I have decided that "Thursday Idiocy" adds too much negativity to this blog. Besides: it depresses me. So I want to fold the negativity into the Monday Smackdowns, and use Thursday to blog from the future...
Here is something from 2114:
Consider twentieth-century American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein.
The wise and authoritative elder voice that is a staple of 20th-century American science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein's work thanks remarkably different positions on the nature of morality and the proper direction of one's obligation to society in late works like Starship Troopers then in early works like Double Star and Space Cadet. The shift from the universalist peacenik optimistic leftist one-
galaxy world morality of Double Star and Space Cadet to the particularist militaristic Malthusian rightest Festung Terra Amerika morality of Starship Troopers is striking and worthy of note.
Reconcile, or explain the contrast.
- Virginia G. Heinlein: Grumbles from the Grave
- Robert A. Heinlein: Grumbles from the Grave
- Robert A. Heinlein: Expanded Universe
- Isaac Asimov: I, Asimov
Re: 'A big problem with Heinlein is his tendency to drop into a long didactic rant at the drop of a hat.' Am I the only reader who admits to adoring long didactic rants? I do get that it's in some objective sense bad writing, but my actual response to that kind of thing is 'Ooh, yeah, lecture me some more!'
In Double Star, the protagonist is taught by wise old man Bonforte the essence of morality: "'Never give a sucker an even break' [is] too narrow a philosophy to fit the broad reaches of space..."
In Starship Troopers, the protagonist is taught by wise old man Reid the essence of morality: whatever serves the biological expansion of the human species is right--"The universe will let us know—later—whether or not Man has any 'right' to expand through it. In the meantime the M[obile ]I[nfantry] will be in there, on the bounce and swinging, on the side of our own race..."
In Space Cadet, the protagonist is taught by wise old man Wong that soldiers have their place, but that it is a limited and subordinate place, and that a true man wears not "the gaudy, cock-pheasant colors of the space marines" but rather the plainest of all uniforms, and rather than fighting for "'face,' or pride... a spender, fighter, boaster, lover, sportsman, gambler... a will to power and an itch for glory" instead "follow[s] a code of ethics rather than simply seeking money or glory--priests and ministers, teachers, scientists, medical men, some artists and writers... devoting his life to some purpose more important", and in Space Cadet that purpose more important is that of not fighting but rather of keeping the peace, for modern weapons have become too dangerous and destructive for war to be admissible.
In Starship Troopers, the protagonist learns over the course of the book--from Sergeant Zim, Lieutenant Raczack, Colonel DuBois, and others--that his proper place as a man is to fight and quite probably die for four purposes: the biological expansion of the human race, for the respect of his comrades, the emotional lift of marching to "Alamein Dead", and for the everlasting glory of the infantry.
Bonforte was an orator in the grand tradition but he could be vitriolic in debate, e.g. a speech he made in New Paris during the ruckus over the treaty with the Martian nests, the Concord of Tycho. It was this treaty which had knocked him out of office before; he had pushed it through but the strain on the coalition had lost him the next vote of confidence. Nevertheless, Quiroga had not dared denounce the treaty. I listened to this speech with special interest since I had not liked the treaty myself; the idea that Martians must be granted the same privileges on Earth that humans enjoyed on Mars had been abhorrent to me—until I visited the Kkkah nest. “My opponent,” Bonforte had said with a rasp in his voice:
would have you believe that the motto of the so-called Humanity Party, ‘Government of human beings, by human beings, and for human beings,’ is no more than an updating of the immortal words of Lincoln. But while the voice is the voice of Abraham, the hand is the hand of the Ku Klux Klan. The true meaning of that innocent-seeming motto is ‘Government of all races everywhere, by human beings alone, for the profit of a privileged few.’
But, my opponent protests, we have a God-given mandate to spread enlightenment through the stars, dispensing our own brand of Civilization to the savages. This is the Uncle Remus school of sociology—the good dahkies singin’ spirituals and Old Massa lubbin’ every one of dem! It is a beautiful picture but the frame is too small; it fails to show the whip, the slave block—and the counting house!
