BILL OF GOODS:

The Words of a Heinlein Fan Exactly Like Nearly

Every Other Heinlein Fan I’ve Ever Met, But More Polite

By Darren "Doc Nebula" Madigan

 

If you’ve read my article Heinlein: The Man, The Myth, The Whack Job (and you should have, since this is only linked from that), then you may be interested in seeing some of the email that the article generated.

A fellow named Bill Patterson wrote me, and what I find interesting is that after exchanging several long, detailed emails with him, it finally became quite clear that Bill Patterson was exactly the kind of Heinlein fan I’d written the article about… one of those who worships Heinlein as more or less a personal figure of inspiration, who refuses to accept that his hero-god ever said anything remotely questionable or debatable, and who takes enormous affront at the notion that any Heinlein product could possibly in any way be deemed ‘bad’.

It took me a while to get this because Bill, unlike all the other Heinlein worshippers I’ve met, doesn’t resort directly to personal invective when crossed. In fact, he camouflages everything he says so deeply in academic style boiler plate that it’s quite difficult at times to figure out WHAT the hell he’s saying.

I’m not going to reproduce every word of Bill’s notes, and my responses to him, since that would get pretty boring… Bill, among other things, seems to have absolutely no sense of humor at all, at least, not about RAH, God-Emperor of SF. Nor does he write with a great deal of style. But I do think his stuff is interesting, if only to give a glimpse of a mannered, obviously highly educated fellow who is completely incapable of using even the slightest subatomic particle of his brain to think in any really critical fashion about the extensive writings of Robert A. Heinlein.

Bill’s first note is reproduced in its entirety, without editing. Afterwards, for those who don’t speak academese at high levels, I’ll try to translate:

From: BPRAL22169@aol.com

To: docnebula01@juno.com

Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 12:59:49 EST

Subject: Heinlein article

 

I just read your extended rant (I believe you called it) about Heinlein (Jim Gifford forwarded the link to me) and found it interesting. I follow the logic by which you arrived at your opinion (I'm talking about the main opinion that Heinlein was a whack job and his fans need to get over it and move on) and admire the economy with which you develop your logic.

I think you've got hold of some wrong premises, an interpretation that does not follow from your observations, and some incorrect "facts" and that throws your logic off.

The conclusion I reached about the phenomenon you talk about in re Heinlein's fans (and these observations are true of only a tiny, tiny minority of them, as you would see if you participated in the readers' group) is that Heinlein had a darned near unique talent for being a professional mirror and that people of all stripes saw in his writing me/not me -- or, more precisely Us/Not Us. That's what fueled his astonishing commercial success. The amount of filling in of philosophical and political positions that aren't actually in the text is astonishing to me, and I conclude that a lot of "Us - therefore" is going on, almost certainly all of it wrong. I suspect, for example, that the Federal Service of Starship Troopers is a kind of idealized Wellsian Socialist mega-state and the fact that the setting is military, as you argue, skews the view of the material -- Heinlein lists, for example, some quite unmilitary occupations the boys might wind up when they enlist. Gifford took the time to analyze the text because it was a matter of controversy -- because it's gotten caught up in that "Us - therefore" thing and it's annoying to have to re-nuance the subject every time you try to have a discussion about the actual subject of the book: the adult's role in the preservation of one's polity, one of Heinlein's principal themes for a very long time -- and in fact a principal theme of three of the books you lump together as bad or questionable: Starship Troopers, Stranger In a Strange Land, and Glory Road.

Now, second point, while it is true that Heinlein never was very interested in the kind of comic book story you seem, from the secondary links you post, to find exceptionally interesting, it is equally true that not one single book you listed as bad or even questionable is, in fact, bad or even questionable, and the two observations I put in this paragraph are linked.

Whether you liked them or not is irrelevant; whether you were ready to explore the greater degree of complexity in these books is a matter of where you are individually at this stage in your life. What you cast as a literary judgment is simply not a literary judgment, and your analysis doesn't even have any of the elements preparatory to making a literary judgment.

Furthermore, it is difficult to take some of your arguments seriously, as you have clearly not thought them through. Accepting the proposition that Farnham's Freehold is a racist statement is an example. The fact that Heinlein grew up in a racist environment does condition the elements he chooses to attack -- and those elements would be different for us than they were for him, certainly -- but the argument in toto is as anti-racist as Huckleberry Finn's and might be stated as: bigotry damages everyone it touches. The second thematic axis of the book -- that a nuclear war would be the end of western liberal values no matter who "wins" an exchange -- brings the "black cannibals" of the future into the anti-racist side of the argument, not a racist side (remember his comments about cannibalism being in everyone's family tree, white, black, red, or yellow, in Stranger?). And this ties the two thematic thrusts together, in a way very characteristic of Heinlein's technique. The book was written just three months after the Cuban Missile Crisis (though it was not published until a year later).

Bill Patterson

* * *

Okay. Now, as I said, I’ll try to translate what Bill just said into common, everyday English:

"I just read your extended rant (I believe you called it) about Heinlein (Jim Gifford forwarded the link to me) and found it interesting. I follow the logic by which you arrived at your opinion (I'm talking about the main opinion that Heinlein was a whack job and his fans need to get over it and move on) and admire the economy with which you develop your logic."

This is what is technically called, in the management training seminars, ‘softening the target’. Back when I worked in the U.S. Postal Service Call Center, all the team leaders and supervisors would do this, when they were about to start peeling my hide off for some heinous infraction on my part, either real (but always inconsequential) or existing only in their tiny little minds. They’d come up and put an arm around me and say "You know, you’re doing a really good job." Then they’d point out some way in which I was without a doubt the most completely incompetent moron who had ever put a headset on. In detail. And at length.

It’s worth noting that even in this opening ‘soft’ paragraph, in which Bill is slathering me with butter prior to popping the apple in my mouth, he can’t resist calling my article a ‘rant’, noting that I myself had already done so. Of course, Bill, being an intelligent guy and an experienced academic, recognizes fully that when I (or any other author) refer to my own work in such terms, I’m being charmingly self-depreciating and indulging in self-satirical irony. If someone else takes up that term and throws it back at me, they’re being insulting. Bill knows that, but he can’t help but do it anyway, because I have written an entire article questioning the perfection of his hero-god Heinlein, and such must not stand.

"I think you've got hold of some wrong premises, an interpretation that does not follow from your observations, and some incorrect "facts" and that throws your logic off."

This is Bill’s kind way of saying "You have your head so far up your ass you can almost certainly count the convolutions of your small intestine from your current visual perspective". But he says it in academese, refraining from actually directly questioning my intellect, personal habits, or ancestry (which, honestly, I appreciate). Instead, he tells me that I’m wrong, but he does so using academic terms… it’s not me, it’s my premises, my interpretation, my observations, and my ‘facts’.

