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Book Note: Robert A. Heinlein, Expanded Universe

I read this book about 10/8/2014. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1980. This note was last modified Saturday, 08-Nov-2014 18:42:08 PST.

This note does not contain major spoilers for the book.


This is the 1980 expansion of a 1960s collection (Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein, but it's been heavily expanded, and contains a lot in the way of forewards and afterwards, giving some of Heinlein's history (making it interesting to read over now that both volums of the biography are out).

A lot of the new material is non-fiction, mostly political.

This is also one place that contains his origin story as a writer—writing "Lifeline" for that contest, and ending up selling it to Campbell instead. Today, we can see that version of the story is blatantly untrue (at least in its implication that he hadn't written fiction before), since he had already written and tried (and failed) to sell For Us, the Living by that date. In general, writers write quite a lot before getting published, and start quite young. Since he also appears to have published a story in the Naval Academy newspaper (or some more specialized publication; I'm not going to dig out the exact reference now), it seems likely that he was following the typical pattern but for some reason changed the public story.

There also appears to be a story about the forewards and afterwards. They were apparently dictated over the phone and never checked. This might explain why, for example, he denies here the "Federal Service" in Starship Troopers is military, when the book gives no support to that theory and lots of very explicit support to the opposite theory.

He's got the gold bug. He's old enough that I suppose it's maybe a little more excusable than for modern people, but it's still weird. Gold isn't that important, and the demand isn't that big, and the demand is highly elastic; it's a silly thing to base a currency on. It was important historically basically becuase you could test if a coin was gold fairly effectively—it initially made sense as an anti-counterfeiting measure. And the very phrase "debasing the currency" refers historically to things governments did to actual circulating precious metal coins; why do people believe that "the gold standard" is some kind of magical defense against it?

His political hobby-horses go back quite a ways, I'm reminded. And I seem to disagree with all of them. He's convinced democracy will die by people voting themselves "bread and circuses". That's a modern wingnut talking point, but there isn't much sign of it actually happening (they use it as cover for racism, believing there are many multi-generation welfare families preying on us; great excuse for voter suppression efforts, too).

I guess a lot of people sort-of thought maybe one could win a nuclear war back then, but he had a worse than normal case of it.

And he's despairing of education from quite early on. Today highschools have teams in robotics competitions, but he thinks kids need to learn Latin.


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David Dyer-Bennet