Robert A. Heinlein: His Life and Work
Profiled by Galen Strickland
Born in Butler, Missouri, his parents moved to Kansas City when he was two. He was fascinated by the field of astronomy from an early age and was also an avid reader of science fact and fiction. An outstanding student in math and science, RAH was awarded an appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, graduating and beginning his military service in 1929. He served on several ships at sea for the next five years but was discharged for medical disablility - tuberculosis - in 1934.
He tried his hand at quite a few businesses for the next few years, failing at all of them, and even ran for public office, that of California Assemblyman, losing by less than one hundred votes. He studied engineering, math, and physics at UCLA, and continued to read all of the science fiction magazines he could find. In one of them, Thrilling Wonder Stories, he came across an ad for a contest soliciting stories by new writers. The winning entry was worth $50.00, quite a sum for 1939 and certainly for RAH who had a wife to support and mortgage payments to meet. The story he wrote for that contest, "Life-Line," was the first of his ever published, however RAH did not submit it to the magazine for which he had originally intended. After reading it over several times he decided it was too good for that periodical and on a whim sent it off to the leading genre magazine of that time, Astounding Science Fiction. It was accepted and he was paid $70.00 for the story. He has related his reaction at the time to have been, "How long has this been going on, and why didn't anyone tell me?"
(NOTE: It seems that this story is perhaps just apocryphal, at least according to Robert James' afterword to the newly published For Us, the Living, the long-lost first novel written by RAH.)
Frequent bouts of ill-health precluded his pursuing the more active life he would have preferred, but it also afforded him the time to become a voracious reader and student of many subjects, all of which he utilized in the creation of his stories. Fellow SF author Poul Anderson once described RAH "as widely traveled and widely read a man as I have ever met." Early in his career he began to compile comprehensive files for his story ideas and maintained voluminous scrapbooks of newspaper and magazine clippings related to the latest scientific research, as well as to the ever-increasing "odd" incidents we humans are wont to commit. He later would describe a portion of his Future History as being the "Crazy Years," a designation many of his readers feel can be equated with our own current situation.
His ascent to the top of the SF field was so rapid as to be mind-boggling. By 1942, just three years and two months after "Life-Line," he had published 25 short stories and three serialized novels in Astounding and other magazines, the majority of which have been reprinted many times in various collections. At times he resorted to the use of several pseudonyms, usually applied to those that did not fit into the aforementioned Future History, but also utilized on stories deemed less than his best efforts or so that more than one of his stories could be printed in the same issue of a magazine. RAH was the Guest of Honor at three separate World Science Fiction Conventions, a feat yet to be duplicated by any other, and the first of these occasions was in 1941, only slightly more than two years following that first short story. World War 2 intervened, and RAH spent the duration in Philadelphia at the Naval Air Experimental Station, having been rejected in his bid to be reinstated to active service. Among other things he worked on the development of high-altitude pressure suits for Navy pilots, an experience he would put to good use in several of his stories concerning spacesuits. He did not publish another story until 1947, but this time was successful in being the first of the genre writers to be printed outside of the genre periodicals. "The Green Hills of Earth"- which relates the adventures of Rhysling, the Blind Singer of the Spaceways- appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, and it heralded the beginning of another prolific period. That year also saw the publication of Rocket Ship Galileo, the first of his novels (and his weakest I'm afraid) to be issued in book form. It was also the first in the enormously successful series of "juvenile" novels, many of which are considered by some to be his greatest contributions to the genre.
