Friday, July 27, 2007

"Patriotism: the last refuge of a scoundrel" (Dr. Johnson)

You might be a closet-case, right-wing, American nationalist... ....if you consider RA Heinlein a great writer. Though a few confused Sergeant Stoners invoke Heinlein on occasion (when they need to whip up some cheap jingoistic emotion), they generally overlook the fact--or maybe they don't mind---that Heinlein was a pal of L-Ron Hubbard, a hawk on Vietnam, and pro-Reagan (review RAH's fairly rabid Annapolis speech from '72-'73, for some of the real-life RAH, rather than his fictional alter-egos). His writing, while occasionally entertaining (Job offered a few yuks), hardly ranks with the best sci-fi writing, such as PK Dick (Heinlein never could have written "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", or Osiris forbid, A Scanner Darkly, VALIS, etc.), or the subtle surreal sci-fi of JG Ballard, or the dizzying, entropic visions of a Pynchon, or the cyberpunks such as Gibson and Sterling. Kurt Vonnegut produced quite a bit more inventive writing--and more politically relevant writing-- than did the odd Mr. RAH. That said, fiction--traditional, sci-fi, or otherwise--however eloquently written (tho' Heinlein was hardly eloquent), is not true: Bertrand Russell was fond of reminding the literary set of that fact (imagine a Russellian who demands that any would-be fictioneer first define what a sentence is {or subject/predicate} before beginning into his Magnum Hopeless--and then offer his reasons for writing in modern Anglo-saxon instead of Deutsch or Latin, or mandarin.........).

RAH's claims to scientific knowledge are themselves debatable: RAH was a navy man for a while and attended a semester or two of mathematics at UCLA. Einstein or Hilbert or Oppenheimer he was not: really he's sort of a leaner, meaner L-Ron (and mostly a charlatan, like L-Ron)), if not Ayn Rand for dyslexic John Birchers-on-drugs. Precious Bodily fluids! (Herr RAH was also a pal of ex-nazi and NASA rocket man, Werner Von Braun). Not even so "libertarian" (whatever that term actually defines), but more Nixonian secularist (and rather crass social Darwinist, like L-Ron)--if not to the right of Nixon. His prose rarely rises above the level of 3rd rate screenwriters (Time Enough for Love sort of 3rd rate Nietzsche), and really Starship Troopers (itself nearly a fascist anthem) was only partially redeemed when adapted to a film.

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