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Author Topic: Is Heinlein
Loki
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as wise and intelligent as I think he is? Or did he trick me?

I've only read three Heinlein books,

Starship Troopers
The Moon is A Harsh Mistress
Stranger in A Strange Land

When he speaks about certain things, it's like he copied my years of hard earned thoughts, of course he copied them 40 years ago.

I believe in a lot of what he says dealing with personal relationships, but is jealousy an inherent human trait? Or the trait of the unenlightened?

Alternatively, if people could live lives without jealousy, with 'water brother' status and trust, would they?

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sacrip2
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It seems odd to defend jealousy, but here goes.

When there are two dogs with me, and I'm petting dog A, and dog B nudges dog A out of the way for prime petting position (PPP), is that jealousy, or simply removing an obstacle to my hand? Depends how you define it, I suppose.

Jealousy is an emotion as much as anger or despair are. As such, they are not (as I feel) subject to judgement. Thus, "You have no right to be angry/jealous/sad" etc... are pretty nonsensical things to say. Emotions just ARE, and you deal with them as such, not as things that can be banished with a thought.

Yes, I suppose jealousy could be banished from the individual human psyche, along with any other selected emotion given time and proper brainwashing. But isn't jealousy a purely negative state, without redeeming qualities? No more than anger is, or lonliness, or laziness.

Human emotions can bring about change, positive and negative. Anger at injustice can turn the wheels of society for the better. Sadness and lonliness can inspire reaching out to others, or reaching within to see yourself in a new light. Jealousy and envy can motivate us to go to greater lengths to achieve the things we want, rather than simply accept we're not worthy of such things as are above us.

Jealousy is not a blight upon the human soul, but a part of the mosaic that makes up humanity. And don't you even THINK of disagreeing with me, all you smarty people with your smarty arguments and essays. I could argue in the Iraq and SSM and religious threads too, I just don't cause, um, I just don't OK? Get off my back!!! (walkls away grumbling)

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Mormegil
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Heinlein is not as wise as he thinks. The man had a tremendous ego, and he happened to have a very persuasive (or intimidating) way of writing that made you think he had to be right.

Of course, you'll realize that it's much easier to sound right when you're the only one talking. And when reading Heinlein's books, the only one talking is Heinlein. There's no opposing viewpoint, no one to step in when he pontificates and say "Hang on, there are a ton of logical flaws in that reasoning!"

Sometimes the characters will argue, but this is not a dialogue, it's Infallible Old Man lecturing Younger Protagonist. Naturally the objections will be easily knocked away; they were quintissential straw men.

Heinlein likes to take views he disagrees with and assign them to characters intentionally created as stupid or contemptible.

Now that said, I love many Heinlein books, but when I first read them, I would periodically stop and argue with him, laying out methodically just why he was wrong. Then I could continue reading.

He did have a lot to say in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress that I agreed with, vis a vis the political commentary, but I of course disagree with his views regarding sexual liberty.

His last book, To Sail Beyond the Sunset, promoted father/teenage daughter incest as acceptable.

As far as jealousy, I am all for it. I want my wife to not want to share me with other women. I know that I am finite and that I don't have an infinite supply of love, attention, and time. If I had ten wives, I could not give them the attention and devotion I can give to one. Even if they each had enough other husbands (as per Heinlein's ideas) so they weren't lonely, when I was with each one I couldn't have the same intensity of emotion as I do with my one wife.

Some people may disagree; I think they are delusional and just want to justify the fact that they get bored with just one wife and want to play around.

Although I was talking about heaven the other day, where marriage will not exist, and wondering it, free of the constraints of earthly space/time, we *would* be free to commune with multiple people and not feel jealous, because at last we would be able to give love to another without taking it from someone else.

But here on earth, I value jealousy. I don't mean crazy paranoid jealousy, but just the idea that my wife is mine and no one else's, and that I'm so great she doesn't *want* anyone else. I like it, it suits me, and it suits her as well. She likes that I think she's so great that I don't want anyone else.

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KnightEnder
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No, Heilnein was a genius, and the philosophy espoused by Lazarus Long was my idea of the perfect future.

I know a lot of people disagree with that.

Jealousy, in my dogs it's definitly jealousy. Our oldest dog gets mad if we even talk to the new dog.