This last is especially fascinating to me. The first three… my premises, my interpretation, and my observations… well, Bill doesn’t really trouble himself to distinguish any of these, he’s just tossing out words that sound good, basically using Sam Seaborne’s "you just said three things that all mean the same thing" technique. In this case, Bill is stating, as I said above, "you’re an idiot and your article is full of shit", but he’s doing it in a way that certainly sounds more convincing and persuasive than that, by using what seems to be deconstructive technique… it’s not just me being stupid, and my article as a whole that’s moronic, no, it’s these components of my article that are really at fault. (And don’t get me wrong. I appreciate Bill’s non-confrontational, elegant way of calling me names. His stuff is much nicer to read than the textual abuse of the more typical website troll I’m very familiar with, which usually starts by shrilly screaming at me that the entire sun should go nova and destroy the abominable culture that produces mindless pieces of human garbage like me, and cycles up into really interesting personal abuse a few hundred saliva-soaked words further on.)

But as I say, it’s the last thing on his list that I find truly interesting. Bill states that some incorrect ‘facts’ have ‘thrown [my] logic off’. And, not wanting anyone to actually hold him to the literal definition of the word ‘facts’, which is a pretty hard, solid, unwavering and well defined word in its own right (almost ironically so), he slyly weasels his way around his use of that word, by throwing quotes around it. So I don’t have incorrect facts throwing my logic off, I have incorrect ‘facts’ throwing my logic off, which is a whole different thing, and apparently, one that can only be defined by Bill Patterson, who declines to actually do so, beyond merely citing that, well, it’s true.

None of which means any more than Bill’s statements about my premises, my interpretations, and my observations, but again, his odd and slippery misuse of the word ‘facts’ is intriguing. Mostly because, well, my article is entirely my opinion. There are no facts stated in it, as far as I can see, other than that I’ve read Heinlein, I’ve read a few articles posted to a website about Starship Troopers, and I am responding to same, with my opinions and viewpoints. Find me a stated fact anywhere in my article and, well, frankly, I’ll be as astonished and amazed at the sight of the creature as King William was when he saw the giraffe .

Okay, wait… I admit, I’m being disingenuous. No more so than Bill, with his quotes around ‘facts’, and in actuality, his use of that word in the plural, when he’s really only wroth about the one factual statement I make in the article (and he’s REALLY pissed off about it, too, as his subsequent emails make plain)… I state, unequivocally, that Heinlein was a racist. I also say he couldn’t help it, everyone raised in his cultural matrix, in which race was always an issue, is going to be a racist. Racial bias was practically midwived with Heinlein, it was certainly ground into him from the cradle onward; in addition to being a racist (which is undeniable to anyone capable of reading Heinlein’s work with open eyes and a capacity for analytical thought, neither of which, apparently, Bill possesses in this regard), Heinlein was also a homophobe and a sexist.

Now, again, Heinlein could no more help being a racist than any other 20th Century white male could, and it is much to his credit that he did everything in his power to overcome these flaws in his thinking as he matured and continued to attain enlightenment throughout his life. In point of fact, I think I even admit somewhere in the article that I myself have racist and homophobic and sexist tendencies that I can’t help, and that I strive to subdue whenever a situation arises in which I feel them making themselves manifest. (If I didn’t cop to such biased tendencies in the article, I did so extensively in my email to Bill.) Nonetheless, to the rabid Heinlein admirer, that simply doesn’t matter. Even if every other human being born in North America prior to, oh, 1990 must necessarily, in some way, be seen as having racist tendencies, no matter how well subdued they are, that’s unimportant. Racism is a character flaw, Heinlein was perfect in every regard, therefore, he was absolutely not in any way a racist, and that’s that.

I suppose I could be wrong, maybe Heinlein wasn’t a racist, or perhaps this isn’t the one single factual statement in my article that Bill is taking such umbrage at. But given the emphasis he gives to the issue in later emails, I strongly suspect that my declaration that Heinlein is a racist really struck a sore spot in Bill… as it would in any devoted Heinlein fanatic.

"The conclusion I reached about the phenomenon you talk about in re Heinlein's fans (and these observations are true of only a tiny, tiny minority of them, as you would see if you participated in the readers' group)"

A couple of things here. First, the implication here is ‘not all Heinlein fans are the rabid dogs you say they are, and, by the way, I’m not, and, by the way, you would have known that if you’d bothered to hang out with us cool Heinlein fans’.

This whole ‘not all Heinlein fans are like that, I’m certainly not, and neither are the Heinlein fans I hang out with’ is something that all Heinlein fans tell you, right before they start in on exactly why it is you’re completely wrong about Number of the Beast sucking like an Electrolux, or Farnham’s Freehold being both a lousy book and a racist one. Now, I imagine there actually are some Heinlein fans out there who aren’t rabid dogs on the subject of Heinlein’s absolute flawlessness and utter superiority as a form of roughly humanoid yet still divine life incarnate in mortal form at one time on this benighted planet, but as a general rule, they don’t send out several hundred words refutations of articles questioning the completely flawlessness of Heinlein-Dharma the avatar of the gods.

Lastly, getting bitchy with someone (and it certainly seems to me that Bill is getting bitchy with me in this passage) about the fact that he hasn’t interacted with a newsgroup that he hasn’t been invited to interact with and actually has no knowledge whatsoever regarding the existence of, shows yet another interesting trait that Heinlein fans of this fanatical stripe, and other highly objectionable sorts of people I’ve encountered far, far too often in my life to date, all seem to have in common:

Namely, once they’ve decided that I am, for some reason, not someone they agree with (or often, in any way esteem, a judgement they usually come to without ever having done more than read one thing I’ve written that they don’t care for at all), they start going through that one particular piece of work which has offended them so profoundly, avidly seeking out, or simply making up out of whole cloth, utterly innocuous stuff that they can nonetheless insult me over and dislike me for.

Like the batch of Kurt Busiek fans who once likened me to a sociopath because I quoted a Carole King song in an article they truly detested, or a woman I recently had a brush with who decided I was hateful for many reasons, among which was that I criticized her in a private email, rather than ‘publicly’ (whatever that meant), this is a technique that is adopted by folks who have simply decided that they don’t like you, they’re not going to like you, they don’t like anything about you, and if they can’t find enough genuinely dislikable things in whatever it is you’ve written that pisses them off so much to cite at the length they really feel is necessary, then by God they’ll find innocuous things, or just plain and simple make shit up, and attribute obnoxiousness and offensiveness to those things, as well.

In this case, Bill is very clearly implying that there is something dreadfully wrong with me because I wrote an article based on my experience with Heinlein fans of a certain sort, and I did so without taking the time to become acquainted with, if not every other Heinlein fan in the universe, then at least, all the ones he personally knows.

"is that Heinlein had a darned near unique talent for being a professional mirror and that people of all stripes saw in his writing me/not me -- or, more precisely Us/Not Us. That's what fueled his astonishing commercial success"

This is, frankly, an astonishing statement. It’s not that I disagree with it… yes, Heinlein had the ability to write with a very sympathetic narrative voice that his readers tended to immediately identify with and want to empathize with. In first person or third person (where it’s much harder) Heinlein managed to do this in nearly all of his books, even the truly bad ones, occasionally managing it with some truly obnoxious characters.

