Robert A. Heinlein


Jacqueline Lichtenberg


A version of this article was submitted to

The Heinlein Centennial Reader
A Call for Articles and Essays about Heinlein's Life & Work

I'll be going to the Robert Heinlein Centennial convention in Kansas City over the July 7, 2007 weekend. They've put me on 6 panels in two days. So I've been preparing some handouts and thinking about the topics.

Meanwhile, one of the Sime~Gen fans (Midge Baker) announced she's a Robert Heinlein fan -- imagine that -- and gave me a URL I'd like to share with you.

It is ever so gratifying to discover that some of my all time favorite authors have fans who also like Sime~Gen and my other work. And that happens quite a lot. Maybe I've done something right.

You may note that my first novel, a Sime~Gen novel titled House of Zeor which first came out from Doubleday in hardcover then had numerous mass market paperback and translation reprints, plus an Omnibus reprint, was dedicated to Robert Heinlein.

After a lifetime of reading his work, I first met Robert at the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City in 1976 when I was on an autographing tour for my non-fiction book Star Trek Lives! about why fans like Star Trek. They held the first Worldcon Blood Drive at that convention, and donating blood was the only way to get RAH's autograph.

As it happened, I was disqualified from blood donation at the time, but he built in a dodge to get around the requirement. If you stood in line at the Bloodmobile, and were turned down, you got a heart-pin that was your ticket to stand in line at the autographing.

So I did both stand-in-lines (long ones) and got my heart-pin which I still wear, and finally got to the desk where he was signing books. Instead of asking for his autograph, I gave him House of Zeor autographed to him by me.

He later called me and made some very encouraging remarks. So I sent him my second novel, Unto Zeor, Forever and he called me again asking if I was a medical doctor (which I'm not) because I'd portrayed the essence of that profession with remarkable realism.

Later still, he invited me and my family to visit him in his home, a visit where my children (just the right age) got autographed copies of his juveniles which they treasure to this day.

There's a reason for that dedication of my first novel -- and it wasn't to get an invitation to Robert Heinlein's house.

Sime~Gen and almost all of my work falls into the category I've named Intimate Adventure  for more detail.

Romance and Intimacy (which aren't necessarily the same thing) are both about Relationship -- about me vs. other with the focus on Other.

Romance and Intimacy both create the binding force that holds society and civilization together -- the bonds between individuals which then extend to children, ancestors, extended family, tribe, city, nation, etc.

It is this fundamental binding force of civilization that Robert Heinlein writes about with such moving conviction that it became one of the core drivers of my own fiction.

I became a science fiction writer very much because of Robert A. Heinlein's vision of what humanity could and should be -- our highest calling -- the counter entropic force in the universe, the organizing force.

I first discovered his novels in the library in the early 1950's -- or more accurately, my mother discovered them for even his juveniles were shelved not in the children's library but in the adult library to which I didn't qualify for a card. So my mother sneaked me books way above my grade level. So I did learn everything I needed to know about life from those early juveniles.

One of the most important things I learned was the reason for Patriotism and for Good Manners in any society containing humans.

Here's the URL where you can find Robert A. Heinlein's speech on the nature of Patriotism on Jerry Pournelle's website (which is worth exploring). 

That reason is survival. Pure and simple. Human societies that fail to engender patriotism and good manners become extinct.

Heinlein held that "women and children first" = Patriotism. That no society can survive if it doesn't reproduce. In that endeavor males are expendable; women and children are not.

It's not that women CAN'T fight -- it's that society can't afford it. If it comes down to a woman defending her children, the warriors have failed. (but the attacker is going to be very very sorry!)

In Sime~Gen, the channels don't fight because the Householding that doesn't put "channels & Donors first" doesn't survive, even though the channels are the most powerful combatants.

Heinlein had a reverence and respect for the POWER of womanhood that went bone marrow deep - beyond words.

Heinlein's vision of the reason why viable human societies produce Warriors is very deeply ingrained in my concept of "Intimate Adventure."

Intimate Adventure replaces the "action" in Action/Adventure with Intimacy -- so it becomes Intimate/Adventure.

In Intimate Adventure the Warrior's courage is needed on the field of Intimacy, as well as the field of physical battle.

