Jun 9 2011 6:23pm
Child markers and adulthood in Robert A. Heinlein’s juveniles

Robert A. Heinlein’s juveniles

In comments to my post on The Rolling Stones, Carlos Skullsplitter suggests that:

We have a rather good sense of the ideal Heinlein man and the ideal Heinlein woman. But for Heinlein, a boy is an instar stage on his way to becoming a competent man, and a girl is a literary experiment. It might be that lack of specifically child-marked things is what makes his juveniles compelling to younger readers of previous generations.

I think Carlos has an interesting point. Heinlein had no children, in writing for children he wasn’t writing as a parent, which does change your experience and expectation of children. He was reaching back to his own memory of boyhood. He wasn’t talking down to his audience, and he wasn’t marking them for children in the ways children’s writers tended to do. He wasn’t thinking of them as children, he was thinking of them as being on their way to being competent men. And yes, that would be refreshing. As Patrick Rothfuss puts it: “Nobody likes being treated like a child, even if they happen to be one.”

Looking at the juveniles as a whole,1 the protagonists tend to be boys on the verge of adulthood. Sometimes they are explicitly coming of age stories, like Between Planets and Tunnel in the Sky. But even when they’re not, they tend to start with a boy who is thinking about college or starting work, a boy of seventeen or so. The boys in Rocket Ship Galileo (post) use their college money for the spaceship. Kip in Have Space Suit, Will Travel (post) has just graduated highschool. Starship Troopers also begins with graduation and has classroom flashbacks. Jim in Red Planet is leaving home for further education.

I imagine that they were intended to be read by people much younger than that in their original publication in Scouting publications and as Scribners hardcovers, they seem aimed at a reader of about eleven to fifteen, a reader who is not yet on that cusp of growing up, but a reader for whom it is in sight. The protagonists are not adults with adult concerns, they are boys with whom younger boys (and girls, and grown ups of all genders) can identify, but they older boys with an eye to those of the privileges and advancements of adulthood that younger boys can want, most especially self determination. Everyone wants their rocket pilot license.

One of the most obvious ways in which the protagonists remain children at any age is their complete lack of sexuality—even in Between Planets and Starman Jones (post) where there is a hint of romance, that’s all it is, a hint. Even in Starship Troopers, there’s nothing beyond “girls smell nice.” Often there are no girls—and there’s not even a hint of homosexuality anywhere. (I’ve seen homosexuality denigrated without ever speaking its name in Victorian children’s books—Heinlein doesn’t do that either.) Sex itself is denigrated, especially in Space Cadet (post). These books all take place in a universe where sex is something slightly icky that happened in the past to produce the present generation, and will happen in the misty far future to produce the future generation, and which is best not thought about right now. This was the norm for books aimed at children and adolescents until really recently. (And it’s pretty much the way I thought about sex up until puberty.)

Juveniles are not YA. Farah Mendlesohn defines the difference:

YA was not simply a fashionable new category, it described a different ideology of teenagehood and the teenage reader. In the new YA novels, adulthood as defined by the world of work was replaced by adulthood defined by the world of relationships.

Heinlein definitely wasn’t interested in putting that “world of relationships” into his juveniles. And it’s not just sex and romantic relationships that are missing. There are a lot of pals but not many intense friendships. There are mentors and parents, but with a few exceptions (Max and Sam, Thorby and Baslim) significant bonding tends to be between boys and alien pets. Jim and Willis, and John Thomas and Lummox in The Star Beast, have that boy-dog dynamic, but are genuinely intimate.

So, the world of work? In the same article (which is well worth reading all of) Mendlesohn says:

In their fiction for younger people, Heinlein, Norton, and their contemporaries wrote with an eye on concerns very similar to those found in adult science fiction: the world of work, the world of changing technology, and the bright new opportunities promised by these things. They could do this for two reasons. First, the world of teens was much closer to the world of adults than it is today. Norton and Heinlein’s audience was either already earning their own living or would be a few years in the future. Now the fifteen-year-old reader might be a decade away from the professional workplace. Second, Heinlein and Norton shared the values of the adult SF market and assumed that their role was to introduce younger readers to that material. They loved what teen SF readers loved: the bright shiny promises of the future.

I was thinking that everyone wants to have adventures and nobody wants to work nine to five, but there’s more actual money-earning work done in Heinlein’s juveniles than in any other set of books I can think of. In Between Planets, Dan on Venus washes dishes in a Chinese restaurant every day for months. In Have Space Suit, Kip works hard at the soda fountain. Max in Starman Jones works on the farm, and then on the ship works with the animals and then does his shifts in the control room. The twins in Time for the Stars (post) get involved in the project as an alternative to washing glassware as a summer job. Castor and Pollux’s desire to make money fast is half of what drives the plot of The Rolling Stones, and they work hard on the old bikes every day. In a genre that’s practically devoid of actual work, this is impressive.

The examples I’ve given are almost all part time jobs, or stopgaps. They’re the kind of work young people used to be able to get in the era when Heinlein was growing up, and which may well be outside the experience of today’s fifteen year old. Of all these examples, only Max is working full time. But Matt in Space Cadet and Juan Rico have military careers. And Thorby in Citizen of the Galaxy2 (post) has a set of careers, beggar, trader, cadet, businessman.

One of the most common things you used to see in children’s adventure stories was the absent parents. The children are sent off to the country to convalesce. Or the parents have to go to America/Australia/Brazil/Europe and leave the children with relatives. Or, in a certain set of British books, the children are evacuated. This is a pattern that lets the author get the parents out of the way so the children can have adventures, and then allow the parents to return for a happy ending and return the children to the status of dependants at the end of the book.

Heinlein doesn’t do this ever at all. Heinlein’s protagonists tend to be firmly embedded in families, all of whom are mildly fond of each other. Heinlein’s families tend to trust each other—Red Planet would be a good example, where Jim’s father says he’ll stand by him whatever he has done, and then becomes the leader of the human rebels on Mars. The family in The Rolling Stones would be another example. I don’t know how typical or atypical this is in reality, but it’s fairly unusual in fiction.

The juveniles sometimes have parents who are around but fairly loosely attached—Time for the Stars and Have Space Suit. Kip’s father is the worst—I think not telling your child they have college financing to “see if they work something out for themselves” is a really horrible mind-game to play. (Also, a terrific reason to socialise higher education.) In Farmer in the Sky, Bill is clearly “parenting” his father, who doesn’t eat if he’s not home and doesn’t make ration points count—until they emigrate and become a healthy family with the addition of a stepmother and sister. This is the only “blended” family I can think of, and it works out pretty well. The Stones have three generations but that’s unusual, I can’t think of any other one that does.

Max in Starman Jones is an orphan, and so is Thorby in Citizen of the Galaxy, but he gives both of them existing connections, they’re not your typical fictional orphans who have no context. Max has a stepmother and her new husband, Thorby has Leda and her father—not to mention all the families he has made along the way. Even Dan in Between Planets who has been at school on Earth and barely remembers his parents, isn’t free of their connections—though again his real emotional relationship is with an alien.

In Tunnel Heinlein gives us the interesting situation of parents going forward in time for a medical condition, and a sister assuming guardianship. And here he deliberately undermines that expectation of set up and has Rod return at the end of the novel grown up and away from his parents, never to be returned to dependence. There’s a similar bit in Space Cadet, where Matt goes home and doesn’t fit. Since Patterson claims a lot of that book is autobiographical, and since Heinlein does it twice, I wonder if he might have been using some of his own experience there?

In any case, while Heinlein’s juvenile protagonists often rebel, I can’t think of a case where they rebel against their actual parents. The only example I can think of is Starship Troopers. where Johnnie does rebel against his parents values by enlisting—and in another reversal of trope, his father later follows him. He doesn’t learn better, his father does.

Then there are adults who are mentors without being parents—lots of those, some of them aliens. There are assorted teachers, and sergeants, and engineers, and captains, and one pharmacist, and a civil servant ,and Baslim the Cripple and—the books are full of them. They tend to be helpful but not prescriptive, being a half-way shelter. The real exception is Sam in Starman Jones. He’s a criminal and a rascal, but also a hero.

