Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Is Robert Heinlein irrelevant

Not according to John Scalzi.

My favorite part:

The author of the LA Times piece offers up Heinlein’s low stock is low in the literary and academic science fiction circles as one of the explanations of why his influence is waning, which is a fairly backward way of doing things out here in the real world. Science fiction is and always has been a consumer genre; its roots are in engineering and pulp magazines, not in academia. This is why sales matter in science fiction; more directly than nearly any other genre, the people who eventually write science fiction are the people who grow up reading science fiction. People start writing literary fiction as they tumble through writing programs at Sarah Lawrence or Bennington or Iowa because that’s what they’re expected to write and they want to impress their professors and fellow students; people start writing science fiction, on the other hand, roughly ten seconds after they set down The Star Beast or Ender’s Game or Snow Crash because they get done with the book and think, holy crap, I want to do that. Academia generally wants you to show you can write; science fiction generally wants you to tell a story. It’s the storytellers who get picked up by the next generation of science fiction writers, and whose work is used as the blueprint for their own works.

So true. Lot's of people can put a bunch of pretty words down on paper and even draw a very vivid mental picture of a static image but when they try and translate that to a story they fail. These are invariably the authors lauded (hehe didn't think I knew that word did ya?) by the New York Times Review of Books. They are also the ones I think blow chunks.

Heinlein definitely had his faults. He was a full on pervert with some serious mother lust issues but with the rare exception once you picked up one of his books you weren't likely to put it down until it was finished. And seriously is there an author out there who does a better job of examining the relationship between the individual and society at large in a fictional setting. I don't think so.

Heinlein may a little dated but he is still relevant and in my opinion at least two of his books (Starship Troopers and Tunnel in the Sky) should be required reading in civics class.

h/t instapundit

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