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science fiction writer heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein

Named a grand master in 1974.

Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. Often called the “dean of science fiction writers,” he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre in his time. He set a standard for scientific and engineering plausibility, and helped to raise the genre’s standards of literary quality.

He was one of the first science fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. He was one of the best-selling science fiction novelists for many decades, and he, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke are often considered to be the “Big Three” of science fiction authors.

A notable writer of science fiction short stories, Heinlein was one of a group of writers who came to prominence under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Jr. in his Astounding Science Fiction magazine—though Heinlein denied that Campbell influenced his writing to any great degree.

Within the framework of his science fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought. He also speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices.

Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master in 1974. He won Hugo Awards for four of his novels; in addition, fifty years after publication, three of his works were awarded “Retro Hugos”—awards given retrospectively for works that were published before the Hugo Awards came into existence. In his fiction, Heinlein coined terms that have become part of the English language, including “grok” and “waldo,” and speculative fiction, as well as popularizing the terms like “TANSTAAFL,” “pay it forward,” and space marine. He also described a modern version of a waterbed in his novel The Door Into Summer, though he never patented or built one. Several of Heinlein’s works have been adapted for film and television. In Chapter 3 of the novel Podkayne of Mars he anticipated the cell phone, 20 years before the technology was invented by Motorola.

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Heinlein, Robert A

Entry updated 14 August 2023. Tagged: Author.


(1907-1988) US author, educated at the University of Missouri and the US Naval Academy, Annapolis. After serving as a naval officer for five years, he retired due to ill-health in 1934, studied physics at the University of California Los Angeles for a time, then took a variety of jobs before beginning to publish sf in August 1939 with "Life-Line" for Astounding , a magazine whose Golden Age he would profoundly shape, just as he rewrote US sf as a whole in his own image. Heinlein may have been the all-time most important writer of American Genre SF ; along with H G Wells , who established the Scientific Romance as well as formulating in usable form many of sf's central tropes, he was not only an initial shaper of genre but the central maker of stories in the genre he had shaped.

Though not sf's finest sf writer in strictly literary terms, Heinlein's grasp of narrative strategy was unparalleled in the field, and his presentation of the future as a venue where people actually lived was innovative and definitive; his pre-eminence from 1940 to 1960 was both earned and unassailable. In a style which exuded assurance and savvy, his early writing blended slang, folk aphorism, technical jargon, clever understatement, apparent casualness, a concentration on people rather than gadgets, and a sense that the world described was real; it was a kind of writing able to incorporate the great mass of necessary sf data necessary without recourse to the long descriptive passages and deadening explanations common to earlier sf, so that his stories spoke with a smoothness and authority which came to seem the very tone of things to come. His characters were competent men of action, equally at home with their fists and a slide-rule (see Edisonade ) and actively involved in the processes and procedures (political, legal, military, industrial, etc.) which make the world turn. Described in tales whose apparent openness concealed very considerable narrative craft and cunning, these characters seemed genuinely to inhabit the worlds of tomorrow. By the end of his first three years of writing, Heinlein had domesticated the future. For the next half a century he was the father – loved, resisted, emulated – of the dominant US form of the genre.

He came to the role naturally. Unlike most of John W Campbell Jr's pre-World War Two recruits to Astounding , he entered the field as a mature man, already in his thirties, with one genuine career (the military) honourably behind him. He was smart, aggressive, collegial, competent and highly inventive. And he had already worked out, apparently on his own hook, what it was he needed to accomplish in order to gain the kind of influence he clearly aspired to. Before writing his first Genre SF stories he had, however, already composed a competent, modestly flamboyant Utopia – published nearly two decades after his death as For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs (written circa 1938; 2004 ) – whose protagonist visits a future society via a form of Time Travel based on J W Dunne 's theories, which Heinlein had encountered through reading H G Wells 's "New Light on Mental Life: Mr J W Dunne's Experiments with Dreaming" (10 July 1927 New York Times Magazine ). Like most utopias, For Us, the Living ultimately sacrificed narrative drive and verisimilitude in order to convey its cognitive gist, and was probably not publishable in 1938. Fascinatingly, however, the ideas and images boxed into this somewhat unalluring package constitute the germ – indeed the underlying rhythm of thought and aspiration – of much of Heinlein's work over the rest of his life, and demonstrate the strong and enduring influence of his second wife Leslyn's character and convictions (they were married 1932-1947): the use of California as a template from which to generate various speculations; the rough structure of his Future History ; the interest in nudism and Sex in general; the advocacy of various forms of group marriage, which culminated in the line marriage structure brilliantly advocated in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (December 1965-April 1966 If ; 1966 ); the argumentative uneasiness about state power over individuals; the radical bent of his thought on almost every issue. Clearly the naked foregrounding of so much opinion, so much of it unacceptable in 1930s America, helped keep the book from publication before the War broke out; it is also arguable that Heinlein, having learned his lesson, came to sf in 1939 with the secret yearning ultimately to sabotage – or at the very least liberate – the genre whose "domestic" acceptability in the world of American letters he did so much to create. It is a case which can be carried too far – but certainly his work from Starship Troopers (October-November 1959 F&SF as "Starship Soldier"; 1959 ) on represents not only something new in Heinlein's vision of the world, but something old as well.

By 1942 – when he stopped writing to do his World War Two service as an engineer at the Naval Air Experimental Station, Philadelphia – Heinlein had already published almost thirty stories, including three novels which would only later be released in book form. Moreover, it had soon been made clear that those stories published under his own name – like "Requiem" (January 1940 Astounding ), "The Roads Must Roll" (June 1940 Astounding ), "Blowups Happen" (September 1940 Astounding ) and the short novel "If This Goes On –" (February-March 1940 Astounding ; rev in Revolt in 2100 coll 1953 ) – fitted into a loose Future History , the schema for which Campbell published in Astounding in 1941; in sf criticism, the term Future History is based on Campbell's use of the term. As a device for tying together otherwise disparate stories, and for establishing a privileged (and loyal) group of readers familiar with the overall structure into which individual units were magically inserted, Heinlein's outline of the future was an extraordinarily acute idea. It was imitated by many other writers (with considerable success by Poul Anderson and Larry Niven , to name but two), but for many years only Heinlein's and perhaps Isaac Asimov 's similar scheme – by priority, and by claiming imaginative copyright on the imagined future – were able to generate a sense of genuine Conceptual Breakthrough . Heinlein himself largely abandoned his Future History after 1950 (if the Recursive novels of his last years are discounted for the moment); all the short stories in the sequence were soon assembled in book form as The Man Who Sold the Moon (coll 1950 ; with 2 stories cut 1951 ), The Green Hills of Earth (coll 1951 ) and Revolt in 2100 (coll 1953 ; cut 1959 ). Two early novels also belonged to the series: Methuselah's Children (July-September 1941 Astounding ; rev 1958 ), which introduces Lazarus Long and the Families, a Pariah Elite whose near- Immortality has come about through selected breeding (see Eugenics ), and Universe (May 1941 Astounding ; 1951 chap; exp as fixup with "Common Sense" [October 1941 Astounding ], vt Orphans of the Sky 1963 ) which contains an innovative presentation of the Generation Starship concept. With Methuselah's Children , the three collections were republished – "Let There Be Light" (May 1940 Super Science Stories as by Lyle Monroe) being omitted and "The Menace from Earth" (August 1957 F&SF ) and "Searchlight" (August 1962 Scientific American ) added – in The Past Through Tomorrow (omni 1967 ; with Methuselah's Children omitted, cut 1977 ).

Not all of Heinlein's early writing consisted of Future History stories, although most of his non-series work was initially published under the pseudonyms Anson MacDonald, Lyle Monroe, John Riverside and Caleb Saunders, including the novels Sixth Column (January-March 1941 Astounding as by Anson MacDonald; 1949 as Heinlein; vt The Day After Tomorrow 1951 ) and Beyond This Horizon (April-May 1942 Astounding as Anson MacDonald; 1948 as Heinlein). In Sixth Column an Asiatic Invasion of the USA is defeated by a resistance – disguised as a Religion – which uses superscientific Ray -emitting gadgets to accomplish "miracles". The original idea came from Campbell, who had incorporated it in the then unpublished novella "All" (in Campbell's The Space Beyond [coll 1976 ]). Beyond This Horizon describes a future society of material plenty where people spend their time seeking the meaning of life (see Genetic Engineering ). Some of Heinlein's best stories belong to this period: "– And He Built a Crooked House" (February 1941 Astounding ), about an architect who inadvertently builds into another Dimension ; "By His Bootstraps" (October 1941 Astounding as by Anson MacDonald), a superb Time-Paradox fantasia; and "They" (April 1941 Unknown ), a fantasy about solipsism. "Waldo" (August 1942 Astounding as by Anson MacDonald), about a crippled inventor who lives in a satellite, gave rise to a significant item of Terminology , the real-life equivalents of the protagonist's remote-control lifting and manipulation devices subsequently being known as Waldoes . The astonishingly thorough destruction of Los Angeles (see again California ) unpacked in "The Year of the Jackpot" (March 1952 Galaxy ) has a prescient focus on the overuse of dwindling water resources. These stories, and the later non-series stories, are collected in various volumes: Waldo and Magic, Inc. (coll 1950 ; vt Waldo: Genius in Orbit 1958 ), Assignment in Eternity: Four Long Science Fiction Stories (coll 1953 ; vt 2vols Assignment in Eternity 1960 UK and Lost Legacy 1960 ), The Menace from Earth (coll 1959 ), The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (coll 1959 ; vt 6 X H 1961 ), The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein (coll 1966 cut 1970 UK much exp vt Expanded Universe: The New Worlds of Robert A Heinlein 1980 ) and Requiem: New Collected Works and Tributes to the Grand Master (coll 1992 ) edited by Eric Kotani .

