Heinlein old fashioned and sexist?

AE35Unit

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There's a discussion about Heinlein on another forum,and they are of the general impression that he is old fashioned, dated, boring and sexist! Now i've only read a few,Stranger,Puppet Masters,Job,The Cat Who Walks Thru Walls and Waldo Magic Inc. is about it, but i can't detect such in his books. I've read in my encyclopedia that Starship Troopers is the book that alienated him from his fans but i've yet to read it.
Any thoughts?
 

chrispenycate

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Old fashioned? Almost certainly. Remembering when he was born (and where – not the most progressive region on the planet) it's normal that some of his views be coloured by this; as mine have the same problem, I find it difficult to judge. Writing clear, grammatical text and tending to over explain a bit? That's mainly in his juveniles, and he was explaining for kids who knew nothing about satellites, orbits… a whole spectrum of things modern children have grown up with.
Sexist? He believed that men and women had different strengths and weaknesses. This view is perhaps unfashionable, as are his views on breeding the population up until the land can't support them all, and are forced to move on. Still, it is an opinion which isn't dead even now, and he's certainly not in the "women as inferior beings" camp of many sword and sorcery fantasies.
And, unlike many of his contemporaries in Science Fiction, he had female characters (not just romantic interest) from very early on, when it was assumed to be a "male reservation".
For me, after "Stranger" he tended to ramble a bit, and could have done with editing down a bit, possibly not as tight as his earlier work, but (particularly "Time enough for love" and "To sail beyond the sunset") taking out some of the bits irrelevant to the main tale.
But do read him; he was extremely influential in defining the genre.
 

j d worthington

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And I'd argue that even those later books, though he took a different direction with structure and much of what he was aiming at, are often well worth reading, though it's a considerable shift to one used to his older material. (I have a rather high regard for both, by the way....)
 

Connavar

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I think its the curse of bieng from the time he was and unlike other SF of those times as chris said with his female characters being more than just romantic interest.


I still dont understand why modern fans dont applaud him for having female characters that wasnt only "woe me,save me"......

Too much ignorance in the way of enjoying one of the boldest and best SF writers there has been.
 

The Ace

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Yes, and ?

He's definitely old-fashioned, sexist in modern terms and his pontificating can get very boring at times.

He's still a bl**dy good story-teller for all that.
 

Connavar

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Yes, and ?

He's definitely old-fashioned, sexist in modern terms and his pontificating can get very boring at times.
The thing that is stupid that all SFF greats of that time fit that discription but yet only RAH gets dissed for being old fashioned,sexist in modern terms.

Heck in the future we will be called old fashioned :p
 

chrispenycate

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In the present I can be called old fashioned, and not protest. Fashions move faster than people.

RAH with SiaSL came closer to any other author of his period I can think of to leap-frogging fashion and waiting for it to catch up with him again.

And yes, I read and enjoyed his later books, too; I just feel they would have been still better had he edited them as viciously as he did his earlier work.


Robert Anson Heinlein was born July 7th, 1907, into a family of seven children in the small town of Butler, Missouri. He was still in grade school when the Heinlein family moved to Kansas City, where Robert graduated from Central High School in 1924. After attending just one year of college, Robert was admitted into the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, from which he graduated with Bachelor's degree in Naval Engineering in 1929.
I have never been to Butler, Missouri but others who have passed on a sort of pilgrimage informed me it was still relatively – backward? Sticking to traditional values? in 1977. Whether it has changed now, I can not say.
 

pyan

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For me, after "Stranger" he tended to ramble a bit, and could have done with editing down a bit, possibly not as tight as his earlier work, but (particularly "Time enough for love" and "To sail beyond the sunset") taking out some of the bits irrelevant to the main tale.

Time enough...
always reads to me as if he had lots of ideas for short and medium length stories that would not have been publishable individually, so he tacked them all together as episodes in the continuing story of Lazurus Long.
Having said that, it contains the best, IMHO, story he ever wrote, bar none - The Tale of the Adopted Daughter, and for that story alone, it's well worth ploughing through the rest.
 

