Aug 16 2010 4:50pm

A brief thought about why Heinlein discussions frequently become acrimonious

Sarah Hoyt said:

I’ve been on a dozen or two Heinlein panels at cons, and it always devolves to name calling.

She goes on to discuss why she thinks this is. I have a different theory about it. Heinlein’s god-given gift was sounding authoritative. It’s part of what I was talking about with his “of course”—he can say the most absurd things and the reader agrees. It’s also what I was saying about his “confiding tone.” This is a wonderful gift for a science fiction writer, and Heinlein made great use of it.

However, sounding authoritative is not actually the same thing as being right.

I’ve been on plenty of Heinlein panels too, including moderating one at a Worldcon about women reading Heinlein. I’ve also posted quite a bit about him here, including a review of Starship Troopers. None of it has ever descended to name calling. But I have noticed on Heinlein panels and in online discussions that some people tend to react as if they are being personally attacked to any suggestion that Heinlein might have been wrong about anything.

My theory is that it has to do with the way we respond to his tone emotionally, only afterwards justifying that response with logic. It’s very easy to confuse sounding authoritative with being right, perhaps because of the way we’re hardwired to respond to authority. Heinlein himself was pretty good about admitting he was wrong—look at his updates to his predictions about the future in Expanded Universe for instance. But he does seem to attract readers who think he was perfect, as well as others who delight in shooting motes in barrels. This leads to the kind of arguments where everyone gets on the defensive and there isn’t any way forward. I try to avoid that myself by finding an angle that takes me through what I want to say about the text without pushing those buttons, as best I can, and in general that seems to be working fairly well.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

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Christopher Key
1. Artanian
I'd actually start with a different theory. People who disagree with what they perceive his politics to have been quite frequently start the discussion by accusing him of racism and bigotry. So the talk goes:

"I like Heinlein because..."

"How can you possibly like that evil racist bigot?"

And it devolves from there, because those people are definitely implying racism and bigotry of anyone that dares to disagree with them (and in some cases more than implying, outright saying it). And that's just downright offensive. And since charges of racism and bigotry are extremely hard to defend from, it just goes downhill from there.
rick gregory
2. rickg

For me, it's not that I feel personally attacked. It's simpler than that - I find a lot of the labeling that happens gets in the way of anything remotely like analysis.

"RAH was sexist" immediately biases the discussion, making it hard to question that assertion lest one also be labeled sexist (or racist or...). The assertion is also usually stated broadly and personally rather than "Some of RAH's work shows sexist attitudes, mostly HERE, but other times these are belied, for example HERE... what does that tell us about..." People usually label not to understand, but to dismiss. There's also many times more than a whiff of self-righteousness as if anyone who ever writes something that's not fully and always enlightened is Lesser. Reality isn't that simple.

I think a series of posts about the *works* and what they reveal about race or gender would be interesting. The current posts on about the man are not, partly because we can't interrogate the man, partly because the logic in them is so flawed, but mostly because they aren't about understanding the fiction but mostly about labeling the author. Sadly, I don't see the discussion changing - I fully expect an online version of what happens at cons, labeling, talking past one another, etc. That's too bad.
3. Total12
I, on the other hand, find that pointing out in a perfectly reasonable way that Heinlein had the attitudes of his time and that they were frequently racist and sexist leads to people to immediately begin asserting, LOUDLY, that he was no such thing and besides it was the times and how dare you!
Ben H
4. dripgrind
If you try hard enough, you can be outraged either way: by Heinlein's implicit sexism/racism, or by the failure to recognise that Heinlein was far less sexist/racist/monogonormative than society as a whole was when he was writing.

Both of these stances have some merit, but I don't think it's worth spending a lot of energy fighting over the two viewpoints.

Can't we all just agree that shacking up with incestuous redhead twins is totally hot?
David Dyer-Bennet
5. dd-b
I suspect a lot of people built really quite a lot of their mental furniture using materials and techniques Heinlein provided. If you manage to question a bit that they've built in deeply enough, people get pretty upset. It's like questioning the Bible or something!

(Despite having built a lot on his work, I don't think I actually do tend to get angry about most of the ways people question his work, myself. Mostly.)
Rob Munnelly
6. RobMRobM
"Can't we all just agree that shacking up with incestuous redhead twins is totally hot?"

