Suppose They Gave A Culture War And Nobody Came

Immediately after Jim Baen died in 2006, his friends’ wide-ranging discussions about their great respect and affection for him as a person, and regard for his accomplishments as an editor, woke Francis Turner to the realization fandom would have only one more chance to vote him the Best Editor Hugo

Baen had revitalized Galaxy in the 1970s with works from many top writers (most of John Varley’s great early stories were published in Baen’s Galaxy). He ran Ace’s sf book line under publisher Tom Doherty, and later did the same at TOR Books, before starting his own company, Baen Books. Prior to his death he’d received seven Hugo nominations, but the last had been in 1981 and he had never won the award.

Francis Turner wrote a blog post on L’Ombre de l’Olivier in August 2006 encouraging people not only to vote Baen the Best Editor (Long Form) Hugo the following year — but to visualize “A Baen Sweep of the Hugos”.

Turner listed three goals:

  • Get Jim Baen nominated and voted for Editor (books) for 2006 [i.e., the eligibility year for the 2007 Hugos]
  • Increase the participation in the Hugo process
  • Get some Baen works on the ballots

Turner’s first stop in the get-out-the-vote campaign was going to be Baen’s Bar.

As noted at Toni’s Table, the electorate for Hugo awards (and the Campbell award) is almost as small and fluid as that of a “Rotten Burough”. Also noted there is that Baen hasn’t won many such awards recently despite Baen being the #2 or #3 (depending on how you count/who is counting) speculative fiction (SF) publisher. This totally unaffiliated page is therefore set up so that loyal Baen Barflies can do a little consensus building and nominate appropriately with the goal of seeing Jim Baen nominated as editor and ideally also seeing a Baen author/artist win some other category of the 2007 Hugo awards.

Some of Turner’s other arguments have proven equally evergreen:

The participation of the wider SF community in the Hugo awards is declining….

To be honest I find it sad that even 5 years ago less than 1000 people could be bothered to vote for the awards that are supposed to represent all of SF-fandom. The fact that these numbers have now dwindled to two thirds of that in 2006 is even more tragic. What I think is also sad is that I, personally, had only read one 2006 Novel nominee – Scalzi’s “Old Man’s War” – and that a number of books that I thought were great did not appear. Most of the books I liked were published by Baen (but not all were) and it was notable that none of the 5 most nominated works were published by Baen…

This is an attempt to mobilise the large number of loyal Baen readers to nominate and vote so that their point of view is recognised within the SF world. I believe both the awards and SF as a whole would benefit from the Hugos not being seen as a high-brow cliquey award…. I hope to do this by convincing a number of loyal Baen readers (aka Barflies) to register as attendees for Worldcon 2007 or as voting associates and, having done so, to nominate Jim Baen for the editor award and to nominate some Baen works/authors/artists for the other awards.

Well aware of the objections that would be raised in other quarters, Turner preemptively insisted —

There is NO intention to produce a Baen “slate” and to insist (as if it were possible) that Barflies nominate and vote for the “slate”.

And another entire section tried to deflect “Potential Controversy.” There, Turner offered such reassurances as —

Secondly despite the title, I neither want nor expect a sweep of all the awards – not in 2007 at least 🙂 .

Surprisingly, considering how well Correia and Torgersen did with the same arguments later on, Turner’s appeal failed to generate the faintest support.

Yes, Jim Baen was nominated for Best Editor. However, that was accomplished with just 30 votes and there’s no sign they were the product of any concerted effort. Because if you look at the Best Novel category in the 2007 Hugo Award nominating statistics you’ll find zero Baen novels among the top 27 books receiving votes — and it took only four votes to be listed in the report.

Two other Baen Editors, Toni Weisskopf and Jim Minz, each received seven votes.

Although Mike Resnick’s novelette “All the Things You Are” (Jim Baen’s Universe October 2006) was a Hugo finalist, nobody has had more fiction nominated for the Hugo than Resnick. He achieved that result without any dependence on Turner’s efforts.

But reading Turner’s 10-year-old post certainly produces a stunning sense of déjà-vu.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh for the story.]


Discover more from File 770

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

184 thoughts on “Suppose They Gave A Culture War And Nobody Came

  1. Larry shows his continued lack of class and grasp of facts and envy. He cracks a dumb joke at the expense of a very serious injury to a man who is infinitely more talented (and rewarded) than he could ever be. He ignores the fact that Mr. King was following the rules of the road, and the man who hit him (IIRC was drunk and on the wrong side) was so upset at what he’d done, he later committed suicide.

    To sum up:

    Larry: thinks life-threatening accidents make for funny jokes.
    JCW: thinks gay men should be beaten to death, senile ones halfway.
    Brad: thinks being gay is so bad you shouldn’t even call your enemy that.
    Teddy: hates everyone who isn’t SWMChristian.

    Ladies and gentlemen, your Puppy leaders.
    By their fruits ye shall know them.

    —————————————
    Brad also seems unable to grasp that Toni would likely have lost the Hugo in ANY year by not submitting any examples of work to the packet. Most people don’t vote if they don’t have any familiarity.

    And people who decide on their own (as opposed to the publishers deciding for them) not to put anything in the packet get an automatic ding from many voters. “If they really wanted to win, they’d put something in!” It’s free to them and no more trouble than cut-paste-email. Not bothering to do that means you don’t really care.

  2. Camestros Felapton: Well I’m more rhotic* than most but I assume the original title implied that the name of a capital ‘A’ is pronounced ‘ar’ or ‘ah’ (rhyme with ‘bar’) as opposed to ‘ay’ (to rhyme with ‘may’)

    NOS4A2: Nosferatu
    NOS4R2: Nosferartu

    There’s already an “R” in “four”. A second one is not needed — unless you’re from one of those countries which likes to stick extra “R”s in words that don’t actually have them. 😉

  3. “Brad: thinks being gay is so bad you shouldn’t even call your enemy that.”

