My uncomfortable relationship with Robert Heinlein

You know, if, at 18, I had needed to choose a favorite author, it would have been RAH, hands down. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve read everything he’s written except for his first novel (that was only published a couple of years ago).

So, a couple of months ago I was browsing my shelves and picked up _Stranger In A Strange Land_ for the first time in probably a decade and a half.

Boy, it annoyed the crap out of me.

Now it’s funny, because I mentioned this on a mailing list I’m on, and someone who knew me in college mentioned that he found that interesting, since I had once said it was an incredibly important book that had changed my life.

The thing is, though, it _did_. And all the things in it that caused me to change are still there. But I couldn’t get over all the things about it that annoyed me so–the awe-inspiring condescension of the main characters towards everyone else, the spectacularly patronizing attitude towards women, oh, it drove me crazy. But you can draw a very straight line between what I believe now and what that book exposed me to.

Just the other day I picked up _The Number of the Beast_ which I haven’t read in at least as long as _Stranger_, and found it absolutely unreadable. I skimmed it, but basically had to hold my nose to read any of it. And yet I remember liking it immensely.

There are others that I’ve read more recently than that that didn’t offend me. Basically, the simple adventure stories still work for me; there are things that occasionally annoy, but in the main they’re no worse than a lot of pre-new-wave SF. But most of his later novels–his largely “high-concept” output post-_Stranger_–I now find mostly unreadable, because of the absurd didacticism.

Except, and this surprises no one as much as me, _The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress_ and _Starship Troopers_. Yep, Heinlein’s famously “militaristic” novel, and his novel of libertarian revolution–two things that, in general I have no time for.

I guess it’s like family. They may annoy the hell out of you, but you’re still related.

Published by

Michael Alan Dorman

Yogi, brigand, programmer, thief, musician, Republican, cook. I leave it to you figure out which ones are accurate.