Five Years Ago Today: "Heinlein Defenders Hit Back"
I just noticed that it was exactly five years ago that I blogged about a NYT Sunday Book Review article on John Scalzi that ends up being 50 percent about Heinlein.
The NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/24/books/review/Itzkoff.t.html?_r=2&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&pagewanted=1&adxnnlx=1325019892-2rdArK5n1X/GBRv7RDK6DA
Full text of post below, original with all links at http://illuminationinc.blogspot.com/2006/12/heinlein-defenders-hit-back.htmlHeinlein Defenders Hit Back
It was intriguing to see how one book review in the New York Times prompted a flurry of activity in the blogosphere in defense of Robert A. Heinlein and his ideas—the irony being that the review wasn’t directly of Heinlein's work, but of John Scalzi’s The Ghost Brigades
. The prompt and forceful reaction is mainly attributable to the reviewer's use of the tired old canard that Heinlein was an "endorse[er] of fascism” because of his glorification of the military in Starship Troopers
Instapundit was good enough to link to a 1980 piece by Spider Robinson that hilariously punctures that particular piece of stupidity, as well as a lot of others that certain fans, critics and the media have brought up in relation to Heinlein and his work over the years. Robinson also makes a more universal and interesting point—that we shouldn’t try to judge an author’s philosophy and politics through his fiction, much less start throwing around labels like “fascist,” which as I pointed to recently, isn't just a generic term of derogation; worse, it's usually inaccurate.
The point, Heinlein himself said, was that his work wasn't about telling us the answers
, it was about raising the questions
. The hard truth of the world is that we have to figure out the answers for ourselves, if they're to be worth a damn. The answers we get predigested from our teachers, professors and politicians as we grow up are their
answers. Adult human beings decide the answers for themselves. To me, that's what Heinlein's writing has been about since I was 12 years old and read Tunnel in the Sky for the first time. Life is about finding out how to be a good and great human being, what you owe yourself, your family and your society. That's why Robert Heinlein was a great thinker, and author. That's why I saved my Heinlein collection for many years--so that my son, now aged two, can start reading it ASAP.
Addendum: Prof Reynolds also points us to this 1997 article by Will Collier that refers to Roger Ebert (the movie critic) calling Heinlein a "right-wing saber-rattler" (amongst other stupidities) in relation to the excreable film version of Starship Troopers. Later, I read that the punk who directed it, Paul Verhoeven, stated that he deliberately set out to make the ideas presented in the book look ridiculous in his film.
A true Heinlein hero would just laugh at the little creep, but being an all-too-human man in the real world I'll admit that I'd at least like to swat him across the shins with a cricket bat for that particular effort to drag us all down.
Okay, and then just once in the short ribs...