    Very no on that one. He apologized for his insult towards Scalzi and wrote a blog text defending gay marriage.

  4. Hampus Eckerman: Very no on that one. He apologized for his insult towards Scalzi and wrote a blog text defending gay marriage.

    Actually, if you go read BT’s “apology”, he’s making it quite clear that he thinks “gay” is an insult.

  5. I am of the opinion that it’s impossible for me to vote in the book editor category, because I don’t know enough about what the editor did, even when I know who the editor was.

    Is the editor responsible for the whole finished product, including cover art, quality of paper, etc? Is the editor responsible for the final state of the copy, spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc? Is the editor responsible for the decision to publish the book, and for collaborating artistically with the author to get the work itself into its finished form?

    How many Hugo voters are able to answer those questions, without knowing all about industry practices, or how particular firms operate, or how particular editors work with particular writers? I don’t know the answers and I don’t think I’m unusually naive or uninformed. I don’t see how anything in a Hugo packet could answer those questions for me. I suppose an editor could name some books they worked on, and I could look at them and evaluate the state of the copy, the quality of the production, the aesthetic quality of the work, but I still wouldn’t know what the editor did.

    A “favourite publisher” category might make more sense. Perhaps Ms. Weisskopf thinks so too, if (as I have read) she responded to the request for examples of her work by citing the whole Baen list.

  6. JJ on January 7, 2016 at 7:12 pm said:
    NOS4A2: Nosferatu
    NOS4R2: Nosferartu

    There’s already an “R” in “four”. A second one is not needed — unless you’re from one of those countries which likes to stick extra “R”s in words that don’t actually have them. ?

    Well the saying r’s that aren’t there and not saying r’s that are there is more regional than national in the UK but in the Great Southern Land it seems to be mandatory.

    I think the issue I’d have with NOS4A2 is the A just looks like I should say “ay” (i.e. the name of the letter) rather than ‘ah’ but then I could give a good reason for that as the ‘nos’ looks obvious (i.e. not ‘en-oh-ess’). I think I’d pronounce the vampire words as ‘nos-fur-are-too’ but then that is probably because it is a pretend non-English word. Is Mr Hill serious about the way we should have pronounced this or is he joeking?

  7. Camestros Felapton: Is Mr Hill serious about the way we should have pronounced this or is he joeking?

    I’m sure that when the manuscript was published in the U.S., they said it should be “NOS4A2”; then when Gollancz got the manuscript they said “No way!  Sod that! That’s not intuitive! It should be NOS4R2!” And Joe Hill said, “Hey, whatever sells the most copies.” And then the Dutch publisher said, “They’re all frickin’ wankers! We’re spelling it Nosferatu!”

    And no, he’s not joeking, he’s joehill. (I see what you did there.)

  8. Oddly, while NOS4A2 more closely matches my pronounciation (USian), the word didn’t click until I saw it written as NOS4R2, which I got immediately.

    Thanks everyone who called out Amazon’s sale on The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. I’ve picked it up for my weekend reading. Last week was The Girl With All The Gifts and Station Eleven, which seemed coincidentally appropriate to read as a year was ending. Station Eleven wasn’t quite to my taste, but I appreciate how the story wove together. The Girl With All The Gifts, otoh, kept me up reading all night. I do enjoy how you can get such wildly different stories from the same base idea of a plague that wipes out the basic blocks of civilization.

  9. Rev. Bob on January 7, 2016 at 1:44 pm said:

    Anyway, I can recognize – now – that there’s some problematic content in the book. The incest themes in his later books are another example. At the same time, he wrote the books that were my first exposure to concepts that are still struggling for mainstream recognition – such as open acceptance of transgender, poly, and bisexual characters. It may sound funny to some, but I give Heinlein a lot of credit as an early SJW in the best sense of the term. He wasn’t a cartoonishly screechy Eebil SJW caricature, but minority characters (racial, sexual, and otherwise) and competent women were a significant part of his work as far back as I can remember.

    “I think one could perhaps make an excellent case for Heinlein as a female chauvinist. He has repeatedly insisted that women average smarter, more practical and more courageous than men. He consistently underscores their biological and emotional superiority. He married a woman he proudly described to me as “smarter, better educated and more sensible than I am.” In his latest book, Expanded Universe—the immediate occasion for this article—he suggests without the slightest visible trace of irony that the franchise be taken away from men and given exclusively to women. He consistently created strong, intelligent, capable, independent, sexually aggressive women characters for a quarter of a century before it was made a requirement, right down to his supporting casts.”
    —Spider Robinson, from his 1980 essay “Rah, Rah, RAH!

    Spider’s essay is well worth reading in full. At the time it came out (it was published in one of the magazines I read regularly), I was beginning to wonder if I was giving Heinlein more respect than he deserved, and maybe downplaying his faults a little too much. Spider cured me of that. Which is certainly not to say that Heinlein didn’t have faults. He had plenty. But Spider did an excellent job of pointing out a whole lot of misplaced criticism. And Spider is hardly some arch-conservative, lurking in his Lair of Doom somewhere. He’s the next best thing to a freakin’ hippie. There’s good reasons why the hippies liked Heinlein, and it’s not just because of Stranger. It’s because Heinlein was extremely progressive for his day. If the Puppies (of whatever ilk) had read any of his works other than Starship Troopers, they’d be fleeing in terror at the idea of being associated with the man! 🙂

  10. And no, he’s not joeking, he’s joehill. (I see what you did there.)

    Depends on whether he’s on a book cover or signing the contract, doesn’t it?

  11. From Correias blog: “The main reason I don’t enjoy King novels is that he writes good victims, good thugs, and wouldn’t know a hero if it bit him in the ass. His books are all about making you feel helpless, useless, and weak. “

    Wow, that’s one of the least fair description of the work of Stephen King I’ve ever read. King’s books are full of terrified people standing up to monsters and often winning. Frequently, they do this in a heroic manner — knowing the stakes, having the choice to walk away, and forging ahead to try to stop the evil because it’s the right thing to do.

