Heinlein (off-topic)

Tanaqui tweaver at imbolc.ucc.ie
Sat Aug 26 22:43:05 EDT 2000


+ >I'm going to end up the sort of sad old mad bird who shouts at the telly.
+ 
+ With your teeth in a glass of water by the sink, no doubt. :)

Yes. And a cane: I must have a cane.
 
+ >of these women to prefer the barefoot'n'pregnant got-a-man existence... 
+ > much more preferable is pumping out babies once she's secured one of
+ >these inferior beings. huh? must be some prime bloodstock eugenics thing. 
 
+ Well, sorry, but speaking as one of the conservative breeders, 

Not like that. Barefoot in the kitchen? Here you are, discussing books in an
awesomely cogent way. Heinlein's women change personality when it's time to 
breed. It has nothing to do with their native intelligence: that's shown as 
atrophying as the baby-factory directive takes control. And *that's* what I 
hate (not being such a misogynist/misanthropist as to watch the whole human 
race fade into oblivion).

+ doesn't seem at all odd to me that a smart capable woman might choose 
+ childbearing after all.  

Not my point! Of course smart capable women choose to have children, but
I don't happen to know of any who choose to sacrifice all that previously
had meaning in their smart, capable lives to follow this imperative. 

+ But I also think that choosing to rear children isn't a diminishing of 
+ female potential.  

Nor was this a point. Female potential includes the potential to have kids.

+ I can accept that his opinions outrage you; I'm not convinced that this 
+ makes them all utter nonsense.

Not outrage: it's bitter weariness. Again, and again... and I find Heinlein
has excellent skills as a raconteur, but it does get annoying. Nor do I think
that *this* is nonsense. That allegation was specifically reserved for the
"marriage=formal whoredom" equation.

+ And Woman wasn't the only thing Heinlein put on a pedestal.  

Yeah: I knew that there was some problem on the whole child front, but
making breeding the Holy Grail that can heal our ruling geniuses... um...
definitely Fishing

what we see of the raising of children (the Shakespeare-cadenced kids that
one of Lazarus Long's bucolic personae raises &c) aren't realistic. Adoption,
extended families, fostering, and the complex gamut of actual human existence
give way to hilarious incestuous incorporation and rejuvenation of relatives.

We don't get to see Long's girl-twin clones until they are red-headed lustful
teenagers (though we do hear that they were bright and brattish kids). Nor do
we get to see much of the mechanics of group marriage: we see one guy exploited
for the financial security he affords, and we are told about "line marriages"
as a vague concept. Oh, and then there's the happy orgiastic vague Tertian
conglomerates and the apparently anarchic (but dictated by cultist Martian 
inner discipline) Nests of _Stranger in a Strange Land_.

+ If it was born out of his own thwarted desires, I'm more inclined to pity
+ than outrage.

So fair! I was complaining of the Author: I do have compassion for the Man.
His announcement that the thicker novels might -ahem- have suffered somewhat
from his long-term brain tumour is another factor which might be taken into
consideration.
 
+ On the other hand, _Podkayne of Mars_ is fundamentally an indictment of
+ parental abdication of responsibility and of institutionalized child care.

See? Having careers is Naughty. Parental responsibility is crucial, but I
don't think it demands constant interventionist dominance. I know people
who have raised smart, socially responsible children without being there
constantly... they are there for the kids when they can be. Skipping to the
wider social sphere, not all hired help is likely to be sloppy or murderous 
(manslaghterous?) and wrong. Despite the occasional very public arraignment of 
appalling hired carers, it is a fact that most child abuse and death can be 
laid at the doors of parents.  Frequently, parents are over-pressured or just 
rubbish, and institutions are -well- institutional. I distrust them.