Best line of the day. Well played. Rob
Sean Newton
7. SJN
I read a lot of Heinlein as a kid, and reading his stuff was a formative experience for me. My opinions have evolved somewhat since then, but I think Heinlein's influence continues to be felt in that I am inherently suspicious of any unself-conscious labeling or broad opinion that lacks nuance.
Having said that, I think that as Heinlein had such a formative effect (on me and the genre as a whole), it's important to examine what that effect was. His views of sex and race are definitely valid areas of criticism. The point I think is that as Heinlein's views tended to be nuanced and introspective, labeling him a 'sexist,' a 'racist,' 'fascist,' or 'communist,' or any other 'ist,' is going to be in some sense dishonest. The arguments that arise out of such labeling are polarizing, as he was so influential. Ultimately when discussions take on this tone, they have less to do with the man or his writing, and more to do with the people discussing him. Not surprising or necessarily bad, but perhaps it's important to understand that.
My thoughts, for what its worth.
James Enge
8. JamesEnge
Authoritativeness might be part of the answer, but I think SJN might be closer to the mark. People who've spent a lot of time dreaming Heinlein's dreams have felt them become part of their identity. Dreams run even deeper than ideas, maybe the most fundamental tribal identity of all.
René Walling
9. cybernetic_nomad
@Artanian: It looks to me like you use a similar approach to discredit those who don't like Heinlein. Your approach seems to be as close minded as theirs may be.
10. Captain Button
dripgrind @ 4 "Can't we all just agree that shacking up with incestuous redhead twins is totally hot?"

Almost certainly not. That way lies many of the much more acrimonious and deeply stupid fronts of the Eternal Heinlein Flamewar.

I've been impressed with the level of the general discussion in these comment threads, so far.
11. Alain Ducharme
"But I have noticed on Heinlein panels and in online discussions that some people tend to react as if they are being personally attacked to any suggestion that Heinlein might have been wrong about anything."

At least, we should be relieved Heinlein didn't follow L. Ron Hubbard's example and started a religion. Now *that* would have been messy.
12. Foxessa
"4 "Can't we all just agree that shacking up with incestuous redhead twins is totally hot?" "

Only for if you're a 15 year old dd who lives in a basement with all that implies of your activities.
Clark Myers
13. ClarkEMyers
Give me six lines written by the most honest of men..... attributed (in French of course and sometimes seen as honorable) to Cardinal Richelieu.

However, sounding authoritative is not actually the same thing as being right.

I'd use The Notebooks of... as a prime example of sounding authoritative and being sometimes wrong - or at best grossly over generalizing. FREX Get a shot off fast.... has been discussed to death. When I'm in a mood to defend Mr. Heinlein I've argued that it worked for Taffy 3 at the Battle off Samar (perhaps contributing to the Notebooks just as the jewelry in Starship Troopers was a direct steal from WWII) and may have applications to naval gunfire where the opponent might start chasing splashes and so disturb his own gunners. In truth it's generally bad advice.

I'm comfortable saying that for my money Mr. Heinlein - at least in later years - was neither sexist nor racist which I suppose merely removes the question to my own supposed white male privilege and so to my own mote and beam problem.

Despite the influence of Stranger.... I would advise no one to base their own views on race, gender or sex on the - supposed - authority of Mr. Heinlein.

I do find value in Larry Smith's thoughts and equally the notion that all debts must be paid though many must be paid forward.

I'd say a valid observation which may be taken to be a a criticism - which I'd be inclined to support by observing that it was Ginny but Mr. Heinlein is paternalism.

But then again I'd say it's a short slide from pedagogical which Mr. Heinlein was by intent - and a goal clearly achieved (sometimes and some places) - to paternalism.
Madeline Ferwerda
14. MadelineF
I feel like the authoritative voice may have lead to Sci-Fi fandom adopting Heinlein as their god and foundation; and I agree with dd-b #5 and SJN #7 when they say that the Heinlein-as-Tiamat issue is the main one.

Because fandom thinks so highly of Heinlein, any attack on Heinlein is an attack on fandom... Not just in terms of "how dare you say mean things about this guy I think is awesome" but because a lot of people have written their books with Heinlein in mind, and a lot of people have even set up their philosophies with Heinlein in mind. When you point out Heinlein's tacky 50s-60sisms, people naturally don't want to hear that that stuff is still alive and well today in fandom.
15. PaintedJaguar
This particular variety of flamewar always makes me tired, mostly because I happen to think some of the commenters are even more bound and blinkered by the social fashion of their particular time than they think Heinlein was.