The Warrior's ability to give wholly of himself in service of the Group -- to hold nothing back -- is rooted in personal bonds of all kinds. The first personal bond that begins this process is infant to care-giver (child to mother).

Through life, an individual forms hundreds of such bonds with varying degrees of Intimacy -- and eventually, finds a mate and raises children.

Romance is that activated state just prior to forming a mating bond -- and the process of forming that bond.

What attracts a woman to any man is that man's untapped ability to form such a bond at the deepest, most intimate level -- the level where "what does she see in him?" and "what does he see in her?" are clear and self-evident.

Women seek Men who will put them first in "women and children first" -- a man who will stand between danger and the survival of the group.

That ability to stand between danger and the survival of the group is based on that network of bonds formed with individuals of the group, the ancestors' sacrifices, and the vision of the accomplishments of the progeny. So deeply steeped in Heinlein's work, I wrote House of Zeor to portray a "Group" that would be worthy of the kind of Patriotic Warrior Heinlein wrote about, the Householdings that exist to prevent the extinction of the human species.


Jacqueline Lichtenber's Con Report on the Heinlein Centennial

July 10, 2007

(this was posted as a blog entry on )

I returned yesterday from a unique weekend immersed in scholarship and erudite discussion of Robert A. Heinlein, celebrating the day (7/7/07 ) when he would have been a hundred years old had he lived.

I learned so much I didn't know! My background and interests are much more like Heinlein's than I had ever suspected.

And I'm sure I said things others didn't know that changed their views -- they came up after the panels and asked for my handouts which contain the URL of the Alien Romance blog.

Frederick Pohl (the editor who bought my first story, the first Sime~Gen story, for WORLDS OF IF MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION and later as book editor for Bantam Books bought my first non-fiction project STAR TREK LIVES! and who has written a long list of SF novels) was there speaking fluently, casually, mellifluously, about Robert, his attitudes, experiences, friends, associates, and his three wives.

As I said in my previous post, I was on 6 panels and an autographing in 2 days -- Friday and Sunday. Saturday I wandered in and out of panels, and watched a few videos and talked and talked to people.

The weekend became a blur of significant experiences. But there was an odd theme running through it all -- love. Heinlein on love is a remarkably deep topic.

You may think of his later books, Stranger in a Strange Land, Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Time Enough For Love -- but there are deeper themes on love in his "juveniles."

The Heinlein Centennial was co-conventioned with the SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association -- professors who read papers on SF because they happen to be fans who write academic papers). So on Thursday evening, I spotted Fred Pohl through a crack in a door, and crept in to an SFRA panel to listen to the end of that panel.

It gave me a hundred ideas for things to say on the later panels I was on, but I only got to say one of them.

Being academics, they were talking (in grieved tones) about teaching Heinlein's books, and how younger people just WON'T read Heinlein.

Later at another panel I heard someone who should know state that when RED PLANET (the animated version of Heinlein's novel) was aired, children ran to the library searching for more books by him.

But before I heard that, on Friday at noon I was on a panel about "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned From Heinlein" -- (which is pretty much true). And there I mentioned this blog and pointed out how, RAH's themes, ideas, and vision lives on and on and ON through us.

Young people who read my books (and there are amazingly large numbers) are reading Heinlein (and Marion Zimmer Bradley, and Theodore Sturgeon, Hal Clement, etc etc). Even younger people who are reading Linnea Sinclair are reading Heinlein, which would be true even if Linnea had never read Heinlein because she's read my books.

In fact, any modern fan of novels with SF or Fantasy content that ALSO involve strong characters and plot-driving relationships is enjoying the legacy of Robert Anson Heinlein.

Linnea is now training new writers, and so the legacy will be passed on to yet another generation -- and that legacy is, without love you don't have a story!

It's especially true of Science Fiction -- one definition of SF Fred Pohl and John W. Campbell came up with was "if you can take the science out and still have a story, you don't have an SF story."

Most Alien Romance that I've seen to date passes that test -- there's some science element that absolutely MAKES the story.

But there is also some Relationship (not always romantic love; parent-child, teacher-student, buddy, sister-sister, oath-bound, magical geas, etc) that causes the characters to make one plot-decision and not another -- that drives the plot to a satisfying conclusion.

And that's what Heinlein invariably did. He showed us the role of love in society, even alien society, and that to handle science efficaciously, one must be filled with that love -- love of humanity (or one's own species), love of town, country, village, tribe, family, spouse(s), children, teachers, -- LOVE drives the world.