In the years 1943-1946 Heinlein published no fiction, but in 1947 he expanded his career – and the potential reach of genre sf as a marketable literature – in two new directions. He began selling short stories to the Slick magazine the Saturday Evening Post , beginning with "The Green Hills of Earth" (8 February 1947 Saturday Evening Post ) and followed by three more in that same year; and he published – with Scribner's, a highly respectable mainstream firm – the first US juvenile sf novel to reflect the new levels of characterization, style and scientific plausibility now expected in the field. Only the first of his Scribner's titles, Rocket Ship Galileo ( 1947 ), reflects a pre-War model for boys's stories, with its three mutually reinforcing protagonists, its backyard Invention of a Spaceship powered by an unknown Element , and its climax on the Moon , where the chums confront and defeat a gaggle of conspiring Nazis. But the tale did remotely form the basis of a film, Destination Moon ( 1950 ), scripted by Heinlein; background information and other material are contained in Destination Moon (coll 1979 ). Unremarkable in itself, it was the first in a series that represents the most important contribution any single writer has made to Children's SF . Space Cadet ( 1948 ), the second in the series, renders Heinlein's own experiences at Annapolis in sf terms; it includes a classic Space Station with the big-wheel construction. With the third, Red Planet: A Colonial Boy on Mars ( 1949 ; text restored 1989 ) (see Mars ), which recounts the adventures of two young colonists and their Martian "pet", Heinlein came fully into his own as a writer of sf for teenagers. A strong narrative line, carefully worked-out technical detail, realistic characters and brisk dialogue are the leading virtues of this and most of his later juveniles, which include Farmer in the Sky (August-November 1950 Boys' Life as "Satellite Scout"; exp 1950 ), a sober and enlightening tale set in the mode of a farmer-oriented Western Ganymede (see Jupiter ), as human settlers Terraform their new home, Between Planets (September-October 1951 The Blue Book Magazine as "Planets in Combat"; 1951 ), The Rolling Stones (September-December 1952 Boys' Life as "Tramp Space Ship"; 1952 ; vt Space Family Stone 1969 ), Starman Jones ( 1953 ), The Star Beast (May-July 1954 F&SF as "Star Lummox"; 1954 ), Tunnel in the Sky ( 1955 ) (see Colonization of Other Worlds ; Matter Transmission ; Stargates ), Time for the Stars ( 1956 ) (see Telepathy ), Citizen of the Galaxy (September-December 1957 Astounding ; 1957 ) with its numerous links to Rudyard Kipling 's Kim ( 1901 ), and Have Space Suit – Will Travel (August-October 1958 F&SF ; 1958 ). The last three of these, along with Starman Jones and The Star Beast , rank among the very best juvenile sf ever written; their compulsive narrative drive, their shapeliness and their relative freedom from the didactic rancour Heinlein was beginning to show when addressing adults in the later 1950s, all make these books arguably his finest works.

After 1950 Heinlein wrote very little short fiction – the most notable piece is the Time-Paradox tale "All You Zombies –" (March 1959 F&SF ) – concentrating for some years on his highly successful output of juveniles, although never abandoning the adult novel. The Puppet Masters (September-November 1951 Galaxy ; 1951 ; text restored 1990 ) is an effective if rather hysterical Invasion story featuring alien parasites (see Parasitism and Symbiosis ) who control human minds, and a prime example of Paranoia in 1950s sf; a loose and entirely unauthorized film adaptation is The Brain Eaters ( 1958 ), and the official film version of the novel – not, alas, notably successful – did not appear until The Puppet Masters ( 1994 ). Double Star (February-April 1956 Astounding ; 1956 ), about a failed actor who impersonates a galactic politician (see Identity ; Ruritania ), won a Hugo , and is probably his best adult novel of the 1950s, although the mellow and charming The Door into Summer (October-December 1956 F&SF ; 1957 ), a Time-Travel story, is also much admired; all three books were assembled as A Heinlein Trio (omni 1980 ).

His next novel, however, was something else entirely. Starship Troopers (October-November 1959 F&SF as "Starship Soldier"; 1959 ), originally written as a juvenile but rejected by Scribner's because of its violence, is the first title in which Heinlein expressed his opinions with unfettered vigour. A tale of interstellar Future War which helped establish the subgenre of Military SF and whose powered battlesuits inspired Japanese Mecha , it won a 1960 Hugo but also gained Heinlein the reputation of being a militarist, even a "fascist". The plot as usual confers an earned adulthood upon its young protagonist, but in this case by transforming him from an uncertain pacifist into a professional soldier. This transformation, in itself dubious, is rendered exceedingly unpleasant (for those who might demur from its implications) by the hectoring didacticism of Heinlein's presentation of his case. Father-figures, always important in his fiction, tended from this point on to utter unstoppable monologues in their author's voice, and dialogue and action become traps in which any opposing versions of reality were hamstrung by the author's aggrieved partiality. The novel was adapted as a Board Game , Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers ( 1976 ), and filmed as Starship Troopers ( 1997 ).

But this, for good and for ill, was the fully unleashed Heinlein. His next novel, Stranger in a Strange Land ( 1961 ; text restored 1991 ), a stronger work which won him another Hugo , is even more radical. Valentine Michael Smith ("Mike"), of human stock but raised on Mars , returns to Earth armed with his innocence and the Psi Powers bequeathed to him by the Martians (see Martian ). After meeting Jubal Harshaw and being tutored by this ultimate surrogate-father and know-all voicebox for Heinlein himself, Mike begins his transformation into a Messiah -figure; demonstrates the nature of grokking – Grok (which see) being a term which Heinlein created for this book, and which can be defined as the gaining, sometimes more or less instantly, of deep spiritual understanding; eliminates those he deems unworthy through "discorporation", a form of dying which is painless and which can be freely imposed upon others; and eventually undergoes a deliberate, calculated martyrdom to further his self-founded Religion . Mike's costless discorporation of human beings (without moral qualms owing to the here demonstrable existence of an afterlife and Reincarnation ) marks the book as a Fantasy , and not, perhaps, as one very markedly adult; and it was unfortunate for Sharon Tate that its dreamlike smoothness (a smoothness even more winningly evident in the much longer restored version) could, if his claims are to be credited, be translated into this-worldly action by the sociopathic murderer Charles Manson. However, among those capable of understanding the nature of a fiction, it has proved to be Heinlein's most popular novel, in the later 1960s becoming a cult-book among students (who were drawn to it, presumably, by its Iconoclasm and by Heinlein's apparent espousal of free love and mysticism), and remains by far the best of the books he wrote in his late manner.

There followed two minor works, Podkayne of Mars: Her Life and Times (November 1962-January 1963 If ; 1963 ), an inferior juvenile which proved to be his last, and Glory Road (July-December 1963 F&SF ; 1963 ), a largely unsuccessful attempt at Sword and Sorcery , albeit with a kind of Galactic Empire background. Farnham's Freehold (July-October 1964 If ; 1964 ), another long and opinionated novel of ideas, invokes rather unpleasantly a Black despotism in the USA of the Far Future (see also Race in SF ; Survivalist Fiction ; Timeslip ), and begins to fully articulate a theme that obsessed the late Heinlein: the notion of the family as utterly central. From this time onward, hugely extended father-dominated families, sustained by incest and enlarged by mating patterns whose complex ramifications required an increasing use of Time Travel and Alternate History , would tend to generate the plots of his novels. Before he plunged fully into this final phase, however, Heinlein published The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (December 1965-April 1966 If ; 1966 ), which won a 1967 Hugo and marked a partial return to his best form. About a revolution among Moon -colonists – many historical parallels being made evident with the US War of Independence – it is of value partly because it shows the nature of Heinlein's political views very clearly. Rather than being a fascist, he was a right-wing anarchist, or "libertarian" (see Libertarianism ), much influenced by Social Darwinism , as expressed more straightforwardly in Take Back Your Government: A Practical Handbook for the Private Citizen Who Wants Democracy to Work ( 1992 ), a text drafted in 1946.

But the fact that Heinlein's politics are a prime concern in discussions of his later novels points to the sad decline in the quality of dramatization in his sf. As Alexei Panshin , the most astute of his earlier critics, pointed out, Heinlein once dealt in "facts" but latterly he dealt only in "opinions-as-facts". And as these opinions-as-facts were uttered in Heinlein's voice by domineering monologuists, his last novels increasingly conveyed a sense of flouncing solitude, and were frequently described – with justice – as exercises in solipsism; for, no matter how many characters filled the foreground of the tale, his casts ultimately proved either cruelly disposable or members of the one enormous intertwined family whose begetter bore the countenance, and spieled the antic but ultimately dyspeptic tracts, of the author. I Will Fear No Evil (July-December 1970 Galaxy ; 1970 ) is an interminable novel about a rich centenarian who has his mind transferred to the body of his young female secretary; it brought into the open the espousal of free Sex (and inevitable babies begat upon wisecracking women who long to become gravid for their guys) first published in Stranger in a Strange Land (though see For Us, the Living above). Time Enough for Love, or The Lives of Lazarus Long ( 1973 ), a late coda to the Future History series, was perhaps the most important of the late books in that it established the immortal Long, a central character in Methuselah's Children , as Heinlein's final – and most enduring – alter ego . Other novels which revolve around Lazarus Long , and must therefore be deemed somehow connected to the Future History from four decades earlier, include "The Number of the Beast" (October-November 1979 Omni ; 1980 ), The Cat Who Walks through Walls: A Comedy of Manners ( 1985 ) and To Sail Beyond the Sunset: The Life and Loves of Maureen Johnson: (Being the Memoirs of a Somewhat Irregular Lady ) ( 1987 ), which features, among other Recursive elements, the presence of Mark Twain . Assembled from manuscript fragments long after his death, The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes ( 2020 ) duplicates the first 159 pages of "The Number of the Beast" , then diverges into different Parallel Worlds . As a set, these late titles argue a kind of Magic Realism through generic exfoliation, and their melding of all genres and all characters, does something to justify the World as Myth surtitle which has been suggested for them. The final effect of these novels, however, – in direct contrast to their joke-saturated telling – is one of embitterment. It remains arguable that, by devaluing everything in the Universe except for the one polymorphic phoenix family, Heinlein effectively repudiated the genre whose mature tone he had himself almost singlehandedly established, and the America whose complex populism he had so vividly expressed. In the end, by seeming to embrace them into one all-consuming pyre, the father of sf abandoned his children. A not uncritical but more sympathetic view of the work of his later years can be found in Farah Mendlesohn 's The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein ( 2019 ).

Two late novels, following "The Number of the Beast" but separate from the Lazarus Long sequence, were hailed with some relief by Heinlein admirers despite not equalling the drive and clarity of his best work. Friday ( 1982 ) is a loose sequel to "Gulf" (November-December 1949 Astounding ), whose titular heroine – a highly competent special agent, though plagued by a sense of inferiority about her Android status – travels through a fragmented future America and eventually via Starship to the prospect of a pioneering life, and babies. Job: A Comedy of Justice ( 1984 ) nods to the subtitle of James Branch Cabell 's Jurgen: A Comedy of Justice ( 1919 ; rev 1921 ), and likewise treats Religion ironically. A tour of Parallel Worlds culminates with the Last Trump and visits to Heaven and Hell; the usual role of all-knowing, wisecracking father-figure is played by Satan.

