Skip to main content

View Diary: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Club: The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (part 1) (216 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Perhaps his beliefs changed over time. Possibly (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quarkstomper

    not in a simple straight line.  I agree with Tamar that whatever Heinlein's intentions, in Farnham's Freehold his underlying assumptions showed black people "naturally" producing a barbaric culture, even if they had a high level of technology.

    An early fantasy, Magic, Inc., is set in a parallel US where magic works.  MC (main character) is having problems with witchcraft (negative magic) and calls in an expert, a witch-sniffer, to help him locate the source.  The expert is well-recommended, and over the phone MC is struck by his cultured Oxford accent.  When he arrives, and MC opens the door, he sees an imposing, dark-skinned African.  He's flustered, and tries not to show it, because he hates people who make a big deal of that kind of surprise. "There's no reason he shouldn't be black.  I just wasn't expecting it."

    Later, as the witch-sniffer is working, MC feels he is seeing a glimpse of an ancient, powerful culture, different from Western culture, with an implacable standard of justice that he isn't sure he would want to face.  In this passage, Heinlein is reflecting both an anti-racist stance and a valuing of non-Western culture.

    In Double Star, the main character works to establish good relations between humans and native Martians, and remarks that humans must never repeat the terrible errors made by Europeans in dealing with other cultures on Earth.  The parallel between racism and disrespect of alien species is clear.

    In Stranger, Heinlein made a point of some of the waterbrothers being Jewish.  In Starship Trooper, as you mentioned, the main character is Juan Rico -- an unusual choice for a white writer in 1959.  Whatever was going on in Farnham's Freehold, in other books Heinlein was taking a stance for inclusion and respect.

    His later writing -- I don't know.  I admit that books like Time Enough for Love and I Will Fear No Evil have blurred badly in my mind. But I remember them as essentially portraying humanity as all white, and I remember one passage in which the MC says basically that humanity is spreading throughout our part of the galaxy, and anybody else better get out of the way, because we're the toughest ones on the block.  

    It was a wierdly strident "might makes right" kind of statement, and if felt like a direct repudiation of the elements of diversity and respect that I'd liked in his earlier books.

    As I said, my memory may be incomplete.  I'm interested in whether others had similary or different reactions to his later books.  OT in terms of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I know, but still of interest.

    •  His Beliefs Did Change (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ellid, EclecticCrafter

      Early in his career he worked for Upton Sinclair's campaign as a socialist; but over time he became more conservative in his views.  I've read the opinion that he started to skew rightward after he married his third wife, Virginia.  Personally, I suspect that what happened was as his writing made him more affluent, he began to empathize more with the concerns of affluence.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 06:18:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the background, especially re (0+ / 0-)

        Upton Sinclair's campaign.  My, my, that's a surprise.

        •  Didn't he try to hide his early political beliefs? (0+ / 0-)

          Because they sure didn't make it into his essays, or the letters that were collected in Grumbles from the Grave or John W. Campbell, Jr.'s, correspondence.

          Speaking of which...there's a letter in the Campbell correspondence where Heinlein is basically yelling at Campbell for supposedly being a bad influence on L. Ron Hubbard over WWII.  Heinlein's point was that he, as a Naval Academy graduate, knew enough about the military and about war that he was immune to whatever pacifist/isolationist beliefs Campbell had, but that Hubbard wasn't and was thus vulnerable to being demoralized and washing out of the service.  

          Of course Heinlein never actually saw combat due to being cashiered for tuberculosis, although he tried very hard to have his commission reactivated after Pearl Harbor....

          •  Not really. (0+ / 0-)

            The letters published in Grumbles were carefully selected and edited--and were a bare fraction of what was available. His earliest "essays" were speeches that he gave at early sf cons, and they are chock full of politics. Many of those have since been collected in Expanded Universe. He has, for example, a series of "world-saving" articles that he wrote just after WWII. And his "Who are the Heirs of Patrick Henry?" also generated a lot of controversy.

            Lots of politics in the early stories: "If This Goes On"; "Coventry" (about as anti-Randian as you can get); "A Bathroom of Her Own"; "Three Brave Men"; "The Long Watch": his guide to politics Take Back Your Government!" (first published 1993, but written in 1946); then novels Space Cadet, Red Planet--all written before 1950.

            Politics was always a major interest for Heinlein. He explored many different types of government in different works, but the interest in politics was always there.

