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Old 07-05-2008, 02:30 PM   #1
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OMG .... I was right!!!

I was (am) a longtime Heinlein fan. But, I noticed that his later works just got ... we'll over sexed would be the best way I could phrase it.

However, I just put this down to my personal taste, and never said or thought much about it ... until lately when I posted something about what I saw as his decline. I think it might have been on this forum.

In any event, I was reading Boingboing today, when I came across this posting by Cory Doctorow.

"Charlie Stross's new novel, Saturn's Children, is out -- this is Charlie's Heinlein tribute, and unlike everyone else who does classic, adventure -story Heinlein tributes, Charlie's written a novel in the style of the late, indulgent, sex-saturated Heinlein, from the period before a cutting-edge surgery fixed a problem with the blood-supply to his brain (seriously)."

Holy MOLY!! So there really was an honest to goodness physical reason for what I noticed in his later books. I wish someone had spotted it sooner ... I mean, if I could see it just by reading those books, you would think someone would have seen it in his daily activity and dragged him to a doctor.

Ah well .... at least I'll know to avoid Mr. Stross' new novel, because I really didn't care for the "late, indulgent, sex-saturated Heinlein."
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Old 07-05-2008, 04:34 PM   #2
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I agree. His later work just became bad and in desperate need of an editor. The later novels still had some great ideas, but they were gunked up with long rambling dialog about government, religion, free love and taboos. When I go back to his later novels I find that you can just read the first few chapters to get the big idea and then skim through the rest of the book to get the gist.

This doesn't make me want to pick up Stross' book...
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Old 07-05-2008, 05:15 PM   #3
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I believe this operation occurred during the writing of "The Number of the Beast" - copyright 1980. You can see the story line deteriorate and then suddenly pick back up.
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Old 07-05-2008, 07:35 PM   #4
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I believe this operation occurred during the writing of "The Number of the Beast" - copyright 1980. You can see the story line deteriorate and then suddenly pick back up.
Amazing .... and I just left off reading Heinlein after what I considered to be his late "disappointments."

Honestly .... for a long while I thought it was just "me." That, somehow I'd lost my taste for Heinlein. Then, I just chalked it up to senility ... but that made me pissed off at whoever was publishing what read like trash (compared to the real Heinlein that I was used to).

I'm just somehow relieved to know that it really was something physical that could be treated. Now, I just wished he'd lived long enough to rework the few books that suffered.
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Old 07-05-2008, 07:39 PM   #5
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One of Heinlein's trademarks was that he never reworked books.
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Old 07-05-2008, 07:54 PM   #6
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My memory of the chronology of Heinlein and his medical problems goes about like this:

He was doing fine up until he was part way through writing I Will Fear No Evil. Part way through work on that book he began having medical problems -- the aforementioned restriction of blood to his brain. He managed to finish the first draft and some polishing, but eventually Ginny Heinlein had to send the manuscript off to the publisher in its not-quite-finished state.

Heinlein then didn't write anything for a number of years. Corrective surgery improved his health (eventually). Time Enough for Love was his first book post-surgery.

Someone with more fannish knowledge will surely correct me if I'm wrong.

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Old 07-05-2008, 08:04 PM   #7
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One of Heinlein's trademarks was that he never reworked books.
Well, that's just a crying shame. Oh well ...
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Old 07-05-2008, 08:21 PM   #8
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One of Heinlein's trademarks was that he never reworked books.
Untrue. _Stranger In a Strange Land_, for instance, was a long time in brewing, as he struggled to find the right form for the story he wanted to tell, and was written in at least three distinct stages.

_Podkayne of Mars_ was altered on editorial request, because the original manuscript had Poddy dying at the end. The book was written for Scribner's YA line, and the editor at Scribners thought Poddy dying was too dark for the intended audience. Heinlein grumbled, because he thought having Poddy live undercut the point he was trying to make, but he complied.

Heinlein did eventually refuse to rework submissions in some cases. He had been a frequent contributor to Astounding/Analog when the late John W. Campbell was the editor, but later grew disenchanted with Campbell's editing, and essentially said "I'll make a deal. I'll send you stories, and you publish them. The first one you bounce is the last one I'll submit." The breaking point came with _I Will Fear No Evil_, which wound up being serialized in Galaxy instead of being published in Analog.