Heinlein was guest of honour at three World SF Conventions (see Worldcon ): in 1941, 1961 and 1976. His works remained constantly in print. He has repeatedly been voted "best all-time author" in readers' polls such as those held by Locus in 1973 and 1977, and in 1975 he was recipient of the first SFWA Grand Master Award . His death in 1988 was deeply felt. He was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1998. Awards given in his memory include the Robert A Heinlein Award for creators of fiction (invariably sf) and nonfiction that inspire space exploration. [JC/DP]

see also: Agriculture ; AI ; Aliens ; Anti-Intellectualism in SF ; Arts ; Astounding Science-Fiction ; Automation ; Cats ; Children in SF ; Clones ; Computers ; Crime and Punishment ; Critical and Historical Works About SF ; Cybernetics ; Definitions of SF ; Dystopias ; Ecology ; Economics ; End of the World ; Eschatology ; Evolution ; Fantastic Voyages ; Faster Than Light ; Fermi Paradox ; Galactic Empires ; Galaxy Science Fiction ; Gamebook ; Gods and Demons ; History in SF ; History of SF ; Hive Minds ; Holocaust ; Hypnosis ; Juvenile Series ; Laws ; Lie Detectors ; Linguistics ; Longevity in Writers ; Machines ; The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction ; Magic ; Mathematics ; Monsters ; Mutants ; Near Future ; Nuclear Energy ; Optimism and Pessimism ; Pastoral ; Physics ; Pocket Universe ; Power Sources ; Prediction ; Psychology ; Publishing ; Pyramid Books ; Radio ; Rockets ; SF in the Classroom ; SF Music ; Secret Masters ; Seiun Award ; Sociology ; Space Elevator ; Space Flight ; Speculative Fiction ; Stasis Field ; Sun ; Superman ; Technology ; Telekinesis ; Time Loop ; Time Viewer ; Transportation ; UFOs ; Villains ; Weapons ; Women in SF .

Robert Anson Heinlein

born Butler, Missouri: 7 July 1907

died Carmel, California: 8 May 1988

Future History

  • The Man Who Sold the Moon (New York: New American Library, 1951 ) [coll: rev of the above with two stories cut: coll: Future History : pb/Stanley Meltzoff ]
  • A Robert Heinlein Omnibus (London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1966 ) [rev omni containing the above two plus Beyond This Horizon (not Future History ): Future History : hb/uncredited]
  • The Man Who Sold the Moon and Orphans of the Sky (New York: Baen Books, 2013 ) [omni of the above plus The Man Who Sold the Moon above: pb/Bob Eggleton ]
  • The Man Who Sold the Moon (Sydney, New South Wales: The Malian Press, 1952 ) [story: chap: not to be confused with collection above: American Science Fiction series: Future History : pb/Stanley Pitt as Safone Jais]
  • Revolt in 2100 (London: Digit Books, 1959 ) [coll of linked stories: one story and linking material cut: Future History : pb/Ed Valigursky ]
  • Methuselah's Children (Hicksville, New York: Gnome Press, 1958 ) [first appeared July-September 1941 Astounding : full text restored: Future History : hb/Lionel Dillon ]
  • The Past Through Tomorrow, Book 1 (London: New English Library, 1977 ) [rev vt in two volumes with Methuselah's Children omitted: Future History : hb/Tim White ]
  • The Past Through Tomorrow, Volume 2 (London: New English Library, 1977 ) [rev vt in two volumes with Methuselah's Children omitted: Future History : hb/Tim White ]
  • Revolt in 2100/Methuselah's Children (New York: Baen Books, 1998 ) [omni: cut vt of the above collection: book dated 1999: Future History : pb/Patrick Turner]

Lazarus Long/Future History/World as Myth

  • The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1978 ) [chap: excerpts from the above: Lazarus Long/Future History/World as Myth : illus/pb/D F Vassallo]
  • "The Number of the Beast" (London: New English Library, 1980 ) [first appeared October-November 1979 Omni : Lazarus Long/Future History/World as Myth : hb/Gerald Grace]
  • The Cat Who Walks through Walls: A Comedy of Manners (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1985 ) [ Lazarus Long/Future History/World as Myth : hb/Michael Whelan ]
  • To Sail Beyond the Sunset: The Life and Loves of Maureen Johnson: (Being the Memoirs of a Somewhat Irregular Lady ) (New York: Ace/Putnam Sons, 1987 ) [ Lazarus Long/Future History/World as Myth : hb/Boris Vallejo ]
  • The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel Novel About Parallel Universes (Rockville, Maryland: Arc Manor/CAEZIK SF & Fantasy, 2020 ) [manuscript fragments from 1977 now assembled: first 159 pages identical to The Number of the Beast : introduction by David Weber : Lazarus Long/Future History/World as Myth : hb/Scott Grimando]

individual titles: adult novels

  • Sixth Column (New York: Gnome Press, 1949 ) [first appeared January-March 1941 Astounding as Anson MacDonald: hb/Edd Cartier ]
  • Beyond This Horizon (Reading, Pennsylvania: Fantasy Press, 1948 ) [first appeared April-May 1942 Astounding as Anson MacDonald: hb/A J Donnell ]
  • The Puppet Masters (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1990 ) [rev restoring cut manuscript material: pb/Barclay Shaw ]
  • Double Star (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1956 ) [first appeared February-April 1956 Astounding : hb/Mel Hunter ]
  • A Heinlein Trio (New York: Science Fiction Book Club, 1980 ) above [omni of the above three: hb/Gary Viskupic]
  • Stranger in a Strange Land (New York: Putnam, 1991 ) [exp of the above with restored text: hb/One Plus One Studio]
  • Glory Road (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1963 ) [first appeared July-December 1963 F&SF : hb/Irv Docktor]
  • Farnham's Freehold (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1964 ) [first appeared July-October 1964 If : hb/Irv Docktor]
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1966 ) [first appeared December 1965-April 1966 If : hb/Irv Docktor]
  • I Will Fear No Evil (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1970 ) [first appeared July-December 1970 Galaxy : hb/uncredited]
  • Friday (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1982 ) [hb/Richard Powers ]
  • Starship Troopers/The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress/Time Enough for Love (New York: Book of the Month Club, 1991 ) [omni of the three named titles: hb/]
  • For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs (New York: Scribner, 2004 ) [from the 1930s manuscript: hb/Mark Stutzman]
  • Variable Star (New York: Tor, 2006 ) with Spider Robinson [written by Robinson from outline: hb/Stephan Martinière ]

individual titles: young adult novels

  • Rocket Ship Galileo (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1947 ) [hb/Thomas W Voter]
  • Space Cadet (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948 ) [hb/Clifford N Geary]
  • Red Planet: A Colonial Boy on Mars (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1989 ) [rev, printing the original text of the above: pb/Barclay Shaw ]
  • Four Frontiers (New York: Science Fiction Book Club, 2005 ) [omni of the above four: hb/Bruce Jensen ]
  • Between Planets (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1951 ) [first appeared September-October 1951 The Blue Book Magazine as "Planets in Combat": hb/Clifford N Geary]
  • Space Family Stone (Oxford,Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1978 ) [adaptation by Rosemary Border of the above as a juvenile: pb/]
  • Starman Jones (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953 ) [hb/Clifford N Geary]
  • To the Stars (New York: Science Fiction Book Club, 2004 ) [omni of the above four: hb/Bruce Jensen ]
  • Tunnel in the Sky (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1955 ) [hb/P A Hutchinson]
  • Time for the Stars (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1956 ) [hb/Clifford N Geary]
  • Infinite Possibilities (New York: Science Fiction Book Club, 2003 ) [omni of the above three: hb/Bruce Jensen ]
  • Have Space Suit – Will Travel (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1958 ) [first appeared August-October 1958 F&SF : hb/Ed Emshwiller ]
  • Starship Troopers / Stranger in a Strange Land (New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2015 ) [omni of the two named titles: hb/]
  • Outward Bound (New York: Science Fiction Book Club, 2006 ) [omni of the above three: hb/Bruce Jensen ]


Excluding Future History titles, listed above under that heading.

  • Waldo: Genius in Orbit (New York: Avon Books, 1958 ) [coll: vt of the above: pb/Ed Emshwiller ]
  • A Heinlein Triad (London: Victor Gollancz, 1966 ) [omni: vt of the above: hb/nonpictorial]
  • Assignment in Eternity (London: Digit Books, 1960 ) [rev containing the first half of the above: vt: pb/Richard Powers ]
  • Lost Legacy (London: Digit Books, 1960 ) [rev containing the second half of the above: vt: pb/Ed Emshwiller ]
  • The Green Hills of Earth and The Menace from Earth (New York: Baen Books, 2010 ) [omni of the above plus The Green Hills of Earth above: see under Future History : pb/Bob Eggleton ]
  • 6 X H (New York: Pyramid Books, 1961 ) [coll: vt of the above: pb/Robert J Engle]
  • The Fantasies of Robert A Heinlein (New York: Tor, 1999 ) [omni of the above plus Waldo and Magic, Inc : hb/Peter Gudynas ]
  • The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein (London: New English Library, 1970 ) [cut version of the above: pb/Bruce Pennington ]
  • Robert Heinlein's Expanded Universe: Volume One (Rockville, Maryland: Phoenix Pick, 1980 ) [coll: cut vt of the above: containing half of the above: including nonfiction: pb/uncredited]
  • Robert Heinlein's Expanded Universe: Volume Two (Rockville, Maryland: Phoenix Pick, 1980 ) [coll: cut vt of the above: containing the remainder of the above: including nonfiction: pb/uncredited]
  • The Best of Robert Heinlein 1939-1942 (London: Sphere Books, 1977 ) [coll: rev containing contents of above as per dating: vt: pb/Patrick Woodroffe ]
  • The Best of Robert Heinlein 1947-1959 (London: Sphere Books, 1977 ) [coll: rev containing contents of above as per dating: vt: pb/Peter Elson ]
  • Destination Moon (New York: Gregg Press, 1979 ) [coll: Destination Moon : hb/nonpictorial]
  • Requiem: New Collected Works and Tributes to the Grand Master (New York: Tor, 1992 ) edited by Eric Kotani [coll: with some material by others: hb/Pat Morrissey]
  • The Fantasies of Robert A Heinlein (New York: Tor, 1999 ) [coll: hb/Peter Gudynas ]
  • Off the Main Sequence: The Other Science Fiction Stories of Robert A Heinlein (New York: Science Fiction Book Club, 2005 ) [coll: hb/Bruce Jensen ]
  • Project Moonbase and Others (Burton, Michigan: Subterranean Press, 2008 ) [coll: filmscripts and teleplays: hb/Bob Eggleton ]
  • The Discovery of the Future ... Speech Delivered by Guest of Honor at 3d World Science Fiction Convention, Denver, Independence Day 1941. Recorded on discs by Walter J. Daugherty (Los Angeles, California: A Novacious Publication, 1941 ) [nonfiction: chap: "3d" for "3rd" is sic : pb/nonpictorial]
  • Grumbles from the Grave (New York: Ballantine Books/Del Rey, 1989 ) edited by Virginia Heinlein (1916-2003) [nonfiction: coll: hb/Michael Whelan ]
  • Tramp Royale (New York: Ace Books, 1992 ) [nonfiction: from a 1954 manuscript: hb/Kirt Reinert]
  • Take Back Your Government: A Practical Handbook for the Private Citizen Who Wants Democracy to Work (New York: Baen Books, 1992 ) [nonfiction: from a 1930s manuscript: pb/Carol Russo ]

