Stephen Kahn

Militaristic, free-loving, libertarian

In Books, Hard to tell on October 20, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Of the three great “transition to modern times” authors who moved science fiction beyond pioneers such as A. G. van Vogt, Robert Heinlein was the most characteristically American in his life and writing, embodying and promulgating many of the most powerful and persistent American memes of the 20th and 21st Centuries. He had a tremendous narrative gift, helping readers slide down stories and values that they might otherwise have found unpalatable.

Some of these memes involved the sexual revolution and a return to a kind of animist theology, most on vividly on display in Stranger in a Strange Land. Some of these memes involved militarism, vividly on display in Starship Troopers, where humans battle alien slugs (stand-ins for Nazis, and Communists). Beginning with The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, he began to develop many of the themes and slogans now prevalent in libertarianism, such as the acronym TANSTAAFL! ( There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!)

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  1. Did you know Philip K Dick’s “Man in the high Castle” (the physical description of him and his house) was Heinlein? That’s who he based the character (a writer) on.

    He also got the idea of “false memories” from Van Vogt, so whenever you hear someone say “PKD invented implanted memories”–be sure to correct them! Phil always did! 🙂

  2. Hi Daisy, thanks for stopping by my “future isn’t what it used to be” blog. I am reading William H. Patterson, Jr.’s biography of Heinlein, Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, but he has only published volume 1 and he hasn’t got to the that part of Heinlein’s life and to his relationship with Dick. Anyway, I once read High Castle, and didn’t know it referred to Heinlein. As far as the reference to false memories, are you sure you are remembering this correctly? (Should I say, “Joke?”) I went to six high schools in three states, but never hit South Carolina in my travels. (I never hit a state actually; they are much bigger than I am.)

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