However, Bill claims that (a) Heinlein was ‘darned near unique’ in this, and (b) this is the reason why so many Heinlein fans (not Bill and his friends, mind you, and I should have known that) are so rabidly nuts about Heinlein’s apparent philosophies and viewpoints as expressed in his writing.

Folks… narrative does this. Nearly any writer, no matter how bad, has the ability to make you empathize and sympathize with their protagonists, even if the protagonist is a complete prick. This is especially true of narratives told in the first person, which is one of many reasons why so many writers use it. Heinlein himself used it fairly often, and most people’s ‘favorite’ Heinlein stories are told first person… THREE BY HEINLEIN, sometimes known as A HEINLEIN TRIO, is a collection that has never been out of print as far as I know, and it’s a curious one, in that it’s completely pointless… it collects The Puppet Masters, Double Star, and A Door Into Summer into one volume, despite the fact that all those novels are widely available separately and have never been out of print themselves. The reason the publisher put them all in one volume is that those three Heinlein novels are on virtually every Heinlein fan’s ‘favorites’ list, they sell really well… and I doubt it’s a coincidence that they’re all told first person.

But Heinlein is hardly ‘darned near unique’ in his ability to write a sympathetic narrative voice. It takes a spectacularly bad writer to not be able to evoke sympathy and a sense that there is truth and wisdom in anything that any central character of any drama says, especially if that central character is narrating the events. What Bill is doing in this rather long (winded) paragraph is setting up a sort of insanity plea for raving, rabid Heinlein worshippers… "it’s not their fault" (Bill still distinguishes himself carefully from those types of Heinlein fans that I’m writing about, which he admits exist, but he’s not one, and neither are any of his buddies, of course) "it’s that Heinlein is just such a uniquely brilliant writer, he sucks people in without them realizing it".

Yeah, right.

I could, at this point, start rattling off an endless list of writers I’m aware of other than Heinlein who possess the "darned near unique talent for being a professional mirror and that people of all stripes saw in his writing me/not me -- or, more precisely Us/Not Us," as Bill so fulsomely puts it. However, since most of those writers are SF writers, Bill could turn around and claim that they’re all in the "Heinlein school" (and most of my favorite SF writers, like Joe Haldeman and John Varley and S.M. Stirling and Lois McMaster Bujold… are all clearly ‘Heinlein school writers’). However, Frederick Brown also wrote a very sympathetic narrative voice. So did John D. MacDonald and so does Robert B. Parker still. So, for chrissakes, does Dave Barry and did Edgar Rice Burroughs. The "darned near unique talent for being a professional mirror and that people of all stripes saw in his writing me/not me -- or, more precisely Us/Not Us" that Bill goes on and on about is, in fact, an essential element of the narrative voice itself… when we read, we are instantly immersed in the narrative, in a way no other media can as easily duplicate. It’s one of the major powers of literature as an educational/propaganda medium, as opposed to anything more immediately visual or merely auditory, like radio or TV or film. Imaginative writers from Robert Block through Ted Sturgeon to Jay McTiernan have, in fact, used this power of the first person narrative to draw people quite deeply into truly depraved stories of utter madmen, without anyone realizing that the seemingly reasonable narrator we’re nodding our heads along with is actually a complete psychopath until it becomes glaringly obvious that this is so.

Bill’s rationalization, then, that Heinlein is ‘darned near unique’ in his ability to do something that is an essential element of the narrative voice in any structured account, is a necessary justification. It quite neatly (a) takes the blame away from Heinlein apologists, who jest cain’t help themselves, no sir, they’re caught up in somethin’ that’s bigger than all of us, girl… and (b) it transforms what seems to Bill (as a rabid Heinlein apologist) to be a criticism of Heinlein (he’s a textually charismatic whackjob) into a statement of Heinlein’s nearly unique brilliance (he’s a uniquely textually charismatic whackjob, and that makes it all right).

Then Bill goes on to say:

" The amount of filling in of philosophical and political positions that aren't actually in the text is astonishing to me, and I conclude that a lot of "Us - therefore" is going on, almost certainly all of it wrong."

This is wonderful; I am gaping and slackjawed in my frank admiration for this statement. If, in fact, anyone has ever perceived there to be anything in Heinlein’s writing that is obviously false to observed fact or just plain damned loonie, then Heinlein didn’t put it there, it’s just his poor weak readers, caught up in the master’s ‘nearly unique ability to be a mirror’ and filling in their own nutball beliefs where Heinlein didn’t actually posit such.

Now, there’s quite a lot of factual statement or philosophical musing in Heinlein’s large body of work over the years that is either obviously false to fact or just plain nuts. For example, Heinlein often reiterates from one book and short story to another his theme that all cops and civil service workers are essentially corrupt, which is simply false to fact, and rather contemptible, and Heinlein’s undeniable assertion in Starship Troopers that military veterans are all more civic minded, as a body, than those who have never served in the military, is honestly nuts…if you set up a society in which only military veterans get to vote and hold office, there will be no public libraries, simply for one example, or if there are, the fiction shelves will contain nothing but the works of Tom Clancy and Roland Greene and David Drake and maybe some S.M. Stirling, and the non-fiction shelves will hold nothing but military memoirs, Rush Limbaugh, and Anne Coulter books.

But according to Bill Patterson’s ingenious rationalization, assuming he were to agree that any assertion found in a Heinlein book was actually wrong or just frickin’ deranged, well, Heinlein didn’t say that, you’re just reading that into it yourself.

Exactly why people who don’t believe a certain philosophical assumption (like that being a conscientious objector is the worst form of moral cowardice imaginable, and actual treason to your national culture) would be inclined to project such a philosophical assumption (that they themselves don’t agree with) into a body of work that does not actually contain it, simply due to Heinlein’s ‘darned near unique’ ability to ‘be a mirror’, I couldn’t tell you.

You’d think, by Bill’s bizarre but brilliant extrapolation, that Heinlein would end up being all things to all people… the pacifists and peaceniks would read Starship Troopers and see an overwhelmingly reasonable and passionate cry for a non-aggressive, non-military mind set when dealing with other cultures (such as, in fact, Joe Haldeman puts forth in The Forever War, a book best described as being a sort of philosophical polar opposite to Starship Troopers) while the gung-ho artillery nuts would read Starship Troopers and find it a compelling call to arms against all cultures we do not understand, especially those that do not exalt individual achievement, like socialism and communism.

(There’s an irony, there, since the M.I. depicted in ST hardly emphasizes individual initiative, and the Federal government shown in the book seems rather socialist in some ways, such as its world wide public education system with mandatory universal classes in History & Moral Philosophy, and a system of civil punishments that seems to encompass public flogging and execution as an alternative to prison… both staples of some socialist arguments that it’s more moral to either punish a perpetrator quickly and publicly and then let him go, or simply execute him, than it is to deprive him of basic human rights for an extended period which will often be spent under torturously inhumane conditions. In fact, the Federal Service itself necessarily removes all individual freedom and choice when you enlist; as with the Communist states, you don’t get to pick what you want to do from available assignments, you get analyzed to determine what your strengths and gifts are, and then assigned where you’ll be of most use to the State. From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs, indeed.)