I found myself becoming, if not an Expansionist, then at least a Bonfortite. I am not sure that I was convinced by the logic of his words—indeed, I am not sure that they were logical. But I was in a receptive frame of mind. I wanted to understand what he said so thoroughly that I could rephrase it and say it in his place, if need be. Nevertheless, here was a man who knew what he wanted and (much rarer!) why he wanted it.
I could not help but be impressed, and it forced me to examine my own beliefs. What did I live by? My profession, surely! I had been brought up in it, I liked it, I had a deep though unlogical conviction that art was worth the effort—and, besides, it was the only way I knew to make a living. But what else? I have never been impressed by the formal schools of ethics. I have sampled them—public libraries are a ready source of recreation for an actor short of cash—but I had found them as poor in vitamins as a mother-in-law's kiss. Given time and plenty of paper, a philosopher can prove anything. I had the same contempt for the moral instruction handed to most children. Much of it is prattle and the parts they really seem to mean are dedicated to the sacred proposition that a “good” child is one who does not disturb mother's nap and a “good” man is one who achieves a muscular bank account without getting caught. No, thanks!
But even a dog has rules of conduct. What were mine? How did I behave—or, at least, how did I like to think I behaved? “The show must go on.” I had always believed that and lived by it. But why must the show go on?—seeing that some shows are pretty terrible. Well, because you agreed to do it, because there is an audience out there; they have paid and each one of them is entitled to the best you can give. You owe it to them. You owe it also to stagehands and manager and producer and other members of the company—and to those who taught you your trade, and to others stretching back in history to open-air theaters and stone seats and even to storytellers squatting in a market place. Noblesse oblige.
I decided that the notion could be generalized into any occupation. “Value for value.” Building “on the square and on the level.” The Hippocratic oath. Don't let the team down. Honest work for honest pay. Such things did not have to be proved; they were an essential part of life—true throughout eternity, true in the farthest reaches of the Galaxy.
I suddenly got a glimpse of what Bonforte was driving at. If there were ethical basics that transcended time and place, then they were true both for Martians and for men. They were true on any planet around any star—and if the human race did not behave accordingly they weren't ever going to win to the stars because some better race would slap them down for double-dealing. The price of expansion was virtue. “Never give a sucker an even break” was too narrow a philosophy to fit the broad reaches of space...
I caught one of those master’s-thesis assignments he chucked around so casually; I had suggested that the Crusades were different from most wars. I got sawed off and handed this: Required: to prove that war and moral perfection derive from the same genetic inheritance.
Briefly, thus: All wars arise from population pressure. (Yes, even the Crusades, though you have to dig into trade routes and birth rate and several other things to prove it.) Morals—all correct moral rules—derive from the instinct to survive; moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level—as in a father who dies to save his children. But since population pressure results from the process of surviving through others, then war, because it results from population pressure, derives from the same inherited instinct which produces all moral rules suitable for human beings.
Check of proof: Is it possible to abolish war by relieving population pressure (and thus do away with the all-too-evident evils of war) through constructing a moral code under which population is limited to resources? Without debating the usefulness or morality of planned parenthood, it may be verified by observation that any breed which stops its own increase gets crowded out by breeds which expand. Some human populations did so, in Terran history, and other breeds moved in and engulfed them. Nevertheless, let’s assume that the human race manages to balance birth and death, just right to fit its own planets, and thereby becomes peaceful.
What happens? Soon (about next Wednesday) the Bugs move in, kill off this breed which “ain’ta gonna study war no more” and the universe forgets us. Which still may happen. Either we spread and wipe out the Bugs, or they spread and wipe us out—because both races are tough and smart and want the same real estate. Do you know how fast population pressure could cause us to fill the entire universe shoulder to shoulder? The answer will astound you, just the flicker of an eye in terms of the age of our race. Try it—it’s a compound-interest expansion.
But does Man have any “right” to spread through the universe? Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics—you name it—is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what Man is—not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be. The universe will let us know—later—whether or not Man has any “right” to expand through it. In the meantime the M.I. will be in there, on the bounce and swinging, on the side of our own race...
He stopped by the guard office, reluctant to get back to the fussy complexities of mathematics. The new sergeant of the guard was an acquaintance, Master Sergeant Macleod. "Come in, young fellow, and rest yourself. Did you see the guard mount?"
"Thanks. Yes, I did. It's pretty wonderful to see."
"Know what you mean. Been doing it twenty years and I get more of a bang out of it than I did when I was a recruit. How's tricks? They keeping you busy?"
Matt grinned sheepishly. "I'm playing hooky. I should be studying astrogation, but I get so darned sick of it."
"Don't blame you a bit. Figures make my head ache."
Matt found himself telling the older man his troubles. Sergeant Macleod eyed him with sympathetic interest. "See here, Mr. Dodson-you don't like that long-haired stuff. Why don't you chuck it?"
"You like the space marines, don't you?"
"Why not switch over and join a man's outfit? You're a likely lad and educated-in a year I'd be saluting you. Ever thought about it?"
"Why, no, I can't say that I have."
"Then do so. You don't belong with the Professors-you didn't know that was what we call the Patrol, did you?-the 'Professors.'"
"I'd heard it."
"You had? Well, we work for the Professors, but we aren't of them. We're ... well, you've seen. Think it over."
Matt did think it over, so much so that he took the Mars-to-Venus problem back with him, still unsolved. It was no easier to solve for the delay, nor were other and more complicated problems made any simpler by virtue of the idea, buzzing in the back of his mind, that he need not belabor himself with higher mathematics in order to be a spaceman. He began to see himself decked out in the gaudy, cock-pheasant colors of the space marines.
At last he took it up with Lieutenant Wong. "You want to transfer to the marines?"
"Yes. I think so."
"Why?" Matt explained his increasing feeling of frustration in dealing with both atomic physics and astrogation. Wong nodded. "I thought so. But we knew that you would have tough sledding since you came here insufficently prepared. I don't like the sloppy work you've been doing since you came back from Luna."
"I've done the best I could, sir."
"No, you haven't. But you can master these two subjects and I will see to it that you do." Matt explained, almost inaudibly, that he was not sure he wanted to. Wong, for the first time, looked vexed. "Still on that? If you turn in a request for transfer, I won't okay it and I can tell you ahead of time that the Commandant will turn it down."
Matt's jaw muscles twitched. "That's your privilege, sir."
"Damn it, Dodson, it's not my privilege; it's my duty. You would never make a marine and I say so because I know you, your record, and your capabilities. You have a good chance of making a Patrol officer."
Matt looked startled. "Why couldn't I become a marine?"
"Because it's too easy for you-so easy that you would fail."
"Don't say `huh.' The spread in I.Q. between leader and follower should not be more than thirty points. You are considerably more than thirty points ahead of those old sergeants-don't get me wrong; they are fine men. But your mind doesn't work like theirs." Wong went on, "Have you ever wondered why the Patrol consists of nothing but officers-and student officers, Add a note cadets?"
"Mmm, no, sir."
"Naturally you wouldn't. We never wonder at what we grow up with. Strictly speaking, the Patrol is not a military organization at all."
"I know, I know-you are trained to use weapons, you are under orders, you wear a uniform. But your purpose is not to fight, but to prevent fighting, by every possible means. The Patrol is not a fighting organization; it is the repository of weapons too dangerous to entrust to military men.
"With the development last century of mass-destruction weapons, warfare became all offense and no defense, speaking broadly. A nation could launch a horrific attack but it could not even protect its own rocket bases. Then space travel came along. "The spaceship is the perfect answer in a military sense to the atom bomb, and to germ warfare and weather warfare. It can deliver an attack that can't be stopped-and it is utterly impossible to attack that spaceship from the surface of a planet."
Matt nodded. "The gravity gauge."
"Yes, the gravity gauge. Men on the surface of a planet are as helpless against men in spaceships as a man would be trying to conduct a rock-throwing fight from the bottom of a well. The man at the top of the well has gravity working for him.
"We might have ended up with the tightest, most nearly unbreakable tyranny the world has ever seen. But the human race got a couple of lucky breaks and it didn't work out that way. It's the business of the Patrol to see that it stays lucky.
"But the Patrol can't drop an atom bomb simply because some pipsqueak Hitler has made a power grab and might some day, when he has time enough, build spaceships and mass-destruction weapons. The power is too great, too awkward-it's like trying to keep order in a nursery with a loaded gun instead of a switch.
"The space marines are the Patrol's switch. They are the finest-"
"Excuse me, sir-"
"I know how the marines work. They do the active policing in the System-but that's why I want to transfer. They're a more active outfit. They are-"
"-more daring, more adventurous, more colorful, more glamorous-and they don't have to study things that Matthew Dodson is tired of studying. Now shut up and listen; there is a lot you don't know about the setup, or you wouldn't be trying to transfer."
Matt shut up. "People tend to fall into three psychological types, all differently motivated. There is the type, motivated by economic factors, money ... and there is the type motivated by 'face,' or pride. This type is a spender, fighter, boaster, lover, sportsman, gambler; he has a will to power and an itch for glory. And there is the professional type, which claims to follow a code of ethics rather than simply seeking money or glory-priests and ministers, teachers, scientists, medical men, some artists and writers. The idea is that such a man believes that he is devoting his life to some purpose more important than his individual self. You follow me?"
"I ... think so."
"Mind you this is terrifically oversimplified. And don't try to apply these rules to non-terrestrials; they won't fit. The Martian is another sort of a cat, and so is the Venerian." Wong continued, "Now we get to the point: The Patrol is meant to be made up exclusively of the professional type. In the space marines, every single man jack, from the generals to the privates, is or should be the sort who lives by pride and glory."
Wong waited for it to sink in. "You can see it in the very uniforms; the Patrol wears the plainest of uniforms, the marines wear the gaudiest possible. In the Patrol all the emphasis is on the oath, the responsibility to humanity. In the space marines the emphasis is on pride in their corps and its glorious history, loyalty to comrades, the ancient virtues of the soldier. I am not disparaging the marine when I say that he does not care a tinker's damn for the political institutions of the Solar System; he cares only for his organization.
"But it's not your style, Matt. I know more about you than you do yourself, because I have studied the results of your psychological tests. You will never make a marine."
Wong paused so long that Matt said diffidently, "Is that all, sir?"
"Almost. You've got to learn astrogation. If deep-sea diving were the key to the Patrol's responsibility, it would be that that you would have to learn. But the key happens to be space travel. So-I'll lay out a course of sprouts for you. For a few weeks you'll do nothing but astrogate. Does that appeal to you?"
"I didn't think it would. But when I get through with you, you'll be able to find your way around the System blindfolded. Now let me see-"
The next few weeks were deadly monotony, but Matt made progress. He had plenty of time to think-when he was not bending over a calculator. Oscar and Tex went to the Moon together; Pete was on night shift in the power room. Matt kept sullenly and stubbornly at work-and brooded. He promised himself to stick it out until Wong let up on him. After that-well, he would have a leave coming up one of these days. If he decided to chuck it, why, lots of cadets never came back from their first leave.
In the meantime his work began to get the grudging approval of Lieutenant Wong. At last Wong let up on him and he went back to a normal routine. He was settling into it when he found himself posted for an extra duty. Pursuant thereto, he reported one morning to the officer of the watch, received a briefing, memorized a list of names, and was issued a black armband. Then he went to the main airlock and waited. Presently a group of scared and greenish boys began erupting from the lock. When his turn came, he moved forward and called out, "Squad seven! Where is the squad leader of squad seven?" He got his charges rounded up at last and told the acting squad leader to follow along in the rear, then led them slowly and carefully down to "A" deck. He was glad to find when he got there that none of them had gotten lost.
"This is your messroom," he told them. "We'll have lunch before long." Something about the expression of one of them amused him. "What's the matter, Mister?" he asked the boy. "Aren't you hungry?" "Uh, no, sir." "Well, cheer up-you will be."
The band dropped back near our position in column and we sang for a while, a French group—“Marseillaise,” of course, and “Madelon” and “Sons of Toil and Danger,” and then “Legion Étrangère” and “Mademoiselle from Armentières.” It’s nice to have the band play; it picks you right up when your tail is dragging the prairie. We hadn’t had anything but canned music at first and that only for parade and calls. But the powers-that-be had found out early who could play and who couldn’t; instruments were provided and a regimental band was organized, all our own—even the director and the drum major were boots. It didn’t mean they got out of anything. Oh no! It just meant they were allowed and encouraged to do it on their own time, practicing evenings and Sundays and such—and that they got to strut and countermarch and show off at parade instead of being in ranks with their platoons.