Abdication of responsibility is bad. Incompetent assumption of a responsibility
one just can't bear is terrifying, and tends to have awful consequences. I 
prefer the realistic picture in DWJ where we adults are flawed. Some of us
have good intentions and some of us do not, and the world is properly
ambiguous. If Podkayne's parents had chosen to raise her with a bit more
involvement on their part, they might well have been no better at it than
Mayelbridwen Singer's mother (and, occasionally, father). We don't see Maewen
run amuk through parental neglect, but Heinlein and his very disciplinarian 
view (raising kids in a barrel, anyone?) didn't allow for the influences 
beyond the parental in establishing morality. If you didn't beat morals into
your kids, then they would never develop. Very naval. Raising children is
an important social matter, but while Neal Stephenson insists on the crucial
importance of continuing the line, he is much more ambiguous in its execution
than Heinlein. Settling down and having kids, and the nature of the social
matrix in which they are raised is important to Stephenson's major novels, BUT
it's realistic in its fantastic execution. With Heinlein it's either career
(Podkayne's parents were both scientists, yes?) or mothering: with DWJ and
Neal Stephenson, it's life and parenting and the best-intentioned people can
go very wrong and the most haphazard and scattershot can go right. Empathy
and compassion and stability are shown to be important, but Neal Stephenson
and DWJ are not conservative maintainers of the status quo.

I suspect Heinlein would have bought into the Neo-Victorian society fully, and
never understood the Equity Lord Alexander Chung-Sik Finkle-McGraw's concern
for society to be dynamic as well as stable. 

"The best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity"

Heinlein's women are very extremely committed in most cases (we don't see 
Podkayne's parents as characters). Of course, in his stories, devotion and
dedication are enough.
 
+ >Once I started identifying what I hated about Heinlein, I found him easier to
+ >bear. _Grumbles from the Grave_ had me cackling.
+ 
+ You're both too opinionated to live together, so to speak.  Too bad he's
+ dead; we could put you both in a room and sell tickets to watch the ensuing
+ fireworks.  :)

Too true. Might be fun: he hated critics, of course. Everyone should just read
the goddamn stories, as he just wrote them. If he had his way, I'd be stuck in 
the logical maze at the big trans-world party. 

I might even be too opinionated to live, period <exclamation mark>
 
+ (A side note: I recently learned that many people believe the change in
+ Heinlein's writing [the early "good" books versus the later "bad" books] was
+ caused by the stroke he had later in life.  Not that it's exculpatory, but I
+ had never realized that it was such a widely-help opinion.)

Stroke? What he admitted as a possible detrimental influence on his writing 
was the brain tumour. Behavioural changes caused by strokes are very different
(e.g. linguistic alterations like speaking one word while meaning another, 
partial paralysis somewhat related to the image of the self, bizarre accents):
stroke damage produces poets like Martin Silenus in the _Hyperion Cantos_ or 
the Governor and the other stroke victims receiving synaesthetic bridging 
implants in _Interface_ by "Stephen Bury".
 
+ >If any Heinlein heroine had a career as well as kids, that would be cool.
+ >It's the monomaniacal sprog-dropping that I find wearing.
 
+ You're so right.  I should go out and get me one of them careers right now
+ so I can fulfil my full potential as a woman.  Four kids in six years?  How
+ very...monomaniacal...of me.  :)

<looks around forum, sees the gallery of readers who admire Melissa's spot-on
 analyses and feels doomed> I still don't think you exhibit the characteristics
of Heinlein heroines, Melissa. There's definitely no evidence of sessile
consumption of your own brain!

And, unless there is a slew of very quiet Melissa-clones out there (now, 
there's a delightful concept), you have an individual complex and ambiguous
life rather than a clear role to be fulfilled over and over again in different
settings. Heinlein's the monomaniac; although we know that one of the women of
civilised Tertius wants to be constantly pregnant (as one is a very good i.e.
considerate whore), we never find out just how many babies a woman with access
to rejuvenation tech. can manage. 

I mean, Nazi Germany positively required four kids of each Aryan woman in
order to maintain the dynamic advance of the Race. That was the minimum
expectation.

Tanaqui 

"When I grow up I wanna be an old woman"          ...      Michelle Shocked
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