One of my favorite science fiction authors, Robert A. Heinlein, died today – twenty-five years ago – on May 8th, 1988. Heinlein was one of the early pioneers and famously a guest commentator for the Apollo moon landing. In other words, he was the star among science fiction writers, and can only ever be surpassed by whoever gets to be guest commentator for the Mars landing, whenever that happens.
Heinlein became successful and famous through several “Juveniles”, books aimed at teenage boys.
I’d say that Heinlein’s most famous books are Starship Troopers – which popularized space marines and powered armor – and Stranger in a Strange Land, which fit right in with the Hippie subculture of its days.
Heinlein’s works are not without controversy; he often dealt with “taboo” topics – racism, nudism, and so on – and got decidedly weird later on, when many of his stories featured excessive amounts of incest and at least borderline pedophilia.
If you are not familiar with Heinlein’s work, I recommend the following reading list:
- The Rolling Stones
- Citizen of the Galaxy
- Farmer in the Sky
- Starman Jones
- Red Planet
- Between Planets
- Stranger in a Strange Land
- Starship Troopers
- The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
- The Puppet Masters
If you are ever going to read one Heinlein book, make it Starship Troopers – and if you have seen the terrible movie adaption, you must know that the book and the movie have almost nothing in common except for a few themes and character names etc.
I read several of Heinlein’s books before I ever realized they were written by the same guy. The Rolling Stones and Between Planets were among the earliest Science Fiction books I ever read, and especially The Rolling Stones is a great influence on what I am working on (Somnium, Dragonfly). Unfortunately I was too young to ever see Heinlein in person, and had I had the opportunity I would not have been able to have a meaningful conversation with the man. Even if I do not like his later works, I will always have great respect for Heinlein and his achievements.