    I mean, that description is so off, it makes me wonder if Correia has ever actually read any King.

    I also wonder — since the Pups are supposedly all about sales and popularity and whatnot, what possible motivation could one of them have for dissing the most popular writer of the modern era? Is it just because he’s an outspoken liberal? Because he’s not exactly a big fan of guns, and has said so?

    @Kevin Standlee on January 7, 2016 at 10:19 am said:

    Everything you just said.

    When it comes to Heinlein and sexism, he’s kind of an odd duck, much like my beloved original series Star Trek. On the one hand, you get smart, capable women having space adventures right alongside the men. On the other hand, you get… notions. Assumptions. Stereotypes. And, in the case of Heinlein, some of the most epic mansplaining ever committed to paper.

    I think trying to characterize him as EITHER a feminist OR a sexist is way too binary. He was definitely progressive in that area, and sort of — heading in the direction of feminism, I guess?

    But he also had a lot of quirks and blind spots, and an annoying tendency to to have characters give lectures on The World of Sex Roles According To Uncle Bob. Even when I was a little girl, I got very annoyed at having somebody presume to know all about me just because I was female, and tell me what I thought, what was important to me, what I was good at, what I liked, what I ought to do with my life, etc. It didn’t matter if he was relatively flattering about it.

  12. @Hampus:

    The Door Into Summer is one of my favorites, too. I’ve also got a soft spot for Double Star, as wince-inducing as my memory of the perfume-hypnosis plot point is.

    @Camestros: (NOS4A2 vs. NOS4R2)

    What JJ said. NOS4R2 adds an R sound that should only be there if the vampire’s either a pirate or a cranky astromech… 😉

    @Xtifr: (“Rah, Rah, RAH!”)

    I read that essay quite some time back. As I recall, one of the major publishers was doing a quarterly MMPB-format “magazine” in the late 1980s and dedicated one “issue” to Heinlein, and that was one of the included pieces.

    As for Spider himself, I absolutely love his Callahan books. They’re on what I call my “contact poison” list: the books in my collection that I’m convinced have some form of contact poison on the cover, because if I even touch them, I’m in imminent danger of spending the next couple of hours rereading them. (Also on that list: Stephen King’s It, most of Heinlein’s work, and two Robert Asprin series – the Myth and Phule books.) However, while I mostly appreciate the job Spider did completing Variable Star, I can definitely tell where Heinlein’s notes ended. That sharp turn at 9/11 was a dead giveaway.

  13. I vote for pirate vampire and hence an extra ‘r’ on the grounds that if you put on a spooky fake Transylvanian accent and stretch the word out all scary like you really need an extra ‘r’ in there to sound sufficiently spooky:
    e.g.Spooky: Beware the coming of the nosferaaaaaaaarrtooooo!!!!
    Not-spooky: Beware the coming of the nosferaaaaaaaatooooo!!!!

    But please do not take my word for it. I suggest that you all try this out several times in front of friends and loved ones before deciding one way or another.

  14. To those of us who speak the Queen’s English, NOS4A2 is pronounced Nosfer-AY-2, whereas NOS4R2 is pronounced Nosferatu.

    In other news, you say potato and I say potato, and I crack open my boiled eggs in the only acceptable manner, at the big end.

  15. Malcolm Edwards on January 8, 2016 at 12:33 am said:

    To those of us who speak the Queen’s English, NOS4A2 is pronounced Nosfer-AY-2, whereas NOS4R2 is pronounced Nosferatu.

    Hmm but I feel the same about the “Ay-2” but I find I can’t justify it consistently. If we are pronouncing letters as capitals then why aren’t we doing that for NOS? Is it the proximity of the numbers? Also I guess the pronunciation comes down to how the evil bad guy pronounces it and canonically NOS4A2 is the choice of a really nasty evil supernatural monster.

    Also, what would Larry Correia do?

    I think if we can just settle this question regarding license plate themed book title we can lay the foundation of a more general theory of book titles.

  16. @Camestros: “If we are pronouncing letters as capitals then why aren’t we doing that for NOS? Is it the proximity of the numbers?”

    Here in the States, custom license plates are kind of a thing. Trouble is, you only have 6-7 (maybe 8) characters to play with, so you have to get creative. In this case, “nosferatu” is too long at nine characters. The last syllable’s easy; 2 for “tu” is a natural fit. That’s not quite enough, though, but “fer” is close enough that 4 will work. Hence, “nos4a2” – which fits nicely on even the most limited plates. The A is pronounced “ah” because once you decode the digits, that’s how you say the word.

    As for capitals – well, when was the last time you saw lowercase on a license plate? Other than on the preprinted “chrome,” I mean – I’m talking about in the letters and digits that make up the actual code. There’s no pronunciation significance to the case of the letters because there’s no choice available.

  17. but minority characters (racial, sexual, and otherwise) and competent women were a significant part of his work as far back as I can remember.

    Suspect that Heinlein’s racial chops are hard to appreciate now that we’ve all shifted a bit towards basic decency. I read Stranger for the first time last year. Yes, there is a competent Muslim character in the book. Shame everyone calls him Stinky.
    It is possible that in 1960 it would have been a big deal to have an Egyptian in a role other than comedy sidekick. Now it just feels like a gratuitous insult.

  18. @NickPheas: (“Stinky”)

    I read it as a friendly nickname, not a malicious insult. But then, I have a friend who insists on being called by initials that stand for a nickname strangers would think is insulting. Another buddy goes by “Skunk” – he’s a furry who wears a leather jacket (with a punk anthro skunk illustration on the back) and a large, poofy black-and-white tail at cons. So maybe my calibration is off.

    Now, if the book had strangers calling him “Stinky,” that’d be different, but I’ve seen too much friendly razzing to jump right to the “insult” conclusion.