The juvenile series continued annually until 1958, but during the same period RAH published other short stories, novels aimed at older audiences, and a screenplay, for 1950's Destination Moon, produced by George Pal and directed by Irving Pichel. He also served as technical advisor on the film. He continued to broaden his publishing base with stories printed in Argosy, Blue Book, and Town and Country, as well as the specialty periodicals American Legion Magazine and Boy's Life, the journal of the Boy Scouts of America. RAH won his first Hugo award for 1956's Double Star (reviewed HERE), and in 1960 garnered his second trophy for what was to have been the thirteenth juvenile. Thirteen proved to be an unlucky number for Scribners (the publisher of the juveniles) but a most lucky one for RAH. Alice Dalgliesh, RAH's editor at Scribners, objected to both the excessive violence and the political slant in Starship Troopers, but he was successful in placing the title with G. P. Putnam's Sons and his association with Scribner's came to an end. Many consider 1963's Podkayne of Mars to be part of the juvenile series, and perhaps it had been intended as such, but I would not classify it that way since it was published by Putnam rather than Scribners, and it came five years after the last of the "official" juveniles. It was also his first novel written from the first person perspective of a female protagonist.
While being very popular over the years, Starship Troopers has received much harsh criticism as well. The eptithets leveled at RAH in response to this novel ranged from militarist and right-wing reactionary, all the way to fascist - which I consider to be quite preposterous. The aspect of the novel which has perhaps been criticized more than any other is that in order to gain voting privileges one must complete a term of federal service. Many have misconstrued this to mean that only military veterans are granted the franchise, but this is clearly not the case. Federal service, as specifically spelled out in several different sections of the book, includes many jobs which in today's society would be termed civil service. Even though ST can be considered RAH's first controversial novel, it certainly was not the last. [UPDATE: I can't recall how many times I've read it, but the last previous time was several years before I created this site, at least twenty years ago. Now that I've set the task of reviewing all past award winners, I've read it again (July 2018), and have posted a full review HERE.]
Many SF historians and critics point to 1961's Stranger in a Strange Land as being a turning point in RAH's career, and it was in many ways although in my opinion not in the sense others mean it. Certainly it was a departure from his formulaic high-adventure type of SF, and in some ways it can be considered more a fantasy than science fiction. In terms of style and content however, the only distinctions that I would make are that the ideas presented were more important than the plot, and that RAH was able for the first time to deal forthrightly with the sexual nature of man. The ideas and philosophy of RAH were always in his writings, only earlier they were more subtly placed in distinctive bits of dialogue or exposition. SiaSL was Heinlein unleashed in a cascade of ideas ranging from politics, religion and art, to the hypocritical sexual mores of American culture. One thing of which many are possibly not aware, even long-time SF fans and RAH devotees, is that this novel was written, re-written, and then excessively edited over the course of a twelve year period begining in 1949. This is the period in his career where he published the bulk of the juveniles and several of his most popular novels, including The Puppet Masters and The Door into Summer as well as the two previously mentioned Hugo winners. It is ridiculous to say that in 1961 his writing career took an abrupt right turn. During the '40s and '50s, RAH had broadened the scope and essence of SF, introducing the disciplines of politics, economics, sociology, anthropology, and semantics to the genre, and yet he still longed to break out of the confining restrictions prevalent in the field. At the same time he had doubts about the marketability of SiaSL and expressed these worries many times in letters and phone calls to his agent.
His perseverance paid off however, more than he had any reason to expect. RAH won his third Best Novel Hugo for SiaSL, and it possibly has sold more copies than any other SF novel in history. It has probably been read by as many people unfamiliar with other SF as it has by regular SF fans. Many consider it to have been a major influence on the counter-culture movement of the '60s and it has inspired several cult religions throughout the world as well. Although RAH himself would probably disregard the idea, it is my opinion that this novel had a direct influence on the formation of the New Wave movement in SF. It ushered in a new era for the genre, one where the thoughts and emotions of the people in the story were more important than the plot or any scientific development or technological innovation. Following RAH's death, his widow Virginia was successful in publishing the original, un-cut version of this novel for the first time. In 1998, an online reader's poll, conducted by Random House's Modern Library division, listed SiaSL as number 16 of the greatest novels of the 20th Century. In the future I intend to devote much time and space to a review of this novel, but that will have to wait for now.
