I’m feeling very pleased and honoured to have had one of my questions about the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein answered in a recent panel interview organised by the Online Science Fiction Book Club (https://www.facebook.com/groups/130411676997908/ ).
Heinlein is one of my all-time favourite writers with published work spanning from 1947 to 1987, and posthumously in 2003 and 2006 (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Heinlein and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Heinlein_bibliography for more information) .
A prolific author, he produced some stunningly classic stories like ‘The Puppet Masters’ (novel 1951, and a film from 1994 starring Donald Sutherland, Eric Thal and Julie Warner), “Starship Troopers” (1959, and also that awful film directed by Paul Verhoeven), “Stranger in a Strange Land” (1961), “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” (1966) and “Friday” (1982).
When I read Heinlein’s stories I get feelings about the need for a strong sense of duty and “doing the right thing”, along with the need to take the hard decisions, avoid expediency, sometimes mixed with that magic ’60s sense of sexuality.
I was really pleased by the opportunity to ask the experts on this panel what they think is the major theme running through Heinlein’s writing – this is what they said:
Keith Kato: “Just IMHO, competence and personal responsibility for action.”
Geo Rule: “In addition to Keith’s answer, a definite desire to show you that at least in human relations there are no final victories (you always have to keep refighting battles –like slavery), there are no answers that are always and universally right every time.
“Starship Troopers is followed by Glory Road and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, which show very different views of military service. The libertarian paradise of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a socialist hell by the time of The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Slavery has transferred to the stars and must be defeated again in Citizen of the Galaxy. No final victories.
“Also, think for yourself, don’t sign up for gurus. And from the juveniles to everything else, education and continuing education (whether formal or informal) is a key to greater and greater adventures.”
Sense of Duty, Do the Right Thing, Competence, Personal Responsbility, Know Right from Wrong, Think for Yourself, Learn Truths… that’s a great list of desirable personal attributes that is as relevant today as it was for Heinlein when he was writing.
My thanks to the panel for sharing these insights into the writing themes for this Sci-Fi Grand Master.
Keith G. Kato obtained his Ph.D. in plasma physics at the University of California, Irvine under the direction of SF author Gregory Benford. He is a Charter Member of The Heinlein Society and in 2014 was selected by the Board of Directors as THS’s fourth President. He was fortunate to meet Robert and Ginny Heinlein three times.
Geo Rule has authored, co-authored, or has been an editor on various online articles having to do with the works or history of Robert A. Heinlein. He currently serves as the Vice-President/Secretary to the Society.
Cover shots of Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – my own photos of copies owned by me.
Photo of Robert Heinlein by Dd-b, taken at the 1976 World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City MO USA – Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported License