Crowdfunding a major new critical study of Robert A Heinlein


Originally published at:


I’m quite interested in reading such a study, but I highly doubt anyone will be successful portraying Heinlein as anything but a classic libertarian.


Speaking of Heinlein…


I think this might be the first book of Heinlein criticism since his death that is not written by an acolyte of the Cult of Heinlein. So it stands a fair chance of being actually good.


Front! is what that made me think…


Never underestimate the power of ideological slap fights!


Unless you define libertarianism to be Somali-style anarchy, unmoored from any sort of legal system at all, differentiating classical liberalism and libertarianism is purely a matter of degree. I don’t know very many libertarians who would bristle at the suggestion that they are classical liberals.


Oh, I can be more critical than that. He was a terrible writer, one step above Ayn Rand, and his ideas about science would have been revolutionary in 1880.


I usually sugar-coat it as “Heinlein was a very popular writer, and many people enjoyed his works”.

With a bit less sugar, it’s:

Heinlein as an author ranges from “flawed, but interesting” to “holy fuck, what is this shit?”.

As a person, he was an utter douche.



Is that intentional?

Or more of a

Paris in the
the spring.

kind of thing?


Which can be entertaining as long as you don’t take it seriously.
I will say his stuff gets tiresome as I get older and wiser even taking the horribly sexist views of the time into consideration.


Do what it takes to get one of the smugly silent Dorsai Irregulars to talk.


You’d be hard-pressed to find a more perfect example of it in reality though.

At any rate, Heinlein was an REMF with power fantasies, and I’m curious at what a scholarly review of his works will achieve beyond reiterating that.


Who from the classic era of SF really holds up as a good writer though? Clarke and Asimov were less awful people than RAH, but their prose is pretty clunky as well. I suppose there’s Bradbury, who could actually write, but he really is more of a fantasy writer despite the Martian Chronicles, etc.


Heinlein’s still solidly my favorite writer. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Glory Road are probably my two favorites.


I was quite find of Job: a Comedy of Justice

And I will fear no evil, rather less so. Indeed there is a range.


The rule of thumb is that Heinlein is at his most interesting in his pre-war work (all short stories and a few novels originally published in magazines in the 40s). He is more often interesting than awful in his work from the 50’s. Work published in the 60’s is about half and half, and his work published after 1970 is almost entirely bad.

His second, post-war wife was a hard right wing anti-communist who introduced him to the John Birch society and other rightist nuttiness. It took a while for the brain worms to fully kick in, though. Late in life (1970’s on) he lost the ability to edit his own work (and he’d become so famous his editors let him have his head), but he kept publishing novels for almost two decades past that point.


I love that one despite the horrible horrible sexism in it mostly because it is so completely WTFF about everything. I mean can you see pitching that plot today?


Well, yes, if you define libertarianism as Somali-style anarchy, then Somalia is certainly your best (but not only) example.


I love me some Heinlein, but you are right about this. His juveniles are certainly his best work.