Notes on the upcoming monster-sized authorized Heinlein biography

Over on Tor.com, senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden has some notes on the upcoming monster authorized Heinlein biography, whose first volume, Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve goes on sale on August 17th. I've been ploughing through my advance copy as quickly as I can. It's exhaustive and often exhilarating, and rewards close attention and perseverance, as when twenty pages of close detail on life in the US Navy in the 1920s turns out to be scene-setting for an erotic account of Heinlein's time among the free-love set in Greenwich Village while on shore leave.

On August 17, Tor Books will publish the first half of William H. Patterson's much-anticipated two-volume authorized biography of Robert A. Heinlein, Robert A. Heinlein In Dialogue with His Century: Volume I, Learning Curve, 1907-1948. In commemoration of this, Tor editor Stacy Hague-Hill has asked several of the great and the good of modern SF to identify their own favorite Heinlein novel and explain why. I've read all the pieces she got back, and they may intrigue and surprise you. They're going up on the Tor/Forge blog, one a week, beginning with David Brin's.
The Heinlein Biography Approacheth: An Announcement, some Pointers, and a digressive Disquisition on the Nuanced Differences between two Web Sites sharing in common a certain Widely-Recognized Brand

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  1. I thought RAH was the author of the “An armed society is a polite society” meme. Kind of glad to hear he was using it at the editor’s behest. I always thought that the “Terror Weapon” battle in the restaurant was kind of incongruous. Obviously if you value politeness over not getting your head burned off by a “brave” then by all means, go ahead and arm everyone.

    Can’t wait for Spider R’s fave! You’ll probably be able to hear the hair being ripped from his head all the way down the coast as he tries to decide. :-)

    1. I thought RAH was the author of the “An armed society is a polite society” meme.

      Alexis de Tocqueville is a more likely source for that.

        1. My reply was in reference to the meme the quote embodies, as per the comment I was replying to.

          I’m pretty sure the meme’s been around far longer than Heinlein was, and I seem to remember him quoting somebody to that end – and I thought it was Alexis de Tocqueville he quoted.

          But now I’ve spent a little time looking through de Tocqueville’s magnum opus, and I think I was wrong. In fact he mostly portrays Americans as compassionate and honourable, but rather crude and unmannerly.

  2. Assigning only one ‘meme’ to an author is often a mistake, as is thinking everything an author’s character(s) say are the same things the author believes. One of the things I find most amusing is when people say Heinlein was a Libertarian. I’m pretty sure Heinlein had a much better grasp of human nature than that would imply.

  3. Heinlein’s politics where all over the place during the course of his career. He was as much a hardcore Socialist during points in his career, as he was a Libertarian. Some people have said his politics changed completely depending on what partner he was with at the time.

    What I find interesting about Heinlein, is how one single story, “Starship Troopers”, is almost always used to attack libertarianism, even though the government described in Starship Troopers is clearly a modern European style social democracy… the only difference is that in Starship Troopers military service is a voluntary requirement for citizenship, where as in Finland, Sweden, etc, military service in a non-voluntary requirement of citizenship.

    I mean, if you want to attack libertarianism, shouldn’t you attack The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, or A Stranger in a Strange Land, or something that advocates something vaguely libertarian? Sure, Starship Troopers is the more fascist government he describes so I suppose it is the most useful for attacking people… but it is also the most social-democratic government he describes (especially compared to the pure socialist-anarchism of the martians in Stranger in a Strange Land, or the market-anarchism of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress).

  4. Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve

    There must be at least two colons too many in that title.

  5. He was kinda militant, it’s true. He also said “Sex is the only recreation for the intelligent,” or something like that. I grok.

  6. I’d say he was libertarian, with a small l. I’m not sure why anarcho-capitalists are allowed to monopolise the word these days.

  7. What’s the difference between Robert Heinlein and a teabagger?

    Open carry, but Heinlein carries a blaster.

    What’s the difference between Robert Henlein and Ayn Rand?

    print( anagram( “Spiro Agnew” ) );

    What’s the difference between Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov?

    Asimov thought he invented the calculator. Heinlein thought he invented God.

    1. Admittedly I enjoyed that, but Heinlein was a lot more than one organ away from Ayn Rand. And honestly, I’m not sure Rand didn’t have one of those!

      PS: In before Antinous!!

  8. Hanging out with a free-love bunch during shore leave? That explains a lot about SIASL and most of his later stuff.

  9. Forget his libertarianism, will the book cover the nudism I imagine Heinlein was into from just a cursory reading of his novels and stories over the years? Has anyone else noticed the strain of un-clothedness that runs through them? Did Ayn Rand share similar interests, her and Greenspan perhaps?

  10. #12 – it’s hard to miss RAH’s views on such things, especially the more you read of his works. If you read his ‘For Us, the Living,’ written before, yet unpublished long after, his other works, you’ll see his views were in place LONG before his later works.

    I imagine Heinlein as more of a rational anarchist ala Prof. La Paz, in Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Patriotic to the core, but definitely his own brand of patriotism, nothing blind and aggressively stupid like the TEA party or the GOP.

    I think economic mathematical reality alone would prevent Heinlein from associating with anyone that would currently be labeled ‘the right’ in current U.S. politics, and I think his knowledge of human nature would probably prevent him from associating with the current Libertarians, especially in light of things like Goldman Sachs, BP, etc.

    To see these events and think that less government oversight over big business is a good thing is nothing less than suicidal.

    Still, maybe I’m using seeing RAH with rose-colored glasses. Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of my favorite novels of all-time, but because it’s a great story with great characters, told in a great way, not because it espouses a political structure that works with real humans. I’d still love to see a movie version of that. I’m thinking Alfred Molina for Prof.

    1. #13,

      “Still, maybe I’m using seeing RAH with rose-colored glasses. Moon is a Harsh Mistress is one of my favorite novels of all-time, but because it’s a great story with great characters, told in a great way, not because it espouses a political structure that works with real humans. I’d still love to see a movie version of that. I’m thinking Alfred Molina for Prof.”

      Now you got me thinking…

      Wyoming: (Zhang Ziyi) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhang_Ziyi
      Manuel: Joaquin Phoenix?

  11. anon @6

    “If Robert and Virginia have both passed beyond, how can this be an authorized biography?”

    William Patterson started work on the biography before Virginia died, and had her blessing and support.

  12. Who is

    ROBERTA
    HEINLEIN

    and why is there an old picture of a guy with a mustache on the cover of a book about her?

    Angry typography nerd smash!

  13. Having recently finished the book – why yes, I have the galley – I think pretty much all notions of RAH will have to be rethought.

    It’s all pretty amazing.

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