(I had a conversation with Robert Silverberg at a con back then, where I expressed confusion. Silverberg had a novel serialized in Galaxy, and at the same time, a series of novelettes appeared in Galaxy that got collected into another book. Bob explained that then-editor at Galaxy Eljer Jacobsenn was supposed to buy another novel to run between, so the issues wouldn't appear to be "All Silverberg, all the time", but _I Will Fear No Evil_ became available, and had to be bought and run in the magazine right away to get it finished before the impending Putnam hardcover release. So issues of scheduling caused a lot of Silverberg to appear all at once in the magazine.)

Heinlein was a pro, writing for a living. He pronounced five rules for writers:

1) You must write.

2) You must finish what you write

3) Having written, you must submit to potential paying markets.

4) You must continue submitting until the piece either sells or has been bounced by every conceivable market.

5) You must not change what you have written unless an editor formally commits to buying it with those changes.

Many aspiring writer have big problems with 1 and 2.

Like any other selling pro, how gracefully RAH accepted editing varied with the editor and the stage of his career. He was more resistant to making changes after he became an established big name in SF

His wife Virgina was far more of a sticking point, insisting after his death on re-issues of his books based on the original manuscripts, before the editing that took place on the released versions. I've read a few, like the before and after versions of Stranger. The editing was of the "a word here, a phrase there" variety that any competent editor does in a line edit to tighten the prose and quicken the pace of the book. While interesting from a historical viewpoint, the unedited versions aren't dramatically different in terms of the story they tell, and simply demonstrate why even the best writers can benefit from a good editor, to make a good book even better.
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Old 07-05-2008, 08:36 PM   #9
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OK .... then I'm seriously confused as to why the crappy stuff got out there. Was no one willing to read it and gently inform the great author that he "had no clothes" so to speak??

The last book in the Lazarus Long series (as I remember it) was nothing more than teenage tits and the odd orgy. Did someone out there really think that would pass muster as quality writing??
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Old 07-05-2008, 08:36 PM   #10
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Actually the extreme popularity, in certain circles, of "Stranger in a Strange Land" caused me to not reread it for many years. That particularly popularity nearly ruined the book for me.
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Old 07-05-2008, 08:49 PM   #11
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OK .... then I'm seriously confused as to why the crappy stuff got out there. Was no one willing to read it and gently inform the great author that he "had no clothes" so to speak??
You're an editor. You get a manuscript submitted by a Big Name author. You want to buy it, because you know it will sell. If you don't buy it, the author can sell it elsewhere in a heartbeat. How likely will you be to tell the author she "has no clothes on"?

The relationship between author and editor is complex. No authors I can think of like editors mucking in their prose, but the smart ones recognize the value of it. A good editor can help make a good book a great one by helping to refine the focus and tighten the prose. How well this works depends on the author and the editor. The author must trust the editor's skill and judgment, and be willing to work with the editor.

Tom Clancy is my Horrible Example of a writer who needs a good editor, but has become popular enough to reject editing. The last Jack Ryan book had at least one sub-plot that went nowhere and could have been excised without being missed, and could have been considerably tightned in other areas as well.

Quote:
The last book in the Lazarus Long series (as I remember it) was nothing more than teenage tits and the odd orgy. Did someone out there really think that would pass muster as quality writing??
Forget "quality writing". Someone out there thought it would sell, because Heinlein wrote it. They were right.
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(Who agrees that later Heinlein isn't quite as good as early works, but doesn't see them being as bad as some folks like to claim.)
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Old 07-05-2008, 09:08 PM   #12
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My memory of the chronology of Heinlein and his medical problems goes about like this:

He was doing fine up until he was part way through writing I Will Fear No Evil. Part way through work on that book he began having medical problems -- the aforementioned restriction of blood to his brain. He managed to finish the first draft and some polishing, but eventually Ginny Heinlein had to send the manuscript off to the publisher in its not-quite-finished state.

Heinlein then didn't write anything for a number of years. Corrective surgery improved his health (eventually). Time Enough for Love was his first book post-surgery.

Someone with more fannish knowledge will surely correct me if I'm wrong.

Xenophon
Heinlein was Writer GoH at MidAmericon, the World SF Convention in Kansas City in 1976. He had had bypass surgery at that point, and told the crowd about it, saying "I feel great!" There had been a four year gap between _The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress_, appearing in 1966, and _I Will Fear No Evil_ in 1970. _Time Enough for Love_ appeared in 1973. _The Number of the Beast_ appeared in 1980.

I wouldn't attribute all of the gap to health problems. Heinlein had reached a point of financial security where he didn't necessarily have to write to keep food on the table. Just about everything he'd written was in print and generating royalties.

