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Robert Heinlein

By Farah Mendlesohn

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A major new critical study of the writings of a giant of the SF genre by a Hugo award-winning critic and historian.

Publication date: March 2019
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About the book

Now finance has been raised, the author’s share of subsequent proceeds will be divided between The Foundation for America’s Blood Centres http://www.americasblood.org/, and Con or Bust: http://con-or-bust.org/

 

"Mendlesohn has burrowed into Heinlein as has no other critic. This is the most insightful consideration of RAH - themes, methods, the man - ever." - Greg Benford, Nebula award-winning author of Timescape

Robert A. Heinlein began publishing in the 1940s at the dawn of the Golden Age of science fiction and carried on writing until his death in 1988. His short stories contributed immensely to the development of science fiction’s structure and rhetoric, while his novels (for both the juvenile and adult markets) demonstrated that you could write hard SF with strong political argument. His vision of the future was sometimes radical, sometimes crosswise, and towards the end in retrenchment. He continues to influence many writers whether in emulation or reaction. Recent controversies in science fiction have involved fighting over Heinlein’s reputation and arguing about what his legacy is and to whom he belongs.

I first came across Heinlein when I was twelve and was seduced by both his narrative style and his continual emphasis on competence and on critical thinking. Like many I came to doubt the answers he provided to the questions he raised, but I’ve never stopped thinking about those questions. You can see many of his lines of thought in the branches and sub-branches of genre science fiction.
The book is a close reading of Heinlein’s work, including unpublished stories, essays, and speeches. It sets out not to interpret a single book, but to think through the arguments Heinlein made over a life time about the nature of science fiction, about American politics, and about himself. Although not a biography it tries to understand Heinlein’s work both as product and insight into the man. The key thesis of the book is a challenge to the idea of Heinlein as a libertarian and resituating him as a classical Liberal in the terms he understood; a man who prized the individual highly but understood the individual as at their best when enmeshed in the complex structure of a nurturing society.
 

Follow Farah on Twitter at @effjayem

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