A lot of things that we did were run that way. Our chaplain, for example, was a boot. He was older than most of us and had been ordained in some obscure little sect I had never heard of. But he put a lot of passion into his preaching whether his theology was orthodox or not (don’t ask me) and he was certainly in a position to understand the problems of a recruit. And the singing was fun. Besides, there was nowhere else to go on Sunday morning between morning police and lunch.
The band suffered a lot of attrition but somehow they always kept it going. The camp owned four sets of pipes and some Scottish uniforms, donated by Lochiel of Cameron whose son had been killed there in training—and one of us boots turned out to be a piper; he had learned it in the Scottish Boy Scouts. Pretty soon we had four pipers, maybe not good but loud. Pipes seem very odd when you first hear them, and a tyro practicing can set your teeth on edge—it sounds and looks as if he had a cat under his arm, its tail in his mouth, and biting it. But they grow on you. The first time our pipers kicked their heels out in front of the band, skirling away at “Alamein Dead,” my hair stood up so straight it lifted my cap. It gets you—makes tears.
We couldn’t take a parade band out on route march, of course, because no special allowances were made for the band. Tubas and bass drums had to stay behind because a boy in the band had to carry a full kit, same as everybody, and could only manage an instrument small enough to add to his load. But the M.I. has band instruments which I don’t believe anybody else has, such as a little box hardly bigger than a harmonica, an electric gadget which does an amazing job of faking a big horn and is played the same way. Comes band call when you are headed for the horizon, each bandsman sheds his kit without stopping, his squad mates split it up, and he trots to the column position of the color company and starts blasting. It helps.
The band drifted aft, almost out of earshot, and we stopped singing because your own singing drowns out the beat when it’s too far away. I suddenly realized I felt good. I tried to think why I did. Because we would be in after a couple of hours and I could resign? No. When I had decided to resign, it had indeed given me a measure of peace, quieted down my awful jitters and let me go to sleep. But this was something else—and no reason for it, that I could see.
Then I knew. I had passed my hump! I was over the “hump” that Colonel Dubois had written about. I actually walked over it and started down, swinging easily. The prairie through there was flat as a griddle-cake, but just the same I had been plodding wearily uphill all the way out and about halfway back. Then, at some point—I think it was while we were singing—I had passed the hump and it was all downhill. My kit felt lighter and I was no longer worried.
When we got in, I didn’t speak to Sergeant Zim; I no longer needed to. Instead he spoke to me, motioned me to him as we fell out.
“This is a personal question... so don’t answer it unless you feel like it.” He stopped, and I wondered if he suspected that I had overheard his chewing-out, and shivered. “At mail call today,” he said, “you got a letter. I noticed—purely by accident, none of my business—the name on the return address. It’s a fairly common name, some places, but—this is the personal question you need not answer—by any chance does the person who wrote that letter have his left hand off at the wrist?”
I guess my chin dropped. “How did you know? Sir?”
“I was nearby when it happened. It is Colonel Dubois? Right?”
“Yes, sir.” I added, “He was my high school instructor in History and Moral Philosophy.”
I think that was the only time I ever impressed Sergeant Zim, even faintly. His eyebrows went up an eighth of an inch and his eyes widened slightly. “So? You were extraordinarily fortunate.” He added, “When you answer his letter—if you don’t mind—you might say that Ship’s Sergeant Zim sends his respects.”
“Yes, sir. Oh... I think maybe he sent you a message, sir.”
“Uh, I’m not certain.” I took out the letter, read just: “‘—if you should happen to run across any of my former mates, give them my warmest greetings.’ Is that for you, sir?”
Zim pondered it, his eyes looking through me, somewhere else. “Eh? Yes, it is. For me among others. Thanks very much.” Then suddenly it was over and he said briskly, “Nine minutes to parade. And you still have to shower and change. On the bounce, soldier.”...
Each year we gain a little. You have to keep a sense of proportion. “Time, sir.” My j.o. under instruction, Candidate or “Third Lieutenant” Bearpaw, stood just outside my door. He looked and sounded awfully young, and was about as harmless as one of his scalp-hunting ancestors.
