Popularly known as the “Dean of Science Fiction Writers”, science fiction would not have achieved its status as a genre that could stand on its own without Robert A. Heinlein. Along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein helped usher in the “Golden Age of Science Fiction”, which is a period of time during the late 1930s leading up to the mid 1940s when science fiction gained a large audience and following, and numerous science fiction stories were published. And, rightfully so, it is because of his eclectic works and achievements in the field that he became its first Grand Master in 1974.
Robert Anson Heinlein was born in Butler, Missouri on July 7, 1907. He was the third son of Rex Ivar Heinlein and Bam Lyle Heinlein. Although Missouri was his birthplace, his family only stayed there for a few more months after his birth, before deciding to move to Kansas City where he would be spending most of his youth.
His destiny to become a great science fiction writer seemed apparent from the start, as young Heinlein was always seen in the Kansas City Public Library immersed in books of astronomy and science fiction. He was such a voracious reader of such stories that he declared that he had read all the science fiction stories he could get his hands on by the age of 16. He enjoyed reading books by famous sci-fi and fantasy writers like H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Jules Verne. But he showed particular favoritism towards Olaf Stapledon’s sci-fi romances. ‘
The time that he spent growing up in Kansas City would have a major impact on the type of fiction that he would write later in life. In fact, many of his famous works like “Time Enough For Love” are set in and heavily influenced by his hometown, and he often wrote about its stifling conservative practices in a lot of his novels and short stories.
Equally influential to his writing is his 5-year service in the U.S. Navy after graduating in 1929 with a degree in naval engineering from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. It is also around this time that he married Elinor Curry – a union that would prove to be short-lived. Much of his early years of service was spent on board the USS Lexington, where he worked as a radio communications officer. By 1932, he would enter in a second marriage with Leslyn MacDonald, which lasted comparatively longer than his first one. In 1933, he was assigned to the USS Roper, where he became seasick most of the time. It is alleged that this factor is what primarily caused him to contract pulmonary tuberculosis later on. Because of his weakened condition, he was discharged from the Navy in 1934, even though he recovered fully from the disease.
He attended graduate classes for a brief time in UCLA before making his ill-fated decision to try out a career in politics. In 1938, he ran for the California State Assembly but failed utterly in the attempt. With his financial situation dire, he decided to give writing a hand. And this, as his later achievements attest, would prove to be the best decision he ever made.
It didn’t take long for his career to take flight, as in 1939, he was able to have his first story, “Life-Line”, published in the magazine, Astounding Science-Fiction. This would start a flow regular publications in the said magazine then ran by the late-great John W. Campbell, one of the men responsible for the development of science fiction into a serious genre. After a brief “retirement” in 1941, he would continue to be prolific until 1942, after which he immersed himself in naval aviation engineering development because of the war, and wouldn’t start writing again until 1947.
It is from this period on that he would write what would undoubtedly be the sci-fi stories that he is best remembered for. He received his first Hugo Award in 1956 for his story, “Double Star”. After working on an almost decade-long manuscript, “The Heretic”, he shelved it to begin writing “Starship Troopers”, which would inarguably become his most well-known work. Even though the novel was attacked by critics due to its controversial themes, at the time, Starship Troopers would go on to win a Hugo Award in 1960.
He would continue writing even up to the last years of his life. His last work, “To Sail Beyond the Sunset”, was published in 1987 on his birthday. And approximately nine months later, Robert A. Heinlein passed away on May 8, 1988, while taking his regular nap every morning.
This is the first novel which features Lazarus Long, a character that Heinlein would frequently use in his other novels. These novels are what would later make up the Lazarus Long series. “Methuselah’s Children” initially follows the story of Ira Howard and his ardent quest to prolong the lifespan of humans by supporting grandparents who have exhibited robust longevity and encouraging them to procreate. It is in this process of selective breeding that the “Howard” Families were conceived, with members assuming different identities and faking their demise to keep their lineage clandestine.
Trouble arrives when the new governing faction, The Covenant, becomes suspicious of their evidently long life. It does not take long for it to demand the Families to reveal the secret behind their longevity. Constantly harassed and vilified, Lazarus Long, the oldest member of the Families, suggests they leave Earth. Hijacking a starship, the Families begin their interstellar journey, exploring planet after planet, which contain inhabitants that share equally peculiar characteristics.
The novel won in the category “Best Libertarian Sci-fi Novel Award” at the Prometheus Hall of Fame Awards in 1997.
Time Enough For Love
This is the second novel that follows Lazarus Long, who at the start of the novel is now already considered as the oldest human begin alive. The book is divided into separate novellas which could stand on their own but are interconnected as well by its singular themes of selective breeding and incest. Many of the stories are either recollections of actual experiences that Lazarus had or his deeper meditations on life. The Notebooks of Lazarus Long provide aphorisms, which do not contribute to the narrative but is relevant to the themes of the book if taken as a whole. The book only assumes a linear narrative in the later stories, when Lazarus gains a deeper insight about the value of living.
The book mainly tackles the morality of incest and, as some critics have pointed out, attempts to justify their occurrence. “Time Enough For Love” was nominated for the “Best Novel” category at the 1973 Nebula Awards and was subsequently nominated in the 1974 Locus and Hugo Awards.
Books published in order by series:
Future History Books
|The Man Who Sold the Moon||(1950)|
|The Green Hills of Earth||(1951)|
|Revolt in 2100||(1953)|
|Orphans of the Sky||(1963)|
|The Past Through Tomorrow||(1967)|
|Time Enough for Love: The Lives of Lazarus Long||(1973)|
|The Notebooks of Lazarus Long||(1978)|
|Rocket Ship Galileo||(1947)|
|Beyond This Horizon||(1948)|
|Farmer in the Sky||(1950)|
|The Puppet Masters||(1951)|
|The Rolling Stones||(1952)|
|The Star Beast||(1954)|
|Tunnel in the Sky||(1955)|
|Time for the Stars||(1956)|
|Citizen of the Galaxy||(1957)|
|The Door into Summer||(1957)|
|Have Spacesuit – Will Travel||(1958)|
|Stranger in a Strange Land||(1961)|
|Podkayne of Mars||(1962)|
|The Moon is a Harsh Mistress||(1966)|
|I Will Fear No Evil||(1970)|
|The Number of the Beast||(1980)|
|Job: A Comedy of Justice||(1984)|
|The Cat Who Walks Through Walls: A Comedy of Manners||(1985)|
|To Sail Beyond the Sunset||(1987)|
|For Us, the Living: A Comedy of Customs||(2003)|
|‘All You Zombies–‘||(2012)|
Short Story Collections
|Waldo and Magic Inc.||(1950)|
|Assignment in Eternity||(1953)|
|The Menace from Earth||(1959)|
|The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag||(1959)|
|Three by Heinlein||(1965)|
|The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein||(1966)|
|The Best of Robert Heinlein||(1973)|
|The Fantasies of Robert Heinlein||(1986)|
|Ordeal in Space||(1989)|
|Requiem and Tributes to the Grand Master||(1991)|
|Project Moonbase and Others||(2008)|
|Grumbles from the Grave||(1989)|
|Take Back Your Government!||(1992)|