Sun
Oct 28 2012 11:00am
Something Else Like... Heinlein

Something Else Like... What to read next when you’re done with your favorite Heinlein books.Heinlein was part of the Campbellian revolution that transformed science fiction, and love him or hate him he was a towering figure from the late thirties until his death in the late eighties. He was a SFWA Grand Master, he won four Hugos in his lifetime and two retro-Hugos in 2001. He wrote some of the defining works of science fiction, and one zeitgeist book that helped define a generation. He wrote juveniles and books packed with sex, short stories and big fat volumes. Almost all of his work was set in futures with space colonization, much of it in the same future history. Beginning well ahead of the curve on race and gender issues, over the decades of his career he didn’t change as fast as the world was changing. He’s still controversial and still popular—almost all of his work is in print, a quarter century after his death.

Plenty of people don’t like Heinlein, and that’s perfectly fine. But suppose you do and you want something else like that?

Nobody’s writing official Heinlein sequels, but there are a pile of people who are self-identified as Heinlein influenced. There’s Spider Robinson, who was fortunate enough to write a book to Heinlein’s postumous outline, Variable Star. (I think they should have taken the outline and given it to a whole pile of people and let them all write different books based on it. I think that would have been fascinating.) There’s John Varley, who has a Heinlein sect building a starship on the moon in Steel Beach. Gregory Benford calls his novel Jupiter Project a Heinlein tribute. Charles Stross’s Saturn’s Children is directly influenced by Heinlein’s Friday.

If you like the competent hero and the stars for man, you might like other Campbellian science fiction, like H. Beam Piper and Isaac Asimov and Poul Anderson.

If you like Heinlein’s right-libertatian politics, you might want to look at the winners and the nominees for the Prometheus Award.

If you like the way the politics in Heinlein makes you think about how the world could be different, you might like Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed and Samuel Delany’s Triton and Ken MacLeod’s Fall Revolution books.

If you like the story of a boy growing up in the military that you see in Space Cadet and Starship Troopers, you might like Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice, and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.

If you like the “growing up in the future” bit of the juveniles generally, you could try John M. Ford’s Growing Up Weightless, John Barnes’s Orbital Resonance, and Alexei Panshin’s Rite of Passage.

If you like the space war aspect of ST, you might like the genre of MilSF and seek out the work of David Weber, David Drake, Elizabeth Moon, and Walter Jon Williams Praxis books and Baen books, who tend to specialise in that kind of books. Joe Haldeman’s Forever War and 1968 are directly in dialogue with Starship Troopers.

If you like the multi-adult families in some of his late books, you might like Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite, M.A. Foster’s Gameplayers of Zan, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time and Summer People, and my Lifelode.

If you like Heinlein’s worldbuilding and telling economy of detail, the way he describes making dinner and gives you a whole world, the way he seems to be writing a historical novel set in the future, try C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold, Melissa Scott, Octavia Butler, John M. Ford, Walter Jon Williams, M.J. Engh, and Samuel R. Delany.

If you like his confiding voice, the way he seems to be saying that this is how the world really is and he’s giving you the inside dope, John Scalzi comes the closest—start with Old Man’s War, or you can get a good feel from his blog. Another writer who comes close with this, though he’s not like Heinlein in any other way whatsoever, is Vikram Seth. I’ve also found that there are some non-fiction writers who do this for me—John McPhee, Jane Jacobs, Claire Tomalin and Steven Pinker.

If you like the way Heinlein’s prose is almost compulsive, each sentence leading inexorably to the next so that you can’t stop reading, the whole can’t-put-it-down thing, I’d suggest John Barnes, M.J. Engh, Anthony Price, and in a completely different way, Patrick O’Brian.

So—other ways in which you like Heinlein? Other authors who are like Heinlein in these ways, or in different ways?


Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently the Hugo and Nebula-winning Among Others. 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.