RAH followed SiaSL with two very different novels in 1963. As mentioned before, Podkayne of Mars had probably been written some years earlier with the intention of it being one of the juvenile series. Glory Road is classified by some as fantasy, by others as "sword-and-sorcery" (a label usually associated with Robert E. Howard's Conan, Robert Adams' Horseclans, and other series of that nature). I would classify it as "Science Fantasy," a term which may seem to be an oxymoron to some, but this is a sub-genre that boasts quite a long list of notable tales. It will be easy to understand this designation if one keeps in mind the famous quote from another reputable SF author, Arthur C. Clarke, known as Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistiguishable from magic."
Glory Road is another of my all-time favorite RAH novels, and one of these days I will attempt to devote more time and attention to a thorough review of it as well. For now I will say that in addition to its being a rollicking good action-adventure yarn, RAH took advantage of the "fish-out-of-water" nature of the tale to skewer and disect many of our treasured - but perhaps false - notions concerning sex and the man/woman dichotomy. It has been said by many of his critics that RAH abandoned his readership base and alienated them with "opinions as facts." Even though I do not agree with a few of his opinions I am still grateful that RAH did present them in the context of what I consider to be very entertaining narratives. I will always prefer to read someone who is not afraid to lay his thoughts on the line rather than hide behind the plot as if he, the writer, did not exist. The only distinction I would make between his earlier and later work is that after the success of SiaSL RAH was afforded the luxury of writing about subjects that meant a great deal to him, not limiting himself to a style or type of story that was expected of him.
Many critics of Farnham's Freehold (1964) have labeled RAH a racist. I don't agree, but this book is not the best argument against that proposition. There are certainly ideas that he did profess that I would not attempt to defend, and in the case of people of color I can understand if they wouldn't even want to consider a defense of this book. That being said, rather than being a racist, RAH in my opinion is the polar opposite. A perfect example of this - in Starship Troopers, the question of the main character's ethnicity is not addressed until the third to the last page of the novel. Certainly Rico is an Hispanic surname, but it was not until the end that we learn his ancestry is actually Filipino, and more than likely he was very dark-skinned. This was not the only time by any means that RAH populated his work with people of color without drawing undue attention to the fact. Many other nationalities are represented in Rico's comrades, clearly indicating that RAH cared more about the character of his characters than he did about the color of their skin or their ethnicity.
Unlike in Starship Troopers, the race of the main characters in Farnham's Freehold is made perfectly clear early in the novel. Hugh Farnham is a (white) construction contractor who it is apparent considers himself a sophisticated, liberal man. His wife Grace is quickly becoming an alcoholic, a condition their lawyer son Duke blames on his father. Daughter Karen, a college student home for the weekend, usually sides with her father on most issues and it is made evident later in the story that she has an intense love and respect for him. Joseph is their (black) live-in domestic servant, whom the Farnham's feel they treat as another member of the family. For example, he is frequently invited to participate in bridge games since Hugh enjoys the game immensely and appreciates Joseph's intelligent play.
As the story begins, the U. S. is embroiled in an intense Cold War confrontation with the Soviets. This was in 1964, less than two years after the Cuban missile crisis, a period in which many of us felt nuclear war was a definite possibility. A direct-hit nuclear blast somehow propels the Farnham's, their guests, and their bomb shelter forward in time. The ruling class of the society in which they find themselves is of African descent. Obviously most of the northern hemisphere was totally devastated in the nuclear holocaust, but Africa and perhaps other portions of the southern hemisphere escaped the worst of the fallout. They are assumed to be escaped slaves and are captured and returned to the residence of the local ruler. Here begins the portion of the book which its critics have accused of racist thinking. In essence, the roles of white and black have been reversed from what we are familiar with in our history. RAH depicts the blacks in much the same manner as white slave owners of the old South. In my opinion he was saying that all men are essentially the same and whoever is in power will rule according to their own interests and will have no difficulty rationalizing their reasons for doing so. Actually, I have always been perplexed that the criticisms surrounding this novel have only focused on the racial issue while ignoring what in my opinion is a much more disturbing aspect - incest. That the act never takes place but is only talked about by Karen and her father is not important. That it is even mentioned at all is quite significant, and it is a theme RAH would return to in several later novels. It is also one I would definitely have a reluctance to defend.
