Happy Birthday, Robert Heinlein!

Robert Heinlein
Robert Heinlein

It’s the birthday of science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, born in Butler, Missouri (1907). He wrote over 50 novels and collections of short stories over a span of four decades. He’s best known for his novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961), a cult classic about a boy who is born during the first manned mission to Mars. He’s raised by Martians, then returns to Earth, starts a church, and preaches free love.

Heinlein began writing in the mid-1930s, while he was recovering from an accident from his days in the Navy. He started out writing novels for young adults, but they were so advanced that they were usually published outside the U.S. as novels for adults. Heinlein once said, “Kids want tough books, chewy books — not pap.”

He called his books “speculative fiction” rather than “science fiction,” in the tradition of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. He tried to write about events that could actually happen, taking into consideration everything we know about the natural laws of the universe. He wrote about things like atomic bombs, cloning, and gay marriage years before they became realities. Not all of his predictions came true, though. In 1952, he wrote an article called “Life in 2000 A.D.,” in which he predicted that we would have cures for cancer, the common cold, and tooth decay; there would be men who had visited all parts of the solar system; and new technology would make all existing houses obsolete.

Heinlein said: “Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.”

The Writer’s Almanac via Zvi A. Sesling

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