ROBERT A. HEINLEIN by William H. Patterson Jr.


In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better
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Second and concluding volume of Patterson’s wide-ranging biography of the renowned science-fiction author.

As Patterson (Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century: Volume 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve, 2010) notes, Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) did not limit himself to what was then a small, if growing, genre of popular fiction. By the early 1950s, “he was in boys’ and girls’ markets, books, pulp, and film, all at the same time”—part of a concerted, thoroughly thought-through effort to free himself from the pulps while making a living as a writer. Patterson is well-versed in the Heinlein oeuvre, and a significant contribution of his biography is to place Heinlein’s works in the context of his life and the evolution of his politics. As Heinlein was writing his best-known books, among them Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) and Starship Troopers (1959), he was making a political arc from beyond–New Deal Democrat to right-of-Goldwater Republican, a transformation helped by a second marriage to an activist conservative. Though he was friendly with L. Ron Hubbard, he resisted taking the path into invented religion and instead used his fiction to explore philosophical questions of meaning (one reason that Stranger became such a hit in the ’60s counterculture). The ’50s, Patterson reveals, were lucrative and satisfying for Heinlein in some respects, though the ground was always shifting; his Hollywood period closed with a thud when the production company he worked with closed its doors. He was on firmer footing in the ’60s, and though reviewers were often antagonistic (Patterson quotes a few, including some from this publication, that were friendly but more that were not), his books did well—encouraging fan mail that, as Patterson recounts, was full of detailed questions “about everything from economics to where Robert parted his hair.”

Patterson covers all the bases—an essential book for studious fans of Heinlein, with valuable lessons for anyone hoping to make a living with the pen.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-7653-1961-6
Page count: 624pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2014


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