Somehow, a free-love, limited-government SF writer who wrote glowingly of bureaucrats, altruism, attaining social justice through the court system and championed competent women in his fiction and who has been dead for 26 years is still a bete noir for the political Left. He's not dead enough -- and probably won't be until the last copy of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress goes into the fire.
Witness New Republic's histrionically-titled review of the second volume of William H. Patterson's biography of Robert A. Heinlein: "A Famous Science Fiction Writer's Descent Into Libertarian Madness." Yes, without a huge big nanny-government (but not one run by anyone to the Right of FDR) there'd be madness! Dogs and cats living together...!
If it was a well-researched hatchet piece, it might be of interest. Sadly, it appears the writer hasn't read much (if any) of the source material; by the second paragraph, he has mischaracterized Starship Troopers as, "a gung-ho shout-out for organized belligerence as the key to human survival," and goes on to sniff at it as, "A thoroughly authoritarian book," presumably since the culture uses corporal and capital punishment and only veterans get to vote (no one actively serving gets to vote and qualifying service is not only military service -- the narrator makes it clear that in peacetime, the vast majority of such "service" is in areas of government-run exploration, research, and public works of the sort one might expect would gladden the heart of a New Republic reviewer). Things go even farther off the rails from there on, reaching a peak of political pique with "Later in life, as a libertarian, he would rail against 'loafers' and the
welfare state but in his leftist days he knew how much he depended on
the government," which misses the point: Heinlein was never himself a "loafer" and his characters are not opposed to charity, only to idlers; it is possible to be both poor and hard-working, on the dole and yet industrious, and the astute reader enounters such persons often in Heinlein -- Max Jones is a good example.
It's a review by someone who dislikes Heinlein and didn't care to plow through 643+ pages on the second half of his life (omitting bibliography) for a chance to stick pins in him, most clearly shown by this howler: "...in I Will Fear No Evil (1970) a 94-year-old billionaire first has his brain implanted in the body of a 28-year-old black woman..." Really? African-American, was she, and you're sure about that? Patterson, Vol. 2, pg. 305, in re that novel: "His female protagonist, Eunice Branca, was to be racially ambiguous, so he took clippings from two magazines -- a sunny blonde and a stunning black woman, and posted them on the ledge over his typewriter, alternating looking at them, so he wouldn't unconsciously drift into stereotyped language." It does appear there has been some unconscious drifting into stereotypes here, but it wasn't by Heinlein.
There's plenty in Heinlein to criticize, to take a second look at and there's plenty about Patterson's biography to delve into as well. But you're not going to get it from the New Republic's review; the verdict had been decided before the book ever arrived.
Footnotes, from memory:
1. The Star Beast
2. "Gulf," among others.
3. "Jerry Was A Man," for example.
4. Radio tech G. Brooks McNye in "Delilah and the Space-Rigger," engineer, politician and SF screenwriter Hazel Meade Stone in The Rolling Stones, Friday in the eponymous novel, (arguably) mathematician Libby Long, Maureen Long, et al.
5. Starman Jones
1 month ago