works as editor

  • Tomorrow, the Stars (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1951 ) [anth: anonymous co-editors include Walter Bradbury, Judith Merril and Frederik Pohl : hb/Richard Powers ]

about the author

  • Damon Knight . "One Sane Man: Robert A. Heinlein" in In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction (Chicago, Illinois: Advent: Publishers, 1956 ) [nonfiction: coll: also in later revisions: hb/Jon Stopa]
  • Sam Moskowitz . "Robert A. Heinlein" in Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction (Cleveland, Ohio: World Publishing Co, 1966 ) [nonfiction: coll: hb/]
  • Alexei Panshin . Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis (Chicago, Illinois: Advent: Publishers, 1968 ) [nonfiction: hb/Alex Eisenstein ]
  • James Blish . "First Person Singular: Heinlein, Son of Heinlein" in More Issues at Hand: Critical Studies in Contemporary Science Fiction (Chicago, Illinois: Advent: Publishers, 1970 ) as by William Atheling Jr [nonfiction: coll: hb/Alex Eisenstein ]
  • Mark Owings . Robert A. Heinlein: A Bibliography (Baltimore, Maryland: Croatan House, 1973 ) [bibliography: chap: pb/Judith Weiss]
  • Robert A. Heinlein: Stranger in his Own Land (San Bernardino, California: The Borgo Press, 1977 ) [nonfiction: chap: rev of the above: pb/]
  • George Edgar Slusser . The Classic Years of Robert A. Heinlein (San Bernardino, California: The Borgo Press, 1977 ) [nonfiction: chap: pb/nonpictorial]
  • Joseph D Olander and Martin H Greenberg , editors. Robert A. Heinlein (New York: Taplinger Publishing Co, 1978 ) [nonfiction: anth: Writers of the Twenty-First Century : hb/]
  • H Bruce Franklin . Robert A. Heinlein: America as Science Fiction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980 ) [nonfiction: hb/Frank Kelly Freas ]
  • Peter Nicholls . "Robert A. Heinlein" in Science Fiction Writers: Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1982 ) edited by E F Bleiler [nonfiction: anth: hb/]
  • Phil Stephensen-Payne . Robert Heinlein: Stormtrooping Guru: A Working Bibliography (Leeds, West Yorkshire: Galactic Central Publications, 1993 ) [bibliography: chap: second edition: in the publisher's Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series: pb/nonpictorial]
  • Nancy Bailey Downing. A Robert A. Heinlein Cyclopedia: A Guide to the Persons, Places, and Things in the Fiction of America's Most Popular Science Fiction Author (San Bernardino, California: The Borgo Press, 1997 ) [nonfiction: hb/]
  • J Neil Schulman . The Robert Heinlein Interview and Other Heinleiniana (Mill Valley, California:, 1999 ) [ nonfiction: coll: introduction by Brad Linaweaver : previously published as 1990 ebook: chief piece is a 100+pp interview with Heinlein, first appeared 1973-1974 New Libertarian Notes : pb/photographic]
  • William H Patterson. Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (New York: Tor, 2010 ) [nonfiction: hb/photographic]
  • William H Patterson. Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 2 (1948-1988): The Man Who Learned Better (New York: Tor, 2014 ) [nonfiction: hb/Donato Giancola as Donato]
  • Thomas D Clareson and Joe Sanders . The Heritage of Heinlein: A Critical Reading of the Fiction (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2014 ) [nonfiction: introduction by Frederik Pohl : pb/]
  • Alex Nevala-Lee . Astounding: John W Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A Heinlein, L Ron Hubbard and the Golden Age of Science Fiction (New York: William Morrow/Dey Street Books, 2018 ) [nonfiction: hb/Tavis Coburn]
  • Farah Mendlesohn . The Pleasant Profession of Robert A Heinlein (London: Unbound, 2019 ) [nonfiction: hb/Isobel Kieran from photo from Heinlein Prize Trust]
  • Robert A Heinlein fan site
  • The Heinlein Society
  • Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Picture Gallery

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Robert A. Heinlein

7 july 1907 - 8 may 1988.

Robert Anson Heinlein was an American science fiction writer. Often called "the dean of science fiction writers", he was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of the genre. He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary quality. He was one of the first writers to break into mainstream, general magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, in the late 1940s, with unvarnished science fiction. He was among the first authors of bestselling, novel-length science fiction in the modern, mass-market era. For many years, Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke were known as the "Big Three" of science fiction. ( Source .)

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Stranger in a Strange Land

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The moon is a harsh mistress.

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Glory road.

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Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long : A Novel

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Orphans Of The Sky

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The man who sold the moon

The science fiction hall of fame: the greatest science fiction stores of all time..

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Starship Troopers

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Beyond this horizon

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Podkayne Of Mars

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The puppet masters: Waldo ; Magic Inc..

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The Green Hills of Earth

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Revolt in 2100

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The Door into Summer

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Citizen of the Galaxy

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Have space suit - will travel

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Rocket Ship Galileo

Methuselah's children.

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The star beast

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The day after tomorrow

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Cover of: Scifi

  • OLID: OL28641A
  • ISNI: 000000011977723X
  • VIAF: 12309757
  • Wikidata: Q123078

Links (outside Open Library)

  • Wikipedia link Robert Heinlein
  • Heinlein Society is a group dedicated to preserving Heinlein's legacy.

Alternative names

  • R. A. Heinlein
  • Robert Anson Heinlein
  • Created April 1, 2008
  • 26 revisions
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Robert A. Heinlein Is Dead at 80; Renowned Science-Fiction Writer

By Eric Pace

  • May 10, 1988

Robert A. Heinlein Is Dead at 80; Renowned Science-Fiction Writer

Robert A. Heinlein, a former aviation engineer whose clever interweaving of imagination and technical expertise helped make him one of the country's most successful writers of science fiction, died Sunday morning at his home in Carmel, Calif. He was 80 years old and had been in ill health for some time.

Mr. Heinlein's fictional writings repeatedly anticipated scientific and technical advances. He managed to write a story about an atomic power plant some years before the first atomic bomb was detonated. Over the years, he won an enormous and loyal public, and his dozens of books sold more than 40 million copies.

His writing won many science-fiction awards, and some of it was made into movies. He also wrote several screenplays, as well as some nonfiction books and articles on technical subjects.

Mr. Heinlein's eminence stemmed partly from the success among young people of ''A Stranger in a Strange Land,'' which was published in 1961. Its sardonic attitude toward modern mores proved popular in a decade that saw students challenge many established institutions. 'Violence and Gusto'

Orville Prescott wrote in The New York Times that in the novel, Mr. Heinlein ''expresses his sardonic opinions with violence and gusto.'' The reviewer also called an earlier Heinlein tale, ''The Green Hills of Earth,'' ''a science-fiction classic.''

Mr. Heinlein's writing style was generally simple, and so was his explanation of how he went about his writing.

''I start out with some characters and get them into trouble,'' he told one interviewer, ''and when they get themselves out of trouble, the story's over.''

Robert Anson Heinlein (Hine-Line) was born on Oct. 21, 1907, in Butler, Mo., and grew up a fan of such classic science-fiction authors as H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1929 and remained in the service until 1934. He later did graduate work in physics and mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles. Speed Was All

He turned to writing full time in 1939, beginning with stories for the pulp magazines. ''They didn't want it good,'' he said in a 1980 interview in The Times. ''They wanted it Wednesday.''

He interrupted his writing during World War II, which he spent as an aviation engineer with the Navy. After the war, he wrote for major magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, and then took up writing science-fiction novels, initially for young people and then, beginning in the 1950's, for adults.

Mr. Heinlein was married in 1948 to Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld, who survives him.

Robert A. Heinlein, Acclaimed Science Fiction Writer, Dies

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Robert Anson Heinlein, considered by many to be the most influential author of science fiction since H. G. Wells, is dead at the age of 80, it was reported Monday.

Heinlein, who had suffered from heart ailments and emphysema for a decade, died in his sleep over the weekend at his Carmel home, Charles Brown, publisher of the science-fiction magazine Locus and a friend of the family, told United Press International.

Heinlein was the winner of an unprecedented four Hugo awards, given by a popular vote of science fiction fans for best novel of the year. The four books are “Double Star” (1956), “Starship Troopers” (1959), “Stranger in a Strange Land” (1961) and “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” (1966). In 1975 Heinlein received the first Grand Master Nebula Award, given by the Science Fiction Writers of America for a lifelong contribution to the genre.

He was also guest commentator alongside CBS-TV’s Walter Cronkite on the Apollo 11 space mission in 1969, when Neil A. Armstrong left the first footprints on the moon.

Fellow sci-fi author Ray Bradbury has called the prolific Heinlein “a popcorn machine,” popping more ideas in half an hour than most people have in a year.

Christine Schillig, vice president and publisher of G. P. Putnam & Sons, one of Heinlein’s publishers, remembered him as “one of the founders of what we know as science fiction today.”

“He was a 50-year influence on the genre,” she said. “He was one of the original writers who created from vision, what the future should be, what it might be.”

In the “Science-Fiction Handbook,” L. Sprague de Camp reported the results of a 1953 poll of 18 leading writers of speculative fiction. They were asked to list authors who had influenced their work. Only 10 authors were mentioned by more than one of the 18, and of those 10 the only modern author was Heinlein.

Heinlein’s novel “Rocket Ship Galileo” (1947) not only signaled the beginning of the period during which he did his most popular work, it was, along with the short story “The Man Who Sold the Moon,” the basis for George Pal’s 1950 film “Destination Moon.”

“Stranger in a Strange Land” was Heinlein’s 1962 Hugo-winner and perhaps his most famous book. It is a tale of a Martian who establishes a religious movement on Earth, and its devotees over the years have come to include convicted murderer Charles Manson, a fact that mystified Heinlein to his dying days.

‘Startled’ by Reaction

Heinlein commented on this in papers appended to the manuscript when he gave it to UC Santa Cruz: “I still think it is a good story (but nothing more)--and I must confess that I am startled at the effect it has on many people. . . .”