KE

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Colin JM0397
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Interesting, Loki, those are the only 3 books of his I've read, also.

Heinlein was, above all else, a businessman in the business of making money with his writing. I recall some interviews and quotes of his more or less saying the artsy stuff was fine, but what he really needed was a paycheck. This might have lead him to ideas and plot lines rife with controversy and sell.

I'm sure his own views are in there, but he was also a showman out to make a buck, and what better way to do that than with controversial things?

IMO, he was a hell of a writer, too, so that just made it all the better.

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winkey151
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I just read my first Heinlein book, "Stranger in a Strange Land" a couple of months ago and I have "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" sitting here waiting for me to read. I have to finish "Stardust" by Neil Gaiman, first. ( I already read "Stardust" last weekend but I am reading it again because there were some holes left in the story, after only reading it once that I wanted to fill in. What a lovely story it is.)

Anyway... I thought that "Stranger in a Strange Land" was very good. I found it kind of hard to understand why having so many sexual partners would be a good thing and something that our maker would wish on us as some kind of ultimate gift that we could attain, but other than that I thought it was very interesting.

As for being wise or intelligent... I don't know if I would choose those words, because I didn't know Heinlein personally, but I would say that he was a talented writer who had a very good imagination.

I am looking forward to reading "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress".

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cperry
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Moon is my all-time favorite Heinlein book. And I think it was Heinlein at his most rational. Good stuff there.
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kenmeer livermaile
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I agree, cp. And Mikey was, for me, the long-awaited Return of Willis albeit in mechanical form. The Heinlein period in which Moon was written, and culminates, is also my favorite. '58 through '66.

Beginning with Have Spacesuit, perhaps the most baroquely rich of Heinlein's work (barring the senile indulgences of his post-Fridy work), skipping over Starship Troopers, which for me was a sermon, a pretty good sermon but a sermon nonetheless, and skipping Stranger in a Strange Land, which was great et yadi yada but rather too looped around itself, and then kicking into high fun gear with Podkayne of Mars and Glory Road, two tales in which Heinlein's prose and plot finally matched in fine fit (I'm especially fond of Podkayne, and Glory Road 'made a man' out of the adolescent reader, me) we run into Moon by a qwuick vault over Farnham's Freehold (a fragmented effort at best). In Moon Heinlein's prose is pruned into a utility that connotes atmosphere of itself. In effect, everything is dialogue, partly because its first person from Manny and thus him talking to us, and partly because it's written the way 'loonies talked. Rather the same way Hck Finn evokes its milieu by being written in Huck Finn's first person dialect.

It's not an easy trick. I'm writing my first sci-fi novel, tentatively titled Scrapton's Revenge (or Scrapton's Return) in first person also, althugh at this point I'm planning it to have three first person narrators. (I sometimes hear J. Pastorius' '3 Views of a Secret' in my head as I write.)

Who'da thunka flowery writer of fractally intra-looping sentences like me would revere such pithiness? Who knows what virtue lurks in the hearts, or at least rough drafts, of men?

I confess, too, to unconscious (just-now-realized) influence on Scrapton's Revenge by Podkayne of Mars.

The Amazon url also portrays my favorite book cover for the tale. I think the illustrator captures Poddy just swell, although little Clarky might be just a tad over-demonized? I simply adore Podkayne's kind of casual character depiction of that amazing stage of life -- early adolescence, in this case male:

"...but there is no present indication that Clark ever intends to join the human race. He is more likely to devise a way to blow up the universe just to hear the bang."

Long before there was Ender, there was Clarky. Clarky woulda kicked Ender's ass AND hacked the Federation (or whatever EG's hypothetical global government was called) mainframe. Somewhere along the way he would have injected Peter Wiggins with mad cow prions and developed a fatal (for him) crush on Valentine.

But he'd have left me alone, because I would be his big sis's boyfriend (Poddy yum-yum) and she'd shave his ass from the inside out if he laid a finger on me.

Behold the future of the interactive immersive reversion of the novel: YOUget the girl/guy.

cp, do you have freckles? Poddy does. Wanna comne upstairs and see my laser etchings?

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Heinlein was, above all else, a businessman in the business of making money with his writing. I recall some interviews and quotes of his more or less saying the artsy stuff was fine, but what he really needed was a paycheck."