44 comments
john mullen
1. johntheirishmongol
I like the way almost all of RAH's stories are optomistic about the future, even in his dystopias. Any issues are pretty temporary in the grand scheme of things. One thing you didn't mention was Glory Road for fantasy and I think a good match for that would be Brian Daley's Coramonde books.
Paul Howard
2. DrakBibliophile
Some have said that Sarah Hoyt's _Darkship Thieves_ is Heinleinish. Note, her first son was named "Robert Anson".
corig123
3. corig123
I like all the other authors/books that you mention that I've already read, so I think you're probably on the right track with this!
Ruthanna Emrys
4. R.Emrys
Neil Gaiman and Michael Reeves collaborated on a book called Interworld. It's very noticeably a Heinlein juvenile, although one would be hard pressed to say whether it's fantasy or science fiction. Imagine an actual plot, with nefarious conspiratorial villains and ultracompetent do-what-it-takes heroes, set in a late-Heinlein multiverse. And the heroes noticeably work for Friday's boss.
Nicole Lowery
5. hestia
Connie Willis's Uncharted Territory is unabashedly Heinleinian.

As for juveniles, Annette Curtis Klaus's book Alien Secrets is an affectionate Heinlein homage about a girl solving a mystery while traveling in a spaceship among aliens. It's a lovely piece of writing. Also try Alison Goodman's Singing the Dogstar Blues, another human/alien story, which reads a bit like both Willis and Heinlein.
corig123
6. James Davis Nicoll
He's still controversial and still popular - almost all of his work is in print, a quarter century after his death.

Something I noticed when I was playing around with ngrams is that aside from a period in the 1940s, Isaac Asimov always showed up with more frequency than Heinlein, which to be honest surprised me; sure Asimov was more prolific but surely Heinlein is talked about more?

Interestingly, when I checked the local libraries, they have more books by Asimov on their shelves than Heinlein. I would hazard that is the benefit of writing a large amount of generalist non-fiction in nine of the ten Dewey Decimal catagories.

http://tinyurl.com/9t9k5kh

I await the hilarity of a naive young libertarian encountering such noted libertarian Prometheus Award and Hall of Fame winners as George Orwell, Ken McLeod and self-admitted Canadian Cory Doctorow.

Is
over the decades of his career he didn’t change as fast as the world was changing.

a reference to his letter to FM Busby, which the Heinlein Estate inexplicably made available in their sampler?

http://www.virginiaedition.com/ve/TheVirginiaEdition-sample.pdf

H. Beam Piper might be the go-to author here as well, specifically his "A Slave is a Slave", although I am sure there are John W. Campbell, Jr. editorials that will also serve. I am actually coming up a bit short on the whole "if we let Those People run things, they will totally use us white people as foodstuffs" angle in Farnham's Freehold; all I can offer is the cannibalistic Koreans in Ochse's Blood Ocean and they weren't really in charge, just higher up the food chain than the protagonist.

Come to think of it, Harry Harrison's 2010 The Stainless Steel Rat Returns explicity features pink-skinned people oppressed by a fecund, dull-witted group of visible minorities who brutally force the pink-skins to become slave drivers.

"What happened to you -- and the other men?

"Slave-drivers, that's what we were! These green bastards are morons -- cretins! -- stupid beyond belief. They put them into work gangs with one of us in
charge."

And it ends with a separate but not really equal finale in which the greenies are kept segregated from the normal pinks, and where the greenies are supplied with unrequested fertility management by their natural superiors.

People looking up Piper as Heinlein methadone should be warned that Piper was much better at Heinlein at allowing Women Who Do Stuff to actually do stuff that isn't deciding to have babies forever, the inevitable fate of any Heinlein female who lived long enough, particularly later in his career.

Speaking of Heinlein women, people looking for creepy March-December sex stuff probably want to look at Kingsbury, whose Psychohistorical Crisis featured, as I recall, a classic Hikaru Genji-style Wife Husbandry Plan. See also his The Moon Goddess and the Son for its thrilling "billionaires and the underaged teenage runaways who adore them" plot.

People who enjoy the total war leaning towards enthusiasm for interspecies genocide elements of Starship Troopers may want to consider Patrick Vanner's Ragnarok, although personally I was reminded more of Season Two of Johnny Chase: Secret Agent of Space (which I am willing to bet nobody who was not a Canadian in the 1970s ever heard of and probably not most of those) or Battlestar Galactica.
corig123
7. James Davis Nicoll
I wish I could edit stuff here.

