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Old 07-06-2008, 12:28 PM   #16
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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.

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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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.


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.


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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Yeah, I don't think I phrased that very well. What I meant to say was that I hate to see a great author turn out dreck because he's not doing very well physically/mentally and the editors/publishers just want to make money off the dreck, so they go ahead and publish it. Not a comment on why RAH wrote it as much as a comment on why it was published as it was.

Nekokami mentioned the two books with which I was probably the most disappointed: The Cat Who Walked Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. It got to the point where everytime those oversexed twins showed up ... I just started skipping pages.

I guess those are the equivalent for me of the Pope telling Michaelangelo "Just hurry up and finish the damn ceiling. I don't care what it looks like! We've got a line of tourists out here who are willing to pay good money to see it." I'll admit, I'm scrambling cultural references and timelines to make a point.

Yeah, I like this forum too. If only because much of the time I run across people whose perspective is very narrow. They can't think outside the box, and frankly don't ever want to. Some of them are very nice people, but they are not people who are going to give you a lively debate ... about anything. And, they have no clue when I say the best thing about a good argument is that it makes you think about your own position ... you have to if you are going to defend it. Sadly, all to often these are prople that consider "thinking" to be blasphemy of the highest order.
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Old 07-06-2008, 01:44 PM   #17
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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.
I have mixed emotions about _The Number of the Beast_, and concur entirely on _Farnham's Freehold_.

If there is an overall weakness in Heinlein, it's plotting. Or rather, finding the appropriate narrative framework for the story he wanted to tell. _Stranger_ was years in the making as RAH searched for the way to tell the story. _Farnham's Freehold_ fails for me precisely because of narrative framework. He wants to make points about power and race relations, so he has his protagonists catapulted into a black ruled far future, courtesy of a direct hit by a nuclear weapon in the opening stages of WWIII. He deposits them in the present by the end of the book, and we see Farnham and his ladty ensconced in a house at the top of a hill, surrounded by barbed wire, trading for books and looking for bridge partners. They are doing about as well as can be under the circumstances, but we never see how they managed it. It's just presented as a given. I wish RAH had chosen to tell the story of people surviving and rebuilding after a nuclear dust up, without the side trip to the future. If he wanted to present a black ruled future as a consequence of current policies, there were better ways to do it. The framing device simply didn't work for me, and in fact damaged my enjoyment of the story.

_Number_ had its moments. I was delighted at the ending taking place at an SF convention. And I nearly fell off my chair laughing when I realized what he had done. The fashion back then was to try to tie things together in a series, retro-fitting in some cases, like Michael Moorcock's efforts to put all of his works under the Eternal Champion umbrella. Heinlein managed to tie together not only all of his own books, but every book anybody else had ever written, as well.

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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.
I concur. But I think they suffer from "Master's syndrome", Because it was RAH that wrote them, higher expectations got placed on them.

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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.
I'll have to look for that. (I have an HC library edition of the original Scribner's release.) I suspect the cuts were length related. I see _Red Planet_ as taking place in the same universe as _Stranger In A Strange Land_, and consider Willis to be a Martian nymph.
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Old 07-06-2008, 02:20 PM   #18
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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.
The TIA that signalled the need for the operation came ans he an his wife were travelling to celbrate the publishing of Number of the Beast. He later said that he re-read Number and was appalled by it. Everything after that is post operation.
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Old 07-06-2008, 03:02 PM   #19
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With MS. Ricky's permission, I would like to weigh in on the thread.

To get a good view of RAH as a writer, I highly recommend reading his posthumus book of letters. They tell more about the business of writing than anything else I've read. In addition, several of the letters are just gems, by anybody's standard. (The letter about his retiring in 1940, and the letter about the two wheelbarrows are great reading. I and my brother quote them to each other all the time.) They also describe the headaches (from a writer's perspective) of the writer/editor interactions. It's P-book only, unfortunately. It ends in 1969, when he retired from answering all correspondence, even to his agent. (Ginny took over.)

