Sunday, September 22, 2013

Books: Sixth Column

     I've been rereading Robert A. Heinlein's Sixth Column (written as something of a command performance for John W. Campbell).  It's as racist as ever -- whew, WW II was over even in the Pacific, but I guess not that over? -- and it's got something else going on, too: a not-very-well-buried scathing contempt for anyone using science to fake up a religion under any but the most dire of circumstances.  Gosh, I wonder what that possibly could have been about?

     Sneaky Heinlein.


greg said...

It is funny how baldly racist things were back then. Last year, I was watching some collection of 'classic Christmas Cartoons' on Netflix with my kids, and I was blown away by the horribly racist and stereotypical portrayals of the little Asian and African kids. I almost made my eyes bleed.

What's also funny about this, is Heinlein could have gone the same direction after Stranger in a Strange Land...that book hit that big with some of the more open minded in-duh-viduals. They were begging him to be their groking guru.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Read somewhere that Heinlein started his "Juveniles Series" series of Novels so as to get away from John W. Campbell's Editorial control. Bigger Paychecks also helped.

Oh, BTW, check out the Heinlein episode of "Prophets of Science Fiction." It's a Freebie on Netflix.

Drang said...

I recall reading somewhere that RAH said "I sweated bullets to minimize the racist aspects of that book." I'm pretty sure "sweated bullets" were his exact words.

Asimov said he always knew Campbell was anti-Semitic, too, but was never overtly anything but polite.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite Heinlein stories from many years ago, and it never struck me as any more racist than Indiana Jones fighting the Nazis. Incidentally, my eyes are slanted.

I watched "Blazing Saddles" recently. Mel Brooks couldn't make a movie like that these days.

As for SITSL, as much as I enjoyed the story back then, I prefer a Glock over grok these days.

Spider Elliott

Anonymous said...

It was in serial form in 1941, well before Pearl Harbor but during a period of heightened tensions in the Pacific, which probably drove the language that would be unacceptable today.

Stranger said...

Heinlein was born south of Kansas City, in what would become the home of Henry Radio. Many of his racial attitudes were typical of that time and place. But remember that time was when the Klan was the second most influential political party, behind the Republicans.

And yes, there was anti-Semitism of a sort. The Jewish merchant got a few cracks behind his back - largely because he was the towns major lender until the crops came in.

And Dianetics? My dad called it "Ohmmeter psychiatry." Which was pretty much correct.


Joseph said...

My father read the original article on Dianetics and at first thought it was a spoof similar to Asimov's thiotimoline articles.