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Robert Anson Heinlein, One Of The Most Influential Science Fiction Writers

Robert Anson Heinlein has been one of the most influential science fiction writers throughout history. Throughout his glorious career, Robert Heinlein has been an influential source of inspiration, and has shown the world his views on many important areas. His ideological presumptions have been a constant source of debate and controversy. This one man has changed the course of history through his writings repeatedly. Robert Heinlein was born in Butler, Missouri on July 7, 1907 (Shulman; Nicholls 277; Banks 105).

He was born into a large family, which had traced its roots back to a Bavarian-German ancestor who had immigrated to America in 1756 (Shulman 277). He was educated at the University of Missouri, then transferred to UCLA to study physics. Later he went to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis (Nicholls 277). His naval career was cut short, however, due to a case of tuberculosis (Banks 105). It was at this time that he began to write. His first market was pulp magazines, which constrained him to short stories and novella-length serials (Slusser 4).

Robert Heinlein’s early stories placed current science technologies in future settings, creating a realistic view of the future (Banks 105). His first story, “Lifeline” (1939), appeared in Astounding Science Fiction, a magazine with which he was closely associated (Nicholls 278). He rapidly gained fame and un-precedented influence in the science fiction field with the strength of such stories as “Requiem” (1940), “The Roads Must Fall” (1940), “Blowups Happen” (1940), and the short novel “If this goes on… ” (1940, rev. 1953) (Nicholls 278).

Robert Heinlein gained his initial success because he wrote in a style which blended slang, folk aphorism, and technical jargon in a convincing way. Above all, Robert Heinlein gave the appearance of taking the future for granted; he avoided long descriptive passages and explanations, and insinuated information through dialogue and the depiction of action. His clever understatement, apparent casualness,! and a concentration on people rather than gadgets made his stories more realistic than those of any other science fiction writer (Nicholls 278).

The switch to novels during the war, due to financial motives, demanded that he adopt the street formulas and conventions imposed by his market- in this case, juvenile adventure (Slusser 4). This period begins with his first full-length novel, the space epic Rocketship Galileo (1947), and continues through Starship Troopers (1959). The juvenile adventure novels mostly consist of initiation to manhood, in which a boy comes of age in outer space (Slusser 4). Robert Heinlein moved away from writing young adult novels in the early 1960’s, and wrote several controversial books.

His focus shifted from science and technology to social changes (Banks 105). In contrast to the juvenile novels, few of his early narrations have a tight construction, or even contain a “plot” at all (Slusser 4). These adult novels are novels of political intrigue, but they are also, in a sense, stories of initiation (Slusser 4). A fascination with politics and intrigue is constant throughout Robert Heinlein’s career, but the most interesting and dynamic works are the curious adventure novels written during the middle period of his writing.

During his career, Robert Heinlein has won various awards. He is the only man to have won over four Hugo awards for best science fiction novel of the year. These were won for Double Star, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and for The moon is a Harsh Mistress (Slusser 6). He has repeatedly been voted “best all-time author” in readers’ polls such as those taken by Lotus magazine in 1973 and in 1977. In 1975 he was recipient of the First Grand Master Nebula award, which is presented only to those who have dedicated their lives to science fiction (Nicholls 279).

Robert Heinlein was also the guest of honor at the world science fiction conventions three times, in 1941, 1961, and in 1976, a feat which no other science fiction author has yet accomplished (Nicholls 279). In addition to winning these prestigious awards, Robert Heinlein was an influential force in shaping the science fiction genre, as well as bringing it to a larger readership (Banks 107) According to the critics, his “science, mystery, and strong ethical concepts (in Citizen of the Galaxy) give the book sure appeal to devotees of science fiction”(qtd. n Citizen … .

Time for the Stars was reported as “one of those superb Robert Heinlein stories which have excitement, urbanity, humanity, rationality, pace, understanding, and which are a joy to read” (qtd. in Time… ). Starman Jones was seen as “… superior science fiction”(Starman… ). It is reviews such as these that continue to compel readers toward Robert Heinlein stories, and once a person has read one Robert Heinlein book, it is near impossible to get by without reading another (Brewer; Hoffa).

