Every student of Heinlein knows that among the number of things he did during his career, one of the more significant events was selling four science fiction short stories to The Saturday Evening Post in the late 40s, thus becoming the first writer of the genre to graduate from “the pulps,” as the science fiction magazines of the time were known, to writing fiction for “the slicks,” the name for the higher-end, general interest magazines. And among those magazines the Post was at the top of the heap, having the highest circulation of any magazine in America at the time.
Why had Heinlein tried placing the story in a magazine that hadn’t published science fiction before? One obvious reason was for the money: The Saturday Evening post paid a multiple of what Heinlein could have earned from John Campbell and Astounding, and that of course was reason enough in itself, especially for a man who, as I noted in my earlier entry about Heinlein, wasn’t always flush with cash. Another reason was because Street & Smith, the publisher of Astounding, where Heinlein placed much of his fiction, had declared it was buying “all rights” to work it published, and Heinlein, who had an eye toward reprints and adaptations, refused to sell his work under such terms.
But Learning Curve points out another reason, which is of interest to me: Heinlein felt that there was a need to propagandize and popularize the idea of space travel and exploration, for a number of reasons, not a few related to the already-chilling cold war between the US and the Soviets. Writing for the pulps in that regard would be preaching to the converted; placing science fiction in the Post, on the other hand, would be putting it into the laps of people who had never read science fiction before, or who avoided it as something for the eggheads and misfits.