Skipping over most of the rest of that long paragraph, in which Bill doesn’t try to rationalize Heinlein or tell me I’m completely wrong but instead engages in more or less honest discussion of the discussion itself, we come to, at the end of it:

"… three of the books you lump together as bad or questionable: Starship Troopers, Stranger In a Strange Land, and Glory Road."

I excerpt this to show that Bill simply isn’t paying attention to what I’ve written, a general problem most Heinlein fans of Bill’s ilk have when they run across someone who questions the triple godhead that is the Robert, the Anson, and the Heinlein. Now, I deliberately made no attempt to trick or persuade such blockheads that I might even remotely be one of them with the article Bill is commenting on; my chosen title for that article, Heinlein: The Man, the Myth, the Whack Job is right up front with my thesis… that Heinlein was not some superhuman specimen of divine providence incarnate in mortal form.

This position will always deeply and mortally offend the ardent Heinlein worshipper, with his or her cracked and badly chewed nails digging fervently into his or her severely dog-eared and extensively highlighted copy of Stranger In A Strange Land, and it will usually cause them to instantly conclude they don’t really even need to read the text under my article's title, at least, not all that closely; they can just skim it and then go to war.

However, the three books I noted as being ‘bad or questionable’, as Bill puts it (and in fact, what I said was, they were bad novels, but interesting social and philosophical pamphlets nominally disguised as novels) are Stranger In A Strange Land, Glory Road, and Beyond This Horizon. Bill sloppily lumps Starship Troopers in with them because that’s what my article is mostly about, since that’s what the two articles I read on James Gifford’s website were about. But in point of fact, I like Starship Troopers fine; it’s a great military SF adventure novel, if one where the underlying social and moral philosophies are absolutely insane. However, since Heinlein gives us a thrilling, entertaining, and wonderfully engaging adventure novel while he’s spewing all his toxic nonsense about how everybody in the ideal society will pay taxes, but only an elite few ex-jarheads will get to vote and run for office, well, I don’t much care about the toxic nonsense. Heinlein is always spewing toxic nonsense, and it’s only when the book itself is substandard as actual entertainment (as in the three cases listed, where they are) that I pay any attention.

(Some more typical Heinlein nonsense, just to show that I’m not making this up as I go along: male lechery is perfectly agreeable and totally acceptable when the hero is lusting after his assigned romantic interest, such as Sam with Mary in Puppet Masters, or any male Friday finds attractive in that self titled novel, but it becomes obnoxious, objectionable, and in fact, punishable by instant death, if the lecherous male is someone Friday doesn’t like, especially a police officer. And yes, I know, Friday wails at length that she kills the cop because he pointed a gun at Janet, which is not acceptable to her. In point of fact, Friday kills the cop because Janet has told her that the cop wants to have sex with her, and she doesn’t like him, and in Friday’s world… and, apparently, Heinlein’s… a man's action in wanting to have sex with an attractive woman who does not want to have sex with him immediately puts that fellow on the Better Off Dead List… a list which one may act terminally on immediately at the slightest pretext, without the smallest shred or quiver of a moral qualm beforehand or afterwards. It’s also interesting to note that Friday later on tells us that it’s okay for men to rape women, if the woman finds the man in question attractive and he takes a shower and brushes his teeth and gargles with a nice mouthwash before and during the actual rape.)

Now, though, we’re coming to the really interesting part, where Bill breaks cover in such a way that even those not well versed in academic circumlocution can see that he’s not only a rabid Heinlein apologist, but also just plain frickin’ snotty about it:

"Now, second point, while it is true that Heinlein never was very interested in the kind of comic book story you seem, from the secondary links you post, to find exceptionally interesting,"

 

As I noted in my original article, just as when I read Friday talking about how all civil servants are necessarily corrupt, I merely remark "BLOW me, living artifact bitch" and continue on, so, too, does a similar response seem to be all that is merited, when some pinhead with one or two post-grad degrees gets up on his hind legs and sneers at me for enjoying superhero comic books. It’s the sort of put down you expect from the ignorant and narrow minded, and that generally one simply sort of blinks at, while mentally entering the person proffering such on the ‘here’s a completely worthless idiot’ list most of us keep in our heads. However, since Bill had taken the time to write to me at such length, and in such a tone and with such vocabulary that he didn’t seem like the usual grade of Internet troll who comes across an article in which someone they don’t know has said the Frank Miller Elektra/ninja stories on Daredevil were horribly written, and decided to start launching email insulting the writer’s mother, well, I decided to go on reading what he had to say and even responding.

However, let’s make no mistake: this is intended as a put down, and it’s a rude one. It’s also so completely off the subject as to be very nearly a non sequiter. Bill has noted the links in the column next to my Heinlein article, crowed to himself "Ah ha, he reads comic books, he’s an idiot" and decided to make sure he makes mention of this to me, to subtly underscore the ‘fact’ (as he perceives it) that clearly I’m a complete moron, and therefore, it’s to be expected that my judgement on anything, much less the radiant and splendid Heinlein Who Is The Universe, is questionable to say the least.

Such a sneer is also very typical of the Heinlein monkey-boy (and occasional monkey-girl, as well) because Heinlein was also mightily contemptuous of comic books. He only mentions them as ways of demonstrating how immature a young character may be, or how frankly substandard intellectually an adult character may be (I think, in Elsewhen, Heinlein actually has a rather stupid cop reading comic books at one point, to underscore that only really dimwitted adults would bother with such trash).

For myself, I’ll simply note that anyone who sneers at superhero comic books most likely hasn’t read many of them, and they certainly haven’t read many of the good ones, and, for that matter, while it’s true that Heinlein did not generally write ‘comic book stories’, both Friday and Gulf explore similar themes to those underlying most superhero comic books, while Time For The Stars and Stranger In A Strange Land are both driven by their protagonist’s superhuman abilities, as, to a lesser extent, is Starman Jones and The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag. Beyond that, Magic, Inc. is simply a straightforward comic book without pictures; its pleasantly simplistic morality and cleanly delineated conflicts, as well as its easily imagined visualizations and its interestingly different alternate reality setting, are all the sort of thing that could be very easily adapted into a comic book format (while it would be enormously expensive to film).

And leaving all that aside, Roger Zelazney’s brilliant Lord of Light is a classic ‘comic book story’, as is Daniel Keyes Moran’s excellent Emerald Eyes and Steven Gould’s remarkably entertaining debut novel Jumper. Superhero comic books are also, in general, firmly within the science fiction subgenre (the prototypical superhero, Superman, is an alien from an advanced but doomed civilization sent to Earth in a rocket as a baby by his scientist father) and folks like Bill Patterson only sneer at ‘comic book stories’ at their own expense, usually with clearly visible flecks of spittle on their chin.