“Stranger” also added a new word to the language--”grok” --which dictionaries define as “to understand thoroughly because of having empathy” (with). It was a word that symbolized Valentine Smith, Heinlein’s alien hero.

Heinlein (rhymes with “fine line”) sold his first story in 1939. He was inspired to write it by a $50 prize offered by Thrilling Wonder Stories. When Heinlein, born in Butler, Mo., finished the story, he decided it was too good for the contest and instead sent it to Astounding Science Fiction. The magazine’s editor, John W. Campbell Jr., bought it for $70, then encouraged Heinlein to continue writing by buying one story after another for years.

First Story

That first story, “Lifeline,” tells of a man who invents a machine that can predict the moment of a person’s death. It was the first in what came to be known as Heinlein’s “Future History,” a collection of stories with a common fictional background that extrapolates a possible future of the human race.

Science fact-and-fiction writer Isaac Asimov once said that between 1939 and 1942, Heinlein “single-handedly, under the aegis of John Campbell, lifted science fiction to a new pitch of quality.”

Heinlein was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., where he was a champion marksman and swordsman. But in 1934, he contracted tuberculosis while serving on a destroyer and was retired at age 27 after a long recuperation. Although he never saw combat, the military was to play a large role in his thinking.

Other Professions

He then worked as an aeronautical engineer, silver-mine owner, real estate agent and architect before turning to writing.

Between 1942 and 1945 Heinlein worked as a civilian engineer in the materials laboratory of the Naval Air Material Center at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. With Asimov and De Camp, (both scientists as well as science fiction writers), he helped design high-altitude flight suits that bear a striking resemblance to the real space suits designed since. Heinlein also wrote a number of engineering textbooks during this period.

After the war, he was divorced from his first wife, Leslyn Mcdonald, to whom he had been married while in the Navy.

In 1948, he married Virginia Gerstenfeld, a woman who excelled in many fields, from biochemistry to figure skating.

‘Juveniles’ Period

Through the late 1940s and the ‘50s, Heinlein wrote what many critics believe was his best work--the so-called “juveniles.” Norman Spinrad, president of the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1980 said, “(They) were better than anybody else’s. The only thing that made these different from his other science fiction was that the protagonists were teen-agers. He didn’t write down, he didn’t patronize.”

James Gunn, a past president of the writers’ group, said in his “The Road to Science Fiction, Part 2”: “These juveniles would represent an introduction to science fiction for a generation of young people.”

Among the novels Heinlein wrote in that period are “Starman Jones,” “The Star Beast” and “Citizen of the Galaxy,” books that Peter Nicholls’ prestigious “Science Fiction Encyclopedia” says “have strong appeal for adult readers as well as youngsters, and some critics consider them to be Heinlein’s finest works.”

David Gerrold, editor, novelist and television writer, said the main thing about a Heinlein novel is that “you could believe it.”

Broke Barriers

This ability to write science fiction that was accessible to people not accustomed to reading it was one of the factors that allowed Heinlein, like Kurt Vonnegut, Harlan Ellison and a few others, to break the slick magazine barrier.

Traditionally, like most other writers of science fiction, he had been trapped in the pulp magazines. But his story “The Green Hills of Earth” about a blind poet, a Homeric figure who sang of the “spaceways,” appeared in the Feb. 8, 1947, issue of the Saturday Evening Post. In subsequent years, his science fiction stories appeared in other such unlikely places as Argosy, Town and Country, Blue Book and American Legion Magazine.

In his introduction to “Heinlein in Dimension,” writer-critic James Blish said Heinlein “is so plainly the best all-around science fiction writer of the modern (post-1926) era that taking anything but an adulatory view of his work seems to some people . . . to be perilously close to lese majesty. “

Even so, neither Heinlein nor his fiction existed without controversy. Writer-editor Gerrold said, “Heinlein has been charged with being a racist and a fascist and a sexist and none of these charges are correct. The ignorant are reading their own prejudices into his stories.”

Free-Love Advocate

Despite this, Heinlein, an advocate of free love and open marriage, found the outcry was sometimes so loud that he devoted a few paragraphs to self-defense in the book “Expanded Universe” (1981).

Heinlein’s 1960 Hugo-winner, “Starship Troopers,” is about a soldier coming up through the ranks during a war of the far future. An overtone of fascism permeates the book. In “Expanded Universe,” Heinlein said it “outraged ‘em. I still can’t see how that book got a Hugo. It continues to get lots of mail, not much of it favorable . . . but it sells and sells and sells and sells, in 11 languages. It doesn’t slow down--four new contracts just this year (1981). And yet I almost never hear of it save when someone wants to chew me out over it. I don’t understand it.”

While researching “I Will Fear No Evil” (1970), Heinlein discovered the National Rare Blood Club, an organization similar to the Red Cross that specializes in finding and dispensing rare blood. Not long after the book’s publication, Heinlein suffered a medical emergency and underwent surgery to correct a blood-flow problem. He credited the activities of the club with saving his life. Heinlein became one of the most vocal supporters of blood bank organizations, and Red Cross blood donating rooms have since been a common sight at science fiction conventions.

In 1986, Heinlein’s final work, “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls” was published. It was a tale of murder for hire and resurrected his longtime protagonist, the venerable Lazarus Long, who had walked through some of Heinlein’s earlier books over a period of 10,000 space years. His final outing, however, was dismissed in some reviews as a parody of the science fiction genre that Heinlein had made meaningful for so many.

In Part 2 of “The Road to Science Fiction,” there is this summing up of the Heinlein oeuvre.

“More than any other writer, Heinlein had the ability to present carefully crafted backgrounds, including entire societies, in economical but convincing detail. This and, at its best, his narrative drive and his spare, vigorous prose, provided science fiction with models for the authors who followed after.”

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Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)

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Robert A. Heinlein

  • 1 win & 1 nomination

Robert A. Heinlein and J. Neil Schulman

  • based on the short story by

The Door Into Summer (2021)

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  • based on the short story "All You Zombies" by

Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012)

  • novel "Starship Troopers"
  • based on a novel by
  • 44 episodes

Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, and Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers: Deleted Scenes (1998)

  • based upon a novel by

Starship Troopers (1988)

  • novel "The Puppet Masters" (uncredited)

X Minus One (1955)

  • story (as Robert Heinlein)
  • technical advisor
  • In-development projects at IMDbPro

Starship Troopers: Invasion

Personal details

  • Access to the complete works of Robert Heinelin
  • Official website for the Robert Heinlein Foundation
  • Author 'All You Zombies'
  • July 7 , 1907
  • Butler, Missouri, USA
  • May 8 , 1988
  • Carmel, California, USA (emphysema and congestive heart failure)
  • Spouses Virginia Doris Gerstenfeld October 21, 1948 - May 8, 1988 (his death)
  • Other works Novel: "Double Star" (first published in the UK by Michael Joseph Ltd.).
  • 1 Interview

Did you know

  • Trivia Science Fiction author Larry Niven wrote a short story in which Heinlein never leaves the Navy, and achieves the rank of Admiral.
  • Quotes "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch".
  • The Grand Master
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science fiction writer heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein

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Book List in Order: 58 titles

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Orphans of the Sky

  • / Science Fiction

LOST IN SPACE Hugh had been taught that, according to the ancient sacred writings, the Ship was on a voyage to faraway Centaurus. But he also understood this was actually allogory for a voyage to spiritual perfection. Indeed, how could the Ship mo...

Methuselah's Children

Hero Lazarus Long returns in these two marvellous novellas from one of comtemporary science fiction's favourite writers, Robert A. Heinlein . The date is 2100; the setting is a second American revolution. The true freedom and justice t...

Sixth Column

One by one, the Free Nations had fallen, until America stood alone in arms against the World. Then, as researchers toiled desperately to complete work on a weapon that might yet turn the tide of battle, she too fell. Now, though scattered resistance...

Beyond This Horizon

The reissue of a classic science fiction novel, featuring dazzling new cover art, displays the celebrated imagination of one of the greatest masters of twentieth-century science fiction, author of Stranger in a Strange Land, The Puppet Masters, <...

The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag

[This is the Audiobook CD Library Edition in vinyl case.] [Read by Tom Weiner]Part supernatural thriller, part noir detective story, Heinlein's trip down the rabbit hole leads where you never expected. Jonathan Hoag has a curious problem. Ever...

The Green Hills of Earth

[LIBRARY EDITION Audiobook CD format in sturdy Vinyl Case with cloth sleeves that keep compact discs protected.] [Read by Tom Weiner] ''The Green Hills of Earth'' is a collection of short stories from one of the masters of science fiction w...

Jerry Is a Man

Perhaps the most important book ever written on the subject of warfare. It can be used and adapted in every facet of your life. This book explains when and how to go to war, as well as when not to. The wisdom of the ages is distilled here, A book for...

Rocket Ship Galileo

They called themselves the Galileo Club -- not a bad name for a group of space-minded young men who had high hopes of putting one of their homemade rocket ships in orbit. But it wasn't until they teamed up with Doc Cargraves that their impossible ...

Space Cadet

Only the best and brightest -- the strongest and the most courageous -- ever managed to become Space Cadets. They were the elite guard of the solar system, accepting missions others feared, taking risks no others dared, and upholding the peace of the...

Day after Tomorrow

  • / General Fiction

The Red Planet

Jim Marlowe's Martian pet, Willis, seems like nothing more than an adorable ball of fur. But Jim's devotion to the little creature will soon lead him and his pal Frank into a death-defying trek across Mars....

Farmer in the Sky

Bill knew his destiny lay in the stars, but how was he to get there? George Lerner was shipping out for Ganymede to join the fledgling colony, and Bill wanted to go along. But his father would not hear of it -- far too dangerous a mission! Bill...

Waldo & Magic, Inc.

Don''t count out the underdog...Two classic short novels by Robert A. Heinlein, science fiction’s Grand Master. WaldoNorth Power Air is in trouble. Their aircraft are crashing at an alarming rate and no one can figure out the cause. Desperate f...

The Puppet Masters

DEADLY EXPOSURE At key points throughout North America, an invasion force is taking over communications, government, industry--and people's bodies. And the nation is helpless to stop it because the invaders multiply far faster than they can be destr...

Between Planets

The message had seemed simple, yet it was more complex than Don could have imagined. He was being called from Earth to an alien world for reasons unknown -- save only that his life depended on it. But setting out for Mars and getting there in ...

The Man Who Sold the Moon

Two scientists have contrived to develop cheap solar power and end up rivaling the highest of industrial standards. The nation`s cities link up by a system of moving roads and a strike can disable the entire country. Workers i...

