How Heinlein went from socialist to right-wing libertarian


#1

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#2

Heinlein was a complicated motherfucker, and a reminder of how silly and inaccurate our binary "liberal/conservative" divide can be.


#3

If you've never read his accounts of traveling in Russia, do yourself a favor and read it. It's fascinating to read.

I thought about those stories when I saw those "unauthorized" North Korea photos a while back--naturally, the photographer was dragged to the local arena to watch people doing mandatory exercises.

People ought to give some of his later works a read, too. Never make the mistake of thinking the author is just writing about their own personal beliefs--what would that say about the writers on Hannibal or Game of Thrones, anyway?--but his later works, though colored by his libertarian leanings, didn't paint the future as a libertarian utopia. In some ways, his later books are both libertarian and dystopian.


#4

But it's so much easier to pretend that people are either cosmopolitan leftists or backcountry tax protesters, and nothing in between!


#5

His transition from someone who at least was making attempts at addressing gender bias and inequity to someone who wrote every character having it off with every character, and family isn't safe! His universe was so horny a ships AI borrowed a clone body so she could get it on. And the primary focus of lust in his universes are all writer's avatars except for one character which is essentially Jesus.

Props to the guy for engaging in a lot of fan-wank over the years too. Larry Niven basically copied and expanded upon Heinlein style fan-wank (too bad he became a racist crank, something Heinlein seemed to avoid staying about as racist from day one as he was on his last).

I would absolutely buy/read a graphic novel adaptation of his expanded universe books (which are a lot because "666" basically integrates them all into the expanded universe).


#6


Wait, are you saying Heinlein was always racist? By modern standards I wouldn't hold him up as a role model for anything, but (among other things) his 1955 juvenile Tunnel in the Sky featured a tough, take-charge, all-American hero who happened to be a black dude; when the editor refused to accept it, Heinlein removed the overt description but snuck in a passage that made his intentions clear to anyone paying attention. (There's an explicitly black female character, and the protagonist mentions that she looks like his sister.)


#7

It's just as easy to pretend that people are either sensible conservative Real Americans or Commie Traitor Hippies, with nothing in between except dupes who've been lulled into complacency by Liberalism.

Heinlein's "Can't vote unless you've earned your citizenship through military service" fascism always felt like the kinds of opinion friends who went into the Navy acquired; I hadn't realized he'd been rejected by the Navy because of his politics.


#8

I was wondering just the other day why one particular useful but sometimes-dangerous occupation is singled out as a requirement of full citizenship. No-one ever suggests that the franchise should be restricted to coal-miners.


#9

I think it goes back to at least ancient Greece, probably earlier. To vote you had to be a citizen, to be a citizen meant you had to serve in the military. I have met many who have served and many (most?) of them have this mindset. They feel that they put their lives on the line, and to have an equal say so should you. I can see their point, though I do not agree with it.


#10

The "Federal Service" from Starship Troopers was never strictly military, though. I don't have a copy of the book handy, but Wikipedia says "It can involve joining the military, being a human guinea pig, testing survival equipment, or manual labour." The point was just to demonstrate that you could put the needs of society above your personal comfort and safety. I don't necessarily agree with it, mind you, but it's not purely military fetishism.


#11

Juan "Jonny" Rico is originally Filipino and pretty dark, to boot. He got turned into an Argentinian in the films and most people have missed it every since.


#12

Funny, I always thought that Starship Troopers was a commentary against fascism. But maybe I'm remembering the movie more than the book.


#13

I'm trying to come up with a witty metaphor for how unrelated the book and the movie are, and I'm not getting anything strong enough. Basically, Paul Verhoeven was working on a sci-fi satire of militaristic fascism, heard about Starship Troopers, and decided it would be funny to buy the film rights from Heinlein's widow and swipe a handful of character names and proper nouns to drop into his script. That's the entire extent of their relationship.


#14

Well that changes a lot. I read Starship Troopers when I was like 11 years old, and saw the movie when I was like 30. I loved both, but I guess I loved them for different reasons.


#15

The anti-fascist, post-Vietnam rejoinder to Starship Troopers was Steakley's Armor, though it was a little more problematic a read and would have benefited more from a movie treatment.


#16

His depictions of PoC as well as his depictions of women, when positive, are nearly always cases of exceptionalism. He also often delves into the surprise reveal that some character is a woman or a person of color like "Oh, see. I made them smart and capable and look he's a black!" these tropes are the literary equivalent of the "One of my best friends is black".

I'm not making the case the Heinlein was exceptionally racist or that he wasn't progressive for his day. But the guy always wrote with that blind spot if you're looking for it. He did write his utopias as being evolved past prejudice, so I'd like to think he believed in that as an ideal/goal.


#17

What's so odd. Inside every devoted communist is a psychotic fascist screaming to get out. They're really the same thing. Take Glenn Greenwald for example; nominally a progressive but openly sympathetic to neo Nazis, Lyndon LaRouche and Pat Buchanan. Glenn even did legal work for murderous neo Nazis currently in jail for antisemitic mass murders. And he calls himself the ultimate progressive.


#18

Yeah, from what I recall of the novel, people with technical backgrounds, for example, often ended up with government research gigs.


#19

Let's stop all this back-and-forth political nonsense and get right down to the real issue: that cover makes it look like his name is Roberta.


#20

If we can't stereotype people, they do not exist.