On Tor.com, author Jo Walton takes a look at the dystopian backdrops in Robert A Heinlein's juvenile novels like Starman Jones and Citizen of the Galaxy. Heinlein's juveniles were his best work for my money, and I've always remembered them as being relentlessly upbeat, so it's startling to realize how many of them are set in failed or failing universes. As usual, Walton has smart things to say about this.
No individual one of these would be particularly noticeable, especially as they're just background, but sitting here adding them up doesn't make a pretty picture. What's with all these dystopias? How is it that we don't see them that way? Is it really that the message is all about "Earth sucks, better get into space fast"? And if so, is that really a sensible message to be giving young people? Did Heinlein really mean it? And did we really buy into it?