Beamer

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Old fashoned without a doubt, but whats wrong with that. The older I get the more I identify with some of the things he preached in his stories. One theme he had through a few of his stories was that in order to vote you first had to serve your country. There are times when I think that would not be a bad idea. At times I think many of us take things a little too for granted. And as far as his attitude about women, I don't think he felt they should be limited as much as he thought they should be protected. Something I also agree with.
 

steve12553

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One of the things I got from his books was that a person should be responsible for their own actions. RAH showed both political conservatism and extreme liberalism at the same time. What a unique concept: pick and choose the best ideas from either or all branches of thought and be your own person. Be responsible for yourself but don't be afraid of change. That's way too old fashioed for me.
 

Marlon

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Maybe the sexist rap is because it's so noticeable even kids get it. Podkayne is what drove it home for me. It was kind of like he just got exhausted writing from her perspective and had to finish up with her big brave little brother. While most of the time women are just missing and a kid can just fashion them in their imagination so there is no sexism. But with Podkayne it was kind of in your face and made me notice more in his other works.

Having said that some of his YAs are among my favorites. I didn't like some of his adult reads so much but maybe I was just too young when I read them. I don't think I realized he had adults/YAs back then, I just picked up the author. Most go back and reread a few.
 

j d worthington

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Podkayne is what drove it home for me. It was kind of like he just got exhausted writing from her perspective and had to finish up with her big brave little brother.
Not likely to be the case. Heinlein planned out his work beforehand to (at times) an almost ridiculous degree, from what I understand. Certainly he plotted things out well in advance, so the changeover was quite deliberate with Podkayne, and intended from the start... and not because her brother is "her big brave little brother", but because he has been such a cynical litte twerp throughout, and she was the more sympathetic character... and for the first time he was having to become a little grown-up by facing the one thing which had kept him even marginaly "human" -- having to discover that in himself as a way to hold onto Podkayne (who may or may not recover -- the original intent was that she not make it, and that impact blows a big hole in little brother...

While most of the time women are just missing and a kid can just fashion them in their imagination so there is no sexism. But with Podkayne it was kind of in your face and made me notice more in his other works.
Actually, Heinlein has quite a few "take charge", strong women throughout his work, from some of the earliest tales on. That (on occasion) they defer to a particular man in their life is a conscious choice they make -- often in an intensely logical, far-sighted fashion -- not because they are weak or submissive by nature. It has more to do with Heinlein's more complex views such as a family not being a democracy, however easily run, as in practical terms, when stress hits, that would lead to fragmentation rather than strength and survival; his views on some women being more sensible in the long-range view sense (much as he has some men be stronger than others), and so on....
 

Rothgar

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Old fashioned? Almost certainly. Remembering when he was born (and where – not the most progressive region on the planet) it's normal that some of his views be coloured by this; ....

I agree with Chris, I think if you look at most of the progressive authors of their respective times they are going to appear sexist, racist, or otherwise quite conservative by todays standards. That said, if you just look at the number of strong women Heinlein had throughout his works I think he is way ahead of the majority of the current crop of authors writing today.
 

thepaladin

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OK, you can throw rocks at me if you want...but is someone really talking about a man born in 1907 who still included in some of his books, female combat troops, homosexuality as the norm, "non traditional families, being old fashioned or sexist?

He simply has staying power. And frankly, the man is far more liberial than I am on a lot of subjects... For his time he exemplified progressive.
 

ghost8772

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Well, he did have women in positions of independence, and strength, but he also upped the sexual aspect of it, which likely had people screaming sexist. the strong assertive female would obviously NOT be carousing for sex, this made him old fashioned and sexist. Personally I think that is more of a fantasy side for him, his "perfect" woman. writers of opposite gender seem to tend to write their opposite gender character as their ideal.

the people screaming sexist, ought to partake more of what they're smoking. yep, he has sex in his books, but being purely sexist? not really. holding on to old fashioned values, and my goodness CYNICISM? not to mention writing his stories about possible societies, that granted have nifty things, but leaving out the focus on the technology.

overall hes a great writer, maybe a little light on the actual science of some of his toys (gyros from number of the beast) but he still wove a good yarn.
 

thepaladin

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Remember he was writing from the 1950s and 60s poit of view primarily (though he did get up into the 80s, by then he was a different man and so were his books). I just mean his tech/stuff wasn't bad for the time.