  19. I read it as someone having embraced the insult. Which may be a valid response, but it remains an insult.

  20. I had a friend who legally changed her name to “The Frog” (in swedish), that is what everyone called her anyhow.

  21. Let’s not forget that masterpiece of sci-fi horror, The Vampire Strikes Back, featuring robo-bloodsucker NOS4R2-D2.

    And NOS4AT-ATs.

  22. Telling women how great they are is not the same thing as respecting their thoughts and words and human individuality.

  23. @Peace Is My Middle Name: Telling women how great they are is not the same thing as respecting their thoughts and words and human individuality..

    Yes, oh, yes, a million times yes. And I’ll add all the rhetoric of “superior” women is part of the “patriarchal pedestal” (because those women who don’t want to BE on that pedestal–which one might note in Heinlein and the patriarchal ideology always always involves marrying men and having children–get punished because they aren’t truewomen).

    @Rev Bob and Xtifr: I was a huge fan of Heinlein and Robinson for many years. I no longer own or read any of their books (although that was a process that took many years and many moves).

    I read and loved Heinlein for years–until I was 14. And suddenly grew breasts and started menstruating. And WHAM the full out social demand that I get married and pop out kids hit. This was late 60s in Idaho where the hippie movement never really came–and while “hippies” had some progressive ideology, a lot of the seventies feminists who left the hippies/radical left movement pointed out sexism in that group as well.

    And then I started reading Heinlein with a jaundiced eye. I didn’t want to get married (but I learned to stop saying that out loud). I especially didn’t want to have children (*SHUDDER*) but wow, I couldn’t believe the rants that saying that aloud to people (male and female people) elicited.

    As McJulie so brilliantly says: On the one hand, you get smart, capable women having space adventures right alongside the men. On the other hand, you get… notions. Assumptions. Stereotypes. And, in the case of Heinlein, some of the most epic mansplaining ever committed to paper.

    I think trying to characterize him as EITHER a feminist OR a sexist is way too binary. He was definitely progressive in that area, and sort of — heading in the direction of feminism, I guess?

    But he also had a lot of quirks and blind spots, and an annoying tendency to to have characters give lectures on The World of Sex Roles According To Uncle Bob. Even when I was a little girl, I got very annoyed at having somebody presume to know all about me just because I was female, and tell me what I thought, what was important to me, what I was good at, what I liked, what I ought to do with my life, etc. It didn’t matter if he was relatively flattering about it.

    Actually, I think the “flattering” is one of the most pernicious parts of Heinlein’s narrator’s voices!

    I did keep reading Heinlein for a while because my initial disgust at the social expectations did not in fact make me a feminist (I tried the “Exceptional Woman” route for a while–i.e. “I’m different than all those other GIRLS; I can do these special MANLY things”).

    And Heinlein’s narrators/authors/persona (and really, we’re all just taking about his work, mostly his narrators, and those changed over time) seem fairly comfortable with Exceptional Women (in fact, they seem to demand them as rewards for their own status as Exceptional Men as long as the Exceptional Woman meets their physical definition of sexy and has sex with them and, oh, yeah, listens to the lectures).

    There’s a whole of of “red hair=special=MarySue” commentary in fandom which made me retroactively look hard at “red haired people are sooooo special” in Heinlein as well!

    I was very disappointed by the ways in which Robinson tried to defend Heinlein.

    And the paragraph Xtifr quotes sort of sums up the major problem: if the ONLY women who exist in an authors’ works are “strong, intelligent, capable, independent, sexually aggressive women characters” — and if those women are only heterosexual, well, that’s one problem. If they all conform to a very specific patriarchal ideology of body type, another problem. If they are only (or mostly) “white” or coded “white” (which is another whole topic to do with Heinlein and race), that is another problem. And yeah, if they all want to have sex with their daddy figure, then whoa.

    There is an ongoing and fascinating debate about the problems of the “strong female characters” in sff (ably summed up in the Geek Feminism Wiki) that is very relevant to Heinlein’s female characters. I’d also note that the historical context is important: “strong female characters” could definitely have been defined as representing one strand of feminist thought in the middle part of the 20th century because “a strong female character” was a step up from NO female characters. But the problems involve the extent to which a female character who is “kickass” but also “sexy” (appealing to men) is then held up as the best type of female character (and is just another stereotype), and also–that she’s always singular (there was a great discussion in another thread about the female characters in Correia’s Monster Hunter series that completely exemplifies this debate).

    I’d add one female character in a novel isolated from all other female characters (references Bechdel test here quickly) doesn’t in fact show that much about “women.” And I’m trying to remember how often Heinlein’s female characters talk about anything other than men with other female characters (and the whole mother/daughter relationships in several of them–Podkayne, To Sail Beyond the Sunset leap to mind–squick me right out).

    And while I have absolutely no idea with anybody loving Heinlein’s work (there is much to love in his novels), I do have a problem when male somebodies are lecturing feminist somebodies about Heinlein’s “feminism.” The bit in the quote that many might not notice but rubs me the wrong way is: ” for a quarter of a century before it was made a requirement.” Made a requirement, hmm, Spider? I read that as a pretty passive-aggressive swipe at feminist critiques of male-dominated literature, and a “Heinlein was doing feminism right before you silly current feminists were even born.”

    And I’m not speaking for all feminists: I know Farah Mendlesohn is working on a book on Heinlein, and she has very different perspectives on his work.

    I’m also a major fan of Heinlein’s work being a whole lot more complex than either/or (i.e. feminist or sexist). I was recently contacted to write an essay for a collection on Heinlein, and decided I wanted to do an intersectional reading of MOON (which is the one Heinlein novel I could read for many years after giving up on Heinlein–and doing that essay was incredibly fun). So what the heck, I’ll quote some chunks of it below (and include some of the scholarship on Heinlein’s work to show just how many academic critics are arguing for the complexities of Heinlein’s literary works).

