Monday, May 6, 2019

The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein


I haven't the time to review  Farah Mendlesohn's crowdsourced book, The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, alas. But I wanted to at least note its existence. Mendlesohn's stated intention was to examine everything that Heinlein wrote and find out what he was really up to--what his intentions were--rather than judge it by her own criteria.

I think it's a terrific book.

The single most important insight Mendlesohn has is that while we all thought of Heinlein as being a science fiction writer, he saw himself as being a satirist in the tradition of Mark Twain. This explains so much! It explains why he and the SF community were so often at odds, the frequency with which he confounded our expectations, and that strange drifting-away into bestsellerdom at the end of his career.

The problem was (and this is me speaking now, now Farah) that as a science fiction writer, Heinlein rocked. As a satirist, not so much. Ah, well. The man invested his life as he saw best. Second-guessing him at this point avails us nothing.

Most of Mendlesohn's findings or conclusions are, I think, solid. The emphasis Heinlein put into creating families is close to undeniable. Once or twice, I believe the book succumbs to thesis-creep. I honestly don't think that Heinlein saw the protagonists of Tunnel in the Sky and Glory Road as failures because they don't wind up creating families at the ends of their novels. A writer doesn't have to fit all of his thematic obsessions into every book he writes.

But that's just my two cents and you needn't take it to heart. As I said, I haven't the time to seriously review this book. At any rate, I recommend it highly.

And today's page from the Image Book .. . .

This one has to be from a fashion magazine rather than an art mag. It's just too weird. Whoever it is--Fata Narcisse, maybe?--she's definitely high elven.

Above: For those who came in late, my latest novel, The Iron Dragon's Mother, will be published in 50 days. To draw attention to this fact, I'm serializing the Image Book I made to help me imagine a strange world for the book.


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