The Year of the Jackpot

A statistician attempts to make sense of a world gone mad in an apocalyptic sci-fi scenario from the Hugo Award�"winning author of Starship Troopers.   Multiple Hugo Award winner Robert Heinlein earned countless fans, accolades, and honors with gro...

Starman Jones

WHERE WERE THEY? IN FACT, WHEN WERE THEY? AND HOW COULD THEY GET BACK? It's easy to stow away on an intergalactic spaceship, if you're a smart lad like Max Jones. But it's quite another thing when the spaceship touches down on an unknown planet afte...

Assignment in Eternity

Two short novels Robert A. Heinlein is widely and justly regarded as the greatest practitioner of the art of science fiction who has ever lived. Here are two of his greatest short novels: Gulf In which the greatest superspy ...

Revolt in 2100

Lummox had been the Stuart family pet for years. Though far from cuddly and rather large, it had always been obedient and docile. Except, that is, for the time it had eaten the secondhand Buick . . . But now, all of a sudden and without explanatio...

Tunnel in the Sky

When Rod Walker decides to take the final test for “Deacon” Matson''s interplanetary survival course, he knows he will be facing life-or-death situations on an unsettled planet. What he doesn''t expect is that something will go wrong w...

Double Star

[LIBRARY EDITION Audiobook CD format in sturdy Vinyl Case with cloth sleeves that keep compact discs protected.] [Read by Tom Weiner]One minute, down-and-out actor Lorenzo Smythe is in a bar, drinking away his troubles. Then a space pilot buy...

Time for the Stars

Travel to other planets is a reality, and with overpopulation stretching the resources of Earth, the necessity to find habitable worlds is growing ever more urgent. With no time to wait years for communication between slower-than-light spaceships and...

Citizen of the Galaxy

SLAVE Brought to Sargon in chains as a child -- unwanted by all save a one-legged beggar -- Thorby learned well the wiles of the street people and the mysterious ways of his crippled master... OUTLAW Hunted by the police for some unknown treasonous ...

The Menace from Earth

From Cavernous Cities Beneath The Surface of The Moon...Earth seems a sinister planet hanging in the sky. But to the Pluto colony, Earth Satellite Base holds the only possible reprieve from a terrifying death sentence. And on Earth itself, alien in...

Have Spacesuit, Will Travel

SKYJACKED Everything happened at once. One minute Kip Russell was walking about in his own backyard, testing out an old space suit and dreaming about going to the Moon -- and the next he was out cold and the captive of an insidious space pirate. The...

All You Zombies

A young man walks into a bar and meets a time-traveling bartender whose origins -- and relation to the young man -- are more convoluted and stranger than the snake-swallowing-his-tail ring on the barkeep's finger. Robert A. Heinlein's "All You Zombie...

The Door into Summer

[Read by Patrick Lawlor]Dan Davis had finally created the invention of a lifetime--and his life was ruined. Tricked by his greedy partner and greedier fiancée into suspended animation for thirty years, Dan awoke in AD 2000 and plotted his revenge....

Starship Troopers

COSMIC COMBAT The Mobile Infantry of the startling twenty- second century attracts young and eager-to serve Johnnie Rico. He enters basic training as a naive youth who must learn quickly how to cope with every soldier's problems of courage, discip...

Stranger in a Strange Land

A deluxe hardcover edition of the most famous science-fiction novel of all time—part of Penguin Galaxy, a collectible series of six sci-fi/fantasy classics, featuring a series introduction by Neil Gaiman Winner of the AIGA + Design Obser...

Podkayne of Mars

While accompanying their uncle, a wily politician, on a trip from Mars to Earth, Podkayne and her brilliant, but pesky brother are caught in a plot to keep Uncle Tom from an important conference. Reprint....

The Glory Road

Responding to an ad for a brave, handsome, and emotionally unattached man, E. C. "Scar" Gordon is enthralled by the gorgeous Amazon-like technician who interviews him before sending him on the adventure of a lifetime. Reprint....

Farnham's Freehold

Hugh Farnham is a practical, self-made man, and when he sees the clouds of nuclear war gathering, he builds a bomb shelter under his house, hoping for peace and preparing for war. But when the apocalypse comes, something happens that he did not expec...

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

In what is considered one of his most hair-raising, thought-provoking and outrageous adventures, the master of modern SF tells the strange story of an even stranger world--21st century Luna, a harsh penal colony where a revolt is plotted between a ba...

Tomorrow, the Stars

Merchant Adventurer Nicholas van Rijn in the Second Chronicle of the Polesotechnic Lea gue! Humankind had explored the galaxy: Nicholas van Rijn had bought it. A star wide empire was difficult to run, but the old man was wily and the resources of the...

The Past Through Tomorrow

The brilliantly shocking story of the ultimate transplant from New York Times bestselling author Robert A. Heinlein. As startling and provocative as his famous Stranger in a Strange Land, here is Heinlein''s awesome masterpiece ...

Time Enough for Love

LAZARUS LONG 1916-4272 The capstone and crowning achievement of Heinlein's famous Future History, TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE follows Lazarus Long through a vast and magnificent timescape of centuries and worlds. Heinlein's longest and most ambitious work, ...

Tricks of the Trade

When the Stone twins made up their minds to leave Lunar City in a secondhand spaceship, they hadn't planned on having their whole family accompany them. But the Stones were not your ordinary Lunar family -- no way! -- and their voyage through the sol...

The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

Too young to fight in the First World War, but destined to lead the first successful expedition to another star system, the (literally) immortal Lazarus Long is the most popular and enduring character created by Robert A. Heinlein, author of numerous...

Expanded Universe

For the Millions of Heinlein Fans-a Guided Tour Through the Thoughts and Insights of "One of the Most Influential Writers in American Literature" (The New York Times Book Review).The Wit and Wisdom of Robert A. Heinlein, author of multiple New York T...

The Pursuit of the Pankera

First paperback publication of the national bestseller by one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time.“An absolutely essential and 'must read' novel for the legions of Robert Heinlein fans, The Pursuit of the Pankera: A Parallel...

The Number of the Beast

When two male and two female supremely sensual, unspeakably cerebral humans find themselves under attack from aliens who want their awesome quantum breakthrough, they take to the skies -- and zoom into the cosmos on a rocket roller coaster ride of ad...


FRIDAY ... is a secret courier. She is employed by a man known to her only as "Boss:' Operating from and over a near-future Earth, in which North America has become Balkanized into dozens of independent states, where culture has become bizarrely vul...

Job: a Comedy of Justice

SOMETHING WAS OUT TO GET HIM After that firewalking gig in Polynesia, the whole world was suddenly changed around him. Instead of fundamentalist minister Alexander Hergensheimer, he was now supposed to be Alec Graham, an underworld figure in the m...

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls

Robert A. Heinlein has written some of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time, including the beloved classic STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Now, in THE CAT WHO WALKS THROUGH WALLS, he creates his most compelling character ever: Dr. Richard A...

To Sail Beyond the Sunset

Maureen Johnson, the somewhat irregular mother of Lazarus Long, wakes up in bed with a man and a cat. The cat is Pixel, well-known to readers of the New York Times bestseller The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. The man-is a stranger to her, and besides ...

Thor's Hammer

A collection of works--most never before published in book form--by the first Grand Master (Science Fiction Writers of America). Includes major novellas "Tenderfoot in Space" and "Destination Moon," which was made into the famous George Pal film. Tri...

The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein, the dean of American SF writers, also wrote fantasy fiction throughout his long career, but especially in the early 1940s. The Golden Age of SF was also a time of revolution in fantasy fiction, and Heinlein was at the forefront. H...

For Us, The Living

From Grandmaster Robert A. Heinlein comes a long-lost first novel, written in 1939 and never before published, introducing ideas and themes that would shape his career and define the genre that is synonymous with his name. July 12, 1939 Perry...

Project Moonbase and Others

Project Moonbase contains the screenplay for the now classic sf film, plus eleven finished teleplays and two story outlines for a projected television show, The World Beyond. In addition to original tales (the story outlines "Home Sweet Home" and "Th...

Robert Heinlein's Expanded Universe: Volume One

Robert A. Heinlein has been hailed as one of the most forward-thinking science fiction writers of all time, and Expanded Universe(presented in two volu...

Robert Heinlein's Expanded Universe: Volume Two

“The single most important and valuable Heinlein book ever published.” -- Spider RobinsonRobert A. Heinlein has been hailed as one of the most forward-thinking science fiction writers of all time, and Expanded Universe (presented in two volumes) ...

Award-Winning Books by Robert A. Heinlein

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Robert A. Heinlein

Robert A. Heinlein Profile Picture

Internationally recognized as a seminal science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein is often associated with fellow masters Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. An essayist, novelist, and short story writer, Robert Anson Heinlein also wrote using the pen names Anson MacDonald, Lyle Monroe, John Riverside, Caleb Saunders, and Simon York. Born in 1907 in Butler, Missouri, he earned his B.S. in naval engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy. Heinlein served as an officer in the Navy, assigned to an aircraft carrier and later to a destroyer, where he worked in radio communications. He was discharged from the Navy for health reasons, and worked in various professions, including real estate sales and silver mining. Heinlein began writing to pay his mortgage. He later served in the Navy during World War II, while continuing to write fiction and non-fiction. Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master and won Hugo Awards for four of his novels. Half a century after their publication, three of his books were honored with Retro Hugo Award, given to books published before the Hugo Awards began. Heinlein died in 1988.