J. Neil Schulman has even said, “I don’t think its an overstatement o say there’s a good chance that if he hadn’t lived, I would’ve never made it to age twenty. ” It is this personal interest that a good many people have taken in the life of Mr. Robert Heinlein that has been a major contributor to the success of his writing career. Robert Heinlein’s books have sold over forty million copies, and have been translated into twenty-nine languages. Almost all of them are still in print today (Banks 106).

It is here that Robert Heinlein’s philosophical ideas come into play, for without them, his readers would never experience the thrill which results from reading one of his books. If you’ve read Stranger in a Strange Land, then you’ve gathered what I think of faith . I do not regard faith as a basis to believe or disbelieve anything (Schulman). ” Robert Heinlein goes on to explain that faith alone is not enough, and that rational thought must have some weight or mankind would still be living in the Middle Ages.

As for his notions of time and the universe, according to Mr. Robert Heinlein, “There is at present no satisfactory notion of time. … that you cannot get final answers about the universe from inside (qtd. in Schulman). It is these beliefs that allowed Robert Heinlein to work through books that defy the common assumptions of time and the order of the universe without sounding like a blithering dolt. His speculations and ideas were so advanced that the stories almost predicted what actually came to be.

For instance Robert Heinlein wrote a story about nuclear fission while the Manhattan Project was still a secret, and it could not be published until after the war (Banks 105). Another interesting thing about his work is that, according to Robert Heinlein, “I have never plotted any story I have ever written. He continues that “plot” is something English teachers talk about because they can’t explain what it is writers really do (qtd. in Schulman). Robert Heinlein calls himself an individualist and once remarked, “Ayn Rand is a bloody socialist compared to me (qtd. n Schulman). ”

To fully understand the complexity of Robert Heinlein’s work, and the ideology behind it, one must delve into a book, and analyze its contents. One of Robert Heinlein’s best books, Stranger in a Strange Land, has been a source of controversy for many years. In the context of 1960, Stranger in a Strange Land was a book that the publishers found “too far off the beaten path”(qtd. in Heinlein 2). Mr. Robert Heinlein was asked to cut the book down from about 220,000 words to 150,000 words, a loss of about 70,000 words.

This was desired in order to minimize losses. The final word count came to 160,087 words. In 1976 Congress passed a new Copyright law, which stated , in part, that in the event an author died, and the widow or widower renewed the copyright, all old contracts were canceled. When the copyright laws came up for renewal on Stranger in a Strange Land, Mrs. Robert Heinlein started looking for the old manuscript of the un-cut version. She read it and came to the conclusion that it was a mistake to cut the book, and the publishers agreed.

Thus, the editor’s edition of Stranger in a Strange Land became available to the public. The last few lines in Mrs. Robert Heinlein’s note to the reader were that each name in the book had a meaning. She explained that “Jubal” means father of all, but would not elaborate on any other names. It is this distinct display of intellectual ability which has drawn many readers to Robert Heinlein’s works. The book itself explains many of his notions on faith and time. His definition of faith can be taken from Stranger in a Strange Land alone (Schulman).

And his views on time are a main point in the book, when the main character slows his subjective time to the point where a minute seems like many hours. Through this work, many have gathered other points of his philosophy, such as his belief that imprisonment is a dishonor, and should come as a worse punishment than death. He also believes that the only way to go to heaven is to work towards it, not just believe (Brewer). Stranger in a Strange Land was one of the first political books he wrote that was a leading controversial igurehead (Banks 106).

It has gained fame befitting the greatest science fiction author of all time. It was this influential science fiction author who made headway through a world far too slow for him. His ideas were considered fiction, even though quite a few of them came true. He has won four Hugo awards, as well as the first Grand Master Nebula award. His influence has guided many people out of ruin, and continues to do so. His books have been both criticized and commended. It is this lifelong devotion to his career that has made him a truly distinguished author.

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