Robert A(nson) Heinlein 1907–
(Also wrote under the pseudonyms Anson MacDonald, Lyle Monroe, John Riverside, and Caleb Saunders) American novelist, short story writer, nonfiction writer, and scriptwriter.
Heinlein has played a long and significant role in the evolution of science fiction into a more sophisticated genre. He began writing in the post-Depression science fiction magazine era when simplistic plots and farfetched gadgets were the norm. Heinlein's witty style and his use of social themes and realistic technology helped give rise to speculative science fiction, which emphasizes probable technological and societal developments projected into future worlds.
After World War II Heinlein wrote a series of novels aimed at juvenile audiences which some critics consider his best work. These books feature naive protagonists who, in the course of wild adventures, learn to be "competent" human beings. Like all his works, these novels advocate "survival of the most competent." Heinlein's reliance on social Darwinism has been a constant source of controversy among critics of his work. Heinlein's survivors are those who adopt a military-like discipline and outlook, and some novels, like Starship Troopers, glorify militaristic society. Although some critics find fault with Heinlein's rigid logic, almost all agree that his bold exploration of social themes actively challenges a reader's view of society and has helped elevate science fiction above escapist entertainment.
Heinlein is considered "the dean of science fiction writers." His Stranger in a Strange Land has maintained a cultlike popularity, and his recent works are still greeted with anticipation. Heinlein has won four Hugo Awards for his novels and a Grandmaster Award for overall achievement.
(See also Contemporary Literary Criticism, Vols. 1, 3, 8, 14; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 1; Something about the Author, Vol. 9; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 8.)