  • Books By Robert A. Heinlein

#18 in Graphic Novels

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Stranger in a Strange Land

Starship Troopers

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Time Enough for Love

The Cat Who Walks through Walls

  • The World As Myth
  • Future History or "Heinlein Timeline"
  • Spider Robinson
  • Charles Sheffield
  • Alfred Bester
  • Theodore Sturgeon
  • James Blish
  • Clifford D. Simak
  • James H. Schmitz
  • Jack Williamson
  • A.E. van Vogt
  • C.M. Kornbluth
  • Fredric Brown
  • Cordwainer Smith
  • Eric Frank Russell
  • Henry Kuttner
  • Lester del Rey
  • John W. Campbell Jr.
  • Catherine Crook de Camp
  • Clifford N. Geary

Books by Robert A. Heinlein

Stranger in a Strange Land 0441790348 Book Cover

$ 4.19 - $ 64.59

Starship Troopers 0441783589 Book Cover

$ 6.69 - $ 73.99

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress 0312863551 Book Cover

$ 6.89 - $ 81.09

Time Enough for Love 0425024938 Book Cover

$ 4.69 - $ 49.79

The Cat Who Walks through Walls 0441094996 Book Cover

$ 4.19 - $ 8.19

Have Space Suit—Will Travel 0345324412 Book Cover

Have Space Suit—Will Travel

$ 6.69 - $ 44.59

Friday 034530988X Book Cover

$ 3.79 - $ 28.29

The Number of the Beast 0449144763 Book Cover

The Number of the Beast

$ 3.69 - $ 16.31

Tunnel in the Sky 0345353730 Book Cover

Tunnel in the Sky

$ 6.89 - $ 80.89

Glory Road 0425048659 Book Cover

$ 3.79 - $ 18.02

Methuselah's Children B0013JH5FA Book Cover

Methuselah's Children

$ 4.89 - $ 44.49

The Door into Summer 0345330129 Book Cover

The Door into Summer

$ 4.59 - $ 17.69

Citizen of the Galaxy 0345320980 Book Cover

Citizen of the Galaxy

$ 5.29 - $ 15.69

Job: A Comedy of Justice 0345313577 Book Cover

Job: A Comedy of Justice

$ 4.19 - $ 8.29

The Past through Tomorrow 0425031780 Book Cover

The Past through Tomorrow

$ 5.29 - $ 28.09

To Sail Beyond the Sunset 0399132678 Book Cover

To Sail Beyond the Sunset

$ 4.09 - $ 7.99

Red Planet 0345340396 Book Cover

$ 4.09 - $ 12.70

I Will Fear No Evil 0441359175 Book Cover

I Will Fear No Evil

$ 4.19 - $ 14.78

Double Star B0030VCWZM Book Cover

Double Star

$ 4.69 - $ 20.69

The Puppet Masters 0345330145 Book Cover

The Puppet Masters

$ 4.29 - $ 56.89

Farmer in the Sky 1439132771 Book Cover

Farmer in the Sky

$ 6.39 - $ 39.19

The Star Beast 0345300467 Book Cover

The Star Beast

$ 4.79 - $ 11.53

Space Cadet 0345353110 Book Cover

Space Cadet

$ 5.69 - $ 38.79

Orphans of the Sky 042503786X Book Cover

Orphans of the Sky

$ 5.69 - $ 27.99

Starman Jones 0345243544 Book Cover

Starman Jones

$ 4.39 - $ 55.29

Farnham's Freehold 0671722069 Book Cover

Farnham's Freehold

$ 4.79 - $ 15.19

Requiem: New Collected Works by Robert A. Heinlein and Tributes to the Grand Master 0812513916 Book Cover

Requiem: New Collected Works by Robert A. Heinlein and Tributes to the Grand Master

$ 4.29 - $ 19.50

Between Planets 0345277961 Book Cover

Between Planets

$ 5.69 - $ 21.79

Rocket Ship Galileo 0345260686 Book Cover

Rocket Ship Galileo

$ 7.09 - $ 57.19

Podkayne of Mars B000MKQRJQ Book Cover

Podkayne of Mars

$ 5.29 - $ 50.19

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science fiction writer heinlein

A Famous Science Fiction Writer's Descent Into Libertarian Madness

Robert a. heinlein became increasingly right wing, and his novels suffered for it.

science fiction writer heinlein

The science-fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein once described himself as “a preacher with no church.” More accurately, he was a preacher with too many churches. Rare among the many intellectual gurus whose fame mushroomed in the 1960s, Heinlein was a beacon for hippies and hawks, libertarians and authoritarians, and many other contending faiths—but rarely at the same time. While America became increasingly liberal, he became increasingly right wing, and it hobbled his once-formidable imagination. His career, as a new biography inadvertently proves, is a case study in the literary perils of political extremism.

science fiction writer heinlein

Heinlein’s most famous novel, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), was a counter-culture Bible, its message of free love inspiring not just secular polygamous communes but also the Church of All Worlds , a still-flourishing New Age sect incorporated in 1968. Heinlein was equally beloved in military circles, especially for his book Starship Troopers (1959), a gung-ho shout-out for organized belligerence as the key to human survival. A thoroughly authoritarian book, it included an ode to flogging (a practice the American Navy banned in 1861) and the execution of mentally disturbed criminals, yet Heinlein became a hero to libertarians: Milton Friedman praised Heinlein’s 1966 novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress , which chronicled an anti-statist rebellion on a lunar colony, as a “wonderful” book and commended Heinlein for popularizing the slogan TANSTAAFL (“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”).  

Heinlein, who died in 1988 at age 80, lived a large, complex, and contradictory life. His friend and fellow science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clark once noted that Heinlein was “very protean. Heinlein was everything—like Walt Whitman.” The publication of the second volume of a mammoth Heinlein biography by the late William Patterson is, alas, only partially helpful in getting a grip on this complicated writer. Authorized by the Heinlein estate and fannishly worshipful, Patterson lacked sufficient distance from his subject to tackle the central puzzles of Heinlein’s life. 

Take, for example, the crucial issue of Heinlein’s political evolution. Heinlein went from being a left-wing New Dealer in the 1930s and 1940s to flirting with the John Birch Society in the late 1950s and supporting Barry Goldwater in the 1960s—and yet, he insisted that his politics were unwaveringly consistent. “From my point of view what has happed is not that I have moved to the right; it seems to me that both parties have moved steadily to the left,” Heinlein wrote his brother in 1964. Patterson, as was his wont on all major issues, sides with his subject and maintains that Heinlein’s politics remained fundamentally unchanged through his life. Heinlein was no “rightist,” Patterson assures us, but a lifelong “radical liberal” with a “democratic soul.” Patterson never explains how that “democratic soul” came to believe that the right to vote should be severely restricted, a position Heinlein advocated not just in Starship Troopers but also in nonfiction works.

Contra Patterson, Heinlein was not a lifelong liberal, and this biography offers little insight in the science fiction writer’s mad dash across the political spectrum. Weak tea as analysis, it nonetheless is a useful warehouse of facts about Heinlein, giving us a sturdy chronicle that allows us to ask—and sometimes answer—the questions the biographer avoids.

Robert Heinlein was a solipsist and an extrapolationist. These two components of his personality—his tendency to see reality as an extension of himself, and his compulsion to push ideas to their logical conclusion—were evident in his personality at a very young age. In later life, sometimes these tendencies would war with each other and sometimes they fused together, but they seem to have been present from early on.

Born in Butler, Missouri in 1907, the third of seven children, Heinlein grew up mostly in Kansas in a household kept barely solvent by his father’s salary. The solipsism set in at an early age. As Heinlein wrote in 1955 to a friend, “I have had a dirty suspicion since I was about six that all consciousness is one and that all the actors I see around me … are myself, at different points in the record’s grooves.”  Heinlein’s high school year book offered this prescient tagline: “He thinks in terms of the fifth dimension, never stopping at the fourth.”

At age twelve, Heinlein fell in love with scientific romances of H.G. Wells, which offered not only a compelling vision of the world to come but also an irresistible political program. For Wells, socialism and science fiction were natural partners, both attempts to constructively imagine the future. As a teen, Heinlein signed on for the full Wellsian program of economic planning, sexual liberation, internationalism, and secularism. Political radicalism, with its call to build a collective future, offered Heinlein a necessary corrective to his instinctive self-obsession, his ingrained inability to accept the reality of other people.

science fiction writer heinlein

Heinlein became a midshipman at Annapolis in 1925 and graduated near the top of his class, but his promising Naval career ended when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1934, forcing him to retire. His disability pension proved an indispensable life jacket, making possible his entire career as a writer. Heinlein not only weathered the Great Depression, but also pursued a wide variety of interests—he speculated on a silver mine, took graduate science courses, sold real estate, and tried his hand at architecture—before settling into science fiction. Aside from his naval pension, Heinlein also took money from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to study art.

Later in life, as a libertarian, he would rail against “loafers” and the welfare state but in his leftist days he knew how much he depended on the government. As he acknowledged in a 1941 letter, “This country has been very good to me, and the taxpayers have supported me for many years.” The popularizer of TANSTAAFL ate more than his share of subsidized meals.

In discovering his midlife vocation as a science-fiction writer, Heinlein was aided immeasurably by his second wife Leslyn, who he married in 1932 (an earlier marriage in 1929 fizzled after a year). Both were socialists and sexual radicals—it was an open marriage with each having many lovers—and in the 1930s both were leading figures in the grassroots movement End Poverty in California (EPIC), working to push the Democratic party to the left. When Heinlein started selling science fiction in 1939, Leslyn served as his un-credited collaborator and story-editor. 

Heinlein’s early science fiction was distinguished by its extrapolative rigor. Usually working with the parameters of real science, he speculated on how space travel and nuclear power would change society. Occasionally he would write an oddball solipsistic fantasy like the story “They” (1941), where the narrator correctly figures out reality is a sham. But in his early career, this type of solipsism was mostly a vacation from the main business of creating an imaginatively inhabitable future.   

Heinlein’s leftwing politics got him blacklisted from the Navy, which didn’t want his services even during World War II when the military was so desperate for trained recruits that they found office jobs for disabled soldiers.  Instead he worked as a civilian engineer in Philadelphia, helping to design the high-altitude pressure suit, a precursor to the astronaut suit. In 1944, Heinlein met Lieutenant Virginia Gerstenfeld, and after the war tried to bring her into his house as part of a ménage à trois. Gerstenfeld accepted but her stay with the Heinlein’s was brief and stormy.  This wasn’t the first love triangle in the Heinlein residence (they had earlier been in a consensual threesome with L. Ron Hubbard), but Leslyn found Virginia threatening so the marriage collapsed in 1947. Heinlein and Gerstenfeld wed the following year, a marriage that would also be open.

science fiction writer heinlein

Whereas Leslyn was a liberal Democrat, Virginia was a conservative Republican. Some of Heinlein’s friends speculated that his shift in politics was connected to his divorce and remarriage. That’s too simplistic an explanation, but Heinlein acknowledged that Virginia helped “re-educate” him on economics. 

In truth, Heinlein’s shift to the right took place over a decade, from 1948 to 1957. In the early 1950s, the Heinleins travelled around the world. The writer was already a Malthusian and a eugenicist, but the trip greatly exacerbated his demographic despair and xenophobia. “The real problem of the Far East is not that so many of them are communists, but simply that there are so many of them,” he wrote in a 1954 travel book (posthumously published in 1992). Even space travel, Heinlein concluded, wouldn’t be able to open enough room to get rid of “them.” Heinlein treated overpopulation as a personal affront.  

Heinlein had caught a bad case of the Cold War jitters in the late 1940s. He accused liberal Democratic friends, notably the director Fritz Lang, of being Stalinist stooges. With Heinlein's great talent for extrapolation, every East-West standoff seemed like the end of the world. “I do not think we have better than an even chance of living, as a nation, through the next five years,” he wrote an editor in 1957. The USSR's Sputnik launch in 1957 and Eisenhower’s moves toward a nuclear test ban the following year both unhinged Heinlein, who called Ike a “slimy faker.” By 1961 Heinlein concluded that even though it was a “fascist organization,” the John Birch Society was preferable to liberals and moderate conservatives.