The thing that unites the juveniles is the tone, the confidential tone that seems to be saying “It’s you and me together, we’re both intelligent people. Listen to me now, I’ll tell you how it really is...” That’s a tone that can be appealing or repulsive to different people—I like it, but I have seen people get furious with Heinlein because of it. It’s quite clear that Heinlein got this from Kipling, and specifically from Kipling’s juvenile novel Captains Courageous (e-text), which absolutely is a Heinlein juvenile, except with dorys and cod fishing instead of spaceships. So this is a child marker—but while Kipling was widely read by children of Heinlein’s generation, was he read by the children who were reading Heinlein?

Mendelsohn mentions “shiny futures” but I have argued that Earth in the juveniles tends to be dystopic. Having said that, they are shiny futures, because Earth exists to be left, rebelled against, abandoned by. Earth itself plays the role bad families often play in children’s stories. Heinlein’s shiny futures are in space, on the moon, on Mars and Venus, inhabited by wiser races, on Ganymede, and further out towards the stars. Earth is played out decadent Europe, space is explicitly the New American Frontier. Macleod says that history is the trade secret of science fiction—Heinlein used specifically U.S. history over and over in his juveniles, aimed at young American readers who would have recognised it.

In most of the juveniles, the boy grows up in the course of the book, but is still a boy at the end going on to new adventures. Rod is last seen as an adult after a jump to give him a happier ending, but that’s the only case. Thorby is seen stuck with adult responsibilities and no more adventures. Time for the Stars uniquely ends with marriage. But generally they end with new horizons, and with achieved adulthood being just like boyhood only with more freedom and more responsibility. I can see why that was appealing—it certainly appeals to me.


1. I didn’t read them as juveniles, I read the whole lot of them in Pan and NEL British editions that were clearly aimed at adult readers. But I was twelve at the time.

I’m going to arbitrarily define “the juveniles” for the purposes of this post to exclude Podkayne and include Starship Troopers. This is because I don’t want to re-read Podkayne, and because I think this is where ST is best understood.

2. I’d just like to say that my copy of Citizen of the Galaxy is still missing, and I’m prepared to extend the amnesty as long as you return it right away. It’s the Penguin edition with the begging bowl full of stars. Don’t make me read it from the library again!

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently Among Others, and if you liked this post you will like it. 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.

David Levinson
1. DemetriosX
What really jumped out at me here is the role that family plays in these books. I think traditionally children's lit removes the young protagonist from the family so that he or she can be an independent actor. Here the family is such that it usually allows the protagonist a measure of independence without having to be absent. And where the family steps on that independence, it is viewed critically and is almost always corrected in some way.

Thinking about it, family, whether genetic, blended or chosen, plays a large role in a lot of Heinlein, not just the juvies. It stands out particularly in the post-Stranger era, where only a couple don't involve family (sometimes in a squicky way admittedly). It was clearly very important to him.
David Goldfarb
2. David_Goldfarb
Quite a number of the juveniles have a family member who is well-meaning but narrow-minded -- the mother in The Star Beast, for instance, who is determined that John Thomas become a lawyer, and if memory serves me right the mother in Time For the Stars is against her children going on the starship. Getting around them doesn't tend to be a matter of outright rebellion, however, because the rest of the family is more intelligent.
Pamela Adams
3. Pam Adams
I promise, I don't have your copy of Citizen- mine is the Ace edition.
Angus McIntyre
4. angusm
My first exposure to Heinlein was "Citizen of the Galaxy" (which I still like best out of all his books) followed by "Tunnel in the Sky". There's a sharp contrast in both works between adults who demand the best of children/young people, and adults who dismiss and limit them. In "Citizen", Thorby encounters both positive adult figures - Baslim, the crew of the "Sisu", sympathetic Guard officers - and negative - "Uncle" John Weemsby. The latter effectively tries to infantilize Thorby, not only trying to deny him responsibility, but even denying the validity of his experience. In the same way, the adult figures in "Tunnel in the Sky" - with the exception of the protagonist's older sister - belittle the young hero and try to dismiss his ambitions and his ability.

Seeing the same idea repeated in two books made me suspect that this was something of a hot-button issue for Heinlein.
James Davis Nicoll
5. James Davis Nicoll
There are a lot of pals but not many intense friendships.

Isn't the classic RAH friend setup in these antagonist, best friend (or Girl in Charge) and the Other, someone from a non-mainstream (at least from the POV of the protagonist) culture.

Rocketship Galileo: Art, best friend Ross and Jewish friend Maurie.
Space Cadet: Matt, Tex, and Oscar
Red Planet: Jim, Frank and Willis
Star Beast: John Thomas, Betty and Lummox
Have Space Suit, Will Travel: Kip, Peewee and Motherthing
Starman Jones: Max, Sam and Ellie
Tunnel in the Sky: Rod, Jimmy and Jackie (not sure which order the last two should go in)

Some of those are straining and the ones I didn't mention don't fit, I admit.

1: Whose parents are immigrants IIRC
James Davis Nicoll
6. CarlosSkullsplitter
Wow! I am flattered that my throwaway observation inspired your essay.

One reason I find Heinlein's juveniles problematic is because they don't show the process of the aftermath: what happens after you become a competent teen? You get a brief denouement and that's it. Many of the readers of these books were already book-smart or hobby-smart or money-smart already. (You wouldn't believe what I was doing by my teens.) The message they seem to convey is that this, combined with a sense of duty to humanity, is enough to have a fulfilling life, like magic.

This, to put it mildly, is not supported by the evidence. I suspect that Heinlein's idealizations of the reality of family life and relationships -- and his sidestepping around questions of bigotry, sexism, and sexual identity as they might affect his protagonists directly (although these, especially the last, would be difficult for the time) -- did his readers a disservice by setting up artificial expectations through exactly that all-confiding Captains Courageous tone: do well, and all manner of things shall be well. People dislike the tone not necessarily because of the tone itself, but because they think that Heinlein (or Kipling) is too half-baked to use it.

But can you imagine Thorby at forty? Rich single-issue obsessives with stunted sexuality, hm. Thorby might be competent, according to the Heinlein definition, but will he become a well-rounded man? an emotionally grounded man? a stable man? What happens when Kip tries to start dating? Does Pee-Wee dump a milkshake on his head? Those wonderful pioneer marriages on the planet of the stobor: what happens when those kids come home? How many adult relationships will Rod Walker have in his adult life? What happens when he discovers the bottle? (Which might be right away -- the kids I grew up with knew all about drinking.)

One could argue that Heinlein tried to answer some of these questions his later fiction. Within the juveniles, however, his portrayal of the process of becoming an adult is suprisingly short-term: he provides the illusion of giving the reader enough tools to become a wise adult. But it's barely enough to become a college freshman.

(Readers who didn't want to deal with these things -- well, that's escapism pretty much by definition. Heinlein's talent was to make escapism feel like maturity. Patrick Rothfuss is a *very* interesting comparison.)
James Davis Nicoll
7. Dan Blum
Heinlein definitely wasn’t interested in putting that “world of relationships” into his juveniles.

It's not that he wasn't interested, but that his editor at Scribner's wouldn't let him - she apparently had extremely strict rules about such things. There is at least one rant by him in Grumbles From the Grave about this.
Ty Margheim
8. alSeen
I disagree in regards to the college fund in Have Spacesuit.

What do you value more? Something you had to work to achieve, saving your money up, or something that someone just handed to you?

This was my experience. I went to college at 18 with a full ride and didn't take it seriously. I didn't think about the fact that it was an opportunity worth thousands of dollars. After the first year, I lost my scholarship so I quit school and worked for 2 years. I saved my money, went to a cheaper school and actually studied and strived. I wasn't going to waste the effort I had put into paying for my own education.

Yes, you could say the difference was I was more mature, and that would be partially correct. But I have seenmany more examples of people valuing things they had to work for more than they value items they were given.
James Davis Nicoll
9. Bill from PA
Great essay, as always, Jo, thanks so much for writing it. I’ve been reading the juvenile and adult novels, from Rocket Ship Galileo through Starship Troopers at the rate of one a week and have just finished Time for the Stars. This is my first reading of these, except for The Door into Summer, and I am very impressed with RAH’s story telling mojo: every one of these books has grabbed me in its opening chapter and kept me turning pages to find out what happens next. There’s also, as your essays and the comments of others have shown, a lot to think about after one has finished the books.

A couple of thoughts inspired by this essay:

Some of the characters’ concern with jobs and earning money through any work that could be picked up may be related to the author’s generation’s experience of the 1930s. The opening of Starman Jones, whatever its nominal time period, is obviously set during the Great Depression.

As far as the future dystopias of these books, it seems to me in reading SF and comics from the 1950s that the idea of nuclear war underwent a change during the course of that decade. In the early years, the idea of “limited” nuclear war seemed feasible, “getting our hair mussed” as General Buck Turgidson said. This is seen in Heinlein where he has cities like “New Chicago” built next to the crater that was the site of “old” Chicago. By the end of the decade, I think the concept had been replaced by the idea that any nuclear war would be a civilization if not species destroying holocaust.
James Davis Nicoll
10. Chrysostom
The death of Sam in Starman Jones always choked me up as a kid:

Max moved, gathering Ellie in one arm and urging her on. Behind them Sam Anderson turned to face his death . . . dropping to one knee and steadying his pistol over his left forearm in precisely the form approved by the manual.
James Davis Nicoll
11. James Davis Nicoll
As far as the future dystopias of these books, it seems to me in reading SF and comics from the 1950s that the idea of nuclear war underwent a change during the course of that decade. By the end of the decade, I think the concept had been replaced by the idea that any nuclear war would be a civilization if not species destroying holocaust.

The idea that nuclear war could in some sense be considered somewhat less than a total good pops up before the 1950s in RAH's YA books; remember the bit in Rocketship Galileo where they speculate that the craters on the Moon are from some Lunarian civilization that destroyed itself? RG is from 1947.

There's also a bit in Space Cadet where the cadets learn from the notes left on the Pathfinder that the researchers had, prior to getting themselves killed, discovered that the Asteroid Belt was created when the people of the Fifth Planet had a pointed disagreement.
James Davis Nicoll
12. Ouranosaurus
It keeps coming up that there seem to be a bulk of "generic" Heinlein juveniles, and a few weird outliers. Like Angusm, I like Citizen of the Galaxy the best, probably because it is one of those outliers. I think it does focus on relationships more than work. You can define Thorby's life as beggar-starship crew-corporate executive, or you can see it as adopted son-adopted extended family-adopted creepy rich family. I love this book because it's less prescriptive about each of the societies Thorby finds himself in, because unlike in most Heinlein adult novels, there is no One True Way. The slaver culture is repellent, but the Free Traders, while much better, are not perfect, nor is the life of wealth and privilege on Earth, and Thorby realizing that is the core of the book. That subtlety is probably why I keep coming back to this book, more than to any of Heinlein's others.
Jo Walton
13. bluejo
Carlos: I think it's perfectly reasonable and not at all escapist not to want to deal with adult sexuality when you're prebubescent.

Alseen: I don't think it's a case of what you value. If the parent can't or doesn't want to pay for whatever reason, OK. But making the kid think they have to pay and then revealing that this was all a fake-out? That's playing power games. And for what it's worth I valued my socialised higher education just fine, I absolutely totally valued it still appreciate it.
David Levinson
14. DemetriosX
I've been thinking about what Carlos says @6 about Heinlein not dealing with the aftermath and how these kids deal with being adults. I think you're mistaking what the intention here is. These books aren't so much about becoming a functional, competent adult as they are about acquiring the tools to become a functional, competent adult. Not "OK, now you're an adult," but rather "OK, now you're an apprentice adult. You've still got some learning to do."

Thorby has come into his inheritance and has a mission in life. Overcoming his early life is something he still has to do, but Leda and the traders will probably help with that. Rod Walker has learned how to survive and how to lead (and maybe how to talk to girls). He'll pick up the rest the way anybody else does, there's no reason to think he'll have trouble forming adult relationships or crawl into a bottle. In just about all of these books, the protagonist either has a support system in place (The Rolling Stones, Red Planet) or they acquire one (Space Cadet, Starman Jones).
Clark Myers
15. ClarkEMyers
Agreed on the power games but isn't that what parents do for better or worse? College costs and rewards, I'm inclined to agree with the higher education bubble meme, have changed drastically since the book was written

- cf soda jerk as a career in Best Years of Our Lives for another indication of the distance from today and a current reader of Have Spacesuit Will Travel.

That is in context and at the time the difference between a pre-paid college plan

(an idea that has since mostly died - once offered at least by assorted state schools on the incorrect assumption that future costs could be predicted by more or less straight line extrapolation rather than the actual explosive growth in cost to the student as state money for state schools went away)

and an empty cash basket it's the student's problem was much much less. The time was such that leaving the solution as an exercise for the student was much more reasonable and much less an abuse of power.