Mitch Wagner -
"And even the notion that the ethnically diverse boys are “developed as American boys without reference to their backgrounds” is a little creepy. Because America isn’t a melting pot where everyone is the same as everyone else, it’s more like a stew. We work together, play together, and shop together, but we have different religions, and sometimes wear different clothing and speak different languages. Often the children of immigrants will be bilingual, speaking native, unaccented, perfect English while out in the world but their parents’ language at home."

Well, that's your opinion, and the currently fashionable view, but it isn't holy writ. I think it's fair to say that Heinlein valued an "Americanism" which included a strong strain of assimilationism. It's also the creed I grew up with and there's a perfectly respectable intellectual argument for that point of view. Unfortunately, many contemporary commenters reflexively conflate assimilationism with racism, just as they tend to conflate ethnicity with "diversity". These are false equivalences, and "politically correct" in the sense that they reflect the current polite social consensus and are usually offered as axiomatic. Same goes for some of the views about gender roles that Heinlein may have held or expressed in his fiction.

Disclosure - I myself was born in 1952 in the U.S., and being a bookish sort was also influenced by some of the books that a person Heinlein's age might have grown up on. But please don't assume from the above that I necessarily agree with any of Heinlein's views, fictional or otherwise.
16. Slurpy
I think it's fair to say that Heinlein valued an "Americanism" which included a strong strain of assimilationism.

I have to disagree with you there. I'd say it's much more along the lines of "cooperation," as opposed to assimilationism. Consider the different societies in his later fiction: Harsh Mistress, Friday, all the Lazarus books, etc. Luna has different societies and cities on/in/around it, all with different lifestyles. Different types of marriages exist, different languages are spoken, multiple religions abound. I think the assimilationism extends only to TANSTAAFL and tolerance, when he suggests that everyone follows the same "path." There is plenty of societal variation in those works.
17. Brian2
Well said, Jo. The discussion here, for example, has been highly emotional, and I confess that I have no idea what the point of it is. It's more as if people were talking about a parent than a writer.

Speaking personally, I found reading Heinlein when I was young to be eye-opening, and something that acted to make me less enthnocentric. In part, he's writing in an Enlightenment tradition. I also think he was a very good writer, and a more subtle one than he's given credit for. At the same time, I see Stranger in a Strange Land as the beginning of the end, and have no particular interest in his private opinions, as opposed to what he let emerge from the logic of his stories.

Certainly there are parts of Heinlein's writing that will make you wince. (And certainly deciding exactly what parts actually should make you wince is more complex than quoting the opinions of unreliable narrators.) But what then?

There are possibly useful discussions to be had, if there were more focus. For example, take Mary in The Puppet Masters. The facts in the story tell us that she's smarter, more competent, and more mature than Sam. Yet it's Sam telling the story, and he hears opinions from other people. To the extent she gets marginalized because it's Sam telling te story, and he sees her through the filter of his fixed ideas about gender roles, just where does it all come out? That kind of question, which involves a general issue in writing, strikes me as more interesting than focusing on making value judgments about a particular writer.
Clark Myers
18. ClarkEMyers
##15 & 16
I suggest that as time passed Mr. Heinlein moved from an assimmilationist Utopian ideal - from his very first novel (published posthumously) through the economic theories of Beyond This Horizon to the General Semantics of Revolt... and given an existing Utopia - as Mr. Heinlein saw it - assimilation makes sense. As an American Exceptionalist which I think Mr. Heinlein was this follows in both current and future realities.

To repeat myself I think the beginning notion was build it and they will come and assimilate - the mixing bowl is perfect why have a salad bowl? The alternative to assimilation is Coventry

In later years and seeing the failure of economic dreams and of political schemes I do believe - on some authority - that Mr. Heinlein came to believe that the personal freedoms he valued above all else

(but which included both the right and the obligation to stand and be still for the Birkenhead Drill - women and children first)

would not in the future exist in a Utopian Universalism but only in pockets here and there in different times and different places.

Thus considered as possibly expressed in Friday in the society depicted - not particularly in the expressed views of the characters but see one take on the military industrial complex witht the Shipstone empire - freedom in the future can and will exist only in pockets. The supermen of Gulf will build only a place to avoid.

