Please define...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

HT: Rick Ballard, in the comments here.


Rick Ballard said...

Robert A. Heinlein was my favorite author when I was a young teen. His ability to transfer the pioneer spirit from the continental frontier to new worlds was captivating. He was an excellent storyteller and did a superlative job in translating very old stories into a language understandable to a kid of the late fifties, early sixties. He also had a great knack for introducing actual practical planning concepts into almost all his stories.

Lazurus Long is a character who appears in a number of Heinlein's books as a master of the practical. In the Notebook of Lazurus Long he provides the following description:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

That's a Heinleinist.

Seneca the Younger said...

Someone who takes a philosophical stance similar to science fiction writer Robert A Heinlein. (1907-1988)

The Wikipedia article is fairly decent.

I guess I'd summarize "Heinleinist" as being, roughly: agressively libertarian; a believer that "extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice"; neophilic, a lover of new things; a believer that the use of coercion is always suspect, but that none the less the use of force to defend yourself, your family, or your society is morally just.

That's my first thought.

Seneca the Younger said...

You klnow, I was thinking about the "hange a diaper, con a ship" quote and decided to be more didactic. You may have thought better than I.

loner said...


Someone who thinks it would be cool to live on the moon, catapult an occaisional rock towards the earth, get annoyed and declare independence from the earth from time to time, and, well, participate actively in non-traditional family arrangements daily.

Seneca the Younger said...

Loner: yeah, that too.

chuck said...

Heinlein was also big on social responsibility. He felt that every citizen had duties, including defending the state, caring for the sick, and raising children.

I always wondered why he never had a family himself. I guess it is one of those impertinent questions, but I did always wonder.

Knucklehead said...

Before I read Rick's explanation I need to get some ignorant thoughts into the comments. I've never read Heinlein. I'm just not a big science fiction fan.

I've meant to go read some Heinlein, however, for years because I've noticed a near cult following among some folks. There is apparently a goodly number of modern folks who take their political cues from whatever it is they've gotten from reading Heinlein's work. They'll describe fascism, heroism, any number of "isms" in "Heinleinist" terms.

These are generally quite intelligent people but they wind up making me nervous. I like fiction, and don't dislike the science sort, but it has it's limitations. It is useful for trying to get a handle on what people and our human history and situation is all about but it is just one tool and should not be overemphasized. JMO, of course.

Seneca the Younger said...

Chuck, it's mentioned in Tramp Royale --- he and Ginny couldn't have children.

Seneca the Younger said...

Yeah, Knuck, like history isn't fiction.

Rick Ballard said...


I know that Heinlein attracted a following of "believers" but I don't think he would have been terribly interested in them beyond collecting some sort of fee. Finding a classification for him on the political spectrum seems a waste of time unless you pick such a broad classification that it becomes useless. He never showed any love for "government", to be sure but the ethos which he espoused contained a walloping dose of personal responsibilty for the well being of the "community", if that can be distinguished from "society".

I enjoyed his juvenalia as a juvenile - because his "solutions" to the various conundrums he proposed were of an understandable practical nature that tended toward "this is how things are" wrt human nature, rather than "if people could only see" solutions predicated upon the supposition that dumb can be changed to smart through education.

He was a good storyteller who wrote for the dough - like Dickens or Stevenson.

Seneca the Younger said...

I know that Heinlein attracted a following of "believers" but I don't think he would have been terribly interested in them beyond collecting some sort of fee.

From about the time of publication of Stranger in a Strange Land and their move from manitou Springs to the Bonny Dune Rd house in California, he spent a good bit of effort and a fair bit of money protecting himself from the believers.