  24. My academic take on Heinlein!

    Excerpts from my essay in
    Critical Insights: Robert A. Heinlein
    edited by Rafeeq O. McGiveron

    Title: “Reading the Man in the Moon: An Intersectional Analysis of Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

    NOTE: Intersectional Theory is based on the works of Black feminists (Kimberlé Crenshaw being one of the scholars most associated with it) on the interconnectedness of systems of oppression of race, gender, class, sexual identity, etc. The intersections I analyze in this paper are those between the novel’s construction of nationality and gender, and race and gender.

    This excerpt summarizes some of the critical disagreements around Heinlein’s work. Not surprisingly, they mirror the basic disagreements I see in fan discussions online!

    H. Bruce Franklin, in <em"Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction (1980), analyzes how Heinlein’s fiction engages with social and political issues, including feminist and Civil Rights movements. In his fourth chapter, “A Voice of the 1960s,” Franklin analyzes how the four novels published that decade engage with liberation movements: the counter-culture youth, including hippie, movement (<em"Stranger in A Strange Land [1961]); the feminist movement (Podkayne of Mars [1963]); the anti-war and Free Speech movement (Glory Road [1963]); and the anti-nuclear and survivalist movements as well as white resistance to the Civil Rights movement (<em"Farnham’s Freehold [1964]. Unlike some critics, Franklin does not argue that Heinlein’s work takes a single, easily identified, political position, only that his novels are important because of the extent to which they engage in dialogue with the various challenges to authority, imperialism, and power by various liberation movements of the time.

    Differences in how political themes are presented in Heinlein’s work over multiple decades is one reason so much disagreement about the quality and meaning of Heinlein’s work. The disagreement on the question of the relative quality of Heinlein’s earlier or later work is analyzed by Robert James and William H. Patterson, Jr. (2006), who argue that scholarship on Heinlein’s work was influenced by Alexei Panshin’s Heinlein in Dimension (1968), the first book-length work of criticism on Heinlein. Panshin argues that Heinlein’s work became worse over time, falling from his greatest artistic success of 1947-1958 to the supposedly lower-quality work published from 1959-1967. To Panshin, the later novels suppress character and story to authorial lecturing “about the morality of sex, religion, war and politics,” with a change in content from scientific and technological facts to presenting Heinlein’s opinions as facts (89). Other scholars, however, disagree with Panshin, arguing for the quality of Heinlein’s work from the 1960s onward and against the claim that Heinlein’s simplistically presents his personal views: Elizabeth Ann Hull and Robert Gorsch.

    In 1979, Hull, in “Justifying the Ways of Man to God,” considers the historical and cultural importance of the genre of published sermons and didactic fiction in the United States as the context for her “radical suggestion that, contrary to the most widely accepted critical theories, the Heinlein addict reads his work, not in spite of the sermons Heinlein crafts, but actually for the pleasure of the challenge of considering the moral and political questions” (38). In “The Golden Age of Heinlein” (2006), Gorsch argues that the novels of the late 1950s and 1960s, including Moon, are Heinlein’s best, his “Golden Age.” Gorsch’s use of the phrase “Golden Age” is important because many science fiction critics claim that the “Golden Age” of science fiction genre was the 1950s, with Heinlein being one of the authors most identified with that period (Silverberg). Gorsch disagrees with Panshin’s view of Heinlein’s “lectures,” and sees Heinlein as not “[forcing] options down the readers’ throats…[but forcing] questions and issues into readers’ minds,” with the result that his novels are about ideas, specifically ideas relating to “ ‘sex, religion, war, and politics,’—traditionally topics excluded from the Anglo-American dinner table” (50).

    My reading of what I call the intersectional interstices of nationalism (specifically, patriotism to a nation) and gender, or the gendered nature of patriorism in the novel:

    The rhetoric of patriotism to a country, to a nation state, as the motivation for acting against an oppressive government is woven throughout the novel, but it is an inconsistently gendered rhetoric. When Mannie describes in Chapters 9 and 12 how difficult it is to appeal to the “average Loonie,” he is discussing apolitical and apathetic men. Women apparently are not Loonies—they are, instead, part of what appeals to Loonies as well as being in scarce supply: “Average Loonie was interested in beer, betting, women, and work, in that order….Loonies had learned that there never were enough women to go around” (118). Later, Mannie laments again that the problem with creating a revolution lies in the fact that the average Loonie “despised Warden as matter of ritual, but was not stuff that makes revolutionists; he couldn’t be bothered. Beer, betting, women and work (169). Mannie says that the Peace Dragoons’ actions were the only thing keeping the revolution going.

    Two female characters in the book contradict Mannie’s exclusion of women from the category of “Loonies,” and from the characterization of apathy and lack of interest in patriotism, politics, and nation-building. First, of course, is Wyoming Knott. who is active enough at a high level in the first revolutionary movement to be sent from Hong Kong Luna to speak at the protest movement where she and Mannie meet. The second is Mimi (“Mum”) Davis, Mannie’s senior wife. Wyoming is the major female character, and her strengths and the ways in which she moves into the background of the narrative, eventually becoming one of Mannie’s wives, have been discussed by critics such as Easterbrook and Parkin-Speer. Yet despite the way in which Mannie’s narrative moves away from her actions, she clearly considers herself a Loonie and is willing to engage with all the passion and patriotism that Mannie does not see in the “average Loonie.” She is involved, along with the other women in the Davis family, and presumably a number of other women they know and recruit, in a number of activities supporting the revolution which includes, but is not limited to, providing food and drink at key meetings. Mannie’s inability to see her as fitting his definition of a patriotic Loonie extends to other women as well.

