Stranger in a Strange Land appeared well after Robert Heinlein had established himself as a science-fiction writer. The novel won the 1962 Hugo Award, the third such award Heinlein had received. Much of Heinlein’s work prior to this novel, especially from the period from 1947 to 1959, had been science fiction for juvenile readers.
Although many writers acknowledge their debt to Heinlein, the only writer Heinlein claimed as an influence on his own writing was Sinclair Lewis. Stranger in a Strange Land certainly replicates Lewis’ concerns about the shallowness and complacency of American life, and the corrupt leadership of the Fosterite Church emphasizes some of the misgivings about religious leadership Lewis portrayed in Elmer Gantry (1927). As a young science-fiction writer, however, Heinlein, along with many others, was influenced by John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of Astounding Science-Fiction, and Campbell’s policy of stressing the sociological implications of changes brought about by advances in technology.
Although the novel has been interpreted and reacted to in different ways, most interpretations and reactions have centered on the sociological implications for change in religion and spirituality, politics and government, economics and the distribution of wealth, social relationships, and lifestyles, all of which the novel highlights. Almost every social institution and...
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