Why The Evidence Should Be Examined

Well, that was a disappointment.

John C. Wright’s “Heinlein, Hugos and Hogwash”  begins —

Robert Heinlein could not win a Hugo Award today.

If you are a fan of science fiction, you know how shocking that statement is.

With a hook like that I naturally expected him to deliver some kind of cogent argument. Instead, his Heinlein reference was a bait-and-switch.  Readers expecting to learn something about the contemporary reception of Robert Heinlein find themselves subjected to a belligerent rant about the critics of Larry Correia, Orson Scott Card, Elizabeth Moon, Theodore Beale and the SFWA Bulletin. Heinlein is just some talismanic figure whose name, once invoked, never appears again after the opening paragraphs of the article.

How does fandom actually regard Heinlein? When Steve Davidson tried to tackle all this in a rambling answer on Amazing Stories blog he only got the back of Wright’s hand for his effort

I am taken to task for daring to say Heinlein would not win the Hugo these days.

I regard the observation as unexceptional; a sufficient number of Leftists denounce Heinlein as a fascist and sexist, and who (by their own admission) do not vote on the merits of the author’s work but on his ideological purity, to defeat a nomination.

All the blogosphere’s disapproving comments about the people Wright defends in his article show nothing about contemporary Hugo voters’ willingness to honor Robert Heinlein. How do we know it shows nothing? Because Heinlein has been voted three Hugo awards in this century!

In 2001, when Worldcon members awarded Retro Hugos to works published in 1950, the winners included Heinlein’s Farmer in the Sky for Best Novel and “The Man Who Sold The Moon” for Best Novella. Then, for good measure, Destination Moon won the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo, made from a screenplay co-written by Heinlein based on his novel Rocketship Galileo.

Heinlein’s track record of winning Hugos does not mean there has ever been at any time a monolithic and approving view of Robert Heinlein. Let no one be deluded by this other ridiculous claim in Wright’s article — “But in his [Heinlein’s] day, few science fiction readers were offended by his or anyone’s ideas.” The period when Heinlein won his original four Hugos (1956-1967) was by no means some kind of golden age where nobody ever questioned his political views or criticized his work. Don’t kid yourself! He’s always been controversial within fandom. If you want to know what those days were really like, start by reading Alexei Panshin’s article about Heinlein’s attempt to stop publication of his literary biography Heinlein in Dimension.

10 thoughts on “Why The Evidence Should Be Examined

  1. Back of what hand? I agreed with Steve Davidson the points he raised.

    Heinlein has indeed always been controversial with the fans, yes, indeed, but the controversies these days have adopted an increasingly ferocious tone, for the reasons I described. Ask someone old enough to remember those days.

  2. I’m getting tired of this. Thought police, schmought police.

    The day armed cops from “WSFS, Inc.” break down your door because you didn’t vote the right way for a Hugo is when there will be thought police.

    The day an armed guard stops you at a hotel or convention center entrance because you’re on the “no fly (ing car) list” for that Worldcon is when there will be thought police.

    Would everybody just get over themselves, please, and stop using so damned much apocalyptic/Godfrey’s law rhetoric?

    Sam Moskowitz should only be still alive to see all this: The Immortal Storm, indeed.

  3. “Ask someone old enough to remember those days.”

    Well, I remember them, and I don’t find discussions of Heinlein more contentious now than then. There are more contentious discussions, but not about Heinlein.

  4. The cogent point in my response was that Wright appropriated Heinlein’s name for his own political purposes, something that Heinlein would have absolutely objected to.

    Wright tried to be dismissive of that in a faux intellectual manner that I’ve ignored because it only seeks to make point and never addresses the main point, which seems to be typical of the kinds of game he’s playing.

    My mistake was in responding to the BS in the first place.

  5. He can’t win one *today* because nothing he published in 1938 was nominated. He *did* win one a few years ago.

  6. Mike’s point is going over my head. Following that link to isfdb, I see no fiction by Heinlein published prior to 1939, and the only things earlier than 1939 were three non-fiction essays, none published in 1938.


  8. If I recall correctly, in 1940, after the publication of “Let There Be Light” the lettercol received complaints about the story, which was accused of lowering the quality of science fiction.

  9. The files of fanzines I have discussing Heinlein’s politics seemed to have always been there. I mean, a large part of the content of discussions seems to center on his assumed views and politics, which shifted from novel to novel (some people didn’t regard the shifts as stances taken in different novels because of the different situations involved in each novel). With different worlds, there is different ways of thinking.

    And by the way, who would publish Ray Bradbury today?


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