People looking for "Relativity Done Wrong" as featured in Time for the Stars and a short section of Farmer in the Sky could do worse than to look at Donald Moffatt. As I recall, his The Jupiter Theft had the conclusion that since 300,000,000 m/s / 10 m/s/s = 30 million seconds, therefore it is possible to get arbitrarily close to the speed of light, enjoying the twin paradox benefits of such, in under a year. I seem to recall he's also the one who had a setting where ships getting too close to the speed of light risked sufficient mass increase to make them collapse into black holes; can anyone verify that?
Bruce Arthurs
8. Bruce-Arthurs
David Gerrold's "Dingilliad" YA trilogy -- Jumping Off the Planet (2000), Bouncing Off the Moon (2001), Leaping to the Stars (2002) -- felt very Heinleinesque to me. Ditto for Steven Gould's Wildside.

When I want to read Competent Man stories, I tend to turn to Jack Vance rather than Heinlein. All of the competence, none of the bloviating.
corig123
9. April Brown
In terms of biting philosophical critiques of religion and culture, Tom Robbins comes the closest for me to Heinlein. I especially think the parallels between Skinny Legs and All and Stranger in a Strange Land, and Job, are quite notable.
corig123
10. Evan H.
You mentioned Varley but neglected to mention his very Heinlein-inspired Red Thunder -- IMHO the best book Heinlein's written since he died -- and its two almost-as-good sequels.
corig123
11. James Davis Nicoll
Joe Haldeman’s Forever War and 1968 are directly in dialogue with Starship Troopers.

As is Gordon R. Dickson's Naked to the Stars. It's a lot more obscure than the Haldeman and has often been out of print but I believe Thorndike Press did an edition about a decade ago.
David Levinson
12. DemetriosX
Jerry Pournelle touches on several of these areas, especially the libertarianism, space war, and coming of age in the military. Certainly any of the Falkenberg stories or the Janissaries series.
corig123
13. NullNix
You mentioned Bujold but neglected to mention her only explicitly Heinleinian work, _Falling Free_, and its two nonexistent sequels.

(Evan H.@10, I liked the form of your comment so much I stole it.)
corig123
14. James Davis Nicoll
If people like Heinlein's implausibly ambitious timelines for interplanetary colonization, Charles Sheffield's Cold as Ice and its two sequels The Ganymede Club and Dark as Day have as part of their background a solar system where sufficient numbers of people lived in space by the late 21st century (and I want to say 2070, as far from now as 1954 is) to think a revolutionary Total War with what turned out to be a more powerful Earth was a winning idea; to the extent the spacers' goal was to be completely obliterated an Earth enraged by genocidal space-based attacks they were correct. By the period when the books are sent, population is well on its way to recovering from that error of judgment.

(I'd tend to lump Sheffield in with Clarke rather than Heinlein, though)
corig123
15. Tehanu
What I love the most about Heinlein is his snappy dialogue, and the only thing that even comes close to that is old Preston Sturges movies like "Sullivan's Travels" and "Hail the Conquering Hero." Lois Bujold does smart dialogue but nobody now has quite the cleverness and wit and humor that Heinlein did.
corig123
16. All_Day_SCI-fi
Warrior's Apprentice is about the worst book in the Vorkosigan series. The Vor Game is way better.

No mention of Citizen of the Galaxy. That book probably packs more different subjects worthy of discussion than any other Heinlein book. From capitalism to child rearing.
Clark Myers
17. ClarkEMyers
"If you like the story of a boy growing up in the military" - I'd suggest Voyage by David Drake an acknowledged bildungsroman.

Taking Glory Road for fantasy with swordplay along with an element of growing up so common in Heinlein I'd suggest David Drake's 4 part fantasy series on the Elements.

Dr. Pournelle's early Red Dragon and Red Heroin show IMHO as much Heinlein influence and homage as anything I've ever read. The only fantasy element is however affordable housing in the U district of Seattle.
corig123
18. Eric Saveau
I'll second the above recommendation for David Gerrold's Dingilliad trilogy and add his War Against The Chtorr series. They strike a deliberately Heinleinian tone but use it in some deliberately un-Heinleinian ways; he's very clearly acknowledging a debt to Heinlein while still saying, "...but, yeah, there's still a raft of things I disagree with him about." Without being derisive, just honest.
corig123
19. hugh57
A whole series of books that always felt rather Heinleinish to me is Allen Steele's Coyote series.
Steven Halter
20. stevenhalter
I think you got the angles of Heinlein just right, Jo. That's the first key when someone asks you for something like Heinlein--ask them just which Heinlein they mean. Do they like the first half of Stranger in a Strange Land or the second? Or both? Citizen of the Galaxy or The Number of the Beast?
corig123
21. James Davis Nicoll
Nobody’s writing official Heinlein sequels, but there are a pile of people who are self-identified as Heinlein influenced.