He did pretty swell, too. Lazarus Long discuisses this in Stranger.

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cperry
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Some freckles pop up when I get some sun, but I don't get much of that these days. [Frown] or [Smile] depending on how you look at it: tan or cancer?

If I'd have gotten my master's in literature (instead of comm, which is the direction I chose), I would have done my thesis on Heinlein. I've not read much lately, but there were years when I was immersed.

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cperry
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Yes, Clark is a bit too evil-looking on that cover for my taste. Sad: I may have been too shaped by the covers of the '70s and '80s to appreciate the earlier covers as well as I should! (It took me years to realize that Sean Connery was the best Bond; I grew up with Roger Moore and thought that was normal! [Eek!] However, I must say that I found Casino Royale one of the sexiest movies of all time, and 'twern't jes' the storyline gettin' to me.)

[ March 03, 2007, 10:54 AM: Message edited by: cperry ]

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hobsen
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Heinlein expressed his ideas on art in an episode in which Lazarus Long spends some time visiting a starving artist. I forget the book, but the main points come through clearly enough:

1) Technical competence - this fellow could paint trompe l'oeil peaches that tempted you to eat them, or anatomical studies like Da Vinci, or water lilies like Monet.

2) Artistic integrity - But what he wanted to paint was - as I remember - something like 19th century landscapes, which sold for a pittance because they were out of fashion. And they took a long time to complete because he was a perfectionist. (I must remember his works wrong, as he used his wife as a nude model; but the point does not change.)

3) Appealing to some audience - People would love to have those paintings on their walls, but not enough people could distinguish between his masterpieces and mass-produced paintings cranked out by commercial artists to sell in supermarket parking lots. So they would not pay enough.

4) Not depending primarily on being shocking or unusual - Heinlein expressed contempt for artists who make a larger-than-life-size statue of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger out of dog turds, with the aim of getting a lot of publicity leading to some kind of grant or a job as an art teacher rather than pleasing people who look at the statue. I suppose a really good likeness in that medium would be acceptable, but the medium would still get in the way of a fair appraisal of the work.

So Lazarus Long arranged for some anonymous benefactor to buy up all that artist's works for good prices, saying, "Once he's dead, we can describe him as an American original and sell his paintings for a fortune."

Also Heinlein sneered at critics who denigrated successful writers just because they were successful. Stephen King, for example, likes to write horror novels; and I do not like horror novels. But he knows unusual facts, expresses original observations and ideas, and has a wonderful facility with language. So I sometimes read him even if I do not like his books, and I have no sympathy with critics who say he is a bad writer. Sure, I know better writers; but he is more than competent, and probably better than almost all those who criticize him. As for Heinlein's critics, I shall be glad to listen to them once they write something like Stranger in a Strange Land.

[ March 03, 2007, 01:39 PM: Message edited by: hobsen ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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Regarding fine art versus good enough, a paraphrase from Borges:

He succumbed to the vulgar impulse to be a genius.

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Rallan
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Personally I wouldn't call Heinlein a genius. He was a shrill preachy hack with a penchant for caricaturing everything he disagrees with and inserting shameless Mary Sues (generally a cantankerous older guy who we're supposed to admire for his worldly success and stubborn non-conformity) who'll waffle on at great length about the Truth According To Heinlein. Plus his female characters (and all the relationships people have with them) are as shallow and mysogynistic as all heck.

I mean hell, I'm an agnostic who likes the idea of a world where casual sex is just something people do when they're feeling friendly, and Job pissed me off [Smile]

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kenmeer livermaile
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I think Heinlein himself would not like the designation of genius, and would take hack as a compliment so long as 'well-paid' was attached.

But mysogynist?

Not Heinlein.

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Rallan
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oh not your traditional "me hunt, you put out" neanderthal or anything kenmeer, but there was generally a bit of an inadvertantly sleazy undertone to things, and female characters (no matter how bright and capable they are) generally seem to just be trophies for the main characters, expected to willingly dive headlong into one middle-aged libertarian author's utopian free love fantasies.
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kenmeer livermaile
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Heinlain was oriented to the masculine, alright. But mysogyny's a strong term.

Heinlein is the guy who said that the first rule of civilization was women and chiuldren first (as in saving and protecting).

