31 March 2011

Robert Heinlein

Steve Sailer wrote yesterday about the unique author Robert Heinlein

Heinlein was a huge influence on me: my near 20-year libertarian phase might not have happened had I not read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Time Enough for Love.

But as Sailer notes, Heinlein himself was not an ideologue. And lately I've been thinking less about the relatively easy question, of what you should do should you happen to find yourself in control of a computer that is powerful enough to give you effective rule over your society, and more about the difficult questions of the interaction of reason, courage, leadership, personal loyalty, loyalty to abstractions — the stuff of what I always thought of as his unsatisfactory later novels like Number of the Beast and Friday.

The unsatisfactoriness comes from the lack of coherent answers to the questions. But if I get round to putting up a new strapline for Anomaly UK, it will be "This shit is difficult". I have come to thoroughly distrust easy answers. Not that I don't believe there are right answers, just that I accept that they aren't easy to find or easy to recognise. Also, they are quite likely to be contingent on all sorts of details we would rather abstract away.

3 comments:

Aretae said...

Bravo.
I'll join you on the "This Shit is difficult Alliance" (TSIDA)

Vladimir said...

"This shit is difficult" indeed.

Heinlein's on my "to read" list. I remember certain prominent lefties at my uni absolutely despised him ("fascist writer"), which is something of an endorsement in retrospect.

Aaron Davies said...

Heinlein was constantly changing his mind (to the extent that any of his novels represent his personal opinions, anyway). Farnham's Freehold is the novel most frequently called fascist (haven't read it, can't comment), though I suppose a case could be made for Starship Troopers (have, disagree); Stranger in a Strange Land, OTOH, is considered by many a hippie classic; and his earliest work, the recently discovered For Us, the Living, is a Social Credit tract!

If you find you've run out of challenging ideas in Heinlein, I recommend moving on to James P. Hogan. Alternatively, Spider Robinson is often considered Heinlein's heir.