Doesn't matter much really though, i agree that a lot of his books were just "good stories". Some I loved some I hated. I read most of his stuff when I was in high school, didn't find it till then (1960s).
 

Marlon

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Who's 'screaming sexism'? RAH's Juvies are still some of my fondest memory reads. Since my previous post I went back and reread HSSWT. A good yarn, and yes Peewee was a non-screeching female figure. Her mother leaves a bit to be desired in a 21st century kind of way.

But speaking as the kid I was who enjoyed so many of his stories, Podkayne was real letdown.

Not likely to be the case. Heinlein planned out his work beforehand to (at times) an almost ridiculous degree, from what I understand. Certainly he plotted things out well in advance, so the changeover was quite deliberate with Podkayne, and intended from the start... and not because her brother is "her big brave little brother", but because he has been such a cynical litte twerp throughout, and she was the more sympathetic character... and for the first time he was having to become a little grown-up by facing the one thing which had kept him even marginaly "human" -- having to discover that in himself as a way to hold onto Podkayne (who may or may not recover -- the original intent was that she not make it, and that impact blows a big hole in little brother...
& honestly, this just makes it worse. She wasn't even the protagonist. Just a foil for her little brother which came through pretty loud and clear. What's wrong with wanting to be the hero in the story? You guys all got to be. I didn't get to be. Then he writes a girl just to show how a boy grows up. Horribly disappointing.
 

j d worthington

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& honestly, this just makes it worse. She wasn't even the protagonist. Just a foil for her little brother which came through pretty loud and clear. What's wrong with wanting to be the hero in the story? You guys all got to be. I didn't get to be. Then he writes a girl just to show how a boy grows up. Horribly disappointing.
I fear you're missing my point (or perhaps I didn't phrase it explicitly or well enough): In a very real way, they are doppelgängers; two sides of the same coin. Podkayne is the one we focus on, and she is much easier to like, but she lacks any degree of cynicism, necessary to survive within such an environment. Her brother, on the other hand, lacks all the "human" traits she has; he is her "shadow", so to speak, not the substance. When Podkayne dies, he has to learn to become her, in some ways, in order to survive and grow, because otherwise he himself is simply an empty shell, nothing more. Hence his taking care of the infant "fairy" -- something he simply would never have done on his own.

A part of this, too, is tied to themes which Heinlein explores in different ways in several of his books, notably Stranger in a Strange Land, I Will Fear No Evil, and Beyond This Horizon: the idea of the soul or personality taking on different roles in the everlasting game of existence. As in I Will Fear No Evil, when Podkayne dies, she reappears as a part of the one she was closest to in life (albeit, unlike that novel apparently, this is as a part lacking a separate consciousness). At least, that is how it strikes me....

In other words, she most definitely is the protagonist, but (like Victor Frankenstein and his creation) she and her brother are mirror-images of each other; neither one alone is entirely a complete human being; and if it weren't for Poddy's particular strengths, Clark too would not have survived. It is her final act of self-sacrifice (an entirely selfless act, something which he could not even conceive of) which breaks the mold and gives him a chance... but only if he learns to take on those very parts of her which are alien to his normal personality. As it is, the book leaves it somewhat ambiguous whether or not he can, in the end, do so, though there is hope in the very fact that he is stumblingly attempting to understand. In her own way, Podkayne plays the part of the protagonist much like Michael Valentine Smith does in Stranger (where many might argue Jubal is the actual protagonist -- but it is Mike who changes Jubal and once more allows him to join the human race).
 
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