Most of the overt Heinlein tributes seem to be written by men. The main exception that comes to mind is Sarah Hoyt. Actually, I'll go farther and say "men past a certain age", and in the case of the juvenile books generally older than RAH was when he stopped writing them, which means these modern day faux-RAH novels come with free Grampa Simpson-style cloud shouting. I'm looking at Varley's Earth People Suck trilogy as I type this.

As I recall, Tor's Jupiter series was a stab at doing RAH (and Asimov) juvenile books for the 1990s and in general it wasn't a very successful experiment. With one exception they were written solo by Charles Sheffield: Higher Education (with Jerry Pournelle), The Billion Dollar Boy, Putting Up Roots, and The Cyborg From Earth.
corig123
22. Carro
Nice idea indeed.

Would there be a chance of developing this further? As in having a cross-linked index of authors?

As in a searchable database of if you liked x, you'll like y? That puts out a list of authors. Again ideally with feedback from users.

So for example, if you typed in David Gerrold (which Eric Saveau suggested) you'd get Heinlien, John Barnes, Bujold and all the others mentioned here. Ideally with a paragraph of text, either from the main article or the comments, explaining which books and why this is being suggested.
John Adams
23. JohnArkansawyer
If you want the Heinlein who was boundlessly optimistic about the future and about people's possibilities within it and about the capability of humans to affect the world for the better, who seldom saw a real villain, then you should try Cory Doctorow.

Seriously. That "Themepunks" had a major character named Kettlebelly is a hint. That it made its central invention a device mentioned and thrown-off during the originally Kettlebelly's first appearance is a little more.

You will also notice multiple lifts from Heinlein in Little Brother. Altering one's gait to fool surveillance? Ripped right out of Double Star.

This new Heinlein is the oldest, best Heinlein. Accept no substitutes.
corig123
24. James Davis Nicoll
Carro, something like this:

http://mysite.verizon.net/wsbainbridge/dl/newmaps.htm

(warning: olden timey & static)

or this (warning: quirky)?


http://www.literature-map.com/

I've used TV Tropes to look for new authors or shows containing tropes I wanted to see more of. Warning: some people consider TVT a weaponized time sink. Because it's crowd-created, there are some holes in its coverage (see the entries for Michael Whelan or, heh, Mitt Romney).

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HomePage
corig123
25. James Davis Nicoll
the space war aspect of ST

The powered armour from ST shows up in a bunch of different places. For example, powered armour plays a role in the back-story of Richard S. McEnroe's The Shattered Stars (The main plot is James H. Schmitzian, though).

One could look at Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need is Kill as one part ST to one part Ground Hog Day with the proviso that in AYNIK the Earth itself is being invaded by geoforming aliens rather than carrying out a space war.
S Cooper
26. SPC
One could also take the worlds visited in The Number of the Beast as a Heinlein-approved reading list - not necessarily "like" Heinlein, but obviously books and characters that meant something to him. I am forever grateful to that book for introducing me to Barsoom.
corig123
27. Robert Slater
I'd also recommend Michael Flynn. I haven't read his Firestar Saga books, but The Wreck of the River of Stars and the current series beginning with The January Dancer strike me as appealing to the Heinlein fan, most closely through the competent hero/space for man and worldbuilding angles. Plus he received the Robert A. Heinlein Award in its inaugural year in 2003, so presumably that counts for something.
Christopher Davis
28. ckd
WRT the Jupiter books, I think James P. Hogan's Outward Bound was also part of that line; it certainly read very much like a re-run of Sheffield's Higher Education.

The Firestar books are good near-future-of-the-past stuff and scratched some of the same itch that the early Future History stories do for me (without quite as much magitech like the Douglas-Martin screens or the conveniently forgotten antigravity device invented in "We Also Walk Dogs—").
Chris Palmer
29. cmpalmer
@hugh57, I'd lump most of Allen Steele's books into the like-Heinlein category. Good stuff, too.
Fredrik Coulter
30. fcoulter
You said: "If you like Heinlein’s right-libertatian politics, you might want to look at the winners and the nominees for the Prometheus Award."

