Robert Heinlein

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Robert Anson Heinlein (1907 - 1988) is ranked among the most influential authors of the Science fiction genre.

Heinlein spent his childhood in Kansas City, Missouri in the early years of the 20th_century. This was a time of great religious revival across America, especially socially marginalized areas...such as Missouri. It was an environment of narrow-mindedness and parochialism, where the rules of the tribe were assumed to be laws for all humanity. Heinlein managed to break free from the mores of his childhood, to slough off the values in which he had been raised, and to remake himself in the manner of his own choosing. This personal triumph became a recurring theme in his stories.

Robert Heinlein graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929, and was an officer in the United States Navy until 1934. He was discharged due to pulmonary tuberculosis. This military background is also an essential part of his writings.

external link Robert Heinlein Biography

The themes of Heinlein's fiction

The theme of self-making is taken to its furthest in the related books Time Enough For Love, The Number of the Beast, and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. We are left to wonder, what would humanity be in the absence of all customs? How would our humanity be expressed if we did not develop under the soul-squashing influence of culture? We would be individuals. We would have self-made souls.

Other recurring themes uniting Heinlein's works include individual dignity and the supreme value of personal liberty, the virtue of independence, science as a liberating factor, the perniciousness of bureaucrats, the hypocrisy of organized religion and the silliness of mysticism.

Heinlein's philosophy

As in the work of other authors, in Heinlein's work there is little clear distinction between the themes of his work and the sort of philosophical views that he propagated.

In his book To Sail Beyond the Sunset, Heinlein has the main character, Maureen, state that the purpose of metaphysics is to ask questions: Why are we here? Where are we going after we die? (and so on), and that you are not allowed to answer the questions. Asking the questions is the point for metaphysics but answering them is not because once you answer them you cross the line into religion. He doesn't really say why, but the answer as to "why" is obvious: because any answer is an opinion. It may be a good opinion, or a bad one, but it's only what the person who wrote the opinion believes. Such opinions cannot be validated, e.g. you can't ask the person to show you what it is like after death or provide for a personal audience with their God or gods.


Short stories

Other Books

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