Robert Heinlein, Dean of Sci-Fi, Citizen of the Galaxy

Ted Keer's picture
Submitted by Ted Keer on Wed, 2006-12-13 01:07

Robert Anselm Heinlein, 1907-1988, is consistently voted one of the most popular writers of the last century. In my list he ranks third as a popular novelist, just below Rand and Tolkien and just above Robert Graves, George Orwell (best as an essayist), and Frank Herbert from whom he differs greatly in style. Heinlein is a Romantic and in most cases a Realist, although some of his works suffer from plot flaws that can be described as the primacy of consciousness. This criticism is best taken up in the reviews of those works where it occurs.

Heinlein is a master of suspense. His best books draw you in one page one, where the hero simultaneously meets a beautiful woman and dodges an assassination attempt; or disposes of the body of her would-be assassin on page two. He writes on such plot-themes as the American Revolution replayed on a Lunar colony; a time machine that doesn't work - until its inventor notices that the letter "j" is now missing from the alphabet; a family who rides out a nuclear attack in a bomb shelter to awaken millennia in the future in an isl*mic world-state where fattened Christian children are on the menu; a summer-camp field trip stranded on an alien planet where the transition from anarchy to self=rule is played out in brutal realism; the second coming in the form of an orphan from mars; an elderly man who makes arrangements to have his brain transplanted, only to find that he awakens in the body of his doting and buxom young secretary, and her soul is still in residence; interplanetary war with space-bugs in attack, and pacifists at home who are the real enemy; alien mind parasites who are defeated by the adoption of nudism; and much more.

Heinlein is consistently pro-egoist, pro-capitalist, pro-self defense, pro-American, and pro-human. In a secret meeting with Ronald Reagan and other writers such as Larry Niven, the "Star Wars" plan was hatched which KGB archives have shown was the lynch-pin in bringing down the Soviet Union. Heinlein is a consistent libertarian in the social realm, exploring homosexuality, group marriages, incest and transsexuality, as well as exploring the use of soft-drugs such as marijuana and the pitfalls of hard-drugs such as opium. Heinlein is also credited with the invention of the water bed and the waldo – mechanical arms used to manipulate dangerous substances remotely.

Heinlein is the only fiction writer I have ever read who mentions Rand, and it is in a positive light. Among Objectivists he is very popular. I have read almost all of his books, excepting just a very few of his early juvenile works. Members are invited to post their reviews and comments. Those who have not read Heinlein are encouraged to do so.

Ted Keer, 10 December, 2006, NYC

This post appeared originally on another website in substantially the same form. The image is from

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Heilein against theocraty

Leonid's picture


Ted,I fully agree and I'd like to add that Heinlein was only one who warned about possibility of christian theocraty in America ( see "If This Goes On")


Melissa Lepley's picture

Just be careful that you don't start *talking* like them... Every time I read this book, I get so drawn in, I find myself using pidgin english.

Mike is a complete darling, honestly. He's definitely (right after the Prof) one of my favorite characters of the book. Don't get me wrong, I like Manny...he's just not one of the *driving* characters. He's sort of swept up in things, while others are pushing forward.


"Shiny. Let's be bad guys."

Thanks Melissa

Olivia's picture

That makes sense now. Its strange reading a style of English that is pidgeon - especially after reading Rand who is so perfectly precise in her every word.

I feel so affectionate towards Mike's person. He/she is so utterly endearing... "Man, my only friend. Can you introduce me to a Not-Stupid?" Smiling


Melissa Lepley's picture

Manny isn't related by blood to any of his wives or co-husbands. He married into the family, and calls his senior wife 'Mum' from respect and affection.

I believe that later in the book it explains the whole concept of clan marraige. It seems like a viable possibility, especially for pioneer-types. Not sure I'd want to be a part of one, but not sure I wouldn't, either.

Ross: *sigh*


"Shiny. Let's be bad guys."

The moon...

Ross Elliot's picture a harsh mistress?

Oh, really?

You should try young Miss Mountshaft from the public library Eye

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Olivia's picture

I'm reading this fascinating book as we speak and loving it for its nitty gritty imaginative scope and sheer rebellious spirit.

One thing is perplexing me. I cannot get my head around the clan marriage inner workings. His "Mum" is his senior wife? What's the deal here? With that fucking Russian article dropping style, its confusing!


Jason Quintana's picture

I remember seeing breasts, and coed communal showers.. things which a I am in favor of. But then I turned the channel. I just read "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". Short review to follow.

- Jason

Spot on, Dunc.

Ross Elliot's picture

When I first saw ST, I couldn't believe it. It was soft porn which, as we all know, is the *worst* kind of porn Cool

Read the book.

The movie was an

Duncan Bayne's picture

The movie was an entertaining but slightly brainless action flick ... it kept nothing of value from the book, because to do so would have been an intolerable slap in the face to the current political & philosophical establishment.  If you haven't read Starship Troopers because you've been put off by the movie, you should ... because the movie bears almost no relationship to the book, which is replete with deep treatment of philosophy & morality.


Buy and wear InfidelGear - 25% of all InfidelGear profit goes to SOLO!

Thanks, Melissa

Ted Keer's picture

Do get back on that Hogan title, I'd love to see Rand show up as a character somewhere. As for Heinlein's worlds, sometime's they are scary places, if not exactly malevolent Kafkasesque mental hells, (Job, Friday, Farnham's Freehold) but his characters make them good places to visit nonetheless. Your point is well taken.


Heinlein! :D

Melissa Lepley's picture

Robert Heinlein is definitely one of my favorite authors!