He could write when he felt like he had something to say.
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Old 07-06-2008, 10:48 AM   #13
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You're an editor. You get a manuscript submitted by a Big Name author. You want to buy it, because you know it will sell. If you don't buy it, the author can sell it elsewhere in a heartbeat. How likely will you be to tell the author she "has no clothes on"?

The relationship between author and editor is complex. No authors I can think of like editors mucking in their prose, but the smart ones recognize the value of it. A good editor can help make a good book a great one by helping to refine the focus and tighten the prose. How well this works depends on the author and the editor. The author must trust the editor's skill and judgment, and be willing to work with the editor.

Tom Clancy is my Horrible Example of a writer who needs a good editor, but has become popular enough to reject editing. The last Jack Ryan book had at least one sub-plot that went nowhere and could have been excised without being missed, and could have been considerably tightned in other areas as well.


Forget "quality writing". Someone out there thought it would sell, because Heinlein wrote it. They were right.
______
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(Who agrees that later Heinlein isn't quite as good as early works, but doesn't see them being as bad as some folks like to claim.)
Maybe it's a chick thing. But, I really honestly thought they were so awful, I wished I could get my money back. I felt like I had wasted the time I spent reading them ... that sort of awful.

And, I know that authors write for the money ... even the greats. But, it just bothers me to see a great author turn out dreck just because people could make money on the dreck.

However ... life being what it is .... I suppose I'll just have to get used to it and learn to shut up.
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Old 07-06-2008, 11:19 AM   #14
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Maybe it's a chick thing. But, I really honestly thought they were so awful, I wished I could get my money back. I felt like I had wasted the time I spent reading them ... that sort of awful.
A lot of this does seem to break down along gender lines.

A female writer I corresponded with on another forum once commented "Heinlein is a sexist. He thinks women are superior." I think she was right, but she was also a little unhappy with some of the reasons RAH seemed to feel women were superior.

I was less pleased with later works than earlier ones, but I saw it as part of the process. Heinlein was raised in the Bible Belt portion of the midwest, and a lot of his work can be read as him systematically examining the assumptions he was raised with, and asking "Does this make sense?" The answer was often "No", though his reactions didn't always hold up under scrutiny. For example, there are other reasons besides recessives and genetic defects for incest taboos.

I kept reading despite quibbles because Heinlein was still reaching for new things and attempting to grow as a writer, even at the end. I don't think he found what he was reaching for, but the fact that he was reaching counts for a lot. I'd rather read an interesting failure than a boring success when an author is simply turning out one more of a proven formula.

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And, I know that authors write for the money ... even the greats. But, it just bothers me to see a great author turn out dreck just because people could make money on the dreck.
I wasn't referring to why RAH wrote it: I was talking about why editors bought it.

By the time of the later books, Heinlein was financially secure. He would certainly want to make money, since he was a selling pro, but he didn't have to write to survive.

An example in a different context, take Isaac Asimov. Isaac had to write. Even when he no longer needed to sell regularly to get money, he wrote. I heard a story years back that his wife complained because he took a typewriter when they went on vacation. If he didn't write every day, he was uncomfortable and unhappy.

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However ... life being what it is .... I suppose I'll just have to get used to it and learn to shut up.
No, no. You're welcome to express the opinion, and you have valid reasons for feeling that way. This is intensely subjective. The fact that I don't necessarily agree doesn't make you wrong.

One of the reasons I like places like this is precisely the disagreements. I'm delighted when someone can express a view of a book I didn't like that gives me a different perspective, and a handle by which I can successfully grab it. "Hmmm. I didn't think of it that way. You're right!"
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Old 07-06-2008, 12:02 PM   #15
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I believe this operation occurred during the writing of "The Number of the Beast" - copyright 1980. You can see the story line deteriorate and then suddenly pick back up.
Well... it picks up and heads off in a completely different direction, I suppose.

I find Number of the Beast entertaining enough that I re-read it every 5-10 years, unlike I Will Fear No Evil or (ugh) Farnham's Freehold, which I've never re-read (and don't even own copies of). But I don't think Number hangs together very well as a story. Lots of interesting ideas, interesting characters, a great introduction to non-Heinlein fantastic fiction, but the plot just doesn't stay together well enough for me. Even if you include his later ramblings in the same vein (The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, To Sail Beyond the Sunset) I don't think he quite found the plot he was looking for. None of them stand up to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or the "juveniles," which I re-read on a regular basis, both because they are highly enjoyable and to pick up writing tips from the master.

Regarding the "uncut" versions, I would say Red Planet had some interesting bits in the re-release. The others that I read, not so much.
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