Now we come to 1966, and my favorite RAH novel, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, which I consider his most consistently sustained narrative as well as the most stylistic. There is no way I could begin to describe the unique phrasings and colloquialisms used by the first-person narrator. This is a novel I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who thinks SF is just mindless fare concerned with spaceships, robots, and time machines. It may surprise some - but not me - that this novel outranked even Stranger in a Strange Land in the Random House poll, coming in at position #15, just behind Frank Herbert's Dune. RAH also won a Hugo for this novel, bringing his total to four, another record that has yet to be duplicated, much less surpassed. [Wait. Since this article was originally written Lois McMaster Bujold has tied RAH for that honor.]
The story begins in the year 2075, and the Moon is utilized as a prison, which has been the case for the majority of the 21st Century. Many of the inhabitants "in" Luna (all residences and most industry are underground) are either former prisoners whose sentences have been completed, or else descendants of former inmates and thus born "free." That word is in quotes because all Loonies still live under the iron-hand rule of the Lunar Authority as represented on the Moon by a warden and his guards, euphemistically referred to by the Authority as the "Protector of the Lunar Colonies." As the plot unfolds it becomes clear that it is the warden who needs protection, for a rebellion is brewing among the lunar inhabitants long dissatisfied with Authority rule. TMIAHM reveals the true nature of RAH's political leanings. It is evident he can be considered a libertarian, or more specifically an individualist, or what Ayn Rand termed an Objectivist. Using several internal clues one can assume this novel shares the same timeline of the "multiverse" as SiaSL, Red Planet, and The Rolling Stones. Hazel Stone, the matriarch of the Stone clan in The Rolling Stones appears in TMIAHM, but this time as a girl of twelve who is adopted into the Davis family, and later in the story she marries into the Stone family.
Shortly after the publication of TMIAHM a short-story collection entitled The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein was released. It included only one previously unpublished story, "Free Men," the first short story RAH had published in nearly five years. Due to several serious illnesses over the next few years RAH did not submit another novel until 1970. I can still recall avidly devouring the serialized version of I Will Fear No Evil in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine and eagerly anticipating publication of the full version later that year. Reviewers and other readers were not as impressed. The kindest things said about it was that it was confusing and boring, but I do not agree with either of those assessments.
The story concerns the elderly businessman Johann Sebastian Bach Smith, frail of body but still of active mind. He is immensely rich, and thus those in his employ ensure he has every conceivable advantage medical science can supply to keep him alive. In a desperate attempt to free himself from his endless pain, Smith devises a scheme which even he does not believe will be successful. He proposes to be the first human to have his brain transplanted into another body. Even if the operation is a failure he knows his suffering will be over. He is as amazed as anyone when it is successful, but when he realizes whose body he has inherited he regrets the decision. His benefactor turns out to be his young and very beautiful secretary, Eunice Branca, a victim of a mugging. Full of remorse, Smith also begins to doubt his sanity when Eunice begins to talk to him, assuring him her spirit still resides in the body they now share. At least one-third of this novel is taken up with internal dialogue between Johann and Eunice, and I believe it is the element least liked by its critics, however I cannot conceive of any other way the story could have been told.