Possibly the favorite.

I own many of his books, and I plan to own the rest before long!

Most authors, I'll read the book first, then decide if I want to buy...writers like Asimov, Hogan, Heinlein, and Niven I'll buy whenever I find them!


Heinlein does mention Rand, in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Professor de la Paz says "I can get along with a Randite"...and at one point Mannie describes Mike as "...our John Galt..."

However, I know of another good mention of Rand in one of James Hogan's books...I don't remember whether it was Entoverse or Mission to Minerva but Rand herself shows up in the story... I'll have to re-read my books to figure out which one... I believe it was Entoverse but I can't be sure.

I think what I like best about Heinlein's works are that they have such a great...well...sense of life. The world is never a scary, hopeless, oppressive place in Heinlein's an existance full of wonder, discovery, sex, and happiness. The main characters might have to kick some ass to get there...but it's always do-able, and the good guys always win, eventually. Brains beat brawn...individuals trump society...and governments had better darn well behave themselves, or they'll see the business end of whatever weapon comes to hand. Rocks, if necessary! Laughing out loud

His books never make me say "Why?"...they make me say "Why not?"


"Shiny. Let's be bad guys."


Ted Keer's picture

The following post was originally submitted to another website

Here are my recommendations of good starter works for would-be Heinlein readers. These works are from his mature period and stand on their own. Other titles such as The Red Planet may be too juvenile for some people's tastes (they are still good adventure stories) and some of his works such as any featuring the character Lazarus Long are parts of series that should not be read out of order. The books below can each be read without preparation. I have listed them my favorite first, with a very brief synopsis.

A genetically enhanced secret agent of the near future discovers who her real friends and her real enemies are. An incredibly fast paced page-turner, the book's social setting is eerily prescient of some of today's headlines. Self-discovery and the nature of happiness in an irrational society.

A computer repairman living in a lunar penal-colony befriends a network that has become self aware. Sent to correct a glitch, he discovers that the artificial mind is trying to understand what "humor" is. A libertarian friend suggests that a good joke for the computer to play might be overthrowing the penal warden's rule. The nature of mind and the cost of freedom. (The main character speaks with a Russian influence, dropping his atricles and the copula in his speech. This takes a few chapters to get used to.)

An unhappily married man saves his son, wife, and neighbor from a nuclear attack in his bomb shelter. When they emerge it is not to a holocaust, but rather is in the pleasure Garden of a m*slim nobleman who eats Christians for lunch. Racism and self-discovery.

A cult favorite, this book rivaled Tolkien and Rand in popularity on college campuses during the 60's. An Orphaned survivor of a doomed Martian Colony returns to Earth with the body of a man and the mind and powers of a demigod. An exploration of politics, sex, and love in a libertarian perspective.

The world's richest and oldest curmudgeon is loved only by his secretary. Having arranged to have his brain transplanted at death, he awakens in a very unexpected place. Sexuality, identity, and the nature of soul.

Friends discuss theoretical time travel at a cocktail party. One of the guests invites the hero to have a look at a prototype. Sexuality and politics among intimate friends. Features the "Society for Aesthetic Deletion"

After world anarchy, order is restored by an autocratic military government along the lines of the Roman Republic. Those who serve in the military can vote. The rest are free to bitch all they like. Then alien contact is made, and the aliens aren't all that warm and fuzzy. Politics, war, ESP, personal growth and responsibility. The movie version, criticized ufairly upon its release for being "tits and fascism," was okay but left out much from the book.

A spaceship lands in the corn belt, but those who go to investigate report that it's just a hoax, and set up a sideshow to which one-and all are invited for a look-see. But there is no possibility of this being a hoax. Drug use, sex, secret agents and how nudism saves the world. The movie adaptation failed miserably.

Ted Keer, 12 December, 2006, NYC

The still from Starship Troopers was found at

Never read him.

Ergo's picture

Never read Heinlein. Though, I had heard of the Moon is a Harsh Mistress before. It appears to be very popular among Objectivists and libertarians. I'll try to get myself a copy soon.

Movie adaptation

Bill Visconti's picture

of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is in the works with Tim Manier as director. I believe Manier is influenced by Rand.

"The other thing is to make sure the powers that be in Hollywood don't force you to turn it into some Marxist screed on socialism, when Heinlein was a Libertarian and it's about free-market capitalism. You want to try and not make it about an evil corporation. That's the trick."

That sure is the trick.

I hope Manier can pull this off especially since Hollywierd mutilated Starship Troopers.

Heinlein, Clarke, Star Wars

Ted Keer's picture

I think I saw the allegation on a cable science show, or it may have been PBS. Heinlein, Niven, A. C. Clarke and some other author I can't recall were asked to consult for the whitehouse. Clarke answered that he viewed himself as a citizen of the world, and not as an American. I believe this caused a rift between Heinlein & Clarke, but that is a vague memory. As with the Rush/Rand thing, it is something that I thought was worth mentioning, not a point I was arguing. I am sure anyone who wishes can look it up on wikipedia. My interest here is to introducve those not familiar with Heinlein to him. A quick Google search shows there is much contention. I also remember Clarke claiming he was proud not to have worked for the US.


He is generally considered

PhilipC's picture

He is generally considered the greatest of the science-fiction writers (and that is saying a lot).

> n a secret meeting with Ronald Reagan and other writers such as Larry Niven, the "Star Wars" plan was hatched

Ted, is this another of those gossipy, hearsay, no-proof-is-offered urban legend type things? Like the one about Ronald Reagan having handed out copies of Atlas Shrugged to every key member of his Administration and demanding they read it?

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