Thus on mature reflection live and let live the good life in a salad bowl.
19. Tocks Nedlog
Popularity invites scrutiny. Science fiction -- or "speculative fiction", as Heinlein himself preferred to call it -- all too often becomes entwined with political mindsets. The Prometheus Award and the LAMBDA Literary award exist for a reason: some people expect (or wish for) science fiction to conform to a specific view of the future; an ideological Utopia that we could so easily achieve if we would just use the fiction books of certain authors as blueprints.

It has been asserted that Heinlein engaged in this type of advocacy-through-speculation enterprise within some of his fiction, especially some of his later works, and I believe it to be partly responsible for much of the acrimony directed towards him. The gist of it is, "How DARE he advocate for a future vision that's different than MINE!"

We can debate endlessly the question of "When one of Heinlein's characters gets up on a soapbox, is he/she speaking FOR the author's personal point of view?" His detractors, rightly or wrongly, seem to always believe in the affirmative. More disturbing, it seems to me, is the rigid refusal by some to allow for an "opposing viewpoint" at all. To the mouth-frothers ANYTHING other than an unwavering positive, politically correct (insert your Utopian vision here) view of the future AS THEY SEE IT is tantamount to treason against the human race! Nevermind that differences invite conflict, which makes for good storytelling. Nevermind that SPECULATING on various possible futures may bring-to-light ways of thinking and doing that one may not have thought about before.

It's interesting to note how CLOSED-MINDED some fans of science fiction truly are.
Paul Howard
20. DrakBibliophile
Part of the "fun" of debates about Heinlein's person for me is remembering the people who apparently think "if Heinlein wrote it, then it must be true/going to happen".

I hear the name "Nehemiah Scudder" used too often in Political Discussions elsewhere.
Nancy Lebovitz
21. NancyLebovitz
However, sounding authoritative is not actually the same thing as being right.

That's the first thing I've seen in this discussion which made me laugh.

I'm interested in anything you've figured out about how Heinlein made that authoritative voice work.
Robert James
22. DocJames
What SJN said in post #7 is dead-on accurate, and better said than anything I have ever said or read about the subject.


I have no problem with people thinking Heinlein wasn't perfect -- he wasn't, as a person or a writer. There are vast stretches of the books, particularly the later ones, that are deeply disturbing (although somewhat less so when you realize he was always trying to unsettle you, to help you ponder your own mindset and notions).

The only thing that gets my goat is people who haven't actually paid attention to what Heinlein wrote, and then act like he said something he didn't (well, I have this problem with any commentator, and get particularly annoyed with myself when I've misread something, as I've done publicly more than once). To call Heinlein a fascist, as Thomas Disch infamously did, is to not understand what fascism was, or how deeply Heinlein himself hated fascism. As someone said above, attaching an "ism" to what he wrote is to grossly distort the picture, and miss the nuance SJN points out.

I love many, many authors' works; but there are, here and there, writers who are simply indispensable in the development not only of writing, but of culture. Ralph Waldo Emerson is simply everywhere in the American character; Mark Twain is never far away from who we are as a people (or were). In the twentieth century, I simply cannot think of a more important author who lived in this interaction of culture and literature -- as the introduction to the biography points out, Heinlein was there on the cutting edge of so many threads of American history. Others were too, here and there -- Kerouac, for example, in the fifties and sixties -- but who else but Heinlein had a major influence on the space program, sixties counterculture, libertarianism (and politics on both ends of the conventional spectrum), and so much else?

No, the man wasn't perfect. But he was -- and is -- damn important.
23. Matt Doyle
Pardon me if this is seen as irrelevant to the discussion, but it seems to me that, as there is so much discussion, both civil and otherwise, about 'isms' in Heinlein and Heinlein himself as an 'ist,' but I've found How to tell someone they sound racist to be an excellent guideline for framing the discussions.

To put it another way, Heinlein the man may or may not have been racist by his standards or by ours, but to a discussion of Heinlein's work that's largely beside the point (I do realize this is a discussion of the man as well as his work, however). Authorial intent is by no means unimportant, but since an author's work may have an impact far beyond and far different from said intent, it's difficult to have a constructive conversation on the topic, all the moreso when the author isn't around to interrogate.