The book obviously would have benefited from careful editing but RAH was not in a position to do this. In the posthumously published Grumbles From the Grave, RAH's widow Virginia accepted full blame for any lack of polish the novel exhibited. The publisher was demanding the manuscript and she sent it off without benefit of consultation with her husband. Regardless of any of its supposed shortcomings, I still feel the novel is full of insightful ideas and concepts; the nature of self and memory, the possibility of the soul and a life after death, as well as the fundamental importance of love, friendship, and loyalty. Add to that the explosive results of a male and female personality in the same body and you have one of the most thought-provoking tales in the history of SF. It is a perfect example of the fact that RAH refused to repeat himself, but rather strove to broaden the horizons of speculative fiction and explore ideas that are at the basic core of what it means to be human. I have recently read a very good essay concerning this novel on the Heinlein Society website, one that makes some interesting speculations as to the inspiration for several of the characters, along with possible connections between portions of the plot and Heinlein's own life.
In 1973 RAH reintroduced Woodrow Wilson Smith (aka Lazarus Long) in the novel Time Enough for Love. When last seen in Methuselah's Children - detailed in my article on the Future History - Lazarus had decided to take advantage of rejuvenation techniques developed by Earth scientists to enhance his already long life-span. These techniques, further developed by doctors and scientists among the Howard Families, along with the space drive developed by Andrew Jackson Libby, sparked the Great Diaspora, which resulted in humanity's spread throughout the galaxy. Lazarus and Libby explored and helped colonize many different worlds, and they were instrumental in the Howard Families' move to the Earth-like planet of Secundus, or "second home."
At the opening of Time Enough for Love it is the year 2053 A.G.D. (After the Great Diaspora) or the year 4272 of the Gregorian calendar of Old Home Terra. Lazarus is 2,360 years old, and he has returned to Secundus weary and ready to die. His whereabouts had been a mystery for many years, so his arrival is noted and relayed to Ira Weatheral, current Chairman Pro-Tem of the Howard Families. Secundus is heavily populated at this time, primarily with Lazarus' descendants, and he is able to lose himself in the multitudes for several weeks. Just as he is about to die he is found, drugged, and taken to the Howard Rejuvenation Clinic, where procedures are begun to bring him back to robust health. When he regains consciousness, Lazarus protests that his right to die in peace has been violated. His argument lacks conviction however, and it becomes apparent he feels he has done everything it is possible to have done in his life and is looking for a new adventure to give his life meaning again. Otherwise, if he had truly wished to die he would have chosen any other planet than Secundus as his final resting place.
Ira Weatheral's main concern is to have Lazarus dictate as much of his memoirs as possible, and Lazarus agrees on the condition that Ira is able to present him with something genuinely new for him to experience. Rather than being a conventional novel, the book is a collection of novella-length reminiscences of various periods in Lazarus' life, along with interludes of conversations between Lazarus, Ira, and other family members. There are two different intermissions within the book which collect several of Lazarus' aphorisms deemed worthy of recording for posterity. These two chapters were given unique status by their separate publication in 1978 as The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (not in print at this time, but still available in all editions of Time Enough for Love). Here are but two of my favorites from this group:
"Touch is the most fundamental sense. A baby experiences it, all over, before he is
born and long before he learns to use sight, hearing, or taste, and no human ever
ceases to need it. Keep your children short on pocket money - but long on hugs."
"The more you love, the more you can love - and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how
many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just."
Of course, for the book's sake, Ira is able to present Lazarus with the prospect of a new experience, in fact there are two different adventures of which he partakes. The first is seeing clones of himself raised to maturity, with the added twist that his genes have been manipulated to produce twin female versions of him. Also, by accident, Lazarus and his "offspring" discover a method of time travel, and he returns to the Earth of his youth to reaquaint himself with his original family. He becomes inextricably entangled in their lives, and to avoid the ire of his mother and her father, ends up enlisting in the army and is part of the American Expeditionary Forces in France of World War I. Wounded in battle, Lazarus is rescued at the last minute by his returning spaceship, piloted by his "daughters." Fans of Lazarus would have to wait another seven years to learn of his fate, when he made a surprise reappearance in RAH's next novel, The Number of the Beast.