The turning point came in 1957. After that year, Heinlein's books were no longer progressive explorations of the future but hectoring diatribes lamenting the decadence of modernity. A recurring character in these books—variously named Hugh Farnham, Jubal Harshaw or Lazarus Long—is a crusty older man who's a wellspring of wisdom. “Daddy, you have an annoying habit of being right,” runs an actual bit of dialogue from Farnham’s Freehold (1964). In the worst of Heinlein's later books, daddy not only knows best, he often knows everything.

Only on the issue of sex did Heinlein remain faithful to the radicalism of his youth, with some of his late books portraying a future where bisexuality is the norm. Yet even on sex, late-period Heinlein is an untrustworthy guide. Many readers have been disturbed by the pro-incest arguments found in such books as Farnham’s Freehold , Time Enough For Love (1973), and To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987). Perhaps the best that can be said on Heinlein’s behalf is that incest served as an objective correlative to his libertarianism and solipsism. What better way of being an independent free agent than by sleeping with your closest kin 

Going further: Isn’t the truly self-made man also self-engendered? In his explorations of the mechanics of self-pleasuring and self-creation, Heinlein made Philip Roth look like a piker. In Heinlein’s 1959 story “All You Zombies—,” a combination of time travel and a sex-change operation allows the protagonist to become his/her own mother and father. In I Will Fear No Evil (1970) a 94-year-old billionaire first has his brain implanted in the body of a 28-year-old black woman and then has his frozen sperm impregnate that body.

Taken together, Heinlein’s books in his right-wing phase hardly add up to a logical worldview. How do we reconcile the savage authoritarianism of Starship Troopers with the peace-and-love mysticism of Stranger in a Strange Land ? For that matter, how do those two books jibe to the nearly anarchist libertarianism of the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress ? On a more practical plain, how could Heinlein have called for both limited government and a NASA committed to colonizing space (surely a big government program if there ever was one)? TANSTAAFL went out the window when a space or military program caught Heinlein’s fancy.

But all these books share one trait: They ignore the consequences of people's actions. Starship Troopers gives us war without PTSD and guilt over slaughter (the aliens are Bugs, so can be exterminated without remorse) just as Stranger in a Strange Land is a vision of sex without strings (" grokking " means never having to say sorry). In other books, Heinlein gave us incest without trauma.

Heinlein described some of his books as being “Swiftian” in intent. Regrettably, Heinlein lacked the rhetorical control of the Gulliver’s Travels author. Aside from a 1941 Yellow Peril novel, Heinlein had a strong record as a critic of racism. But in Farnham’s Freehold , Heinlein wanted to use inversion to show the evils of ethnic oppression: he took a middle-class white family and, via a nuclear explosion, threw them into a future where Africans rule the earth and enslave whites. So far, so good. Yet Heinlein’s Africans aren’t just a master race, they also castrate white men, make white women their concubines, and eat white children (white teenage girls being especially tasty). Preaching against racism, Heinlein resurrected some of the most horrific racial stereotypes imaginable. Farnham’s Freehold is an anti-racist novel only a Klansman could love.

science fiction writer heinlein

In his old age, Heinlein turned his back on the future. His novels became nostalgic, masturbatory fan-fiction where he resurrected characters from earlier books and linked them into a single tapestry of interconnected self-referential novels. Even when he wrote about the future it was in terms of the past. In Time Enough For Love , we’re told that the spaceships that spread humanity across the stars are “the covered wagons of the Galaxy.” Frontier America becomes the goal to aspire to, not the past we want to build on. In the same novel, Heinlein’s alter ego Lazarus Long returns to the Kansas of the early twentieth century (a “happy” time, we’re told) and sleeps with his mother. What a depressing fate for a novelist who once was a gateway to tomorrow: wallowing in self-absorbed, sentimental reveries.

A biographer with an analytical edge might have examined the role self-obsession and political extremism played in hampering Heinlein’s late fiction. Patterson’s hagiographic approach not only skirts the issue but simply gives us Heinlein’s solipsism in a new form: this is a biography where there is no reality outside of Heinlein to challenge the man’s ideas or actions.

This article has been updated and corrected. A previous version misstated the title of 1964's  Farnham’s Freehold.

Jeet Heer is a contributing editor at the The New Republic .



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  1. Robert A. Heinlein

    Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master in 1974. [14] Four of his novels won Hugo Awards. In addition, fifty years after publication, seven of his works were awarded "Retro Hugos"—awards given retrospectively for works that were published before the Hugo Awards came into existence. [15]

  2. Robert A. Heinlein

    Robert A. Heinlein, in full Robert Anson Heinlein, (born July 7, 1907, Butler, Missouri, U.S.—died May 8, 1988, Carmel, California), prolific American writer considered to be one of the most literary and sophisticated of science-fiction writers. He did much to develop the genre.

  3. Robert A. Heinlein (Author of Stranger in a Strange Land)

    Works of American science-fiction writer Robert Anson Heinlein include Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966). People often call this novelist "the dean of science fiction writers", one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of "hard science fiction."

  4. Robert A. Heinlein bibliography

    The science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) was productive during a writing career that spanned the last 49 years of his life; the Robert A. Heinlein bibliography includes 32 novels, 59 short stories and 16 collections published during his life.

  5. Starship Troopers

    Writing and publication The cover of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (November 1959), illustrating Starship Soldier Robert Heinlein was among the best-selling science fiction authors of the 1940s and 1950s, along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke; they were known as the "big three" that dominated US science fiction.

  6. Robert A. Heinlein

    Robert Anson Heinlein was an American science fiction author, aeronautical engineer, and naval officer. Sometimes called the "dean of science fiction writers", he was among the first to emphasize scientific accuracy in his fiction, and was thus a pioneer of the subgenre of hard science fiction. His published works, both fiction and non-fiction, express admiration for competence and emphasize ...

  7. The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

    The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is a 1966 science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein about a lunar colony 's revolt against absentee rule from Earth. The novel illustrates and discusses libertarian ideals. It is respected for its credible presentation of a comprehensively imagined future human society on both the Earth and the Moon.

  8. Books by Robert A. Heinlein (Author of Stranger in a Strange Land)

    Refresh and try again. Rate this book. Clear rating. 1 of 5 stars 2 of 5 stars 3 of 5 stars 4 of 5 stars 5 of 5 stars. Time Enough for Love. by. Robert A. Heinlein. 3.97 avg rating — 34,971 ratings — published 1973 — 82 editions. Want to Read.

  9. Robert A. Heinlein

    Named a Grand Master in 1974 Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 - May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers," he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre in his time.

  10. SFE: Heinlein, Robert A

    Heinlein, Robert A. Entry updated 14 August 2023. Tagged: Author. (1907-1988) US author, educated at the University of Missouri and the US Naval Academy, Annapolis. After serving as a naval officer for five years, he retired due to ill-health in 1934, studied physics at the University of California Los Angeles for a time, then took a variety of ...

  11. Stranger in a Strange Land

    Stranger in a Strange Land is a 1961 science fiction novel by American author Robert A. Heinlein. It tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians, and explores his interaction with and eventual transformation of Terran culture.

  12. Robert A. Heinlein

    7 July 1907 - 8 May 1988. Robert Anson Heinlein was an American science fiction writer. Often called "the dean of science fiction writers", he was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of the genre. He set a high standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary ...

  13. The Door into Summer

    The Door into Summer is a science fiction novel by American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein, originally serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (October, November, December 1956, with covers and interior illustrations by Kelly Freas ). It was published in hardcover in 1957. [1]

  14. Robert A. Heinlein Is Dead at 80; Renowned Science-Fiction Writer

    Robert Anson Heinlein (Hine-Line) was born on Oct. 21, 1907, in Butler, Mo., and grew up a fan of such classic science-fiction authors as H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. He graduated from the United ...

  15. List of Books by Robert A. Heinlein

    Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988) was an American science-fiction writer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers", he was an influential and controversial author of the genre in his time.

  16. Waldo (short story)

    " Waldo " (1942) is a short story by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, originally published in Astounding Magazine in August 1942 under the pseudonym Anson MacDonald. It is available in the 1950 book Waldo & Magic, Inc. (as well as other collections). Both stories in that collection involve magic but are otherwise unrelated.

  17. Robert A. Heinlein, Acclaimed Science Fiction Writer, Dies

    Heinlein was the winner of an unprecedented four Hugo awards, given by a popular vote of science fiction fans for best novel of the year. The four books are "Double Star" (1956), "Starship...

  18. Robert A. Heinlein

    Robert A. Heinlein. Writer: Starship Troopers. At the age of 17, Heinlein graduated from Central High School in Kansas City, Missouri. He spent one year at the University of Missouri before he entered the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, from which he graduated as the 20th best among the 243 cadets. He spent five years in the Pacific Ocean until he had to retire because of ...

  19. Robert A. Heinlein Book & Series List

    1958. / General Fiction. A young man walks into a bar and meets a time-traveling bartender whose origins -- and relation to the young man -- are more convoluted and stranger than the snake-swallowing-his-tail ring on the barkeep's finger. Robert A. Heinlein's "All You Zombie... The Door into Summer. Mar-1959.

  20. List of books by author Robert A. Heinlein

    Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master and won Hugo Awards for four of his novels. Half a century after their publication, three of his books were honored with Retro Hugo Award, given to books published before the Hugo Awards began. Heinlein died in 1988. Books by Robert A. Heinlein Stranger in a Strange Land

  21. A Famous Science Fiction Writer's Descent Into Libertarian Madness

    A Famous Science Fiction Writer's Descent Into Libertarian Madness Robert A. Heinlein became increasingly right wing, and his novels suffered for it The science-fiction...

  22. Heinlein

    Heinlein or Henlein is a German surname. Notable people with the surname include: Karl Heinlein (1892-1960), Austrian footballer; ... Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988), American science fiction writer; Virginia Heinlein (1916-2003), third wife of Robert A. Heinlein

  23. Robert A. Heinlein

    Leben Robert A. Heinlein (1929) Heinlein war das dritte von sieben Kindern von Rex Ivar und Bam Lyle Heinlein. Einige Monate nach seiner Geburt zog die Familie nach Kansas City, Missouri, wo er aufwuchs. 1925 wurde er an der Marineakademie von Annapolis zugelassen und machte dort 1929 seinen Abschluss. Anschließend war Heinlein auf verschiedenen Schiffen, darunter auch auf dem damals ...