But learning steers us -- and Heinlein glamorized education to such an extent that maybe a third or a half of the people who showed up for the Centennial had advanced science degrees because of their early exposure to Heinlein.

Reading Heinlein makes you WANT to study -- even if the subject is boring -- because you can see the use for being educated, as opposed to "getting an education."

On Saturday, I learned that Heinlein had, as a very young man, memories of 2 or 3 past lives. That could easily explain the level of mature genius he evidenced throughout his whole life. But by his thirties, those memories had faded to memories of memories.

Still it gave him an awareness that science doesn't study the whole of our real universe -- an attitude I have always had. Maybe I was born with it, or maybe I absorbed it with RAH's novels, or my upbringing -- but it pervades my life to this day. Science is absolutely necessary, but it doesn't apply to everything of importance in life.

Heinlein had read James Branch Cabell (fantasy writer of the 1920's and 1930's) who influenced the field markedly and then fell out of popularity. And Heinlein knew L. Ron Hubbard, and some associates of Madame Blavatsky -- who had at the time moved her operations to India.

This mystical view of the universe blended into his scientific view of the universe in every book he wrote, but became more pronounced in later years -- after the feminist revolution of the 1970's and the influence of Star Trek on the SF/F reading population when he saw he could publish stories about what he had originally wanted to write about. (we have a "manuscript found in a drawer" that's recently been published to show this is true.)

Also on Saturday I saw all at once, without commercials, the cartoon film made of his novel RED PLANET -- which was a major love of mine. It's a story about motherly love, and a rite of passage story for a boy and his sister. The boy makes best-friends of a young Martian while Earth is terraforming Mars (something they're now talking about actually doing).

Of course, since it's a juvenile, the boy and his Martian friend save Mars and change the course of history. That's the "great man" theory of history, and one I use in my own novels because sometimes it's true that apparently insignificant people make huge contributions because of their personal emotional life.

But for me, the book has always been about the intense love and understanding between the boy and the alien-child.

The significant story development, for me, is the scene where the alien (after sticking with the human boy through many life-threatening adventures) tells him that he must hibernate and morph into his mature form, which will take longer than the human boy's entire lifetime.

That leave-taking, that parting scene, is for me THE defining moment of SF as a genre. I internalized it so greatly that I barely remembered it until I saw it on the screen.

The animated version tag ends the story with a scene where the Martian, as an adult, is telling his best-human-friend's grandchild about his childhood best friend. It's a cartoon! I cried my head off!!!!

On Sunday I did 4 panels and hardly had a moment to sit and listen to other panels. I was on a panel titled "I now pronounce you" -- which turned out to be about people who are actually living Heinlein's model of the "line marriage" and the "group marriage" from Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. I did two panels on Heinlein's Heroines, and got into a number of discussions challenging the view that Heinlein's writing is male chauvinistic (it's not -- but those who don't understand the nuances can't tell the difference.)

One thing about this convention that was really odd. There were, I think, fewer than a thousand people spread over two huge hotels with multiple tracks of programming going all the time -- and despite all that, all the panels I did filled the room. It wasn't ME or the celebrities I was on with. It was that people came to the event in order to go to the panels!

But I also had a few people who had seen me at a panel on Friday following through to all the panels I did on Sunday -- people who hadn't read my books and didn't know who I was. I had three or four long conversations in the hallways, too.

I was on a couple of panels with J. Neil Schulman, an SF writer who is forging ahead into film making. He's written, produced and directed a feature film which is an Action Comedy starring Nichelle Nichols (Uhura on Star Trek: The Original Series). The film, titled Lady Magdalene's, is being marketed for theater release. 

"Jack Goldwater, an IRS Agent on load to the Federal Air Marshal Service, is relieved of field duty after insulting a powerful U. S. Senator, and finds himself exiled to a humiliating desk job in Nevada as the Federal Receiver managing a legal brothel in tax default. Where -- with the help of the brothel Madam, Lady Magdalene (Nichelle Nichols) -- he uncovers an Al Qaeda plot to unload a nuclear bomb sized crate at Hoover Dam. " Runtime 117 minutes.

Watch theaters for that film - it'll likely be a landmark.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg 


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