“Right, Jimmie.” I was already in armor. We walked aft to the drop room. I said, as we went, “One word, Jimmie. Stick with me and keep out of my way. Have fun and use up your ammo. If by any chance I buy it, you’re the boss—but if you’re smart, you’ll let your platoon sergeant call the signals.”
As we came in, the platoon sergeant called them to attention and saluted. I returned it, said, “At ease,” and started down the first section while Jimmie looked over the second. Then I inspected the second section, too, checking everything on every man. My platoon sergeant is much more careful than I am, so I didn’t find anything, I never do. But it makes the men feel better if their Old Man scrutinizes everything—besides, it’s my job.
Then I stepped out in the middle. “Another Bug hunt, boys. This one is a little different, as you know. Since they still hold prisoners of ours, we can’t use a nova bomb on Klendathu—so this time we go down, stand on it, hold it, take it away from them. The boat won’t be down to retrieve us; instead it’ll fetch more ammo and rations. If you’re taken prisoner, keep your chin up and follow the rules—because you’ve got the whole outfit behind you, you’ve got the whole Federation behind you; we’ll come and get you. That’s what the boys from the Swamp Fox and the Montgomery have been depending on. Those who are still alive are waiting, knowing that we will show up. And here we are. Now we go get ’em.
“Don’t forget that we’ll have help all around us, lots of help above us. All we have to worry about is our one little piece, just the way we rehearsed it. “One last thing. I had a letter from Captain Jelal just before we left. He says that his new legs work fine. But he also told me to tell you that he’s got you in mind... and he expects your names to shine!
“And so do I. Five minutes for the Padre.” I felt myself beginning to shake. It was a relief when I could call them to attention again and add: “By sections... port and starboard... prepare for drop!” I was all right then while I inspected each man into his cocoon down one side, with Jimmie and the platoon sergeant taking the other. Then we buttoned Jimmie into the No. 3 center-line capsule. Once his face was covered up, the shakes really hit me.
My platoon sergeant put his arm around my armored shoulders. “Just like a drill, Son.”
“I know it, Father.” I stopped shaking at once. “It’s the waiting, that’s all.”
“I know. Four minutes. Shall we get buttoned up, sir?”
“Right away, Father.” I gave him a quick hug, let the Navy drop crew seal us in. The shakes didn’t start up again. Shortly I was able to report: “Bridge! Rico’s Roughnecks... ready for drop!”
“Thirty-one seconds, Lieutenant.” She added, “Good luck, boys! This time we take ’em!”
“Check. Now some music while you wait?” She switched it on:
“To the everlasting glory of the Infantry—”
One morning in early April, I fetched the newspaper down to read along with breakfast, in my usual fashion. Robert was still sleeping, and there were standing orders never to disturb him until he woke up. But this day was different.
There was a full page ad by the SANE people, signed by a number of local people we knew.… I flew in the face of the standing orders, and woke Robert up. "What are we going to do about this?" I asked.
I fixed him breakfast and he read the ad while he ate.
There was no discussion about what we would do. Robert sat down at his typewriter and wrote an answer. When he was finished, I read the full-page answer and suggested that he rewrite it, using the same ideas he had used, but not mentioning the opposition. He did that, and the ad is reprinted in Expanded Universe. Colorado Springs had two daily papers, one morning and one afternoon. We took the ad to the latter, paid for a full-page ad, and later went to the other and also took another full-page for our ad.
These ads caused a sensation. The telephone kept ringing, the mail was filled with a few pledges, and one or two contained checks to help the cause.
We ordered extra copies of the page and sent them out to our mailing list, which was not very large at that time. With the assistance of a wet paper copier, I made copies and sent the originals in to the President, registered, return receipt requested. I strung up a drying line in the kitchen and suspended the copies to dry. For weeks the kitchen was difficult to get around in. Some people took an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle and sent us a copy. A few more pledges came in.
I sat down and did some figuring. Not counting the time we both put into the project, it cost us $5 each to send those pledges to the President. Our backfire had failed, and we never heard a word from President Elsenhower.
The President then signed an executive order suspending all testing without requiring mutual inspection.
Robert had been working on The Man from Mars [Stranger in a Strange Land]. He set that aside and started a new book—-Starship Troopers. Both books were directly affected by this try at political action—-Starship Troopers most directly, and The Man from Mars somewhat less directly. The two were written in succession; they are quite different stones from what Robert might have written otherwise...
to Lurton Blassingame
I don’t know when I’ll get any more fiction written—-maybe never. This effort is taking up all of our time. On the other hand, we are spending money on it even faster than we spend money in traveling, so I may be flat broke soon and forced to go back to cash work.
But I refuse to worry about personal aspects of the future. I am convinced in my own mind that the United States is washed up and we will cease to exist inside of five to fifteen years—-unless we quickly and drastically pull up our socks, both at home and in foreign policy. This opinion has been growing in my mind for years: I was simply triggered into doing something about it by this pacifist-internationalist-cum-clandestine Communist drive to have us treat atomics and disarmament in exactly the fashion the Kremlin has tried to get us to do for the past twelve years.
I wish some of those starry-eyed internationalists would go take a look at the illiterate, unwashed uncivilized billions whose noses they want to count in a "world state"! And also explain to me how you get a world state of "peace with justice" while dictators, both Red and garden variety, control the "votes" of a billion and a half out of two and a half. Somebody ought to tell them that "politics is the art of the practical". Me, maybe.
Enough, too much—-but it is much on my mind. The Patrick Henry League has been getting more response than I expected, much less than is enough to be effective. But we shall persevere...
Then the rug was jerked out from under us; by executive order Mr. Eisenhower canceled all testing without requiring mutual inspection. (the outcome of that is now history; when it suited him, Khrushchev resume testing with no warning and with the dirtiest bombs ever set off in the atmosphere.)
I was stunned by the President's action. I should not of been as I knew that he was a political general long before he entered politics--stupid, all front, and dependent on his staff. But that gets me the stupid hat, too; I had learned years before that many politicians (not all!) will do anything to get elected... and Adlai Stevension had him panting.
Presently I resumed writing--not Stranger but Starship Troopers.
The "Patrick Henry" add shocked 'em; starship troopers outraged 'em. I still can't see how that book got to Hugo. It continues to get lots of nasty "fan" mail and not much favorable fan mail... But it sells and sells and sells and sells, in 11 languages. It doesn't slow down--for new contracts just this year. And yet I almost never hear of it say when someone wants to chew me out over it. I don't understand it.
The criticisms are usually based on a failure to understand simple indicative English sentences couched in simple words--especially when the critics are professors of English.... 1. "Veteran" does not mean in English dictionaries or in this novel solely a person who has served in [the] military.... No one hesitates to speak of a veteran fireman or veteran School teacher. In Starship Troopers it is stated flatly... that... 95% the voters are what we call today "former members of federal civil service"....
Criticism: "The government in Starship Troopers is militaristic." "Militaristic"... [has] several definitions but not one of them can be correctly appliced.... No military or civil servant can vote or hold office until after he is discharged Ms. again a civilian. The military tend to be despised by most civilians.... A career military man is most unlikely ever to vote or hold office; he is more likely to be dead....
"That book glorifies the military!" Now we are getting somewhere. It does indeed... the P.B.I.... the mudfoot who places his frail body between his loved home and the wars desolation--but is rarely appreciated....
I think I know what offends most of my critics the most about Starship Troopers: it is the dismaying idea that a voice in governing the state should be earned into the beheading handed to anyone who is 18 years old and has a body temperature near 37C. But there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
Democracies usually claps not too long after the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses... for a while. Either read history or read the daily papers; it is now happening here.... The founding fathers never intended to extend the franchise to everyone... [only to] stable figure[s] in the community through owning land room playing others are engaged in the journeyman trade or something. But if you today pay any attention to the founding fathers--those ignorant, uneducated men--they didn't even have television (have you looked at Monticello lately?)--so let's try some other "poll taxes" to insure a responsible electorate: a) Mark Twain's "The Curious Republic of Condor".... b) A state for anyone can buy for cash (or lay-away installment plan) one or more franchises, And this is the government's sole source of income.... c) he state that required a bare minimum of intelligence and education... step into the polling booth and find that the computer has generated a new quadratic equation... Get a wrong answer in the voting machine fails to unlock about loud bell sounds, a red light goes on over that booth--and you slink out, face red.... Endless variations.... Improving the Breed--No red light, no bell... but the booth opens automatically--empty. Revenue--You don't risk your life just... a 1/4 oz troy of gold.... I concede that I set the standard for I.Q. and schooling too low.... d) I don't insist on any particular method.... For almost a century and a half women were not allowed to vote. For the past 60 years they have voted... We've not seen the enormous improvement in government of the suffragettes promised us.... Let's try the next century and a half with males disenfranchised... ineligible to hold elective office, or to serving judiciary, elective or appointed, and also reserve the profession of law for women.... Rooting they have lawyers out of their cozy niches... would give us a pool of unskilled manual laborers--and laborers are very hard to hire these days; I've been trying to hire one anyway just wants for the past three months, with no success.... Speaking of that, let's go whole hog. Until the female bears a child her socioeconomic function is mailed matter how are thoughts or sexual preference. The woman who is mother to a child though she has a stake in the future. So let's limit the franchise electability for office in the practice of law to mothers...
My friendship with Heinlein, by the way, did not follow the smooth and even course that marked all my other science fiction friendships. That this would be so appeared almost at once when we worked together at the NAES. I never openly quarreled with him (I try never to quarrel openly with anyone) and I never turned my back on him. We greeted each other warmly when we met right down to the end of Heinlein’s life.
There had to be a certain circumspection in the friendship, however. Heinlein was not the easygoing fellow that other science fiction personalities I knew and loved were. He did not believe in doing his own thing and letting you do your thing. He had a definite feeling that he knew better and to lecture you into agreeing with him. Campbell did this too, but Campbell always remained serenely indifferent if you ended up disagreeing with him, whereas Heinlein would, under those circumstances, grow hostile.
I do not take well to people who are convinced they know better than I do, and who badger me for that reason, so I began to avoid him.
Furthermore, although a flaming liberal during the war, Heinlein became a rock-ribbed far-right conservative immediately afterward. This happened at just the time he changed wives from a liberal woman, Leslyn, to a rock-ribbed far-right conservative woman, Virginia.
Ronald Reagan did the same when he switched wives from the liberal Jane Wyman to the ultraconservative Nancy, but Ronald Reagan I have always viewed as a brainless fellow who echoes the opinions of anyone who gets close to him.
I can’t explain Heinlein in that way at all, for I cannot believe he would follow his wives’ opinions blindly. I used to brood about it in puzzlement (of course, I never would have dreamed of asking Heinlein—I’m sure he would have refused to answer, and would have done so with the utmost hostility), and I did come to one conclusion. I would never marry anyone who did not generally agree with my political, social, and philosophical view of life.
To marry someone at complete odds with myself in those basics would be to ask for a life of argument and controversy, or (in some ways, worse) one that comes to the tacit understanding that these things were never to be discussed. Nor could I see any chance of coming to agreement. I would certainly not change my own views just for the sake of peace in the household, and I would not want a woman so feeble in her opinions that she would do so. No, I would want one compatible with my views to begin with and I must say that this was true of both my wives.
Another point about Heinlein is that he was not among those writers who, having achieved a particular style, cling to it during their lives, despite changing fashions.... Heinlein... tried to keep up with the times, so that his later novels were “with it”.... I say “tried” because I think he failed. I am no judge of other people’s writings (or even of my own) and I don’t wish to make subjective statements about them, but I am forced to admit that I always wished that he had kept to the style he achieved in such stories as “Solution Unsatisfactory” (October 1941 ASF)... and such novels as Double Star, published in 1956, which I think is the best thing he ever wrote....
When the Science Fiction Writers of America began to hand out their Grand Master Awards in 1975, Heinlein received the first by general acclamation. He died on May 8, 1988, at the age of eighty to an outpouring of sentiment from even the non-science-fiction world. He had kept his position as greatest science fiction writer unshaken to the end.
In 1989, his book Grumbles from the Grave was published posthumously. It consists of letters he wrote to editors and, chiefly, to his agent. I read it and shook my head and wished it hadn’t appeared, for Heinlein (it seemed to me) revealed, in these letters, a meanness of spirit that I had seen in him even in the NAES days but that I feel should not have been revealed to the world generally.