" it is equally true that not one single book you listed as bad or even questionable is, in fact, bad or even questionable, and the two observations I put in this paragraph are linked."

This is where I first really started to worry that any discussion with Bill would turn out to be fruitless (as, eventually, it did, which you’ll see). Like James Gifford, Bill falls into the epistemological trap of stating his own subjective opinions as objective fact… and even more ironically, he does this in order to tell me that my own subjective opinions, which I never stated as being anything but subjective opinions (while supporting them with my reasons for drawing such conclusions at some length) are not only not objective, but are, in fact, objectively wrong.

Not that there is any indication in Bill’s statement that indicates that it is to be taken in any way as anything but actual, hard, concrete, established and literal truth, Holy Scripture out of the very fundament of God, as it were. Bill not only disagrees with me that that the handful of Heinlein novels I have listed as being, in my opinion, bad, are actually bad, but he is stating, quite flatly and bluntly, that I am wrong. There is no doubt. There is no question. There is no debate. "Not one single book [I] listed as bad or even questionable is, in fact, bad or even questionable".

You can’t get any more straightforward than that. He’s just absolutely right, and I’m just absolutely wrong, and that’s so utterly self evident that he doesn’t even have to explain himself.

And, again… my entire piece on Heinlein is subjective, and I believe I make that quite clear throughout. I make one factual statement in the piece… or, actually, there is one place in the piece where I state what could be argued to be a subjective opinion as a fact… when I say that Heinlein was a racist. And I believe he was and that the evidence of that is irrefutable to anyone who isn’t a Heinlein fanatic, like Bill is. But the rest of my piece is all my opinion, and while there are places where rhetoric causes me to write as if I were speaking my opinion as an actual fact, I think it’s clear that I’m not, especially when in those places I tend to use extreme terms like 'deranged’ and ‘sociopathic’, to let my audience know that, yes, I’m kind of mildly poking fun at myself, here. And, to those that just won’t get it, I also use phrases like "by listing all of what I consider to be the ‘bad’ Heinlein books", which is pretty much the bluntest possible statement that this is only my opinion, lighten up, Heinlein fanboy.

Bill, however, does not have subjective opinions. They are for lesser folk, the kind who question the simple and irrefutable fact of Heinlein’s godhood. Bill, like any good zealot, has no doubts and his opinions are not merely opinions, they are facts. They are scripture, they are holy faith. The books I have listed as bad, or even questionable, are not, in fact, (note the lack of quotes around his use of ‘fact’ that time), bad or even questionable. There is no room for dissent or vacillation. This is the Truth. Bill Patterson Says So.

"Whether you liked them or not is irrelevant;"

I strongly suspect that whether I liked these books or not would be very relevant, if, in fact, I liked them. Then I’d be a fine, fine fellow with the most stalwart of all literary tastes. I could be wrong, but frankly, when I write an entirely subjective article setting forth my opinion on works of fiction that I have purchased and read for the sole purpose of finding interesting and enjoyable entertainment, and some lovely fellow comes along and says "whether you liked them or not is irrelevant", it strikes me that said lovely fellow is missing the entire point. My opinion is subjective; it has not been submitted to a doctoral review committee nor is anyone paying me for it, and if they were, it would be simply for its value as entertainment, not any great cogency or universal truth it might contain. I’m writing, for God’s sake, about someone else’s science fiction novels. This isn’t rocket science or brain surgery. And, when you’re writing your subjective opinion about whether or not a book you bought and read simply hoping to be entertained was good or bad, then I think that whether you liked it or not is always relevant.

"whether you were ready to explore the greater degree of complexity in these books is a matter of where you are individually at this stage in your life"

This is a fancy way for Bill to say ‘if you can’t see all the wonderful literary and philosophical and social dimensions of Heinlein’s brilliant writing and respond to it in exactly the way I want you to respond to it, you’re shallow and immature, and so is anyone else who doesn’t respond to these things exactly the way I want them to, nyah nyah’.

"What you cast as a literary judgment is simply not a literary judgment, and your analysis doesn't even have any of the elements preparatory to making a literary judgment."

Here Bill is saying, I gather, that I am not playing by the academic rules of literary review, which would be a damning indictment indeed, except that I’m not trying to write an academically acceptable literary review, I’m talking about how I feel about various science fiction novels written by an influential and popular science fiction author. Whether or not my article has ‘any of the elements preparatory to making a literary judgement’ (by Bill’s standards) is as irrelevant as whether or not my article has any of the elements preparatory to making a chemical analysis of the composition of the paper and ink in Heinlein’s books. I’m not writing either of those things, and Bill attempting to demean my work because I don’t write to an arbitrary set of expectations that, most likely, hardly anyone else in his group of Heinlein fans writes to, either, and more importantly, I have no desire nor need to write to, is simply silly.

"Furthermore, it is difficult to take some of your arguments seriously, as you have clearly not thought them through. Accepting the proposition that Farnham's Freehold is a racist statement is an example. The fact that Heinlein grew up in a racist environment does condition the elements he chooses to attack -- and those elements would be different for us than they were for him, certainly -- but the argument in toto is as anti-racist as Huckleberry Finn's and might be stated as: bigotry damages everyone it touches."

Here we start getting into Bill’s rather nonsensical statements that in fact, a book in which African blacks take over the world and institute a society in which non-blacks are not only enslaved (which is, regrettably, a quite common pattern in human history) but are actually slaughtered and butchered and prepared as food and eaten by their masters (a social feature, to the best of my knowledge, completely unprecedented in the long and debased history of human slavery), and in which every single positively portrayed character is non-black, while every single black character is deeply and irrefutably shown to be not only dislikable and unsympathetic, but also, flatly, depraved and evil, is, according to Bill, irrefutably not only not racist, but is as anti-racist as Samuel Clemens fine book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Bill’s apologist statement/admission that ‘Heinlein grew up in a racist environment" and that "does condition the elements he chooses to attack" is a masterpiece of academic subterfuge, basically stating that yes, Heinlein is addressing race in this novel by showing blacks vs. whites and by depicting whites as the noble heroes and blacks as the evil villains, and that’s due to the fact that Heinlein is a product of a racist culture, but still, none of that means Heinlein is a racist, oh no.

Bill then tries very very hard to tie Farnham’s Freehold to Huckleberry Finn, since he knows that if he can palm this card successfully (assuming I’m a slopebrowed, slack jawed, hairy shouldered moron who can’t really think beyond getting across a street without breaking my leg), I’ll be forced to conclude that in fact, FF, like HF before it, is a book falsely charged by various idiots incapable of analysis as racist, when in fact, it’s a powerful anti-racist statement.

We’ll come back to that in a minute, but I want to get to Bill’s other statement… that in fact, FF’s central thesis is the much simpler (and more politically correct, and flattering to Heinlein) view that "bigotry damages everyone it touches".