This is a great comment, since that's how I discovered your novels.
corig123
31. GregoryBenford
Allen Steele's APOLLO'S CHILDREN has the RAH flavor, set in near future mostly on the moon. It'll be out from Pyr in a few weeks, a very good read.
corig123
32. Damien RS
Kipling wrote a small but interesting selection of SF stories, which I think Heinlein himself resembles, probably causally.

If you like "The Man Who Sold the Moon" you might like _The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa.
corig123
33. James Davis Nicoll
Or Nojiri's Rocket Girls books, which not only have plucky capitalists in space but also by the second one have the protagonist/friend/other set up a lot of Heinlein novels have.
corig123
34. TheMadLibrarian
D'oh! I incorrectly attributed Higher Education to Robert Forward, not Charles Sheffield in the previous thread. Forward still is a good hard science fiction writer.
Jo Walton
35. bluejo
I was going to say Kipling's Captain's Courageous is the closest to a Heinlein juvenile anyone else has written but I forgot!
corig123
36. James Davis Nicoll
TheMadLibrarian, you know Sheffield got sheffielded* by Forward once? They independently and simultaneously decided to write stories about worlds orbiting within each other's Roche lobes.


* Being sheffielded is coming up with a novel idea, only to discover that, and this is a completely random example, Arthur C. Clarke simultaneously and half a world away (in the days before casual email and such, when distance could provide causal isolation) managed to write a novel about the exact same idea, with enough similarities that ACC would feel obliged to write Sheffield's book an intro explaining that sometimes these things happen.

Since they were both writing about orbital towers, it was thematically appropriate this coincidence occurred; the idea of a bean stalk had been independently invented and reinvented several times over the course of the 20th century.
corig123
37. RandolphF
I think what is most interesting about Heinlein are his contradictions; there are not many authors who would write both *Double Star* and *Stranger in a Strange Land.* Hey! You missed his mysticism!
corig123
38. James Davis Nicoll
What about the early Heinlein, where seemingly backward aliens turned out to have unsuspected depths while others could clearly punt us into the 8th dimension without breaking a sweat?
corig123
39. James Davis Nicoll
Speaking of FM Busby, I expect a lot of Heinlein fans would enjoy his Rissa Kerguelen and Bran Tregare books (plucky resistance versus a totalitarian society, with the added complication that this is in an interstellar empire limited to NAFAL ships). I don't know that they are in print at the moment.
corig123
40. James Davis Nicoll
(Sorry to do three comments in a row but I did wait a long time for this one)

Speaking of Robert Forward, I thought he was a better idea man than a writer and my favourite example of one of his ideas in print was Joan D. Vinge's "View From Height", about an immunocompromised woman who undertakes a decades-long one way mission into infrastellar space (it would make a decent one-woman play, if anyone is looking for material).

That said, there's a short piece in Forward's The Flight of the Dragonfly about endeavours worth investing the remainder of one's life in that I remember fondly; I avoid rereading it in case the Suck Fairy dropped by in the intervening decades.
Andrew Love
41. Andy Love
What about the early Heinlein, where seemingly backward aliens turned out to have unsuspected depths while others could clearly punt us into the 8th dimension without breaking a sweat?
Yeah. There's the aliens in "By His Bootstraps" - simply seeing them briefly aged the hero by years (for that matter, a brief meeting with one of the sets of aliens in "Methusaleh's Children" put a character into a months-long mental breakdown). And the aliens in "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel" explicitly state that if humanity could ever be a threat them, they'd destroy humanity immediately - so, since humanity survives that encounter, we must have seemed pretty harmless... Not until the the Bugs and the Skinnies do we encounter aliens in Heinlein who are basically on humanity's level. Huh.
corig123
42. neroden
"If you like his confiding voice, the way he seems to be saying that this
is how the world really is and he’s giving you the inside dope,"

This voice can be a massive cheat in non-fiction. Stephen Pinker's a good example -- his work is NOT academically sound.

In fiction, at least the author has warned you that the whole story's a fib in advance....
corig123
43. SYAgnon
I found this much more than a what-to-read-next piece--it's a fascinating essay on the extent of Heinlein's influence on the science fiction in all its diversity.
corig123
44. Jannisar
For Juvenile i have to mention again the jupiter books by Sheffield which i really enjoyed. also, Nathan Lowell and his solar clipper trader tales were a lot of fun to read.

For mil sci definitely have to mention Ringo, some excellent stories there.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment