Kirkus Reviews QR Code



Pub Date: Jan. 17th, 1989
ISBN: 0345369416
Publisher: Ballantine

Heinlein (1907-88) was one of the most renowned and influential science-fiction writers of the modern era; his selected correspondence--first with famous magazine editor John W. Campbell, later with his agent, Lurton Blassingame--is here edited by his widow Virginia and loosely organized into categories: Early Days (the Campbell era), Juvenile Novels (a highly successful series), Writing Methods (he wrote at length, then pruned vigorously), Fan Mail (and other distractions), Sales and Rejections, Building (his own house), Travel (worldwide), Adult Novels, and more. Up to the mid 1940's, Heinlein, under his own name and various pseudonyms, was Campbell's main talent; inexplicably, their friendship waned ("just another casualty, probably, of World War II," Virginia notes feebly and unhelpfully), and by 1963 had turned hostile: "offering copy to John Campbell, having it bounced. . .and then have to wade through ten pages of his arrogant insults, explaining to me why my story is no good." Elsewhere, about editor Horace L. Gold, a notorious meddler, Heinlein remarks, "there is hardly a paragraph which he has not 'improved'--and I am fit to be tied." Another editor, Scribner's Alice Dalgliesh (she edited Heinlein's very successful juvenile sf series) knew nothing of sf, construed everything in Freudian terms, and blue-penciled accordingly. One chapter details the protracted, difficult genesis of Heinlein's extraordinary, iconoclastic novel Stranger in a Strange Land; another describes the equally remarkable fallout after the book became popular--in some circles Heinlein was regarded as a guru, in others as a cultist and subversive. Eclectic, provocative, and opinionated, just like Heinlein's fiction, the text assumes a fairly detailed background knowledge, which is fine for the fans. However, for the wider audience the book is certain to attract, it should have been reedited by someone more curious and less personally involved. It desperately needs an index. There are photographs, mostly boring.