If, indeed, Heinlein wrote an entire (rather long) novel about this extremely simplistic (and to most folks in Heinlein’s audience, even at that time, consciously inarguable) thesis, then all I can say in response is, "Duh… no kiddin’?" However, Heinlein wasn’t this dull, nor was he this simplistic. Farnham’s Freehold is a much more complex novel than this, and it deals with a lot of Heinlein’s oft repeated themes… that human individuals can control their own destinies, that freedom and liberty will, ultimately, win out over repression and slavery, and last but certainly not least, that the Commies are evil sneaky bastards who want to bomb America into cratered, radioactive ruins but free, patriotic individuals will never, never surrender to the hated commissars, damn their little red eyes to hell and back.

Now, if you were to resurrect Heinlein and ask him, "Say, Bob, is Farnham’s Freehold a racist novel?", he might well opine, as Bill does, that in fact, as far as the element of racial tension and disparity goes, it’s a novel that powerfully argues that racism damages everyone it touches. And if I were to respond, "yeah, especially the people who get turned into steaks for Ponse’s table, right?", Heinlein might well glare at me and point to the many passages in FF where Farnham muses at length on racial inequality in both his own native and the alien far future society he finds himself in, thus drawing parallels to both and making Heinlein’s point, that all racism is bad, not just the depraved black on white racism he depicts in FF.

Or, he might chuckle and say, "You know, at the time I wrote that I was really trying to shock my audience into seeing that this far future society was truly evil, and by reflection, that our own society, which sort of mirrored it in our own treatment of blacks, was also evil. But I have to admit, I really undercut my own statement by choosing to ascribe to an African-dominant, technologically comfortable, socially advanced culture a taboo act that, throughout human history, has only been practiced by primitive, subsistence level societies always on the verge of starvation that had little other choice than to consume whatever nourishment might be available at any given time, including the bodies of outsider tribes, or no-longer functional tribesmen."

At which point, he might also admit, "And, given that the technologically advanced Africans do, clearly, choose to eat non-dark humans simply for pleasure, when they don’t need to, and that that’s anthropologically unprecedented, and that there is further not one single positively portrayed or likable black character in the novel, while my protagonists are all white…"

"And," I’d interrupt cheerfully, "all the black males refer to all white females as ‘sluts’…"

"Yes," Heinlein might admit, flushing a little, "there’s that, too… yes, I have to admit, although I didn’t intend it, there’s certainly an unintentional racist element to the book, and I regret it, and wouldn’t write it that way if I could redraft it now."

Actually, Heinlein probably doesn’t talk that way at all, and in fact, if he and I had ever met in real life, I imagine he’d find me obnoxious and insufferable and order me out of his house or hotel room post haste. But still. I’d like to think that, just as he later more or less apologized for the ‘only the military should rule’ nonsense of Starship Troopers, once he calmed down a bit, he’d also apologize for the ‘if we let the darkies get the upper hand they’ll EAT white people’ horseshit of Farnham’s Freehold.

But I could be wrong.

"The second thematic axis of the book –"

 

You have to love people who use phrases like ‘thematic axis’, don’t you? Especially when they’re talking to subliterate morons like me, who really like ‘comic book stories’. It’s just so rousingly egalitarian of Bill to address me in terms he’s probably certain even as he types that I won’t be able to fully comprehend.

" that a nuclear war would be the end of western liberal values no matter who "wins" an exchange -- brings the "black cannibals" of the future into the anti-racist side of the argument, not a racist side (remember his comments about cannibalism being in everyone's family tree, white, black, red, or yellow, in Stranger?).

I just want to point out here that Bill’s dragging in something Heinlein said in another book can in no way refute my assertion that FF is racist. Beyond that, my point remains… cannibalism may be in all our family trees, but the blacks who eat white people in FF have advanced technology and are otherwise quite ‘civilized’ and have many labor saving devices and live quite comfortably with many alternative sources for both labor and foodstuffs. They don’t need to keep slaves, and they certainly don’t need to eat them like cattle. They choose to do both because they like to, and that’s a very loathsome statement about African blacks as a race.

"And this ties the two thematic thrusts together, in a way very characteristic of Heinlein's technique."

More ‘Heinlein the god’ talk, as Bill notes, in tones of near worshipful awe, that like many many other professional authors, Heinlein is capable of writing a long piece of fiction that explores more than one theme at once… in fact, he says, his voice hushed with transcendent, wriggling pleasure in the divine talent of All Father Robert, Heinlein is so good he does this nearly all the time.

I mean, wow.

" The book was written just three months after the Cuban Missile Crisis (though it was not published until a year later)."

This is, bluntly, just more apologism, stating that, since FF was written three months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, its anti-Commie jingoism is acceptable, and putting forward yet another rationalization as to what Heinlein was really trying to do with the book… which I don’t care about, because as far as I’m concerned, what a writer should be trying to do with a book that I buy in order to be entertained is write a good, entertaining book. Beyond that, I don’t think what Heinlein was trying to do is as important as what he accomplished, namely, writing a rabidly racist book that wasn’t even very entertaining into the bargain.

Now, getting back to that card Bill tried to palm on me a little earlier, equating FF with the much maligned (and far better) Huckleberry Finn… much further on in our correspondence, after hearing Bill repeat this theme at length and ad nauseum, I finally stated that certainly The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was a powerfully anti-racism statement, something that would have to be seen by anyone who actually read the book and looked beyond the commonplace cultural use of the word ‘nigger’ and saw how Huck had struggled so hard, and eventually been forced to accept, Jim’s basic humanity and value to him, not as a servant and born inferior, but as an equal and a friend.

However, I went on, if at some point in TAOHF it had been revealed by Jim that he really liked to cook white people and eat them whenever he could get them, and that, in fact, all niggers really liked to cook white people and eat them whenever they could get them, but they kept it a secret because white people wouldn’t understand, well… I strongly suspect most people would agree that TAOHF was a racist novel.

When you depict an entire racial culture as being voluntarily engaged in a heinous and atrocious act that is taboo to all civilized, advanced human cultures throughout human history, it doesn’t really matter if you then turn around and say ‘well, I’m just trying to show the evils of racism… see, the blacks there are really no worse than the whites of our time, who figuratively cook and eat non whites through the very act of racial exploitation’. That’s nonsense. Cooking and eating people on the basis of their race is, flatly, worse than enslaving people on the basis of their race, or relegating a people to inferior jobs on the basis of their race, and all the ‘gosh, racism is bad’ musings of your white hero to the contrary really aren’t going to change that.

Anyway, I personally thought I’d made a telling point… that in fact, having stated that if Jim had been revealed to be a whites-only cannibal in TAOHF, and if, in fact, it had been shown by Twain that all blacks in the Old American South also ate white people whenever they could get them, that would have made TAOHF an undeniably racist book, I’d made my thesis clear as persuasively as possible, and even an academic dolt like Bill Patterson would have to let the scales fall from his eyes.

But, then I got this final note from Bill:

From: BPRAL22169@aol.com

To: docnebula01@juno.com

Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2003 22:32:29 EST

 

Your email came as I was walking out the door so I printed it and took it with me. I have been thinking about it off and on all day.

Yes! I thought, exultantly. Success! I’ve actually managed to make someone think beyond the narrow confines of their own carefully built up little reality tunnel.

