Heinlein, Fascist

The LA Times interviews some young idiots in fandom:

As the literary and academic worlds open to science-fiction and genre writing, Heinlein lacks the cachet of J.G. Ballard, Ursula LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Neal Stephenson, cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson and others. Films based on Dick’s books, good and bad, keep coming. But Heinlein’s film adaptations, in the last half century, since 1950’s “Destination Moon,” culminated in 1997’s “Starship Troopers,” widely disliked by his fan base.

Non-SF writer William Burroughs probably has more influence inside the genre’s literary wing than Heinlein, who won four Hugos (the award voted by the fans), sold millions of copies, and was termed the field’s most significant writer since H.G. Wells.

“His rabid fan base is graying,” said Annalee Newitz, who writes about science fiction for Wired and Gawker. “To literary readers, the books look cheesy, sexist in a hairy-chest, gold-chain kind of way. His stuff hasn’t stood the test of time,” because of characters’ windy speechifying and their frontier optimism.

“Here at the store I actively resist promoting him, because he was a fascist,” said Charles Hauther, the science fiction buyer at Skylight Books. “People don’t seem to talk about him anymore. I haven’t had a conversation about Heinlein in a long time.

And you’ve obviously never had an intelligent one.

112 thoughts on “Heinlein, Fascist”

  1. You are aware that he was already in his late 30s by 1946?

    It’s far more likely that TBYG represents, fairly accurately, a block of views that Heinlein had as an adult. Especially given that he’d already written some of his truly great short stories and not to mention the core of the stories which formed Revolt in 2100…

    That he became more extreme in certain political views as he got older is certainly the case, but to base your entire assessment of the politics of a a man based on stuff he published in his 70s and ignore a bulk of work from his 30s and 40s beggars belief.

    Especially when the later Heinlein (Friday included, note other people have mentioned the Rape scene) was produced after he’d certainly suffered brain damage through the arterial damage he had.

  2. that the government that governs best is that which governs least

    And doesn’t she also basically have world’s that have stepped too far out of line destroyed?

    I think the narrator mentions that she occasionally has “really bad days”.

    Really, by all means I understand you like the guy, but you’re actually doing him and his works a dis-service like this.

  3. I seem to recall that well known liberal Glenn Reynolds

    They told me if I voted for John McCain, people would claim Glenn Reynolds voted for Barack Obama. And they were right!

  4. The rape scene in “Friday” is one of Heinlein’s most misunderstood pieces of writing. Heinlein’s point was to show that Friday didn’t think of herself as fully human. Thus, she wasn’t upset about being raped, because she didn’t have human rights to not be raped.

    If you’re going to reject works based on the politics of the author, then for heavens’ sake don’t read “Saturn’s Children.” Stross is a flaming British liberal. Now, if you like damn good fiction, please do read it.

  5. I think “Friday” was Heinlein’s attempt to redo “Huckleberry Finn.” An effective scathing critique of intolerance based on random factors of birth, the more effective because the inhumanity is seen through child-like eyes that do not question it, but record it uncomfortably honesty. Friday’s passive acceptance about the rape fits right into that. It isn’t pleasant to read, but it makes the indictment more powerful. It’s like meeting the little girl who matter of factly accepts that mommy enjoys occasionally burning her with cigarettes.

    (God knows what to make of the later rapprochement with the rapist, not to mention the father fetish with Mr. Sticks, but the man (Heinlein) had his senior moments, for sure.)

    That’s another aspect of Heinlein I think is underappreciated. If he snuck social themes into his entertainment, one he repeatedly snuck in was a message of deep and abiding contempt for racism and judgment on the accidents of appearance and birth in general. Nor did he bang you over the head with it. You just learn late in the story that your protoganist Johnnie is brown Juan RIco, or that Richard Ames is black and shacking up with a white girl. You are thus invited to confront any contradictions that abruptly arise between your positive view of the hero and your secret internal expectations of black or brown people.

  6. Carl, I think his “senior moments” were, at least in part, related to his perception of the market. His “pay to the order of…” and all that. Certainly Ginny’s statements support that. As did his bank account. Which he would have had no qualms pointing out. Possibly the single fact that drives leftists the most crazy.

  7. Daveon asks:

    “And doesn’t she also basically have world’s that have stepped too far out of line destroyed?”

    No. Oscar explicitly says it has never happened, but if she thought it was the best solution to a problem it *would* happen.

  8. I don’t get that, Curt. His original audience is clearly 12-year-old boys, what with the consistent themes of escaping parental authority, running away to sea (space), making good on your own, rescuing a damsel and becoming her Lancelot.

    Then let’s say as sf graduates from the pulps he broadens to the twenty- and thirtysomething pocket-protector wearing geek men. Thus the harems, okay, and the strong women who can shoot straight but have big tits, orgasm easily, and are always up for a threesome with another girl. Check.

    But why introduce mom to the group marriage? Did any 24-year-old C++ programmer with a purity score of 82 (and falling, damn it!) really read through the passage in Time Enough where Ted Bronson porks his freaking mother while his pop is minding his younger siblings and not go eeeeew?

    And then he adds a bunch of beta males to the group marriage, too, so that we’ve got Galahad, say, coyly suggested to be hung like a horse, French kissing our viewpoint hero in bed from one side while a cuddly piece presses up against him from the other. Surely that was another Win The Future moment?

    I can accept in either case that he was tweaking his readers. (“Like to fantasize about rescuing your mothers? Why not fantasize about collecting the traditional reward while you’re at it, eh? Think your woman’s a little silly for not wanting her cute friend Ishtar to join you in the sack? How would you feel if Ishtar brought her handsome studmuffin Galahad?”) And I can accept that he was popular enough to diss his readers without unduly suffering at the bank. But I’m not seeing where he would have done these things to improve his bottom line.

  9. Post-script: and if anyone is going to tell me oh no, I totally grooved on the whole Corporal Bronson – Maureen dressed in the French garter scene. Really spoke to me — just…please…don’t.

  10. If the only excuse for the fascism charge is the requirement for a tour of government service as a condition of voting rights, then those people have no idea what fascism really is. Fascist states engage in powerful social and economic interventionism, and the power of the executive overwhelms the power of the judicial and legislative branches.

    Of course, a lot of the people who bandy the “fascism” charge about are the sorts that lump the Cato Institute and the Third Reich in the “extreme right.”

  11. Oh, the Ted Bronson/Maureen scenes. Well:

    First of all, one of the things that Heinlein does in that book is deconstruct the incest taboo. This is arguable, but the idea is that the incest taboo is a societal construct “designed” to prevent defective offspring; one supporting datum for this is that kibbutzim – who are quite often not related at all in any meaningful sense – tend not to form relationships.

    So we have two things stemming from this. First, should the taboo apply to two people who (provably) have very little chance of producing defective offspring? Addressed in TEFL. Also, BTW, and very obliquely, in the works of another author – EE “Doc” Smith. (Where do the children of the Children of the Lens come from?)

    And what about pairings that don’t produce? (60th century contraceptive techniques, FFS!)

    And in any case; Lazarus has not clapped eyes on his mother for over FOUR THOUSAND YEARS. One might think that such an expanse of time might erode taboos.

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