Inadvertantly sleazy? I recall his women being very sexual and very self-contained, however ultimately subordinate they were to life in a male-dominated society (which Heinlein's characters were placed, for the most part).

Take Glory Road, for example: the ruler of a massive galactic federation is a woman.

She also loves her man, evenb to the point f sometimes acting inferior to him, but it's made clear that this is only an act, and one she only endures for awhile in hopes of restpring a certain romance.

In the end, it is the male who recognizes he is unfulfilled with being the 'male wife' of the most important human being in the world. The woman mourns his love but not enough to subjugate her life to his.

I'm still pondering 'sleazy'. There *were* sleazy women in Heinlein's work. There sleazy men too.

THe best example I can think of where Heinlein hewed a double standard is at the end of Podkayne of Mars, when Uncle Tom berates their mother for not staying home with the kids. She is an important engineer. The father is an archao-linguist or something.

Who, if any, should quit their job and raise the kids? There IS a bilogical aspect to this but that applies only to nursing.

Anyway, that's the only example of Heinlein seeming to place men above women. That aside, it was clear Heinlein adored women.

As for hs libertarian free love fantasies... well, they ARE fantasies and there was never a hint of rape or coercion, eh?

I've not been one to join the anti-feminism backlash movement, although I'm well aware of the excesses of the exremists Rush calls, with some poetic accuracy, feminazis.

But yur comments inspire sympathy in me for the movement. Not that you're being harsh or anything like that, but that your attitude suggests an impossible standard for men to meet regarding fair attitudes toward women.

It's almost like the reciprocal of the infamous 'pedestalization of women' from which, if they fell but once, they were horribly tainted. It's as if a fellow is similarly tainted if he slips off the gender egalitarian pedestal in the slightest, even if he was a pioneer voice for gender equality.

[ March 03, 2007, 10:08 PM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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KnightEnder
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Rallan, a 'genius' at writing, and one with some very interesting, and IMO appealing ideas about future societies.

KE

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hobsen
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In truth Heinlein excelled more in thinking up and expressing provocative ideas than in his writing, although he was more than competent in that also. He had help too, as for example the idea of a child raised in an alien society which turned into Stranger in a Strange Land was suggested by his wife in a brainstorming session while looking for story ideas. Heinlein said the idea was too complex for a story, but great for a book, and the rest is history.
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Rallan
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quote:
Originally posted by kenmeer livermaile:
[QB] Heinlain was oriented to the masculine, alright. But mysogyny's a strong term.

Could be because Heinlein's stuff was highly recommended to me by a friend who talked up how awesome his approach to things like politics and sex were. I'd just finished getting up to speed on the works of Ursula LeGuin (a sci-fi author who IMHO really is the bee's knees when it comes to politics and gender roles and that stuff), so reading Heinlein was sort of a fall from a great height, especially on the sexuality and gender side of things.

quote:
Inadvertantly sleazy? I recall his women being very sexual and very self-contained, however ultimately subordinate they were to life in a male-dominated society (which Heinlein's characters were placed, for the most part).
Very sexy, very self contained, very willing objects of desire. I mean sure, he was a product of his times and they were earlier times than ours, but it's a bit jarring when that sort of attitude is served up right alongside a healthy dollop of free love and liberation. There's no denying that he was very progressive when it came to traditional ideas about judging sexual behavior, but at the end of the day the vast majority of broads in his books came off as existing purely to give the male characters something to do.
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kenmeer livermaile
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"Very sexy, very self contained, very willing objects of desire."

Is that sleazy? I would think that is simply confidence.

"the vast majority of broads in his books came off as existing purely to give the male characters something to do"

Often by saving the dumb bastard's life. Or being the one whose hypnotically obtained memories of imprisonment by aliens revealed where they came from. (If I remember Puppet Masters accurately.)

Or Pee_wee, from Have Spacesuit. Girl kept the hero, Kip, sane. Not by sexuality (she was 10 years old) but by superior intelligence and learning and analysis and comprehension. Friday saved the world, more or less, in her eponymous story.

Again: self-confident, self-contained, very happy with their sexuality: this is sleazy? I thought that was liberated.