            "Shared pain is pain lessened; shared joy is joy increased."--Spider Robinson

            by Maggie Pax on Tue Aug 02, 2011 at 09:24:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The Only Game (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Fiona West, Maggie Pax

              Mannie, in Mistress, has a dim view of politics, viewing it as the provinence of yammerheads; but Wyoh sees it as a challenge and Prof openly enjoys it.

              In Double Star, which is almost entirely about Politics in Space, the hero, repulsed by the dirty tricks of their opponents, complains that "Politics is a dirty game."  Another character corrects him; (quoting from memory here): "Politics is the only game for grown-ups.  All the rest are kid stuff."

              Which links back to the underlying theme I find in a lot of Heinlein's work; that the Individual, no matter how ruggedly independent he may be, also has a Responsibility to the Community he lives in.

              "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

              by quarkstomper on Tue Aug 02, 2011 at 12:24:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I meant his early interest in liberalism (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              quarkstomper

              I knew about the above...and the Patrick Henry Brigade sounded a lot like some of the current tea party hysteria, I'm afraid.

              I also don't recall much political content in Space Cadet. There was a culture clash between Matt and his family once he came back from basic training, but politics?  

      •  Parties and politics changed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quarkstomper

        Just think about how our own sense of what it means to be a democrat has changed in the last week. Or what it means to be a Republican. Eisenhower was a pretty good guy, at least in retrospect.

        The main factor in his "change" was the atomic bomb. The thought of global thermonuclear war scared him. So he worked on gold for Goldwater. He also supported SDI for the same reason. He was very anti-communist. He also continually stressed the need for us to develop self-sustaining colonies off-planet.

        But throughout his career, he wrote on the same themes: duty, honor, courage, politics, sex, religion, sex, family, and sex. Even his earliest short stories ("Let there Be Light") feature a scientist who is smart, sexy, and female. Certainly societal mores changed so that he could be more explicit, but the fundamental themes of his work remain the same.

        He grew up very poor. He never forgot the value of hard work. Again, I urge people to read Patterson's exhaustive biography, now available in paperback.

        Heinlein was born July 7, 1907. He died in 1988. Think about how much the world changed in those 80 years. He was on the cutting edge most of that time. If he seems flawed in our eyes, we have to remember that he helped give us many of the progressive ideas that we take for granted.

        I think the fact that he still pisses people off after all this time means that his writing touches something deep in the human psyche. No writer can hope to do more.

        "Shared pain is pain lessened; shared joy is joy increased."--Spider Robinson

        by Maggie Pax on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 07:02:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting. A different class of writer, but the (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Maggie Pax, quarkstomper

        same trajectory -- John Steinbeck.  His Grapes of Wrath is a big contrast to his work in later years.

        If, in our efforts to win, we become as dishonest as our opponents on the right, we don't deserve to triumph.

        by Tamar on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 08:07:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I didn't read Starship Trooper, but saw the (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      quarkstomper

      movie and it was so openly fascistic that at first I thought it was a satire (and it was pretty funny until I realized it wasn't meant to be).
      Was the book like that also?

      If, in our efforts to win, we become as dishonest as our opponents on the right, we don't deserve to triumph.

      by Tamar on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 08:02:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        quarkstomper

        The movie bore no relationship to the book. The movie was one of the suckiest adaptations I have ever been horrified to experience. The only good thing about the movie is that books sales went up.

        The book is a serious exploration of why we need a military. That is itself a radical notion these days, but it is an honest exploration focusing on honor, duty, and leadership. It is idealized to a degree, in that Heinlein is describing an ideal fighting force. Remember, he had planned on spending his life career Navy, until TB got him, and he served with some outstanding officers. He firmly believed that the height of duty was to place your body between your "beloved home and the war's desolation."

        In Starship Troopers (the novel), aliens attack Earth, so this is a fight for the survival of humanity. Notable points include women serving in the space navy (as officer pilots, specifically). Several chapters are nothing but philosophical argument.

        This book is one of his most controversial, naturally. But the movie was a travesty of everything Heinlein was trying to say.

        Read the book. It may piss you off, but it will make you think.

        "Shared pain is pain lessened; shared joy is joy increased."--Spider Robinson

        by Maggie Pax on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 08:35:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  From What I Understand... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Maggie Pax

        ...The maker of the movie started off with a superficial reading of the book and the conviction that it was fascist and then proceeded to play up the fascist elements he saw in it as much as possible.  

        "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

        by quarkstomper on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 08:49:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site