How have Heinlein's works impacted the people who read them and the way they interact with other people? Personally, I read Farnham's Freehold as a rather heavy-handed story about how power corrupts, with some decent allegory and some unfortunate specifics (cannibalism as a metaphor for white oppression of minorties is fine as far as it goes, but since negative stereotypes about Africans include lurid accusations of cannibal traditions far beyond the reality... it doesn't help his case that much in context). And Heinlein himself noted the ritual cannibalism in Christianity...

Again, personally, I believe that Heinlein's works contributed to my critical thinking skills, my acceptance of the 'other,' and have made me a better person, as have the works of many other science fiction authors. But I benefit from straight white male privilege. It's certainly relevant to the discussion that just as people have been helped in the way people were shaped by Heinlein, his works may have also hurt and insulted the people who were denigrated by his books (FF and Sixth Column have been discussed pretty exhaustively - so, does anyone else remember being appalled by the sexism in Orphans of the Sky? I wouldn't suggest that Heinlein was an advocate of the way that society conducted itself, but the attitudes of the protagonist still killed my enjoyment pretty thoroughly).
24. braxis
ClarkEMyers @18

I'd never considered the idea that the supermen living on the planet that Friday was warned off colonising, were the descendants of Dr Baldwin's colleagues from Gulf.

Is there definite evidence that this is true? If it is, what went wrong? What turned people with the courage to sacrifice themselves for the sake of mankind into galactic pariahs?
25. Bill Patterson
#24 - Braxis. The relationship of "Gulf" and _Friday_ is one of the big unresolved issues in Heinlein studies. People bring it up and then wander away mumbling to themselves -- which I take it is the sign of an inadequate consensus on both works. (Not surprising as only the slightest degree of groundwork has been done on the texts, despite several hundred essays and papers on Heinlein over the years.)

Personally, I think _Friday_ is displaying second thoughts on Heinlein's part about some of the underlying assumptions of "Gulf."
Clark Myers
26. ClarkEMyers
#25 - Second thoughts not just on Mr. Heinlein's part.

Much of Mr. Heinlein's story backgrounds, both throwaways - they played chess in the background because they weren't using that part of their respective brains for the work - and central as Renshaw (which really exists with as much potential and as little actual reality as Rhine) turned out to be mostly or entirely misunderstandings. Might as well make supermen out of Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics graduates and who among us has regularly seen a reader track down the page with a swiftly moving finger?

FREX more specifically the notion of human multitracking (quip about how many tracks an off-stage non-playing character has) when we now believe people don't multitrack but shift focus quickly and so on and so forth.

As noted supra I most emphatically believe "Friday is displaying second thoughts on Heinlein's part about some of the underlying assumptions of Gulf" but to include the physical in with the psychological and so also the political.

Thus Gulf became not merely implausible as a secret history of the future but implausible in a human future no matter who made the first moon landing in that world.
Mitch Wagner
27. MitchWagner
IIRC, Friday reversed the central premise of Gulf as regards the whole idea of supermen.

Gulf presented a group of people who were innately superior to everyone else. The good-guy supermen believed they had to be custodians of the human race. The bad-guys believed they had a right to rule the human race.

A major theme of Friday is that there's no such thing as supermen or subhumans. Artificial People were considered by most of society to be subhuman. Others might look at their faster reflexes and great strength, and decide they're superhuman. But Friday and her friends reject both views. There are no supermen or subhumans, there are just people.

I may be misremembering details of both novels. It's been years since I read Friday, longer since Gulf.
Tamara Allen
28. tamaralynn
#23 Matt Doyle: Thank you for posting the link to the YouTube video on how to tell someone they sound racist. I've wanted to explain this philosophy to my children, but never knew quite how.

On Heinlein discussions, I think something else to consider in ADDITION to all that has been already said is that sometimes people have agendas when discussing authors they feel passionate about, positive or negative. Some are name droppers, some are attention hounds, etc. I know this doesn't apply to everyone, but it can throw additional tension into the situation.
29. Captain Button
On Heinlein discussions, I think something else to consider in ADDITION to all that has been already said is that sometimes people have agendas when discussing authors they feel passionate about, positive or negative.