The timing and details about his carotid bypass (1978) are in the article he wrote concerning NASA spinoffs, based on his Congressional testimony in July 1979. The article is in his book Expanded Universe, available as an e-book at Baen, for 6 dollars.

The TIA was a separate issue in 1980.

Preferences - I, too, found the later works (post surgery) unappealing. The prose was there, but the story was not. (Number Of The Beast - was a transition book. I suspect that it was plotted (as a story) before the surgery, and the writing after.) To Sail The Sunset was the closest to a coherent story, and it was the last. Perhaps the highest level mentation was slowly healing. Or maybe he was trying to stuff too many ideas into one place, figuring he might not get another opportunity again...

When you read his letters, you find out the he wanted to write bleak books, but the marketplace required happy books. And he was always concerned about the business of writing. And the late books sold so...
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Old 07-06-2008, 03:12 PM   #20
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To get a good view of RAH as a writer, I highly recommend reading his posthumus book of letters. They tell more about the business of writing than anything else I've read. In addition, several of the letters are just gems, by anybody's standard. (The letter about his retiring in 1940, and the letter about the two wheelbarrows are great reading. I and my brother quote them to each other all the time.) They also describe the headaches (from a writer's perspective) of the writer/editor interactions. It's P-book only, unfortunately. It ends in 1969, when he retired from answering all correspondence, even to his agent. (Ginny took over.)
I did read it, and found it aggravating. Not the letters, per se, which could be wonderful, but the organization.

Ginny seemed determined to enshrine Bob as a plaster saint (which I think he'd be the first to protest he wasn't), so they were edited and excerpted to omit things that might have reflected unfavorably on him.

They were also arranged by general topic, with no regard to chronological order or thread of conversation. I wanted to get two copies, and cut and paste them into a different order.

I'd love to see a real collection of his correspondence, but doubt I ever will.
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Old 07-06-2008, 03:28 PM   #21
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I did read it, and found it aggravating. Not the letters, per se, which cound be wonderful, but the organization.

Ginny seemed determined to enshrine Bob as a plaster saint (which I think he'd be the first to protest he wasn't), so they were edited and excerpted to omit things that might have reflected unfavorably on him.

They were also arranged by general topic, with nio regard to chronological order or thread of conversation. I wanted to get two copies, and cut and paste them into a different order.

I'd love to see a real collection of his correspondence, but doubt I ever will.
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Organization is always a big headache for printing letters. There is no perfect answer. James Branch Cabell's are organized by correspondent, then by time. Tolkien's were purely chronologically. Heinlein's were by topic, then time. Each way has strengths and weaknesses. Truthfully, letters would be best served by a e-book, with various ways of accessing the letters done with multiple TOC's and links. That way you could read on subject, or by correspondent, or by straight chronological flow. Your choice...(Might be a good way to set up large poetry collections, which have similar issues. Hmmm...)

As for editing. <Shrug.> I can't say what would be gained or lost by the complete letters. My opinion is that nothing was gained by the uncut versions of his books. As far as Heinlein being set up as a plaster saint, I smile and re-read Cabell's The Silver Stallion.
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Old 07-06-2008, 03:29 PM   #22
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With MS. Ricky's permission, I would like to weigh in on the thread.
Oh sure .... like you need it.
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Old 07-06-2008, 03:31 PM   #23
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Oh sure .... like you need it.
My label does read gentleman....(and cynic)
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Old 07-06-2008, 03:53 PM   #24
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Yeah, I don't think I phrased that very well. What I meant to say was that I hate to see a great author turn out dreck because he's not doing very well physically/mentally and the editors/publishers just want to make money off the dreck, so they go ahead and publish it. Not a comment on why RAH wrote it as much as a comment on why it was published as it was.
Publishers are in business to make money. They make money by selling books. The stuff that sells is often not what they might want to publish.

Master chef Anthony Bourdain commented recently that he'd love to have a small restaurant, where there would be perhaps 60 patrons for dinner, and he could lavish attention and craftsmanship on each dish. But he can't, because he'd be out of business in a heartbeat. He needs to serve a lot more than 60 patrons a night for dinner to make enough to even cover his costs, and his challenge is maintaining the quality of the food when he is serving hundreds a night instead of tens.