Also, why do we expect male authors to write with consummate gender balance? Why was Alice B. Sheldon, writing as James Tiptree, Jr., so emphaticaly asuumed to be male when the question arose?

We ARE members of our gender and DO exist within the limitations of perspective these confer. You want a novel where the women are, um, women, better read one by a woman. NOt that some artists don't seem to have accomplished cross-gender depiction of consummate depth and adequate integrity, but that should be praised as the exception nt the rule.

Honestly, despite living with adult women all my life, I have virtually no idea of what it's like to mentruate, cramp, bloat, experience hormonal cross-circuitng... I have sympathy but no empathy.

So Heinlein wrote like a guy. Well, he was.

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Greg Davidson
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Robert Heinlein was my favorite author growing up. As a teenager I bought and read all of his books (36 at the time -same as the number of Shakespeare's plays!). As a (male) feminist, I don't find him misogynistic at all. His polygamous leanings are interesting, as is his willingness to push many boundaries (even by today's standards, let alone for those of his time). When my wife and I met, I told her she reminded me of Tamara in Time Enough for Love, she got the reference and appreciated it - even if we have been monogamous ourselves for 22+ years since we were married. My favorite book of his is one that everyone else hates: I will fear no evil. I got it shortly before I got cancer as a teenager, and I really liked the perspective of a dying man who had nothing to lose who gets a brain transplant.

I would be very interested in a good biography, as he is a very interesting person.

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KnightEnder
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Ahhh Hobsen, behind every great man...

Greg, in 8th grade I was such a goodie goodie they let me pick library as an elective for two hours. I read everything he ever wrote that they had. Which was extensive. And then the rest once I grew up.

KE

[ March 05, 2007, 06:24 AM: Message edited by: KnightEnder ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Could be because Heinlein's stuff was highly recommended to me by a friend who talked up how awesome his approach to things like politics and sex were. I'd just finished getting up to speed on the works of Ursula LeGuin (a sci-fi author who IMHO really is the bee's knees when it comes to politics and gender roles and that stuff), so reading Heinlein was sort of a fall from a great height, especially on the sexuality and gender side of things. "

Aye. The Left Hand of Darkness was written half a decade or so after Stranger. Heinlein does stand lower on the totem pole in these matters, but he provided a firm platform for others to get their leg higher up.

And yeah, Virginia was a crucial part of the process.

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Chael
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*coughs* I like I Will Fear No Evil, Greg. Sure, it makes me roll my eyes a few dozen times, but it's still fun. [Smile]
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Chael
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I don't think Heinlein was any great genius, and like some of the rest of you, I suspect he would do his best to avoid the title--and that he'd much prefer being called a hack to being called an artist. [Wink] His autobiographical writing, such as it is, makes it pretty clear to me that he was in it for the money (at least at first; later he probably caught 'writer's disease').

He wrote from his mindset, not from someone else's. His female characters tend not to convince me at all, but I'm not convinced that he meant harm by his portrayals of women (who, in his work, tend to subscribe to the "convince him that he's always wanted what I want, and we'll be happy" mindset); he just wrote things as he saw them. I am also not at all convinced that he hated or feared women, just that his view of how things are and should be is very much not mine. He also had at least one foot past the 'space opera' threshhold, so his stories and characters are larger than life; sure, they have nuance, but he paints in bold strokes.

Take him on his own terms, and he's fun, interesting, a good storyteller (for the most part), and occasionally quite insightful. Occasionally quite annoying, too, but that's life. Go in with expectations of feminism, and yes, you'll probably be disappointed.

He'll steamroll you into his conclusions, but not intentionally, I think. Read his short anti-USSR 'stories' (I think there were three of them) and you'll see what he's like when he really tries to steamroll and manipulate opinion.

All that said, he's one of my favorite authors; I re-read him more than I re-read anyone else.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Read his short anti-USSR 'stories' (I think there were three of them) and you'll see what he's like when he really tries to steamroll and manipulate opinion."

A proto-Orson Scott Card the columnist.

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Chael
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I hate to say it, but yes, kind of (except he tried to make his fiction--they approached it in very different ways). He wasn't very good at it, and their circulation (or lack thereof) showed it.
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Chael
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Card is a lot better at it. I may not like the way he frames his essays, but he has a writing style for them. Heinlein didn't get to that point.
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