RAH suffered through several more bouts of ill health throughout the remainder of the '70s, being bedridden a majority of the time. His main problem stemmed from reduced blood-flow to the brain and there were many periods in which it was difficult for him to speak, much less concentrate sufficiently to write. Later in the decade a series of successful surgeries improved his condition considerably, and he was able to complete the novel The Number of the Beast for publication in 1980. This was another work criticized for being somewhat rambling and incoherent, and perhaps it also suffered from lack of editing, but there was an additional factor which presented a challenge to its readers. The book was written in first-person but with the added complexity of the narration shifting between four separate characters at almost every chapter change.
This was the novel in which RAH introduced the concept of the "multiverse," alternate planes of existence separated from our reality by a mere right-angle turn on either of the three spatial coordinates, and accessible through the invention of Dr. Jacob Burroughs. The title of the book is derived from the inventor's estimation of the number of worlds available on just one axis of dimension. Rather than being the biblical "Number of the Beast" of 666, it is actually a number the mathematical notation of which I cannot reproduce on my keyboard: the number 6, raised to the 6th power, and that number again raised to the 6th power. In other words (or numbers rather): 10,314,424,798,490,535,546,171,749,056. Dr. Burroughs, along with his wife, his daughter, and her husband, are forced to utilize his invention in an effort to escape a mysterious group whose intent seems to be to eliminate the knowledge of the existence of these other realities.
One aspect of the tale which has been criticized by many as somewhat ridiculous and frivilous is that some of these universes are manifestations of fictional worlds created by other authors. The speculation is that any world that can be conceived has a distinct reality somewhere in the multiverse. Two such worlds our heroes encounter are the Wonderland of Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum's Land of Oz. Another is the universe of RAH's own Future History timeline, and this is where they encounter Lazarus Long aboard his space yacht Dora, along with his cloned descendants Lapis Lazuli and Lorelei Lee. They combine forces, and utilizing both the time-traveling capabilities of Lazarus' ship and Dr. Burrough's spatial manipulator, they are able to rescue from the past two people whom Lazarus has missed the most for so many, many years. The first is his dear friend and partner, Andrew Jackson Libby. When Lazarus is convinced of its feasibility they rescue his mother, Maureen, and return to the Long family's new colony on the planet Tertius (third world).
Also in 1980, RAH published a collection of stories and essays, Expanded Universe, which included all of the previously published The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein from 1966, along with about 20 extra titles as well as forewords and afterwords to most of the pieces. As much as I enjoy RAH's fiction, a good argument could be made that Expanded Universe is the single most important book in his bibliography. Not only did it collect much of his non-fiction previously unavailable in book form, it is perhaps the best insight into the things he felt most important in his own life as well as for the nation and the human race as a whole.
Friday, from 1982, is my second (or third) favorite of RAH's novels (subject to revision, but tied at this time with Starship Troopers). It was a return to his fast-paced, adventure-oriented style, and in fact is a sequel to an early novella, 1949's "Gulf," collected in Assignment in Eternity. Marjorie "Friday Jones" Baldwin is a courier working for a secretive, non-governmental agency in the chaotic world of Earth's near future. The United States is no more, balkanized into various independent states such as the California Confederacy, The Lone Star Republic, and the Chicago Imperium. Friday is an "enhanced" A.P. (artificial person), a product of genetic engineering. The term A.P. is an unfortunate misnomer, as Friday is 100% human, only her genetic make-up is derived from more than twenty separate individuals, two of whom were featured characters in "Gulf." Although clearly superior in most every way, Friday suffers from an inferiority complex due to the fact that A.P.s are designated second-class citizens in most areas of the world, and the agency she works for has taken great pains to conceal this aspect of her past.