    He underestimates Wyoh’s political commitment because he sees it as “personal,” that is, relating to her exposure to radiation as a child transported to the Moon with her parents when the people in the ship were left outside ship during a solar storm. That exposure caused genetic damage, with her first child being born a “monster” (44), which led to her divorce and becoming a Free Woman who supported herself by working as a host-mother, or surrogate mother. The concept of “Free Woman” is introduced in the first chapter and never clearly defined, but given Wyoming’s reluctance to let Mannie pay for their room, it seems to mean a woman who supports herself financially rather than being part of a family or sexually involved with a man.

    However, as Hull argues, Heinlein’s method of creating a first-person narrator who is “likable enough but not heroic or objective or omniscient…allows Heinlein to let readers draw their own conclusions” (42). Not only is it possible to understand that the lack of narrative time spent on the women’s activities is not the same thing as the women, and the children, being inactive, but a reader who questions Mannie’s dismissal of Wyoming’s motivations for revolutionary movement could well argue that the personal experience of oppression that she—and presumably others on that ship, who included both convicts and volunteer colonists, adults and children—is in fact a valid and realistic motivation for opposing Lunar Authority. The personal experience of oppression is also not limited to women, as Mannie’s own emotional response to join the riots shows. When hearing of Marie Lyons’ rape and murder, he is enraged which certainly can be described as personal, i.e., emotional as well as fitting into the Loonie cultural demand that men protect women. He acknowledges that he “[w]asn’t a cold, shrewd revolutionist” and is restrained from taking immediate action by Prof and Mike (180).

    Less narrative time is given to Mimi Davis, although she is engaged with and active in revolutionary activities from early in the narrative. She adds revolutionary activities that she coordinates with other women, and Wyoming, to all the other work she does to keep the Davis family running. While that work is never described by Mannie, any more than the revolutionary activities the women do, the women’s work is invisible work of women that Mannie cannot and does not see, specifically the unpaid labor that goes into creating and maintaining families. The first night Mannie returns to his family with Wyoming in disguise, he recruits Mimi for his sub-cell. He feels the need to defend himself against the assumed reader’s accusation that he was “a husband who can’t keep from blurting everything to his wife,” by describing her intelligence, organizational abilities, her status among the “farm families and throughout Luna City; she had been up longer than 90 percent” of Loonies, as well as the necessity of getting her help to cover up their revolutionary activities while in the house (114). But Mimi also has one key speech in that scene in which her sense of her self-identification as a Loonie committed to the potential of revolutionary activity is much stronger than Mannie’s own, as shown by her use of the plural and inclusive pronoun we. She says, “I think every Loonie dreams of the day when we will be free” (115, emphasis added). She excludes a few “poor spineless rats” from “every Loonie,” but her exclusion is based on courage and commitment, not gender, and is the opposite of Mannie’s own belief.

    Selected Bibliography of academic publications on Heinlein’s work

    Bourget, Jason. “Biological Determinism, Masculine Politics and the Failure of Libertarianism in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction 37.104 (2008): 10-22.

    Easterbrook, Neil. “State, Heterotopia: The Political Imagination in Heinlein, Le Guin, and Delany.” Political Science Fiction. Ed. Donald M. Hassler and Clyde Wilcox. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina P, 1997. 43-75.

    Franklin, Bruce. Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction. Science-Fiction Writers Series. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1980.

    Gorsch, Robert. “The Golden Age of Heinlein.” Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction 35.97 (2006): 47-58.

    Hull, Elizabeth Ann. “Justifying the Ways of Man to God: The Novels of
    Robert A. Heinlein.” Extrapolation 20:1 (1979): 38-51.

    James, Robert, and William H. Patterson, Jr. “Re-Visioning Robert Heinlein’s Career.” Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction 35.97 (2006): 11-27.

    Klein, Herbert G. “Loonies and Others in Robert A. Heinlein’s the Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” Science Fiction, Imperialism and the Third World: Essays on Postcolonial Literature and Film. Ed. Ericka Hoagland, Reema Sarwal, and Andy Sawyer. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010. 141-55.

    McGiveron, Rafeeq O. “ ‘Starry-Eyed internationalists’ versus the Social Darwinists: Heinlein’s Transnational Governments.” Extrapolation 40:1 (1999): 53-70.

    McGuirk, Carol. “Nowhere Man: Towards a Poetics of Post-Utopian Characterization.” Science Fiction Studies 21.2 (1994): 141-54.

    Panshin, Alexei. Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis. Chicago: Advent, 1968.

    Parkin-Speer, Diane. “Almost a Feminist: Robert A. Heinlein.” Extrapolation 26.2 (Summer 1995): 113-25.

    Williams, Donna Glee. “The Moons of Le Guin and Heinlein.” Science Fiction Studies 21.2 (1994): 164-72.

    NOTE: Science Fiction Studies makes their archives of past publications available online! I wish more academic journals did that.

  25. robinareid — ditto on the thanks. Moon was always one of my favorites, in part because I think Manny is a character — who can be wrong about things — rather than simply a Heinlein mouthpiece.

  26. @robinareid:

    And the paragraph Xtifr quotes sort of sums up the major problem: if the ONLY women who exist in an authors’ works are “strong, intelligent, capable, independent, sexually aggressive women characters” — and if those women are only heterosexual, well, that’s one problem. If they all conform to a very specific patriarchal ideology of body type, another problem. If they are only (or mostly) “white” or coded “white” (which is another whole topic to do with Heinlein and race), that is another problem. And yeah, if they all want to have sex with their daddy figure, then whoa.

    Not to detract from your other points, but since I started by mentioning Friday, I do feel compelled to mention that she is neither heterosexual nor white and does not consider herself particularly attractive. (Yes, I know, that Whelan cover depicts her as white. The text explicitly says otherwise.)

  27. Unlike some critics, Franklin does not argue that Heinlein’s work takes a single, easily identified, political position&dots;

    I think this is my biggest problem with a lot of armchair critics, particularly with regards to Heinlein: the assumption that there is a single political stance. Heinlein’s writing career spanned almost fifty years, and two marriages to two quite different women: one a liberal activist, the other a military engineer. The fact that his politics shifted significantly over the years, especially given his living through both WWII and the Vietnam War, should be expected.

