Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I haven't gotten around yet to one of my true inspirations, which is the author Robert Anson Heinlein.

My friends and I in middle and high school were not normal, in that we would spend endless hours discussing the ideas and novels of Heinlein, which were ostensibly science fiction novels but more broadly keen commentaries on just plain folks.

Heinlein lived an extraordinary life, a quintessentially American life, from Iowa farmboy to U.S. Naval Academy graduate. Despite being crippled by pneumonia in his mid-20s, he went on to get a PhD in physics, tried his hand at silver mining, and then finally moved on to his true destiny as science fiction writer par excellence. He also politically moved from being a idealistic socialist in his early days to a libertarian, deeply skeptical of all governments including our own.

I could go on and on forever, but this quote from Heinlein particularly humbles me, inspires me, and shows me how far I have yet to go:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn 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, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." (emphasis mine)

Heinlein shuffled off this mortal coil in 1989, and without ever having had the honor to meet the man himself I miss him and his astonishing writing still.

1 comment:

Liam said...

Heinlein definitely gets points for coming up with a lot of ideas that have since become SF cliches. Probably more than any other writer of that generation he wrote with. Not sure if I can say he ever was a fave of mine. Actually not sure if any of the biggies from that era -- Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury, etc. are real personal faves.

Don't read much SF now, but one contemporary writer I recently discovered is Robert Sawyer. Recommend him definitely. Check out this link --