But strangely, these people only occur on the other side of an argument.
30. Pelotard
One thing that seems to slip most minds (including mine) when discussing Heinlein is that he was active for nearly half a century. This half-century also saw some pretty wild changes on the political arena and in political ideologies, globally: we should bear in mind that Stalin studied to become a priest and Mussolini started out as a Communist. That Heinlein's views and, in particular, his preoccupations, could change as dramatically shouldn't be seen as strange in any way.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that he wrote some of his books not to espouse the view that appears to win the day, but to discredit it. He was certainly intelligent enough, and a good enough writer, to make us bear with him until The End even if he was maybe actively teaching us to dislike the protagonist and his opinions. We're just so conditioned to see the end as "happy" that we assume that the author's view wins the argument.
Robert James
31. DocJames
Pelotard, you may be right. I am fairly certain that "Job" was written to try and stem the wholesale return to religious fundamentalism that rose as a tide in the seventies and eighties, and remains with us today.

Heinlein's views did change, but the shifts in the political spectrum changed more. In 1935, Heinlein was on the far left; by 1980, the shifts had moved him to the right.

I once pointed out that Heinlein was a pragmatic realist, among other things; he was oriented towards fixing problems, and whatever the dominant problem was, he gravitated towards what seemed the most effective solution. In the thirties, the problem was the economy -- hence, Upton Sinclair and FDR. By 1964, the problem was communism -- hence, Barry Goldwater.

There are positions he shifted dramatically -- he abandoned his dream of a world government after his first world tour, when he realized that the centuries of practice in self-government in the United States simply didn't exist in huge parts of the world.

But he never really stopped being a classical liberal, one whose lineage should be traced from Jeffersonian small-government liberalism through the freethinker strain of the late nineteenth century.
32. RandolphF
My take on this, written a few years back, "I think he was a brillant man and better than his political and
philosophical thinking, which strikes me as quite limited." I find it discouraging that so many people think that Heinlein was a political scientist and philosopher. Heinlein was a visionary with great feeling for his parent culture, and I wonder if he himself knew it. It took enormous insight to create Nehemiah Scudder.

Mitch, #27: Heinlein fairly plainly changed his views on the ethics and social value of eugenics over the years.
Mitch Wagner
33. MitchWagner
RandolphF (#32): Very true about eugenics. Beyond This Horizon is a love-letter to eugenics.

But even in that novel, Heinlein rejects the corollary to eugenics, that genetically superior humans are absolutely superior to their counterparts. Many people in the society of that world consider unenhanced people, called "Control Naturals," to be inferior. But the good guys in that novel reject that view. They know that some people are smarter, tougher, stronger, faster, or healthier than others, but every human being is equally valuable.
mm Season
34. mmSeason
I almost always have a problem if I state, 'With regard to ThisThing, I like Y but detest Z,' in any company. Same if I phrase it, 'I dislike Z but approve of Y.' People stop at the 'like' and think you're saying simply, 'I like ThisThing' (or 'hate ThisThing'). Then they either interrupt to agree/disagree vehemently with that, or get irritable when (if) they hear the second part of my opinion and see it as contradicting myself. Perhaps I have a lot more Libra in my chart than most...*

And I too have a voice that sounds authoritative, at least in conversation – judging by the number of times people have turned to me for my opinion when I thought I was just in it to find out what someone else knew. Doesn't usually make them agree with me!

* Don't think so.
35. Captain Button
Regarding Heinlein and eugenics, was there anything in his work about eugenics being imposed by force? Other than by obvious bad guys like the Order of the Wolf (or whatever the name was) in Beyond This Horizon?

In BTH as I recall control naturals had the right to insist on their right to genetic selection services if they wanted to. And I didn't get the impression that people would arrested for making babies the old fashioned way if they really wanted to.

There are people practicing voluntary eugenics these days, if they carry genetic disorders. The evil is when people are forced into things.
Clark Myers
36. ClarkEMyers
#35 - Regarding Heinlein and eugenics, was there anything in his work about eugenics being imposed by force?

Define eugenics and define force

#27 - Gulf presented a group of people who were innately superior to everyone else.

I'd not have said innately but rather as a result of training and education.

(as I suggested elsewhere I believe the training was plausible as of the date of writing for Gulf and implausible as of the date of writing for Friday)

That is one can't join the Philosopher Kings without taking philosophy - logical language (Sapir Whorf et al) and all.

Likely enough washouts from that training were dealt with forcefully?

I'm not sure who consented, or even who might have consented or who should have consented to Kettle Belly's earliest intervention in Friday's life.

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