Robert A. Heinlein Analysis

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Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

What did Robert Heinlein’s military service give him that was usable for his science-fiction writing?

How does Heinlein’s work exemplify the distinction between science fiction and nonscientific fantasy?

How is religious belief presented in Heinlein’s stories?

What is defamiliarization? How does Heinlein employ it in Stranger in a Strange Land?

How much and in what ways has Heinlein influenced the outer space films and television programs of the 1970’s and later?

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Robert A. Heinlein was prolific in the science-fiction genre, producing many novels as well as several volumes of short stories. He also wrote a number of science-fiction novels for young adults and a handful of nonfiction pieces about science fiction or the future. In the 1950’s he worked as an adviser and occasional script writer for the television program Tom Corbett: Space Cadet, and he also worked on the screenplays for two films, Destination Moon (pr. 1950) and Project Moonbase (pr. 1953).


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

With his first published story, “Lifeline,” Robert A. Heinlein became a major influence on other science-fiction writers who have emulated his crisp “insider” style, his matter-of-fact acceptance of projected innovations, and his Social Darwinist expansionist philosophy. His name is synonymous with the “realist” school of science fiction in the public mind, and his work is reprinted repeatedly in science-fiction anthologies. Heinlein’s stories are generally fast-moving and full of realistic detail, anticipating scientific and technological advances. He has been praised for his ability to create future societies in convincing detail and is considered one of the masters of the science-fiction genre. Heinlein received four Hugo Awards: in 1956 for Double Star (1956), in 1959 for Starship Troopers (1959), in 1961 for Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), and in 1966 for The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966). In 1975 he was awarded the Grand Master Nebula Award for his contributions to science-fiction literature.

Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Robert A. Heinlein (HIN-lin) was a best-selling writer of science-fiction short stories for ten years before his first novel appeared. Those stories were published in more than one dozen collections, with a great deal of overlap. He cowrote the screenplays for two films, Destination Moon (1950) and Project Moonbase (1953). He did not publish nonfiction during his lifetime, but his wife, Virginia Heinlein, published his 1946 typescript “How to Be a Politician” as Take Back Your Government: A Practical Handbook for the Private Citizen Who Wants Democracy to Work in 1992. His 1953 travelogue Tramp Royale was published in 1992.

Heinlein edited Tomorrow, the Stars (1952), a collection of short stories by other science-fiction writers. In his introduction to the book, he discusses the terms “science fiction” and “speculative fiction,” telling readers that he prefers the term “speculative fiction.” His letters, which were published as Grumbles from the Grave (1989), were selected and edited by his wife.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Known since the 1950’s as the dean of science fiction, Robert A. Heinlein was the top-selling author of the golden age of pulp-magazine science fiction (1930’s-1940’s), the first to sell science fiction to the “slick” magazines (prestigious glossy-paper periodicals such as The Saturday Evening Post), and the first major science-fiction author to write for film.

Heinlein’s science fiction is of the nuts-and-bolts variety, in which space travel and other future technologies are presented realistically; their engineering is worked out in detail, yet that detail does not intrude on the narrative. Examples of Heinlein’s technologies include the space suit, descriptions of which borrow from his own wartime research at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. In fact, his research led to the development of space suits long after he had described them. (Also, he had envisioned and then detailed the water bed.)

Heinlein received the Hugo Award for best science-fiction novel four times, and...

(The entire section is 1,231 words.)