So it is with publishing. At one point a while back, SF editors might find themselves in the position of finding the least bad manuscript in the slush pile, because they had four slots to fill that month, and only had enough quality manuscripts on hand for three. Publishing only three books instead of four was not an option: they were afraid that if they only published three, they'd lose the shelf space normally allotted to the fourth, and not get it back.

More recently, the well respected head of Little, Brown was fired. She'd been under pressure from the group executive she reported to at the conglomerate which owned her imprint to publish more bestsellers. She resisted, because Little, Brown was perceived as a "quality" imprint publishing work of literary value, and she felt she was being asked to cheapen the line. My suspicion was that her boss didn't want to fire her, but he was under pressure from his superiors, who wanted better numbers from the division.

The editor might wish for better work, especially from someone like Heinlein, but they have to buy salable material.

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Nekokami mentioned the two books with which I was probably the most disappointed: The Cat Who Walked Through Walls and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. It got to the point where everytime those oversexed twins showed up ... I just started skipping pages.
_Cat_ felt like marking time to me. _Sail_ I found a bit better.

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I guess those are the equivalent for me of the Pope telling Michaelangelo "Just hurry up and finish the damn ceiling. I don't care what it looks like! We've got a line of tourists out here who are willing to pay good money to see it." I'll admit, I'm scrambling cultural references and timelines to make a point.
That's OK, and you're right. But I suspect Michaelangelo did get the equivalent of that. We think of him as one of the great artists of all time. Back then, he was a painter, living on commissions from church officials, and required to do what the patrons wanted within a specified time frame. If he couldn't or wouldn't, there were plenty of other aspiring artists happy to move in.

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Yeah, I like this forum too. If only because much of the time I run across people whose perspective is very narrow. They can't think outside the box, and frankly don't ever want to. Some of them are very nice people, but they are not people who are going to give you a lively debate ... about anything. And, they have no clue when I say the best thing about a good argument is that it makes you think about your own position ... you have to if you are going to defend it. Sadly, all to often these are prople that consider "thinking" to be blasphemy of the highest order.
Most folks prefer not to think. Easier, all told, to go on automatic and handle as much as possible by reflex. Having one's worldview and perceptions challenged can be an uncomfortable and frightening thing.

I corresponded years back with a woman on an SF forum who was a fundamentalist who didn't believe in evolution. I wasn't quite sure how she came to read SF and participate in the forum with that worldview, but there she was. She had never read Darwin because her parents thought it shouldn't be read. All I could say was "Your parents did you a disservice. You should read Darwin. You may not agree with him, but you can't meaningfully argue against someone when you don't know what they actually said!"
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Old 07-06-2008, 04:33 PM   #25
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I corresponded years back with a woman on an SF forum who was a fundamentalist who didn't believe in evolution. I wasn't quite sure how she came to read SF and participate in the forum with that worldview, but there she was. She had never read Darwin because her parents thought it shouldn't be read. All I could say was "Your parents did you a disservice. You should read Darwin. You may not agree with him, but you can't meaningfully argue against someone when you don't know what they actually said!"
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Ha! Yes ... exactly that. It bothers me that they will question my beliefs, but they have never read any of the materials that comprise the basis for my beliefs.

I, on the other hand, have read their Bible, as well as the Book of Mormon, the Koran (or Quran ... however they are spelling it these days), and several other religious texts. Read them ... studied them ... and THEN decided to reject them.

It drives some of the people here positively nuts that I know Biblical text as well as or better than they do.

And ... as to the real topic at hand, I realize that the patronage system did tend to co-opt artistic integrity, and everyone's greed for the almighty dollor (or Euro ... or name your poison) does much the same thing today. But ... hell, it's just not supposed to happen to the authors that I want to believe are gods among men.