In 1984's Job : A Comedy of Justice, RAH tackled some very important but ticklish subjects - religion and the nature of God, the Devil, and Heaven and Hell. The action of the plot somewhat parallels the earlier The Number of the Beast, but in this case the main character has no control over his fate, but rather is shuffled from alternate world to alternate world at the whim of a seemingly uncaring and sadistic force. At times this novel seems to be an appeasement on RAH's part for his many agnostic remarks throughout his career, but in the end his usual cynicism and skepticism reassert themselves and he ends up portraying the Devil in a much more sympathetic light than he does the Judeo-Christian god Jehovah, whom he classifies as a sub-deity. He never makes it clear who the God-behind-the-gods actually is, but one can speculate it might be another of RAH's earlier characters, the Glaroon of the classic fantasy short story "They," most recently reprinted in The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein
The Cat Who Walks Through Walls marked a return to the "multiverse" series of tales and the further exploits of Lazarus Long and his extended family, as well as the reestablishment of the threat to the multiverse's timelines as originally introduced in The Number of the Beast. The plot revolves around the recruitment of retired military operative Col. Colin Campbell (aka, Dr. Richard Ames) for a dangerous mission, the recovery of the memory banks of the computer Mike from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. By this time Lazarus and others have formed the Time Corps, whose aim is to alter past historical events on various timelines in order to create more harmonious and peaceful futures in those universes. They are opposed by others with their own agendas, not only the mysterious entities from TNOTB but also several other independent groups of time manipulators. It is the Time Corps' hope that the superior computing ability of Mike will enable them to better track and predict their opponents' moves as well as make it easier for them to determine specific historical incidents worthy of their attention.
RAH's final novel was 1987's To Sail Beyond the Sunset, which was subtitled The Life and Loves of Maureen Johnson (Being the Memoirs of a Somewhat Irregular Lady). Maureen Johnson, later Maureen Smith, was the mother of Woodrow Wilson Smith - Lazarus Long. The majority of this novel could hardly be considered SF, as it relates her reminiscences of her early life, both before and after her marriage to Brian Smith. I think this can be considered RAH's sentimental look back to his own childhood and family life in Kansas City. Maureen was the last in a long line of strong, intelligent, and independent female characters RAH created throughout his career. If his own mother was anything like Maureen she definitely was a very special person and one I would love to have known.
Following his death, Heinlein's widow Virginia was successful in publishing several books that featured writings he had done many years previously. One I have mentioned several times already, Grumbles from the Grave, a collection of mostly letters to and from RAH's longtime agent, Lurton Blassingame. Another, Take Back Your Government, is the only one of his books that I never finished reading. It was originally written in either the late '30s or early '40s, and it detailed his ideas on how individuals could more successfully have their political voice heard by the system. Unfortunately, the political process as it now exists is considerably changed from when this book was written, and in my opinion it offers little of practical value for today's voter. Tramp Royale is a collection of essays RAH had written during and after the Heinlein's world tour of 1953-54, and should be of interest only to those who feel they must read all of RAH's work.
Reportedly, the first novel that RAH wrote, possibly as early as 1937, was For Us, the Living. It was believed that all copies of this manuscript had been destroyed, but luckily for us, his fans, this was not the case. A copy was recently presented to the Heinlein Society, and it has been purchased for publication by Scribner's. The first edition was reportedly not going to be available until January 2004, but was rushed into print for the lucrative gift-giving season, and is now available from amazon.com [now in paperback]. Just click on the link of the book title above to order. Also, click here for my review of it.
Robert A. Heinlein passed from this life on May 8th, 1988, just two months shy of his 81st birthday. For the previous fifty years he had produced some of the most exciting, thought-provoking works in the history of SF. It was most fitting that he was the first author chosen by the Science Fiction Writers of America to bear the title of Nebula Grand Master in 1975. At his request, his body was cremated and his ashes scattered at sea from a Naval vessel, a tribute from the service so dear to his heart. I think it would be most appropriate that on some future date a vial of sea-water should be afforded a place of honor on the face of the Moon, so that at least symbolically Robert A. Heinlein will forever be remembered as The Man Who Sold the Moon.
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