Agreed in general that Heinlein's characters never at any age showed the characteristics - the weight of responsibility, the willing acceptance of sacrifice (the sometimes insistence that a free choice was a forced sacrifice?), the choices of lifestyle and employment that go with choosing to live someplace with good schools for the children, a lessened sense of play; less inclination and ability to play. Baslim might have made more provision for Thorby; Lazarus/Woody's own adult children hardly appear - there's a grown son who can be instructed to leave a ship in orbit indefinitely - families and family lines have no blood is thicker than water ties while children are produced to be mathematical savants.

Might well say Mr. Heinlein's adults are teenagers who think they've invented sex. Without the power of a developed semantics John Lyle is no more grown up than his first girl friend.
john mullen
16. johntheirishmongol
Need to remember that most of those stories were written for Boy's Life, which I got when I was a kid and there definate restrictions on the kind of material that was acceptable for that mag. However not all the Juvie's were totally sexless. In Tunnel, there were kids that coupled off, got married, had kids,even before they were rescued.

In Between Planets, the boy had a girl, but it was only hinted at because of the restrictions. You could kill someone, but a kiss was as far as the sex went, it was all implied or offstage. But then so were the movies back then. It wasn't just a RAH thing, it was the times and what was permissable.

I remember the 50's (barely) and into the mid 60's sex was not in your face and was talked about in the back of the room, not with parents, not with teachers, not in music or movies. What it sounds more like what you are arguing against is the culture of that era. And while there were some things that were huge issues that needed to be dealt with there were some things we should never have given up.
Clark Myers
17. ClarkEMyers
#16 - Not my memories of the span when Mr. Heinlein first was writing his juveniles - see e.g. the post-world war II period of Rocket Ship Galileo and the subsequent rise of the Comics Code Authority in 1954 in response to perceived need. Taking Star Ship Troopers as the last to define the span from the end of WWII to the rise of the pill and the beats.

Reality is likely to be an artifact of age and interest at the time.

I suppose frex the movie Rebel Without a Cause was more truly YA but Natalie Wood at the chickie run was about as explicit about teen age sex as anything post Hayes Code (1930).
Boy's Life was sometimes first serial but the underlying contract was with Scribners. Boy's Life did other science fiction aimed at their audience including a comic strip in a four color section in the fifties and as a juvenile I was vastly amused by an early - pre Heinlein - story which opened with a despairing call for a grape fruit capsule that squirted the other way.

Tunnel is perhaps unrealistic in the coupled off and got married before having kids and in the stability of high school relationships (cf Mr. Heinlein's life story)- with some reference to a coupled pair of slobs - and so I suggest carries out the general suggestion that markers are by authorial fiat.

For a dissertation I'd suggest changes in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy role models over the years as a marker for then current concerns - bearing in mind that the image was often deliberately at odds with the reality of then current society as the books lasted and editions changed over time.

Agreed that the JonBenet Ramsey society is not my favorite of all possible societies.
James Davis Nicoll
18. CarlosSkullsplitter
13: Jo, I'm not thinking about sexuality. I'm thinking about the ways adults interact with each other. I think failing to do that is escapist in a bad way. Sex, prepubescent readers simply ignore it. But adult ways of manipulating power? Many prepubescent readers are acutely aware of questions of justice, fairness, confrontation, systemic bias, and so forth.

Heinlein is no Harper Lee. His first impulse was to assume that a chain of command and a sense of duty will be able to take care of such problems -- naturally enough, given his biography. But the vast majority of Heinlein's readers were not naval cadets.
Clark Myers
19. ClarkEMyers
Seems to me that when as in To Sail Beyond the Sunset such issues are raised and dealt with it's not likely the public would swap their beer money for the book at least not in large numbers.