    (Yes, I know there were three marriages, but the first one ended before his writing career started.)

  28. I know at least one asexual young person who is uncomfortable with descriptions of the perfect woman as naturally sexually aggressive.

    I myself am deeply uncomfortable with *any* subset of humanity being described as sexually aggressive, either as an inherent characteristic or as the social ideal.

  29. “I myself am deeply uncomfortable with *any* subset of humanity being described as sexually aggressive, either as an inherent characteristic or as the social ideal.”

    Sexual aggressiveness is complicated. For me it is an integral part of my sex life when consent has been given. But I’m deeply uncomfortable with having sexual ideals at all regarding sexuality (apart from consent, safety and so on).

    But I do belong to that subset of humanity.

  30. robinareid:

    The bit in the quote that many might not notice but rubs me the wrong way is: ” for a quarter of a century before it was made a requirement.” Made a requirement, hmm, Spider? I read that as a pretty passive-aggressive swipe at feminist critiques of male-dominated literature, and a “Heinlein was doing feminism right before you silly current feminists were even born.”

    It was this snippet that made me shy away from clicking through to the full article. I’m so tired of reading essays with that undertone, especially after a year of Puppies.

    I read and loved Heinlein for years–until I was 14. And suddenly grew breasts and started menstruating. And WHAM the full out social demand that I get married and pop out kids hit.This was late 60s in Idaho where the hippie movement never really came…And then I started reading Heinlein with a jaundiced eye.

    This was an interesting anecdote to me simply because of the age involved. I didn’t even discover Heinlein until circa 2005 when I was maybe 15 or 16, and then only because I made a conscious effort to seek out Starship Troopers (it was cited by many other authors I’d read). So I never had the experience of reading Heinlein as a child – everything I encountered was through the eyes of a young woman. And some of those books were honestly hard to read, they were a slog…not because they were technically bad but because of the cultural attitudes and baggage.

    This isn’t a phenomenon isolated to Heinlein, of course, and he’s one of the better ones of his time in terms of actually addressing women in science fiction, but…I could never really love his works, not in the way a lot of people do. I had been spoiled as a millennial with the riches of new SF/F material for children and young adults. There’s so much exciting new material that doesn’t make me feel like I have to fully armor myself in preparation to read it like I do with the classics. I like a lot of the older works and I respect them for what they meant to the field, but I could never become a Heinlein fangirl.

    I’ve seen articles complaining that “young people these days” aren’t reading the classics anymore, but really, it sucks to read fiction with that taste in the background all the time. It’s a drag, as an earlier age might say. And my generation usually encounters the older works at an age where we’ve developed a critical eye, mid-to-late teenagerhood, and are primed to see everything we don’t like about a story, as opposed to an age when we are more apt to be believers. I’d wager a very slim minority of kids into SF/F now encounter Heinlein before they begin to face the world as young men, young women, young people.

    My generation isn’t a monolith so I don’t presume to speak for everybody: this is just a bit of reflection that spawned in my mind when I read that comment.

  31. If I would recommend something by Heinlein today, I think I would go for the short stories. Same for Asimov.

  32. Hampus Eckeman on January 8, 2016 at 11:09 am said:

    “I myself am deeply uncomfortable with *any* subset of humanity being described as sexually aggressive, either as an inherent characteristic or as the social ideal.”

    Sexual aggressiveness is complicated. For me it is an integral part of my sex life when consent has been given. But I’m deeply uncomfortable with having sexual ideals at all regarding sexuality (apart from consent, safety and so on).

    But I do belong to that subset of humanity.

    I am afraid I was unclear.

    By “subset of humanity” I meant broad groups of people like “women” or “people of sub-Saharan African descent”, both of whom have historically been labeled as essentially uniform of sexuality, although just what that uniform sexuality is agreed to be has changed from time to time.

    I did not mean to refer to people who self-identify with various orientations of sexuality, although I probably should have made more of an effort to be clear about that.

  33. When I was an avidly SF-reading kid in the 80s in the UK, there was very little Heinlein on the bookshop shelves. Loads of Clarke and Asimov of course, which I devoured, lots of Philip K Dick and Frank Herbert, but even the likes of Gordon R Dickson and Harry Harrison were much better represented than Heinlein. In fact, the only Heinlein I remember seeing at that time was “Job: A Comedy of Justice”, which never looked interesting enough for me to pick up.

    So it was that I had no experience of Heinlein till I was in my 20s, when I read “Starship Troopers”. It was enough to put me off reading any more Heinlein, and subsequent discussions of his work have done nothing to change that.

    Is there a significant US/UK difference on the prevalence and popularity of Heinlein?

    In any case, I do think the time is coming when simply not giving a toss about Heinlein will be an unremarkable mainstream position in literary SF fandom.

  34. Iain Coleman on January 8, 2016 at 12:35 pm said:

    Is there a significant US/UK difference on the prevalence and popularity of Heinlein?

    I seem to remember Friday being heavily promoted (i.e. a newspaper advert in The Guardian or The Observer) but overall I agree, aside from Stranger in a Strange Land Heinlien wasn’t as available I think.

  35. robinareid on January 8, 2016 at 7:01 am said: [lots of things]

    No comment as such other than the general observation that getting well thought out, well written, well argued essays (with bibliographies) in the *comments* is one of the things I really love about this place.

  36. Iain Coleman: So it was that I had no experience of Heinlein till I was in my 20s, when I read “Starship Troopers”. It was enough to put me off reading any more Heinlein

    And well it might. It’s really too bad that was your first Heinlein — he was in what might be considered a far-right, “Merika-Luv-It-Or-Leave-It, damn those welfare bludgers” mode for that book. The only way it is really palatable is if it is read as a satire of those people. That’s why I actually liked Verhoeven’s movie — because it was played as thinly-veiled satire of the fascism presented as a governmental ideal in the book.

