Heinlein freaked out at "invasive" review of STRANGER IN A STRANGER LAND

Science fiction legend Frederik Pohl continues his memoir-in-blog-form, HOW THE FUTURE BLOGS. Today, he's got a post about how Robert A Heinlein reacted to an early look at AJ Budrys's detailed and highly critical review of the major novel Stranger in a Strange Land.

It's a great little anaecdote, but Pohl's being somewhat coy or elliptical in explaining the incident: apparently Budrys's review was viewed by Heinlein as an invasion of his privacy (despite the fact that Budrys and Heinlein didn't know each other). Reading between the lines, it sounds to me like Pohl is saying that Budrys speculated that Heinlein was polyamorous (Stranger is one of the most influential sources of inspiration for the poly movement). I don't know if Heinlein was or not, but I could see how, in 1961, this might be an upsetting thing to have said about you in print.

Happy ending: Pohl introduced Heinlein and Budrys to each other at the Seattle Worldcon and the two became good pals.


So there was a dilemma. I didn't want to deprive AJ of an audience for a piece of good, hard work. I also didn't want to get Robert mad at me. I stewed over the problem for a while, finally decided to leave the decision up to Robert himself and shipped off a copy of the review to him, pleased with myself for having solved the problem.

Then, a week or two later, the mailman handed me a large and heavy manila envelope with Heinlein's return address on it and, "My God," I said out loud, "Bob has written me a novelette!"

I was wrong about that, though. The twenty or thirty closely typed pages in the envelope weren't fiction, they were an impassioned denunciation of the review, of invasive reviews in general and of the person who had written it -- who, Robert conjectured, was some effete New York bookworm who had never traveled more than a few dozen miles from his home and had no knowledge of what the real world was like.

Robert A. Heinlein, Algis Budrys and me

(Images: File:Algis Budrys 1985.jpg, Bill Shunn/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA; File:Heinlein-face.jpg, Dd-b/Wikimedia Commons, GDL)

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