I'm inclined to doubt that Mr. Heinlein's personal - as opposed to these are the stories he chose to tell - first impulse was as described but maybe at some level as The Long Watch where the chain has weak links a sense of duty overcomes all. On larger issues from Take Back Your Government to Trampe Royale to some of the writings and speeches not so much.
James Davis Nicoll
20. CarlosSkullsplitter
CEM, To Kill a Mockingbird is almost exactly contemporary with Starship Troopers. It still sells a million copies a year; it's an unbelievably well-loved book; it deals with almost all the issues I mention above. Harper Lee is obviously getting someone's beer money. In my not very humble opinion, Atticus Finch is a more fully realized hero than anyone Heinlein ever wrote about. Not even a question. (A better movie too.)
Clark Myers
21. ClarkEMyers
#20 - Cross purposes here; at least in my not so humble opinion. I don't doubt you and many others prefer the one to the other and vice versa.

It's not a knock on To Kill a Mockingbird to say that the same story told by Mr. Heinlein would be a different story. I suggested as told by Mr. Heinlein would be no more successful in popular estimation than To Sail Beyond the Sunset - perhaps Mr. Heinlein missed his chance at fame and fortune?

Equally comparing the writings by Truman Capote I suspect it's true that Truman Capote despite the opportunity (The Autobiography of Harper Lee by Truman Capote perhaps?) neither wrote To Kill a Mockingbird nor especially wished he had nor tried to write something terribly similar. Different stories and plots for different folks

Neither Star Ship Troopers nor To Kill a Mockingbird is a James Bond nor Harry Potter level of success. in any medium. Star Ship Troopers did not push Advise and Consent out of the top spot at the NYT on publication nor of course any other work at any time. To Kill a Mockingbird was on the NYT list for more than a year but never hit the top spot against such icons of enduring literary value as J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey. I'd go so far as to suggest Michener's Hawaii which dominated the list - #1 from January 1960 to March 1961 could be redone as a Planet story. None of these was written by either Mr. Heinlein nor by Harper Lee. Perhaps Mr. Heinlein ought to have taken such best selling works as Gone With the Wind for his best selling model on dealing with issues?

I suspect Mr. Heinlein would take more pride in having Star Ship Troopers on the Commandant's Reading List as it has been than in the New York Times best seller list but that is idle speculation.
I do doubt the million copies a year - that's 2500 per day on a slow day - more than enough to move the best seller lists - maybe so all languages and all editions?

For fully realized I'd say Sam Anderson above just as the bindlestiff and the high button shoe are fully realized and that's good enough for me.
Clark Myers
22. ClarkEMyers
Esprit de l'escalier - If somebody wants to say match Mr. Heinlein with Enid Blyton for describing children and say Mr. Heinlein never reached the heights of Arthur Ransome and Swallows and Amazons I could hardly argue. But that too is well afield.
Pamela Adams
23. Pam Adams
I loved the 'ultimate end' of Tunnel in the Sky. We had the earlier end with the students being returned to earth and in many cases, childhood. Rod's situation may have been a little more extreme, but can you imagine how Jimmy and Jackie's parents reacted to their now-married offspring?

And yet, it all worked out. Rod is now a certified team leader, Jimmy is a lawyer, and soon to be partner, and Caroline is happy in the military. I expect that Rod and Caroline will marry in retirement- much like his sister and teacher did. (Of course, Caroline will have to trip him when he isn't looking.......)
john mullen
24. johntheirishmongol
@23 Most guys don't realize it, but in our society it's the woman who has the power to pick her mate. We just hope the women find us acceptable.
James Davis Nicoll
25. Snarf
Great article, but one minor point: Dan in Between Planets was working pretty much full time, for room and board, at the restaurant (as he was stranded without means of support on Venus) and later on became a foot soldier in an insurgency. Arguably he was working 'full time' in the most literal sense of the word by the end of the story.
James Davis Nicoll
26. hobbitbabe
Coming late to the discussion:

My parents told me that they had no money to give me for university. Halfway through Grade 13, when I had already endured a couple of difficult summers being bullied by my employer and when I was going beyond doing homework to study every night for marks (which I have never done since), they told me that in fact they did have a small investment which should pay my tuition fees, and they made me promise not to tell my younger siblings. They said they'd kept it secret in order to ensure that we would work hard to earn enough money to cover the rest.

At the time I was just grateful, and I kept their secret for the next couple of siblings. But now I think they were wrong in exactly the same way that Kip's father was wrong, and maybe it was worse for me because I was worried sick for a couple of years that I wouldn't be able to afford to leave home.

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