    One of my favorite Heinleins is Double Star — it’s the redemption story of a self-absorbed asshole. You might consider giving it a try.

  37. I do think Double Star is one of the more accessible and stand-up-today Heinleins, agreed, JJ. I was thinking of it as I read Rhonda Masons THE EMPRESS GAME, which also uses a Prisoner of Zenda plot in Space.

  38. lurkertype on January 7, 2016 at 6:22 pm said:

    Larry: thinks life-threatening accidents make for funny jokes.
    JCW: thinks gay men should be beaten to death, senile ones halfway.
    Brad: thinks being gay is so bad you shouldn’t even call your enemy that.
    Teddy: hates everyone who isn’t SWMChristian.

    I have to give an AMEN to that. And add that Kate/Sarah are just as goofy as they are. As Kate says… “We are all Vox Day”. I believe her.

    So I have had it explained to me that Kate, Sarah and Little Teddy all have mensa cards. Are they selling those at Target now?

  39. @Cassy B and Peace is My Middle Name: I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    @McJulie: Manny is definitely a narrator who can be wrong about things although I think there are a few places where his comments are a more accurate reflection of Heinlein’s knowledge base than the fictional character’s: for example, when Wyoming is first in (temporary) disguise, she’s referred to by Mannie as “darker than I am,” and he notes “she didn’t look Afro—but not European, either. Seemed some mixed breed, and thereby more a Loonie” (39).

    But then after Sidris gives her a more durable disguise, he describes her as looking “Tamil, a touch of Angola, German” (143). That’s a fairly esoteric set of Terran ethnicities to describe her appearance (especially since Angola which became an independent nation in 1975 after being a Portuguese colony had multiple language and ethnic groups). Franklin argues that Heinlein choosing to give Mannie’s family (and others) a global range of Terran ancestors is one of the ways in which the novel is in dialogue with the new nations rising from revolutions against former European colonizers, and I think that’s a good argument. But the idea that Mannie with his self-described education and experience would have that kind of knowledge of the different national, ethnic, and racial categories of identity on Terra, especially given his on-going use of “Chinee” as an umbrella term for all and any Asian characters? I don’t buy it.

    I think some of Heinlein’s other characters were much more obvious self-inserts though (coffcoff Lazarus Long) than Mannie was—and there’s a lot about Mannie I liked as a younger reader (not so much this time though I still love Mike!)–but I noticed some examples of what I think is that authorial voice while writing the essay.

  40. Rev. Bob: I started by mentioning Friday, I do feel compelled to mention that she is neither heterosexual nor white and does not consider herself particularly attractive. (Yes, I know, that Whelan cover depicts her as white. The text explicitly says otherwise.)

    Ob disclaimer: Friday was the novel that started pushing me away from Heinlein for manymany reasons. I have not re-read it anywhere near as often as the others–in fact, I’m not sure I remember re-reading it although odds are I did once or twice. So my memory of the text is flawed, but since I had a fairly strong emotional response (more or less ICK), I can sort of speak to a few things.

    Whiteness: I talked about characters being coded “white” as a way of shorthanding the ways in which Heinlein and others write sf in which in some future in which the United States is still around, issues of racism or historical awareness of racism have been POOFED away, so that there can be characters who are not white, but they are presented in ways that the readers of the time (and possibly) later don’t notice. The narrative techniques are often minimal description (of course Heinlein did pretty minimal description for everyone, as I recall). I was thinking of Johnny Rico and the issue of Heinlein ‘hiding’ his ethnicity.

    I guess that’s slightly better than an all white future, but that sort of minimalist approach (especially with no acknowledgement made in the text about the centuries of racism, or any sense of how the US moved from a racist to a color-blind–which is the only way to describe it, and that term isn’t that positive a one in my experience–is a problem. It’s a problem because of the extent to which white people can miss very clear textual cues has been shown again and again–most recently by the anger at the casting of Rue inThe Hunger Games.).

    I don’t remember making any conscious ethnic/raced identification of Friday (not surprising as a white reader). You say the text makes it clear despite the whitewashed cover. I simply don’t recall it; there was so much more time spent on her being an “artificial person.” I did not have that problem with either Octavia Butler’s or Justine Larbalestier’s novels which also had whitewashed covers, but I’d have to look at Friday again to see what I missed before, and that’s not going to happen.

    Not heterosexual: my memory/interpretation is that she like Maureen in SUNSET is a sort of eroticized bisexual character which I don’t see as queer any more than the girl on girl action in some erotic/porn texts. So perhaps I can shift to saying that I doubt Heinlein could write a lesbian or a gay man to save his life, and that even the bisexual erotics/aspects are presented in ways that are heternormative. And one way is that sex with men seems to get privileged over any sex with women. I don’t recall Friday in any detail, but I know one thing that bugged me about Maureen is that I don’t recall her ever having sex with a woman unless their husbands were around, so it was sort of a “wife swapping thing.”

    But I do remember most clearly the horrific incident which occurs early in the novel and that Friday marries one of the men (not going into specifics because of spoilers, and not caring enough to type in detail and rot13). And that’s why I’m not going to reread the novel.

    That incident is sort of connected to that is the issue of attractiveness. You say Friday does not consider herself attractive; if I am reading what you say correctly, since this is one of a list, you think that her perception of herself is an example against my comments about Heinlein’s female characters all fitting into homogeneous patriarchal idea of attractivenesss (I may be wrong).

    I don’t see it that way since I didn’t say that the female characters in his novels consider themselves attractive (I don’t think they do). But in the case of Friday, are there any male characters who would say the same? My memory is that they do find her sexually attractive to a degree I find problematic. And that gets us into the whole male gaze issue (Gillian’s experience in STRANGER in seeing herself through a male viewer’s eyes during her dance gig is one of the examples that makes me grrrrrrrr to myself.)

Comments are closed.