On a side note ... as I was purchasing 35 books from Amazon today ... all by Terry Pratchett (and the bank had a cow ... they thought my card had been stolen .... I mean who buys everything an author wrote all in the space of fifteen minutes???), I read something about him being diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers.

See ... now in my private universe, he gets to live forever and have perfect mental acuity for at least that long.
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Old 07-06-2008, 04:34 PM   #26
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...

For example, there are other reasons besides recessives and genetic defects for incest taboos.

...[/b]
I'm curious as to the other reasons. I know that most religions teach it is wrong and even non religious moralists believe it but other than someone in authority saying it is wrong (which was most probably based on the afore mentioned genetic defects) I am not aware of any "other reasons" for incest taboos. There have been some cultures in which it has not only not been taboo but was expected. E.g. some of the south seas islanders, the Egyptian Pharaohs, European nobility.
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Old 07-06-2008, 04:49 PM   #27
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I have mixed emotions about _The Number of the Beast_, and concur entirely on _Farnham's Freehold_.

...
Actually, even though Heinlein is a favorite writer, "The Number of the Beast" is, for me, not re-readable, and in fact, I would not even call it readable. I enjoyed "Farnham's Freehold", perhaps due to the time and place where I grew up and the time I first read it. This is, to my knowledge, the only Heinlein book where black/white race was an issue. Mostly he picked fictitious distinctions to illustrate the bad points of racial prejudices, thus avoiding any preconceived notions regardless of the readers race. This was one of the things I liked about his writings. The main other thing is he made me think in ways that I wasn't used to. And I admit he did write from a male perspective.

Also I do believe "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is his best. I found his idea of a "line marriage" quite interesting, although probably as impractical as any other multiple marriage in a society of at least nominal equality between the sexes. (Not trying to start a discussion on equality or the lack thereof!)

My second most favorite is "Starman Jones", a juvenile fiction that is scientifically very dated but I still enjoy it. I imagine that young people today would just totally not understand all the analog computers and log tables.
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Old 07-06-2008, 04:49 PM   #28
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I'm curious as to the other reasons. I know that most religions teach it is wrong and even non religious moralists believe it but other than someone in authority saying it is wrong (which was most probably based on the afore mentioned genetic defects) I am not aware of any "other reasons" for incest taboos. There have been some cultures in which it has not only not been taboo but was expected. E.g. some of the south seas islanders, the Egyptian Pharaohs, European nobility.
I know that European nobility had a number of first cousin marriages ... but incest?? Who?? When?? This sounds like it could get salacious!!
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Old 07-06-2008, 05:06 PM   #29
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I'm curious as to the other reasons. I know that most religions teach it is wrong and even non religious moralists believe it but other than someone in authority saying it is wrong (which was most probably based on the afore mentioned genetic defects) I am not aware of any "other reasons" for incest taboos. There have been some cultures in which it has not only not been taboo but was expected. E.g. some of the south seas islanders, the Egyptian Pharaohs, European nobility.
Cultural rigidity. With no source of outside ideas, (and new people bring new ideas) ideas, methodologies, and concepts tend to become limited and unchanging. When the environment changes, for whatever reason, the incestual group will be at a disadvantage.
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Old 07-06-2008, 05:32 PM   #30
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In my humble opinion, Heinlein's last writings were exploring mortality. Here's the list of those "last writings" I consider variations on this theme:
  • 1966, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
  • 1970, I Will Fear No Evil
  • 1973, Time Enough for Love
  • 1980, The Number of the Beast
  • 1982, Friday
  • 1984, Job: A Comedy of Justice
  • 1985, The Cat Who Walks Through Walls
  • 1987, To Sail Beyond the Sunset
Look at the various ways in which he explored the possibility of immortality: a sentient computer, brain transplant into a new body, longevity genes and treatments (Lazarus Long), cloning/engineered genetics.

I have read everything he wrote. Having just finished a re-read of Stranger in a Strange land, I'm chomping at the bit to go back and re-read all of his books. (Problem is that there are so many books I haven't read even once!) One of my very favorites is The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and I'm going to definitely put this one at the top of my list.
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