It was a good feeling, one I rarely get. But, alas, it did not last:


It does not appear to me that we have enough common ground to carry on a fruitful discussion, so I won't address the points you make.

In other words, ‘you’re an idiot and I hate you and if I think about what you’ve said any more I’m going to have to admit I’m wrong and throw out some of my most treasured beliefs about Heinlein and I would honestly rather die. Fortunately, instead of committing ritual seppuku, I can just haughtily ignore you from now on, while telling myself you’re just a big meanie and a bad ol’ stupid-face. And while I’ve thought about your points off and on all day and they’re driving me fucking bugshit because I cannot in any way convincingly refute them, nonetheless, I am so loftily content in my worship of Heinlein that I can simply resort to my childlike and unwavering faith in His supremeness and dismiss you as the annoying little nonentity you are, without even bothering to argue further with your points, because, well, I can’t, anyway.’

 

" I have two observations to make.

1. When you get to "the good is what I like and the bad is what I dislike," you have left the common, consensus language behind and are using private language. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about this; sometimes private languages are very useful. But in fairness to your readers, you ought to post a notice somewhere that you make it a rule only to talk about your mental states and nothing else, so that what looks like commentary about other subjects is really not.

Or, to put it another way "I keep telling you that your opinions are not only subjective, but completely erroneous, because they are in total opposition to my completely subjective opinions, which are not subjective, but are in fact objective truth, and which not only cannot be argued with, but which must not be argued with, under any circumstances. And I have explained this to you over and over again, and you’re still being really mean and argumentative, and worse, doing so in a persuasive fashion, which is obnoxious and hateful of you. Therefore, you are crazy and writing in a ‘private language’, and in the future, you should open all your articles with a disclaimer saying ‘I am crazy and writing in a private language, and everything I say in my writing is just my subjective opinion, and not only that, according to Bill Patterson, who is never wrong, my subjective opinions are always nothing but tripe’."


2. It would be possible to take a copy of the Gutenberg Bible and lean it up against a door and discourse on its wonderful qualities -- or its less than wonderful qualities -- as a doorstop. And it would be good or bad as you liked or disliked it. And you could talk for years without ever once touching, or perhaps even being aware of, the qualities that make it a unique and valuable artifact to other people who have other purposes it might serve or not serve.

This is pretty straightforward: "Heinlein’s writings are holy scripture. If you write anything about Heinlein’s writings that in any way indicates or openly states that Heinlein’s writings are not holy scripture, then you are not speaking about the only important qualities within Heinlein’s writings. You are, in fact, talking about something else entirely, and are obviously a big mean stupid-face, and nobody who understands the real truth about Heinlein’s writings should pay any attention to you. Nyah nyah so there."

"The analogy here is not quite exact, because the things you value in Heinlein's books are not quite "doorstop" qualilties -- they are more significant and also at a higher level than the physical dimensions of the Gutenberg Bible -- but the analogy is pretty good."

This translates interestingly, basically as "I realize this is a completely stupid and utterly self-indulgent comparison, and I’m even willing to admit that it’s a completely stupid and utterly self–indulgent comparison, but, nonetheless, I like it, and you’re just a big ol’ mean stupid-face, so I’m a’not a’gonna talk’a to you no mo’."

Which is fine, because I’m done with him, too.


My own sense of fair play, and my hatred of people who say shit about other people behind their backs, forces me to send Bill a link to this article once I post it on my website, and I suppose I can look forward to hearing from him yet again once he reads it, even less pleasantly. But then, I suppose that will always give me fodder for yet more articles.

The nice thing about having your own website, even one that only maybe four people read, is that you get the last word, and you get to do really really annoying and obnoxious stuff like paraphrase other people’s text and make them look really silly.

Hey, I’m not getting laid and I don’t make much money. I have to take my entertainment where I find it. And what do you expect, anyway, from someone who likes comic book stories?


And, in a late breaking news flash, we have this from the redoubtable James Gifford, in response to the above commentary:

To: docnebula01@juno.com

From: James Gifford

Subject: Re:Essay, part II

We've both interacted with way too many fans, fanatics, would-be scholars, scholars, commentators, critics and just plain readers to get all huffy because they don't agree with us or because they - *horrors!* - criticize Heinlein. We both know more about Heinlein's flaws and shortcomings than 99% of his fans. Perhaps the only thing that pushes us towards anger or anything like it is the accusation that we are blindly reacting to "criticism" of Heinlein.

Sounds good so far... very civil... the only thing I'd even remotely debate here is the subtle assertion that I am, in fact, criticizing Heinlein, when actually, I'm criticizing Heinlein's fans who take Heinlein much more seriously than his work as a prolific and popular science fiction author warrants, and occasionally, I'm criticizing some of Heinlein's work that I don't think comes up to the high standards he himself normally sets for entertaining science fiction. But I never criticize Heinlein himself. I do say he's a whack job, but that's not a criticism; that's simply a humorous way for me to state that I disagree with many of his social and philosophical beliefs, as expressed in his work.

But wait for it, it's coming...

Neither of us has much tolerance for sloppy, ill-defined arguments or sweeping generalizations or analyses that pick and choose their points of fact and contention.

Oh!! ::staggering back, clutching the knife in my chest:: I'm sloppy, I make ill-defined arguments and sweeping generalizations and/or analyses, and I pick and choose my points of fact and contention!

Please note here that James seems to be making a sweeping generalization regarding my work. At least, he's not saying anything specific. Now, this could be because, like Bill Patterson, he simply can't argue with any of my specific assertions, because he too finds my analysis of Farnham's Freehold as both a bad novel and a racist novel to be irrefutable, and he'll just frickin' DIE before he admits it. Or it could be that he's just too damned lazy to type anything more than a sweeping generalization about my work. You decide for yourself.

Our lack of agreement with your rather long arguments

Uh oh. Now my arguments are long sweeping generalizations that pick and choose carefully their points of contention. Good Lord. Even the academics among the Doc baiters have short attention spans these days, and like so many others, they're still blaming me for them, too. Hully gee, Boss.

does not make us rabid, insensate Heinlein defenders. And until you stop making sweeping judgements about everyone who thinks well of Heinlein and his work, we're not going to find much area of agreement.

I don't make sweeping judgements of everyone who thinks well of Heinlein and his work. And the fact that people disagree with me doesn't make them rabid, insensate Heinlein defenders. However, when I make judgements of people who think well of Heinlein and his work (and I myself think well of Heinlein's work; I don't judge Heinlein because I never met him), I do it usually on the basis that they can read a long, detailed analysis of his work, some of which is not entirely glowing, take affronted issue with that analysis without ever bothering to actually address the points the analysis makes in any meaningful way, (preferring instead to simply dismiss the analysis on grounds that it isn't written to match up to the specs of literary review, or some such horseshit), and then, when I make telling points in response to the few arguments they themselves bother to put up, dismiss the entire thing with 'I'm not going to address your points any more'.

