an Existentialist than a Pelagian. And either way, it is a barely reputable exercise to assign

        • Existentialist? (Score:2, Insightful)

          No, Heinlein doesn't really fit. He spends too much time talking about ethics and purpose for one. The philosophy Heinlein uses in his novels is unique in my experience (I was a philosophy student up until the point I took an existentialism class).

          A couple of items:
          He talks about moralities link to the neighbor principle (I think it was in Starship Troopers, during one of the History of Morals and Philosophy). The idea that a 'better; morality was not linked as much to the *what* but the *who*. The fart
          • Oh, I agree, it is an uncomfortable fit at best. I was merely reacting to the fact that Pelagianism is a much poorer fit. While I believe you are right that Heinlein would have rejected the sense of moral relativism/elimativism that seems to run through much of existentialist thought, I think he would have had great affection for the general existentialist point that freedom and responsibility are insolubly linked, as the GGP's quote seems to indicate.

      • Re:Pelagian (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @02:38PM (#19782141) Homepage

        Nowadays we live in a world in which neurologists and psychologists have demonstrated that this is fundamentally flawed, that much of our decision making is unconscious, and that in reality there is rarely such a thing as a free choice.
        That's not actually true. That analysis depends upon splitting the brain into multiple parts, and arbitrarily labeling some of them "conscious thought" and the rest "deterministic". The classic example trotted out is the observation that the "conscious thought" part of our brain activates after the rest of the brain makes a "decision" to take an action. This is then wilfully misinterpreted to mean that we are slaves to unconscious programmed responses. This is nonsense. The part of the brain where "thinking" happens has influence over the rest of the brain, it just doesn't have direct control. It exerts influence, and expects the rest of the brain to heed that influence later. You don't have to think about moving your legs in order to walk, because you've already trained a semi-autonomous subsystem to take care of those details. The "conscious brain" is only a small part of the system. The reason it activates after the action is taken is that it has long ago set the "non thinking" part to react as it wishes, and at the time of action is merely acting as a sort of "play by play commentator", absorbing the results.

        What it comes down to is that "we" is more than just the small part of the brain that engages in complex thought. "We" are the entirety of the brain.
      • by symes ( 835608 )

        neurologists and psychologists have demonstrated that this is fundamentally flawed, that much of our decision making is unconscious

        I'm not sure that's entirely right... I think you'd find most psychologists agreeing that there's certainly a bunch of stuff going on that we are not aware of, but most of the decision/reasoning theorists might take issue with the view that decisions are somehow beyond conscious control. However, you are entitled to your opinion, whether you are aware of it or not.

      • Wait, what? (Score:4, Informative)

        by the_kanzure ( 1100087 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @02:46PM (#19782195) Homepage

        Nowadays we live in a world in which neurologists and psychologists have demonstrated that this is fundamentally flawed, that much of our decision making is unconscious, and that in reality there is rarely such a thing as a free choice.
        Haha, but really: we can never really know if we have free will, so the practical solution to the question is to behave as if you are Free so that you may attempt to maximize your actions and behavior just in case. If not, you could have done no differently. If so, well, you could have lost. Some readers may recognize this as a modified (reduced) Pascal's wager (in that the religious requirements are pulled from it).

        To have really free choice you would have to have an unbounded set from which choices could be selected, but that's going down another path of discussion entirely- finite universes imply finite choices and even then you have hard enough time catching up with the number of options available.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Actually, Heinlein anticipated the movement you're advocating, towards viewing peoples societally unacceptable behavior as a function of disease rather than decision. He explored it in his stories about the world after the overthrow of the American Prophets, under The Covenant.

        They essentially abandoned the idea of 'punishing' criminals, instead offering offenders the choice of either compulsory psychotherapy to make them behave in a more societally acceptable manner (psychology was extremely well understo
      • Re:Pelagian (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @03:15PM (#19782447)

