Robert Heinlein ... I give the man props for being a good writer.. but he has two chief habits that bug the crap out of me. First, half of his heroes are wise old guys with long lifespans who make out with hot young servile women. Since Heinlein WAS a "wise" old guy with a long lifespan, it gets a little sickening after the third or fourth book about it.

Examples: The cat who walks through walls, Stranger in a Strange Land, any book with Lazarus Long in his older years.

My second and related complaint is his standard method of staging a scene where Dirty old man sits around and expounds wisdom to Young Man Seeking Guidance. These scenes typically span the lengh of three chapters, interspersed with other spear carriers and messengers stopping by to agree with Dirty Old Man. If you find a Heinlein book without this scene in it, please let me know.

It might help at this point to mention that I think Heinlein died from some kind of degenerative brain disease.

The only problem with Heinlein is that as he aged, he became a dirty old man. Virtually all of Heinlein's later books are of the dirty old man category.

I grew up with Heinlein. My first experience was with Waldo and Magic, Inc., when I was far too young to understand what was going on. After recovering from that experience, (I'm sorry, but 2nd grade was far too early for that book.) I moved on to some of Heinlein's earlier works like Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, Starship Troopers and The Number of the Beast, fantastic books for a young developing mind.

By the time I read any of his dirty old man books, I was in the throes of a very confused adolescence, probably explaining why I did not mind the prejudices at the time. Recently, I have re-read some of these and I found that they were no longer as satisfying as they were in days of yore. I often found his sexism to be offensive. It seems interesting to note that his masterpiece of the open mind, Stranger in a Strange Land, seems to mark the beginning of the closing of his mind towards women.

Heinlein's career and books seem to reflect the most common path of intellectual growth in our society. In youth, we are playful, open, and curious. As young adults, we are idealistic and interested in righting all the wrongs of history. Towards middle age, we begin to consider experience increasingly important. We start to discount the experience of others in favor of our own. Finally, our minds, rendered inelastic by age and disuse, become closed to new thoughts and begin repeating old arguments incessantly. I am sad to note that in what should be our golden years we are often instead angry, tired, and bitter.

Please make sure you have read a full spectrum of Heinlein's work before you make judgments on his career. Too often, our attention span is short and we only consider the most recent. Please, do not let this happen to you.

Robert Heinlein fanatics are the main reason I don't like Robert Heinlein.

"Well, yes, all of Heinlein's heroes were mental and physical supermen who could discuss obscure philosophers, seduce a woman, kill 20 men, and fry an omelet, all at the same time, but that's because Heinlein himself was a mental and physical superman. And yeah, some of his characters indulged in an occasional rape, but the girls always enjoyed it, so that's okay. Besides, Heinlein is the Greatest Author Who Ever Lived or Ever Will Live, and he wrote Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and Stranger in a Strange Land, so we should be grateful just to exist in the same world that he did..."

The only fans more irritating are the ones who worship Ayn Rand.

The reason that Heinlein's heroes are all supermen is because of the writer that most influenced his work. That seems obvious in retrospect, but few people seem willing to give credit to E.E. "Doc" Smith. His Lensman books were quite possibly the genesis for the golden age of science fiction. His Gray Lensman was the basis for practically all of Heinlein's male heroes. The guy was super smart, super strong, and super super. He was the perfect pulp hero. So were most of Heinlein's heroes, with the exception of the dirty old man parts.

The Lensmen were such a part of science fiction that they made a guest appearance in Number Of The Beast with no explanation or back-story, the reader was expected to be familiar with the characters. Heinlein tended to get a little philosophical about societal roles and their function in a culture. That is of course his privilege, he's the author after all and can put anything he wants in his books.

The way I figure it, if anything he claimed in his books was too radical they wouldn't have been so popular or won so many awards. Sure he could have coasted along on the success of his early career, but that wouldn't have worked for very long. The differences that most people seem to recognize between his old work and his new work is the difference between juvenile books and adult books.

A lot of his early work was done for pulp magazines and juvenile novels. The publishers wouldn't accept the racier stuff, but when he published adult novels the material was allowed. So his material didn't really change as he got older, the public just got more accepting. Even if was a dirty old man, big deal, at least it makes for good reading.

My impression of what little Heinlein I read in my youth is that he is advocating a new and fresh view of sex and sexuality. Sex between people of vastly different ages (in "The Cat Who Walked Through Walls" it's a dirty old woman, if memory serves) and the parent-child sex is an exploration of how far people will go with their perceptions of sexuality. It turns out that as long as the fiction is good (and it's very good, imo), they would go pretty far.

As for there being more dirty old men later in his career - well, one can only write about what one knows. And when you're a dirty (at least by society's narrow standards) old man, you'd do better not to try and animate a horde of virile young warriors. It makes for silly heroes.

From what little I have read of his work, and furthermore the reason I have only read a little of his work -- the dialog. Besides all the abilities mentioned above, it appears that his superhuman protagonists as well as their supporting friends can carry on a flawless conversation for a chapter or two, without a single grunt, "uh", or missed beat. True, words on paper do sound much more elegant and prosy than they ever do in reality, but it comes to a boring point when the characters are never at a loss for something brilliant or brilliantly funny to say. I am by no means saying that we should be subjected to onomatopoeic mutterings in the middle of a scene or forced to slog through an extremely described accent (british, southern, northern, irish, they all look terrible on a page), but, come on, the characters are conversationally invincible. At least show some sign of vulnerability or misunderstanding, because otherwise they're not real. Science fiction may be about ideas and not character emotions, but quantum bi-dimensional teletransportation can more of a drag than Anne of Green Gables if it is surrounded in a disgusting muck of poorly written dialog.

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