Now, someone who could, at some point in a lengthy email correspondence, bring themselves to type out something like "Heinlein was a human being like everyone else and like every other prolific artist, occasionally he produced a work that was not up to the standards established by his larger body of work, and, alas, FILL IN THE BLANK was one of those pieces of work. However, I still think FILL IN THE BLANK has some interesting things to say..." would not be either rabid or insensate.

On the other hand, Bill Patterson seems to be simply incapable of stating any such thing, as is, apparently, James Gifford. They don't come right out and say so, but I gather from reading their responses to my work that they honestly feel that every single sentence ever produced by Heinlein was some superlative and amazing thing, and their attitude seems to be, there is no criticism of Heinlein's writing, or Heinlein himself, that they are willing to accept. And that's the point where I start calling people 'rabid' and 'insensate'.

Every prolific writer has written a bad book now and then. Heinlein wrote 6 truly awful books out of more than 30; he wrote three more that were not good novels in the terms that I define good Heinlein novels under, namely, entertaining, well plotted SF adventures with interesting characters and conflicts in them, but those three still had many points of interest in them and were very much worth reading.

Heinlein's good novels far outnumber (and outweigh) his bad ones, and the fact that I read most of Heinlein's 'good' novels before I first encountered one of the not so good ones (Stranger In A Strange Land) simply made me more disappointed in discovering that Stranger was something entirely different... Heinlein preaching long windedly with a very nominal plot thrown in around it to get him into the SF section of the library, which frankly, annoys me... if you're going to do social satire, then just write a frickin' treatise and have them put it in the non-fiction section, where I can ignore it, please.

After reading Stranger and realizing that Heinlein didn't always hit them out of the park (and it was one of the major disappointments of my adolescence, let me tell you), I was more prepared the next time I came up on a non-entertaining Heinlein, and that one happened to be, in addition, an outright awful book (I Will Fear No Evil)... plotless, pointless, full of really obnoxious or just plain boring characters doing absolutely nothing except have sex with each other in various different combinations that, without actual pornographic descriptions, wasn't exciting for the sex's sake, and without the characters being interesting, wasn't good characterization, either. And from there, I found Farnham's Freehold, and was simply horrified... here was a book that actually should have been classic Heinlein science fiction, fast moving and entertaining and full of action and intrigue and interesting characters overcoming interesting conflicts, and instead, we got this turgid, vicious, racist nonsense full of idiotic and obnoxious protagonists who couldn't make a sound decision or take competent action (literally) to save their lives, and thoroughly despicable supporting characters anyone would have been happy to see vaporized at any given instant, and it all meant absolutely nothing, because after thousands of words of this nonsense, our idiotic and obnoxious protagonists, through no efforts of their own, end up back where they started again.

Only the most rabid and insensate Heinlein defender could possibly defend Farnham's Freehold, much less state that not only isn't it not a racist book, but in fact, it makes a powerful anti-racism statement (while admitting, at the same time, that it's full of angry anti-Commie smears, somehow excusing this with 'well, it was written three months after the Cuban missile crisis').

Bill said many things of great value to you; your will to dismiss is blinding you to them.

What you have to like here is the straightforward implication that Bill (and I'm sure, Jim) have the monopoly on Truth. Bill has said 'many things of value' to me, and I'm just too blind to see. The more subtle inference I draw from this is that in several thousand words of my own, I've said nothing of value to anyone, and why? Well, because I said critical things about Heinlein's writing, and about his fans, and about Heinlein's social philosophies. Mixed in, of course, with a great deal of praise, because, while I'm not acceptable to Jim and Bill, I am a Heinlein fan... I'm just one who's capable of saying "guess what, the Grand Master produced a couple of really bad books in amongst all the really good ones he put out".

But then, again... I like comic book stories. What do I know?


 
GEEK STUFF YOU WON'T LIKE UNLESS YOU'RE REALLY COOL:

Orto's Embassy

James Gifford's Robert A. Heinlein Fan Site

Calliope Comics presents Martian Vision

Doc Nebula's Phantasmagorical Fan Page!

THE OMNIVERSE TIMELINE

MY DAMN WRITING, SO SHUT UP ABOUT IT:

NOVELS: [* = not yet written]

Universal Maintenance

Universal Agent*

Universal Law*

Time Watch

Endgame

Earthquest

Earthgame*

Warren's World

Warlord of Erberos

Return to Erberos*

ZAP FORCE #1: ROYAL BLOOD

Memoir:

In The Early Morning Rain

Short Stories:

Positive

Good Cop, Bad Cop

Leadership

Talkin' 'bout My Girl

No Good Angel

No Time Like The Present

Pursuit of Happiness

The Last One

Pursuit of Happiness

Return To Sender

Halo

Primogenitor

Alleged Humor:

Ask A Bastard!

On The Road Again

Meeting of the Mindless

Star Drek

THE ADVENTURES OF FATHER O'BRANNIGAN

Fan Fic:

The Captain and the Queen

A Day Unlike Any Other (Iron Mike & Guardian)

DOOM Unto Others! (Iron Mike & Guardian)

Starry, Starry Night(Iron Mike & Guardian)

A Friend In Need (Blackstar & Guardian)

All The Time In The World(Blackstar)

The End of the Innocence(Iron Mike & Guardian)

And Be One Traveler(Iron Mike & Guardian)

COMICS SCRIPTS & PROPOSALS THAT WENT NOWHERE:

SERAPHIM 66

AMAZONIA by D.A. Madigan & Nancy Champion (7 pages final script)

AMAZONIA (Alternate Draft 1)

AMAZONIA (Alternate Draft 2)

AMAZONIA (World Timeline)

TEAM VENTURE by Darren Madigan and Mike Norton

FANTASTIC FOUR 2099, by D.A. Madigan!

ARTICLES OF NOTE:

Heinlein: The Man, The Myth, The Whack Job

First Rape, Then Pillage, Then Burn: S.M. Stirling shows us terror... in a handful of alternate histories

DOING COMICS THE STAINLESS STEVE ENGLEHART WAY!by "John Jones" (that's me, D. Madigan), & Jeff Clem, with annotations by Steve Englehart

JOHN JONES: THREAT OR MENACE!

FUNERAL FOR A FRIENDSHIP

Why I Disliked Carol Kalish And Don't Care If Peter David Disagrees With Me

MARTIAN VISION, by John Jones, the Manhunter from Marathon, IL

CARTOONS:

DOC NEBULA'S CARTOON FUN PAGE!

DOC NEBULA'S CARTOON FUN, PAGE 2!

DOC NEBULA'S CARTOON FUN, PAGE 3!

WEIRD WAR COMICS COVER ART.

ULTRASPEED!

Help Us, Batman...

JLA Membership drive

Don't Leave Us, Batman...!

Ever wondered what happened to the World's Finest Super-team?

Two heroes meet their editor...

At the movies with some legendary Silver Age sidekicks...

What really happened to Kandor...

Ever wondered how certain characters managed to get into the Legion of Superheroes?

A never before seen panel from the Golden Age of Comics...

BOOM!

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