        Pelagius believed that everybody at all times had the ability to make free decisions, and therefore there was no excuse for any criminal behaviour whatsoever. Nowadays we live in a world in which neurologists and psychologists have demonstrated that this is fundamentally flawed, that much of our decision making is unconscious, and that in reality there is rarely such a thing as a free choice. The views of Pelagius are associated only with far-right evangelical fundamentalist Christians and ditto ditto ditto Muslims, and affect many American legal systems largely because the former group had so much influence in creating them. However, I guess that the great majority of neurologists, experimental psychologists and, in fact, theologians would reject them. From this point of view, Heinlein was massively wrong and was, in fact, allying himself with people whose other views he did not share.
        Interesting how you dismiss any dissenting opinions as belonging to "far-right evangelical fundamentalist Christians and ditto ditto ditto Muslims". I would tend to dispute the notion that "psychologists have demonstrated that this is fundamentally flawed". Demonstrated how, exactly? As you point out, we're dealing with soft sciences for the most part here, which, by nature, can never really be 'proven'. Please note that I'm not saying that I subscribe to these viewpoints, as I'm convinced that brain chemistry can certainly alter and is in many ways a cause of certain behaviors... but, I also highly dispute the similarly-simplistic tendencies of many in the "soft sciences" to attribute destructive behavioral patterns to outside influences or internal chemistry, overlooking the capacity of intelligence to override base tendencies (which most humans do all the time), and to make moral distinctions, with decisions based on those distinctions.

        In reality, one could explain ALL decision-making as nothing but chemical reactions or a response to past experiences (depending if you're a neurologist or a psychologist), but ultimately, I think that's an all-too convenient way for some to dodge the issue of personal responsibility and accountability for one's own behaviors and actions.
        • In reality, one could explain ALL decision-making as nothing but chemical reactions or a response to past experiences (depending if you're a neurologist or a psychologist), but ultimately, I think that's an all-too convenient way for some to dodge the issue of personal responsibility and accountability for one's own behaviors and actions.

          The idea that abandoning Free Will in favor of determinism (or Predestination; which is determinism with the addition of a diety) would lead to, shall we say... "adverse ou
        • Re:Pelagian (Score:4, Funny)

          by david.given ( 6740 ) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Saturday July 07, 2007 @04:27PM (#19782951) Homepage Journal

          I would tend to dispute the notion that "psychologists have demonstrated that this is fundamentally flawed". Demonstrated how, exactly?

          To a very large extent, people will believe whatever you tell them. Look at the vast amounts of money spent on advertising, marketing, campaigning, propaganda, and electioneering that go on in the world today. Your choices depend on what you believe, and what you believe depends on how you're brought up, and what people tell you, and the images you see in the media, etc, etc.

          If you're in a position of power, and you want to persuade people to go along with an unpopular decision, you do not educate them as to why the decision has to be made and let them make their own choice --- this doesn't work. You change their minds for them, using powerful emotional and behavioural conditioning schemes. It works scarily well. And you don't often cotton on to the fact that it's happening to you, because from your perspective it's all merely reinforcing attitudes and behaviours that you are already conditioned to believe are 'right'.

          People really do have much less free will than you might think.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by FlopEJoe ( 784551 )

        [...]much of our decision making is unconscious, and that in reality there is rarely such a thing as a free choice.

        Wow! Where do you live? I gots me some rape'n an' pillag'n to do! Neurological disorders aside, even if you accept that "much of our decision making is unconscious" (which I don't), your brain still formed those thoughts. You did, and you're probably libel for it.

      • I believe that Heinlein's disdain for the soft sciences went beyond his cultural exposure. The soft sciences were, in fact, starting to take hold before 1977: Think of Dr. Spock and his theories of child-rearing--which would eventually help open the Generation Gap. Think of post-Great-Depression economics, and then think of Lazarus Long closing down his bank on one planet in Time Enough for Love because the populace chose to go off the grain standard...
        I recommend you look up his piece on "how to go to c
      • by Banner ( 17158 )

        Nowadays we live in a world in which neurologists and psychologists have demonstrated that this is fundamentally flawed, that much of our decision making is unconscious, and that in reality there is rarely such a thing as a free choice.


        Let me guess, you're a liberal, aren't you?
      • "that in reality there is rarely such a thing as a free choice. " There is a fatal philisophical flaw in your reasoning. If there is no free choice, then all of the actions of the neurologists and psychologists was a product of their "programming". If the actions they chose are a product of their "programming" there is no reason to believe that their analysis of the data they collected is anything but the "pre-programmed" conculsion that thye came to. Without free choice, science is meaningless. If all of
        • Read this interview with Strawson [believermag.com] that describes why free will has nothing to do with determinism.
          • That is an interesting philosophical point of view. I, however. disagree. Either I take action because of choices I have made, which is free will, or I take action because of some set of predetermined rules. These really are the only options, it is one or the other. Just because I do not have an unlimited number of choices, does not mean that I do not have freedom to choose. When I go to buy a new car, just because the manufacturer doesn't offer the car in, say, green, doesn't mean that I didn't get to choo
    • by houghi ( 78078 )
      Theologians can pursuade themselves of anything. Anyone who can worship
      a trinity and insists that his religion is a monotheism can believe
      anything -- just give him time to rationalize it.
                                                            Robert A. Heinlein, JOB: A Comedy of Justice
    • "I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do."

      What you do depends on what you decide to do, which on turn depends on the particular circumstances at that moment, your personal history, the personality traits you've been born with, etc. You are a part of the universe, and therefore influenced by the other parts of it.

      You are not "alone" responsible for your actions, since those actions are in part influenced by other people; to claim otherwise is to deny that your a

  • by dedazo ( 737510 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @01:53PM (#19781781) Journal
    'nuff said. Do you want to know more? [wikipedia.org]

    Heinlein is right up there with Asimov and Frank Herbert, IMO. Of the new batch I see William Gibson and Vernor Vinge filling those shoes, but there can never be another Heinlen or Herbert. I miss them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Teresita ( 982888 )
      Doogie Howser in a SS trench coat? Must be a Heinlein movie. Man Coulter has all his books. "Majority Rule can be the worst tyranny of all." - Heinlein "Money is the sincerest of all flattery." - Heinlein "For women, `equality' is a disaster." - Heinlein "A friend in need is a pain in the ass." -- Heinlein "The greatest productive force is human selfishness" - Heinlein
      • Didn't you see the review on The Daily Show? That was Doogie Himmler.
      • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @03:46PM (#19782689)
        Heinlein did hit a lot of nails on the head:

        Small change can often be found under seat cushions.
        Money is a powerful aphrodisiac ... but flowers work almost as well.
        An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.
        Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors and miss.
        If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science. It is opinion.
        Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.
        Courage is the complement of fear. A man who is fearless cannot be courageous (he is also a fool.)
        Never try and teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
        Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.
        Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.
        There is no conclusive evidence of life after death. But there is not evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know. So why fret about it?
        Delusions are often functional. A mother's opinions about her children's beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth.
        Most "scientists" are bottle washers and button sorters.
        A generation which ignores history has no past--and no future.
        A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits.
        What a wonderful world it is that has girls in it!
        History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.
        It's amazing how much "mature wisdom" resembles being too tired.
        Your enemy is never a villian in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate -- and quickly.
        No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: "Come back with your shield, or on it." Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome.
        Of all the strange "crimes" that human beings have legislated out of nothing, "blasphemy" is the most amazing---with "obscenity" and "indecent exposure" fighting it out for the second and third place.
        Cheops' Law: Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
        It is better to copulate than never.
        All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly which can, and must, be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a "perfect society" on any foundation other than "Women and children first!" is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly---and no doubt will keep on trying.
        A brute kills for pleasure. A fool kills from hate.
        There is only one way to console a widow. But remember the risk.
        When the need arises -- and it does -- you must be able to shoot your own dog. Don't farm it out -- that doesn't make it nicer, it makes it worse.
        Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.
        It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.
        One man's theology is another man's belly laugh.
        Sex should be friendly. Otherwise, stick to mechanical toys; it's more sanitary.
        Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled
        • It looks to me as if you just copied the entire contents of a copyrighted book ("The Notebooks of Lazarus Long"?) which I read yesterday.
        • by VENONA ( 902751 )
          "Never underestimate the power of human stupidity." and a couple of others are things I've been been quoting for years (decades, truth be told).

          I never really thought about where they came from--programmed in by RAH, apparently, and I've no real problem with that. It makes as much fundamental sense as, "If the enemy is in range, so are you."

          I wonder how many fourteen year old punks will pile in, denigrating that list. Slashdot is slashdot, after all...
        • by catman ( 1412 )
          You missed this one - or perhaps it was too risqué to be on the website?

          "Have you noticed how much they look like orchids? Lovely!"
      • by AHumbleOpinion ( 546848 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @03:59PM (#19782795) Homepage
        Doogie Howser in a SS trench coat? Must be a Heinlein movie.

        If you think the movie Starship Troopers resembles the book you obviously haven't read the book. Before you try to paint the movie as some kind of Americal right-wing thing you might want to consider that the guy who made the movie was European. Perhaps that explains why Juan Rico was blonde and caucasion. In Heinlen's book Juan Rico was ethnically Filipino.

        "Majority Rule can be the worst tyranny of all." - Heinlein.

        Yeah, it's also called mob rule for a reason. If you are trying to portray that quote as anti-American you might want to consider that the founding fathers of the United States had said the same thing:
        "A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine" - Thomas Jefferson.
        "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" - Benjamin Franklin.

        "Money is the sincerest of all flattery." - Heinlein.

        Ever hear the expressions "talk is cheap" or "put your money where your mouth is"? When people give you money, as in buy your invention, your product, your time, etc they are flattering you. They are essentially saying that of all the options you come out on top.

        "For women, `equality' is a disaster." - Heinlein.

        As in "equality" that ignores the *fact* that there are psyiological differences between the sexes. Consider Heinlen's *1959* book Starship Troopers, women served in combat. That was a quite progressive thought in those days. Yet, it was not out of some kind of femminism or notion of equality, it was based on psyiological *differences* between the sexes. In the book pilots were generally female due to merit, the book claimed (whether this was real or aristic license I don't know) that females had better coordiation/reflexes and were generally more capable as pilots.
    • by Sawopox ( 18730 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @02:14PM (#19781963) Homepage Journal
      Similar to many Americans, I had a fsck'd up dysfunctional family as a kid. We'd go and see the family therapist, and he'd always side with my mom no matter what. I think he wanted to bang her.

      The one good thing that came out of seeing this early incarnation of Dr. Phil was that he told me to read this book. Wanted me to understand the word "grok." I can't think him enough. The book changed my life, especially my outlooks on religion and the general amount of lies told to us everyday by the people we're supposed to trust.

      If you have not had a chance to read this book, please do. You can probably find plenty of used copies for $1 at the local book rack or Goodwill. You'll thank me later.
      • Beware Stranger (Score:3, Informative)

        by ChrisMaple ( 607946 )
        There are two versions of "Stranger in a Strange Land", the book as Heinlein wanted it, and the book as the publisher forced Heinlein to rewrite it (to make it shorter). In my opinion, the shorter version is superior, and is the only one to include Heinlein's definition of love. (IIRC, "that emotion which makes the happiness of another person essential to your own")
      • by tylernt ( 581794 )
        Stranger in a Strange Land felt different to me than any other Heinlein book I've read -- especially the last half. It's a fine book, to be sure, but don't judge the rest of his works by that one book. It's definitely got a different flavor to it.

        Now, whether or not Stranger was more Heinlein or less Heinlein than his other stuff is a whole 'nother debate.
    • by thc69 ( 98798 )

      Heinlein is right up there with Asimov and Frank Herbert, IMO.
      I beg to differ. I'd say that Asimov and Herbert are right up there with Heinlein. I'd describe Heinlein as the gold standard by which others are measured.
      • I beg to differ. I'd say that Asimov and Herbert are right up there with Heinlein. I'd describe Heinlein as the gold standard by which others are measured.

        I think the Clarke-Asimov treaty got it right. Asimov was a fantastic science writer. His SF was really just a vehicle for his ideas, more so than other writers. Anything he wrote which goes beyond science was pretty poorly done.

        As far as Herbert goes, well, I don't think Dune was SF, so I don't count him as a good SF writer.

    • The Holy Trinity: Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein.
  • would have been (Score:5, Informative)

    by SolusSD ( 680489 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @01:56PM (#19781807) Homepage
    his 100th birthday... He died in 1988!
    • I was about to say, that's a very old man :P
    • I just heard some sad news on talk radio - Sci Fi writer Robert Heinlein was found dead in his California home about nine years ago. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Metafilter community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.
  • Where it's OK to sleep with your mom... because she's your mom.
    • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @02:17PM (#19781993)
      Where it's OK to sleep with your mom... because she's your mom.

      And indeed it is OK to sleep with your mom (and with all your other family members who might yield offspring too), once technology removes the danger of genetic mishaps.

      Heinlein didn't let himself be constrained by political correctness, and good for him. That's what great science fiction is all about, leaving behind the shackles of the past, and seeing where it leads. And the more Jurassic people that that annoys, the better. :-)))

      Disclaimer: I have all of his books.

      Funnily enough though, he's not my favourite author ... his horizons were far too close to the present, and far too restrictive. But he did open the eyes of a generation, so he occupies pride of place on my shelf.

      Happy Birthday, Robert! :-)
      • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @03:12PM (#19782425)
        And indeed it is OK to sleep with your mom (and with all your other family members who might yield offspring too), once technology removes the danger of genetic mishaps.

        1) While you might think that makes it 'ok', Heinlein didn't have that requirement. Farnham's Freehold postulated incest for reproduction, and with unmitigated zeal too, rather than any sort of reluctance at the supposed 'necessity'.

        2) Its one thing for an author to explore a 'taboo', particularly in hard SF. However, Heinlein explored incest a little more zealously. To the point it was pretty much a given in anything he wrote as he got older that wasn't aimed explicitly at kids.

        It wasn't -just- Time Enough For Love. It was Time Enough for Love, The Number of the Beast, Farnham's Freehold, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Job, The Cat who Walks Through Walls, All You Zombies... etc...

        Titles like "I will fear no evil" which could have been (should have been) a brilliant study of the nature of identity, age, gender, and law -- starts out well, but devolved into a sordid series of loosely connected vignettes about an aging lech who seduces and enthusiastically fucks everything he encounters with his new sexy body, while 'melding souls' with its previous owner.

        It is also somewhat telling that practically ALL of his female characters were relentlessly promiscuous, and even in his books aimed at a younger audience his female characters were unfailingly sexually precocious when you consider their age.

        But most importantly, Heinlein didn't explore sexuality, its meaning, its effects on people, on relationships. He didn't vary it from setting to setting, or contrast it with other lifestyles. Over a couple dozen novels his characters just did it, enthusiastically and without restraint, with anything that moved, and it was implictly correct, and delivered with a sense of superiority - that anyone who might disagree is just unenlightened.

        That's not an element of Hard SF. At best its a case of the author's own bias and proclivities 'showing through'. At worst its pontificating, plain and simple. In Heinlein's case I'm inclined to believe the latter. Far too much plot, and effort were dedicated to it in title after title after title for it to be merely inadvertantly 'showing through'.
        • 2) Its one thing for an author to explore a 'taboo', particularly in hard SF. However, Heinlein explored incest a little more zealously. To the point it was pretty much a given in anything he wrote as he got older that wasn't aimed explicitly at kids.

          It wasn't -just- Time Enough For Love. It was Time Enough for Love, The Number of the Beast, Farnham's Freehold, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Job, The Cat who Walks Through Walls, All You Zombies... etc...

          I would point out that he also wrote, in Time E

        • It is also somewhat telling that practically ALL of his female characters were relentlessly promiscuous, and even in his books aimed at a younger audience his female characters were unfailingly sexually precocious when you consider their age.

          And as someone who lived through the sexual revolution of the 60s and the resulting 70s and early 80s, and who died before AIDS became well known, why wouldn't he make such an extrapolation?
          • by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @05:44PM (#19783599)
            Why wouldn't he make such an extrapolation?

            Think about what that should mean in the context of "Hard SF".

            Its not that he wouldn't make such an extrapolation, its that he would have treated it differently if was a true hard sf extrapolation. HardSF is creating a setting and then carrying the plot within its confines keeping it as 'scienntifically sound' as is reasonable, and where the confines of the setting drive the plot, help define it, and utlimately form a crucial part of it.

            This is what separates HardSF from Star Wars.

            Arthur C. Clarkes rendezvous with Rama is almost a feasibility study in interstellar spacecraft design. Asimov's Robot novels postulates robots and the rules of robotics and finds out what that might lead to in various situations. Philip K. Dick in Minority Report figures out how to commit murder in a world where the police have precognitive ability to find murderers. (The movie utterly botched translating the book, btw.)

            Heinlein, given the amount of paper he dedicated to his characters sexual acrobatics, desires, and so on managed to do very very little real *consideration* of the subject of the impact this might have on his worlds. It didn't didn't constrain the plot. It was just THERE.

            Conversely, if Heinlein meant to explore other issues, and merely put the different sexual mores in as a background - then why did he dedicate so much paper to it, and why is it in practically every novel?

            It would be like reading Asimov's work, and noting that the characters were vegetarian, constantly talked about being vegetarian, and described how delicious each vegetarian meal was, all the ways beets, tofu, and beans could be prepared... and this all in "Robots and Empire" which really has nothing to do about vegetarians.

            Then you read The Stars Like Dust, and find more rabid again. Odd you might say, maybe he's just extrapolating from current attitudes towards cruelty towards animals - but then why isn't this important to the plot? This is hardSF after all. The setting is important! Then you read Fantastic Voyage... and lo... more vegetarians, then Nemesis, then Nightfall, then Tales of the Black Widowers -- (all unchanged from their current overall form, except all filled with enthusiastic vegetarians).

            No, that's not 'extrapolation' anymore, that's just pontificating about vegetarianism.

            Heinlein wrote a great deal of interesting stuff. But many recurrent themes in his work are merely a reflection of the man, and don't get explored at all in his novels. All authors do this, but in heinlein's case they are particularly jarring because well.. an enthusiastic acceptance or even fetish for recreational incest is a little more unusual that the usual stuff you see.

            If he'd explored it, you could argue it was part of the SF, and it might be an interesting read, but he doesn't really, in the vast majority of his work. Its just there. A reflection of the man behind the novels. (And that may be interesting too... if you are studying Heinlein, the man, but it really has no bearing on the meaning of the novel, and ultimately detracts from them, IMO.
        • by Morgaine ( 4316 )
          1) While you might think that makes it 'ok', Heinlein didn't have that requirement. Farnham's Freehold postulated incest for reproduction, and with unmitigated zeal too, rather than any sort of reluctance at the supposed 'necessity'.

          In Farnham's Freehold, there was little alternative, they were cooped up in a bomb shelter for years! What had to happen, happened. You can't just switch it off, you know --- there was no "supposed" reluctance, it was unmitigated zeal alright! And entirely normal, very human,
          • by vux984 ( 928602 )
            You can always count on criticizing Heinlein to stir people up. Micro-godwin. ;)

            In Farnham's Freehold, there was little alternative, they were cooped up in a bomb shelter for years! What had to happen, happened. You can't just switch it off, you know --- there was no "supposed" reluctance, it was unmitigated zeal alright! And entirely normal, very human, and honest.

            No. We are mostly hardwired to find incestuous reproduction distasteful and repugnant. For a good biological reason.

            But you know what, living in
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by msuzio ( 3104 )
          I concur. The sheer relentless hammering of those points in every single "late" novel of his just eventually made me swear off of any Heinlein after "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress". At a certain point, it just became boring.

          When you make promiscuous sex with incredibly beautiful people boring, then you're doing something wrong. Heinlein is boring, and I can pretty much only read his short stories and juvenile novels now.
        • Thanks for your comments about "I Will Fear No Evil". That was one of the most utterly *disappointing* novels I've ever read.
        • I wish I had mod points, but I totally agree with you. Heinlein had some odd (to me anyway) social beliefs that were just there, not examined or explored.

          Maybe I'll rant about his 'rugged individualist' ideals later :)

  • Because he is dead. Sorry.

    He is one of my favourite writers, oddly enough. I think it's because he is so right wing he ended up being a bit of a leftie with common sense. The moon is a harsh mistress is a perfect demonstration of why regulation is key to human survival, on top of a really outstanding story.
    • by Cadallin ( 863437 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @02:41PM (#19782165)
      Not really. He started out pretty Left Wing. Just read "For Us the Living" which lays out his political manifesto in 1938. It's way out there in Hippie-Socialist Commune land (about like things Mike advocated in "Stranger" which was unpublishable in '38, casual nudity, sex, etc. As well as wealth redistribution) As he got older, he shifted to more right wing. Although, I think that was a bit of a reaction to the level of crowding in society. One of the Quotes from the "Notebooks of Lazarus Long" is, I think, illustrative: "When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere."

      His libertarian individualism is really only workable in a frontier society, which is why he tended to write about them so much. Here, that kind of thing results in the trends we see in the world today. At least that's my take on it. "Friday" in my opinion, is late Heinlein at his finest. It's about the Earth, crowded, technologically advanced, paranoid, with various wealthy individuals and corporations pretty well controlling every aspect of peoples lives. (No similarity with the present day at all!)

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ucblockhead ( 63650 )
        Isaac Asimov blamed his right wing views on his second wife, Virginia. Quote:

        "Furthermore, although a flaming liberal during the war, Heinlein became a rock-ribbed far right conservative immediately afterward. This happened at just the time that he changed wives from a liberal woman, Leslyn, to a rock-ribbed far right conservative woman, Virginia."
        • by VENONA ( 902751 )
          That's a famous argument. Wasn't Leslyn the wife he had an open marriage with (that's the rumour, anyway) and was miserable? Too liberal? Virginia definitely floated his boat. I lean toward the left. But I'll be the first to admit that if you're lucky enough to cross paths with the SO that gets you through your stay on this miserable planet, in a state resembling happiness, you are truly blessed.

          Nor am I particularly concerned with how Asimov assigns 'blame'. Prolific science writer, and I'd love to have me
        • I have to comment. Somewhere around here, I have a letter from Virginia Heinlein.

          Sometime in the mid-90's I managed to lay hands on one of Mr. Heinlein's few nonfiction works, a book called 'Take Back Your Government!' in which he talks quite a bit about how to be politically active in your community. He drew on a lot of his own activist experiences. Anyhow, I wanted to be able to quote passages from the book in an online forum (WWIV BBS network, if anyone cares).

          Virginia wrote back, graciously grantin

      • trends we see in the world today.

          Which ones? Just curious ;)

        SB
        • In general, corporations fucking over everybody that doesn't have a few hundred million dollars to defend themselves with. In my view, Libertarianism works out the same as the Law of he Jungle. If property rights are the only rights that are valued, only the propertied have rights, and the more property they have, the more rights they have. That isn't the kind of world I find appealing. I approve of equality of opportunity, for everyone, to succeed to the best of their ability. And equality of result t
    • > The moon is a harsh mistress is a perfect demonstration of why regulation is key to human survival, on top of a really outstanding story.

      Wow. Yeah, it's a really outstanding story (and my favourite of Heinlein's work), but if you think that book demonstrations that *regulation* is the key to human survival, I think you missed the entire point of the story.

      And I think I'd also have to take issue with your assessment of Heinlein as 'right wing,' but that would depend entirely on your definition of right
  • by MMC Monster ( 602931 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @02:13PM (#19781949)
    ...in an alternate reality in which I am running around naked along with a bunch of extremely sexy, young (looking), intellectual females that just want to have fun.
  • by MCSEBear ( 907831 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @02:33PM (#19782115)
    I have read every published work of Heinlein and I have loved his stuff since I was a kid. I was wondering what authors who are still writing are most beloved by Heinlein fans?

    For me: Dan Simmons, Peter Hamilton, Vernor Vinge, Neal Stephenson, John Varley, and John Barnes all are on my short list of favorite authors. What authors can always count on you buying their new Hardback and damn the expense?
    • by Fweeky ( 41046 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @03:37PM (#19782621) Homepage
      Greg Egan [netspace.net.au] - best ideas ever. I'm currently re-re-reading Diaspora [netspace.net.au]
      Charles Stross [antipope.org] - fun. I read Accelerando [accelerando.org] (free book!), then bought all his other stuff and wasn't disappointed.
      Richard Morgan [richardkmorgan.co.uk] - really likes his Lone Genetically Modified Male protagonists, but luckily he does them well enough for it not to get old.
      Alastair Reynolds [tripod.com] - the Revelation Space [wikipedia.org] universe is one of my favourites.
      Iain (M.) Banks [iainbanks.net] - The Culture novels are quite interesting, and his other books aren't bad either.

      Honourable mentions:

      Peter Watts [rifters.com] - all his books [rifters.com] appear to be online. Blindsight is very, very good, but I've not read much else from him yet.
      Greg Bear [gregbear.com] - some of his older works are among my favourites. Queen of Angels, Slant (literally "/") and Moving Mars are one of my favourite trilogies. I'm behind on his newer stuff though, and his latest "terrorist thriller" makes me suspicious.
      • LOL... I put Greg Bear on my list based on his older stuff like Moving Mars, Eon, Forge of God, and Anvil of Stars... Then I took him right back off based on his newer crap like Darwin's Children and Dead Lines. I was so, so disappointed in both of them.
    • by m0nkyman ( 7101 )
      I'd list Kim Stanley Robinson ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim_Stanley_Robinson [wikipedia.org] ) and Spider Robinson ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider_Robinson [wikipedia.org] ) .
    • I'll heartily second Vernor Vinge. Although, I think since he's only published three (?) novels at this point, it's difficult to compare him to Heinlein, Asimov, or Clarke, because they each have an entire canon behind them; I don't think there's any other author that I'm so eagerly awaiting new work from.

      (Actually, I've been considering writing a review of his most recent book, Rainbows End [sic], because I think it's right up the alley of many Slashdot readers, at least those of whom haven't already read
    • I have read every published work of Heinlein and I have loved his stuff since I was a kid. I was wondering what authors who are still writing are most beloved by Heinlein fans?

      But which Heinlein are we talking about?

      The aging Grokster or the Heinlein whose early stories can be read as a plausible alternative history?

      The interaction of technology - and very interesting tech it is too, even after fifty years - society and individuals with a very important role to play: the entrepreneurial capitalist like

    • by VENONA ( 902751 )
      Every choice I see here is good--but I have to add Terry Pratchett. OK, it's fantasy, not the nuts-n-bolts SciFi I love (and which Star Drek, etc., so spectacularly fail to provide). But it's also the best satire I've ever read. There's also a large supply. You can laugh your ass off through a few dozen books.
    • by RM6f9 ( 825298 )
      Neal Stephenson, when I want to be serious or challenged intellectually...
      Spider Robinson, when I want to be entertained, or challenged emotionally.
  • I Attended Yesterday (Score:5, Informative)

    by grapeape ( 137008 ) <mpope7@[ ]rr.com ['kc.' in gap]> on Saturday July 07, 2007 @02:54PM (#19782267) Homepage
    I was at the Centennial celebration yesterday. Some great authors are on hand signing books and discussing Heinlein's influence. Still no word on a Stranger In A Strange Land movie. The atmosphere there was kind of like a Star Trek convention without the freaks. I managed to get Spider Robinson to sign my first edition Callhoon's Crosstime Saloon. And Alan Steele Signed my Ace edition Orbital Decay as well as a Editors Proof of All-American Alien Boy. That alone was worth the price of admission for me. Robin Wayne-Bailey, James Gunn and David Gerrold were attending as well but were not signing while I was there.

    BTW for Heinlein fans I really recommend Spider and Allen for those that like Heinlein's early stuff the influence is obvious in their writing. Both deal more with what if near future better than most anyone else in the genre.

    For those that are more into the deeper novel era of Heinlein's writings Robin Wayne Bailey and James Gunn are both good choices.

    BTW the surprise guest speaker is Ray Bradbury unfortunately its via satellite due to health reasons like Arthur C Clarke's presentation. Both are happening today.
  • How do I set my proxy to block all web pages that have 'tanstaafl' in them?
  • by Ambitwistor ( 1041236 ) on Saturday July 07, 2007 @04:08PM (#19782853)
    "Help me out of this box, I can't breathe in here! Help, let me out!"
  • His description of a nuclear power plant was one of the best predictions of a future technology that I've seen in any SF. The one crucial difference between his prediction and current reality was his being unaware of delayed neutron from fission (which were to be discovered by Enrico Fermi after the story was written). He did anticipate use of thermal cycles for power production, the use of control rods (dampers) and the need for safety).

    The figure of 100 million tons of TNT for the equivalent explosive

    • I'm having to stretch my memory back to stuff I haven't read in 45 years, but my recollection is that he predicted the use of "crystalline electronics" for interstellar navigation. On the other hand, one book was based largely on the results of a mistaken mental numerical calculation, so the predictions aren't consistent.
  • at all freaked out by all the incest in the guys writing?

    Also, stranger in a strange land was kind of stupid. I mean, they had a social revolution made possible by farie magic... common...
  • We miss you RAH.


  • SLASHDOT
    He told me enough! It was you who killed him.

    CLARK FRIES
    No. I am your father.

I haven't lost my mind -- it's backed up on tape somewhere.

Working...