The evolving perspective of Robert Heinlein

November 27, 2012 ivisbodavis Books

By author Ivis Bo Davis – One of Heinlein’s more dedicated fans.

In response to Gary Westfahl’s thoughtful treatise – The Joke Is on Us: The Two Careers of Robert A. Heinlein – while it’s impossible to really know the thoughts and motivations of an author, such speculations are curiously thought provoking. I would like to offer Gary friendly thanks for his insight and offer a simpler explanation of Heinlein’s work.

Robert was a scientific and mathematical genius. In terms of technology, he invented quite a number of things that have since come into production, including the water bed and cell phones, and foresaw and successfully depicted a lot of space-related devices and applications.  Such technology was the basis for the science in his science fiction, and I applaud his visionary foresight. Heinlein placed these innovations in delightful and exceptionally well-written stories.

However, there was a deeper and somewhat darker side of Mr. Heinlein that might best be characterized as socially prophetic.  He was a dedicated student of human nature and social evolution, which expanded to the point he needed novel length space to describe it.  He imagined in the fifties the social chaos he described as ‘The Crazy Years’, which began in the 1960s and continues to this day.  He watched the moral, ethical, religious and governmental decline of the world, declaring that the U.S. would fall as a nation… with tragic results.  That prophecy – for lack of a better term – is, in fact, upon us.

Although I love his writing, some might declare him a sexual deviant, and I’m not comfortable with his depiction of incest as a socially acceptable behavior. But that, too, has come to pass, as Japanese ‘cable entertainment’ has game shows where contestants claiming to be actual families publicly engage in sexual intercourse between family members to win prizes.

No, I think Robert’s keen view of mankind saw things he didn’t like of the broken human nature, and within the confines of his genre, he rather gently waved the red flag of warning while there was still blood in his veins and ink in his pen. As difficult as it is to be so openly aware of the danger of changing social values, perhaps we should all be so far-sighted and bold.


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